I design and build tube guitar amps for my own use. You heard right: Tubes, vacuum tubes, 1950’s technology. For that overdriven sound, there is nothing like tubes.Devotion to the tube guitar sound is like a religion. In fact, it might be a cult.
Be careful where you drink the Kool-Aid, there are high voltages involved. To show my allegiance to the cult, I have a “Revolt Against the Solid State” T-shirt (solid-state electronics replaced tubes in the sixties. A transistor is an example of solid-state electronics).
I have a huge collection of guitar amp schematics. A schematic diagram is a visual way of documenting a circuit’s design, so another person can understand what is going on. I have hundreds, possibly thousands of schematics, so I can see what other people have done. You learn some nice circuitry ideas this way. Sometimes I have a pile of them in the bed next to me and I fall asleep looking at them. Can you say nerd?
I have several books on tube guitar amp design, several more on tubes in general. Many of the latter were given to me by my dad when I was a junior guitar slinger in the sixties. I have tons of tubes that I have either bought or have been given. I have the required transformers and other parts needed for tube amps coming out of my ears.
Because I am always curious what a new design sounds like, my amps are always changing. If I had more money, I’d buy new parts and build new amps rather than dismantling old ones. Sometimes it interferes with me going to jam sessions, because every amp is torn apart waiting to be rebuilt with a new design.
Do you remember that reality show, Beauty and the Geek? I thought about auditioning as a contestant on the show. The blurb they would show when I was on the screen would be, “Sleeps with schematics in his bed.”
A unfinished prayer by my buddy and fellow tube jockey, Thom Howard:
Our Cathode, who art in vacuum
Hallowed be thy thoriated tungsten coating
Thy electrons disperse…
©2016 Stephen L. Martin
Image of Tube Depot’s T-shirt graphic from