Dec 6, 2013

My "Souped Up" Amp

          One part of being a guitar player that can get really interesting is exploring the DIY amp and stompbox route.  As part of a science fair project I built this amp and another one coming up soon.

          Anyone familiar with DIY amps must have heard of the "Smokey Amps" by Bruce Zinky.  These incredibly simple amps are supposed to actually get pretty decent sounds.  So I decided to put my own spin on one of these.

          The wiring in the "Souped Up" amp is pretty much the same.  The main difference is that I used a slightly larger (2.6" vs 2") speaker and opted not to add an output jack for use with a cabinet.  I also increased the value of the output capacitor from 47 uf to 220 uf, if you already know a thing or two about building your own amps.  This increases bass response, which sounds better.

From Beavis Audio - awesome site, check it out

          The "Souped Up" amp runs off a 9v battery and has no controls built in - guitar volume and tone are it.  I added an on/off switch just after completion because otherwise the battery drains even when unplugged and opening it up every time to use it isn't cool.

          As is painfully obvious by the punny name, I built the amp into a soup can.  Not just any soup can, by the way, but a 50th anniversary Andy Warhol can.  Partly for aesthetics, mostly because the speaker fit perfectly :)

          Now the burning question here is "how does it sound?"  Well, considering the parts cost under $10 and it's built in a soup can, the answer is "pretty good."

          Obviously it sounds nowhere near the quality of any amp costing over $30, but though quality is gritty, it has a kind of tube-like quality to its overdriving.  It is much more responsive to changes in playing technique because it has no pre-amp stage and can make a nice dirty overdrive almost reaching distortion.

          The amp is not really capable of producing clean sounds - there is no gain control so your options are limited to the guitar's volume pot.  It can do quiet clean, mid-loud overdrive, and a relatively loud overdrive/distortion.  

          Overall the best aspect of this amp is the absurdly simple function, incredible portability, and pretty nice overdrive tone.  I think that projects like these are great fun and an even better learning opportunity.  If you decide to build one,  I got all my parts off  Careful though, projects like these are addictive...

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