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Ampmaker UK

Discussion in 'Shock Brother's DIY Amps' started by Basil, Aug 26, 2009.

  1. Basil

    Basil TDPRI Member

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    Anybody built an amp using a kit from Ampmaker UK ?

    They seem quite good, I was thinking of the SE-5a, a 5W class A, one ECC83/12AX7, one EL84, gain,master,treble,mid and bass controls - about £160 including valves, pre-punched chassis, control panels and delivery.

    Would this be similar to an AX84 P1 ?

    What would it sound like compared to a similar off the shelf amp ? Perhaps Epi VJ or new Marshall or Blackstar, even Tiny Terror or Vox Night Train - I suppose they would all be made with PCB's and assembled using cheap labour.

    What would be the advantage of building one myself ? Or do people just do it for fun ?

    I wouldn't want to build one if I could buy one that sounded better for a similar cost - what do you reckon ?
     
  2. stax

    stax Tele-Afflicted

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    I’ve been using one live for three years and they are a great sounding simple to build kit, In fact I’ve just loaded it in the van for tonight’s gig.
    Mine is the 18w version but I also did an 18w with 6V6’s for a different flavour.
    I’m no electronics expert but over the years got reasonably good at soldering; the rest is like painting by numbers it’s nice and easy to follow the clear instructions.
    Btw mine is the one made out of old floorboards on the users amp page of the Ampmaker site.
    Go for it you won’t be disappointed; also Barry is one of the good guys and will help out any way he can.
    Not affiliated in any way just a happy customer.
    Stax
     
  3. Wattie

    Wattie Tele-Meister

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    I persuaded a mate to buy and build one after I did a P1 from scratch. Same thing, UK parts.

    Then I rebuilt his when he couldn't follow Barry's instructions.

    This is no criticism of the instructions - they are the best I've seen - Barry is also a top geezer.
     
  4. RomanS

    RomanS Poster Extraordinaire

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    Yep, I do it mainly for the fun...

    Also, if you know your ways round electric circuits, you can include mods and tweaks you couldn't find on an amp you could buy in a store.

    A well built amp kit will be more reliable (and more service-able) than an inexpensive store-bought tube-amp (those are built on PCB boards - which isn't necessarily bad for tone, but will make future servicing - like cap changes - more difficult, since de- and re-soldering parts to PCBs is not as easy as to turret- or eyelet-boards; also, a lot of inexpensive store-bought amps have parts like tube sockets, pots and jacks soldered directly to the PCB, and that's a potential source of problems and amp failure...)

    Amp building will not really help you save a lot of money (esp. if you have to get the tools first) - but if you do it right, you will have a better-built amp than what you can get for the same money from a store...
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2009
  5. sjhusting

    sjhusting Tele-Afflicted

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    and then two, then three, four, five ...
     
  6. Basil

    Basil TDPRI Member

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    I've bitten the bullet and ordered one, 5w SE-5a, thinking of making it into a head and 1 X 12 cab.

    If all goes well my son is thinking of the 18w version in a few months time.
     
  7. JCMNelson

    JCMNelson TDPRI Member

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    It would be great to hear how you get on, I've got my eye on the 18w that they do!
     
  8. Basil

    Basil TDPRI Member

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    It's working and sounds pretty good, I wasn't sure what to expect but the description "bright British rock" is just about right. It has plenty of volume for home use, not as loud as our 15w Pro Junior (as you would expect) but playing at one end of the living room with the master on 4 (through one 10" spkr), it's difficult for anyone to have a conversation at the other end of the room.

    The build was straightforward although it was a revised kit with new instructions and I found a few things not quite right, just simple stuff like wire lengths and missing text, a few cut and paste problems really. I had a few soldering problems early on but got better towards the end. We're already started building a head for it and then a matching 2 x 10" cab.

    I found the whole build very interesting and enjoyable although I'm glad I used a kit, I feel I've learned a lot and hope to build another some time. I'm amazed that such a simple circuit, with just two valves can produce a sound like that.

    Also, I can't stop reading this section to see what amps other people are building.
     
  9. Sollophonic

    Sollophonic Friend of Leo's

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    Basil,

    I am seriously thinking of getting one of the SE5a's but I would like to here your thoughts on it as well as others.

    Can you get a decent crunchy tone at lower volumes out of it? How effective is the master volume? Currently my modded Valve Jnr is great but I have to run it too loud for home use to get a decent crunch out of it without a pedal.

    How does your new amp do in this area?

    I am tempted to get one. Did you get yours with or without the chassis? I have a 2 x 10 cabinet as well, if I get one of these I am thinking of building it into a 2 x 10 combo rather than a head.
     
  10. Basil

    Basil TDPRI Member

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    Hi Sollophonic,

    Sorry I haven't replied earlier but I've been waiting for my son's opinion as he's the real guitar player.

    I've not really heared a Valve Junior so it's difficult to compare them but we've got a Fender Pro Junior with just volume and tone controls although it's 15w and gives a mainly clean sound.

    On the SE-5a, you can get a nice crunchy sound with the gain and use the master to turn the overall volume down. With the master on 4, it's difficult to talk but turn it down to 2 and it's quite an acceptable volume for other people in the room.

    As the Ampmaker website says it's a bright British sound so it's different to our Fender and Peavey amps but it's nice to have that different sound.

    I've been building the 2 x 10 cab so today I heard it through this and it sounded pretty impressive, even though it's currently only a 1 x 10 !

