Is point to point wiring better than PCB?

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by Treynor, May 25, 2019.

  1. Treynor

    Treynor Tele-Holic Gold Supporter

    Feb 6, 2016
    Dallas, TX
    Paul from PS Audio discusses. I'm also (shamelessly) an audiophile, and I enjoy his YT channel. This is not about guitar amps, but the principle applies.

    Greggorios likes this.
  2. EsquireOK

    EsquireOK Friend of Leo's

    Aug 30, 2011
    What are the criteria for determining "better?" It depends on what you are looking at, because nothing is just "better" across the board, in every way.

    PCBs are better from a manufacturing perspective. But they are generally not better from a repair/maintenance perspective.

    I have great sounding amps with PCBs, and great sounding amps that were wired PTP.
    drewcp, 3-Chord-Genius, tonyj and 7 others like this.
  3. Cysquatch

    Cysquatch Tele-Meister

    May 2, 2019
    Grovetown, GA
    100% spot on. PTP is nice for modding and fixing, but well-made PCB products can be extremely stable and consistently manufactured.

    Too much blind PCB hate going around.
  4. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Lions & Tigers oh Mi !

    PCB vs PTP
    Imported Tone Wood vs local wood -- fragile rain forest lumber is always the bestest!
    Ceramic vs Alnico magnets
    Plywood vs multi-piece vs two-piece vs one-piece bodies

    I have yet to see big threads about:
    Tone truss rod designs
    Tone pickguards and plastic trim rings
    Strap buttons of Rock!

    PCB gives you the ability to greatly improve build quality and first time through the factory without rework, machine part placement, consistent wave soldering, the ability to analyze a trend in issues and fix the root cause. PTP is all human build based and if you've seen the average human try to do repeatable machine tasks there will be variation.

    The real problem is, PCB designs, because they are built to a price, will use less expensive pots, caps, and other parts where the PTP guys are using top durability parts as they can afford to put in $25 caps for a $3k amp where the PCB design for a small $100 amp can't afford more than a nickel cap or they are over budget.

    That's the same way Ceramic and Plywood got their negative perceptions -- they were used in cheaper priced guitars that had many other cheapness features (like no fretwork, poor tuning machines, and tiny suspicious pots). The easiest reason the typical guitar player, not being too technical in manufacturing/design/engineering say what they can see is different "look at that, they are using plywood! That is why this guitar sounds so bad! If they only used proper rain forest wood, slashing down the lungs of the planet, then this guitar would not sound so dreadful!".

  5. Paul G.

    Paul G. Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2003
    Rhode Island
    1. PTP doesn't really exist anymore, very labor intensive. What people call PTP now is just wired circuit boards.

    2. PC boards vary in thickness and quality. The actual components installed on the board vary in quality.

    Sonically? A well designed PCB with good components will sound as good, and be as reliable as a well built, well designed wired circuit board. A crappy PCB with low grade components can sound as good, but won't last. Generally amps built down to a price will not sound good. Tube sockets mounted directly on a PCB will generate heat and can shorten the life of your amp.

    Repairs are easier on a wired board.

    Oh, real PTP, properly designed, laid out, and built is absolutely superior for many reasons, but as I said, there is no such thing anymore except from some high-end boutique builders. You will pay used car money for one.

    That is all.
    Treynor likes this.
  6. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

    Aug 8, 2016
    Chattanooga, TN
    Would somebody PLEASE remedy this?! I want to see some discussions on tone truss rods and tone pickguards. Come on, people!
    Piggy Stu and Treynor like this.
  7. kbold

    kbold Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

    Jul 21, 2015
    Paul from PS Audio rightly says PTP wiring is not possible in complex circuits.

    However, sound quality will depend on the design and layout of the components.
    A badly designed PTP layout will sound worse than a well designed PCB layout.
    I don't buy the arguement that a well designed PTP will sound better than a well designed PCB.

    There are advantages to PCB's:
    - with multi-layered PCB's you have the advantage of adding shielding layers.
    - the track layout is consistent with every build.

    I think the decision comes down to cost. High initial cost of PCB design, opposed to lower cost as quantity increases (reduced labour costs).

    Heat generation from tubes and tube sockets can be avoided by using PTP wiring for these components (i.e. a hybrid design of PTP and PCB).
    Paul G. and Treynor like this.
  8. Milspec

    Milspec Friend of Leo's

    Feb 15, 2016
    Interesting video and his conclusion that point to point will always sound better than PCB surprises me. I think it comes down to quality of components like in everything built. A well built PCB set-up would be superior to a cheaply built point to point and vice-versa. I have no doubt that Leo and Fullerton would have been using PCB's had they not sold the company when they did, it just makes so much sense from a manufacturer's viewpoint.

    Analog point to point took a man to the moon, but PCB systems do that now and do it better. Seems like it should be the same with all things as long as quality is comparable.
    Treynor likes this.
  9. Paul in Colorado

    Paul in Colorado Telefied Ad Free Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    Fort Collins, CO
    Do electrons even care? As long as I can plug a guitar into the input jack and it sounds like I want it to out the speaker, what's happening in between is secondary.

