Guitar Toys, Guitar Amp Plans

Replaced the strings on my Telecaster. I had DR 11s on there, switched back to D’Addario 10s. Despite the DRs having hex cores, I can’t tell a difference in the sound, and the decreased tension by going to a lighter gauge string makes it a little easier to play. Also the DRs are double the price of the D’Addarios. More importantly, the low E string once again fits in the nut slot, solving the first fret intonation issues I’ve been having. Playing on new strings is like night and day, and makes a tremendous difference in callous wear and tear.

I have been looking on and off at Tube Screamer/Tube Driver/Tube Overdrive pedals now for about as long as I’ve been playing guitar. The “Tube Screamer Green” Ibanez TS808 and TS-9 seem to be the most popular ones, but cost about $90 and range up to $180, hand wired models and boutique versions can run you up to $400. Delta Lab has a great clone of the TS-9, called the TD1 which apparently is what Stevie Ray Vaughn used quite a bit, for $50. I was going to buy one new at retail at the guitar shop until I saw that they wanted $80 for it. I thought the price had gone up on the pedal, but musician’s friend still has it at the old price. They’ve renamed it the TO1, I suppose since there’s already a Tube Screamer clone by another company with that name. Anyways, I found the “old” TD1 on craigslist, offered the guy $35 for it and picked it up today. $35 seems to be the sweet spot for used pedals. At low volume it just sort of makes the sound a bit more grainy, with the classic tube screamer mid-hump. Turning the volume to the 9o’clock position or higher really makes the sound wake up and gives it a bit of honk, along with some smooth breakup. It’s an authentic reproduction, the knobs are super smooth and quiet, and of course it comes in a solid metal case and “true bypass”.

Ok, so the other thing I’ve been looking at for quite some time at the price of tube amps, tube amp kits and even solid state DIY amp kits. Weber has a huge selection of AC15, AC30 kits along with all sorts of Fender amp kits and more. They start at $355 and go up from there. Anyways, there is this great DIY audio blog by a master tinkerer, Beavis Audio, home of the Noisy Cricket, which is a battery powered amp based off the LM386 chip and can be put together for around $30. These make hellaciously good amps for the Cigar Box Guitar enthusiast. If you think building amp is out of your leauge, you can always try building an amp with traditional cigar box guitar materials :)

And here’s what one looks like inside (slightly different layout). There’s not much to it:

Which is neat, and you can always plug it in to the wall with a 9v AC adapter like any pedal. It sounds like this; first part is clean Cricket, next two sections have some distortion and echo pedal effects added. And yes, it’s only 1/2 watt, upwards of 3/4 watt at full power which is actually decently loud. Download the Noisy Cricket plans and bill of materials here. The main problem though, is you’ve still got a solid state amp through and through. There’s an update now, it is a tube preamp, with a solid state power amp. It still comes to about 3/4 watt, but that’s plenty for bedroom play and recording. It looks like this:

And more importantly, costs $140 shipped. That’s less than the cost of a Valve Junior. It’s called the Tube Cricket and I’m very, very tempted to buy one. There’s several bonuses to this model; A) Only one tube. Tubes tend to be one of the most expensive parts of an amp. B) No transformers. Transformers start at $30 and go up. This includes it’s own wall wart in that price. C) all the parts are included. Download the Tube Cricket plans and bill of materials here.There’s a competing model, the FireFly Tube Amp, which is $99 for the “partial kit”, but is missing the A) Tubes ($30) B) transformers ($60) and C) Enclosure (build your own for $15-30) bringing the total cost closer $200 not including shipping. But you get an extra watt of power, and a tube power amp as well. Jumping up another hundred dollars puts you in the Weber amp price range, where you’re looking at proper 5 and 15 watt amps.

If building pocket sized amps isn’t your cup of tea, EHX is selling their “22 caliber” 22 watt solid state guitar amp for $106.It fits inside a standard effects pedal enclosure but outputs directly to a speaker cabinet. The owner of EHX seems pretty enthusiastic about his product.

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