    I bought the timesaver kit which includes the chassis, in fact everything except the power lead. I could have done with a bit more practice on my soldering but I found the build quite enjoyable and interesting.

    If there's anything more you need to know just ask.

    Cheers,
    Basil
     
  11. gnolivos

    gnolivos Tele-Meister

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    Hi Basil,

    I am considering the SE-5a 5watter from AmpMaker myself. I need your opinion on one very important thing for me to move ahead, please:

    Are you able to obtain good CLEAN sound (i.e., no breakup) from this amp, at high volumes? I'm assuming low on the gain, and high on the master volume... But in my current valve amp, I can only obtain clean sound at lower volumes, period.

    I'm trying to find something different, because for my Gibson SG loud crunch/gain is great, but when I want clean sound for my Tele, it is not good... too low volumes...
     
  12. gnolivos

    gnolivos Tele-Meister

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    No response? Anyone before I pull the trigger on this amp please? :neutral:
     
  13. tubescent

    tubescent Tele-Meister

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    I'm using his parts to build an amp at the moment. To be honest I wished i'd just got one of his kits at this stage but I wanted a few extras in my build. One being more headroom than a champ so I used his bigger single ended transformer. You could buy one of 4w tweed style kits and ask him to sub in the bigger single ended transformers he carries that can run a 6V6 or 6L6 for 4 or 8watts. Just a thought. That's what I should have done.
     
  14. drgonzo2

    drgonzo2 Tele-Meister

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    While I can't speak from experience with the ampmaker kit, I have built several EL84 based SE amps. If you're after loud clean, I guess it depends on how loud your definition of loud is. 5Watts is pretty loud, but compared to what?

    There is also the matter of the output valve used. The EL84 has a fairly high internal voltage gain, which is fairly unusual for a power valve. Most power valves (6V6, 6L6, etc) act as current amplifiers only, and have a voltage gain of 1-1.5. The EL84 was designed to have a much higher internal voltage gain (roughly 15, iirc), which makes them much easier to drive to full signal. This property of the EL84 was designed to reduce the number of preamp stages needed in valve radios - use an EL84 and you could cut a valve from the radio preamp, reducing costs per unit. Unfortunately, when used in a guitar amp, where both the initial signal is higher and the preamp amplification factor is higher, getting a truly 'clean' output from an EL84 becomes quite difficult. It can be done, but it's not whatthe valve is best at (in guitar terms).

    For a loud, clean, SE amp, I'd be more inclined to use a 6L6 power valve. With a suitable output tranny, that would give you roughly 8watts before the op valve starts to distort, and would give a generally cleaner tone even when driven when compared to an EL84 based amp.

    HTH... G
     
  15. gnolivos

    gnolivos Tele-Meister

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    To answer some questions from above: My current 5W tube amp is a Palomino V8. I have tweaked/modded it extensively, including a custom tone stack. Regardless, this amp has never been capable of producing CLEAN tones at even modest volume levels. With Gain, it is a riot, and extremely loud...

    When I say 'modest volume', I mean: Playing at home, just trying to enjoy some clean tones with some backing music. Not blasting loud, but I want to hear it. It is no where near the volume it can produce with Gain...
     
  16. drgonzo2

    drgonzo2 Tele-Meister

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    A V8 palomino? That's a whole different kettle of fish. The palomino's preamp design is notoriously 'dirty', and uses an op-amp (chip) as part of the circuit. Not bad, per-se, but the particular op-amp used is not of the greatest quality and a better quality one can make a dramatic improvement to the amp's tone. It also means that the amp is inherently designed to distort, with very little clean headroom in the preamp. As you've found, with this type of preamp design, while you can get a (kinda) clean tone from the amp, they tend to be really quiet while doing so.

    One suggestion I can make, is to try a different preamp valve. Try a 12AT7 in place of the AX7. The AT& has a lower gain than the AX7 (70 vs. 100 nominally), this lower gain should allow you to run the preamp 'louder' before it starts to distort. Due to the V8's design, the preamp is all you really need to worry about, as the output stage is designed to run the valve well within it's clean zone...

    But, getting back to your original question about the ampmaker kit, compared to a V8, yes you would be able to get a louder clean tone from it than you can currently. You'd be able to get a considerably louder distorted tone as well. I'd say get the kit, build the amp, and compare the resulting amp to what you have now. I think you'll be pleasantly suprised...

    HTH... G
     
  17. gnolivos

    gnolivos Tele-Meister

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    GONZO, THANKS FOR THE INFO.

    Yes indeed, I had put socket to test out some opamps, and ended up with the TI chip that many recommend... I also changed the valve as you said... It all helped with clean headroom, but not by much. 15-20% perhaps...

    One thing that drives me nuts on the V8, is that although it has an effects loop, when I use my effects pedal for detuning, it adds a warble effect. This does NOT happen when I use my solid state amp. I am hoping the ampmaker kit, without opamps, and better quality, will solve this issue...

    I am going to purchase the amp-maker kit soon and have a go at it.
     
  18. gnolivos

    gnolivos Tele-Meister

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    OK, I pulled the trigger... will take weeks to build, since I have little time at night, and also need a custom chassis built first, to fit my head... (any pointers on where to get that done?)
     
  19. Wattie

    Wattie Tele-Meister

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    Looks like my pal is giving me the one he made when he leaves the country. I'm looking forward to making it mine, so to speak.

    Side by side with a P1 should sound exactly the same, so one of them will get modded, or we go for the stereo.
     
  20. gnolivos

    gnolivos Tele-Meister

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    Purchased the Kit... will post results...
     
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