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Thread: Tino Zottola guitar amp construction books

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    Junior Member ian2113's Avatar
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    Tino Zottola guitar amp construction books

    Hello,

    Has anyone else built any of the projects from "Building Vacuum Tube Guitar and Bass Amplifiers," Volume 1 or Volume 2, by Tino Zottola? These are books that are being sold by Antique Electronic Supply and perhaps other sellers.

    I recently completed the Champ clone project from Volume 1. I made a few minor changes, using a Hammond power transformer instead of the stock Fender PT as well as a 4/8 ohm output transformer from Triode Electronics instead of the stock 4 ohm-only transformer.

    Volume 1 has some other funky single-ended projects and even early Deluxe and Bassman clones that I haven't tried yet. I do want to get back to those after I finish the Mission 5E3 I just started. I haven't seen Volume 2 yet.

    I'd like to hear from anybody who has built any of the amps from these books or hear that there's some interest before I bore anybody with additional details of the Champ clone project.

    Keep 'em glowing!

    Ian Abbott

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    I have some of his books. I have built the "Sonic MA1" from the first book. I've built it several times and modified it a bit to get a tone I like. The 50L6 power tube it uses is a cool sounding tube.

    I haven't built anything else from his books. I want to, I just haven't found the time. Volume 1 is all true point-to-point while volume 2 uses eyelet boards for the layouts.

    How did your champ turn out?

    Perlnerd

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    Junior Member Direwolf's Avatar
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    I built the AA4 from the first book and it sounds pretty good. I have an old Marshall Lead 12 with the 2 10" cabs. I run it through one of them. Since its only 3 watts, I can crank it, not get reamed and get decent tone for practice.

    It was simple and the directions were easy to follow. It was a good project for first time builders. My next is the 5E3 from the second book.

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    Junior Member ian2113's Avatar
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    It's good to hear from others who have built projects from Mr. Zottola's book!

    I was happy with the Champ-inspired design from the first book. It had relatively little hum and sounded good through the 12" speaker in another combo amp I have. (I used an output transformer with a choice of 4 or 8 ohm output and wired my amp for 8 ohms.) After playing it for a few months I've disassembled it, intending to build another amp.

    My one disagreement with Mr. Zottola is with his wiring of the AC power coming into the chassis. Mr. Zottola's designs place the switch on the black (or "hot") line of the incoming power cord, and the fuse on the white (or "neutral") side of the power cord.

    I believe that such an arrangement is less safe than connecting the black (hot) wire to the fuse *first* and THEN to the power switch and on to the power transformer primary. This is how most commercial amps are wired and it maximizes the chance that the fuse will blow and disconnect the power from the chassis in the event of a fault.

    I would like to build both the MA-1 and the AA4 amps, but I think I would like to try a larger output transformer, perhaps one of the larger Hammond 125CSE or 125DSE available from Antique Electronic Supply and other sources.

    Direwolf, good luck with the 5E3! After building my Champ-design from Zottola's book I built a Mission Amps 5E3 Tweed Deluxe kit and it turned out great. That was more expensive than going the scratchbuilt route, but I *definitely* got much more than my money's worth. The finished amp looks and sounds beautiful. I've also built a 5C1 (octal pre-amp) kit from Weber and I'm very happy with that amp as well.

    Building tube amps is addictive, but in a good way!

    Cheers,

    Ian

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    Junior Member ian2113's Avatar
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    Two more things about building the Champ-inspired design from Zottola's first book.

    First, I used the nice little "Single Ended/Champ" output transformer (4 or 8 ohm output impedence) from Triode Electronics:

    http://www.triodeelectronics.com/

    I have no connection with them, I'm just a satisfied customer.

    Second, I have some photos of how I bult my amp and some comments on what I would do differently next time for anybody who wants to send me a private message.

    Cheers,

    Ian

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    Reply to ian2113

    Quote Originally Posted by ian2113 View Post
    Hello,

    Has anyone else built any of the projects from "Building Vacuum Tube Guitar and Bass Amplifiers," Volume 1 or Volume 2, by Tino Zottola? These are books that are being sold by Antique Electronic Supply and perhaps other sellers.

