For those who have decided to take the plunge and build your own guitar tube amp, please let me share my early projects/mistakes with you to assist get you going within the right direction. However, be sure you genuinely wish to build your own:
You ought to be fairly handy around electronics already, and conscious of the hazards inherent in high voltage tube electronics and also the precautions to consider when focusing on tube amps
You shouldn’t hold the expectation which you will save money… unless your time and energy is worth nothing at all you are able probably do better purchasing a completed amplifier, even from the Cayin A88t Mk2, but certainly on the open market as used
All said, though, there is lots of satisfaction in completing and playing an amplifier you built yourself and having the license to further modify/tweak/voice your creation to perfection… so let’s get started:
Stumbling Through My first couple of Projects – My first project started as an AM radio, it had occurred to me that this chassis and most of the components was quite ideal for an octal-tube-based Fender Champ-like single-ended amplifier and that i wanted to hear the real difference in tone between real tubes and also the tube modeling within my Roland Cube amp… After studying some good tube amp books (see resources) I settled upon a strategy and:
* I fought with the old transformers (insulation switching to dust when you flexed the leads), used tube-sockets, noisy potentiometers and poor physical layout (utilizing the previous radio chassis didn’t provide optimum placement in the major components for any tube guitar amplifier)
* Found out that true point-to-point wiring isn’t your best option for experimenting
* I couldn’t locate a non-microphonic old-stock pentode tube
* The tone sucked… with hindsight In my opinion it absolutely was as a result of underwhelming, un-branded, tiny output transformer, but I’ll probably never return to check
* Bottom-line, I learned a whole lot nevertheless it didn’t answer my fundamental questions on tube-tone because I didn’t end up having an iconic amplifier being a reference after the project
* I spent some frustrating evenings redesigning and reworking my first effort and then for my second major project I broke down and purchased a kit that promised a clone of a vintage Champ amplifier.
Major findings included:
Saving several pennies from time to time on components isn’t satisfying when you wind up investing considerable time building the project and elements of the result look cheap (e.g. a plastic alternative to a ‘proper’ metal construction Speaker Cable or worse… sacrifice tone (e.g. cheap electrolytic capacitors)
I’ve grown somewhat leary of un-branded chinese transformers that may not have even been hi-pot tested let alone certified by a safety agency; and who knows what laminations, etc. are employed in the audio transformer?
Tiny chassis and cabinets aren’t the best option for adding additional functionality for the stock circuit and incredibly frustrating to work with
8? speakers and small cabinets suck tone… this amplifier sounds great once you plug it right into a proper speaker & cabinet combination
The Initial DIY Guitar Tube Amp Project
Using the above experiences in your mind it is actually time for you to summarize some considerations for the very first project:
* Simple project however, not under-featured… something which will be satisfying and playable
* Physically large for easy access, simplified assembly and room to change
* Well documented, well supported… not necessarily with user’s manuals and step-by-step construction guides, but instead by a community with active forums, or extensive web documentation, etc.
* An entire kit of parts, no difficult sourcing of components
* Good quality parts with the potential to upgrade them if desired… but moderation rules… you might want good value over extravagant components to reduce your downside should your project doesn’t emerge phczif or you get bored.
* Standard sized chassis for convenient sourcing of cabinets, or Line Magnetic 218ia available from the kit supplier, or even a desire, determination and capacity to build (and finish) your own cabinetry
* With all the above given due consideration my third time was the charm!
I suggest you look for an established supplier of tube-amp kits, and select a model that meets both your taste in tone as well as a satisfying group of features for the first DIY Guitar Tube Amp!