• New Sponsor: ShipNerd, Ship Your Gear with Us... for less! Click Here.

What's The Best Way To Start Building Amps?

Bigsby

Member
Messages
1,272
I'm considering flying out of state and staying in a hotel, in order to attend an amp kit building work shop over several days.

Would the expense be worth it, or would it be better to learn from books and online resources?
 

smolder

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
14,522
If you have no other experience with electronics... yes. If you are unsure of yourself around high voltage, yes.
 

Rob3000

Member
Messages
16
I agree w/smolder's reply.

It's a really awesome and satisfying hobby, but you must be extremely careful in regards to proper safety procedures, as these things can be lethal if you don't know what you're doing.

Do you know a safe procedure to drain the filter caps in a tube amp?
Can you read and make sense of a basic tube amp schematic?
Are you comfortable around high voltage (lethal) circuits?

If the answer is "no" to any of these questions, it's best to seek professional instruction. While you can learn from books and online sources, I wouldn't recommend it to a complete novice for safety reasons.

Out of curiosity, what workshop are you planning to attend?
 

traviswalk

In the Great State
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
13,659
I would start out with pedals and see if you like the process. The BYOC kits are great and give you a good headstart on circuits, soldering, etc. If you like that, then books, classes etc. will take you to the next level.

It really is fun and enjoyable.
 

RyanFromQA

Member
Messages
447
Traviswalk is right, start with pedals. If for no other reason than to practice soldering technique. You can learn a bit about what's going on in your pedals, by reading up on the internet. I'd recommend reading GEOFex's "Technology of the" series:
http://www.geofex.com/fxtech.htm
The basics of electronics as they relate to music are important to learn (what does a voltage divider, capacitor, low pass filter, high pass filter, do to your sound, etc). Best to learn these at the pedal level before starting with high voltages.

If you have a point-to-point amp already, I would try some mods, maintenance, or upgrades to get the feel for working safely with an amp. Change your filter capacitors, upgrade your coupling and bypass capacitors, etc.

Barring that, read up on tube amp safety and build yourself a kit amp, like from Mission or Ceriatone.

If you're interested in designing your own amp, I would suggest you start with a kit that's VERY SIMPLE, like an 18-Watt Marshall, or a Tweed Deluxe or Blackface Champ. Don't start with a HRM and expect your'e going to improve it in any way by tinkering.

While you're doing this, do some reading. The book I have on order is Gerald Weber's latest:
http://www.amazon.com/About-Vacuum-...=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1263994860&sr=8-1
Which is apparently a collection of articles, not so much of a tutorial as an incidental reference.

If you want something a little more textbooky, I would imagine these books are well worth the money:
http://www.amazon.com/Vacuum-Tube-C...=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1263994837&sr=8-1
http://www.amazon.com/Vacuum-Tube-C...r_1_11?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1263994837&sr=8-11
http://www.amazon.com/Circuit-Analy...=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1263995569&sr=1-3
 

mbargav

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,377
I have no background in electronics, but my dad has a Masters in Comp Engineering, and working on a BYOC kit with him made all the difference in the world. Soldering, properly stuffing components, etc. is just half the battle. Having someone who can look at the circuit diagram and tell you what exactly the things you are putting in there do makes all the difference in the world.
 

Travst

Member
Messages
7,885
I've built several amps in the last couple of years. I don't have easy access to a workshop, so I read Dave Hunter's and Gerald Weber's books. I also picked up a technical reference on schematics. Then, I hung around ampgarage, 18watt, and the Metro forums and read, read, read. I had a buddy help me with tips and troubleshooting. It's a lot of work to learn, but it is immensely satisfying. I've been very happy with the amps I've built.
 

5881

Member
Messages
1,118
Who's workshop, Egnator? In any event I would say yes, especially if the money is not an issue. I have built 5 amps, my first being a Mission 5E3 with good results every time. I triple check my work, use 3 different color highlighters on my layouts showing what I have done, checked and rechecked. That being said I learned little about how an amp works in the process, frankly maybe nothing. Following a layout is like paint by numbers, as opposed to a schematic, where you need to understand signal flow at least. Much tougher. I had minimal solder skills before my first build, learned as I went along. Does it look like a Hiwatt on the inside, clearly not. Does it work, yes and it sounds great. I would have learned a whole lot more if I attened a clinic. Do it, you won't regret it, and I'm sure you'll meet some nice people.
 

smolder

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
14,522
In addition to Dave Hunter's book (excellent suggestion by the way) you will need to learn how to solder well and how to use a multi meter for measuring resistance and how to measure both ac and dc current.

If you're not down with pedals (working in tight spaces) you might try a champ kit. Fairly simple - not too expensive and very gratifying.
 

