In case you 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 help get you going within the right direction. However, make sure to actually want to construct your own:
You ought to be fairly handy around electronics already, and aware of the risks inherent in high voltage tube electronics and also the precautions to take when working on tube amps
You shouldn’t possess the expectation which you can save money… unless your time and effort may be worth nothing at all you can probably do better purchasing a completed amplifier, even through the Cayin 300B, 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 having the license to advance modify/tweak/voice your creation to perfection… so let’s begin:
Stumbling Through My initial few Projects – My first project started as being an AM radio, it had struck me 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 wished to hear the real 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 a plan and:
* I fought with the old transformers (insulation switching to dust once you flexed the leads), used tube-sockets, noisy potentiometers and poor physical layout (working with the previous radio chassis didn’t provide optimum placement of 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 find a non-microphonic old-stock pentode tube
* The tone sucked… with hindsight In my opinion it absolutely was due to the underwhelming, un-branded, tiny output transformer, but I’ll probably never go back to check
* Bottom-line, I learned a lot nevertheless it didn’t answer my fundamental questions regarding tube-tone because I didn’t end up with an iconic amplifier as being a reference at the end 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 any vintage Champ amplifier.
Major findings included:
Saving a couple of pennies occasionally on components isn’t satisfying when you wind up investing a lot of time building the project and facets of the result look cheap (e.g. a plastic alternative to a ‘proper’ metal construction Audiophile Cables 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 way of a safety agency; and who knows what laminations, etc. are employed in the audio transformer?
Tiny chassis and cabinets aren’t your best option for adding additional functionality towards the stock circuit and very frustrating to work with
8? speakers and small cabinets suck tone… this amplifier sounds great whenever you plug it in to a proper speaker & cabinet combination
Your First DIY Guitar Tube Amp Project
Using the above experiences in mind it is time to summarize some considerations for the first project:
* Simple project however, not under-featured… something which will 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 instead by way of a community with active forums, or extensive web documentation, etc.
* A complete 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 if your project doesn’t come out phczif or else you lose interest.
* Standard sized chassis for easy sourcing of cabinets, or Line Magnetic 518ia available from 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 search out an established supplier of tube-amp kits, and choose a model that meets both your taste in tone along with a satisfying list of features for your first DIY Guitar Tube Amp!