Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

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Omsong
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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby Omsong » Sun Jun 18, 2017 6:22 pm

spudmunkey wrote:They seem to manufacture in batches. :think:


Good approach to keep costs down, but.... not sure if the custom built guitar approach is valid for a non-custom amplifiers.

If I'm ready to pull the trigger and the amp I want is out of stock either I: 1. wait 2. buy from another supplier (can't do that with Carvin) 3. get a different amp (probably from a different manufacturer). In the case of amps, neither Carvin or anyone else has a corner on that market. There are lots of great ones to choose from.
Carvin (All Sold)
* Fatboy 2002 Cherry Sunburst Flame
* CT6M 2006 (apx.) Deep Tigers Eye Quilt
* Fatboy 2009 Clario Walnut Clear Gloss
* Bolt+ 2011 Deep Orange Flame
Kiesel
* Fatboy 2017 (Nov.) Deep Lava Flame

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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby Koshchei » Mon Jun 19, 2017 7:51 am

Why not call to see what the skinny is? If they don't your money, there's the used market and a ton of Fender-derived amps out there with similar cleans.

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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby Doctor Turn » Mon Jun 19, 2017 12:35 pm

This thing WILL be mine, and soon. It's my next purchase. Look this amp up--it's incredible. Like the Skylark, all p2p wiring, not a PCB in the thing.

Here's the slightly older Skylark-- nothing but hand wiring, aerospace quality caps and parts, p2p soldering and blobs of glue:
Image
the Mercury V is the British voiced cousin to the Skylark, and Carr's newest masterpiece.

The beauitiful Mercury V:
Image

$2700 and worth every penny.
Carvin Weaponry:
1985 DC150K (koa) Stereo, M22N/M22SD w/black hardware.
1985 100 Watt X Amp 2 x 12 combo (XV212) upgraded w/ 2 Vintage 30's
...and other gear.

https://soundcloud.com/the_heavy_clouds

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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby Koshchei » Mon Jun 19, 2017 12:51 pm

Cool! Not at all for me, but I can't wait to hear your tone report and some sound clips :)

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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby Omsong » Mon Jun 19, 2017 2:09 pm

Doctor Turn wrote:This thing WILL be mine, and soon. It's my next purchase. Look this amp up--it's incredible. Like the Skylark, all p2p wiring, not a PCB in the thing.

$2700 and worth every penny.


Great looking amp.

Here is one I built about 12 years ago from scratch over my lunch hours. (Also see my avatar.) It's based upon the "California Dreaming" schematic using a pair of 6L6s, a 5U4 rectifier and a couple of 12AX7 preamps that I found on the web. Sounded really nice until I blew out my under rated test speaker - tore the cone to shreds! :lol: Image
Last edited by Omsong on Mon Jun 19, 2017 2:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Carvin (All Sold)
* Fatboy 2002 Cherry Sunburst Flame
* CT6M 2006 (apx.) Deep Tigers Eye Quilt
* Fatboy 2009 Clario Walnut Clear Gloss
* Bolt+ 2011 Deep Orange Flame
Kiesel
* Fatboy 2017 (Nov.) Deep Lava Flame

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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby 2Plus2isChicken » Mon Jun 19, 2017 2:18 pm

Since I know nothing about amps, is there any reason point to point wiring is so desirable? What difference does it make whether something uses that or PCB wiring?
Guitars:
2x Carvin Bolt
DC145
AE185
Ibanez RG1570 and Mikro
2x Fender MIM Strat
Ovation Celebrity

Amps:
V3M
Legacy 3
VT16
Quilter 101 Mini Head
Carvin Vintage 1 x 12 cab
Carvin Legacy II 2 x 12 cab

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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby Doctor Turn » Mon Jun 19, 2017 2:55 pm

It's a qualitative/durability issue, for the most part. There's not going to be an absolutely detectable difference in sound between a PCB amp done well (like my X100B) and P2P wired amp. But a good P2P amp will be much more durable and last forever. Here's a good monograph on the difs:

