Amp Guy put me on the spot this morning..help!

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by basscooker, May 30, 2012.


  1. basscooker

    basscooker Commercial User

    Apr 11, 2010
    cincy ky
    Owner, ChopShopAmps
    So a few months ago I was introduced to a friend of a friend over some beers. This guy does some high salary day job with engineering or whatever, and has been building tube amps for himself and for sale for about 30 years. Well into the night we worked out a barter that I'd do his annual barbecue (50~60 ppl) and in exchange for pay for my time (and 25 years experience) he'd build me an amp. We talked once since then, and worked out his side of the details about what he'd need to supply me with to pull it off. Now this morning he calls and says everything's in order, and we set the barbecue plans in stone, yadda yadda.

    So as we're wrapping up the conversation, he says "oh, by the way, when do you want me to start building you that amp?" HUH? he would have started it already, but I pulled a dummy move and ASSUMED it was a quid pro quo thing to be worked out after the event...

    He'd like to go within the next couple days b/c he has a big project at his work starting in July and will be tied up for a few months.

    Here's what i think i want:
    200ish watts- Real gigs are sort of a thing of the past for me, i don't see the need to be able to carry a room with the rig. is this going to give me enough clean headroom if i want to stay clean and be loud? I like to be able to choose or swithch btw clean/od

    Two channels, dirty/not.

    More than one preamp tube. Maybe like a 12au7 for the clean? isn't this one harder to saturate? does more 12ax7's equal more dirt?

    Am i off to think 5 eq bands (with 3 mids) is a good idea?

    if i were to use pedals (which i don't now, except my geb-7) i'm a front-end guy, would i be making a mistake leaving off an fx loop?

    what are the advantages to speakon over 1/4"?

    I'm sort of a "keep it simple, stupid" player, and this to me seems like i've got the bases covered (nice pun), but I'd like some input (oh, there's another one). Am i missing anything?
     
  2. will33

    will33

    May 22, 2006
    austin,tx
    150-200 watts tube shoukd be enough to keep a fat and clean sound and not go into breakup until you want it to. You can size your speaker compliment to sort of adjust how loud that is.

    Don't know that I'd need 5 bands of eq, a 3 band with a mid sweep can do a lot in the right hands. In boomy rooms, something around 100-150hz can cure the boom without losing the whole bottom.

    200 watts, the transformer compliment that would need, 2 independent channels with separate eq, maybe the ability to blend the 2, transformer isolated DI that catches the whole character of the amp.....this thing is going to get really expensive really fast......better be some good BBQ.

    A single channel that just had a nice transition from clean to dirty with a wide area of "in-between" sounds would be just as nice and be less work.

    In your situation, a 100 watter with a 1/2 power setting would likely be plenty, but, if I were getting this done, I'd want to go all out and have a full-on gigging amp. Maybe a 200 watt with a 100 watt 1/2 power setting would cover all the bases.
     
  3. Whatever you do, get it in writing.
    Good luck.

    S
     
  4. basscooker

    basscooker Commercial User

    Apr 11, 2010
    cincy ky
    Owner, ChopShopAmps
    He paid last year's chef $750, so i have a little wiggle room.

    I simply have zero useful experience with tube amps. so with a single channel, wont clean and od be at vastly different volume levels? that's why i was thinking two channels.
    i'd like to be able to find two tones, a/b them and have a single frikkin knob for master volume, a single friggin input, and a pair of speaker outs.
    but then i figured (as i GASsed for a while) if i have a real "budget" why not get a nice boutiquey thang.
    i don't really know what i want, that's why i feel put on the spot. i'm totally overwhelmed.
     
  5. ShiftyShift

    ShiftyShift

    Mar 12, 2012
    Well, just tell him what you want. If he acts like its too much (your expectations are a bit too much) then simplify it down. You'd be lucky to get a 100-200 watt quality tube bass amp for 750. I'd do the "1 channel, simple EQ" idea, and use pedals if you want more dirt.
     
  6. will33

    will33

    May 22, 2006
    austin,tx
    Depending on the design, the OD doesn't have to be a whole lot louder than the clean, just gets dirtier the more you turn up.

    $750 might get you 1/2 the amp you describe, maybe not even that depending. It might get you a nice, lower watt combo for recording, small jams, etc. Maybe with enough transformer taps to pile lots of speakers under it for a gig.
     
  7. basscooker

    basscooker Commercial User

    Apr 11, 2010
    cincy ky
    Owner, ChopShopAmps
    great replies, thank you. he's thinking he has most of what he would need already on hand, so figuring in only parts cost (he made a point of reminding me there's no labor cost per se) really i might be able to go a little more than a low powered amp. at least i hope, i have a repurposed (2-6v6) amp now that fills that niche already.
    anyhow, i'm getting the stink-eye from my daughter because she wants the laptop. please keep me in mind for the day, i told him i'd call tonight and let him know. i'll check back later. AGAIN< THANK YOU>
     
  8. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    750? That's not much tube amp, and certainly not much hand built one off tube amp. I don't think that it covers the cost of parts for such a build.
     
  9. JGR

    JGR The "G" is for Gustav Commercial User

    Jun 29, 2006
    Maryland
    President, CEO, CFO, CIO, Chief Engineer, Technician, Janitor - Reiner Amplification
    To get 200 watts, you need to get some custom iron - nothing off the shelf will get you there. I'm assuming he has primariliy built guitar amps, so you might be better off targeting something in the 100-150 watt range so that he can leaverage more of his expertise, and use more commonly available parts which would get you more bang for the buck. The higher wattage stuff gets expensive really quick and would easily exceed the $750 mark (it would be cutting in close even with low power stuff), and generally requires a different/more complex approach to power supply design.
     
