Tube Amps : Hand-wired vs. PCB

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

  1. NashvilleDeluxe

    NashvilleDeluxe Tele-Afflicted

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    I think we're in agreement, actually. I was just offering a discussion from those in the know to show that PCB isn't inherently bad.
     
  2. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Is that one o' them boutique PCB amps in you avatar pic?
     
  3. NashvilleDeluxe

    NashvilleDeluxe Tele-Afflicted

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    Yup. All boo-teeky and whutnot. Sounds sexy, too.
     
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  4. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Just for fun, how about comparing two very popular HW vs PCB amps for price and features, while assuming that the sound is not vastly different and that the PCB version sounds just fine to most players.

    Fender PRRI (1x10 combo), $1099
    Allen Accomplice Jr (1x10 reverb combo), $1599
    For the extra $500 you might pay for the Allen, you get all hand wiring in a small shop with pro grade components, higher build quality and attention to detail.
    But you also get the ability to switch between 6V6 and 6L6 power tubes for either 22w or 35w. Given that many of us prefer to bring the smallest suitable amp, but sometimes need a little bit more power and clean headroom for a bad situation with FOH, or for rehearsal with no PA, it seems like that dual power option is a valuable feature. Other added features that the Allen provides for the extra $500 include a mids control to move away from the Fender scoop, and a raw control to move away from the BF/SF clean toward a more aggressive sound.
    Adding those extra features, hand wiring, and US labor costs, one might wonder why a PRRI is so expensive?

    Given that the PRRI is such a popular amp in today's market, it seems worthwhile to take a hard look at what exactly we are getting for our money before deciding on PCB because it's the most popular choice, and hand wiring is "so much more expensive".

    I see far more hype around PCB than around hand wiring, when looking at the reality of what we pay for and what we get.
     
  5. RoyBGood

    RoyBGood Doctor of Teleocity

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    I prefer PCP amps. :eek:
     
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  6. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    It has nothing to do with your skill with a soldering iron.

    Let's take the following example: you have two Fender Deluxe Reverbs- a '70s Silverface, and a modern PCB amp. Once you get the chassis out, you see this-

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    On the handwired Silverface with components soldered to eyelets, you can start replacing components without removing the circuit board- on the modern PCB amp, you need to disconnect the PCB and work on both sides. Given my druthers, I'll take the Silverface every time.
     
  7. Old Tele man

    Old Tele man Friend of Leo's

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    Parts replacement differences between PCB and P2P is sorta like "...having to take off your shirt to take a crap."...ie: backa$$wards.
     
  8. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Down in my basement there is an old Sony portable B&W TV.
    I'm not sure how old it is but I distinctly remember Walter Cronkite announcing the assassination of President Kennedy on it.
    I was cleaning out my Mothers junk pile a few years ago and plugged it in before tossing it in the dumpster.
    It still worked, so I kept it.
    At the time (it seems) Sony was building the best quality they could produce, using PCB construction.

    When we argue over PCB vs hand wiring we miss the point that the majority of PCB amps manufactured today are not built to be the best quality Fender or Marshall can produce.
    Build quality, parts quality, assembly line technology, and wiring topology are all co occurring conditions.
    It is mostly by coincidence that hand wiring is a common method used in building the highest quality tube guitar amps, while PCB wiring is the universally applied method used building the lowest quality tube guitar amps.

    You can get either feature at any price point, including the cheap hand wired VHT Special Six, and numerous multi thousand dollar boutique PCB amps.

    A major reason that almost no other electronics are hand wired is that tube amps have entirely large components, few of which have been miniaturized.
    Pretty much every other area of electronics now uses miniaturized components that do not lend themselves to hand wiring.
    AFAIK it's pretty much impossible to solder a bunch of 22awg wires to a modern IC without first mounting the IC on a PCB.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2017
  9. JD0x0

    JD0x0 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Yeah, it's even more annoying if the PCB you need to work on is under other PCB's in the amp, and you end up having to remove 3 boards, just to access the one you need to remove. At that point most of the amp is disassembled. Though, sometimes you do get lucky, and can top solder the PCB.