What are PTP and PCB?
Printed Circuit Board

An example of PCB construction, image credit Bill Bertram
First, there may be some people that don’t know what PTP (point-to-point) wiring or PCB (printed circuit board) construction are so let’s dive in. PTP wiring is exactly what it sounds like; the point of contact for every component is wired directly to the point of contact for the following component on the shortest possible path. This can be accomplished a couple of ways, some amplifiers and effects have the components directly soldered to the next component in line via terminal strips with no sort of mounting for the components themselves, this is known as “true” point-to-point wiring and since the component usually spans most of the gap between connections, it is a very sturdy design. Another way to achieve PTP wiring is through the use of a turret or eyelet board. A turret board provides an inline plane for wiring circuits. Basically it’s not much different than the direct method but provides a more organized setup for the components and easier access to changing them out. In both cases, chassis mounted components (transformers, pots, tube sockets, jacks) are wired via flying leads (wires) directly to the component they interact with.



The PCB, though patented first around 1903, came into use, as we know them after WWII. The idea was to replace bulky tube radio wiring with a more compact solution. A PCB is a mounting board for electrical components that not only offers the electrical connection (solder pad) but also contains traces. Traces are copper pathways running throughout the board that actually make the electrical connections as opposed to having every component soldered directly to the next one in line. The PCB allows for any sort of component layout since the pathways are etched into it. Then whatever chassis mounted components are wired into the circuit. This design allows for more complex circuitry to be organized and utilized with less space than a PTP design. The first PCB’s were single sided, this means the traces were etched into only one side and the soldering took place on that side alone. With the introduction off more complex circuits, multi-layer PCB’s came about. These, commonly called through-hole, have multiple layers of traces completing even more complex paths in less space. This design also runs the solder all the way through the board to a solder pad on the top as well providing a more stable mount for components that is less prone to vibration damage or cracked solder.



Point-to-Point
Point to Point wiring

Point to point wired tube amp, image credit Mataresephotos
First let’s look at the positive aspects of a PTP circuit. They are tough. The direct contact between components or the component and turret board are fairly large and in the case of “true” PTP the component leads are usually hooked around each other to form a solid connection, pre-solder. Once solder is applied, this is a sturdy connection that is resistant to vibration and ends up being very durable. Take apart an old Ampeg or Fender PTP amp and have a look. Guaranteed that in most cases, 90% or more of the solder joints are original. This means that joint has lasted 40+ years!

A PTP circuit also allows for the shortest possible paths between electrical connections. If a PTP circuit is designed correctly with the components and wiring properly placed, there will be a minimum of crosstalk and parasitic coupling that will affect the overall tone of the amp. If it is not designed correctly, there can be crosstalk, poor frequency response, and noise. PTP circuits more often than not resemble artwork, with carefully laid out wiring at precise right angles and perfect parallels with the shortest possible lengths of wire. This is not due to the fact that amp manufacturers take pride in their work (most of them do but this is beside the point). Yes, it is pretty but it also serves a purpose. Any two electrical conductors that run at different voltages produce some capacitance between them. This is the parasitic coupling mentioned above. Avoiding or minimizing this is paramount in amplifier design to keep the tone clean and responsive. Too much of this will result in loss at certain frequencies, most often noticed in the highs. The precise layout of the wiring in most amplifiers is specific to that amp to reduce this unwanted interference.

A PTP amp design is also more repair/mod friendly. Components can be de-soldered and swapped out with a minimum of effort without removing the turret board or terminal strip. Techs love PTP amps for this reason. If they are laid out well, it’s very easy to troubleshoot and repair as well as mod. Also, components can be removed and replaced multiple times without any degradation to the terminal strip or turret board. This is an important consideration for the avid amp modder or technician.

As with anything, there are some down sides to PTP design. A well-built PTP amp circuit is expensive in more ways than one. First they are expensive and time consuming to design well. A poorly designed PTP circuit can contain crisscrossing wires and parts that can lead to a ton of electronic anomalies. Next, they are more labor intensive, requiring highly skilled human hands to assemble instead of a machine. If the labor force is not skilled or properly trained an expensive design can turn into a nightmare of cold solder and improperly placed wiring, effectively nullifying the cost of the design in the first place. Both of these factors result in an increase in production cost and time. This illustrates our next point; this cost is passed to the consumer meaning PTP amps are expensive. A hand-wired version of an amp will probably cost 2-3 times more than a PCB version. A last strike against the PTP amps is weight. There are not many point-to-point tube amplifiers out there that are lightweight. This is a problem for some and not for others.



