The battery powered tube amplifier is a popular and costly option for performance when no direct power is available. Battery powered amplifiers have also become a way for musicians and performers to "go green" by reducing the use of DC current in performance with rechargeable lithium batteries. Building a battery powered amp is an option for DIY musicians and listeners. For the price of parts and the investment of time, you can build a battery powered amplifier in a day.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Soldering iron, 25-watt
- Wiring pencil
- Rosin-core solder
- Vacuum tubes
- Blank circuit board
- On/off Switch
- Audio Pins
- Wooden project enclosure
- Hand-held rotary tool
Choose a schematic for a battery powered tube amplifier from an Internet resource. (See Reference 1) The schematic shows electronic components such as tubes, resistors and capacitors as symbols with numeric notations representing the specifications of such components. While schematics for tube amplifiers using only vintage (pre-transistor) materials are available, a schematic using a hybrid of tubes and transistors offers longer battery life and higher quality sound.
Use the schematic itself as a parts list, if your schematic does not already include one. Write down each electronic component and the associated specifications, as represented by the symbols in your schematic. Order the parts from an Internet electronics retailer. A battery powered tube amplifier necessarily requires a transformer, on/off switch, various tubes, transistors, resistors, capacitors, a battery pack power source and audio-in and audio-out pins.
Redraw your schematic on a blank circuit board using a wax pencil. Some changes may be necessary to accommodate the real-life size and orientation of each electronic component, but maintain as much of the original orientation as possible. Place each electronic component in the circuit board where the schematic dictates and turn the board over to bend the connection pins to hold the components in place. Do not bend the connectors of the tubes themselves, but do affix the sockets, if applicable, of the tubes to the circuit board.
Solder each electronic component to the board using a 25-watt soldering iron and rosin-core solder. Place the rosin-core solder against the bent joint of the electronic component and the circuit board. (See Reference 2) Touch the heated tip of your 25-watt soldering iron to the rosin-core solder and melt a small amount to the joint. For larger components such as transformers, use the included bolts to affix the device to the board.
Follow the wiring represented in your schematic to connect the components with your wiring pencil on the soldered side of the circuit board. Where a connection is drawn in your schematic, use the wiring pencil to melt a line of conductive copper directly to the board. Begin on the right side of the board and finish wiring on the left to prevent smears or burns resulting from molten copper.
Enclose your battery powered tube amplifier in a wooden project enclosure. A small custom made wooden box or a store-bought craft box is sufficient. Use a hand-held rotary tool to cut holes for the battery pack, on/off switch and any diodes included in the design.
Tips and warnings
- Affix copper tape to the edges of your circuit board before soldering to provide an easy ground.
- Customise your project enclosure by finishing and painting the wood.
- Make your tubes easy to reach and replace, preferably by keeping the tubes exposed when placing the project in the enclosure.
- Handle tubes carefully.
- Always wear goggles when soldering or using a wiring pencil.
- Always use wiring pencils and soldering irons in an ventilated area due to toxic fumes.
- Do not draw or write on the side of the board where the soldering iron and wiring pencil are used.
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