Although many people prefer the glitz and glamour of the hottest Marshall, Fender or Line 6 guitar amplifiers, you can build your own combo amp for significantly less money. The parts are available to make tube or transistor amps, preamps and speaker cabinets from music stores, hardware stores and electronic stores.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- Quarter-inch phono jacks
Decide the configuration you want. The standards for combo amps are one 12-inch speaker or two 12-inch speakers. The former is good for small amps that are easy to pack up and transport. The latter gives more sound but will be heavier to carry. You'll need to acquire speakers that work with the power of the amp you intend to install. In other words, a 100-watt amp will need speakers that will handle 100 watts of power without blowing out.
Assemble the parts you need. If you want a lot of distortion, you'll need a powerful preamp with overdrive capability. If you want a clean sound, you still need a preamp for tonal control. Pre-amps essentially boost the signal and control the tone that then is fed to the power amp for output. Also acquire one or two 12-inch speakers, depending on the configuration you're making. You'll need to be able to wire the preamp to input quarter-inch phono jacks, then wire the preamp to the amp. The amp then is wired to the speaker(s). You also may want to consider additional output jacks for the back of the amp to connect additional speaker cabinets later. If the amp doesn't have a built-in power supply, get one to convert the alternating current to direct current.
Cut your boards to the desired size. You'll need a faceplate board big enough for the speaker(s) and the control panel of knobs and phono jacks. If you want a closed-back speaker cabinet, you'll need another board of the same dimensions. You also need top, bottom and side boards equal in length to the front board and wide enough to accommodate the speaker and wiring, usually about 1 foot.
Position the speakers on the faceplate and mark where the screw holes are. Then cut out the speaker holes. Do the same with the control panel. Position it near the top of the faceplate and mark the hole or holes to screw it in and cut them out. Attach the control panel and the speakers.
Attach the amplifier itself to the inside of the top board and wire it to the preamp, to the speakers and to the output jacks. Assemble the entire unit. You can add metal, wood or plastic "feet" to the bottom of the cabinet, or rolling casters. You also can attach speaker grill cloth to the faceplate if you like. You also should attach a rugged, well-made carrying handle to the top.
Tips and warnings
- Make sure you get a preamp, amp and speakers that will work together without overload.