If 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 in the right direction. But first, ensure you genuinely wish to construct your own:
You should be fairly handy around electronics already, and conscious of the hazards inherent in high voltage tube electronics and also the precautions to take when working on tube amps
You shouldn’t have the expectation that you simply helps you to save money… unless your time and effort will be worth nothing at all you are able probably do better investing in a completed amplifier, even from 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 achieving the license to help modify/tweak/voice your creation to perfection… so let’s begin:
Stumbling Through My first couple of Projects – My first project started as 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 wanted to hear the main difference in tone between real tubes and the tube modeling inside my Roland Cube amp… After studying good quality tube amp books (see resources) I settled upon a strategy and:
* I fought with all the old transformers (insulation embracing dust whenever 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 any 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 I believe it absolutely was because of the underwhelming, un-branded, tiny output transformer, but I’ll probably never get back to check
* Bottom-line, I learned a great deal nevertheless it didn’t answer my fundamental questions regarding tube-tone because I didn’t end up getting an iconic amplifier being 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 bought a kit that promised a clone of the vintage Champ amplifier.
Major findings included:
Saving a couple of pennies from time to time on components isn’t satisfying when you find yourself investing lots of time building the project and elements of the result look cheap (e.g. a plastic alternative to a ‘proper’ metal construction Speaker 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 not to mention certified with a safety agency; and who knows what laminations, etc. are used inside the audio transformer?
Tiny chassis and cabinets aren’t your best option for adding additional functionality for 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
The First DIY Guitar Tube Amp Project
With the above experiences in mind it really is time for you to summarize some things to consider for the first 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… possibly not with user’s manuals and step-by-step construction guides, but rather with a community with active forums, or extensive web documentation, etc.
* An entire kit of parts, no difficult sourcing of components
* High quality parts with the potential to upgrade them if desired… but moderation rules… you might want value over extravagant components to reduce your downside should your project doesn’t appear phczif or else you get bored.
* Standard sized chassis for quick sourcing of cabinets, or Line Magnetic 219ia offered by the kit supplier, or even a desire, determination and capacity to build (and complete) your personal cabinetry
* With the above given due consideration my third time was the charm!
I suggest you look for a professional supplier of tube-amp kits, and pick a model that suits both your taste in tone and a satisfying set of features for the first DIY Guitar Tube Amp!