Books to read re: amp building

Discussion in 'Amps/Cabs Tech Corner: Amplifier, Cab & Speakers' started by JDJ, Dec 26, 2004.


  1. JDJ

    JDJ Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,522
    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2002
    Location:
    NC
    I want to try my hand at amp building -- just as a hobby. I'm in no hurry, however, and I would like to read up on the subject beforehand in order to learn the lingo and some theory. I'm not ready to get too heavy into the math, though, as that would probably just discourage me. I'm looking for a more practical approach.

    As far as cabinet building, I build hardwood furniture and so I am comfortable in that area. It's the electronics I need help with.

    I would like a few reading suggestions, please. Thanks! :)
     
  2. doctord02

    doctord02 Member

    Messages:
    1,066
    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2004
    Location:
    San Mateo, CA
    Kevin O'Conners books are great; I'd reccomend TUT 1, 3 and 5.
    Also Dave Funk's Tube Amp Workbook is good. If you wanna really dig into the arcane black arts, then you need to find a copy of the Radiotron Designers Handbook, aka the RDH, 4th Ed. It's out of print, so expect to pay a few buck for a hardback copy. There are digital versions around as well.
     
  3. TheAmpNerd

    TheAmpNerd Member

    Messages:
    1,063
    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2004
    Location:
    Tejas
    Jack Darr's book is good especially
    section II, Service Procedures and Techniques.
    Chapter 4 -The Amplifier signal Circuits
    Chapter 5 - The Power Supply
    Chapter 6 - Output Stage - Transformer and Speakers
    Chapter 7 - Cables and Pickups
    Chapter 8 - Customer Complaints


    Dave Funk's book is a great overview of what the different parts of amplifiers do, especially Fender amps. This is a must have for anyone wanting to build and understand amps.

    Chapter 3 - Basic Electronics
    Chapter 4 - Capacitors
    Chapter 5 - Resistors
    Chapter 6 - Potentiometers
    Chapter 7 - Coils, Chokes & Transformers
    Chapter 8 - Vacuum Tubes
    Chapter 9 - How Tubes Wroks
    Chapter 10 - What is Bias
    Chapter 11 - Power Amplifier Class
    Chapter 12 - The Origins of Amplifier tone
    Chapter 13 - The Preamp
    Chapter 14 - Gain and Tube Distortion
    Chapter 15 - Tone Controls
    Chapter 16 - Reverb
    Chapter 17 - Effects Loops & Balanced Lines
    Chapter 18 - Phase Inverters
    Chapter 19 - Feedback Loops
    Chapter 20 - Standby Switches
    Chapter 21 - Ground Loops, Noise & Safety7
    Chapter 22 - Are tubes Louder Than Transistors?


    Kevin O'Connors books are good too, but they are advanced. Plus he makes assumptions (that you can
    read his mind)...for example, "just put a small
    bypass cap in the pre amp section".

    I've spent hours looking for that ****ing cap value
    in all three books and finally had to ask Kevin, what specifically IS the value. Same with some of the
    small value resistors, etc.

    Book 1 - Modifying and Custom Building Tube
    Guitar Amps:

    Chapter 1 - System Overview
    Chapter 2 - Power supplies & Grounds
    Chapter 3 - Vacuum Tubes
    Chapter 4 - Preamp Basics
    Chapter 5 - Preamp Mods
    Chapter 6 - Power Amps
    Chapter 7 - Effects Loops
    Chapter 8 - Reverbs
    Chapter 9 - Switching Methods

    There is almost 100 pages on switching methods,
    that I wished were spent on more of the basic stuff.
    But I guess there a lot's of folks who want channel
    switching amps.

    Kevin has good layouts and schematics in book three,
    Generations of tone, and discusses their design, limitations and improvements for the Icon/Holy Grail amps,
    Fender, Marshall, Vox, Ampeg, & Traynor. they include:
    Champs
    Bassman
    Plexi
    800
    Bulldog
    AC30
    Portaflex
    SVT
    Bass Master
    Custom Special
    Guitar Mate


    How to Service Your Own Tube Amps from Tom Mitchell
    is a good book and has some nice trouble shooting
    flow charts in it.

    Inside Tube Amps by Dan Torres is alright, but some
    of the stuff he says isn't so great, but he has some nice
    diagrams.

    The Tube Amp Book, Deluxe Edition, is good too and
    had good schematics and a nice technical Articles along
    with trumpeting the virtue of GT tubes.

    Valve Amplifers by Morgan Jones is a very good work
    and discusses all aspects of building tube amplifiers,
    mostly this discusses Hi Fi amps but you can take what
    he says and apply it to MI amps.

    This should give you some more detail about which
    books do what, so you can spend your money wisely.
     
  4. RupertB

    RupertB Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,417
    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2003
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    I was a little frustrated (later amused) by his frequent use of "obviously", many of which were on points that weren't anywhere near "obvious" for me. :) That said, TUT has been a big help for me.

