Amp kit compared to the real thing

swaptronics

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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!

You can get a much better amp by building one yourself. Mojo sells the best cabinets and some pretty good kits too. I buy components and put together amps myself. I don't build tweed champs anymore because for about the same price you can build a tweed princeton (around $575). A tweed princeton has a larger chassis that is easier to work with and sounds better because the 8" speaker isn't crammed in a tiny enclosure. Use a good 330-0-330 V PT and a vintage 5Y3GT rectifier and F&T filter caps. You can build a tweed princeton for around $575 with a WGS 8" speaker that will sound as good as a $1,500 boutique build. Champs and Princetons are simple single ended amps that are pretty easy to build. The only problem is, once you get started building your own tube amps, it is pretty hard to break the habit--fun hobby indeed.
 

Dan_Pomykalski

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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
What? When was that ever the subject? And amps can be built for less than they cost... I’ve proven that now multiple times through multiple means...

A Fender Champ costs $1,000. Someone can buy a kit, assembled by Mojo for $825. That is less than the Champ costs. The kit costs $500. That is also less than $1,000. If someone can’t figure out how to use a soldering iron or read a schematic, then why would they be considering building an amp in the first place...
 
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JuneauMike

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What? When was that ever the subject? And amps can be built for less than they cost... I’ve proven that now multiple times through multiple means...

Yes they can. The odds that someone with zero experience in building amps being able to do that? Very low odds. Remember, this question was asked by someone who has never built an amp before. Its easy to forget that when you are too busy trying to dunk on someone. Anyone.
 

jdw3

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I bought a tweed champ kit from Mojotone. It was on sale for $450.00. I honestly can't say an amp like that would be worth much more. Never compared it to a real Champ, but it sounds great. I would never pay $1000.00 for that simple amp.
 

jbensaab

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Here's a pic of the Mojotone 5E3 I put together

IMG_0631.jpg
 

Ric5150

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I've built three amps so far (two of them scratch built) and am toiling away on a fourth scratch build which will be the coolest thing I've ever made if it gets finished.

I don't make a living building amplifiers, I have no formal training in electronics and my understanding of the circuits I build are, at the end of the day, limited. I can look inside an amp and understand the basic operation of most all the components, and I'm comfortable in finding sources for more information when I need to. But I am out of my depth when it becomes necessary to dive into the math of creating magic from a circuit. When I build an amp, I spend way more time reading then I do working. And I've learned things on every build that I wish I applied to previous builds. Every one.

If my DRRI goes on the fritz, I'm taking it to a qualified professional. I am not an amp tech. Do you consider yourself an amp tech? Do you think a hobbyist who just finished his very first 5F1 is a qualified amp tech?

I get where you are coming from, really. This is a fun hobby and there are savings to be had if you have enough knowledge and experience to know where to skimp and where to spend. But we run the risk of misleading people if we just extol the budget aspects and ignore the hidden costs (both money and time) that come with this hobby.

I have no doubt that an inexperienced enthusiast can build an awesome 5F1 on their own. But this is not an erector set, and people should get into it with a clear idea of what they are taking on. Another reason not to overplay the the costs is that most people who successfully build their first amp end up building more. If you enjoy playing guitar you should keep on playing guitar. If you want something more out of the experience, building an amp is a great way to get that.

In a lot of ways this reminds me of the hobby of radio control airplanes and cars. You dive in, have a great time and a few years later you look around your garage and realize you've been overrun by your hobby. And you wouldn't want it any other way.

I normally just lurk here, but this touched on one too many topics to ignore....

A friend from work built a bunch of amps from kits over the years. Got into RC airplanes, though, and when he retired, he wanted to get down to one amp and two guitars to make room for planes. He sold me several of his builds for less than he had in them because he knew I’d appreciate them. That’s how to really save money on amps. :cool: (I also got really good deals on a few vintage Fender amps and a couple guitars while he was cleaning house.) Try to choose your ‘addictions’ wisely and then stick with them. :twisted:

I’m an electrical engineer (as was he). Knowing all the math in the world won’t get you any magic - probably makes it less likely, in all honesty. Trying things and really listening is where the magic comes from.

On the topic of printed circuit boards (not addressed in what I quoted, but discussed elsewhere in the thread), I design radio frequency and microwave hardware, sometimes on circuit boards. There’s no inherent reason why audio can’t be done really well on printed circuit boards. Doing it both well and cheaply might be a problem, and most manufacturers tend to favor the latter. Don’t blame the circuit board, though, blame the designer - or at least blame the company putting the limits on him/her.