    For the record I own assorted hand wired and PCB amps of various degrees of quality.
    budglo and Treynor like this.
  10. RLee77

    RLee77 Friend of Leo's

    May 15, 2016
    Yeah his conclusion is wrong. It’s likely wishful thinking — there’s a nostalgic obsession, a wishful thinking that wants the old things and ways to be better, like believing that old ‘59 pickups are always superior to newer pickups. Hand-wired excels in one area — modding. If you like to tinker, a hand-wired turret board is your friend. In all other aspects, a *well designed* pcb can, theoretically, be superior... but in practice, it can seem otherwise, because a lot of pcb products are built with cost, rather than quality, as the prime objective.
    stevemc, Treynor and Milspec like this.
  11. teleplayr

    teleplayr Tele-Holic

    Feb 7, 2012
    Nicoma Park, Oklahoma
    Depends on the thickness of the traces on the PCB.
    Masmus and Treynor like this.
  12. felis

    felis Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 4, 2011
    From the Fryette site;

    "For the record, all FRYETTE amplifiers are primarily hand built PCB assemblies. All components such as resistors, capacitors, pots, switches, tube sockets (that's right…Tube Sockets…Pre and Power) and various other items are reliably and confidently PCB mounted. Do not confuse “PCB Mounted” with “Poorly PCB Mounted”. There is a world of difference. We use top quality double-sided glass epoxy boards with heavy copper plating and plated through holes for maximum reliability and signal integrity. PC boards are mounted on heavy-duty tubular aluminum supports attached to the chassis with machine screws. Small tube sockets have large diameter solder pads. Large tube sockets are attached to the board with heavy tubular aluminum supports and chassis mounted with machine screws to form a solid and bulletproof board to chassis assembly.

    There are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation about printed circuit board construction versus point to point assembly. The problem we see is that many times a failure of a PCB amp is often caused by the circuit design itself, not the board design. We will discuss the issues as they relate specifically to the manufacture of our products.

    Since there is plenty of information out there about the origin of point to point wiring and PCB's, we'll skip the history lesson and get right to the pros and cons.

    Sound Quality

    Contrary to what you may have heard, great tone is not the exclusive domain of point to point wired amps. Even the use of top quality components and meticulous assembly methods do not guarantee good tone. There are plenty of examples of great and lousy sounding products in both point to point and PCB categories. There are well built, mediocre sounding amps and sloppily thrown together, great sounding amps. In fact, undesirable sonic characteristics frequently attributed to circuit boards are much more likely to occur in point to point wired amps. Stray capacitance, phase cancellation, signal degradation, and crosstalk between stages are common problems in point to point designs. Most of these conditions are easily minimized or eliminated in a well executed PCB design.

    One interesting and often overlooked side benefit of PCB design is the ability to precisely control the way the board will "sound" by experimenting with placement of sensitive components. We frequently use this technique of "tuning the board" to tweak various parameters of a circuit which might normally be accomplished with the relatively "brute force" use of added capacitance or tone robbing bundled wire harnesses.


    One of the most attractive benefits of PCB construction is their inherent consistency. Once the design is complete, it can be easily reproduced with a very high degree of accuracy. In our particular case, the object is to produce an amplifier that meets a set of pre-defined sonic and functional criteria. These criteria are built into the board design and are not subject to the wide variations in tolerances normally found in the point to point assembly process.

    In the late fifties, state of the art point to point construction ( i.e. military and recording/broadcast electronics) incorporated "turret boards" that supported most of the small components on Nickel/Silver plated posts staked into thick Fiber or Glass/Epoxy strips. The bulky components (pots, jacks, switches, filter caps, meters and transformers) were chassis mounted and meticulously hand wired to these boards. Some of today’s more popular (and more expensive) point to point amps utilize low cost phenolic "terminal strips" with thin Tin plated lugs instead of the much more rugged turret boards. This is a far cry from the venerable point to point designs of the past. The terminal strip method is not particularly rugged or easily serviceable, usually requires much more extensive use of wire, solder and wiring harnesses, and often results in a circuit layout that is subject to wide variations in circuit behavior. Two identical amplifiers built this way are very likely to - and often do - sound completely different!

    Reliability and Serviceability

    Needless to say, there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything. One might be a little bit more generous and say that there are an infinite number of interpretations of the term "cost effective". Indeed! There are of course legitimate reasons for peoples seemingly genetic aversion to printed circuit boards and all one has to do it gaze into the guts of a PCB amp that falls into the "cheaper to replace than repair" category to see why this is so. It’s a fact however, that circuit boards dominate the electronics industry. Therefore it is important to remember that the Internet connection you are using to access this web page is bouncing off of a satellite orbiting our fair planet that will probably operate flawlessly far into the next century…utilizing printed circuit boards.

    How then do we account for this large reliability gap? Simply stated, printed circuit boards pretty much do exactly what the designer intended for them to do. Nothing more, nothing less. If top notch performance and long term reliability are the design objectives, then the end product will perform and last provided that it is correctly engineered. In this context then, it is logical to conclude that a well designed, high quality PCB based amplifier is more than likely to perform as well or better and last easily as long as or longer than a point to point wired amp.


