The Guitar Amp Handbook

By Joseph Tomasello

ampbookAn Electric Guitar Amplifier is as responsible for the actual sound of an electric guitar as the guitar itself. “The Guitar Amp Handbook” by Dave Hunter takes players inside the mysteries of the tube amplifier to help them better understand the magic of that mysterious box of bright glowing glass that pumps out all the tone.

This book explains, in language guitarists can understand without an electronics degree, how amplifiers work from the input jack to the pre-amp, power amp, and all the circuits along the way to the output transformer. This is accomplished by showing the reader how to signal trace from the input jack through every wire, explaining in clear language what the purpose of every Transistor, Capacitor, Tube, and Transformer in the chain is. This is done using blocked diagrams and schematics together with an easy to understand glossary.

Dave also goes into further detail about the subtle differences between the types of components used in each category, explaining them in easy to understand layman’s terms that make sense to a guitar player. He clearly separates true mojo and fact from hype and marketing fiction.

While reading the book I was amazed constantly at how the author, Dave Hunter, would answer questions just as they were forming in my head. The book is paced well and laid out with excellent quality picture and diagrams. It is well written and not a dry academic treatment at all. He also fully explains everything needed to set up an amp to sound its best, maintain, tweak and modify it, empowering you ultimately to craft the most responsive guitar amplifier to suit your own tone preferences possible.

Tutorials, parts lists, basic maintenance, and diagrams for building a small Princeton type classic-style tweed type tube amp designed by Dave, called the “Two Stroke” are included. This amp is a low wattage dual triode single ended class A amplifier. If you read the book you will understand what that last sentence means! Also featured are tricks for getting “loud” guitar sounds at home without waking the neighbors and tips on how to get the unit that best suits your sound and technique without overspending on unnecessary features.

My favorite chapter is INSIDE THE AMPS. In Dave Hunter’s own words, “The best way to see how different amps are put together is just to look inside a few. This chapter explores the innards of some classic tube amplifiers both vintage and modern-more then 50 years of amp expertise is on show here”. Dave then demonstrates how little subtle changes to the same venerable 1950’s Fender Bassman became the Marshall and Vox Amplifiers of the early 60’s. It goes on further to explain, again in easy to understand and well written language, the technical development of the modern high gain amplifiers of the 1980’s and 90’s. Using beautifully executed large color photographs that have been diagramed and highlighted Dave covers all the key elements of each amplifier design milestone.

Also included is a chapter with interviews with Trainwreck’s Ken Fisher, Dr Z’s Mike Zaite and other people who have made significant contributions to the present state of the art of today’s guitar amplifiers.

This book is more then a primer or a beginners book. In my opinion it lays down a whole big picture overview of guitar amplifier technology for guitar players in language easily understood by them. Every guitar player should read this book!

ISBN 13: 978-0-87930-863-6