Amp kit compared to the real thing

Wharfcreek

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PS, Antique Electronics Supply has virtually anything and everything you might need in order to build an amp yourself, including soldering stations, resistors, transformers, speakers, etc. About the only thing they don't have are speaker cabinets. Easy enough to find or build. There's also MoJoTone, and ebay, etc. So, don't let 'not having the stuff' stop you!!
 

EADGBE101

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Years ago, I built what was coined a "California Dreamin'" amp from scratch, which was a Fender clone running a pair of 6L6s. It was a once in a life time opportunity for me as I was working for a consumer electronics company and I had a stock room full of old components just over my shoulder. Everything from a blank chassis to the tubes and knobs came out of that pile; with only a handful of parts coming from Radio Shack. I had a variac available, so the first time I powered up the amp, I was able to slowly increase the power line voltage. I had built a number of Eico and Heath kits over the years, but was still shocked when nothing sparked. My goodness, but that amp sounded wonderful (till I blew out the stereo cab that I was using). One of these days, I'll have to get it out and see if the tubes still glow.

So, yes, build an amp kit. It is a tremendous learning experience and will boost your confidence and pride. Just watch out for those high voltages - they can kill.
 

68goldtop

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Hi guys!

Sorry, I didn't read through all the thread, but I´d like to share my experiences...

Ive owned/played a couple of "clones". They varied from great to not-so-great.
I saved a couple of bucks in the process etc. - until I found out that getting a used Fender-amp is the way to go.
They sound great, they're built the way you'd expect it to be, they look the part - and they don't COST any money at all.

You just buy one for, say, 3-1500,- $ (depending on the model of your choice - from a current PJ/BJ/Hotrod to a vintage reissue or a vintage bf/sf amp), and you get to play it as long as you like.
If you (should ever) decide to resell it, it will bring the same price (give or take a few $).

I think that's a great concept - you basically get your Fender-amp for free ;)


cheers - 68.
 
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lavrgs

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Don’t forget Allen Amps! His kits are a little on the higher end but have serious sounds. I built the Brown Sugar with a 1x15 combo cab a couple of years ago. Have vintage amps, fender mostly, and keep coming back to the sound of the Brown Sugar. Got lucky and got the kit during a sale. Great and prompt support.
I built an Allen Accomplice as a first build. My intension was to build an amp to learn how they work...To some degree it worked but the reality is that I learned I could follow instructions really well. David Allen provides a set of instructions that are impeccabile, as long as you go through and double/triple check everything...Four years later the Accomplice is kicking a**.
I didn't learn what I originally was after until I built a Mojotone clone of a 1974x - their instructions s*ck...but with alot of reading and the help of a friend that solidified my practical knowledge of Ohms Law>>> why is this voltage lower that what it is supposed to be...? no current flow...solder that lead better....ahhhh...now it's good.
5F1/5E3 are always recommended as a good place to start because there are many kits - I used Boothill parts but wanted a different chassis that could fit in my Mojotone 1974x cab so my third amp was customized to utilize existing stuff.
I agree with the "don't do it to save money" aspect but since I had many of the tools - including a cnc milling machine (which completely blows the cost saving out the door...or does it...I've paid for the machine many times over...oops wrong forum) I have gotten great satisfaction from building amps. I would not want to be an amp tech I feel comfortable with them.
 

jhamnett

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Firstly, thanks for all the replies. I've never seen this level of discussion on any other guitar forum before. Kudos to the community y'all have built here, and I'm happy to be here.

Back to my original question, I'm mainly interested in comparing how a 5F1 amp kit would sound compared to the real version or something comparable like the '57 Custom Champ that is readily available for purchase today.

I have some experience building pedals and have most of the equipment necessary for the amp kit.

I agree on the cost factor. The price of the kit plus build equipment is still cheaper than the retail equivalent, but not by that much if you add in the time required to build it. That said, I've always wanted to build an amp so price isn't as much of a factor compared to final quality.


