Cheap 1 watt guitar amp kit?

gitlvr

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Hi,
Is there a really low cost, simple tube amp kit in the 1-5 watt range (prefer 1 watt, but anything in that range is fine). I'd prefer to build a small head, and would like it simple enough that I would not need to buy a lot of tools I don't already have
Not looking for amp breakup, as I would just run pedals. Something 6L6GC based.
Is there anything like that available?
I have never built an amp before.
Thanks.
 
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zhyla

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1W and 5W are very different things. And you say you're not looking for amp breakup. And you say 6L6 which... I guess you could build a 5W class A amp with a 6L6, but I'm not sure anyone ever has.

So... what is it you actually want? Besides to build an amp (which is a good goal by itself).

You don't need a lot of tools. You'll need a soldering iron. An oscilloscope helps. You'll need to know how not to kill yourself with 400 VAC power supplies. The latter part is rather critical.
 

Wildeman

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Your cheapest bet would be to find a broken one to repair or mod imo. There are lots of Champ kits but they arent real cheap.
 

gkterry

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Boothill Amps' SixShooter would be my suggestion. Check out RobRob's page about the amp: https://robrobinette.com/SixShooter_Build.htm. It isn't listed on the Boot Hill Amps website but I'm sure if you contact him about it, he can get you a kit put together in short order.
The tube complement is not what you specify but the price is cheap and it appears to be a solid and fairly easy first time amp build.
 

2L man

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I also recommend 6V6 single ended amp. Its max clean power is about 4W. I built Princeton circuit which has additional Master Volume and adjustable NFB potentiometers and I can get more different sounds. This link has one very well documented build.


For SE amp I recommend toroid PT without tube rectifier because Sag-effect is not SE amp phenomenon. Antek is USA brand which 50VA PT cost only $28. Toroid PT make Single Ended amps hum less when its electromagnetic stray field is less strong than classic EI core PT produce and strongest "straight out of holes" so when toroid is mounted flat to chassis it interacts least with Ootput Transformer.

For OT Hammond 125CSE set to 5k is good buy for 6V6. For EL34 and other 25W tubes 125DSE is needed for 5k and for 6L6GC and other 30W 125ESE but then PT should be upgraded to higher power.
 

gitlvr

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Thanks, gentleman. All of this information is much appreciated
As far as experience, I don't even know what I don't know.
But I will spend a LOT of time looking and researching before I ever try to do this.
Thanks again.
 

printer2

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How cheap is cheap?

The first one for a 6V6, 6AQ5, second can do a range of tubes 6V6, 6AQ5, 6K6, third a 1W amp using a 12AT7, 12AU7.

https://www.tubesandmore.com/products/transformer-output-8-w-single-ended $15.50

Transformer - Output, 8 W, 4kΩ - 9kΩ impedance $21.39

P-T1750A Reverb Driver $25.95


Power transformer. First is for a reverb unit but it can do for the reverb OT and do a watt or more.

P-T290WX $48.75 237V @ 50 mA 6.6V @ 1.05A Stand Alone Reverb 6G15

P-T290AX $82.95 Champ, Vibro Champ

Boothill Amps can supply the little bits, only ordering from two places will save money. The biggest expense is the transformers.
 

gitlvr

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How cheap is cheap?
I'm guessing $100 to $150 is pretty much bottom barrel on cheap, if you are building a half decent amp. Not counting the cabinet it will be housed in, which I can easily build.
I have an old silvertone cabinet with a Jensen 15" speaker(old bass cab, which the Lil' Night Train head a friend loaned me sounds wonderful through).
That was one purpose of this thread; to find out how much minimum I need to budget for.
I'm just testing the water to see if it is feasible for me to even consider doing this.
 

King Fan

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Short version: I agree you're right to look for a *kit.*

Long version: You know the 2 of 3 rule? Bicycle example: Your bike can be any two of three things: Light; strong; cheap. There must be something similar for first-build amps. (I'm gonna guess you're looking for the *build* part? If you just want cheap and easy, yes, buy a used inexpensive amp.)

1. Truly inexpensive builds require you know enough to salvage the spendy parts, have a parts stash for most of the rest, and source the few others from one source to save shipping. None of those steps are first-build territory.

2. *In theory,* you could learn enough to shop for all the various components and save the kit upcharge, but choosing and spec'ing all the components, even just getting the right PT and OT, is complex. Even worse, getting all the items *in a limited number of shipments* often defies even experienced builders who can manage the first part.

3. So the sane way for someone starting out is to buy a kit with almost all the components (you can source speakers yourself). Not as cheap, but...

Of these three, item 3 is by far the most 'do-able'. After all, if you can build the cab, you're already doing a *lot* to make the whole project more affordable.

There are less-expensive kits out there; you may get more choices if you expand to say 1-5W...
 

VintageSG

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Don't build your first few amps to save money. It never works out that way. To build a Champ costs rather more than buying ( say ) a VHT Special 6 or Monoprice 5W. Worth it though, although should a VHT Special 6 or Ultra cross your path, buy it anyway...

