For those who have decided to take the plunge and build your own guitar tube amp, please permit me to share my early projects/mistakes with you to assist get you going in the right direction. However, ensure you actually want to develop your own:
You should be fairly handy around electronics already, and aware of the hazards built into high voltage tube electronics as well as the precautions to adopt when concentrating on tube amps
You shouldn’t possess the expectation that you simply will save money… unless your time will be worth nothing at all you are able probably do better investing in a completed amplifier, even through the Cayin 300B, 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 help modify/tweak/voice your creation perfectly… so let’s get going:
Stumbling Through My first Few Projects – My first project started as being an AM radio, it had occurred to me that the chassis and a lot of the components was quite appropriate for an octal-tube-based Fender Champ-like single-ended amplifier and I desired to hear the main difference in tone between real tubes and also the tube modeling within 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 (working with the old radio chassis didn’t provide optimum placement in the major components for a tube guitar amplifier)
* Found out that true point-to-point wiring isn’t your best option for experimenting
* I couldn’t find a non-microphonic old-stock pentode tube
* The tone sucked… with hindsight I believe 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 however it didn’t answer my fundamental questions regarding tube-tone because I didn’t end up with an iconic amplifier being a reference at the conclusion of 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 few pennies from time to time on components isn’t satisfying when you end up investing lots of time building the project and aspects of the outcome look cheap (e.g. a plastic replacement for a ‘proper’ metal construction HIFI RCA 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 much less certified by a safety agency; and who knows what laminations, etc. are employed inside the audio transformer?
Tiny chassis and cabinets aren’t the best choice for adding additional functionality to the stock circuit and incredibly frustrating to work with
8? speakers and small cabinets suck tone… this amplifier sounds great when you plug it right into a proper speaker & cabinet combination
Your First DIY Guitar Tube Amp Project
With all the above experiences in mind it really is time to summarize some things to consider for the first project:
* Simple project although not under-featured… something that might be satisfying and playable
* Physically large for quick access, simplified assembly and room to modify
* Well documented, well supported… possibly not with user’s manuals and step-by-step construction guides, but rather 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 all the possible ways to upgrade them if desired… but moderation rules… you may want excellent value over extravagant components to lower your downside in case your project doesn’t come out phczif or perhaps you lose interest.
* Standard sized chassis for quick sourcing of cabinets, or Line Magnetic 508ia offered by the kit supplier, or a desire, determination and capacity to build (and complete) your personal 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 suits both your taste in tone along with a satisfying group of features for your first DIY Guitar Tube Amp!