Dive in and have fun. I’m usually tired of fighting with electronics by the end of my workday, so these days, I’d rather treat an amp like another instrument rather than a circuit. Maybe when I retire. For now, I have another retired friend who’s into old radios, and if my amps need anything, he enjoys seeing what’s inside guitar amps too much to want to charge me anything, but I make him take a little something, at least.

Just remember to be careful (and stay careful) with high voltages. You don’t have to try very hard at all to hurt yourself really bad if you lose respect for them. The “hand in pocket rule” is “Put one hand in your back pocket and make a fist.” That way you won’t absent-mindedly grab on with both hands and complete the circuit through your chest. You do need to be wearing pants, though....
 

JuneauMike

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I normally just lurk here, but this touched on one too many topics to ignore....

A friend from work built a bunch of amps from kits over the years. Got into RC airplanes, though, and when he retired, he wanted to get down to one amp and two guitars to make room for planes. He sold me several of his builds for less than he had in them because he knew I’d appreciate them. That’s how to really save money on amps. :cool: (I also got really good deals on a few vintage Fender amps and a couple guitars while he was cleaning house.) Try to choose your ‘addictions’ wisely and then stick with them. :twisted:

I’m an electrical engineer (as was he). Knowing all the math in the world won’t get you any magic - probably makes it less likely, in all honesty. Trying things and really listening is where the magic comes from.

On the topic of printed circuit boards (not addressed in what I quoted, but discussed elsewhere in the thread), I design radio frequency and microwave hardware, sometimes on circuit boards. There’s no inherent reason why audio can’t be done really well on printed circuit boards. Doing it both well and cheaply might be a problem, and most manufacturers tend to favor the latter. Don’t blame the circuit board, though, blame the designer - or at least blame the company putting the limits on him/her.

Dive in and have fun. I’m usually tired of fighting with electronics by the end of my workday, so these days, I’d rather treat an amp like another instrument rather than a circuit. Maybe when I retire. For now, I have another retired friend who’s into old radios, and if my amps need anything, he enjoys seeing what’s inside guitar amps too much to want to charge me anything, but I make him take a little something, at least.

Just remember to be careful (and stay careful) with high voltages. You don’t have to try very hard at all to hurt yourself really bad if you lose respect for them. The “hand in pocket rule” is “Put one hand in your back pocket and make a fist.” That way you won’t absent-mindedly grab on with both hands and complete the circuit through your chest. You do need to be wearing pants, though....
You obviously have friends in high places. I'd gladly buy an amp built by a few people who lurk around here.

I wish I had the electronics knowledge to look at a circuit and have a rough idea what it will sound like, but failing that you can still build an awesome amp from parts and a schematic. I will say, of all the mistakes I've made I have never shocked myself. Knock on wood.
 

enorbet2

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I'm all for "the real deal" especially compared to PCB construction in general, but I think this Reissue sounds amazing.




These are commonly available used for around 300-400 bux. There are some reasonable kits to convert to handwired.
 

Dan_Pomykalski

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Yes they can. The odds that someone with zero experience in building amps being able to do that? Very low odds. Remember, this question was asked by someone who has never built an amp before. Its easy to forget that when you are too busy trying to dunk on someone. Anyone.
If the OP said this is their first build, it was after you claimed there were no cost savings. It’s easy to forget that when you are too busy trying to twist your own words to save face.
 

JuneauMike

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If the OP said this is their first build, it was after you claimed there were no cost savings. It’s easy to forget that when you are too busy trying to twist your own words to save face.
Send the guy $100. If he comes in on budget, he can send it back. If he goes over, then you can help finance the overrun. That way you got something besides your mouth riding on your own foolish advice.
 

zeke54

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About 8 years ago I got the bug to build an amp , I didn't have a Champ yet so the 5F1 seemed a good place to start . I don't remember who sold the kit , probably a lesser known company as I wanted to save a few pennies . I had used a soldering iron many times so I wasn't worried about that . I worked on it slowly , and as some of the instructions were sketchy I referred to an online site for help . I'd work on it on my day off , going slow , trying to avoid cold solder connections , and all told it took me about a month . I had a tweed cab made in the dimensions of a Blues Jr. so I could use a BJ cover , and to put in a 10" speaker . I had bought some vintage tubes on Ebay ( vintage is always better , right ? ) It fired up the first time ... all was good ! I had never played a Champ and yes , it was glorious ! I made the amp mainly to satisfy myself , I think the kit cost about $300 , the cab about $200, Weber speaker $75 , vintage tubes maybe $70 , chassis was about $25 . Did I learn what makes an amp tick ? No , not really but it was time and money well spent !
 