    JDJ - IMHO, the best first book for a new amp-builder is a basic electronic circuits textbook. I picked one up at a used bookstore for $10. This info is also on the web For Free.
    You CAN build an amp (kit) without knowing this stuff, but you won't know much about how your amp works or be able to trouble-shoot it independently.

    I got Morgan Jones' "Valve Amplifiers" for Christmas this year and wish I had gotten it sooner. From what I've read so far, he does a very good job of connecting the technical aspects to the practical. Some math, but not much past 10th grade algebra.

    http://www.ax84.com/ is a great on-line resource. Go to the P1 page and read:

    Dave Sorlein's Theory Document.

    Gary Anwyl's Construction Guide. Even if you don’t do an ax84 amp, the info here is very useful.

    Browse the ax84 project bbs for discussions/Q&A on virtually every aspect of amp building.

    http://www.aikenamps.com/ Go to the “Tech Info” section. Lots of good stuff here.

    http://www.firebottle.com/ampage/ Tube data sheets, bbs, & DIY amp gallery.

    That you say "I'm in no hurry" is a good start. Good luck.
     
  5. JDJ

    JDJ Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,522
    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2002
    Location:
    NC
    Thanks. I've ordered Jones' new book Building Valve Amplifiers as a post-Christmas gift to myself. Now, I'm looking for something to explain the function of caps, resistors, etc. and how to read a schematic of an electrical circuit.

    I'm tempted by kits from Mission Amps and Doberman, but I'm going to delve into the books for a bit first. Keep the suggestions coming, please!
     
  6. TheAmpNerd

    TheAmpNerd Member

    Messages:
    1,063
    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2004
    Location:
    Tejas
    Good stuff there Mouldy, Rupert. The RDH is a great work. So is the Audio Cyclopeida as well.

    Yeah OConnor's books have been helpful and frustrating
    for me too. But they are good. : )

    What I haven't come across is a good basic math book
    for working on amps and such.

    The Old Tele man had some great stuff in the 12BZ7 thread
    about using tubes in a circuit and what the actual gain
    would be.

    I don't think I've come across this eleswhere--perhaps,
    but sometimes you have to be primed, ready, and ABLE
    to digest the material. Too soon and it is just numbers
    on a page.

    I have an older Math for Electronics book, I think a McGraw Hill publication, but it is pretty useless. It didn't have any stuff we would use or want to use, but looked
    to have some of the great series equastions, some dif e,
    and integrals. So if you want to go off to la la land look
    it up, but it ain't going to help any amp builder/desiger
    that I know of.

    Aother EXCELLENT book is written by James Perozzo titled: The Complete Guide to Electronis Troubleshooting. It is 850 pages in 24 chapters covering all aspects.
     
  7. RL in Fla

    RL in Fla Member

    Messages:
    3,198
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2003
    Location:
    Future Cleanup Site
    David Allen recommended Jones' "Valve Amplifiers" to me also as the "buy this one first" book , since soldering and mechanical stuff I already had from electronics (work) , but 28 years ago I came in on the very last glow of tube equipment in a hospital environment, and everything was solid state . Tubes is a re-learning curve for me .
     
  8. RL in Fla

    RL in Fla Member

    Messages:
    3,198
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2003
    Location:
    Future Cleanup Site
    What OTM said !! ^ :AOK It's addictive . I was totally burned out on "electronics" due to work . Since the "liability" issues came along years ago and stopped us from building anything from scratch that a doctor thought up , or modifying something to work better or be more reliable , it was basically "board-swapping" , calibrate it , and get it out the door . Mindless monotony with NO sense of creativity at all . Let me build something for God's sake !!!
     
  9. Wakarusa

    Wakarusa Member

    Messages:
    1,477
    Joined:
    May 7, 2004
    Location:
    Newnan, GA
    If O'Connor gives you a headache, RDH4 will make your eyes glaze over (though I'm really impressed that someone scanned in all 1498 pages).

    For basic electronics (why things work, all the equations for resistances, capacitance, inductance, how to solve a circuit, etc.) I'd argue that the hands-down best primer is the US Navy NEETS series

    Ever notice how many of the techs are former Navy? These are the books we started with. You can use 'em to teach rocks.
     
  10. TheAmpNerd

    TheAmpNerd Member

    Messages:
    1,063
    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2004
    Location:
    Tejas
    Todd,

    I thought you would chime in here with your NEETS stuff.

    It doesn't get a lot better then that for mastering the
    basics.

    I never new you were a Squid, no wonder we're
    always buttin' heads. : )

    Make sure you check out that NEETS link.

    If you can find them, buy the books at a 2nd hand
    book store. The Basic Electronics, Navy Training Courses,
    NAVPERS 10087 is great (1955). I'm not sure when they broke it up into two volumes, NAVPERS 10087-C Vol 1, Vol 2 have both tube and transistor stuff (70s).

    At least those are the versions I have, along with the
    other modules.

