DIY solid state amp? (Sidekick 15)

totterer

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Does anyone do this? I am really curious about these Sidekick amps. They are solid state, but they seem to think they are tube amps! They get that edge of breakup sound, and full distortion in what sounds like tubes being overdriven! The Fender cleans are lovely as well. Fender should ditch the Frontman and just go back to this. Very baffling for an 80's ss amp. I found the schematic, and it looks pretty simple. I realize I could probably find one for $100 bucks or so, but building this type of amp sounds like a fun challenge. Not sure what kind of transformer or anything. Doesn't need an OT from what I gather. I have built the 5E3 and the 5F2-A, but I don't know anything about solid state amps. There are mountains of info about tube amps, I am not sure where to even look for info. on this so here I am. Hand wired Sidekick anyone? He he he :p Give these amps a listen before you rush to judgement! They are pretty amazing.
 

thechad

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If you can find the parts, go for it! I suspect it’ll cost more to build than it would to buy. But if the juice is worth the squeeze to you go have some fun!
 

sds1

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Do you have a good schematic for this amp?

What I was able to find in just a couple of minutes quick Google search is missing the part #'s for the transistors and opamps.
 

totterer

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Do you have a good schematic for this amp?
If you can find the parts, go for it! I suspect it’ll cost more to build than it would to buy. But if the juice is worth the squeeze to you go have some fun!
The way I figure it, I would be replacing the speaker most likely in an old Sidekick. I have scraps around to build a cabinet, so could be done pretty cheaply.
 

Snfoilhat

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DIY pedal building has become such a mature hobby, with lots of source material, community support, and parts suppliers. I’m surprised that i don’t see more amp builders revisiting the Alamo and Music Man format of a fanciful preamp (boost, pseudo Dumble, Klon Centaur, Bluesbreaker, whatever) bolted to a simple tube phase inverter and power amp. If you build this thing please let us know how it goes
 

solfege

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DIY pedal building has become such a mature hobby, with lots of source material, community support, and parts suppliers. I’m surprised that i don’t see more amp builders revisiting the Alamo and Music Man format of a fanciful preamp (boost, pseudo Dumble, Klon Centaur, Bluesbreaker, whatever) bolted to a simple tube phase inverter and power amp. If you build this thing please let us know how it goes
Picked up a Music Man RD 112 65 awhile ago, and just got it back from a full service recently (first in its life), and man it's a great amp. Mine has the solid state phase inverter, and it's still wonderful. The best thing about it is that it reproduces *cleanly* whatever is happening in the signal chain. The weak spot is definitely distortion channel (solid state preamp distortion from 78...), and the one in this series people like more are the phaser version, which is really the model for what you're talking about here: interesting built-in effects with an otherwise linear and clean preamp married to a tube power section.
 

Snfoilhat

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One of the first pieces of gear I ever thought was cool, back in 8th or 9th grade, was a friend's Peavey VTX -- 2 6L6GCs for power (I think), two 12"s, and a solid state preamp with some kind of stereo phaser/pan. You could hear the hissy noise floor whoosh from left to right and back :p

My solid state knowledge is too weak to make something like a modern, lower powered VTX, but I think I would if I could, if only stoke out my 15 year old self
 

printer2

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I have wanted to try this kit. It is a class A amp used in the diy audio community. It draws a lot of power as it is Class A, would be comparable to a Class A tube amp heat. Need a hefty power supply or use a laptop adapter (my choice) and heat sinks. 5-10W depending. I would shoot for a 5W, use a pedal circuit for a preamp.

Lot of support if needed.


 
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Robnik33

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I have the leftover guts of a Japan built Sidekick 35 and faceplate that I converted to a tube amp. For solid state, it did sound quite good. $50 plus ship from NorCal, PM me if you are interested. (I hope I didn’t just violate this board’s T&C …)
 

The Spruce Plan

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I have been going over these schematics and something jumps out at me that gives me more questions.