Dan_Pomykalski

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Send the guy $100. If he comes in on budget, he can send it back. If he goes over, then you can help finance the overrun. That way you got something besides your mouth riding on your own foolish advice.
It’s not just my mouth... I’ve presented you with a bill of materials, links to various options, and examples from personal experience. If anyone’s mouth is riding on foolish advice, it’s yours. Discouraging people who may be considering building an amp for the cost saving benefits, just because you can’t admit you were wrong. It’s okay to be wrong, just admit it instead of digging yourself in a deeper hole.
 

gabasa

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... how does the kit version compare to the real thing? Thanks in advance!

This is just my opinion. If you can build it successfully, it will compare favourably to Fender’s 57 Champ reissue. Use a great speaker and it may even sound better.

However, the fun in all this, for me at least, is when you get to the point in which you can draft up your own bills-of-materials for your builds, with your own component choices, from scratch. This does bring up your shipping costs, but picking the ingredients for your recipe is something I find rewarding, because you can end up with something that’s completely unique that you can call your own.

My Champ is schematically a 5F1 circuit with a choke. It sounds nothing like a tweed Champ, but it’s an amp I can’t get enough of. I love it.
 

zeke54

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I'm all for "the real deal" especially compared to PCB construction in general, but I think this Reissue sounds amazing.




These are commonly available used for around 300-400 bux. There are some reasonable kits to convert to handwired.
Wow , you gave that PJ a workout , really great playing !! I have a first generation tweed PJ ( before they lacquered them ) I've had since 2003 . It was my main gigging amp for about 8 years ( band broke up ) . Mine had a sweet spot around 6 or 7 . Mainly played bars but miced it for bigger halls , really one hell of an amp !! I'm not sure that the Pro Jr. is a " reissue " , I think they came out around 1993 and have been in production since . Really enjoyed your clip !
 

kbold

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You don't need a variac and you absolutely can buy an accurate and dependable DMM for way less than $100. Bulding amps isn't something that requires a high end Fluke.
Wrt this post ... I wouldn't recommend anyone attempt an amp build if they don't already own a multimeter (and are very familiar with usage of same).

On the subject of an amp build kit .... I also wouldn't recommend it to anyone who does not have consistently good soldering ability.
Many posts on TDPRI of the innards of amps and guitars, show sub-par soldering (to be polite). There's a direct inverse relationship between soldering quality and faults.
 

palethorn

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I never played any of the Champ versions, reissue, clone or otherwise so I can't advise you which one I prefer. But I can tell you about my experience of building a clone. There are not quite available here where I live for a reasonable price. So I decided to build my own. I had some experience with electronics before, so it wasn't that difficult for me. All that's left for me is to build a cabinet, and I don't have much experience with woodwork, but nevertheless, I'll try. It was a fun learning experience where I ended with a perfectly functional, point to point hand wired, and good sounding amp for ~$550. Ordered the kit from boothill. Transformers, tubes and speaker I ordered separately. What I can tell is:
- You'll save some money, but lose some time on building the amp
- I now know how every component works so I can service the amp on my own
- The components are good quality, I can replace them with even higher quality ones, not that I want or need to
- You can mod it yourself, if it's 5F1 you can add a tone control, or a variable NFB loop
 

alexwilds

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No two tube amps sound exactly the same; differences in tubes, bias, speakers, cabinet solidity, condition of resistors and capacitors, etc., all affect tone. That said, a well built kit sounds as much like the real thing as another real thing.
 

alexwilds

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Regarding building an amp, I built a Mojotone 5F2-A Princeton (pictured on the left) in a few evenings for about $300. I enjoyed it so much a built a Pro and a Deluxe and then a Champ. To keep costs down I buy junk ($15) solid state amps for speakers, hardware, maybe a chassis and a few parts, and build my cabinets (I am a carpenter). Not too much money, a lot of fun to do, and they sound great. I learned all I know from Uncle Doug on Youtube.
 

JuneauMike

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It’s not just my mouth... I’ve presented you with a bill of materials, links to various options, and examples from personal experience. If anyone’s mouth is riding on foolish advice, it’s yours. Discouraging people who may be considering building an amp for the cost saving benefits, just because you can’t admit you were wrong. It’s okay to be wrong, just admit it instead of digging yourself in a deeper hole.
Said the guy who has experience building three amps. You are proving my point, as well as demonstrating poor reading comprehension skills. At no time have I discouraged anyone from building their own 5F1 Champ. If you have zero experience working with electrical circuits you can build a really nice Champ. I'm just not blowing smoke up his rear about it being a cheap hobby, or project for that matter.

So, I'm guessing you aren't sending him the money? :rolleyes:
 




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