    I recently completed the Champ clone project from Volume 1. I made a few minor changes, using a Hammond power transformer instead of the stock Fender PT as well as a 4/8 ohm output transformer from Triode Electronics instead of the stock 4 ohm-only transformer.

    Volume 1 has some other funky single-ended projects and even early Deluxe and Bassman clones that I haven't tried yet. I do want to get back to those after I finish the Mission 5E3 I just started. I haven't seen Volume 2 yet.

    I'd like to hear from anybody who has built any of the amps from these books or hear that there's some interest before I bore anybody with additional details of the Champ clone project.

    Keep 'em glowing!

    Ian Abbott
    Ian,
    I just finished the Tino's 57 deluxe 15 watt amp from volume 1. This amp was very easy and sounds killer. I usually use a 1970 Fender Super Reverb or a modified Deluxe with a 4-12 Marshall cabinet. This amp is so fine that I have not turned on any of my other amps since I finished it. I have just ordered Volume 2 so I can build a 50 watt amp. I had problems finding a multi stage filter capacitor so I improvised and built my own filter from three caps. My tone pot is either bad or I may have a bad cap. It works on the full left (bass) position or full right (treble) position but screams and acts funny in any of the middle positions. I have ordered another pot and it that does not fix the problem I will start swaping out the caps on the tone circuit. I used an old hammond power transformer that tested the proper voltages but I used an actual fender output transformer. I would be interested in any thoughts you had on Tino's projects. Thanks, Little Walter

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    I'm starting on a Princeton Reverb from book 2. This is my first attempt at amp building. I can say this, these books made me feel like tackling an amp build was possible. I think very highly of the authors work.

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    Aren't Those Books Great?

    After I saw book one, I knew I had to have all three. I haven't been disappointed!

    I'm still quite a novice guitar player, playing just over a year. I'm a professional electronics technician though, and absolutely love projects like these.

    Here's my rendition of the Sonic MA1, built on a bread pan to save the cost of a proper chassis. Most of the other parts were already in the junk box. This was completed just a couple weekends ago. The sound is so much BETTER than my Roland 15w Cube, albeit not as loud. Plenty of volume for living room practice, however.

    Front View: www.kirtland.com/guitar/front.jpg
    Under Chassis: www.kirtland.com/guitar/under.jpg

    Joe

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    Senior Member scole's Avatar
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    how much detail does he get into as far as once the amp is built, does he explain how and where to take measurements to make sure the amp is working ok? and does he get into trouble shooting at all?

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    Hey Scole,

    It is pretty much assumed that the reader is comfortable working with electronics, reading schematics, and familiar with high voltages as used in vacuum tube circuits.

    Mr Zottola does go into pretty thorough detail for construction to the point of telling where to install x resistor (etc) and when to solder the connection. He also has full chassis drilling dimensions for the projects. I'd caution on relying on the dimensions, however, as parts you obtain may not match his exactly. He does not specify a Hammond transformer, for example, but gives the voltage and current requirements that you can match an available part.

    If your project does not work, the voltage charts are given as to what to expect to see at the various tube elements.

    If you are looking to gain the knowledge to repair your amp and learn the theory of how it works, Mr Zottola has another book titled, "Vacuum Tube Guitar and Bass Amplifier Theory and Repair."

    While I'm still a beginning player, I've finally merged my lifelong hobby of electronics and my love of music. Now, if only I could find a cheap supply of EL84's, various transformers, speakers, etc.

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    All his books are highly recommended...

    I have them all and they are usefull.

    I've built MA1, Champ, 5C3 and 5E3, both Tweed Bassman.

    He has wrote affordable books that provide info to walk you through amp building.

    They gave me the confidence to jump in to this great hobby.

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    OK, I will be the one guy who votes no to the TZ books.

    I have vol 1 and I thought it was kind of "cheap" looking with bad pictures and cheesy binding. When I got this book I was already experimenting with my own scratch-builds and the book never really inspired me to build anything out of it.

    The main beef I have with the book is that it doesn't include any final layout gutshots of the amps. Instead it shows individual, hand-drawn sketches with squiggly lines showing where to connect the resistor or whatever component that step is dealing with. The few photographs in the book are merely xeroxed black and whites of poor quality.

    A little color photography and computer-drawn schematics would go a long way.

