DIY: Tube Amplifier Kit Build (In Recycled Box), Part 3

DIY: Tube Amplifier Kit Build (In Recycled Box), Part 3

Aug 1, 2008

The final chapter in the tube amp build from S5 Electronics has arrived. All your dreams are about to come true (assuming you dream about fairies and high voltages). We have cut up a box, done some soldering (pronounced "soddering"), and saved children from a burning orphanage. It is time to make this thing sing...

After putting together the circuit board we mounted it to the box. There are a few connections which take a little time like wiring up the volume switch. There is a place on the board where you can plug the switch directly in but we wanted the volume control to be in a different place. This meant we had to put wires between that place and the original mounting location- see below:

The top plate (which is also a recycled piece of aluminum) was cut out and the holes for the transformers were drilled. Some of you may notice that two of the transformers are set at an angle on top of the box. The reason for installing them this way is avoid a possible electrical field that can be created when all the transformers are positioned in the same direction. These angles break that field to eliminate hum and other tricky stuff. The black paint on them is only for aesthetics- it wont affect their performance and actually might even insulate them a little better. By the way, transformers are basically a way to take the electricity from your wall and turn it into the correct voltage for your electronics to use. They also turn into cars and stuff and fight crime and other transformers that they deem to have the wrong mentality (So like humans... sigh).

We found some salvaged volume knobs, handles and so forth for this project. It can be hard to find the perfect knob, but when you do, it's a religious experience. The little hole on the right of the below image is the new fuse holder- the old one looked like a pen cap and had no place to mount.

We looked at a lot of handles for this amp and eventually settled on some bent steel kitchen cabinet pulls... but then... Bakelite appeared. These beauties materialized out of some early morning fog on the British countryside- at Stonehenge. One problem- we had alreay drilled the holes for the other handles... so we ended up having to shave away some of the right handle to make way for the tubes- see below. Sometimes these things are necessary in order to progress.

At this point we are [basically] finished! Tuning needs to be done and a lot of extra little upgrades will follow as time goes but this is it. We should point out that when coping with audiophilia, you need to take it slow for maximum effect. Our little philosophy is simple: When your ears get used to something or discover a flaw, it is time to upgrade- BUT ONLY INCREMENTALLY. It is the process which satisfies, not the perfection. If you went out and bought the perfect, most expensive system, you wouldn't be able to tell that it was awesome because you would not have the prior experience for comparison. The point is to enjoy, not to win. No matter how much money you have, do not buy the best thing on the market until you have listened to and enjoyed the steps that teach you how to really appreciate that product. It will sound oh-so-much better that way.

And here it is, in all its soft, amber-lit glory:

And with some more amber, showing off its hot backside:

We played a little Enya to softly burn it in; it does take a little time for it to reach its true potential. At this point it has a few hours on it and we can safely say it is the best amp in the whole wide world- There is no other amp that has ever sounded this good in the history of the universe. Ok- it has some shortcomings as anything does, but the sound is super-smooth and it really takes the edge off of harshly recorded digital stuff. It has turned out to be quite the soulmate for our [previously discussed] Pro-Ject turntable.

You can get your kit from S5 Electronics here. It's called the k-12 (They might be out of them since they're so popular.).

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