    All things considered, we feel that the point to point method of amplifier construction is unnecessarily time consuming and excessively costly. When you pay a premium price for a quality point to point amplifier, it is pretty much understood and taken for granted that you’re not necessarily paying for performance and flexibility. A well designed and executed PCB based amplifier sacrifices nothing to sound quality, construction quality or long term reliability and value merely as an automatic consequence of the use of printed circuit boards. The labor saving aspect of PCB amplifier construction makes it possible to offer a wide variety of features and functions which translate to a higher "Bang for the Buck" ratio."
    stevemc, tonyj, JL_LI and 3 others like this.
  13. jrblue

    jrblue Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 14, 2010
    Santa Barbara
    The bias is probably the result of some companies' use of cheap everything: poorly made PCBs mounting cheap components in mediocre designs. High grade PCBs made well and populated with good components are great, if laid out to permit servicing. Hard wiring is terrific only if the actual wiring is done well. As always, design and quality of materials and production count most to me. A great PCB in an amp or pedal can be a thing of beauty.
    Treynor and Milspec like this.
  14. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Mar 2, 2010
    Price point factory built by unskilled laborers and robots would be the majority of PCB amps.
    Any lesser quality is likely not due to the PCB, yet the PCB is essential to cheap factory built amps.

    Highest quality tube amps tend to be built in smaller quantities where all assembly is done by skilled workers.
    In many cases, these top quality amps are hand wired rather than built on a less flexible PCB.
    A pro who wants the best possible sound and most reliable tube amp might also prefer it be more flexible for modding.
    Or simply prefer all hand wiring because it's associated with vintage and classic amps that last for 60 years.

    At that price point, the cost of the hand wiring labor compared to building it on a PCB is almost negligible.
    Conversely, the cost savings in building a high end amp with a PCB rather than hand wiring it is almost negligible.

    Mid quality tube amps, what most of us here are likely to buy, are probably better for the money if built on a PCB, since the money saved on not adding a couple of hours in skilled wiring labor can instead be put into better transformers and tube sockets etc.

    But then it gets fuzzy when Chinese hand wired amps are cheap, yet critical parts are lower quality, so the amps may not as good, while boasting boutique style assembly. Some are better than others.
    Throw in all the hobby built hand wired amps, some of which are fine while others maybe don't even work, and there's a lot to argue about!

    Most of my 20 some odd amps are hand wired but I have a couple of Orange amps with PCB, one of which is approaching 20yo.

    I do consider it a negative when power tube sockets are board mounted.
    As PCB gets defended more and more on the internet, it seems board mounted power tube sockets are more and more common.
    I've seen sections of PCB burned away leaving a big charred space where the socket used to attach.
    Not a great feature.
    Treynor likes this.
  15. Buckaroo

    Buckaroo TDPRI Member

    Mar 22, 2012
    I like the "service ability" of components wired onto a conventional layout board by hand. This, as opposed to the use of printed circuit boards with components attached by machine and wave soldered.

    Of course there are additional factors such as quality of components, lead dress and workmanship quality. But often enough, these elements are exemplary with a hand wired amp. The late 50's and 60's name brand amps are all excellent examples of this technology. Fender being one that easily comes to mind.

    For me, most hand wired amps are easier to work on and often sound great!

    studio1087, Treynor and Chunkocaster like this.
  16. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Friend of Leo's

    Aug 10, 2018
    In space with Ziggy
    Being a novice i'd rather trouble shoot and fix a problem on a point to point amp than on a pcb. I would attempt to fix a ptp amp whereas I probably would just take a pcb amp to someone else to fix.
    Last edited: May 26, 2019
    studio1087, Greggorios and Treynor like this.
  17. felis

    felis Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 4, 2011
    Note, when looking beyond the obvious brands, not all PCB tube amps have 'cheap plastic input jacks soldered into cheaply-built time consuming PCBs'.

    Yes "in many cases", but not all. So for the record, an example of a 'higher quality' (ain't no tone like Magnatone! ;)) "easy to service" 'PCB' tube amp.


    at → 3:15
  18. Uncle Daddy

    Uncle Daddy Tele-Holic

    Sep 26, 2015
    Maldon, England
    The lead free solder in almost all modern amps is a future fail point. I roll my own with full fat solder, and expect my builds to outlive me.
  19. Frodebro

    Frodebro Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Aug 17, 2012
    What many people think of as PTP is actually turret or eyelet board construction, actual PTP circuits largely haven't been used in production since the early 1950s. PTP in all but the most basic circuits is a rats nest.
  20. sds1

    sds1 Tele-Holic

    May 4, 2017
    Orlando, FL, USA
    Future serviceability of PCB is a design feature like any other. PCB can be designed/mounted to be far more serviceable than any P2P/handwired build. It's just engineering choices.

    It just so happens, because PCB is commonly associated with engineering-for-profit these boards are often crammed into tight spaces, difficult to remove, etc.

    Again PCB getting a bad rap because of their usage in the cheapest of all builds.
    Snfoilhat, felis and Treynor like this.
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.