Tube Radio Guitar Amp: Part 1 Exploring

I bought another tube radio, it’s a Philips B5X42A.  This is getting seriously addictive, but it’s better to be fixed on €10 junk nobody really wants than getting hooked on buying every Vox amp around, even that silly little white one.  So I spotted a guy selling several tube radios on a classifieds website, contacted him and went over there. He opened up his garage and there was a plethora of tube radio and bakelite goodness. I could only be honest:

‘That’s a stunning collection you have there. I am really looking for a tube radio to convert into a guitar amp. So anything you have lying around of which the radio part isn’t properly functioning, but the main amp is, I am interested in. The higher the wattage, the better.’

‘But then you are better off buying a guitar amp, that’s better suited than this. I don’t have any real throwaways, I repair everything myself.’

‘I have several great tube amps at home, a sixties Fender and an original 65 WEM Watkins. I also have two 5W single ended amps and am currently building a 50’s design guitar amp. But have you ever bought a new power transformer for a tube amp? Do you know what they cost?’

‘I just throw them away, had a box of them around here until last week.’

‘Well, if you want to build a guitar amp, the cheapest transformers you can buy are around €50, this is for 5W amps’

‘Whot?’

‘I tell you, if I buy a €15 non working tube radio that isn’t burnt out, I can probably salvage all power transformers (+€50/piece), output transformers (+€30/piece).  I knows it’s junk and the real reason tube technology went down the drain, but if you have to buy them in specialized shops nowadays, you pay for being in a niche market’

‘What kind of tube do these guitar amp generally use?’

‘In European denomination mostly EL84 as power tubes and ECC83 for preamps…’

‘Well, then I think I might have some chassis lying around for you…’

We made a deal for €10 for a Philips B5X42B from about 1964:

philips

 

 

 

 

 

That’s how it looked back in the day, celexa 40 mg what I bought looked more like something the cat dragged in last night, and the reaction of the wife was accordingly.

IMG_5058

Mine doesn’t look at snazzy anymore, the enclosure is not included, but more importantly the looks, is finding the phono input, which may require googling the back panel of the unit in question:

philipsb5x

 

 

 

 

The pickup (PU) jack has three contacts, one for the left mono channel, one for ground and one for the right mono channel… because this is a stereo amp. It has two distinct signal paths: here is only the stereo amp part of the schematic.

deatilEach of the signal paths uses half of a ECC83 (=12AX7) for preamp and one EL84 as power tube. If you consider that the rectifier in this radio is EZ81, it become clear that you have everything to here to build an Vox AC-15 (minus the tremolo).

The reason so many questions about converting radio’s to guitar amps remain unanswered is clear to me now: using it as a guitar amp requires no work at all, just connecting to the phone input. But converting it means getting rid of everything that is in the red square:

schematiccomplete

 

 

 

 

That is like 2/3 of the circuit.  This may seem like a difficult job, but it really isn’t because these parts of the circuit are switched in and out.  In fact, we should also get rid of the double stereo part. In fact, we can make one hell of guitar amp using this chassis, power transformer, tube sockets, even tubes… we may have to buy a new output transformer, BECAUSE: if the power transformer is powering the amp section (= one AC15) plus a whole bunch of other tubes, it may become the heart of a serious amp. I dare not believe what the label promises:

philips

That the cabinet is not included, is a shame, it would need almost no work to be converted into a nice guitar amp head:

b5x

 

Not exactly the same model, only the cabinet is different. Very helpful if you want to know which controls do what.

Stay tuned (haha!) for part 2 where we will be plugging in…

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