PCB

So this brings us to PCB designs. A good lot of guitar amp enthusiasts, hobbyists, aficionados, players, and all sorts will run from a PCB amp like it was the devil himself. There are a lot of theories out there like PCB amp sound sterile, PTP will always sound better, PCB traces cause capacitance between components, etc. Truth? Let’s take a look at the ups and downs of this design.



Let’s start with an important pro of PCB amps; they are less expensive to the consumer. A lot of builders will move to a PCB design in order to produce a model or two that is more affordable to the end user. They can be produced en masse and are populated and soldered by machines as opposed to people (mostly). This allows the builder to produce more amps with less overhead resulting in an overall price drop for the consumer.



A PCB amplifier normally will have a more uniform tone from amp to amp than will a PTP. A PTP design is built by hand and the wires tend to “float” some. This can cause changes in the ghost capacitance between conductors resulting in slight tonal variations from amp to amp (not always a bad thing but definitely a consideration). Another consideration is uniformity of solder joints. A PCB is soldered in production using a technique called wave soldering. This is a method of soldering all components at once and results in mechanically and electrically uniform couplings.

Memory Lane

There are many high quality PCB pedals, such as the Diamond Memory Lane
Now there are two different types of PCB layout, good and bad. Bad PCB layout is not as uncommon as we all wish and is the reason behind some of the “myths” between PCB and PTP. However, a PCB that is properly designed and built can sound every bit as good as a PTP layout and offer the uniformity from amp to amp. A solid PCB construction will usually have through-hole design with thicker than normal boards and traces. This results in a solid construction that is very reliable and hard to shake loose. Also, a well-designed PCB will normally be thicker (usually 1/8” thick is considered to be enough) and contain solidly etched traces that are beefy enough to handle the more current than is to be expected in the circuit. If the PCB is laid out well, the traces will be etched in such a way as to avoid parasitic coupling or ghost capacitance.

Now let’s address some of the downside of PCB designs. One important factor between good and bad PCB design is the chassis mounted components. In order to cut costs many companies have taken to mounting the jacks, tube sockets, and switches directly to the PCB itself instead of running wires to the PCB. This is a problem. Tube sockets mounted directly to the PCB will heat up and cool down the PCB with operation. Over time this causes the PCB to form small cracks that can lead to major issues down the road. Cheaper plastic jacks are usually used to mount directly to the PCB instead of the tougher metal ones found in most PTP amps. Due to the nature of amplifier input jacks and the abuse we as guitarists put them through, the plastic jacks often break sometimes taking part of the PCB with them.

In order for a PCB to be trouble and noise free, it requires a proper design layout. This involves laying out the components in some sort of order that makes sense but more importantly it involves laying out the traces to avoid the parasitic coupling we mentioned above. This is not as easy as it first may seem and requires a designer that is familiar with analog circuits. A lot of mass produced amplifiers will have an automated program that will layout the design of the board. Unfortunately, a lot of these programs are designed for digital circuits and don’t take into account the problems faced by an all-analog audio circuit. If the initial design is not done properly, the amp is doomed.

Lastly, PCB’s are normally made of glass-epoxy materials. As mentioned above, a nice thick board is desired but a lot of more affordable PCB based amplifiers will contain a board that is 1/16” thick and fairly large due to the trace layout. If the board is not mounted properly to the chassis with enough stress relief, vibration and movement can cause the board to develop cracks over time or even break in some extreme cases. Obviously this is not desirable. Once a board is broken, it’s done for. Sure there are technicians out there who will repair traces and get the amp working again, but once a PCB is damaged in this way, it needs to be replaced in order to have some sort of reliability again.



