Building your own guitar tube amp is a great way of getting a nice sounding amp without spending too much. Tubes have a characteristically warm tone that solid state (transistor-powered) amps lack, but they are quite pricey. Knowing how to build your own guitar tube amp means you can create your amp to your personal spec and save money. Tube circuitry is less complex when compared to the microtechnology of solid state amplifiers.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Power amp
- Power transformer
- Soldering iron
Decide on the type of tube guitar amplifier you want to build. You'll need to take into account power, speaker size, added features such as reverb and chassis type. If this is your first tube amp self-assembly project, you should go for something basic.
Review a schematic. The schematic will show you how to layout and assemble the circuits inside the amp. It will also guide you when selecting parts. The parts you select must be compatible with each other, so use the schematic as a guide when shopping.
Find the necessary parts. There are two ways to go about this. You can purchase all of the parts at once by getting an amp kit. But if you have a smaller budget and more time to shop, it's possible to salvage a lot of the parts you need from scrap. The chassis, speaker and the attenuators can all be reclaimed from broken amps or from scrap dealers. You should get new tubes and wires.
Prepare your workshop. You'll need a well lit, well ventilated space that has a power source for your tools.
Design the layout of your chassis. The chassis is the cabinet in which the parts will all sit. If you have salvaged the chassis, you may wish to customise the interior layout to accommodate your own amp design. Make sure there is a compartment for the preamp and power amp. Sketch a plan for your own references.
Design the interior of the amp. Your three main components are the preamp, the power amp and the speaker. The power transformer, cathodes and resistors are essential in completing the circuit. Follow the schematic in order to correctly plan the circuit, but design the interior layout to your own preference.
Screw your components into the chassis. Make sure that your parts are firmly attached so that they will not rattle when you play at high volume.
Wire the parts together using the soldering iron. Take your time with this as mistakes at this stage can be hard to undo. Your preamp runs in to your power amp, then your power amp runs to the speaker. The transformers, cathodes and other parts are located at various parts of the circuit depending on the individual schematic. Once the circuit is completed and wired, insert the tubes into their slots according to the schematic. Tube preamps and power amps will have slots for the tubes, so you don't need to drill extra holes.
Test the amp and when you're happy, enclose the back.
Tips and warnings
- Chose a chassis that is oversized, so that you've got plenty of room to work in.
- Never work with electronics if you are unsure of what you are doing.
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