How to Make a Guitar Tube Amplifier Using an Old Radio, Phonograph or Tape Recorder

Written by austin cross
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How to Make a Guitar Tube Amplifier Using an Old Radio, Phonograph or Tape Recorder
Many reel-to-reel tape recorders can be used as a guitar amplifier. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Tube amplifiers are widely sought-after for their warm, classic sound. Prior to the development of the transistor in the mid 1950s, tubes were found in all TVs, radios, and amplification systems. Older tape recorders have a unique and function that make them prime candidates for conversion to a guitar amp. Some phonographs and radios offer the same capability, though they often do not. Older American-made reel-to-reel tape recorders feature audio inputs as well as outputs, allowing the power of their tubes to be used as a mid-grade tube amplification system.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Reel-to-reel tape recorder (American-made)
  • 1/4-inch mono cable
  • Electric guitar

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  1. 1

    Look behind your device. You should see at least three 1/4-inch jacks. Look for the jack labelled, "Phono in." If there is no jack with this label, some tape recorders have one labelled "Mic Input." Phonographs may call the jack, "Aux In."

  2. 2

    Plug your 1/4-inch cable into an input jack.

  3. 3

    Look behind your tape recorder for a switch. The switch should say, "Record Mode" and "PA"Mode." When turned on "Record Mode," any audio that goes into the device will be recorded to tape. When set to "PA Mode," your tape recorder will work like an amplifier. Set your tape recorder to "PA Mode."

  4. 4

    Plug the open end of your 1/4-inch cable into your guitar.

  5. 5

    Turn your tape recorder on and let it warm up for a few moments.

  6. 6

    Turn the volume knobs on your guitar and tape player up. Strum your guitar until you hear sound out of the unit speakers.

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