Tired of printed circuit boards and looking to build a kit

Discussion in 'Shock Brother's DIY Amps' started by 83TopLoader, Feb 8, 2015.

  1. 83TopLoader

    83TopLoader TDPRI Member

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    I've got to the point where tinkering with PCB amps is no longer amusing and I'm ready to start thinking about building a tube kit. Maybe a Marshall 18watt clone and/or a Tweed Deluxe. I see Weber, Tube Depot, Mojotone, Ceriatone, Trinity and Triode. I guess I'm looking for some advice on quality, value, tone from some of the folks who have build experience with some of the kits from different suppliers. I'm fairly new to tube amps but have worked as an electronic technician for over 20 yrs. I understand the hazards, know how to read schematics and follow directions, know how to solder, troubleshoot and use test equipment so I don't think that will be a problem. Just looking for something that will be fun to build but still provide a good tone with decent components and won't fall apart after mild use...oh yeah, I have two kids so cost is always a factor, too. lol!
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2015
  2. Dennis Perusse

    Dennis Perusse Tele-Meister

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    Here is something counter intuitive, go for it. Look at Hackworth's kits first then look at the others. If you get around to it please to a build thread too so others can see what is involved with going that route. Looking forward to hearing and seeing what you plan on doing. :)


    Dennis
     
  3. robrob

    robrob Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    I second the suggestion of BootHillAmps.com kits. Dave (forum name is hackworth2) does a fantastic job of support and his prices are excellent too. Since you're pretty advanced into electronics don't shy away from a more advanced (but more expensive) kit like the Fender tweed Bassman 5F6A or even a Blackface Fender Princeton Reverb (Mojotone kit is well liked). There's not a great deal more complexity to these amps compared to a 5E3 (which I do love by the way). All of the kits can be built as a head so you can save some money and weight that way. You are going to absolutely love building and playing your own tube amp.
     
  4. 83TopLoader

    83TopLoader TDPRI Member

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    Ok, I didn't make the connection, Hackworth with Boothill at first but now I see. I'll check them out, thanks.
     
  5. LeftyAl

    LeftyAl Friend of Leo's

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    I'll third the suggestion to contact Dave.Being a TDPRI member you will might get a discount.He has in the past.
     
  6. 83TopLoader

    83TopLoader TDPRI Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions, the Boothill 5E3 looks like a quality amp, maybe for my second build, considering sourcing all the other components, could be a custom build. I'm thinking for my first build maybe going with a complete kit with xformers, cabinet and speaker. Has anybody built one of the Marshall 18 kits from Weber, Tubedepot or Mojotone?
     
  7. SacDAve

    SacDAve Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    I'm 4th Boothill I will sugest do the cap upgrade, get Transformers and tubes from Dave also. Speaker and Cabinet most people like to source there own.
     
  8. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

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    In 2007, I built a Mission 5E3 chassis kit. Good instructions and tech support from Bruce Collins, the owner. First class components. I found a good used Mojo cabinet, also excellent, and got a new Weber alnico Sig 12 speaker. The Mission chassis was like a work of art - all holes accurately drilled, pressed in threaded fasteners in the right spots, corners welded, ground smooth and a really nice chrome job. Sounds superb.
     
  9. 83TopLoader

    83TopLoader TDPRI Member

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    Nice!

    Thanks Ricky, I just watched a couple of videos on the Mission, very nice. A 5E3 would be my ultimate build but since I've never built a kit I think I'd like to cut my teeth on maybe a low cost low watt British, then go all out on a killer 5E3 like the Mission or Boothill for my second build... just planning and budgeting!
     
  10. 83TopLoader

    83TopLoader TDPRI Member

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    Thanks Dennis, whatever I do, I'll try to document and share, this is a great website!
     
  11. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Don't forget David Allen. Great amps, and the kit form is very well done. No tweed, though, per se. Blackface/brownface is more his focus.
     
  12. R. Stratenstein

    R. Stratenstein Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Unless you're specifically looking for British and 18 W, I don't think there's any better starter build than the 5F1 --Tweed Champ. I just finished one. Boothill kit. Extremely reasonably priced, quality components, and the best deal on the heavy iron and shipping that you'll find anywhere. I got the upgraded multi-tap output transformer, so if I want, I can play around with 4,8, or 16 ohm speakers, also boosts output slightly, as I understand it.
     
  13. mungus

    mungus Tele-Meister

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    Given your experience, I'd say just pick whichever amp you like best: Fender, Marshall, Gibson, Matchless, Dumble... you're spoiled for choice. All you really need is a verified schematic and a layout.

    The 5E3 is what I'd call a "beginner" level build. If that's the one you really want have at it. I'm sure you could cope just fine with more complex circuits too. Building hand-wired amps is quite an easy thing to do - although of course I don't ever get complacent around high voltages.

    Components: I'd choose an output transformer carefully - mostly based on what other people recommend for a particular model amp. Some amps - like the Matchless Spitfire - were designed with hulking great OT's in mind for clarity and dynamics. Others might rely on a bit of OT distortion for cranked tones.

    The PT just needs to deliver the required voltage/current specs.

    I don't use any esoteric resistors or caps. Carbon comp resistors for example seem to be positively harmful (noisy) except possibly in one or two specific locations. 2W metal film is my standard choice.