If you don't know what you don't know, do you have the tools to build the amp?. At least one good multimeter alongside a cheapo ( Harbour Freight in the US? ). A cheap soldering iron with low thermal inertia is next to useless. A decent one isn't expensive, but add that potential cost to the cost of a good multimeter, and maybe a new pair of high quality side cutters, some snipe nosed pliers etc etc. Again, I don't know what you don't know or what tools you have already.

What I will say though is that building your own amps, and it will become amps, trust us on here about this, is extremely rewarding. Learning is fun. Making is fun, and the sound of the first sweet, sweet chord through an amp you built is a pleasure that I've found doesn't diminish.

Everyone ( self included ) will say a Champ is a great first build, and it is. Sonically, a Champ is an absolute delight, and 4~5 W through (a) decent 10" or 12" speaker(s) will keep up with buddies. The proper Champ chassis is a cramped pig to work in though. I digress.

We in Britain have the Ampmaker WF-55, which is a Champ-a-like with a larger chassis.

Link to Ampmaker WF-55

Not suggesting you buy one, but it'll give you an idea of what to look for in a kit. Documentation is vital when you start out. Ampmaker documention is among the best there is. The WF-55 also comes with transformers that can double as anchors for light tugs, should the need arise. Transformers cost. A crappy transformer can spoil a build. It's difficult to judge a transformer from a picture, so ask on forums if any builder has used them before. Bad experiences are communicated around the globe before praise gets its ass out of bed.
Again, personal experience recounted can be invaluable. Buy the best, it's cheaper in the long run. The best isn't always the most expensive either. A well documented kit with quality components may cost more, but it's worth it.

From Europe come Musikding and Tube-Town kits. I've built from both, and Musikding provide a description, build guide and start-up guide. Tube-Town have the schematic and layout guides on their web pages. The former is a much better place to start from. Not criticising Tube-Town, their componentry is top notch, and the amps sound superb. Not the best place for a first build though. Both Musikding and T-T have lovely sounding ~2W amp kits. Worth looking at. The Madamp G3 sounds incredible. Not sure if the US transformer option is still available.

$200 should be doable?, I don't know your local market. Add on the cost of any tools. You'll never fiscally amortise the tool cost to zero, but each build lowers the cost/build-use ratio, especially the first four.

Do it anyway. The rewards are worth it. A hobby with a fun thing at the end. Learning and leisure. Making and meditating.
 

gitlvr

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King Fan, VintageSG, thanks.
On a kit, your reasoning is exactly why I'm looking at a kit; if I don't know anything, best thing is to source everything at once in a kit put together by someone who knows what works, and will give me instruction along with it to assemble what I want.
As for cost, I do need to keep it down, because honestly it will take a lot of scrimping and saving just to begin something like this. I spend most of my money building guitars, lol.
I also came here because I know that I don't know, and therefore came to the place I know will give me solid advice, which I will lean heavily on.
 

dankilling

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Mod 102 is an el84 based champ circuit. Around $200 for the kit and it’s got more clean than many. The terminal strip construction can be a bit fiddly, but it builds a decent enough amp and has good build instructions
 

zhyla

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If cost is a factor, you can do what I did. I bought an old organ amp off ebay. I knew very little about tube amps at the time. I must have bought something that had the same power tubes as what I wanted to build. And I rebuilt it as the Bassman circuit I wanted. There was a little adaptation to get the power supply voltages correct (zener diodes are handy!) and a little work to figure out the OT ratios, but it was all pretty fun and easy.
 

printer2

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I once was in a challenge to design a tube amplifier to cost less than $100 not including case and hardware and shipping. I managed it by sourcing all the parts from the vendor I listed above. I was surprised at the lack of an inexpensive power transformer when looking for one today. The output transformers I listed are still reasonable. To make a real low buck amplifier now I would use a 12V laptop adapter (thrift stores under $10) , run 12V for heaters, so no 6V6, although there are 12V6's ($6.90) as well as others like the 12AQ5, 12AB5, around still. Then I would run a high voltage converter that costs under $10 online (Amazon, China). The $15 OT from above, two sockets, 12X7 for $16, want Blackface or Tweed? Could all come in under $100 and you would have a Champ styled amp to play with.
 

NoTeleBob

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Have you built anything electronic before? If not, I would start with a pedal kit, then another... when you're comfortable with that, move to an amp.

As others have said, this won't save you any money from what I've seen of costs. You can by a 5 watt Champ 600 RI for $250. Just needs a $30 speaker upgrade and the speaker cloth replaced. You can even do mods on it to learn about amps (long threads here on that).
 

printer2

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Well, you made me come up with an interesting solution. Mind you, it does complicate the design a little. On the plus side you get a Blackface channel and a Tweed channel. Either both connected to the input or separate jacks and an AB box to switch between the BF channel for rhythm and the tweed for lead. Or the other way around. I think I may make one.

zBC3BiT.png
 
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