    Online stuff is okay, but for me, there isn't much better
    then having a book in your hands.

    Regarding The Radiotron Designers Handbook is this,
    (I have both 3rd and 4th ed) the third edition, 1940, is
    only 352 pages.

    The forth edition came out in 1953, that's 13 years for
    the next 1146 pages, or 88 pages per year.

    Rome wasn't built in a day.
     
  11. Wakarusa

    Wakarusa Member

    Messages:
    1,477
    Joined:
    May 7, 2004
    Location:
    Newnan, GA
    In no particular order:

    -- The best NEETS modules to look at are 1,2,6, and 7. 1 & 2 are DC and AC circuits (and how components behave in those circuits), 6 is tubes and power supplies, 7 is solid-state and more power supplies.

    -- Squid is kinda non-specific. Familiar with the term "Bubblehead"? No portholes. However, I used to hear from the surface guys that the term for a Marine underway was "ballast" ;)

    -- I'd argue RDH4 is more for design work than understanding the circuit and assembly techniques. Also, without an excellent grounding in basic theory (and some math) it might as well be written in Sanskrit. They're also getting expensive -- well over $100 for a clean copy.

    -- Another good one is "Audio Cyclopedia" by Tremaine. I like my 2nd edition from 1969 better than the current edition. Not so much about tube theory and amp assembly, but a really really good text for understanding general audio work (and a whopping 1800 pages to boot).
     
  12. JDJ

    JDJ Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,522
    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2002
    Location:
    NC
  13. RupertB

    RupertB Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,417
    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2003
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
  14. JDJ

    JDJ Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,522
    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2002
    Location:
    NC
    Thanks for the link to the virtual RDH!

    Well, I don't know of any books. I enjoy looking at other pieces of furniture to get ideas, and I suppose you could do the same with amps. I think one of the biggest barriers is having the right equipment; e.g., it's hard to get good dovetail joints without a router, dovetail bit, and a good jig.

    A lot of it for me has been trial and error. Going slow and keeping your hands away from fast-moving carbide teeth has been the guiding principle. Here's a piece I completed recently. It's made of solid mahogany and maple:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    When I'm ready to build a cab, I'll probably consider using hardwoods and either a nitro or poly finish.

    What do you folks like for multimeters and soldering irons, BTW?
     
  15. RL in Fla

    RL in Fla Member

    Messages:
    3,198
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2003
    Location:
    Future Cleanup Site
    The WTCP (I think it is) Weller , about 100 bucks ± . lasts forever , has beaucoup different tips and temperatures , and everything on it is replaceable . Check Mouser and Newark for $ .

    Woodworking books , go to Books-A-Million and browse thru 'em , you'll more or less recognize the one you need for you . Or hit Amazon and browse and read the reviews as to what fits / what you want out of one .
     
  16. Wakarusa

    Wakarusa Member

    Messages:
    1,477
    Joined:
    May 7, 2004
    Location:
    Newnan, GA
    For multimeters, three to choose from: Fluke, Fluke, and Fluke. That said, I also have both a RatShack DMM and an old Simpson 260 (analog) that have both provided good service.

    For irons, what to get depends on how much soldering you're planning to do (which should also influence your DMM choice I suppose). Rat Shack will sell you a 35W iron that'll do the job for not much money, but they don't have good temperature regulation and you'll go through tips the way most folks go through toilet paper. Satisfactory for light hobby work though.

    Weller and Pace are the Big Names, but also charge accordingly. I've been using Xytronics gear for the last six months or so and am quite pleased so far. Gobs less expensive than the Weller and Pace toys, and seem to have the same (or better) features and durability.
     
  17. RL in Fla

    RL in Fla Member

    Messages:
    3,198
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2003
    Location:
    Future Cleanup Site
    Ditto the Rat shack or old Simpson , especially for an analog . Analogs are reealy good for intermittent connections , you can watch the needle "blip" where a digital will miss it . I've still got a $19 RS analog that's about 20 years old that I added a polarity switch to back when Simpsons were 100 bucks .
     
  18. JDJ

    JDJ Supporting Member

    Messages:
    3,522
    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2002
    Location:
    NC
    Well, I believe in getting decent tools the first time around. What model Fluke, Weller, and Pace do you like and why? What features are necessary at a minimum, and which features are otherwise great to have? My local store has Greenlee (sp?) -- any good there?

    Thanks! This is getting to be fun! :)
     
  19. RL in Fla

    RL in Fla Member

    Messages:
    3,198
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2003
    Location:
    Future Cleanup Site
    Pace IMO is totally out-of hand $-wise , and if T sez Xytronics is right there , I may've learned what to do when my 25 year old Weller gives up ;) . I'll let him espouse on Fluke meters , to me a digital is a digital for regular use as long as it has the same ranges , but I'm a cheapskate . I'm sure though if you buy a Fluke you'll never have to buy another one , we had 'em at work and they're super .
     

Share This Page