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. But first, ensure you actually want to construct your own:
You need to be fairly handy around electronics already, and aware of the risks built into high voltage tube electronics and also the precautions to consider when focusing on tube amps
You shouldn’t possess the expectation which you will save money… unless your time is worth nothing at all you can probably do better buying a completed amplifier, even from the Cayin Tube Amp, 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 help modify/tweak/voice your creation to perfection… so let’s get going:
Stumbling Through My initial few Projects – My first project started as an AM radio, it had occurred to me this chassis and most of the components was quite suitable 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 good quality tube amp books (see resources) I settled upon a plan and:
* I fought with the old transformers (insulation turning to dust once you flexed the leads), used tube-sockets, noisy potentiometers and poor physical layout (utilizing the previous radio chassis didn’t provide optimum placement from the major components for a tube guitar amplifier)
* Found out that true point-to-point wiring isn’t the best option for experimenting
* I couldn’t look for a non-microphonic old-stock pentode tube
* The tone sucked… with hindsight I believe it was because of the underwhelming, un-branded, tiny output transformer, but I’ll probably never return to check
* Bottom-line, I learned a great deal but it didn’t answer my fundamental questions about tube-tone because I didn’t end up having an iconic amplifier as a reference at the conclusion of the project
* I spent some frustrating evenings redesigning and reworking my first effort 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 occasionally on components isn’t satisfying when you wind up investing lots of time building the project and facets of the outcome 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 might not have even been hi-pot tested much less certified by 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 to the stock circuit and very frustrating to work with
8? speakers and small cabinets suck tone… this amplifier sounds great whenever you plug it into a proper speaker & cabinet combination
The Initial DIY Guitar Tube Amp Project
With all the above experiences under consideration it is actually time and energy to summarize some things to consider for the initial project:
* Simple project but not under-featured… something which will be satisfying and playable
* Physically large for quick access, simplified assembly and room to change
* Well documented, well supported… not always with user’s manuals and step-by-step construction guides, but instead with 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 may want excellent value over extravagant components to minimize your downside in case your project doesn’t come out 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 ability to build (and complete) 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 choose a model that fits both your taste in tone along with a satisfying list of features for your first DIY Guitar Tube Amp!