Wanting to Build My Own Amp - Where Do I Start

Discussion in 'Amp Tech Center' started by gobi_grey, Feb 9, 2020.

  1. 2HBStrat

    2HBStrat Tele-Holic

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    It seems to me that the goal of building an amp with no electronics experience would be like deciding to write a book in a foreign language that you don't speak.

    Good luck!
     
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  2. Larmo63

    Larmo63 Friend of Leo's

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    My fear in doing this is electrocuting myself.

    That said, I'd like to do this too. I recently built a couple of killer Telecasters, and that piqued my interest in building an amp.

    Is building a Princeton Reverb for a first amp out of the question? I'm pretty intelligent, but I'm not an electronic engineer.
     
  3. drneilmb

    drneilmb Tele-Meister

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    Nothing is out of the question, but a complicated amp like a Princeton Reverb will multiply the opportunities for a beginner's lack of skills to lead to a failure. Almost all mistakes are fixable in electronics, but it might take some time to figure it out (and possibly expense to replace damaged components).

    As far as safety goes, there are numerous resources explaining how to work safely on high voltage tube amplifiers. If you are pretty intelligent, then you should be able to follow those instructions. It is not in any way rocket science, so I think that you shouldn't worry about killing yourself if you can follow some simple instructions.

    Would you consider building a small, simple amp first to learn some skills before trying the full Princeton Reverb? If so, consider a 5F1 or 5F2 kit. Should run you around $400 with a real Princeton Reverb kit being more like $700-900.

    -Neil
     
  4. Lowerleftcoast

    Lowerleftcoast Tele-Holic

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    I agree with all of the advice given so far.

    Since you won't be building for awhile, I would suggest a couple of skill building opportunities.

    Find a cheap-ish used working amp and install filter capacitors and some mods.
    The Pignose G40V or G60VR are perfect for this. They share the bassman 5f6a and Marshall Jtm50 circuit design. The tube sockets are on the chassis (sturdier than PCB mounted). Mods for Fender, Marshall, and Pignose all apply and are readily available.
    A blues Jr has a ton of info about mods.
    A Carvin Vintage 16 has mod info available.
    Crate and Kustom can be had on the cheap. I am not sure if mod info is available.

    The resale value of any of the above won't be much different than your purchase price.

    Building Pedals is an option. They are relatively cheap. You will learn solder skills and useful info. If you have patience and ability to do fine manipulation, then tagboardeffects and other sites can be helpful. As Guitarteach said they are smaller. Because of the tight quarters, they can be a more challenging experience than an amp.

    (I am not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or sites listed above.)
     
  5. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Be on the lookout for old console radios, think of them as a cheap place to get a power and output transformer. If you have a thrift store around the can have wall adapters in different voltages. A 9-12V will do pedals. A 15-24V could power a solid state amp. 12V ones from old laptops will run 12V heater tubes or two 6V tubes in series. A 1:1 power transformer can be used for different voltages, with a bridge rectifier or a voltage doubler.. 6V ones for tube heaters are more rare.
     
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  6. Mexitele Blues

    Mexitele Blues Tele-Holic

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    OP, I was in your shoes a couple of years ago, now I feel almost ready to build. The idea of a kit doesn't tickle my knickers so I've copied an old Gibson amp. Here's the route I've taken:

    Read. Read read read. Read all you can and then read some more.

    -Valvewizard site
    -Robrob's site
    -Uncle Doug
    -Shock Bros
    -Hoffman amp forum
    - ???

    Service your own amp. Buy a cheap vintage amp and service it. Trace the layout. Draw up your own schematic. Incorporate a couple of mods from Rob's site. Download DIYLC and play around with it.

    So that's where I am now after 2 years. I guess it's time to post up my schematic for a once over before I order transformers.

    Best of luck OP!
     
  7. bblumentritt

    bblumentritt Tele-Afflicted Platinum Supporter

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    Start with a simple kit, and make sure it has thorough instructions.
     