  10. BbbyBld

    BbbyBld

    Oct 13, 2005
    Meridian, MS
    You can build a pretty sweet tube amp in the 200 watt range for $750, especially if the builder is an engineer with experience and knows where to get parts that aren't overpriced "mojo" parts. He doesn't have to make a profit or cover overhead. I salvage a lot of parts when I build one-off amps, and I would imagine he would do the same. You can end up with really cool amps that way because you can find antique/industrial parts that nobody has.
     
  11. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2008
    A custom made amp is a big step. It is also a very personal thing. Going into it uninformed isn't a good idea. Rather than being overwhelmed and forced into a quick decision, I think that it would be best to take your time. If this means delaying having it built until the fall, it isn't a big deal.

    Define what your needs are and do some research to find out what is out there. Ask what is building an amp going to give you over what you can buy off the shelf.

    If tone is important, maybe you want to go all tube vs a hybrid amp. What type of tubes and transformers used is also important. Everything you add in the audio path such as EQ or an effects loop will affect the tone. The cab that mates with the amp is also important. Decide if you really need 200W. Maybe a fantastic sounding 30W amp and cab is all that you need.

    One thing for sure, building an amp is expensive. With a budget of around $750, you will be limited. The transformer set alone for a small tube amp could cost $400. The chassis another $150. The cost of parts alone can add up quickly. You need to start with a set of spec and then have the design done on paper. Next comes a cost estimate. Then tradeoffs are considered. It gets complicated fast which is why you can't rush into it.
     
  12. Parts for a 200watter in the uk would set you back around 5 - 600 at minimum.

    I'd leave out the big eq's They can be done but to get good results it gets complicated quickly. Keeping it simple with valve amps always yields a good reliable end product :)
     
  13. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism

    Since nobody mentioned it, the advantages of speakon is the high current it can carry for bi-amping, the feqature I like it for though, is the fact that it locks into place, no need to worry about them, they are a standard at this point for bass heads.

    If he is making a head then most definitely get him to add speakons, if it is a combo, speakons are totally pointless.
     
  14. JGR

    JGR The "G" is for Gustav Commercial User

    Jun 29, 2006
    Maryland
    President, CEO, CFO, CIO, Chief Engineer, Technician, Janitor - Reiner Amplification
    If you salvage used parts you can. Building with new, I doubt it. The cheapest big iron would likely be from Weber which will still run you $300 for the PT and OT. You are looking at ~$450 for the PT and OT from Heyboer (which are very reasonably priced unlike MM), $250 for tubes - not much left for the rest. Caps, chassis, boards, hardware, and all the misc components really add up, even if you use junk. You can scale it down to the 150 watt range with Hammond iron and maybe scrape in there...
     
  15. hennessybass

    hennessybass

    Oct 11, 2008
    Bayou City
    If I were in your situation, I would go with something small and simple... about 30 - 50 watts. Volume, Treble, bass, and maybe a Mid, maybe a volume/master instead of just the volume. Talk with the guy and find out what he knows about building, and go with what he knows, not what you think you want. This way you are more likely to get a better amp vs. trying to get him into something he doesn't really know how to do and winding up with who knows what. Think Ampeg B15, Fender Bassman, or even Sun.

    Go with this route, have LDS build you a custom matching cab, and then you have an awesome recording / coffee house / practice rig. If you dig it, then do the BBQ again next year and then go for something bigger. If the amp he builds you sucks, do the BBQ again, take the cash and buy something off the shelf.
     
  16. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    For that kind I'd cash, I'd be considering having the guy make you a kickass tube preamp/DI of some kind... You could pick your flavor; Fender style, B15, SVT, Sunn, or one of the Brit amps modded to your wants. Your trade money would go a lot further without a huge OT and power tube section.

    But that's probably just me. ;)
     
  17. will33

    will33

    May 22, 2006
    austin,tx
    Taking some labor and profit out of the equation ooens up some things but it's still a big undertaking.

    I'd get together when you 2 have some time to talk. Discuss what your wants are and what his resources are. If he's like most of these guys, he'll have piles of parts laying around. Being able to re-use/re-purpose some stuff cuts costs. Could probably come up with something that works out for both of you, but it'll take some discussion, some give and take, some design and re-design. It's not something where you just go "sure, make this". There maybe be some options you haven't thought of.

    Good point about if he's a guitar guy, he may have some stuff he can use in the 100 watt range and not incur huge costs for specialty parts.
     
  18. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    +1

    with a completion date and penalty for not meeting it; maybe the option to accept it late or get $750 cash. Sounds like if you don't have it before he gets busy, you probably never will.
     
  19. will33

    will33

    May 22, 2006
    austin,tx
    Good point here. I might also be inclined to have a sweet low power combo you could either mic, run through a little mixer and into a bigger SS poweramp/cab for gigs. Or maybe with a speaker level line out, something like a built-in countryman, although, OP says he already has the small thing covered.

    There are options here, making up ones mind can be the hard part. If he has the stuff to do a complete 100 watt tube amp, I might be inclined to go that route, even if it means a one-channel, sparse eq job. When it sounds great plugging straight in, you don't need a lot of bells and whistles.
     
  20. hennessybass

    hennessybass

    Oct 11, 2008
    Bayou City

    That's a good idea.
     
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