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Design and Construction of Tube Guitar Amplifiers Paperback – September 1, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

I've been involved in music and electronics since the 60's, when I electrified my ukulele. My parents had a Magnavox record player, whose ceramic cartridge plugged into the amplifier via a RCA jack. I bought a contact microphone from the local electronics store, attached it to my ax, plugged in to the Magnavox, and counted off Memphis. That seemed to get my parents attention, so they bought me a Heathkit shortwave radio kit for Christmas, along with a Weller pistol-grip soldering iron. I assembled the radio, attached the antenna, turned it on, and it started howling. I couldn't get it to work right until I resoldered every joint. By this time we'd moved to Jersey, and I started buying my own equipment. First up was a Lafayette amplifier, which, if I recall correctly, used two 6BQ5's in its push-pull output stage. I connected the amplifier to the 12" speaker in the console TV in my bedroom, and plugged my uke into the phono input. I had no idea why it sounded so bassy... I upgraded to electric guitar in '67, when my folks bought me a used Fender Jazzmaster. I joined a band with my friends, but I needed an amp, so I emptied my savings account and bought an Ampeg Gemini II at the local music store. Luckily, it included the dolly, since I had to push it all the way home. I took that rig to Cornell University, where I studied Electrical Engineering, including a couple of courses on electronic music taught by Robert Moog. I also took every music class I could, and worked part time as an electronics technician at the Cornell Synchrotron. My guitar never sounded quite right to me, so I started by changing the speaker in the amp, and then, in '70, I sold the Jazzmaster and bought a Gibson ES-335, which I still play today. The Ampeg went next, first for a Marshall Major, then a long string of other amps. After graduation I headed out to Santa Barbara, where I worked for a couple of years testing integrated circuits for Burroughs. I was still playing in bands, and I started building my own equipment, both amps and speaker systems. I then moved to San Francisco, where I eventually ended up working at Dolby Laboratories as an audio engineer. I learned much of what you will read in Chapter 1 at Dolby. In the last decade or so I have been taking a more orderly and comprehensive approach to amplifier design. I began, like most designers, by repairing and modifying various Fender, Ampeg, Marshall, and other designs. Later, I began constructing new amplifiers, first using existing units, such as Fender Bassmen, as platforms, and then designing and constructing all electrical and mechanical parts of the amplifier. Each amplifier was used in performances with various guitars, speakers, and effects systems.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 149 pages
  • Publisher: TacTec Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0615291805
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615291802
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 6.9 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Adams on February 6, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been building tube guitar amps for the past few years, and have read most of the books that are already out there; at first to just figure out how it all worked, and now to further my understanding of how each section of the amp really works and get into tweaking designs to create my own homebrew builds.
With that background I have to say this book is incredible. While no book will satisfy every reader, and every book will have some who think its too elementary and some who think its too advanced, I think this book has something for every level to learn.

If you are a newbie I recommend it for the first section on basic electronics, the last section that has a short overview of actual building, and the great "start up testing" guide, which is a must read for all beginners. The main section of the book which goes in excellent detail about the workings and design of each part of a guitar amp, just blew me away. For the beginner this may be info overload, but you will still start to understand what each section does, and why that resister is over there. As you build more amps over the years, this will be a book you then "rediscover" as your knowledge base grows.

For the more advanced builder, you will find the last section on construction a bit elementary and uninformative, but it wont matter because the design section will have already blown you away. Its all there in plain English and some easy math; no over opinionated speeches, no vague handwritten diagrams, no bogus untested circuits. The author is giving you real, true information that you can use, written in a professional manner, rather than just trying to impress you with "cocktail talk" that has no relevancy.
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I've looked for years for an end-all be-all book on tube amp design, and this is it. I've studied the other books for years and not come across this amount of information in books five and six times this size. It takes you from basic theory through design and construction. Excellent book. This thing just replaced about 20 books in my collection. I can't say enough good things about it. I haven't been able to put it down.

I'll be using two books from now on for design and construction. This will be first on the list. Esp since it includes tube data as well. I couldn't be more pleased.
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I am not a tube amplifier designer by any means but I do have a deep affinity for the technology and the tone of a vintage amp. Unfortunately I am unwilling to shell out the cash required to buy an amp like a 1940's Fender Super, or something similar. So, I collect old amps from things like vintage movie projectors and re-purpose them as guitar amps. You would be amazed at the vintage tones these simple circuits can produce...

Anyway, I have recently acquired a 1939 RCA/Victor amplifier that is (unfortunately) not repairable without replacing most of the original circuitry... so, I purchased this book with the intention of using it to help design the perfect amplifier for me by allowing me to re-purpose every part that I can from that amplifier. I found this book to be perfect for me as a beginner and was pleasantly surprised to find that it literally described the exact front-end circuit that I have always wanted in a tube amplifier; a preamp section with a switchable overdrive! That schematic alone was worth the price of the book to me.

I have a good friend that is a very knowledgeable amp technician and I have had to clarify a few things about this technology that I didn't find in the book, so it won't teach you everything - but it certainly does answer most of a beginners questions.

This is a great book. Definitely worth the money.
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Robert Megantz gives an excellent presentation about the fundamentals of guitar amplifier circuits in this book. Whether you're new to guitar amps or like me someone who grew up with tube (valve) amps and want to get familiar again with the theory and fundamentals this is a good place to work from.

The 149-page book consists of 4 chapters, 2 Appendices and Bibliography. Chapter 1 titled Electronic Fundamentals deals with many aspects of voltage, current, Ohms Law, capacitance, inductance, transformers, Tubes (Valves), AC and DC, distortion etc. Chapter 2 deals with Basic Amplifier Design including Input and Output stages, triodes, pentodes, push-pull circuits etc. Chapter 3 deals with Effects such as distortion, overdrive, reverb loops while Chapter 4 goes into Amp construction, testing and troubleshooting.

There are many diagrams to illustrate the text including basic valve circuits, tube characteristic figures including example calculations. The Appendices list sources for components and tube data.

This background for me provided a good grounding in working with the Amp modelling package Revalver MkIII to get to understand the circuits that produced the famous British barking amplifier sound of the Shadows and the early Beatles. A second book also available at Amazon by Gerald Weber "Tube Guitar Amplifier Essentials" is a good companion to Megantz's book, that fills the practical gap with tips and tricks about how different parts of a amp's circuit affect the guitar sound quality - both are recommended if you dabble or intend to dabble in either real tube amps or those of the modelling kind.
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