    I have built several amps but still consider myself to be a novice. I still may build an amp out of this book, but I would probably use the instructions as a "guideline" rather than for specific, step-by-step instructions.

    Thanks

    66merc

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    I have a novice amp builder friend who built a couple of projects out of Tino's books.

    One amp he built had an incorrectly spec'd PT. He had a custom PT wound to the wrong specs, as listed in the book. Can't remember which amp it was, though.

    He built the AC-30 clone and cannot get it to work right despite contacting Tino a few times and taking it to a local tech.

    I have all three books, and I personally like them. But I would say they are not for rank beginners.

    I also agree with the comments about the poor drawings and pictures and the lack of a final chassis gut shot for each amp. The books are fairly pricey, so this is inexcusable, IMHO.

    chuck

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    Tino Zottola

    I just got Tino's books and would love to throw together the first project, a MA1. I,m a complete electrical novice and have no idea where to find these parts, particularly the transformers. Is there help for meatheads out there or do I have to actually learn something before jumping in?

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    Senior Member zhyla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Santa Fe View Post
    do I have to actually learn something before jumping in?
    You can die if you don't know what you're doing. Your call whether you want to do some research first .
    Check out my signal generator for your iPhone or iPod Touch.

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    I built a '59 bassman 5F6A amp head using the layout (more or less) from TZ's book. It sounds great, is pretty faithful to the original, and is well laid out. I agree with ian2113 about the fuse wiring, tho. I would prefer the fuse be the first thing the hot goes to. I added meter ports on the back to measure bias current with the bias pot accessible from the back also. Used massive Sprague Atom 600v. 20mfd caps, Hammond steel w/ multi output jacks. All is good.

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    Tino's amp building books

    Thanks. I am an x-construction electrician and know to repspect power. I do not know how to order electrical components. I am having a very tough time ordering the transformers for the M1A amp in book number one. DOES ANYONE KNOW WHERE TO GET THE TRANSFOMERS NEEDED FOR THE M1A AMP IN TINO'S BOOK I promise not to die. Thanks

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    I don't know which transformers you are talking about since I don't have that book.

    But there are several good places online to get transformers for tube amps. You can find them on eBay if you're lucky and know what to look for. You can also find them at places like TorresEngineering.com. Angela.com, triodelectronics.com, mouser.com, tubesandmore.com, etc.

    Mercury magnetics has a range of "replacement" transformers, too. But they don't publish the vitals on them for some reason.

    Heyboer makes good transformers, too. But I haven't found a good outlet for them, yet.

    Your best bet is probably Hammond transfomers. As long as you know what specifications to look for, you should be able to find a Hammond transformer (power, output or choke) that will fill your need.

    Just remember that transformers are one of the most expensive parts of amplifiers (those and the tubes). Hammond also makes a good line of aluminum or steel chassis's (sp?). I have used several and really like them.

    A good place to get tubes (other than eBay) in the US is TheTubeStore.com. They have a good selection and their prices are reasonable.

    I hope that helps you a bit.

    If you can be more specific about the power transformer you are looking for someone here could probably recommend a transformer for you. Although this is something you need to be able to do for yourself at some point.

    Cheers,
    Bruce

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    Tino Zottola

    Thanks to all for the info and resources. The M1A amp is a low power amp that calls for a "117 volts 60 hertz in 60 volts 1/2 amp out" and a "3 watts, 2k ohm primary 8 ohms secondary". I have not been able to locate either. I greatly appreciate the help and advice.

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    I'm sure mr Zotta's books are great and his amp designs are obviously worthy of being published.

    It would be my suggestion from a construction point of view (especially for a first time builder) would be to build an amp (like a princeton 5F2A) that has every single part readily available.

    where ever your weakness is in amp construction you can simply buy your way out, maybe wood working is not your bag, you can buy a cab.

    not only that, if you are on a budget, you can find many parts on EBay or even here.

    It will also allow many members who have built these types of amps to help where you need it and give you practical advice from real experience.

    when you are finished, you'll fist have a great sounding amp, second you'll have a super platform for tryng out mods that on a simple circuit.

