First project - getting started. Advice encouraged

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I spent a good amount of time last night and this morning poking through the forums, but didn't see anything especially helpful to my situation except for a post back in 2005.

At the culmination of my first project, I want to have a pair of speakers and an amplifier built by my own hands. What types/kinds is still undecided, because trying to wade through the information on here and get a consensus about what is appropriate is proving somewhat fruitless. I see topics specific to certain amps or kits, topics specific to types of speaker enclosures, but nothing so far that I have seen that gives me an idea of "use amp XXX and speakers YYY for application ZZZ"

I listen to digital format music. Quite a few CD, but also .raw, ogg, and the occasional mp3. My musical tastes run the gamut. Blues, folk, country, jazz, rock, metal, hip-hop, industrial, trance, et al.

I'd like to start with a project that is not "too duanting" my first time out of the gate. I've been looking at both Gainclone kits and tube kits, but don't know which would be better for what I want. I've also been looking at a variety of speaker projects, but also can't tell what would be best for my type of listening. (I do really like the horn projects with full range drivers), but I'm newb enough that I can't tell whether this type of speaker is better driven by a chip amp or a tube amp.

I'm fortunate enough to not have to deal with the WAF. So long as I don't assemble a set of BIB speakers, she'll approve of anything I do, since I tend to do nice, clean work that looks good.

I'd certainly appreciate some recommendations from you experienced members. What combo of parts should I be price scouring for to get what it is I want?
Hello Jonitus, Welcome to the addiction. You have just asked one of the age old questions of audio, and it has only one answer. It depends. Which amp sound goods with a particular speaker depends entirely on you. One person may think some combination sounds great, while another will pick it apart. Having said that, if you are good at woodworking, then a nice full range single driver design is a good place to start for speakers, IMHO. Either of the amp choices are possibilities; another being a class A solid state amp. A good place to look in regards to class A amps that will probably work well with a full range design is Nelson Pass' websites:

Here he designed some fairly simple amps that are fairly easy for someone who hasn't done much (any?) electronics construction. They supposedly sound quite good, with full range in particular, but I can't say as I haven't tried any of them yet.
What I just said isn't any sort of truth cemented in stone, so I am sure that others will soon have responses that differ from mine. Good luck and enjoy! I suspect that you will end up with quite a collection of home made items and still won't think you are done!:D


Dave Gerecke
I'm trying to digest the saying "a tube watt is different than a chip watt". What I mean is, would a stereo tube amp drive a set of full range horns effectively? I'm looking over the Fostex-based plans and looking at the drivers, they seem to like a lot more power than a basic stereo tube amp can provide. That's why I was considering the chip amp as well...since I can get more power and seemingly drive the speakers better.

Really confused.
Trying to digest that saying is like eating something with ecoli, it will only make you sick. There is in reality, no differenct between a "tube watt" and a "chip watt". A watt is a measure of power, pure and simple. What I think people are trying to say here is the behavior of the amplifying device in regards to it's sonic (i.e. distortion) characteristics. Tubes tend to have a softer distortion when you hit a signal peak, and the predominate distortion generated by tubes is second harmonic, which seems to be pleasing to the human ear.
In regards to a tube amp being able to drive a horn speaker, that shouldn't be any problem. Most, if not all, of the early theater speakers were horn designs driven by tube amps of around 10 watts. One thing to remember is that a horn style speaker cabinet acts as a mechanical amplifier that multiplies the acoustical output of the raw driver you are using. Thus you can use an electrical amplifier of lower wattage with a horn based speaker system to achieve an equivalent acoustical output, this being measured in decibels of sound pressure level at a specified distance from the speaker.
One warning for you if you decide to go the tube route, vacuum tubes usually use high voltages. These are lethal if not treated properly. We don't need any new guys getting cooked early on. That would decrease our membership and ruin your enjoyment of this hobby, not to mention your life.


Joined 2006
Paid Member
I don't like messing with lots of volts which is why I've been happy fiddling with low-powered Tripath-powered amps. I have sensitive speakers so it's not really an issue and I started powering them with laptop adaptors for ease.

A Amp6 puts out 15wpc and costs 35 Euros. Just needs a 12V DC supply.

I have a gainclone next on my list but I'm in no hurry with a pile of Class D amps here to play with - they cost peanuts! Sure Electronics (via Ebay) sell a cmplete Class D amp for about £15 inc postage from HK...
I would second the idea of building a 41hz kit to get started. The Amp 6 is a particularly easy build. The sound quality for the buck is extraordinary, and you can set them up so they work well driven by the lousy output level of an Ipod or other portable device. And you get the fun of putting it in some kind of a box made from almost anything--check the photo galleries for ideas.

A big bonus is that the power supplies are cheap and readily available for well under $20. For many amps, the PS is close to half of the work/expense.

It will drive most full-range speaker to more than acceptable levels (and there are much more powerful Tripath kits if you lust for power). Once you hear what ten clean watts really sounds like, you'll realize what kind of games the mainstream audio mfgrs are playing.

So, it may not be your ultimate amp, but if you decide to build something better, who couldn't find a use for a magnificent sounding, inexpensive amp that runs great off of battery power.


I'm looking over the kits at right now. There's some interesting stuff there. The AMP6-Basic looks like a decent first foray into this hobby. I need to do some more reading, but I like the looks of it so far. Nice you can run a mp3 player directly to it. Since this system will be confined to my "man-cave", which is a small roughly square room, I think it will work nicely. I don't listen to music LOUD.

I'm not worried about dealing with tubes. I've tinkered with enough high voltage to know how to be cautious, but maybe I will build a class-t first and see where I go from there.

Now, for speakers:

I'm really intrigued with the full range horns I have seen. My coworker has agreed to build my cabinets of whatever I decide for the cost of materials plus some malted beverages of his choice. Nice, since I have neither the tools or the woodworking experience. If I go with the AMP6, what speakers would you recommend for a set of horns? I keep hearing rave reviews of the Fostex line of drivers and love their specs, so I would like to stay there if I can manage. Really liking the buschhorn, but advice is needed.
I've been emailing back and forth with s5electronics about their 16LS amp. I searched the forum and didn't see much here. Has anyone here built one? For the cost, it's pretty hard to beat. However, if the specs and performance aren't there, it will probably sour me. Would love to hear from someone who has first-hand experience with this amp.
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