    I think component miniaturization may effect tone in some cases. Tiny metalized and/or x5F ceramic capacitors will distort a lot more than those big 630V polypropylene caps when used as couplers.
     
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  10. sonicsmitty

    sonicsmitty Tele-Holic

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    Maybe, if a bad component is the problem, but a bad wire connection is easier to repair than a defective PCB trace.
     
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  11. homesick345

    homesick345 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Subjective statement: I feel PCB is brighter; more detailed highs; sometimes too much

    Maybe the circuit being more efficient; like those high end guitar cables who end up being sterile sounding

    All the thick wiring of hand-wired amps seems to roll off just the right amount of highs

    ...MAYBE
     
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  12. sonicsmitty

    sonicsmitty Tele-Holic

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    Exactly. It isn't that there is an issue with using PCBs. It's an issue of the build quality and durability of the PCBs most manufacturers use. A friend was showing me some modern high gain amp he had acquired (not sure, but I think it may have been an Engl?), not my style of amp, but in examining it I noticed that the PCB was very thick (twice normal?) and durable looking. I think if most manufacturers would use high quality PCBs we wouldn't even have this discussion.
     
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  13. bigben55

    bigben55 Friend of Leo's

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    I know there's "good" PCB amps. Mesa, Fuchs, etc. And obviously bad ones, Crate, Bugera, etc, that may sound great til they don't. Then there's the big sellers, Fender Marshall and Peavey. Where are Fender and Marshalls better amps(PRRI, DRRI, DSL, etc) in the PCB quality spectrum(1-10 scale)?
     
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  14. vernon

    vernon Tele-Meister

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    I had a Fender Champion 600 - a PCB 5watt tube amp (1x6V6, 1x12AX7). And a Fender 5f1 Tweed Champ I hand built from a kit on a turret board (1x6V6, 1x12AX7). I did a mediocre job to be sure, but that 5f1 sounds incredibly better than that Fender Champion 600. One sounds like a real guitar guitar amplifier - the other sounds like a toy.
     
  15. vernon

    vernon Tele-Meister

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  16. vernon

    vernon Tele-Meister

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    Oops
     
  17. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I believe there's no tonal difference handwired vs PCB, but of course it's highly impractical to test. It would require reamping a pre-recorded clip, recording that, and comparing with the same amp, same components, desoldered and wired to a different board.

    Which leads us to defining a PCB. The flimsy ones with thin, liftable traces that all the mfrs use aren't the only kind. For example, Tube Depot sells a Tweed Deluxe kit that comes with a thick, well-made PCB.

    In my opinion, PCB issues stem from the way they're implemented. Thin boards expand and contract from changing temperature, sitting right above the tubes. Wave soldered components have no ability to flex, so solder joints, and components themselves, crack.

    Further, the boards are often stuffed in the chassis by makers of Chinese puzzle boxes.

    I submit that all amps sound a bit different from each other, even wired identically, because of an accumulation of slight (or gross) component value differences.
     
  18. JD0x0

    JD0x0 Poster Extraordinaire

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    IMO, from what I've seen, for the most part (contemporary) PCB Fender and Marshalls are comparable to the Crate, Peavey, pcb stuff(ie. Not very good), which are maybe one step up from the Bugera, Berringer stuff. No where near the quality they could be. Lots of cost cutting on these mass produced amps, and, personally, I feel customers pay too much for the quality provided.
     
  19. JORear

    JORear Tele-Meister

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    I agree but you should price like for like. A good used PCB vs a used hardwired and new PCB vs new hardwired. Then the prices are more fair.
     
  20. bigben55

    bigben55 Friend of Leo's

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    I'm still trying to find flaws with my newly acquired '68 Custom Princeton Reverb. It's dead quiet even cranked up to 8 with single coils, no cabinet rattles, reverb on par with my 66 Super Reverb, and frankly, better tremolo. With a strat, even it's neck pickup, it's not too bassy. Cleans up well via the vol. Etc.

    So, it's "as good" as PTP until it breaks? Am I plugging into an impending failure?

    I'm a straight up proponent of PTP. But this ones making me reconsider.....
     
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