In conclusion, there are good and bad points to both designs. If a PCB based amplifier is properly designed, it can be every bit as sweet sounding as that vintage hand-wired job you have in the closet. With a thick PCB that has plenty of stress relief and plated through solder pads for the components, it is every bit as durable as a PTP build. In some ways a PTP build is superior and if you’re willing or able to pay the higher price for one then go for it. The lower cost of a circuit board build is attractive to most working musicians but a little research can go a long way when buying one in order to make sure the build quality isn’t shoddy and the amp isn’t noisy or dead sounding. As with higher priced item, talk to your friends and technicians about the amp you’re interested in. Try some out in your local store or at your buddy’s house and see what you really enjoy the sound of. Your friends and fellow players can give you a good sense of the quality of tone and a technician can be invaluable in determining build quality. No one wants an amp that lives in the shop. Thanks for reading and we’ll see you next time, in the Corner.


As far as the Carr Mercury V, it's a flat out masterpiece, just like the Fender themed Skylark. The Merc literally does it all, from zero to 16 Watts. I can't wait to get that sucker in my mitts. Carr's humble page for it hardly scratches the surface.

Two great, brand new reviews from astonished reviewers:
https://www.premierguitar.com/articles/ ... y-v-review
http://www.guitarplayer.com/gear/1012/r ... -amp/62940

From Premier's straight 5 star summary:
Ratings

Pros:
Superb tones. Superb workmanship. Superb range. Superb everything else.

Cons:
Pricey, thanks to premium materials and a labor-intensive build.


Carvin Weaponry:
1985 DC150K (koa) Stereo, M22N/M22SD w/black hardware.
1985 100 Watt X Amp 2 x 12 combo (XV212) upgraded w/ 2 Vintage 30's
...and other gear.

https://soundcloud.com/the_heavy_clouds

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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby spudmunkey » Mon Jun 19, 2017 3:02 pm

Edit: I was typing this post as the post above was posted...which is much more thorough. But since I can't delete this post without a [deleted] post, which always look sketchy, I'll just point you all to read the above instead. Ha!


2Plus2isChicken wrote:Since I know nothing about amps, is there any reason point to point wiring is so desirable? What difference does it make whether something uses that or PCB wiring?


I've always wondered the same thing. I've heard that a shielded wire in an enclosure offers a more "pure" signal path than copper traces on a PCB. I've heard it, and I believe it. I've also heard more dubious claims that P2P allows for more robust components to be used because they won't Break off the PCB, but any number of reinforcement clips and brackets can be used to hold heavy components stable. Lastly, I've heard that because everything has just a little more slack, that the wear on materials from both vibration and the constant hot/cold cycling is less stressfull on components that have some room to move, rather items rigidly attached to a rigid circuit board leading to longer life...and I'm about 50/50 on that one, personally. I can see arguments (and have seen examples) both ways.

I will say that 2 of the best 3 amps I've ever played in my life were all P2P, but I can't say that was the reason, because they were all different...not like the same model made both ways, I mean...no real "apples to apples" (or A2A, right? Right? Ha!).

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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby 2Plus2isChicken » Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:00 pm

I judge an amp with my ears first and with my wallet second. I see a lot of amps on the market that are in the thousands of dollars, and I just can't see spending that kind of money when something that sounds good just plain sounds good regardless of how it's wired or what it costs.

I'm sure all the Suhrs and Friedmans and Carrs are great amps, but $3,000-4,000 for an amp is crazy.
Guitars:
2x Carvin Bolt
DC145
AE185
Ibanez RG1570 and Mikro
2x Fender MIM Strat
Ovation Celebrity

Amps:
V3M
Legacy 3
VT16
Quilter 101 Mini Head
Carvin Vintage 1 x 12 cab
Carvin Legacy II 2 x 12 cab

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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby Omsong » Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:56 pm

.
Last edited by Omsong on Mon Jun 19, 2017 10:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Carvin (All Sold)
* Fatboy 2002 Cherry Sunburst Flame
* CT6M 2006 (apx.) Deep Tigers Eye Quilt
* Fatboy 2009 Clario Walnut Clear Gloss
* Bolt+ 2011 Deep Orange Flame
Kiesel
* Fatboy 2017 (Nov.) Deep Lava Flame

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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby Omsong » Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:59 pm

2Plus2isChicken wrote:I judge an amp with my ears first and with my wallet second. I see a lot of amps on the market that are in the thousands of dollars, and I just can't see spending that kind of money when something that sounds good just plain sounds good regardless of how it's wired or what it costs.

