Help w/ potential amp build

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by jw71, Nov 16, 2005.

  1. jw71

    jw71 Member

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    Hi,
    I am interested in building amplifiers for myself and a friend who I play with. I do not have any interest in selling them or building them as a business. I just want to be able to have an amp that sounds exactly like I want it to and to be able to work on it as I see fit. My amp tastes run mostly to older Marshall circuits; JTM45, Superleads and Superbasses, etc.
    How many of you have built these types of amps? Are they relatively simple compared to more modern style amps? Are they relatively easy to tweak? How much money can be saved by building your own? I understand that there is a learning curve, as with anything, and I definitely am ready to put in the time and effort to learn as much as I can about these circuits, and not just how to put them together. Any suggestions as to where to start? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
     
  2. doctord02

    doctord02 Member

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    If you are looking to save money, stop right now. It aint gonna happen. Between the parts and tools you need to build a good amp, plus the trial and test builds before the real thing, you will spend more that a good Marshall JTM45 or Superlead from a good craft builder would cost you.

    However, if you are just into building amps and want to learn and maybe have some fun creating cool sounding tools with your own hands, then I suggest you check out the following sites:

    AX84.com
    18watt.com

    In your specific case, I'd also check out the yahoo jtm-45 group.

    Have fun, its a great hobby. I've built a jtm45, an 18watt, a trainwreck, and a few things of my own design...
     
  3. retro

    retro Member

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    I have been researching this myself....I am saving to buy George's (Metro Amp) JTM45 kit. Great guy, great components, good forum, and the JTM45 kit in particular has great instructions for a first time builder...I would recommend checking him out....if you register on the forum you can see and download the JTM45 instructions.
    Check around and check the kit prices and the forum. I think you will find it's great place and great amps at good prices for what they are.

    http://www.metroamp.com/

    http://www.metroamp.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=15&sid=32c1e30014529498c2895dd886629ec5

    There's a fairly new review here also to give you some more perspective.

    http://www.legendarytones.com/MetroAmp68Plex1.htm
     
  4. PlexiBreath

    PlexiBreath Member

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    This is not a hobby to get into to save money on buying an amp. Way too many hidden costs. Even if all the components were free.

    But don't let me discourage you. If you have a passion to tweak out your own tone, and just love to build things, then come on in, the water's fine!

    I got into it because an amp that was perfect to my ears didn't exist. After a lot of trial and error and building many cool amps, I finaly found the circuit that was perfect for my playing styles.

    I'd encourage the first time builder to take on the simplest amp they can wrap their mind around, but it has to be an amp you can get passionate about playing. Too often the first time builder is discouraged by people telling them that building something like a plexi or BF Bassman is too difficult, build a Champ or tweed Deluxe first. I dissagree, if you don't like the tone of a Champ or tweed Deluxe, don't build them, go for the plexi, but if the tweed Deluxe is your thing, by all means, build it. Building a amp is a lot of work, choose only a design that has the single tone you really really want most. I would recommend avoiding channel switching designs for your first project.

    Don't skimp when it comes to buying the transformers, and don't let anyone tell you the power transformer is not as important as the output transformer.

    When you finish your first project, assuming it's a clone, that's where the fun just begins. From here you can start tweaking it, you may end up with something even more to your liking, or you may make it sound like a steaming turd, but by then you will know how to put it back to the way it was.

    Warning, this amp building passion can interfere with your guitar playing time.
     
  5. loverocker

    loverocker Member

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    1 - you don't necessarily need a lot of tools to make your first amp. It depends entirely on how complete the kit is. In fact, if it comes with a pre-punched chassis, you only need a $10 soldering iron and a $20 multimeter. Building from scratch is what requires a good set of tools.

    2 - when thinking about the cost, take a long term view - you will also find out how to service your amp, and will have parts-only maintenance costs in the future - no labour. You can also learn about generalising your know-how to other amps and save even more dough. Result is that the TCO of your amps goes way down.

    3 - if you've got a good ear for this, be prepared for your buddies to want you to service/tweak their amps - and even buy yours outright. It has become a moderate income supplement for several homebrewers in recent years

    4 - it requires attention to detail. Real attention to detail - if that isn't in your nature, it's not worth starting. You're more likely to hurt yourself, too IMHO.
     
  6. JacksonAmpworks

    JacksonAmpworks Member

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    Lot's of good advice here. The Plexi projects are some good learning projects. Like many before me, a 50W Plexi was my first amp and I was hooked after that.

