If you have decided to take the plunge and build your own guitar tube amp, please let me share my early projects/mistakes with you to help get you going within the right direction. But first, be sure you actually want to develop your own:
You need to be fairly handy around electronics already, and mindful of the hazards inherent in high voltage tube electronics as well as the precautions to take when working on tube amps
You shouldn’t possess the expectation that you can save money… unless your time will be worth nothing at all you can probably do better purchasing a completed amplifier, even through the Cayin A100t, but certainly on the open market as used
All said, though, there is a lot of satisfaction in completing and playing an amplifier you built yourself and achieving the license to help modify/tweak/voice your creation perfectly… so let’s get going:
Stumbling Through My initial few Projects – My first project started being an AM radio, it had struck me that this chassis and a lot of the components was quite ideal for an octal-tube-based Fender Champ-like single-ended amplifier and i also wanted to hear the real difference in tone between real tubes and also the tube modeling inside my Roland Cube amp… After studying some really good tube amp books (see resources) I settled upon an idea and:
* I fought using the old transformers (insulation switching to dust when you flexed the leads), used tube-sockets, noisy potentiometers and poor physical layout (dealing with the existing radio chassis didn’t provide optimum placement in the major components to get a tube guitar amplifier)
* Discovered that true point-to-point wiring isn’t your best option for experimenting
* I couldn’t look for a non-microphonic old-stock pentode tube
* The tone sucked… with hindsight I think it absolutely was because of the 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 regarding tube-tone because I didn’t end up with 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 the vintage Champ amplifier.
Major findings included:
Saving a couple of pennies here and there on components isn’t satisfying when you find yourself investing a lot of time building the project and aspects of the outcome look cheap (e.g. a plastic alternative to a ‘proper’ metal construction CopperColour Cable or worse… sacrifice tone (e.g. cheap electrolytic capacitors)
I’ve grown somewhat leary of un-branded chinese transformers that might not have even been hi-pot tested not to mention certified by a safety agency; and you never know what laminations, etc. are employed in the audio transformer?
Tiny chassis and cabinets aren’t the best option for adding additional functionality towards the stock circuit and incredibly frustrating to work with
8? speakers and small cabinets suck tone… this amplifier sounds great when you plug it in to a proper speaker & cabinet combination
The First DIY Guitar Tube Amp Project
With all the above experiences in your mind it really is time to summarize some things to consider for the first project:
* Simple project but not under-featured… something that will be satisfying and playable
* Physically large for convenient access, simplified assembly and room to change
* Well documented, well supported… not always with user’s manuals and step-by-step construction guides, but alternatively with a community with active forums, or extensive web documentation, etc.
* A total kit of parts, no difficult sourcing of components
* Good quality parts with the possible ways to upgrade them if desired… but moderation rules… you may want excellent value over extravagant components to minimize your downside if your project doesn’t emerge phczif or you lose interest.
* Standard sized chassis for convenient sourcing of cabinets, or Line Magnetic offered by the kit supplier, or a desire, determination and ability to build (and complete) your own cabinetry
* Using the above given due consideration my third time was the charm!
I recommend you look for a professional supplier of tube-amp kits, and choose a model that fits both your taste in tone as well as a satisfying group of features for the first DIY Guitar Tube Amp!