Tube amp kits are a great method of building your own amp, to your own specifications. DIY tube amp kits are also a good way to achieve a premium-quality, hand-built amp more cheaply. There is a wide variety of DIY tube kits available. Some are original amplifiers and others are copies of established amps. Most of the kits come with a wiring schematic you use as a guide when assembling and wiring the circuit.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- DIY tube amp kit
- Wiring schematic
- Scrap wood
- Scrap metal
- Soldering iron
Choose your DIY amp project type. Decide whether you want a vintage-sounding amp, a high-gain amp or an amp that emulates your favourite tones. A vintage-sounding amp will have a more limited range of sounds and will create natural overdrive. A high-gain amp will produce heavy distortion suitable for rock music. Amp projects that emulate established amps allow you to achieve a sound similar to those you already know.
Set up a suitable work space. It should be well-ventilated, well-lit and have sufficient power supplies for your soldering iron.
Inspect the parts. Although all the parts should be brand new, it's smart to examine them before you begin the project. One faulty or damaged part can ruin the entire project. Lay the parts out for inspection on a work surface. Look for cracked metal work, crooked pins on the tubes and loosefitting circuit board components, such as cathodes and resistors.
Prepare the cab. The cabinet will be shipped pre-measure and cut, but you may need to assemble it yourself. Ensure the compartments for the preamp, power and speaker are large enough. This is normally a basic woodworking task involving basic screwing and gluing.
Install the power amp, which should be near the top of the cabinet, close to the preamp. The power amp contains the connection for the power adaptor; ensure this is exposed at the rear of the amp. The power amp should fit snugly in its housing.
Load the preamp. The preamp will house the dials and potentiometers, which need to be exposed at the front of the amplifier so you can operate them. Typically the preamp is housed horizontally along the top of the amplifier. Don't connect any of the parts yet.
Screw in the speaker. The speaker will come with a series of screw holes around the diameter. Screw the speaker into the interior of the amp cabinet. Ensure the speaker is firmly secured in place. Loose-fitting speakers can cause an unpleasant rattling sound when you play a guitar through the amplifier.
Wire the components together. The socket for the power supply should be soldered to the terminal on the power amp. The power amp is connected by wire to the preamp, and the preamp is then wired to the speaker. Follow the wiring schematic closely at this stage.
Tips and warnings
- Clean the inside of the amp cabinet before installing the components. The dust from screwing could contaminate the speaker, preamp or power amp.
- Guitar amplifiers can carry a potentially lethal amount of current. If any part of this project confuses you, refer it to a qualified electrician.
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