High-end audio components, particularly amplifiers, deliver exceptional audio quality but are often seen as complicated and expensive. In the last few decades, it has become increasingly common for audiophiles on a budget to build their own amplifiers from commercially made do-it-yourself kits or plans. Here's a look at how you can acquire an excellent audio amplifier on a budget and have fun building it.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Commercially-made amplifier kit
- Pliers, screwdriver, and other tools as specified in kit instructions or schematics
- AC-DC power supply
Determine your level of skill in building electrical or electronic devices. Opt for a solder-free kit if you lack experience soldering electronic parts. Research your audio needs, and determine whether you need a low-power, low-voltage kit, or one with more power and sophistication. Visit the websites of various kit suppliers and select the kit that best suits your needs and skill level.
Obtain all necessary tools and parts before purchasing a kit. Many kit makers will specify in advance what tools or parts are required. In some cases, all necessary parts will come with a kit, while others supply only some of the items and direct you to buy additional parts from other sources.
Allocate a well-lit, well-ventilated area and a sturdy table for your amplifier construction project. Ensure that the construction area is free of clutter and physical hazards that could interfere with the construction process. Gather all required tools and related supplies and place them within easy reach of your workbench.
Read carefully all literature that comes with the amplifier kit. Pay particular attention to the assembly manual, any safety warnings, and ensure that you fully understand them before proceeding with assembly.
Open the kit and remove all included parts and supplies. Inspect them for any signs of damage, and match them up with the parts list that comes with the kit. Don't proceed with construction if any parts are missing. Contact the kit vendor for replacement of any missing parts and then proceed with assembly.
Test certain parts to be sure you understand how they fit together before soldering them or affixing them to the circuit board.
Review kit instructions periodically to ensure you are correctly following the assembly process. Take your time and don't proceed with the next step in the assembly process until you have verified that the previous step was completed correctly.
Tips and warnings
- Many kit manufacturers offer support online or via telephone. Make use of these resources if you are unsure of how to complete a given step in the assembly process, or if the assembly manual is unclear.
- Look for kits that have CE (Compliance Engineering), Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or CSA (Canadian Standards Association) seals of approval. Kits that have been underwritten by any of these organisations are of the highest quality and the safest to build.
- It's crucial to follow all kit instructions to the letter, particularly safety warnings and advice related to working with electricity and various electronic components such as capacitors and vacuum tubes. If you're working with a high-voltage kit, failure to follow these instructions can result in serious injury or death. Be sure to fully test a completed kit to ensure it operates correctly before putting it into service.
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