Is it Inadvisable to Buy a Used Kit Built Amp

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by Bones, Apr 1, 2017.

  1. Bones

    Bones Telefied Ad Free Member

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    There's a 5E3 clone for sale locally for what i would consider a good price.

    Is it crazy to consider buying something like this?

    Anything I should watch out for?

    Supposedly it has been gone over by a pro tech and there's documentation of that.

    Thatnks for any replies.
     
  2. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    If the kit was decent quality and it works, that's a good sign.
    I have a Weber kit based 18w TMB and a lower quality open sourced 18w TMB, both work perfectly, but you can see the lower quality workmanship in the one built without a kit, where the Weber based build is really nice and some of the parts including the OT were upgraded.

    I'd listen for excess noise, since poor layout and wire routing would be heard through the amp.
    A tech could fix any of that though.
     
  3. elmoscafeo

    elmoscafeo Tele-Afflicted

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    Which brand? Trinity, Tube Depot, Mission, etc. kits are going for $500. Boot Hill has a 5E3 head for $189. If the price is good enough, it's in good condition and sounds good, why not? If you're technically competent, the risk becomes less.
     
  4. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I'd demand crazy good gut shots of the chassis, and all relevant parts. If you're buying in person, do the deal at your tech's shop, with it on the bench.

    For starters, which kit? Could be not a kit, just someone built from scratch, sourcing parts, to buying a bag of parts (so-called kit), to half-way instruction for those who hopefully don't really need it, to full step by step details, all parts. The type of kit gives early insight into the brand and quality of components, and perhaps the experience of the builder.

    But really, we just need pics.
     
  5. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    I would have to play a gig or two with it, first. If it survived that, then I'd be more confident in it. Of course, it depends on the skills of the builder. If their soldering chops are not super good, anything can happen on the road. Bedroom's another story.
     
  6. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Caveat: I prefer to pay less for the completed amp than the original cost of the kit...

    This kit built amp thing is ancient history.
    Along with Heathkit products, we had the fine Dynaco amps available as "Dynakit", and they routinely sell used and decades old for similar money.
    Hobbyist built amps are only a risk if built by complete morons.
    Those usually are advertised as "not working".

    I'll take a hobbyist hand wired clone over a Chinese PCB any day.

    But lets keep up the idea that it's risky so the prices stay down!
    (see caveat)
    It is indeed risky...
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2017
  7. Bones

    Bones Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Thanks, I sent an inquiry covering some of the things suggested here. Waiting for a reply.

    The transformers are MMs and it has a $250 speaker in it and the asking price is about the high average for a PtP kit and cabinet.
     
  8. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    that sounds like a pretty darn good deal!
    I'd go look at it and buy it if it feels right.
    If there's real problems I suspect you'd hear something amiss.
    I can't say that MM transformers are holy grail material, but there are crappy transformers in some kits and the MMs are not crappy.
    My better Mojo based kit amp has a MM OT.
     
  9. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Bad solder joints can be a nightmare. Even a newbie can often build a working kit, yet have half the joints ready to fail, one at a time, over the next few years.

    I think of this as buying a bunch of used parts, with solder all over them. Price accordingly, unless the builder is known to you, has built others, visibly plays his own stuff, etc.

    If you're a tech, well you wouldn't be here, but you'd be able to dismiss some issues pretty quickly, but unless you're going to methodically reflow the connections, you'll be relying on overall look of build quality, wire dress, etc.

    Buying a bag of used parts is the right price, IMO, but one that's still not worth it to me.
     
  10. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    I'd want to check "under the hood", in addition to a good long sonic evaluation.
    I'd want to see pro level soldering and circuit work.
    For me, a gig or rehearsal is the best test.
    Good luck!
     
  11. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I would not call any of the above concerns invalid...
     
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  12. CK5150

    CK5150 Tele-Meister

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    If you check it out bring a multimeter and test that the ground pin of the mains plug has continuity with the chassis and if you get a look at the guts ensure that the mains ground is REALLY secured to the chassis via bolt or some other bulletproof mechanism. If the guy who built it did something to cause a condition where high voltage is present on the chassis you want it going to earth rather than your body.
     
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  13. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    I'm not a professional-level solderer, although I started fairly young and under the watchful eyes of my dad. About 11 years ago, I built a Champ from a Marsh kit, and brushed up on my soldering skills. I played it for two years, but then an intermittent noise would start to appear. Oh-oh.

    I made a little treble bleed circuit with 4 capacitors and a 5-position switch. This was pretty tight work, but I had done that before. I managed to cut a small piece of breadboard to fit inside the cavity with the guts. There might have been some pressure against one of the caps that eventually led to a joint failing. This probably lasted 4 years with daily use and a couple of dozen gigs.

    I certainly wouldn't buy anything that I built.
     
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  14. Jack S

    Jack S Friend of Leo's

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    My brother built an amp from a kit with two EL84 power tubes, his first attempt, and later gave it to my daughter. It had a few odd things that would happen intermittently, so I looked it over and re-soldered a couple of suspicious looking joints. It now works fine and none of the odd behaviors have occurred since.
     
  15. Tacotuesday

    Tacotuesday Tele-Meister

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    I wouldn't necessarily be afraid of it, though I'd certainly want to talk with the owner/builder and see the insides before buying it (see @CK5150's comments above).

    As for pricing, if it's a well-built example of a proven circuit, I don't see any problem paying good money for it.
     
  16. clintj

    clintj Friend of Leo's

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    I've seen horror stories of home brewed amps, and seen some stuff that looks like it could have left Fullerton 60 years ago. Share some pics if you can, we'll assist if possible.
     
  17. cap47

    cap47 Tele-Holic

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    If the price was right I could fix almost anything that someone bungled as long as there was something to work with. It all depends on you as a builder .
     
  18. keithb7

    keithb7 Friend of Leo's

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    Its not a bad way to try a vintage amp circuit. A $3000 5E3 is a pricey experiment. If the price is right and it works, it can be pretty easily repaired if needed.

    There are cheap kits. What gets expensive is a quality speaker, transformers and tubes. As mentioned above, Trinity, Boothill, Marsh, Mission and more are known for quality. A poor assembly is not too difficult to fix.
     
  19. max_twang

    max_twang Tele-Afflicted

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  20. danlad

    danlad Tele-Meister

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    I know there are a lot of variables, ifs and buts, but I tend to think the turret/tag board & attached parts tend to be the cheapest bit & the bit most likely to have the errors (speaking as someone who has made as many errors as amps ;) ). If the chassis, cabinet & transformers are worth it then that is where the value is really. You can always knock up and drop in another board full of simple caps & resistors
     
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