You're basically where I was before I built my first amp (few pedals, few guitar wiring mods). I built a Boot Hill 5E3, then put together my own Champ Micro (1W) built out of an old Epi Valve Jr combo. They both sound amazing and very close to originals (Champ harder to compare due to different power amp).

I definitely recommend it and my 5E3 has a NFB switch to get more versatility. I'd never do that with a vintage 5E3 due to value.
 

davedederer

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Used to own an original narrow panel Deluxe 5E3 and I now own one built from a Mojotone kit.

All tube amps, even the same circuit from the same manufacturer from the same year, sound different. All the variables that contribute to making that statement true are why we love tube amps.

My kit-built Deluxe is just as good as my '59 Deluxe was.

I will note I got the kit-built Deluxe in a trade and had to have my amp tech guy spruce it up. So having someone knowledgeable do the build is important. But it ain't rocket surgery...c'mon.

Also, any vintage amp is going to be a rebuild or rebuilt sometime soon if it hasn't been already, so any vintage amp that you use as a working amp will be a "kit" amp to one degree or another over time anyway.
 

benderb9

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Last year found a Fender '57 Custom Champ for $450.00 on Craig's List and bought it. Never gigged or even taken out of the house. What a cool little amp, tone control by input jack 1 or 2 and guitar. Gain by volume control, clean up to 4 or so then it's all bets off. Adds a nice shimmer when paired with a Vox AC10 or my Hammond Organ guitar amp. Takes pedals really nicely too. Unless I really funk it up I'll probably never lose money on it. Great living room amp too, I am crazy about the little bugger. Haven't paired it with my Fender Excelsior, yet, but would bet it'd be solid. Kit's are cool but do it out of love or for knowledge. I figure my little 57 Champ will sound better once I get a few hundred hours of playing through it.
 

Dan_Pomykalski

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If you have the tools and the skills, it's a lot easier. And if you get to know music store owners or visit garage sales and hamfests, you can get parts cheap. Do some repair work for others, and a lot of times you'll find a good deal as a swap for a fix. And check out ebay or other places, where you can search and have them email you search results. You can pickup the kits from others who lost interest, and save money that way. I picked up the chassis, brass metal work, eyelet boards, face and back plate for a Princeton reverb for somebody doing clone barebones chassis kits for 140 bucks. Plenty of deals, if you have some ingenuity and look around. Try google, as well, if you know how to do good searches. If you don't, the good results get buried. Try switching the order of the search terms, and drill down by getting more specific. And search more than once that way. The best deal are usually from somebody that doesn't know how to sell.
Thanks?
 

Arfage

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At about a grand, the Fender '57 Custom Champ is alot more than I'd like to spend on an amp. I ordered a Champ clone kit from Mojotone that I can't wait to arrive. Anyone here own or played both? If so, how does the kit version compare to the real thing? Thanks in advance!
When I was a teenager some older guys used to let me attend their jam night. The guitar player used a tweed Princeton and plugged me into a tweed champ. The drummer was a total pro and had his drums tuned and muffled down and it was a small room with lots of carpet and raw wood. The amp was turned almost to full and kept up nicely with a super nice moderate overdrive and cool unique midrange that kept my strat sounding full. Lovely amp. Probably easy to build although cramped for space. Also Mojo makes top quality stuff.
 

moosie

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My advice: don't build an amp to save money. In fact don't build an amp for any other reason beyond the joy of building an amp. After adding in all costs, there isn't a lot to be saved, and if you don't like the work, it can be far too frustrating to do for peanuts.

Building isn't magic, but neither is it paint-by-numbers. Building a good amp requires extreme attention to detail, and the willingness to understand (and learn if necessary) the underlying electronics theory. You can complete a build without much theory (lord knows I have), but when it doesn't work perfectly out of the gate... what then?


Targeting a modern reissue as the 'real thing' seems suspect to me, when itself is only a cost-effective copy of an original.
 