    If you get the "tube amp bug" which is highly addicting and very rewarding, you'll have some experience to build one of the amps Mr Zotta has described with the understanding of what is going on and how those differences may affect the tone and quality of designs.


    just my .02 so take it with the grain of salt

    Ray

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    I'd like to add this thought too.

    many first time amp builders (myself included) believe that they can build an amp cheaper than they could go out and buy one.

    this is usually not the case.

    my recent princeton build eneded up costing about $300 and I had a lot of the components laying around

    but in all fairness I used pretty much all high end or genuine fender parts.

    the costs arent bad because I spread them out over time as i built it, $20 - $50 or so every week untill I could go into assembly

    mind you also that I have many fabrication rescources available and build everything from my chassis and cabinets, but materials still cost.

    Ray

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    Quote Originally Posted by Santa Fe View Post
    Thanks to all for the info and resources. The M1A amp is a low power amp that calls for a "117 volts 60 hertz in 60 volts 1/2 amp out" and a "3 watts, 2k ohm primary 8 ohms secondary". I have not been able to locate either. I greatly appreciate the help and advice.
    Hmm, that's not quite enough info on the power transformer. The primary info means it will work off of wall socket power in the US. 500 milliamps is a lot of power for an HT secondary. There has to be a heater (6.3 or 5V) component or your amp won't work. (usually) The 60v output isn't an HT secondary. You "should" be able to get that from a Hammond 164/162 series transformer. http://www.hammondmfg.com/162.htm You might find one of those at ElectroSonic (e-sonic.com)

    For the output transformer, that's much easier, a Hammond 125ASE should be able to handle that just fine. You can get one of those for about $36 from some place like TorresEngineering.com.

    What tubes does the design call for? With that we should be able to figure out the required PT specs. Does this amp have any octal (8 pin and usually fairly large with higher voltage & current requirements) tubes? Or are they all noval (nine pin) tubes?

    And like Ray said, it might be better if you picked something that is well known and understood for your first build like perhaps a Fender Champ so that you can readily find the parts as well as get help from more people who are familiar with that amp. Once you have that working and have a good understanding of it, the projects in Tino's books won't seem so daunting.

    I may have to buy this book just to see what Tino has designed here. The power requirements don't sound like any tube amp design I've ever seen. I don't suppose anyone has a schematic?

    I'm still learning a lot myself. I don't ever expect to stop.

    Cheers,
    Bruce

    P.S. I googled the MA1 amp and found that it uses a 12AX7 preamp tube and a 50L6 power tube. The 50L6 can run on 250V or 110V but I think 60V would be too low. It's definitely too low for a 12AX7 in most designs. Although it should work on 100V if you use a 6AV6. You definitely need a 6.3V heater tap for the 6AV6 and you'd have to tap on side of the 110V for the heater on the 50L6. The 50L6 tube requires 50 volts for its heater. Also 500ma seems like huge overkill for the power needed by these tubes.

    The 2Kohm impedance goes along with a 110Vdc circuit for the 50L6 tube. It looks almost like you're going to need a line isolation transformer. Still, I'd really like to see a schematic of that amp. I can't find this book for sale anywhere, though. I guess I'll try my local library (fat chance).

    P.P.S. I found the Tino Zottola books at Antique Electronics ( http://www.tubesandmore.com ). Just in case anyone else has been looking for them.
    Last edited by RogerWilco99; 04-24-2009 at 07:46 PM. Reason: Can't spell my name among other things...

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    MA1 Parts

    Quote Originally Posted by Santa Fe View Post
    I just got Tino's books and would love to throw together the first project, a MA1. I,m a complete electrical novice and have no idea where to find these parts, particularly the transformers. Is there help for meatheads out there or do I have to actually learn something before jumping in?
    The power transformer for the MA1 is easy. You want to purchase a Triad N-68X. It's available online from Allied Electronics: http://www.alliedelec.com/Search/Sea...d=120DFFCC35B0

    This is a 120/240 / 120 isolation transformer. To work with the MA1 circuit, you want to wire the transformer primary for 240V. This is important! You will be feeding 120V to the 240V primary, and your secondary voltage will now be 60V, exactly what is required.

    The output transformer is not especially critical. It can be scavenged from nearly any discarded tube radio from the 50s - 60s. Look for an output tube of 50L6 or 50C5 and the transformer is guaranteed to work with the MA1. (If a 50L6, you'll have your output tube as well!) Or you can buy a transformer from AES: www.tubesandmore.com. Serch for the P-T983 or P-T31. AES also has the 50L6 as well as many variations of the 12AX7. I bought a cheap, Chinese made 12AX7 and am satisfied.

