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books on amp building

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i've been reading up/playing with amp refurbishing since make magazine issue 2 came out (with the article this old amp )and i've bene looking around online lately for building my own amps/effects/etc.

i was wondering if anyone knew of any books that were good to read for someone with a decent understanding of electronics, but mostly wants to learn what parts effect the tone in which ways, so as to learn how it actually works.

i hoped the people here might have read some of them and have an idea for what's god to read.  i've been looking around but haven't really found any books that really seem like what i want (and unfortunately there isn't much in this topic at the library)


Few of my favourites (not just books):

- Self, Douglas, Audio Power Amplifier Design Handbook, Newnes, 2002
- Slone, Randy, G., High-Power Audio Amplifier Construction Manual, McGraw-Hill,1999

Self's book is very definitive but unfortunately somewhat ignores MOSFET designs and IMO has a pretty biased opinion on certain circuit topologies. However, one of the best books on the subject of (power) amp design.

Also, I should make a special remark of Randy Slone's "High-Power Audio Amplifier Construction Manual": This is practically the same as D. Self's book and contains pretty much the same information - maybe it focuses a little more on actual building and design processes instead of theory. It is a nice complement once you have read the Self's book.

- Darr, Jack, Electric Guitar Amplifier Handbook, Third Edition, Howard W. Sams & Co., Inc., the Ross-Merrill Co., Inc., 1973

Old but pretty good. Contains a lot of information about the basics behind guitar (amplifier) circuits. However, this book doesn't really teach how to design excellent solid-state stuff. As a matter of fact, the book really does not teach any circuit design. It's a great source for learning about guitar amp circuit topologies (both tube and SS) and about troubleshooting and repairing. This one has been long out of print, you can find it in pdf format here:

- Horowitz - Hill, The Art of Electronics, Cambridge University Press, 1989

The "Bible". If you need a specific book on the subject of electronics get this. Contains a very good chapter about power amplifier design and teaches you the basics and some more about most electronic circuits. IMO, this is one of the best books that can teach you some SS guitar amp design - even though the book doesn't focus on it at all.

- Duncan, Ben, High Performance Audio Power Amplifiers, Newnes, 1996

Good book. A bit short on electronics theory but can teach a lot about designing power amplifiers. In practice, this book is not something you really need in order to learn how to design guitar amplifier circuits but it does present some typical (and some less-conventional) circuit topologies which are used (mainly) in PA power amplifiers,

- United States Patent 7,061,740 (search the internet for pdf)

The most definitive source of learning how to design a VI-limiter circuit to protect the power amplifier. This is mandatory reading for everyone that wishes to design discrete power amps.

- Borbely, Erno, JFETS: The New Frontiers, Part 1, Audio Electronics (search the internet for pdf and see also part 2)
- JFET Biasing Techniques, Siliconix, Application Note 102, March 1997 (search the internet for pdf)
- Marston, Ray, FET Principles and Circuits Parts 1-4, Nuts & Volts Magazine, 2000 (search the internet for pdf)

Some articles and application notes that teach the basics of designing FET circuits. The Siliconix application note is likely the most famous and I've even seen almost word-to-word copies of it (including the pictures) in some books and articles that teach analog design. Erno Borbely is a legend and Ray Marston's articles just plain interesting. Totally free and likely better information sources about the subject than 99% of books available.

- Mancini, Ron, Op Amps For Everyone - Design Reference, SLOD006B, Texas Instruments, August 2002 (
- Jung, Walt, Op Amp Applications Handbook, Analog Devices, Inc., Newnes, 2005

Two noteworthy "Bibles" of operational amplifier design. The first one is available for free.

See also:

There's also a book (or actually a series of them) from Kevin O. Connor called "The Ultimate Tone" but it is mainly focused on tube amplifiers. However, according to it's index it should contain a lot of generic information about circuits used in guitar amps. (i.e.) solid-state switching, tonestacks etc. I haven't seen or read this so I cannot provide any further comments. It supposedly contains some (minor) inaccuracies (show me a book which wouldn't...)

Besides these, there are various websites like:

Rod Elliott's ESP The Audio Pages (Elliott Sound Products):

R.G. Keen's GEO (The Guitar Effect Oriented Web Page):

Tales From The Tone Lounge; The Home Pages of Tone Lizard Amplifiers:

Randall Aiken's site: (see tech info)


Renardson Audio Designs:
(This is a site that contains quite a lot of discussion about power amplifiers. Some strange and rather unconventional designs as well.)

Tony Van Roon’s Transistor Tutorial Part 4: Power Amplifiers
Quick overview of very basic power amplifier circuits. Nice start up to guide to power amp circuits. The whole tutorial is nice as well (

Ferreira, Oliveira and Tavares - Guide to the study of Multistage Differential Amplifiers:
Excellent page.

RAI Foundation Lecture notes:
Check out this page! It is excellent!!!

And articles:

Some generic learning tips: Acquire a large amount of schematics and study them - preferably with the aid of SPICE software or breadboard & scope. This - with the aid of theory book and articles will teach you A LOT and is likely the best way to learn. Learn to split the circuits into subcircuits. Simulate every circuit that is "new" to you with SPICE or breadboard it. Guitar amp circuits are electronic circuits - there is nothing magical or extremely special in them - so with the aid of some logic and deduction you will figure out their purpose and how they work. The guitar amp design books do not teach you the basic electronics - which is the base for all the theory out there. Once you understand the basics you will learn why certain circuits in amps do what they do and why they are even used. Study the terminology - that way you increase the effectiveness of finding plenty of good information sources from internet or books. Also, once you are starting to understand what the different terms mean technical articles start to make much more sense.

Also, one resource that has been getting a lot of attention from me lately is the Google Patent Search:

teemuk, awesome man. Thanks for posting this! :tu: (shame it took so long for someone to thank you..)


awesome work..

lots of valuable infos..

tnx.. :)

Hello and thank you teemuk for the links.  I've a lot of reading to do.  It's a good thing.  ;)   


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