Whitebeard

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Played with a friend who had an original 57 Deluxe. This was in the early 70's so it would have been about 15 years old and sounded awesome with his guitar and later for harp with a mic. Hot break up with his P-90 Melody Maker. Nicknamed the amp Spitter. Then in 2009 I bought a pre-built Weber kit version of that Deluxe (don't know if it was built by Weber or the person I bought it from on ebay). It was also hot but didn't have the miles on it that the original 57 had so the break-up was at a higher volume. TedWeber company makes excellent stuff as does MoJo Tone and Stewmac. I like Weber because they also build great speakers which I've used in a few amps & spkr. cabs.. Good luck and DO NOT electrocute yourself.
 

El Reclusa

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I learnt the light bulb current limiter and cap discharge tool from Uncle Doug on YouTube. Both are worth doing, though Stew Mac has a "snuffer stick" thingy that, while maybe a bit overpriced, does the cap discharge safely and is zero hassle.

This thread reminds me, I have a '74 SFPR chassis with most of the circuit already assembled a buddy passed on to me a couple of years ago, that I need to get on with. Last I checked I need about $750 worth of stuff to wrap it up, if I'm buying a cabinet. I'll get around to it eventually...
 

nortally

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My advice: don't build an amp to save money. In fact don't build an amp for any other reason beyond the joy of building an amp.
Nailed it. I learned this principle trying to save money by building a partscaster. The first one, I had a friend build for me (he'd gone to luthier school). It's a great guitar, but the paint job is an endearing hack. I've built a couple others. They're all players and the last one even looks good. But I didn't save a dime.

I've done just enough amp & pedal hacking to know that I don't (yet) have the calm temperment required for a full build. Maybe someday. But I still get mad when I solder a patch cord perfectly, then notice that I forgot to slip the plug cover down the wire first. When I can do that and say, Cool! Another swell opportunity to improve my solder technique, then I'll be ready for an amp build. :)
 

JuneauMike

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Mojo sells their 5F1 for a little over $825 fully assembled, and $575 for everything unassembled. $825 and $500 are both less than $1,000.

The subject is whether you can build an amplifier yourself for less than they cost. The answer is that some can, some can't, but people new to building amplifiers may find that they probably can't.... at first.

You're trying too hard. :D
 

Mat

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...or consider a Joyo Sweet Baby ($215 here in Oz) - swap the rectifier for a 5Y3 and you're close to "vintage" voltages in the power rail with plenty left to experiment with speaker and tube upgrades.

I set my self a task of the cheapest 5F1 build I could with cabinet etc. I basically gutted the circuit used the original transformers, good NOS tubes and a Jensen C8R and it is very close to my 58 Champ, but to the OP this is not a beginners project.

The basic amp itself is great value for the price even with those minor changes and leaves you money in your pocket and time to play.

Now if you want the challenge / experience / satisfaction of building a tube amp that's another ball game. Kits are a good way to start because if you begin sourcing your own bits from different suppliers postage quickly eats into any profit margin and you have the hassle of dealing with multiple parties (I learnt that starting out).
 

Lowerleftcoast

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Back to my original question, I'm mainly interested in comparing how a 5F1 amp kit would sound compared to the real version or something comparable like the '57 Custom Champ that is readily available for purchase today.
IMO your kit can sound as good or better than the '57 Custom Champ. Speaker choice would make the biggest difference. Tubes might make a difference. Internally, the output transformer primary impedance should match the amp you want to emulate. Likewise the B+ will make a difference in how the amp responds.

Enjoy the build. Take your time and learn.:cool:
 

CaptainCrunch

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Mojo sells their 5F1 for a little over $825 fully assembled, and $575 for everything unassembled. $825 and $500 are both less than $1,000.

I actually have Mojo GA-5 (A PTP Champ) and Weber Princeton Reverb kits that I paid less than $1k for combined ($450 and $535, respectively). I'll catch stuff on sale even if I won't have time to do it in the near future, and I see a couple sales on year around big holidays from the kit companies I follow.
 




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