An amplifier head is different from a combo amplifier. The amp head contains the preamp and power amp components but not the speaker. You need to connect your head to an external speaker cabinet. Making your own guitar amplifier head is a great way to get a custom tone. If you have an existing amplifier stack, you can interchange your DIY custom head with another amp to access a wider range of tones. The simplest way to make your own guitar amplifier head is to purchase a self-assembly kit.
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Things you need
- Amplifier kit
- Wiring schematic
- Wire cutters
- Soldering iron
Inspect your parts. A typical amplifier head kit will contain the following key components: a pre-drilled chassis, turret board, wires, capacitors, resistors, diodes, power transformer, output transformer and tubes or transistors. Lay them out on your work bench and examine them. If you spot any signs of damage, return them to the vendor.
Read the schematic. The schematic illustrates the layout of the circuit. It also contains key information concerning component values, such as plate resistor value. Once you have read the schematic, place all of your surface-mounted components in order of their value from lowest to highest.
Assemble the chassis. The chassis will contain the preamp circuitry and the power section. The power transformer and output transformer are typically mounted on the exterior of the chassis. Mount the power transformer through the largest square hole in the chassis. Consult your assembly instructions if you are unsure. Screw the power transformer in then mount the output transformer. The solder lugs will naturally sit exposed for wiring. Make sure that the mains solder lugs are on the outside. Screw in the tube sockets. Slot the potentiometers through their holes so that the dial sits on the outside. The solder terminal will be exposed on the inside of the chassis. Mount the input jack through the front of the chassis control panel.
Assemble the turret board. Use the schematic as a reference and mount the board components. The turret board will be pre-drilled. Slot the various capacitors, resistors and diodes into their turret and solder them at the base of the board. Pay special attention to the value of each component. Resistors may all look the same, but there is essential information written on them.
Connect the mains supply. Screw in the fuse holder. This is where you will connect your mains power. Wire it to the turret board as per your wiring diagram.
Wire the chassis. Trim your wire to size and follow the instructions on the wiring schematic. Strip the end of each wire before soldering to the relevant solder lug. Use brown wire for live connections and blue wire for neutral. Solder a red wire from each potentiometer to the turret board.
Mount and screw the assembled turret board inside the amplifier housing.
Test the amplifier. Before you power up, use a multimeter to test the resistance between the surface-mounted components. Set the multimeter to the resistance setting and attach the probe to the wires running between the resistors. If the turret board is correctly wired, your meter will tell you that there is zero resistance between the resistors.
Tips and warnings
- Wear latex gloves to handle tubes. This stops skin oil getting on the glass.
- Be careful when soldering. Solder blobs can cause a short circuit and divert audio signal to the wrong place.
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