If you have decided to take the plunge and build your own guitar tube amp, please let me share my early projects/mistakes with you to help get you going within the right direction. However, ensure you genuinely wish to build your own:
You should be fairly handy around electronics already, and mindful of the hazards built into high voltage tube electronics and also the precautions to adopt when focusing on tube amps
You shouldn’t possess the expectation that you simply helps you to save money… unless your time will be worth nothing at all you can probably do better buying a completed amplifier, even through the Cayin Audio, 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 getting the license to advance modify/tweak/voice your creation to perfection… so let’s begin:
Stumbling Through My first Few Projects – My first project started being an AM radio, it had struck me this chassis and the majority of the components was quite suitable for an octal-tube-based Fender Champ-like single-ended amplifier and I wanted to hear the real difference in tone between real tubes and also the tube modeling in my Roland Cube amp… After studying some good tube amp books (see resources) I settled upon a strategy and:
* I fought with the old transformers (insulation embracing dust whenever you flexed the leads), used tube-sockets, noisy potentiometers and poor physical layout (utilizing the existing radio chassis didn’t provide optimum placement of the major components for any tube guitar amplifier)
* Found out 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 believe it absolutely was due to the underwhelming, un-branded, tiny output transformer, but I’ll probably never return to check
* Bottom-line, I learned a lot nevertheless it didn’t answer my fundamental questions on 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 got a new kit that promised a clone of any vintage Champ amplifier.
Major findings included:
Saving several pennies occasionally on components isn’t satisfying when you end up investing lots of time building the project and elements of the outcome look cheap (e.g. a plastic alternative to a ‘proper’ metal construction XLR Cable 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 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 to the stock circuit and incredibly 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
With all the above experiences in mind it is time and energy to summarize some considerations for the very first project:
* Simple project but not under-featured… something that might be satisfying and playable
* Physically large for easy access, simplified assembly and room to modify
* Well documented, well supported… not always with user’s manuals and step-by-step construction guides, but alternatively by a community with active forums, or extensive web documentation, etc.
* An entire kit of parts, no difficult sourcing of components
* High quality parts with all the potential to upgrade them if desired… but moderation rules… you may want good value over extravagant components to minimize your downside if your project doesn’t emerge phczif or you get bored.
* Standard sized chassis for quick sourcing of cabinets, or Line Magnetic 508ia offered by the kit supplier, or even a desire, determination and capability to build (and finish) your personal cabinetry
* With all the above given due consideration my third time was the charm!
I recommend you look for a professional supplier of tube-amp kits, and select a model that fits both your taste in tone along with a satisfying list of features for the first DIY Guitar Tube Amp!