Tube Amps : Hand-wired vs. PCB

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by TeleFunk Man, Sep 29, 2017.

  1. Bluesdriver

    Bluesdriver TDPRI Member

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    I have owned more old Fenders than I can remember over the last 40 years and other than the normal servicing that any tube amp will occasionally need, never had an issue. I still have a 66 Bassman and a 67 Bandmaster. Owned em both for over 10 years... other than normal servicing no problems.

    With new Fender RI's averaging around $1,000 or so (depending on model) that the bean counters have tried to engineer to last about the length of the warranty with cheap over seas parts, a handwired amp for the same money or less is a no brainer for me.

    YMMV
     
  2. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

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    Depends whether OldTele has had his prunes or been chowin' on burritos :eek:
     
  3. Old Tele man

    Old Tele man Friend of Leo's

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    Nothing worse than damp flatulance...or as we used to say in USN "autographed skivvies."
     
  4. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    We can't really discuss two amps unless we have two amps to discuss.
    The 64 DR is a modded circuit, so what do we compare it to?
    Then how do we define "discernible difference"?.
    When I owned two BF Super Reverbs there was certainly a discernible difference between them.
    Probably owned five 50 and 100w non master Marshalls and they all sounded different.
    Might take some doing to find two identical circuits in PCB and hand wired, with the same transformers and other parts, as well as the same parts tolerances.
    Yet it might be pretty easy to find ten listeners who hear two different circuits in the same package as sounding the same.

    IME most of the amps I like the most are hand wired.
    But I have a vintage Marshall first year of PCB construction, and two Orange amps with PCBs.
    IME cheap amps are seldom the best sounding amps to me, but also IME you don't really have to spend huge money for very good or great sound.

    It just happens that PCB construction is cheaper to build, so it gets associated with cheaper amps.
     
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  5. keithb7

    keithb7 Poster Extraordinaire

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    The regulars here knew I'd eventually check in and share the same old boring story.

    When I gutted a PCB '59 Bassman Ltd, and Handwired it, "It sounded better."...That's what the amp owner told me after he heard the handwired version.

    To my ears I heard that it sounded different. I did not own the amp, therefore did not have "Pre-gut and rewire" control settings burned into my memory.

    I'm not going into it further or all the details. I've posted the info before. I've responded to comments before in other threads.

    See the image of a magnifying glass up top? Give 'er. Have fun.
     
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  6. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    This sounds very broad and authoritative, but modding a PCB amp has too many variables for such certainty that it is just as easy as modding a hand wired amp.

    If you're thinking mod like clipping the bright cap sort of thing, then I'd agree that modding popular mass market PCB amps is easy. Just watch a youtube, get out the wire cutters and clip by numbers.
    Or another popular way to mod PCB amps is to rip out the board and sub in a kit PCB.

    But if we look at amp modding where some big changes are made to the circuit, say for example adding another 12ax7 for a lead boost, where does one put another tube socket on a PCB with board mounted sockets?
    Modern PCBs are pretty unforgiving with real estate to build new stuff into the existing circuit.
    Likewise adding floating leads to traces in order to connect other components, it's pretty easy to plain destroy the thin trace or rip it off the board.

    It's also worth noting that while a tube amp has a circuit, it also has a layout, and a PCB layout will be different from a hand wired layout for the same circuit.
    Changing the layout can cause noise, parasitic oscillation, and heat damage to components that should not be close togther.
    Changing a portion of the layout to add something can be much harder on a PCB because you cannot move any of the existing circuit the way you can with actual insulated wires in three dimensions.

    Much of this would not be a problem with top quality PCB amps, but again, it is too complex to simply state that it's just as easy to mod a PCB amp as a hand wired amp, all you need is modest skills with a soldering iron.

    I do agree that a top quality PCB amp should be similarly easy to work on and maybe even to mod, though ideally one might want to simply choose the PCB with the circuit they like the sound of, rather than adding a bunch of spaghetti connecting it to oddly placed outboard components that have no place to go on the board.

    I had an old early PCB ampeg V4, and a good size chunk of the thick PCB was burned completely away. Some hand wiring replaced whatever circuit had melted, so it can indeed be done.
    A friend in NYC had one of the less great AC30 models modded, where the tech cut out the portions of the PCB that held the tube sockets (maybe only the power tubes) and hand wired that portion where high voltage flowed on thin traces of a board that was reputed to be weak.
    So yeah, anything can be done...
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2017
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  7. keithb7

    keithb7 Poster Extraordinaire

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    @telemnemonics my old '72 Ampeg V-4B is acting up too. Wouldn't you know it, PCB.

