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TheAirtightGarage FAQ

I ordered a board kit and lost the paperwork! HELP! (or general help on installing board kits)

A) First, the layout diagrams are all on el34worlds site, under Hoffman Board information. Secondly, the info on wiring input jacks, etc is also on that page under Common Hookup information. You can also read the Tips for Board install paper on my site.

Q) Are all of your amps handmade?

A) Yes, the cabinets and the circuits are all handmade. However, some chassis are pre-made for TAG, and some are not.

Q) I ordered my amp, when will I get it?

A) It depends. I will always give an approximate time to deliver when you order your amp, or if you call beforehand I will give you an estimate. Due to the fact that they are all handmade, it will take some time for your order to ship. Bear in mind, I am a one man operation. Your amp will be built from start to finish by myself and if I have a lot to build, well it will take a little longer. It is well worth the wait, however. See the reviews onTAG website or on Harmony Central for customer comments.

Q) Are any of your amps recreations, or copies of vintage amps?

A) No. At one point some amps were modified vintage circuits, but this is no longer the case. If any circuits "look" like a vintage circuit it is due to the fact that there are only so many ways to hookup a tube in a curcuit. The redpeppers output section for instance "looks" like a two tube champ, but this is because there are only a few ways to hookup a single ended parallel pair of tubes, and for max power, it is standard pentode configuration like a champ output. We could argue that 99% of every amps preamp "looks" like some other one as there are only a few ways (many, but only a few used in guitar) to hookup a triode, for example.

Q) Which (brand of) capacitors do your board kits come with?

A) The capacitors used in the board kits (under circuit boards) are chosen for maximum performance for a variety of styles. I have found over the years that the setups that I am using are the ones that most players like the most. Typically, Mallory M150s in the front end (preamp section, tone stack(s)) and Xicon MPP in the rear are a great combination. Spragues are ok, I find them not as good as the Xicons, actually. I do put a sprague in certain positions on certain board kits, however.

Q) Can I order a board kit with just the turret board and no parts?

A) Yes, you can order the board kit with just the turret board. As of the writing of this FAQ, it should be an option on the website.

Q) I want to assemble the board kit myself, can I order the kit with no parts installed?

A) Yes, but with a clarification. I will NOT sell you an undrilled board with the turrets NOT installed. I WILL sell you a board kit with the parts (capacitors, resistors, etc) not installed, however. This is due to the fact that some people want a modfiied board, so they order it with no holes. Problem is, if they mess up, guess what? Yes that is correct, it is all my fault, even though I never touched the board. Sorry, but I am too busy to have to deal with such items that are not my fault. I will help you via email and phone with a board kit, but not one that you have modified. If you want a "custom" board kit, email or call me for a quote, you may be suprised to find I do not overchage you for it, as I have been doing this for a long time, and it does not take me long to make a layout for you.

Q) Why do the power supply capacitor boards no longer come with Sprague ATOM caps?

A) They are not the same as they used to be. In fact, there are two reasons for the non-use. First, Vishay/Dale tells you in the spec sheet not to use them on new installs. If the manufacturer telling you not to use them is not enough, the second reason is that they are not the same cap. If you cut one open, you will see that the cap inside is actually a much smaller cap just put into the big blue can. This is due to the fact that they are using them as a drop in replacement for older equipment that has the old spring clamp. They are in fact using a new capacitor on the inside... so why pay 100% more for the same cap? Instead TAG uses the F&T from Germany, the Tube Amp Doctor caps or the IC for general purpose use.

Q) Can I put the AB763 board into my reissue _________?

A) See this page and scroll down to the AB763 for more information.

Q) What does the cap upgrade on the board kits do? How will it sound? Do I need it?

A) The upgraded capacitors on the board kits changes out the capacitors in the front end (preamp, tone stack) to "hifi" caps for lack of a better word. The capacitors are of improved quality and construction. I normally advise against this unless you are a jazz player, as it will make the amp much more transparent. You need this if you really want a transparent amp. Think plugging it into the mixing console kind of sound.

Q) Do you have export models?

A) Yes, there are export models of all amps, however, there will be an additional delay in building the amp and an upcharge as the transformers are custom wound (nearly all of them are anyway, but another special order will have to be made for it).

Q) What transformers are used in TheAirtightGarage amps?

A) It depends. Most power transformers are custom wound or they are hammonds or vintage iron. Most output transformers are Magnequest on the big amps and Hammonds on the small ones.

Q) What tubes do you like to use in your amps?

A) That is a loaded question. It depends. Even when I have picked a tube, sometimes I receive a bad batch and have to thrash all of them. If you are going to purchase an amp and would like to know what will go in that model, use the contact page to email the question.

