In case you have decided to take the plunge and build your own guitar tube amp, please allow me to share my early projects/mistakes with you to help get you going within the right direction. However, be sure you actually want to develop your own:
You need to be fairly handy around electronics already, and mindful of the dangers inherent in high voltage tube electronics as well as the precautions to consider when focusing on tube amps
You shouldn’t possess the expectation that you can save money… unless your time will be worth nothing at all you are able probably do better buying a completed amplifier, even through the Cayin A100t, 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 perfectly… so let’s get going:
Stumbling Through My initial few Projects – My first project started being an AM radio, it had struck me that the chassis and most of the components was quite suitable for an octal-tube-based Fender Champ-like single-ended amplifier and I desired to hear the difference in tone between real tubes as well as the tube modeling within my Roland Cube amp… After studying some good tube amp books (see resources) I settled upon a strategy 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 (utilizing the previous radio chassis didn’t provide optimum placement from the major components to get a tube guitar amplifier)
* Learned that true point-to-point wiring isn’t your best option for experimenting
* I couldn’t locate a non-microphonic old-stock pentode tube
* The tone sucked… with hindsight I think it was as a result of underwhelming, un-branded, tiny output transformer, but I’ll probably never return to check
* Bottom-line, I learned a great deal however it didn’t answer my fundamental questions about tube-tone because I didn’t end up with an iconic amplifier as a reference after 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 any vintage Champ amplifier.
Major findings included:
Saving a few pennies here and there on components isn’t satisfying when you wind up investing considerable time building the project and facets of the result look cheap (e.g. a plastic alternative to a ‘proper’ metal construction HIFI RCA Cable 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 let alone certified by a safety agency; and who knows what laminations, etc. are used inside the audio transformer?
Tiny chassis and cabinets aren’t the best choice for adding additional functionality for the stock circuit and extremely frustrating to do business with
8? speakers and small cabinets suck tone… this amplifier sounds great whenever you plug it in to a proper speaker & cabinet combination
The First DIY Guitar Tube Amp Project
With all the above experiences in your mind it is actually time to summarize some things to consider for the first project:
* Simple project although not under-featured… something which will be satisfying and playable
* Physically large for convenient access, simplified assembly and room to change
* Well documented, well supported… possibly not with user’s manuals and step-by-step construction guides, but alternatively by a community with active forums, or extensive web documentation, etc.
* A complete kit of parts, no difficult sourcing of components
* High quality parts with the possible ways to upgrade them if desired… but moderation rules… you might want value over extravagant components to lower your downside if your project doesn’t appear phczif or you get bored.
* Standard sized chassis for convenient sourcing of cabinets, or Line Magnetic 219ia available from the kit supplier, or perhaps 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 search out a reputable supplier of tube-amp kits, and select a model that meets both your taste in tone and a satisfying group of features for the first DIY Guitar Tube Amp!