I'm sure all the Suhrs and Friedmans and Carrs are great amps, but $3,000-4,000 for an amp is crazy.


I have to agree, yet, we will easily spend close to (or more than) $2K for a guitar but then cringe at spending $1K for an amp when it really contributes more than 1/2 to our sound. Heck, a good SLR camera outfit with a couple of lenses can easily cost well over $5K!
Carvin (All Sold)
* Fatboy 2002 Cherry Sunburst Flame
* CT6M 2006 (apx.) Deep Tigers Eye Quilt
* Fatboy 2009 Clario Walnut Clear Gloss
* Bolt+ 2011 Deep Orange Flame
Kiesel
* Fatboy 2017 (Nov.) Deep Lava Flame

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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby adamag98 » Tue Jun 20, 2017 4:20 am

I am generally ignorant to the nuances of amplifier components. I finally purchased my first tube amp a year or so ago, a used x212b from about '92 (x100b 2x12 combo). It absolutely was the droid I sought.

However, I'm not a tone chaser, so I can't say I couldn't have found tones that were just as satisfactory from a small solid state amp if I were willing to test enough of them. The X was just so darn easy to get the 80's rock crunch I desired.

Re: the amp vs the guitar, it is similar to buying an expensive projector then putting a crappy screen on the wall. Sure, the projector (guitar) still looks nice, but a nice screen can be another visual leap.

It all comes down to an individuals satisfaction needs. For many, close enough is all they'll ever need, and for some, they'll forever chase fractions of a % of sound difference.

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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby 2Plus2isChicken » Tue Jun 20, 2017 6:37 am

I think $2000 and up for a guitar is crazy as well. Kiesel is quite a bit more expensive now than it was before the split. You can't get a Bolt with any options built for under $1000 anymore. I'm hesitant to buy a Kiesel guitar because of it, and most likely won't. I got an AE185 a couple years ago, and I rarely play it. It's the most expensive guitar I own but the cheaper Bolts, Strats and DC145 are the ones I play. In hindsight I wish I hadn't bought the AE185.
Guitars:
2x Carvin Bolt
DC145
AE185
Ibanez RG1570 and Mikro
2x Fender MIM Strat
Ovation Celebrity

Amps:
V3M
Legacy 3
VT16
Quilter 101 Mini Head
Carvin Vintage 1 x 12 cab
Carvin Legacy II 2 x 12 cab

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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby spudmunkey » Tue Jun 20, 2017 6:45 am

2Plus2isChicken wrote:You can't get a Bolt with any options built for under $1000 anymore.


Starts at $899, + $60 case, plus shipping of about $30 (i think) = $989... then you get free $100 in options. Since a bolt already has a tung oil neck, you can still add stainless, and a trans finish, or change a body wood, etc.

Close, though, for sure.

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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby Koshchei » Tue Jun 20, 2017 9:01 am

The other advantage with pcb designs is that they support a lot more complexity than a ptp design. It's just not feasible to design and hand-wire a three channel beast with turret or ptp; even if you did it, you'd have a total rat's nest that would be super hard to troubleshoot.

Also, calling BS on the longevity argument; guitar amps have used both ptp and pcb circuits pretty much from the start, and both last equally well, all other things being equal.

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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby 2Plus2isChicken » Tue Jun 20, 2017 9:05 am

I find handwiring to be an excuse for jacking the price up more than anything. It's like how Ibanez sells a TS808 "Handwired" that's twice what the other TS808 costs. Who would buy that?
Guitars:
2x Carvin Bolt
DC145
AE185
Ibanez RG1570 and Mikro
2x Fender MIM Strat
Ovation Celebrity

Amps:
V3M
Legacy 3
VT16
Quilter 101 Mini Head
Carvin Vintage 1 x 12 cab
Carvin Legacy II 2 x 12 cab

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Omsong
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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby Omsong » Tue Jun 20, 2017 9:14 am

Koshchei wrote:Also, calling BS on the longevity argument; guitar amps have used both ptp and pcb circuits pretty much from the start, and both last equally well, all other things being equal.


