• WARNING: Tube/Valve amplifiers use potentially LETHAL HIGH VOLTAGES.
    Building, troubleshooting and testing of these amplifiers should only be
    performed by someone who is thoroughly familiar with
    the safety precautions around high voltages.

DIY amp

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If you have no experience building electronic thingies, the amp will probably not sound as good as commercial products because of things like cold solder joints.
But once you get a few construction practices down pat? Well...
DIY stuff generally costs more. Much more. But when you get past a certain level, it also can sound much better.
Don't do DIY stuff to save money. Do it to have fun.
Hi Griff,

I am living proof that anyone can build a simple kit, provided it has good instructions and you are very careful and patient.

When I first built a kit about four years ago I had no electronics background -- zero, nothing, nada. I didn't know a capacitor from a resistor, and other parts I'd never even heard of -- what on Earth was a zener diode? I had bailed out of math and science at the earliest possible opportunity in high school and took "Rocks for Jocks" and "Astronomy for Poets" and the like to satisfy college requirements.

Nonetheless, for whatever crazy reason, I was seized with the insane idea of building my own tube amp.

To make a long story short, I embarked after getting a five-minute soldering tutorial from a friend. going very slowly, consulting books along the way (Radio Shack had some good elementary manuals), reading and rereading each instruction about a thousand times, etc. I ultimately prevailed and completed a tube amp, an Assemblage ST-40. I don't pretend to be a "golden ears", and pride of authorship may bias my opinion, but I think the amp sounds just wonderful, far more engaging than the well-respected ss amp it replaced.

If you do it, the best advice I can give is, Go very slowly, check and re-check each part and connection as you make it. Treat the building process as something educational and enjoyable in its own right -- don't rush to get to the end. It's far more difficult to track down a problem when the project is complete than it is to get it right in the first place.

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griff said:
I have absolutely no experience in audio or electronics, can i build my own amp by using a kit?? How would the sound compare to that of a similarly priced commercial amp


I note that you are in Victoria... perchance Victoria, BC, Canada? If yes, we could get together and discuss this topic.

Building amps can be a lot of fun and there are some ways of building good amps for a reasonable amount of money both SS & tubes. IMHO tube amps are easier and more forgiving (as long as you don't get your fingers in the HT).


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Have a go mate

Hi Griff,

Find a kit you can afford, and a lot of time, and build it. If you build a good kit, and there are some out there, it could easily be as good or better than a commercial product of similar $$$ new.

-find yourself some space where you can work comfortably. Good light, comfortable chair / seating position, room to move etc. When learning something new, frustration can rear it's head easily. I know I teach basic electronics. When you do get 'stuck' for some reason, stop and go do something completely different for a while.
-it's best if you can find somewhere that you can leave your project on the bench, in between construction sessions. That way you can come back to exactly where you were. Improves continuity and reduces problems.
-if in doubt, don't. If unsure, find someone to ask, double check, even if it means stopping todays construction session.
-accept that it will take longer to build and cost more than you anticipate. It almost always does when you start.
-find someone who can show you how to solder in person. I stuggled with MIG welding until a pro welder taught me what to listen for as well as look at. You can't learn it from a book.
-get a resistor colour code, capacitor / diode etc chart. Jaycar and Dick Smith have them laminated for a few dollars.
-you will need some basic tools. A good soldering iron, multimeter, fine pliers, nippers (small sidecutters) and screwdrivers etc that are appropriate for the job at hand.
-when you finish soldering, put it away for a while, recheck EVERYTHING, check it again, check it once more, and only then power up and test following all safety proceedures and instructions in the construction guide. It's easy to do, but I'll-just-finish-it-off-now-and-plug-it-in usually leads to a bang!
-if working on anything live (powered up) over say 50V do it with one hand in your pocket. That way if you touch something live, there is no chance of a second point of contact acrocc your chest (heart).
-try to build it in stages: ie build the power supply (usually simple) and test it. Then move on to the amp stage.
-expect to make mistakes. They are where you really learn.
-most importantly, relax, and HAVE FUN.

Let us know how you go.
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