    It's helpful to have experience with tube electronics. Tino's books are very good, but I wouldn't rely solely on the construction methods without some knowledge of the circuitry. Not to worry, however. The MA1 works perfectly as advertised. Nice little amp. I prefer it's tone over my Roland 15W cube.

    Joe

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    Quote Originally Posted by RogerWilco99 View Post
    P.S. I googled the MA1 amp and found that it uses a 12AX7 preamp tube and a 50L6 power tube. The 50L6 can run on 250V or 110V but I think 60V would be too low. It's definitely too low for a 12AX7 in most designs. Although it should work on 100V if you use a 6AV6. You definitely need a 6.3V heater tap for the 6AV6 and you'd have to tap on side of the 110V for the heater on the 50L6. The 50L6 tube requires 50 volts for its heater. Also 500ma seems like huge overkill for the power needed by these tubes.
    In the MA1, The power transformer is the isolation transformer. A Triad N-68X (240/120 / 120) available from Allied Electronics for 12 bucks works perfect. Wire the primary for 240V and you'll have 60V at the secondary at 50VA. The tube heaters are wired in series for 62V across the secondary. The secondary is also tied to a solid-state voltage doubler, giving you about 150VDC. This is a fine little practice amp that I've been using for well over a year now.

    Joe

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    Now you guys got me curious!

    I built a little 50C5 amp for my son, but I'm not happy that I used the AA5 heater and power scheme.

    he really loves it, not a tone monster but definitley has its own flavor.

    Is the MA1 a P-P or SE?

    I'm assuming SE if he's saying any radio trans will work

    I'Ve got a handful of OT's from thos AA5 radios around here if you need one
    probaly a few 50C5's too


    Ray

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    Quote Originally Posted by stingray_65 View Post
    Now you guys got me curious!

    I built a little 50C5 amp for my son, but I'm not happy that I used the AA5 heater and power scheme.

    he really loves it, not a tone monster but definitley has its own flavor.

    Is the MA1 a P-P or SE?

    I'm assuming SE if he's saying any radio trans will work

    I'Ve got a handful of OT's from thos AA5 radios around here if you need one
    probaly a few 50C5's too


    Ray
    If you use AA5 tubes, I hope you use an isolation transformer, perhaps as I described with the inexpensive Triad N-68X.

    The 50L6 is likewise an AA5 style tube, albeit a generation older then the 50C5. It is SE, just like the 50C5 amp, and the heater string is likewise in series. I use output transformers from discarded AA5 receivers, or buy the inexpensive surplus transformers from AES. This is one case where spending a lot of money on transformers will not be an advantage.

    I need to add the photos of these amps along with some sound samples back to my web site. They were removed some time ago.

    Joe

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    No I didn't use an isolation x former, but the way I have the plug I know in my house it won't be an issue.

    I'm not happy with that at all. I've warned him never to use it out of the house and even shown him with a meter how if some one hasn't wired an outlet correct how it could hurt him

    I'll break down some time and buy one, since his new girlfriend he hasn't even spent money on new string LOL.

    Ray

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    Tino's All American Four

    I've been unemployed since mid March. In addition to submitting resumes and attending interviews, I've been occupying my time building various electronic projects. Among these is Tino's "All American Four" amplifier. This was built entirely of junkbox parts, including the bread tin chassis.

    I found the 12AV6 tubes originally called for to be too microphonic. The slightest bump to the tube or even the chassis cause unacceptable ringing. I substituted 12AT6 in their place. This is a lower gain tube, and to compensate, I added a cathode bypass cap to the 50C5. Plenty of gain now! This amp was built for fun as well as for a gift for a good friend of mine in the UK. You'll notice the sticker for 240V mains. I have a 120 - 240 isolation transformer for bench testing. The blocked out label on the rear view is a personalized gift tag for my friend.

