How do your amps compare to the ones I can buy from a music store?

Let me answer your question in two parts:

First - Better Components

  1. In my amps nothing but tubes touch your guitar signal.  Many of today's amps say  they use tubes (which is true) but they also use op amps, transistors, diodes, etc. to effect the tone.
  2. I use a sturdy welded chassis constructed of heavy aluminum.  Most of the amps I see coming in for repair use a flimsy folded piece of tin.
  3. I use Mercury Magnets and Heyboer transformers.  Both are far better sounding than what is in most standard guitar amps made today.
  4. I use metalized polyester and silver mica coupling capacitors.  These cost more than what production amps use but they sound better.
  5. Metal Switchcraft jacks vs. cheap plastic.
  6. Heavy duty Carling switches vs cheap light duty.
  7. Good quality CTS pots vs the cheap little things used in most other amps.
  8. I could go on and on, but you get the idea...

Second - Better Construction

  1. My circuits are hand wired point-to-point on 1/8" thick fiberglass material using eyelets or turrets, just like Fender and Marshall did it back in the old days. This makes for a very solid board that is much more more reliable than the printed circuit boards used today.  Take it from a repair man - about 75% of the problems I see on amps coming in for repair today have to do with a solder connection that vibrated loose or a foil that cracked on a printed circuit board.
  2. My cabinets are made from solid wood (natural finished) or void free birch plywood (covered) using 1/4" finger joints.  Most off-the-shelf amps today use cheap particle board.  I have tested my cabinets by throwing them down a flight of stairs (really, I was sober and everything) and they survived with no visible damage.
  3. All the components are "over rated" meaning the voltage and power ratings are all much higher than the average amp.  This means that the only parts that will wear out are the tubes.

All this means a better sounding, longer lasting amplifier.

Can you built an amp for me that will make me sound like _____________? (fill in the blank)

No, I couldn't make such a promise.  A guitarist tone comes from somewhere inside him or her.  But I will say that a great sounding amp will inspire anyone to play better.  Let me know who your favorite players are and I'll use that information to come up with a design that is right for you.

How often should I replace the tubes in my amp?

As the tubes age in your amplifier they will start to lose treble and the amp will not have the "sparkle" or crisp edge it used to have.  This change is very gradual so you might not notice it until the tubes are replaced.  How often you replace the tubes depends on how much you play the amp.  I'd say replace them at least once a year.  I use JJ Electronic brand tubes.  If your amp has an adjustable bias setting have a good amp tech set this when you replace the tubes.  Feel free to contact me if you need help with this.

What is your warranty on new amps?

All new Little Ruthie amps are guaranteed to be free from defects in material and workmanship for one year from the date of purchase. This warranty does not cover tubes, which are warrantied for 90 days.   Contact me if you have any problems and I'll get it taken care of for you.

What do Class A, Class AB, Single-ended and Push-pull mean?

Let's compare Class A with Class AB first.  This has to do with how an output tube is biased.  I like to think of bias by comparing it to the idle adjustment on a car engine.  Idle determines how fast the engine is running when the car is just sitting there in park or neutral.  Bias determines how much current is going through the output tube(s) when nothing is connected to the amp.

In a Class A amp the bias is set so the tube is always on.  Back to the car idea - the engine is running really fast when the car is parked.  When you put it in gear it will take off really fast.  Guitar players describe Class A amps as being very responsive to pick attack.  The Class A amp goes into a nice sounding distortion pretty fast because the tube is already running pretty hard to begin with.  Class A amps have a natural compression to them with a fast attack and a slow release.  This, combined with the nice rich distortion this amp has,  make the guitar "sing" with a lot of sustain.  On the down side, the bass can get really "flabby" or "farty" sounding at high volume settings.  It's a good idea to turn the volume control on your guitar down a little when playing chords on the low strings, especially when using the neck pickup.  The tubes will wear out faster because they are working hard any time the amp is on, even if you're not playing.  Put the amp in standby during the breaks and plan to replace tubes in this amp regularly.  Finally, since the output tubes are always on I have to use a larger output transformer to handle the high continuous power from the tubes.  This is why my Class A designs cost more.  Is it worth the extra cost for tubes and transformers?  I think so!  When tubes are biased Class A they get hotter.  That is why people sometimes refer to setting the bias as making it "hotter" or "colder".  If the tubes are glowing orange something is wrong!  See your amp tech right away before you burn something up.  When I think Class A amps I think of the Vox AC-15 or AC-30 and Brian May of Queen.  I still get goosebumps when I listen to his guitar.

