Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hell Yeah, I'm Building An Amp!! Part 3: Booya!

When last we left off, I was living in fear of flicking the "ON" switch and firing up my project... a friend even suggested I use a 10-foot pole and videotape the entire extravaganza for the internet's amusement.

Enter Jamie Simpson, owner/builder/the effin' MAN at Booya! Amplifier Services of New Jersey. Jamie builds incredible-sounding point-to-point custom tube amps, designed specifically for his client's needs and tastes. He also does great repair, restoration, and modification work on amps as well as keyboards and organs; some of his clientele includes John Medeski (Medeski, Martin, & Wood), Neal Casal (Ryan Adams, Chris Robinson Brotherhood), Marco Benevento (Benevento/Russo Duo, Trey Anastasio), Adam Smirnoff (Lettuce, Aaron Neville), and Neal Evans (Soulive).

Funny story, I originally met Jamie about a year ago via a mutual friend outside of the music industry, and it turns out I'd already unknowingly played thru one of his designs, a combo built for Scott Metzger that resides at Hometown BBQ in Red Hook, Brooklyn, for Scott's weekly residency gigs. I've got a monthly slot there with The Voodoo Blues, and discovered early on how incredible Scott's amp sounds with my Strat. Since then, I've had my Groove Tubes Soul-O 50 head modified by Jamie (frequency response under high gain, plus mid-shift switch), and recommended him to a friend for a complete restoration of an old Gretsch 6162 Tremolo/Reverb 2x10" combo amp (came out incredible, Link Wray in a box!).

The Man inspecting my work

Jamie was incredibly kind enough to take the time from his work to give my project an inspection, and proud to say, my amp passed the test! He showed me a few things, like how to clean up the grounding scheme for lower noise, isolate components better using heat shrink tubing, create an artificial power transformer center-tap for the 6.3v heater lines, and also get everything seated nicely in the chassis. We popped in the tubes, fired up, and it worked great immediately! I was not expecting that at all.

On a more technical note, the schematic called for an impedance switch with two speaker jacks, included with kit... however, the chassis was only drilled for one jack and no switch. As we were planning to drill the extra holes and wire up the switch, Jamie noticed on the data sheet that the yellow secondary winding of this particular output transformer (Hammond 125ESE) could handle the full range of output by itself (4ohm-8ohm-16ohm). We tried it thru a variety of speaker cabinets at different impedances, and it sounded great.

The first power-up

Yeah, he's one hell of a guitarist, too.

After a few hours of coffee, King cake, and gear talk, we planned a couple of future projects to help get me on my way with amp repair, including restoring my dad's old Ampeg B-25B and improving my little Peavey Classic 20 (I'll be documenting all of it right here, naturally). Jamie likes to teach, and I'm hoping to learn as much as possible from his years of experience and expertise. In the meantime, this little guy sounds great thru my Avatar 2x12" while we wait for it's permanent home to arrive...

No fancy playing, just exploring the range of tone.

Addendum 2/6/17:

About a week later, my built-to-order cabinet arrived from Weber, and it's absolutely beautiful. The chassis fit inside perfectly with no alterations needed.

Then, after a wonderful week in sunny Los Angeles (documented here), I returned home to find my Warehouse Guitar Speakers waiting. I opted to combine a G10C and G8C wired in parallel in the same cabinet, and had no issues installing them (fitting two widths of speaker cable into the barrel of one 1/4" jack was slightly tricky, but a fun challenge). Both speakers are 8ohms, which will create a 4ohm total load in parallel, and both are rated at a sensitivity of approximately 96dB, the best match of any 10" and 8" that WGS offers. Since the G10C is rated at 75 watts power handling, I'm hoping it stays a bit cleaner while the G8C breaks up faster (rated at only 20 watts), creating some nice contrast to the sound.

(For more info on the technical details, check out Everything You Ever Needed To Know About Speakers)

And finally, the finished build...


And, if you need any repair work or want to discuss a custom build, the number is easy to remember...


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