    Here's a trace lifting and a PCB shot of it.

    IMG_2025.JPG FullSizeRender (50).jpg

    My Ampeg is my sole PCB amp. I wanted a vintage tube Bass amp. Not many brands I'd consider. This one tuned up for a song. I downloaded it right away! :)
     
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  8. Mike Simpson

    Mike Simpson Doctor of Teleocity

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    And yet, amp repair techs make a good part of their money fixing soldering done by machines on PCB's...
     
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  9. felis

    felis Tele-Afflicted

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    :D:lol::D
     
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  10. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Ime, there are PCB amps that are not worth anything to me....and there are PCB amps that are joys to play.
    I opened up one modern little amp that gets some market activity.....it was a throwaway. Many of the components on the board were smaller than sugar ants......no way to work on that. I buttoned it back up...
    On the other hand, I am lusting for a certain boutique amp that is PCB construction....best modern amp I have heard for my ears....and it isn't cheap. It also holds some value in the used marketplace...unlike many boutique amps. If and when I get one, mods will be the last thing on my mind. I assure you that there is nothing that needs changing. It is that good.
    I certainly prefer to work on a handwired amp. A well-constructed PCB amp is something that I will work on. There are some PCB amps for which I have no interest in putting on the bench because 1) the PCB's are cheap and flimsy----even in some high dollar amps, and 2) I don't care whether those amps work or not. Too much monkey business for the returns.
     
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  11. Musekatcher

    Musekatcher Friend of Leo's

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    Cross talk, proximity effects, line losses, line length resistance/impedance dependency, Twisted pair phasing, - aren't there many possible contributors that would make two hand-wired circuits perform differently, much less a hand-wired circuit vs a PCB? Heck, just folding a wire or overlapping a wire over itself can produce an effect, without changing the length...but can we always hear it? Sounds like some cases we can, some we can't.
     
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  12. JD0x0

    JD0x0 Poster Extraordinaire

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    'Made in USA'

    Whoops. Robots get forgetful, too. Dont get a Friday amp :lol:
     
  13. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

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    JD0x0, being that that PCB was wave-soldered, to what would you attribute that soldering error?
     
  14. homesick345

    homesick345 Poster Extraordinaire

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    I have heard & played great PCB amps like Fuchs, Tone King, some Mesas, etc.. Quality amps that leave nothing to be desired..

    However; imho, it just happens that the majority of HW amps sound better than the majority of PCB amps

    It is easy for the public of guitar nuts to tie "better" tone with HW

    Also; I don't think we will ever have an experiment to settle anything
     
  15. maxvintage

    maxvintage Poster Extraordinaire

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    Handwired amps miraculously make my playing much better! I dan't have to practice as much because I have better gear than other guys because it's hand wired.


    The "welcome to the 1950s" look of PTP amps is charming. A neatly wired amp is impressive. But plenty of PTP amps were poorly made by unskilled workers who didn't care. Most of them are in landfills, like the poorly made PCB amps

    I have noticed that when the US army sends its soldiers into the field with electronic gear, it's generally PCB. As mentioned, PCB is no inherently more unreliable. Plenty of PTP amps were junk back in the day.
     
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  16. vernon

    vernon Tele-Meister

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    some topics never get old...
     
  17. E5RSY

    E5RSY Doctor of Teleocity

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    Oh, but they do.
     
  18. King Fan

    King Fan Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Yep, in fact some are born old...
     
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  19. zippofan

    zippofan Tele-Afflicted

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    I've worked on a lot of PCB's over the years, in a previous life where I was an electronics tech for a very large employer. Depending on who OEM'ed the boards, they could have been heavy duty, or they could have traces lifting if you looked at them the wrong way.

    I recently built two amp kits to get my feet wet before I bite off a 5E3 build. One was point to point using terminal strips, the other was PCB. Both sound good and were fun to build though the PCB was obviously easier and faster. For rework, I'd rather the PTP (or turret/eyelet) because it is a little easier for my fat fingers to get in.

    I'm currently modding an Epi Valve Jr., and this particular board isn't as well made as the kit I recently completed. As such, I have my trace rework kit at the ready (PACE Cir-Kit) just in case.

    When I finally get enough cash together to build a 5E3, I will lean towards a turret/eyelet board build if I want to experiment with different components. Desoldering and resoldering parts on a PCB repeatedly is a pain.
     
  20. justin.ramsey

    justin.ramsey Tele-Holic

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    Both can be great both can suck. I have a great pcb amp (splawn) and great handwired (dr z) both are rock solid and I have no doubts in them.
     
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