In a Class AB amp the bias is set so the output tubes are almost off.  Back to the car idea - the engine is running really slow when the car is parked.  This design will allow the amp to get pretty loud before it starts to distort.  We say this amp has a lot of "headroom", meaning as you go from soft to loud the tone stays about the same.  Country and Jazz players love this. Class AB amps also have a much "tighter" bass response.  If you're a heavy metal guitarist who wants to feel those power chords rattle your gut on a 7 string guitar, its got to be Class AB.  This amp will give you a higher power rating with the same output tube configuration compared to Class A.  The tubes last longer and the output transformer can be smaller, saving you money when you buy the amp and as you maintain it over the years.  About the only downside is the amp is not quite as "responsive" as the Class A.  Most Marshall and Fender amps are Class AB.  I could not pick out a single guitarist like I can for Class A because there are so many people who use these amps.  How about this:  Marshall typifies the classic "British" sound and Fender the classic "American" sound.  I think it is interesting in recent years to see how newer Fender amps are using Marshall designs and vice versa.  Is the grass greener on the other side of the pond?  Many amps today claim to do both Marshall and Fender tones in one amp.  This is really challenging since there are so many differences between Fender and Marshall designs.

Now on to Single-ended and Push-pull:

In a Single-ended output stage the output tube(s) amplify the entire signal from your guitar.  They never turn off or get a rest.  Don't confuse this with Class A.  Remember that bias has to do with no signal into the amp.  Now we are talking about when you are playing through the amp.  I use the term "crunchy" to describe the Single-ended amp going into distortion.  Single-ended amps are usually lower power designs, but several tubes can be connected together to get more power if needed.  Single-ended amps have to be biased Class A to work well, so the things I mentioned about Class A above are true of Single-ended amps as well.  Kieth Richards of the Rolling Stones is my iconic Single-ended player.  He used small Tweed Fender amps in the studio turned all the way up to get that crunchy rhythm tone on songs like "Can't You Hear Me Knocking".  Give me a minute please. I've got to go listen to that song...

Okay, I'm back.  Let's wrap this up with Push-pull.  Output tubes are used in pairs with this design.  Each tube in the pair amplifies half the time and rests the other half.  The two tubes trade off when they are amplifying and when they are resting.  Its like digging a ditch with two people and one shovel.  Since each tube gets to rest half the time it can work harder the other half the time,  allowing the amp to put out more power than a single-ended amp.  The single-ended amps I build are rated at 5 to 15 watts.  If you want 50 or 100 watts it will be Push-pull.  It is very important to have the bias set correctly on a Push-pull amp.  If it is set too low you will get something called "crossover distortion".  That means both tubes are off at the same time and it sounds very bad.  Push-pull amps can be biased Class A or Class AB or anywhere in between.  Work with your amp tech and listen for the difference.  It's really a matter of personal choice.  Most tube amps out there are Push-pull.  As I mentioned already,  if it's rated over 15 watts odds are it is Push-pull.  We boutique amp builders do a lot with single-ended class A amps however.  Listen to the Little Ruthie 5C clip on the For Sale page.

So... which design is right for you?  Plug into the amp, turn it up, and see if it inspires you to play.  That's the real test.  I get blisters on my fingers when I get the right amp because I can't stop playing.  As always I hope this helps and if you have any questions Contact Us.  I love to talk about guitar amps.