I have seen many cheap tube amp kits for sale on Aliexpress and eBay. I realise that these kits will probably have lower quality components and likely not perform to advertised specs. My question is are these worthwhile purchasing to gain building experience before attempting one of the projects on this website or are they just a waste of money?
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I would say yes, build one. There is one that I am building right now. On YouTube, xraytonyb has done a thorough job of building and testing it, and it does perform to spec. The components are reasonably high quality, except maybe the volume pot and one power supply cap that I will replace. It comes with a 115V transformer now. I am hoping that will be close enough to work ok. My wall outlet is exactly 120V.
You can see the building and testing by xraytonyb in detail here:
Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkImhOoAnSA
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fD83Oi6gCUs
Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nDsGJn_BEM
Note that the amplifier kit has been updated to remove the loudness circuitry, which was the first modification that xraytonyb made. The loudness switch and the associated circuitry are gone now thankfully. The rest remains unchanged.
If you order from AliExpress, you will see large differences in the price for the same amplifier kit. I chose the lowest price seller, and we have been having a little communication difficulty. Make sure you are comfortable communicating with the seller BEFORE you buy, in case it arrives with missing parts or damage. Try chatting with the seller using the messenger tool before buying. You can also find the amp kit on ebay, but at higher prices.
The new building instructions and Q&A can be found in this discussion thread:
Mine took just 6 days to ship from Hong Kong to Florida. Here it is:
Also on YouTube, xraytonyb built another one of the inexpensive amp kits that also turned out quite well for him. He did a 10-part video series on it called "Electronics 101-1/2."
You can have fun building this 10-16$ 6j1 buffers from ebay or aliexpress. Just type in the search bar for 6j1 buffer and you will find plenty
Well Stephe's video on 110v transformers answered part of my question as all the kits I have seen operate at either 110v or 220v. So a bucking transformer or replacing the amps main transformer will need to be factored in. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38GS-K776_8