Q) Which tubes will sound best in my super-duper-reissue-maxi-blaster?

A) None. Take it outside, shoot it, burn it, attend therapy to forget you ever played that horriffic sounding load and buy an AirtightGarage amp.

Q) What is the power difference between amps built with 6V6s or 6L6s or EL34s or EL84s or 6550s or 7868s or 300Bs or 811s or ???

A) In the end, it is how the designer built the amp... is this push pull, single ended, (or parallel on any of those, or parafeed on top of that), triode mode, pentode mode, conservative design, maximum rating design, etc? The list goes on... It is really up to the designer in the end. For example, the Nora amp is two 6L6 tubes in class A push pull at 20W. The upcoming "in the trunk" amp is two 6L6 tubes in class AB1 push pull for 45W. Finally, take what the designer/builder says with a grain of sand. You can not consistently tell power output by listening. You also can not trust what the designer tells you all of the time. Sex, lies and output power were really really bad in the late 70's through the 90's. I have seen 20W solid state amps being touted as 150W amps, and they could get away with it due to the method of measuring output power (change the conditions and you can change the power dramatically). At TAG, power measurement is first calculated (output power - transformer losses) and them measured with pink noise limited to the guitar range plus or minus one octave of harmonics into a reactive load at mad volume. Thre are a thousand ways to measure output power, but I feel that one is probably the most "honest". Again, you could change the tubes out and get more or less power out of the amp, so don't call me a liar wen you change your tubes and get 1W more out of the amp.

Q) You claim the Nora is class A, how can it be class A with two 6L6 tubes and deliver 20W of power!?! Some guy I do not know on some forum somewhere said that is not possible! You are a stinking liar!

A) Sigh. I get this a lot, and it is due to a lack of knowledge, or more commonly, the spread of disinformation. I could spend a long time talking about this question, but instead I will just point out a few things here. A lot of amp builders want you to belive that class A is only for single ended amps, or only for cathode biased amps or only for their new amp they just came out with. Truth be told, you can have a class A amp in ANY configuration (single ended, parallel, parafeed, etc) using ANY bias method you choose (fixed, adjustable, cathode, whatever). The real problem lies in that most companies bend the truth about class A (mostly since they either do not know or it is a marketing gimmick). The classic example is the VOX AC30, which is NOT class A. In fact IIRC a magazine stated it was class A at first, then VOX did, or something like that. It does not meet the definition of a classsA amplifier. See this great explination for more details. To add even more confusion to the mix, there are a great number of technicians in the wild who will state, quite confidently, that their amp is class A up to a point. While this may be, in a certain sense, true (it all depends on lawyer speak and whose definition of class A you are using), I feel it is a bad way to state the class of operation of an amplifier. If we go by that method (class A up to a point) then with the exception of a very very few amps, all amps are class A, so why even bother making a distinction? Lets just say they are all class A and get it over with. Well, die hards like myself do not do that, as there is a real distinction, and in guitar land it usually happens near the end of the volume control, where most of us like to play. 99.999% of those "class A" amps will no longer be class A there, and that is where it matters most, is it not? In the end if you still think I can not get that kind of power in class A from two 6L6s, well, you could always grab the spec sheets and curves, choose the operating point, draw the loadlines, do the calculations, build it and verify it...but I have already done that for you. Your welcome.

Q) You claim the Nora is only 20W, but I played it at (a friends house, dealer, your shop) and it seems like it is a lot louder than my (20W, 30W, whatever) I have at home. You are lying about the power!! Why is it louder if it is only 20W!?!

A) Again, I get asked these questions a lot, and there is a simple explination. Speakers can make a huge (and I mean huge) difference in sound pressure level with no change in the amps power. If I have a 15" driver that can do 100db at 1W (2.83V) at 1m and am driving it with 1W, its "kind of" loud (is that technical enough for you?). If you have an amp with a 15" that can do 94db at 1W (2.83V) at 1m and you are driving it with 1W it will seem a LOT quieter. In fact it will _seem_ like I reduced the power of the amp to 1/4W. There are many places on the internet and in texts which will go much more indepth on hearing, sound pressure in air and the db scale. I will not bore you with the details here but be careful to watch out for opinions vs fact when reading about it online.

Q) Some of your amps use 15" speakers (the Nora, the old Betsy, and a few others), why would you use a 15" speaker? Don't they suck or they are boomy?

A) It all depends on which 15" you use, and how you use it. Personally I like 15" speakers, but in reality, when I design an amplifier, in the back of my mind I am thinking about the overall sound of the amp, what kind of response and tone I want out of it. To that end, the speaker choice is all about tone. The nora uses a 15" to get that tight, big nasty low end. It has guts and low end for miles, but only 20 watts, so you are not killing people with it either.