Do all these amps sound basically the same? each amp in the series, while similar, has different preamps. The 15 has two opamp gain stages in the preamp. The 35 has those plus a buffer (mixer gain?) opamp where the reverb output comes in. The 65 has four gain stages in the preamp and two opamps where the fx come in.
 

totterer

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I am glad to see this thread finally found some friends! This interest in the Sidekicks started after doing a bit of research in a quest to compare a similarly rated solid state amp with my Princeton and Deluxe tweeds. I didn't want to spend a lot. There is a ton of love for the Fender Bronco, but these go for some cash these days. Some knowledgeable people on this forum told me that the Bronco and the early Frontman share the same schematic, so I ended up finding one for about 20$, perfect! It wasn't until a week or so later that I discovered the Sidekicks and I had buyer remorse.

Fast forward to now, the Frontman in the original cabinet sounds small and thin, a bit rattly and ridiculous. This is not a fair comparison, so I ran all three amps through the same 15" cabinet and my initial suspicion has been proven correct! This Frontman sounds amazing!! It sounds frighteningly similar and honestly with the reverb and 3 band EQ, it is more versatile. I would love to try this with a Sidekick 15 or 20 because I am sure it would also sound amazing. I recommend anyone doing this. I would be lying if I said it sounds better than either of the tweeds, but it is not worse, only different. I did a bit more research on the Frontman and (I have not confirmed this) the drive channel may be designed after the Marshal Bluesbreaker pedal? The drive channel is a bit much past 4 but it is still fun. The clean channel has a pretty decent natural breakup when cranked. The tiny reverb is more than enough!

I am on to some other projects now, but I may revisit the Sidekick In the future. I am now convinced that a small solid state amp is really all I need. I haven't decided the fate of my tube amps, but I am trying to downsize and I like the versatility of the Frontman. I really hope someone builds a Sidekick. It would make a great kit actually, and should be pretty cheap.
 

totterer

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Fender Pro TV Frontman Reverb laugh if you want!!
 

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The Spruce Plan

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I need to build an amp. Me being me, it's gotta be solid state, compact, quiet, and take pedals well...but i'd like to have it do those light overdrives well if possible.

I have been looking at the schematics over at KMG (http://milas.spb.ru/~kmg/index_en.html),the AMT Tube Cake schematics, and now these. All have their strengths, but I'm drawn to this design for the overdrive sound. Since I have working Tube Cakes, it seems to me I should do this or the KMG first. I guess I will see which parts I can get. Wish me luck.
 

PhredE

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I am glad to see this thread finally found some friends! This interest in the Sidekicks started after doing a bit of research in a quest to compare a similarly rated solid state amp with my Princeton and Deluxe tweeds. I didn't want to spend a lot. There is a ton of love for the Fender Bronco, but these go for some cash these days. Some knowledgeable people on this forum told me that the Bronco and the early Frontman share the same schematic, so I ended up finding one for about 20$, perfect! It wasn't until a week or so later that I discovered the Sidekicks and I had buyer remorse.

Fast forward to now, the Frontman in the original cabinet sounds small and thin, a bit rattly and ridiculous. This is not a fair comparison, so I ran all three amps through the same 15" cabinet and my initial suspicion has been proven correct! This Frontman sounds amazing!! It sounds frighteningly similar and honestly with the reverb and 3 band EQ, it is more versatile. I would love to try this with a Sidekick 15 or 20 because I am sure it would also sound amazing. I recommend anyone doing this. I would be lying if I said it sounds better than either of the tweeds, but it is not worse, only different. I did a bit more research on the Frontman and (I have not confirmed this) the drive channel may be designed after the Marshal Bluesbreaker pedal? The drive channel is a bit much past 4 but it is still fun. The clean channel has a pretty decent natural breakup when cranked. The tiny reverb is more than enough!

