Building a valve guitar amp

For the last few years I’ve been a hearty advocate and user of modelling and simulation, both for guitar (Variax 500) and amplification (Behringer V-Amp2 and Line6 Pod XT Live). This has been great for both recording and the occasional live work and will still form a large and important part of my music making toolkit.

However for the past year I’ve been hankering for a return to basics. A custom built guitar is part of this (see other posts) but I’ve also been keeping my eyes peeled for a decent valve guitar amp.

I’m after a small (less than 10 watt) simple, classic, single channel valve amp. Hand built with point-to-point wiring would be nice, until you see the price of them!

…And then I found the AmpMaker kits at www.ampmaker.com and their 5 watt model: the SE-5a which looks to suit me down to the ground. (Note: The ampmaker site is down in preparation for a relaunch on 16th Feb). If you want to check it out, the build instructions are available at www.ampmaker.co.uk).

My initial plan was to build my own enclosure, either as a combo or separate head and cab. A combination of my poor woodworking skills, the cost of tool hire and the price of grade A Baltic birch ply has led me to order one of the “Cabs by Chris” who partner with Ampmaker.

I’ve chosen one of their classic combos in dark green tolex, with gold piping. This is usually cut for a 1×12″ speaker, but I’ve ordered it cut for 2×10″ speakers, because I prefer the tighter sound of the 10″ speakers and the breadth of having two of them.

To fill the holes I’ve acquired a couple of ancient Celestion G10D-25 speakers from eBay for the princely sum of £20.50. These are generally considered a bit underpowered for the usual guitar combo, but I’m hoping they’ll be an ideal partner for a low power class A valve amp. Time will tell.

The cab has cost £190. The amp kit costs £149. So with the speakers, I’m going to get my hand-wired valve amp for under £360 (plus £37 shipping costs). This is a bit of a bargain I reckon, but there is the small matter of an estimated 20 to 30 hours to build it too.

The cab should be arriving on Monday and I’ll be ordering the amp kit on Tuesday. Further updates and pictures to follow, but this is how the finished, naked amp will look.

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