    I like to use audio grade Nichicon KZ or FG for bypass caps since this is the signal path. Mallory or orange drops for coupling caps. Nichicon again for power caps. I'd pick lower rather than higher ESR here on the grounds that ripple will be lower but again I don't buy anything esoteric. Low ESR might mean bigger inrush current though... Ask someone who knows what they're talking about :)

    I'm a wee bit skeptical about magic tubes but other people might have different opinions about that. Most would probably agree that plain-old JJ's will deliver good results.

    Solid core wire is a no-no for me because of reliability. I'd struggle to debug problems on my own so the best strategy is not to have any.
     
  14. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Doctor of Teleocity

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    Back when I was shopping for the 5E3 project, Weber's kits were just the cheapest parts they could get plus a layout and schematic. No instructions, no support except for their kit forum. Attractive prices, but I wanted better than that.

    Two things about tubes for the 5E3, just for the if and when you go that way. You need to have a NOS 5Y3 in V5 to get the B+ where it belongs. New production 5Y3's are way too high. Other thing, many builders sub a 12AX7 (gain factor 100) for the original spec 12AY7 (gain factor 45) in V1, and that has a big impact.

    Last advice, build your first 5E3 stock. There's a lot of mods out there like fixed bias conversion, coupling cap value changes that re-voice the amp, power supply mods that firm up the low end, etc. Not saying there's anything wrong with any of those, just that you need to start out open-minded about the original design version, still commonly used at the highest levels 56 years after it hit the market.
     
  15. muchxs

    muchxs Doctor of Teleocity

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    I'm also in the "given your experience" camp.

    Build an Allen kit.

    http://www.allenamps.com/kits.php

    I nominate the Sweet Spot.

    You'll be ruined forever. Other amp kits look like kid stuff compared to an Allen. Allen kits are packed with thoughtful features and quality parts.

    Let me know if you go for it. I have a couple tweaks that push an Allen over the top. For instance Dave sends 'em out with new production tubes and sockets. As an OEM he needs to do that to keep his parts bins stocked.

    NOS adds the luxury feel...
     
  16. 83TopLoader

    83TopLoader TDPRI Member

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    Experience

    Thanks for all the input guys, I think the wish list is getting longer. I do have experience, mostly industrial electronics, but am by no means an amp tech. I heard the experienced amp techs hung out here, that's why I joined (to learn). In today's modern electronics there's very little component level work like when I started out in the mid 80's. To be able to dig in with a multimeter and a scope and get down to the nitty gritty of vintage circuits that helped define music history, sounds like a lot of fun, but I still have a lot to learn. I think, just like cars, probably some of the best sounding guitars and amps came from the 50's and 60's, not sure they can be made any better.
    I just may start with the 5F1, that'll give me something to have on the workbench that I can analyze and see if I understand exactly what's going on in there. I want to work through from the power transformer all the way through to the speaker. BTW, has anybody read "The Technique of Sound Reproduction: Theory and Practice" from tubebooks.org? It looks like a solid book on tube theory and circuits. Also, I'd like find a reference that's more specifically focused on Fender's early circuits (50's and 60's)...any recommendations?
    Thanks again for the input, there's a lot a valuable info in just this thread alone!
     
  17. robrob

    robrob Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    I use a JJ GZ34S in my 5E3 when I run 6L6 power tubes and my B+ is 416v. A modern JJ 5U4GB gets my B+ down to 384v for use with 6V6 tubes. Subtract out the cathode voltage and I've got around 360v of plate-to-cathode voltage which is pretty close to old world spec. I can take it lower with a bucking transformer if need be.
     
  18. jmclaren

    jmclaren Tele-Holic

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    I recommend "The Guitar Amp Handbook" by Dave Hunter. He traces the Tweed Princeton circuit from input jack to output transformer and explains the function of every section and component.
     
  19. SacDAve

    SacDAve Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    I think Ricky D brings up a great point build the first one stock regardless of what you decide on. Another thing to think about is the Amp going to be for Gigs or Home, the 5E3 is a great Amp but it's really needs the volume up to come to life. (it's loud) I would like to add my experience was wiring guitars and a couple pedal mods building a 5E3 for my first amp I thought was pretty easy thanks to all the help and pictures on this forum. That's one advantage of the 5E3 so many pictures of builds.
     
  20. CapnCrunch

    CapnCrunch Friend of Leo's

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    TopLoader, are you building primarily to learn or are you planning to play what you build? If you want to play it, then I'd suggest you build what you want to play. Amp choices are pretty application specific, and I don't know your intended application, but from my perspective an 18Watt is lightyears ahead of a 5F1 or a 5e3 for that matter. Also the bigger Tweeds like the Pro, Super, low power Twin and Bassman are really no harder to build than the smaller tweeds, and they are all killer amps. Personally I'd build one of the larger tweeds, or an 18 watt or an AC 15.

    I started with a Mission 5e3 kit. Bruce Collins was great to deal with, and the product was great, but the Deluxe was way too limited for what I needed in an amp to play out. It got sold and I built a 5e5A Pro that I'll never part with. Just food for thought. The small tweeds are not very versatile IMO, especially if you intend to play them outside your house. If you're just looking for a learning platform, then it doesn't really matter much where you start.
     
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