  8. bblumentritt

    bblumentritt Tele-Afflicted Platinum Supporter

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    Mojotone is having a sale right now on kits! 02/13/2020-02/18/2020
    • GA-5 combo
    • Marshall 18W combo
    • Princeton Reverb
    I would start with the GA-5. It's simple, straightforward, and has thorough instructions.
     
  9. Ed Storer

    Ed Storer Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    Do you mean "Build" an amp from scratch or "Assemble" an amp kit.

    My first assemble is the last amp in the stable. Allen Sweet Spot - far from a simple amp, but all the parts are there and top quality. It's based on the Princeton Reverb with a few added features. The documentation is good. When I first tried the amp after assembly, I discovered that I'd wired the input jacks incorrectly - easy fix. Since then it's given me 11 years of great sounding reliable service.
     
  10. thoglette

    thoglette TDPRI Member

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    As someone else said, but it bears repeating on every single page of this thread.
    Read Rob Robinette's Amp Pages In particular the how amps work and Safety pages.

    Note that building an amp has four parts: the design; the electronics; the mechanical (chassis) stuff and the housing (woodwork and covering).

    I'm good at one of the; OK at two of them and lousy at one. So I tend to buy kits/premade bits for the bits I'm not good at. Or copy other people's work (i.e. complete set of plans, instructions and parts lists)

    As a beginner, a simple kit is well worth the extra $$ to avoid hassles of tools and techniques you're not skilled with. Just being able to a decent solder joint is an acquired skill which needs regular practice.

    Finally, remember: the speaker is half the sound.
     
  11. lavrgs

    lavrgs TDPRI Member

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    Hmm my experience with thorough instructions is that I didn't learn anything. My intent was to build a kit so I could learn how things work. I built an Allen Accomplice as my first build - I carefully followed the instruction, turned it on and it has worked for the last three years...bottom line I didn't learn anything. I just finished a Mojotone 18 watt, and their instruction and support S*ck but I accomplished my goal of learning what every component does. 18watt.com is a good resource for this choice and they offer advice and a variety of schematics/layout to make a variety builds based on the Marshall 1974x design .

    Hoffman is a good resource to get a bill of materials for certain circuits and you can buy most parts from him with quick delivery.

    I must reiterate that the Allen is an amazing and reliable amplifier and I have a lot of satisfaction from that build - I play it almost every day. The 18 watt kit was purchased before the Allen but I was intimidated by the lack of instructions but in the end it was a much better learning experience. I had the time to readreadreadread and read some more...
    Dang this is getting long winded but bottom line is that if you decide on a direction there are resources to help you out.

    Good luck
     
  12. Bartimaeus

    Bartimaeus TDPRI Member

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    Well that isn't very punk, is it?
    If you're worried that you'll burn up components, then that's exactly the reason to start with a pedal kit. If you destroy a part it's only a couple of pennies, and you'll have learned what not to do
     
  13. lavrgs

    lavrgs TDPRI Member

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    There are specific components that will kill you - spend the time finding out which ones and where they are, make a capacitor bleed tool and learn how to safely discharge capacitors and study the safety practices that are part of dealing with high voltage equipment...Make the learning experience include rigorous attention to safety, which should include measuring the voltages before you start working again
     
  14. Whatizitman

    Whatizitman Friend of Leo's

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    Yes and no. For someone with absolutely no circuit building or soldering experience, maybe. But my own experience was opposite. I failed miserably with pedal builds - because of limited skill working with small pcb boards (big clumsy hands). 2 or 3 pedal build attempts with unrepairable PCBs and costs start to go up. I've had far more success working on amps with point-to-point or turret wiring. I definitely learned alot with the pedal builds, so that's a plus. But I get to play my amps. :D That said, I haven't done a full amp build yet.
     