I am on to some other projects now, but I may revisit the Sidekick In the future. I am now convinced that a small solid state amp is really all I need. I haven't decided the fate of my tube amps, but I am trying to downsize and I like the versatility of the Frontman. I really hope someone builds a Sidekick. It would make a great kit actually, and should be pretty cheap.
For fun, I rehoused a Squier counterpart of
the Frontman 10. It wasn't at all impressive when played through it's combo stock cheap 8" speaker. I rigged an output jack and bypassed it into one of my several cabinets, then, put my one of my Joyos (ACTone, Amer. Sound) in front going straight into the input. It wasn't sonic bliss, but sounded way better than most that heard it could imagine. It sounded better than it had any right to for sure.
 

totterer

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I originally put my Deluxe in the Pro 15" cabinet, but decided I wanted it in a proper Deluxe cab with 12" speaker. I had a 12" in my tweed Princeton so I took that for the Deluxe. I put the Frontman in the Pro cab. (getting dizzy?) That left me with no speaker for my Princeton, except the stock speaker from the Frontman. So in it went. It actually sounds fine. Much better than it did in the stock Frontman cab. I want to try out something else, but the cheap stock speaker is completely acceptable. It is really making me question how much the cabinet size and dimensions effect the sound of an amp. I am realizing it is major! Another fun experiment would be to run the deluxe through the cheesy frontman cab with the stock speaker. I am guessing is would sound small and thin, rattly and ridiculous.

I am in no way suggesting that solid state amps are as good or better than tube amps. In fact the only reason SS amps sound good at all is because they were modeled after their tube ancestors. Tube amp are way cool, I love tube amps! The only reason I may consider SS over tube is the lighter weight and not having to deal with tube issues. I wish there was more info on building small SS amps.
 

The Spruce Plan

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If you are at all familiar with Glen Fricker, he is big on the idea that the tone is in the speaker. Amps can sure help or hinder, but a good cab is going to sound good almost regardless of what's pushing it. That's why I lug my Marshall 1960 around: it sounds AMAZING with every amp I plug into it. Your Pro 15 sounds like a real winner too!
 

cometazzi

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I wish there was more info on building small SS amps.

www.ssguitar.com might be worth a look. Its a forum of amp builders that are mostly solid state.

Similarly, any of the runoffgrove.com preamps into your standard chipamp or such can be enough fun to keep you off the streets for a few nights at least.

I've done a few of those for kicks. The chipamp power sections I built were mostly just pulled straight off the datasheet(s). Bog standard linear power supplies, etc. I've also got a small pile of various Class-D amplifier boards I've gotten of the bay for stupidly cheap, but I haven't done a whole lot with them. That was right around the time I started getting into tube gear. ;-)
 

NoTeleBob

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The Bronco goes for more $$ because it looks vintage. It's developed some mystique for some reason. It's just a Frontman with tweed on it.

Frontman suffers from the same problem as most SS Fender amps - way too mid scooped. There's a bunch of threads here on it. The suggested EQ is Treble 1, Mids 9, and Bass 2, or thereabouts. If you study the schematic it has a seriously odd EQ layout.

A better speaker that cuts highs is a real feature. Something like a Cannabis Rex or similar. 12" seems to help.

Setting the drive channel to about 9:00 on the gain opens it up a lot. Any more than that and you get horrible two diode SS clipping. There are a couple zones that don't sound too bad but most of the dial after 9:00 is nasty.
 

cometazzi

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The Bronco goes for more $$ because it looks vintage. It's developed some mystique for some reason. It's just a Frontman with tweed on it.

Frontman suffers from the same problem as most SS Fender amps - way too mid scooped. There's a bunch of threads here on it. The suggested EQ is Treble 1, Mids 9, and Bass 2, or thereabouts. If you study the schematic it has a seriously odd EQ layout.

A better speaker that cuts highs is a real feature. Something like a Cannabis Rex or similar. 12" seems to help.

Setting the drive channel to about 9:00 on the gain opens it up a lot. Any more than that and you get horrible two diode SS clipping. There are a couple zones that don't sound too bad but most of the dial after 9:00 is nasty.

That was my experience on the Frontman 15 I have. I'd generally go Treble 1, Mids 5, Bass 1, and with the gain at 5 I could sit perfectly in the mix with '70s Judas Priest while jamming along. It actually didn't sound too bad like that, but I've always wanted to put a speaker-out on it so I could try it through different speakers and cabinets.
 




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