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. But first, ensure you genuinely wish to develop your own:
You ought to be fairly handy around electronics already, and mindful of the dangers inherent in high voltage tube electronics and also the precautions to consider when concentrating on tube amps
You shouldn’t have the expectation that you can save money… unless your time and effort is worth nothing at all you are able probably do better purchasing a completed amplifier, even from your 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 getting the license to further modify/tweak/voice your creation perfectly… so let’s get going:
Stumbling Through My first Few Projects – My first project started as an AM radio, it had occurred to 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 that i wanted to hear the difference in tone between real tubes and also the tube modeling inside my Roland Cube amp… After studying good quality tube amp books (see resources) I settled upon an idea and:
* I fought with all the old transformers (insulation turning to dust whenever you flexed the leads), used tube-sockets, noisy potentiometers and poor physical layout (dealing with the previous radio chassis didn’t provide optimum placement in the major components for any tube guitar amplifier)
* Learned that true point-to-point wiring isn’t the best choice for experimenting
* I couldn’t look for a non-microphonic old-stock pentode tube
* The tone sucked… with hindsight I think it had been due to the 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 as 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 got a new kit that promised a clone of a vintage Champ amplifier.
Major findings included:
Saving several pennies occasionally on components isn’t satisfying when you wind up investing lots of time building the project and elements of the end 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 a bit leary of un-branded chinese transformers that may not have even been hi-pot tested much less certified by way of a safety agency; and you never know what laminations, etc. are employed within the audio transformer?
Tiny chassis and cabinets aren’t your best option for adding additional functionality towards the stock circuit and extremely frustrating to work alongside
8? speakers and small cabinets suck tone… this amplifier sounds great when you plug it into a proper speaker & cabinet combination
The Initial DIY Guitar Tube Amp Project
Using the above experiences under consideration it is time to summarize some considerations for the initial project:
* Simple project however, 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 necessarily with user’s manuals and step-by-step construction guides, but instead by a community with active forums, or extensive web documentation, etc.
* A total kit of parts, no difficult sourcing of components
* Good quality parts using the possible ways to upgrade them if desired… but moderation rules… you may want value over extravagant components to reduce your downside should your project doesn’t appear phczif or perhaps you lose interest.
* Standard sized chassis for convenient sourcing of cabinets, or Line Magnetic provided by the kit supplier, or even a desire, determination and capability to build (and finish) your own cabinetry
* With the above given due consideration my third time was the charm!
You ought to look for a reputable 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 your first DIY Guitar Tube Amp!