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Best kit for a rookie tube builder
Best kit for a rookie tube builder
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Old 19th January 2013, 07:17 PM   #1
BlackEdition is offline BlackEdition  United States
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Default Best kit for a rookie tube builder

Hello all!

While not a rookie when it comes to building electronics projects, I am a rookie when it comes to building tube amplifiers. I'm posting a new thread requesting some help from the veterans out there. I realize that this type of thread may be a popular one, but, after reading many of them, I didn't feel like I found a good suggestion for my specific goals. So, I guess I should go about explaining said goals.

I'm looking for a tube amplifier kit to be the centerpiece of a small stereo system that I would like to build for my apartment. As I am going to be using this system in my apartment, I don't need a ton of power. I would like good audio quality, and as cheap an amp as possible. I would ideally like to be able to keep the total expenditure for the amp to < $300. (The cheaper the better, as I'm a poor student).

I've done a lot of perusing and have seen the offerings from s5 electronics, Glassware, Oddwatt, and Tubelab. I'm essentially looking for a suggestion as to which kit from these companies (or others!) would be a good choice for my particular application.

Thank in advance!

(FYI, I realize that I've got a lot of learning to do, and have just purchased the Morgan Jones Valve Amplifiers, and Building Valve Amplifier books to get up to speed).
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Old 19th January 2013, 07:56 PM   #2
Eli Duttman is offline Eli Duttman  United States
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Tubelab's stuff is certainly an option. I think we can do a 6 WPC/triode wired "El Cheapo" for approx. $300. While it's not a complete kit, your previous experience with "sand" electronics will stand you in good stead. Contact Jim McShane for parts. A full set of power "iron" can be economically sourced from Allied Electronics. The Edcor GXPP15-8-8K is a suitable, modestly priced, O/P trafo. A large commercial kitchen aluminum baking pan makes a cost effective chassis.

Regardless of which option you ultimate settle on, magnetics will constitute much of where the available cash goes. There's no escaping the reality of TANSTAAFL.
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Old 19th January 2013, 08:18 PM   #3
BlackEdition is offline BlackEdition  United States
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Thanks so much for the quick reply! I certainly like the sound of "El Cheapo"! I have to admit (and I know that this is going to anger some of the purists), but I'm a bit intimidated about tackling a point-to-point wired amp for my first tube-based project. My main concern is being able to correctly reproduce the schematic. However, if there are reasonably comprehensive build instructions, I'd be little less intimidated.

Are there any good build logs for the "El Cheapo?"
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Old 19th January 2013, 11:54 PM   #4
prairieboy is offline prairieboy  Canada
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You might add to your list the 'engineer's amplifier' by Peter Millett. Peter is a member of this forum, and does very nice work. He sells the board for approx $50 on ebay, and you can buy the set of transformers from Edcor for $156.
Check: http://www.pmillett.com/DCPP.htm
EDCOR - PM-100
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Old 20th January 2013, 12:23 AM   #5
BlackEdition is offline BlackEdition  United States
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Thanks very much for the suggestion. The "Engineer's Amplifier" wasn't even on my radar, and, as I'm also an engineer, I like the ring it has to it! It looks like a great, well-documented project. I realize that ~$350 is a paltry sum for a tube amp, but, it is still a little more than I would like to pay. Ideally I'd like to pay < $300. However, if it becomes apparent that the "Engineer's Amplifier" is the best option, I think I might just have to save some more money before attempting a build.

As far as the kit offerings go, it seems like the s5 electronics are the cheaper ones (though the older "G" series seem to be met with good reviews). The Oddwatt, though they look like fantastic kits, are a bit out of my price range at the moment (with the exception of the Alpha...though I'm not sure that 1W will be powerful enough for more than desk speakers, though I may be wrong). The Tubelab P-P or SSE look like possibilities, but, to be honest, I have trouble navigating the Tubelab website to get the information about each amp build. Finally, the Glassware kits look really reasonably priced.

The two suggestions I've gotten already (the El Cheapo, and the Engineer's Amplifier) are great! Keep those suggestions coming!

I will have to save money before I take on this project, but, when I do build it, I would like to document it via a build log so that other newbies may have a point of reference.

Thanks for the comments!
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Old 20th January 2013, 12:28 AM   #6
BlackEdition is offline BlackEdition  United States
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I also just found the "Mighty Midget" amplifier by Peter Millett... That is also intriguing. I don't know if 3W is enough though... I must admit my naivete at this point. How does one determine the appropriate wattage for a room size? (I know how to answer these questions when it comes to bass amp heads and guitar heads, but simply don't know how to answer them in relation to HiFi amp heads.)
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Old 20th January 2013, 03:11 AM   #7
ronaldw441 is offline ronaldw441  United States
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A pair of Edcor GXPP15-8-8K output transformers and an Edcor XPWR008-120 power transformer for about $135.

The Tubelab Simple PP circuit board and parts kit for $100.

A quad of Sovtek EL84's for $35 off ebay.

Since this is your first build and a broke student I'll contribute a pair of 12AT7's, a power switch, a fuse, and a fuse holder (but only if you go with the Tubelab... George is a good guy).

After shipping charges for the transformers and board/parts you're close to your $300 limit & still need a rectifier tube, chassis, RCA jacks, some sort of output connectors and maybe a volume pot. You can probably find some sort of pan for the chassis at a thrift store for about $5 and maybe others will donate the few remaining parts. You'd be set.

I have three Simple PP's. One with Stromberg Carlson transformers, one with 25 watt Edcor's and one "board" amp that currently has Paco SA-40 transformers. They all sound great are very reliable and were fun to build.
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Old 20th January 2013, 03:32 PM   #8
rmyauck is offline rmyauck  Canada
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This would be a great upgrade for only $10 more per Output Transformer to what Ronald proposed! The 25W rating & 20 -20Khz of the CXPP & $47 ea is well worth it. The 7.6K primary is fine and they are 8 ohms on the secondary.

EDCOR - CXPP25-4-7.6K

Anyway don't skimp on the Output Transformers as they define the sonics of your tube amp. Going to the Tubelab or other partial kit is very important for that reason and it uses common in production tubes over say a full kit like the S-5 type. You also get more power also which you will appreciate unless you have expensive & bulky efficient speakers.

I like the JJ EL84's for a bit more $ and thoughly tested ones along with other tubes can be had from Jim McShane Tubes.

Another option is if you can find a Dynaco SCA-35/ST-35 in rough shape for a good price with tested good iron as they are well regarded in the OPT (Output Trans) deparrtment. The SCA-35 are plentiful and easy to rebuild and some borrow the iron from them. Triode electronics sells board kits using common driver tubes. Classicvalve now sells boards that use more common driver tubes than the hard to find 7199. The rare amp only ST-35 used all the same Iron.


Last edited by rmyauck; 20th January 2013 at 04:00 PM.
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Old 21st January 2013, 11:31 AM   #9
BlackEdition is offline BlackEdition  United States
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Thanks for all the suggestions everybody! I got a hot tip about a great KT88 SE amp project by forum member scott17, and decided to pull the trigger on the kit that he offers. While it is not a PCB-based build, all the comments in the kit's thread have indicated that it is fantastically documented. I'm really excited to receive the kit and start building! I plan on documenting the build via a build log thread here. Maybe it will help other rookies when they make their first attempt at a build!

That said, I'd still like to hear people's thoughts on other entry level kits. Provided this project goes well, I wouldn't mind trying others when the time and money permits!
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Old 21st January 2013, 11:41 AM   #10
Studio Au is offline Studio Au  United Kingdom
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Take pictures please...
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