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Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #112802  by Jon S.
 Thu Apr 19, 2012 5:55 am
Many of us, with PCBs, are still stuck today on antiquated views of PCBs based on our initial experiences with cheapo ones one or more decades ago. I've learned since then from experience that there are PCBs and there are PCBS - they're not all created equal. A military grade, double thick PCB is a safe platform generally, including for mounting preamp tubes on, at least.

Here is the gut shot of one of my favorite amps for when I'm not playing Dead, my Tone King Continental (that is the designer/builder, Mark Bartel, doing a custom mod for me). I have personally pulled and installed tubes on and off of it while on the bench and there is zero flexing of the board in the process.

They don't call them military grade PCBs for nothing. If it's good enough for the Army for combat, it should work for our gigs.

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Last edited by Jon S. on Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
 #112803  by hippieguy1954
 Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:22 am
Jon S. wrote:Many of us, with PCBs, are still stuck today on antiquated views of PCBs based on our initial experiences with cheapo ones or more decades ago. I've learned since then from experience that there are PCBs and there are PCBS - they're not all created equal. A military grade, double thick PCB is a safe platform generally, including for mounting preamp tubes on, at least.

Here is the gut shot of one of my favorite amps for when I'm not playing Dead, my Tone King Continental (that is the designer/builder, Mark Bartel, doing a custom mod for me). I have personally pulled and installed tubes on and off of it while on the bench and there is zero flexing of the board in the process.

They don't call them military grade PCBs for nothing. If it's good enough for the Army for combat, it should work for our gigs.

Image
+1 You are right, Jon s.
They have made huge leaps in manufacturing the militart spec PCB's.
I too have seen plenty of military grade PCB's. Had to work on/with them from 2002 to 2007 as a quality control lab tech for Minolta. They take a beating with no problems. It is actually very hard to break or put a open in any military grade PCB tracks. We abused them on purpose to test the limits.
:smile: :smile: :smile:
 #112864  by SarnoMusicSolutions
 Fri Apr 20, 2012 6:58 am
To answer one question...

Why the SMS has 2 tubes and this other preamp has 3. The Fender preamp section we're discussing is a 3 stage preamp. Each tube has 2 stages. The 3rd tube accounts for the driver tube for driving a real spring tank. The remaining available stage in the other tube is there to recover that reverb tank. But the preamp itself is a 3 stage thing requiring 1.5 tubes. My SMS Classic doesn't have a spring reverb so it doesn't need that spring driver tube.

Regarding PCB vs point to point. Personally, I'm a huge fan of point to point and turret boards. In the end it has mostly to do with the aesthetic and the robustness, especially when in a combo amp that's gonna really get shaken by the speaker. Electronically and sonically, there are actually some advantages to PCB with regards to efficient layout and grounding schemes and noise, stray capacitances, inductance, etc. Some PCB's are crap. Some are designed so it's a total PITA to work on. Some are made very well with thick 100% oxygen free copper traces and smart layouts and ease of access to components. No rule there as to whether hand-wired automatically sounds better than PCB or vice-versa. Most of the very, very highest quality pro studio and audiophile gear is PCB based. Most of my favorite classic guitar amplifiers are hand-wired point-to-point, but not all. Number one, it comes down to circuit design itself, the schematic. Then comes the component selection. Then comes the layout. Then comes the build method.

But again, personally I love point to point when it comes to servicing an amp. I enjoy building that way too, but as a manufacturer and being a 1-man factory and feeding a family of 5, I have to consider the efficiency of my time spent building preamps and pedals. Hand wiring is VERY time consuming. It's a great meditation and a killer look when finished. My approach has always been to strike a balance of quality and efficiency and affordability, all without any sonic sacrifice or compromise. I have great respect for amp makers who hand wire everything and I get why some boutique prices are as they are.

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 #112867  by Jon S.
 Fri Apr 20, 2012 7:54 am
SarnoMusicSolutions wrote:... personally I love point to point when it comes to servicing an amp. I enjoy building that way too, but as a manufacturer and being a 1-man factory and feeding a family of 5, I have to consider the efficiency of my time spent building preamps and pedals. Hand wiring is VERY time consuming. It's a great meditation and a killer look when finished. My approach has always been to strike a balance of quality and efficiency and affordability, all without any sonic sacrifice or compromise. I have great respect for amp makers who hand wire everything and I get why some boutique prices are as they are.
Over the years, I've had Pete Cage, builder of Cage Amps, both build me a P-T-P amp and mod PCB amps (I'll include an example below of my Cage Bandmaster-alike one-off Pete built for me in a gutted original issue Fender Blues Deluxe's chassis - that's one way to deal with those amps' cold solder joints :P ). Pete's always been equally happy to work on either type of amp. I asked him once why he was so sanguine either way. He told me to the effect of, "Most amp techs grew up working on old P-T-P amps and have always worked on them so that's what they know. Me, I began my career repairing word processors and computers with PCBs alot more tightly packed and harder to work on than amp PCBs so for me, when I get an amp PCB to work on, instead of viewing it as a cramped setting, I think, 'This is great how much room I have here to work with.' "

It's wonderful, as a musician, to have a tech like this because, with the exception of MESAs (even he won't deal with those! :lol: ), Pete's happy to work on anything.

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 #112896  by SarnoMusicSolutions
 Fri Apr 20, 2012 3:01 pm
Thanks!!

It's nice to have 4/20 as a birthday. Seems like everyone celebrates...


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 #112898  by Staemius
 Fri Apr 20, 2012 3:05 pm
Picked up the earth drive today! So, next on the list is possibly Waldo's buffer. I've been using the black box for a couple of years now and just curious what benefit the tpc-1 may (or may not have) with the black box (as I understand they do some similar things). Brad or Waldo? Or anyone using both of these buffers?
 #112899  by tcsned
 Fri Apr 20, 2012 3:59 pm
SarnoMusicSolutions wrote:Thanks!!

It's nice to have 4/20 as a birthday. Seems like everyone celebrates...


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Happy Birthday Brad! Also the 10th Anniversary of my first date with my now wife. And something else I can't remember. :D :D

Like many things in life, you can have an awesome PCB amp and an awful PtP amp. That's not necessarily the deciding factor. I trust the stability of PtP but have both and I think there are other details that make much more of a difference.
Last edited by tcsned on Fri Apr 20, 2012 6:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 #112988  by hawk900
 Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:09 am
JonnyBoy wrote:I don't understand the huge difference between using a PCB and hand wired. I only ask because I dunno if it really makes a difference tone wise. Is it the quality of the connections? I can't see how a PCB would really make that huge of a difference, much like solder etching being a PCB. I think it would make little difference tone wise if the right components are in there. I can however see that the repairs and the fragile nature of the board could cause unwanted issues. If a builder gives an unconditional type of warranty, and it makes it through a year or two under normal conditions (proving its stability), I can't see how a PCB wouldn't be OK.
There could actually be interference/noise scenarios depending on hand wired models based on your surroundings. I hard heat resistant military spec etched board with as positive naked wires as possible might a slight benefactor.
Brad's the king and happy birthday. How appropriate for the man 4/20. Peace.
 #113068  by paulinnc
 Wed Apr 25, 2012 8:49 am
I have learned a lot from just reading the last couple of pages of this thread. Those Freznel amps look great and the prices are pretty nice too.
 #113904  by Staemius
 Mon May 14, 2012 10:57 am
Nice endorsement by Nels Cline in recent GP mag interview. The Earth Drive "is like having an amp in a box....which gives me about ten different sounds". (mine should arrive soon!)
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