Bigsby

Member
Messages
1,272
Thanks for all the responses. I was looking at the Chicago School amp workshop. I may just get a champ kit and put it together with my grandfather, who's a retired EE professor. Besides all the safety issues, I'd like to make sure I have a basic understanding with regard to what each section of the amp is doing.
 

smolder

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
14,522
Thanks for all the responses. I was looking at the Chicago School amp workshop. I may just get a champ kit and put it together with my grandfather, who's a retired EE professor. Besides all the safety issues, I'd like to make sure I have a basic understanding with regard to what each section of the amp is doing.
Awesome idea. My interest in building amps is definitely fueled by my father and being a little kid in his tv repair shop. Our conversations (and debates) surrounding tubes and capacitors have been a really great thing.
 

big mike

Cathode biased
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
13,915
Read read read and read some more.
Build a pedal kit...build an amp kit after that.
 

IIIBOOMERIII

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,586
I'm considering flying out of state and staying in a hotel, in order to attend an amp kit building work shop over several days.

Would the expense be worth it, or would it be better to learn from books and online resources?
Over the summer a buddy of mine in Austin was trying to get me to go to a 1 week or 2 weeks, can't remember, school on how to build your own 5e3. The class came with EVERTHING to build a working chasis. That really is the way to go if money and time are not factors.

If not, Books and the internet have a lot of great stuff to read about. If you are new to electronics I would not recomend starting with amps. If this is the case start by building a couple of stomp boxes and then move your way into amps slowly. Good luck!
 

whoapiglet

Member
Messages
9
Hi,

I am in the same boat. After getting a Ceriatone HRM, (which I am quite happy with) I found the Amp Garage and realized that my beloved amp is severely lacking in blooming marshmallows, and my crystalline lattice is all faklempt. :crazy I realized that I would love to mess around with my amps, but I would likely electrocute myself in the process. (I actually figured out the various HRM trimmers, but don't want to venture further without some help)

So, I looked around a bit and found that Bruce at Mission amps has given 2-3 day weekend classes in the past where you build and tweak a 5e3. I contacted him today, and he said while he hasn't done one in a while, he would do it if I could find 3 or 4 people to attend the class. Maybe we can do an 18 watt marshall type or something.

Might anyone here be interested? I am not sure of the cost, but I saw something that said it was quite reasonable (quite a bit less than the Chicago course) plus I live in Denver, a plus for me as well.

If I can get just 2 or 3 people to join, it would be a go!

heres the link to the last Amp building class...
http://music-electronics-forum.com/t6648-3/

Ed
 

Structo

Member
Messages
9,555
Some people can learn from books by reading things while others need to be more hands on.
I had a class at one time where we discussed the different personalities of learning.
Some learn by seeing (visual)
Some learn by listening (aural)
Some learn by touching (tactile)

So if you can learn from reading, buy some books.
If you need to be shown and then try it for yourself then an amp camp may be right.

If you have any friends that know how tube amps work they could be a resource for you.

I am lucky that I have messed around with electronics since I was a kid.
Have a piece of paper around here somewhere that proves it.
I am able to learn from reading or watching videos.

You just have to learn the basics of electronics, learn theory, especially tube theory if that's your goal.

Just make sure before you stick your hand into a live amp that you are aware of the dangers around high voltage and how best to protect yourself from electrocution.
 

zzmoore

Member
Messages
7,236
To build an amp......????
If I had that kind of money I would be attending a college that has a more in-depth, math heavier curriculum than what is offered to me at Solano College.
Seriously, if you have some mechanical aptitude and a desire to learn you do'nt need to "Fly Out Of State" for a weekend amp building seminar. At your fingertips is The Amp Garage and The Ampage. It is frequented by capable men with knowledge tantamount to the likes of Mark Norwine and Adam Grimm. Both of those names are a privilege to be read here on TGP.
Download a copy on the Navy NEETS tube section, read Jack Darr's book, and take a gander through Randall Aiken's web-site. Those are good for starters. Save all the plane fare, and travel expense. That money will go a LONG WAY in purchasing , books, meters, chassis', and components for amp building.
Of course, the finances for Bruce's class (he is a great guy and so is his brother Lew) might be chump change for you. If that class were a bum dime for me, yeah I would go in a heart beet. It would be an honor to have what will almost be a private lesson from the owner of Mission Amps. He will be able to offer you a lot of insight, man to man, that you do not get via the INTERNET. The same is true of Mr. Egnater in Chicago You are in a win win situation. Consider yourself blessed.
Good Luck
 
Last edited:

paulg

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,048
I think amp making classes would be fun and informative. However, I think the best class you could take is Electronics 101. Seriously, guitar amps are really basic analog circuits. They probably won't touch tubes, but once you learn about the basics:resistors,caps,power supplies, gain etc it will all fall into place. Do that first then take an amp construction class. Most community colleges offer basic electronics classes.
 

Rexfordbridge

Member
Messages
388
I think if you want to build amps, you should build amps. I bought a kit from this company. Rich, could not have been more helpful with getting the amp to work and helping me every stop of the way. One of the most rewarding things I've done recently. Check them out http://www.guytronix.com/
 




Trending Topics

Top Bottom