Headphone guitar amplifiers are ideal for practice. But even when you're practicing you still want overdrive to add crunch to your tone. Building your own headphone guitar amplifier is a smart approach to achieving a custom tone. Using a tube amplifier headphone kit enables you to keep the sound low, without compromising your tone. Your headphone amplifier has two integral components: the preamp and the power amp. The preamp processes the signal, the power amp adds voltage and the headphones project it to the listener.
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Things you need
- Tube amp kit
- Soldering iron
Acquire your parts. The simplest way to get all of your parts is to purchase a self-assembly headphone amplifier kit. This approach means that all of the parts are compatible and made to measure. Amplifier kits, such as the tube-powered Mosfet headphone amp kit from DIY Audio Projects, typically come with assembly instructions and a wiring schematic. Because it is tube powered, this amplifier will naturally produce a warm overdrive sound.
Read the schematic. The schematic denotes the values of each internal component. It also illustrates exactly the layout of the circuit and how each part is connected.
Assemble the circuitry. The circuit is divided into two stages: input stage and power stage. Follow the schematic and fit the capacitors, resistors, diodes, voltage regulators and tube base on the board. Clip the component into the empty turret and push the connector through to the other side. Wire in the battery snap. The red wire is positive and the black wire is negative. Once fully populated, turn the board over and solder the connectors to the board base.
Install the potentiometers. Every dial has a potentiometer. This component governs the flow of current in accordance with the position of the dial. For example, with a fully turned-up bass dial the potentiometer would allow full current to pass to the circuit board. These slot through the predrilled holes in the amplifier chassis. Wire each potentiometer to the correct eyelet on the circuit board.
Solder the input jack to the printed circuit board.
Test the board. Connect your meter leads to the voltage regulator. Attach a 9-volt battery and record the reading. If the reading is 9 volts or very close to that, the regulator is working fine.
Solder the board to the base of the amp casing.
Fit the dials. The volume, tone and gain dials slot onto the front of the potentiometer. The potentiometer pole must be slightly exposed at the front, through the predrilled holes.
Wire in the headphones. Solder the headphone wire to the output terminal on the power section.
Install the tube. Line up the tube pins with tube base, then push the tube down into the housing until you hear a click.
Secure the amp case. Screw down the top of the casing, taking care to feed the headphone wire out through the correct hole.
Tips and warnings
- Trim all of your wire to the shortest necessary length. This keeps the interior tidy.
- Strip the ends of each wire to expose the metal. This makes for a better solder connection.
- Wear latex gloves to handle glass vacuum tubes. This protects the surface from corrosive oils on your hands.
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