True - we've put PCB electronics into space for years where reliability is the highest priority. In an environment where shock and vibration is likely, securely mounted PCB mounted components are a lot more stable than those hanging off of wire leads plus the added stress they put on the soldered connections. I've seen terminal post PTP wired solder connections that have fractured over time. (They may have been poorly - cold - soldered to start with...)
Carvin (All Sold)
* Fatboy 2002 Cherry Sunburst Flame
* CT6M 2006 (apx.) Deep Tigers Eye Quilt
* Fatboy 2009 Clario Walnut Clear Gloss
* Bolt+ 2011 Deep Orange Flame
Kiesel
* Fatboy 2017 (Nov.) Deep Lava Flame

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Don
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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby Don » Tue Jun 20, 2017 9:42 am

Omsong wrote:That's good to hear as the designs of the Vintage series must go back at least 15 years or more because I remember seeing them in their catalogs around 2001/02.


They go back a little farther than that. I have a VT50 head and 410 from 1995. I bought it recently as a project amp- to repair the common arcing damage on the power tube PCB. It sounds great!

Image

I had a Vintage 33 in the past. It sounded nice, but the 410 cab really sets this amp apart.

Regarding PCB vs handwiring, as someone who works on amps, I find wiring on turrets or eyelet boards to be easier to work on, though PCBs are not bad once you get the technique down. My biggest concern about PCB amps is tube sockets mounted on the PCB. Replacing tubes can stress the PCB as can the heat from the tubes. Also, a poorly laid out PCB can cause issues (like the arcing in the early Vintage Series amps).
The hardest part about these older Carvin Vintage models is they have a single sided PCB with the traces on the bottom! The whole amp has to be taken apart to correctly replace most components.

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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby spudmunkey » Tue Jun 20, 2017 10:33 am

Koshchei wrote:The other advantage with pcb designs is that they support a lot more complexity than a ptp design. It's just not feasible to design and hand-wire a three channel beast with turret or ptp; even if you did it, you'd have a total rat's nest that would be super hard to troubleshoot.

Also, calling BS on the longevity argument; guitar amps have used both ptp and pcb circuits pretty much from the start, and both last equally well, all other things being equal.


In an environment inside something that has many many many heating and cooling cycles, like inside a tube amp, as well as vibrations...I've seen many PCB's in tech get broken/lifted traces, and the solder points are typically much much smaller and more fragile than the "the bigger the gob, the better the job" blobs of solder you can get away with in a PTP. I have to assume guitar amps may be built to a higher standard that what I've seen in the items I've had with these failures, but it's definitely a thing.

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Re: Carvin "American Made" Vintage Amps

Postby Koshchei » Tue Jun 20, 2017 11:04 am

spudmunkey wrote:
Koshchei wrote:The other advantage with pcb designs is that they support a lot more complexity than a ptp design. It's just not feasible to design and hand-wire a three channel beast with turret or ptp; even if you did it, you'd have a total rat's nest that would be super hard to troubleshoot.

Also, calling BS on the longevity argument; guitar amps have used both ptp and pcb circuits pretty much from the start, and both last equally well, all other things being equal.


In an environment inside something that has many many many heating and cooling cycles, like inside a tube amp, as well as vibrations...I've seen many PCB's in tech get broken/lifted traces, and the solder points are typically much much smaller and more fragile than the "the bigger the gob, the better the job" blobs of solder you can get away with in a PTP. I have to assume guitar amps may be built to a higher standard that what I've seen in the items I've had with these failures, but it's definitely a thing.


Yeah, definitely. Ptp circuits also have their own failure modes too though. I don't think that there's an inherent advantage one way or another, unless your wants are specific to the advantages that one has over the other though. In every other case, it comes down to the design and quality of the materials used to build the amp.


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