    Anyhow, here's the creation:

    AA4 Amplifier


    Chassis


    Rear


    Joe
    Last edited by Cephus; 04-28-2009 at 07:58 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Santa Fe View Post
    I just got Tino's books and would love to throw together the first project, a MA1. I,m a complete electrical novice and have no idea where to find these parts, particularly the transformers. Is there help for meatheads out there or do I have to actually learn something before jumping in?
    Here's the MA1 that I built a year ago. I really like to use parts that I have in the junkbox, hence the bread tin chassis. That alone saves a good 12 bucks on the cost!

    The MA1 is a fine sounding amp, perfect for bedroom practice. I previously commented on the power transformer.





    Joe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cephus View Post
    Here's the MA1 that I built a year ago. I really like to use parts that I have in the junkbox, hence the bread tin chassis. That alone saves a good 12 bucks on the cost!

    The MA1 is a fine sounding amp, perfect for bedroom practice. I previously commented on the power transformer.



    Joe
    @Cephus--

    I recently bought three AA5 amps off Craigslist for a ridiculously low price, and one is clearly a MA1. Nice compact little head, darn loud for 3-ish watts.

    Question: what's type of output transformer is that? My MA1 has the same one; it's even smaller than most 3W AA3 OTs...looks like a line transformer. But it really sounds nice! ('course I've running it through a 4 ohm cab--maybe the cool sound is 'cause it's expecting a 8 ohm load...)

    RE: the amp itself--previous owner bought it from Ebay, couldn't fix the noisy fizzyness. First I moved the earth ground away from the initial filter cap ground connection.

    Oh, and the original builder installed a death cap, for some reason (even though it has a modern 3-prong cord.) Wow, even other amps plugged into the same mains circuit were fizzy, thanks to that cap. Problem fixed.

    Also, it's got the "scratchy pot" syndrome, both on the amp and on the guitar. Typically, no coupling cap before the first stage, and volume's on a different stage. Maybe a cold solder joint?

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    Quote Originally Posted by gmoon View Post
    @Cephus--
    Question: what's type of output transformer is that? My MA1 has the same one; it's even smaller than most 3W AA3 OTs...looks like a line transformer. But it really sounds nice! ('course I've running it through a 4 ohm cab--maybe the cool sound is 'cause it's expecting a 8 ohm load...)
    The OP transformer in my MA1 is one of the 3W surplus transformers that AES sells. It does seem small, but appears to work well. I'll be putting these little amps on a dummy load and scope soon and measure their actual power output.

    RE: the amp itself--previous owner bought it from Ebay, couldn't fix the noisy fizzyness. First I moved the earth ground away from the initial filter cap ground connection.

    Oh, and the original builder installed a death cap, for some reason (even though it has a modern 3-prong cord.) Wow, even other amps plugged into the same mains circuit were fizzy, thanks to that cap. Problem fixed.
    I don't think the fizziness came from the ground, but it certainly could come from that cap!

    Also, it's got the "scratchy pot" syndrome, both on the amp and on the guitar. Typically, no coupling cap before the first stage, and volume's on a different stage. Maybe a cold solder joint?
    You might try squirting some Deoxit into the pot. In the case of the MA1, the input is fed through a 68K resistor to the grid (1 meg to ground) of the first half of the 12AX7. output of that stage is capacitive coupled to the volume control, which is then part of the grid bias as well as level to the second half 12AX7.

  32. #32
    Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
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    83
    Quote Originally Posted by Cephus View Post
    The OP transformer in my MA1 is one of the 3W surplus transformers that AES sells. It does seem small, but appears to work well. I'll be putting these little amps on a dummy load and scope soon and measure their actual power output.
    Thanks! So that little guy is a 2500 / 8 OT. Since I've been reflecting back a 1250 ohm input impedance (with the 4 ohm cab), it's probably not working as efficiently (bit of a surprise, given the decent output.) I'll try an 8 ohm load; really like the sound currently, though.

    I'll try spraying the pots, maybe that'll help, thanks.

    The pots are oddball--both pots have holes cut in the backs (~3/8 in.) Not a great idea in a dusty environ. I suspect there were switches, and rather than live with the "click" of an unconnected switch (or buy new pots), the builder yanked the switches out...or they are surplus pots.

  33. #33
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    Join Date
    May 2009
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    Unavailable in Malaysia

    Hey everyone,

    There's a lot we dont get in this part of the world. That includes the Tony Zottola book. Anyone knows where I can download it? Wink...wink...

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