  15. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

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    If you have a supply of parts or a convenient way of getting them I agree with you. But many people do not have this luxury. I am at odds with suggesting working with semiconductors first or tubes. I know both avenues has its advantages. My original experience with electronics had me burn stuff up, build amplifiers that turned out as oscillators. But back then we did not have the internet to guide us. Maybe I will rather say, work with what you are comfortable with.


    I used to work as a Tech for a college teaching electronics, power and instrumentation technology. I had a good stock of parts and fuses to replace what the students blew up. It is a shame I was not much into tubes back then, it would make you cry seeing what I sent to electronic recycling (I did grab a few tubes). But that aside, I am not sure what is the best way for an individual without any support to learn the ropes. I am OK with the pedal route, the downside would be biting if it does not work and the person gets discouraged and decides to just concentrate on their playing (which is not a bad thing).

    Kits with a support network, forums by the manufacturer or like this one helps. The problem with kits, and I understand why they are, they can be costly. The other option is messing around yourself with parts acquired other ways. All my projects I have shown online have been of a humble nature, basically showing alternative ways to do things. I could easily make production quality equipment, I have made prototypes and one-off's used in industry. I have thought of doing a tutorial for getting into this hobby, maybe one day. I am currently working on a low voltage tube project that might spark some interest in vacuum technology without the fear of zapping yourself. Solid state devices that can turn to smoke though. But trying to keep the part costs low. Hope it pans out.
     
  16. Steerforth

    Steerforth Tele-Afflicted

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    Here’s a list of books:

    Tube Electronics Books

    When I started out, I didn’t know much. I could sort of solder, not well, and couldn’t really read a schematic beyond recognizing grounds and basic stuff. I didn’t know a triode from a pentode.

    I read so many books that I couldn’t tell you all of them. And at first I could barely make any sense of any of it. But I persevered, going to more basic sources to read and then coming back to pick up where I’d been stuck.

    Finally one day, something clicked. I started understanding what I was reading. I suddenly found schematics made sense and were kind of fun instead of being mysterious hieroglyphics. I knew why parts were there and could follow a signal path with simpler circuits. The light went on. Sheer stubbornness had prevailed.

    I still have a lot to learn, but I’m no longer wandering in complete darkness. I’ve got a candle now. This forum is a goldmine for learning, along with a number of websites that you’ll encounter as you read here.

    Plus there are very knowledgeable people here in the forum who answer questions with patience and insight. And there are still more books that I want, even with the enormous list of books that I own.

    Make sure you know the safety information thoroughly. Read and read and read. Make sure that you know how to solder well. You can save a lot if you can make your own cabinets.

    Then choose a simple circuit that you feel that you can follow and understand, and get started. You’ll find your way, and if you get stuck, read and ask questions here.
     
  17. gusfinley

    gusfinley Tele-Holic

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    The GA-5 only needs a few resistor changes to be a 5F1 champ. A stock GA-5 has about 7dB more gain than a champ.

    I really love the look and the construction of Mojotone's GA-5. I would love to build one, but I just sold one a few years ago (scratch-built Champ-style in a Champ cab).
     
  18. dreamingtele

    dreamingtele Friend of Leo's

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    Another person who wants to start a simple tube amp build here!!

    im probably worse than the OP with absolutely no skill nor knowledge in electronics even if I studied Electronics back in college but I’m a Civil Engineer so....

    by using kits, is it possible to be able to build a working amp just by following instructions????
     
  19. Modman68

    Modman68 Tele-Holic

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    It’s also a safer way to work on the testing and troubleshooting skills that are part of most any build. Mucking around on nine volts is a lot easier on the heart than 120.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  20. printer2

    printer2 Poster Extraordinaire

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    There are some kit instructions that pretty much walk you through building, "put part #35 here". They show you pictorially where everything goes and in what order. So yes, even written for civil engineers. ;)


    But really it is not that hard. If you can identify the parts and solder you do not really need to know much. Well, add using screwdriver, pliers, wire strippers and cutters.
     
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