Tuesday, 23 February 2010

My tube amp's projects history in photos.

A potted history and some photos I’ve found on the web relating to my valve (tube) amplifier
It was built between 1963 and 1966 by Armstrong Audio as a 226s (stereo) hifi radio/amplifier in their factory above a row of shops in the borough of Islington, London. (Building demolished in 1980)
Here is a link for some photos of the 1960’s production line, scroll to the bottom that woman with the bouffant could be building mine!
I can remember it as part of my hifi system when I was about 19-20 in the late 1970’s and I thought it was old then! It had a bad tendency to crackle and because I had a pair of far superior Quad valve amplifiers (which I still have) and it was so bulky (in had a tiny bedroom) in around 1985 I stripped it down discarded the radio and used just part of the chassis to make a basic guitar amplifier, but with the original compromised ECL86 valves which was maybe the reason I can’t remember it being that good in either form!
In 2010 I discovered the remains in my attic and decided to use it as the basis of a proper guitar amplifier and the rest you have probably read in this blog. I converted it to use EL84 valves, ( by adding an extra ECC83) increasing the power from 10 watts (rms) to around 17 and added an EF86 channel and all I can say is it sounds stunning! Pure 1960’s! The problem with digital amplifiers is they may have umpteen simulation of different amplifiers on them BUT they make all of your guitars sound the same! Maybe a good analogy would be its like listening to a digital recording of an electric guitar. I’ve discovered by building this that valves are the REAL sound of the electric guitar and bring out all of the character of your pickups and switch settings AND GET THIS - this is an amp that is perfectly clean-no in built overdrive, no crunch just how amps used to be. Valves are so much more than distortion! (I’ll use my home made - from 60’s parts - Range Master and Tone Bender for that!) Needless to say my (Chinese made) digital Vox AD30 has been relegated to an emergency standby amp.
I’m trying to decide on a badge to put on the front just to finish it off.
Either AS 10-65
Or AS/45
AS= my initials or Armstrong –even Arm-Stone
10-65 =2010 & 1965
45= an amp built from 45 year old components!
I still haven’t decided whether to paint it over cover it.

Monday, 22 February 2010

The tube amp in action!

On Saturday I played at my church's home grown entertainment evening even though I used to played in church it's the first time I've sung solo in front of my church friends rather than a folk club. It was a great evening, it would have been nice to see a few more people there but there were enough for it to not feel too empty.Thank you to The Rev Gary Simmons and son Sam for the hilarous Monty Python Cheese shop sketch and Paul Hollinshead for the immitation bouzouki playing on guitar! The video came out a bit echoey and sometimes the guitar sounds distorted but I know it was better than this in reality coz I was there! It definaletly isn't the right song for distortion! But anyway the amp didn't blow up or for that matter fall apart which was a real possiblility because I had only glued on the front of the cabinet that day and only took the wood working clamps off an hour before I put it into the car!
So here i am with one of my own songs played on my homemade "Les Pew" guitar and that amp.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Power on and it sounds great!

The first time my homemade valve amplifier has had a guitar plugged into it! Now to build it a better cabinet than a cardboard box. It sounds 10 x better than my digital modelling VOX AD30 even though the speaker has no cabinet!