    You might check out www.hoffmanamps.com They are a tremendous resource for guys building the 50W Plexi's and they even have some nice layout diagrams that help ease the learning curve.

    The guys are right here. You will NOT save money by building your own amps. Think of building amps as an addition to your music. You will find that you play less and tweak more. I certainly do. It really depends on what your end goal is. If you want to be a better player, let other people worry about building amps. However if you want to build your own tone tools, go for it! There is so much to learn and the rewards are incredible!

    If I can help in any way, please do not hesitate to ask. There is a forum on my site that you can reach me on if you get stuck on a technical problem. (not trying to divert traffic from this forum, just trying to offer help)

    Good luck with your efforts and before you do anything else, learn your basics, and how to safely work on a high voltage amplifier. There are TONS of sites with instructions on how to work on amps without hurting yourself.

    Good luck!
     
  7. ZiggY!!

    ZiggY!! Member

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    Also check out www.ceriatone.com

    I've heard a few happy people playing these amps.

    If you are only doing it to save money, save yourself the trouble and by a completed ceriatone amp. $605 for the completed JTM-45 or $475 for a completed 18 watter...

    Most guys I know that decided to build an amp to save money never got around to finishing it... Ironic huh...
     
  8. TubeAmpNut

    TubeAmpNut Member

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    +1

    Ain't that the truth! :dude

    BK
     
  9. loverocker

    loverocker Member

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    Actually, I just remembered something... if you really want to save money, the best way to do it is by buying a donor amp to strip and rebuild. Something used and unwanted but that is a decent starting point for your project. Lots of guys turn old PA amps and organ amps into great-sounding guitar amps.
     
  10. jw71

    jw71 Member

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    Hey, thanks for the replies guys.
    I do already have the soldering iron and multimeter, plus my best friend builds electronics boards for a living, and definitely has the experience and desire to help me. As a matter of fact, he is the one that suggested that I (we) build one. He does not play, but is fascinated by the idea of it. We grew up together and I can really count on him for this.

    I kind of suspected that I would not save much money, so that really doesn't turn me off the project. What does keep me interested is the ability to tweak the sound, and also the fact of just knowing how an amp is built and how it works. I am the type of guy that likes to do things myself if I can because I am interested in it, and I like to stay "intimate" with my gear, if that doesn't sound too perverted!! Not like my friend who wants to help me just because he is interested in electronics generally.

    Anyway, I registered on the Metroamps forum last night and started reading!:dude A lot of cool information on there. I plan on checking out the other forums suggested by this thread, also, so thanks again everybody.:D

    Now all I have to do is try to keep it hidden from my wife!!:p :p
     
  11. PlexiBreath

    PlexiBreath Member

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    I also forgot to mention leveraging the forums. Brad's looks like it's going to grow into a very cool forum as it's traffic picks up.

    The forum you will live in is Ampage! Some of the coolest amp cats are found there, you can take on any project knowing these guys will catch you if you falll If you finish your build and it doesn't fire right up, or weird things are happening, post to Ampage and lots of guys will jump up with great debug advice. Plus you can ask all the fun theory questions like "What's a long tail phase inverter?", or "How does a cathode follower work?", and know you'll get a lot of great answers. Use the search tool to find already answered questions as well.

    Here's the link:
    http://www.firebottle.com/ampage/
    then under "Discussion Forums" click "Guitar amps"
    then in the bottom left, select the forum "General Discussions".

    bookmark it.

    Yes, it is s very cool thing when you reach the point where you can tweak your own amps to taste, or mod other amps, (Old Traynors are great for this). It helps relieve GAS when you start playing amps others are raving about if when playing said amp you realize, "hey, I know how to make my amp sound like this if I want". If you aren't quite happy with your tone, rather than sell the amp in order to buy yet another in a long series of purchases, you just go in and tweak YOUR amp.

    But again the mantra .....
    Buy only good iron (transformers)
    Buy only good iron
    Buy only good iron

    Did I forget to mention the importance of using good transformers?;)
    My favorite output transformers are by OEI, Mercury Magnetics makes good output transformers as well and great power transformers. Heyboer also makes good iron.
     
  12. jw71

    jw71 Member

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    Thanks again, Plexibreath.:AOK

    I'll definitely check out Ampage tonight!!
     

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