When getting an amplifier many aspects should be considered, not only regarding the look or the price but also how it sounds.
There is a wide variety of amps on the market, hand-wired, PBCs, and point-to-point among others.
In music, we tend to believe that every hand-made instrument or equipment has a higher quality if we compare it to mass-assembled gear.
However, is this belief true? Handwired pieces are always better in terms of sound?
In short, hand-wired amps do not always sound better than any other kind of gear. They could produce a better sound than some amplifiers but not everyone, in fact, some PBCs are high-ended and provide a good quality performance.
I know that this may be confusing for you but let me help you to get through this overwhelming situation.
In this article, I will try to explain every aspect as regards hand-wired amps and evacuate every existing doubt, in the end, you will know everything required about this interesting topic.
Do hand-wired amps have a better tone?
When talking about tone is pretty hard to tell whether a specific gear is better than the others, tone and style are always up to the player’s preference so I wouldn’t say that amps crafted by hand have inherently a better tone.
However, it is known that hand-made gears are usually boutique amps that use more expensive components and sometimes are tuned to the client’s taste.
Therefore, are they the same as boutique amps? Are hand-wired amps always considered boutique amps? Actually, they aren’t.
The term boutique refers not only to hand-crafted equipment but also to high-ended gear and better in terms of components quality.
If you are interested in this topic you can take a look at our page, you will find a lot of useful information, what is even better, we have an article regarding this topic. Sometimes it is way confusing when we read the word “boutique” but don’t worry, I will leave you the link to the article below!
Why do players prefer hand-wired amps?
Hand-wired amps are typically built employing the vintage way, they are commonly constructed by using tubes or valves rather than transistors (as vintage equipment).
Hand-crafters also pay special attention to how amps look so that they resemble the old tube amps used, for example, during the late 70s and early 80s.
For those reasons players tend to gravitate toward vintage gear, they are in the search of a superior amp quality.
As valves are usually used in this sort of amp, they produce higher output with a lower wattage than solid-state amps plus they provide that natural distortion truly desired for some musicians.
Due to the mentioned factors, players perceive higher quality in hand-built amps and that’s why they may prefer this equipment.
What is the alternative to hand-wired amps?
The alternative to amps wired by hand are modern standard PBC amps (Printed Board Circuit amps), but what is the difference?
These kinds of amps simplify a lot of the connections required, but how do they do that?
Compared to their counterpart, in PBC amps the construction method consists of a board printed with copper in which some sections are etched off, leaving the tracks to connect the components.
At the end of those tracks, the components are soldered.
Printed board circuit amps are way cheaper in comparison to hand-wired gear, that is because the circuits employed in their constructions allow automation of the soldering process.
Instead of soldering each joint one by one, you can have the job done just soldering everything at the same time by passing the board over a bath of molten solder.
Why are hand-wired amps more expensive?
As the name implies, hand-wired means that the components are wired together by a worker.
Although any kind of construction could be made by hand, this term mostly refers to point-to-point and turret board wiring.
This might be the purest method to build amps but, unfortunately, the one that takes more time.
Every single piece has to be handcrafted and soldered plus the units have to be perfectly adjusted to achieve the desired performance.
What is more, this type of gear tends to use high-quality components in its construction.
Whereas PBC amps are meant to save labor time, hand-wired pieces are intended to be superior since every amp has a higher attention to detail.
Furthermore, these amps are commonly customized, providing special and unique features, or can also come with built-in effects such as reverb and distortion.
This makes the hand-crafted equipment difficult to recreate, giving them certain exclusivity.
As you may now notice, oppositely to PCBs, hand-wired amps required a lot of extra work because of the construction method and the time involved.
Due to those reasons, Including the fact that components are better, hand-made amps cost way more than other sorts of amps.
Are hand-wired amps more durable?
Amps made by hand are quite different from PBCs because both are built applying different techniques so this could be a difficult question to answer.
Nevertheless, let me mention some facts for you to understand why I am saying this.
Firstly, as they are not equally constructed, they could have some more durable components than the another.
For example, hand-built pieces have less to protect the inside components if you drop or bump your amp.
PBC amps don’t have this problem but they might be pretty poor in lay out.
Although some companies produce high-quality and very expensive amps using this method, the majority of them are designed to cost less.
Secondly, both have points of failure, in the case of PBCs they are damaged by the heat the tubes produce.
This is a problem that mainly occurs in amps where the tubes are directly mounted on the PBCs.
When talking about hand-wired equipment, they do not present this inconvenience but they are difficult to replicate with certain accuracy, this may cause failures as well.
PBCs instead, are more consistent due to their construction is always the same.
As you may notice, there is not a full answer to this, it will always depend on how you take care of your amp.
The Internet community claims that high-quality PBC amps are way more durable than hand-wired gears, but if you worry about your amplifier and do the proper maintenance hand-made equipment could be as durable as PBCs.
Is there a real reason to prefer hand-wired amps?
Musicians tend to be in the pursuit of their distinctive style, if possible they go for the best quality available on the market.
Hand-built amps are typically thought of as superior because as they are hand-crafted they must be better but in fact, there are very good alternatives even for a lower price.
Some players claim that although hand-wired equipment is the best and purest, they cannot hear the difference compared to a good PBC amp.
If you don’t treat it harshly it could last more than twenty years without much service.
However, hand-made amps are not always better and do not mean that they will sound good, they are the most labor-intense, components-intense, and error-prone way of wiring an amp.
In certain situations, this gear could be better than others but not in every case.
Therefore, I believe that there is no real reason to prefer hand-crafted amps, like everything in life, it will always depend on the guitar player’s preferences.
Most players might be fond of iconic vintage amps whereas some others may prefer simpler circuits and buildings like the ones found in PBCs.
Are there any mass-produced hand-wired amps?
As a matter of fact, when we talk about mass-produced we refer to mass production, which involves manufacturing a large number of standardized units by using assembling lines or automation.
Therefore, as you may realize, the term mass-produced is way far from what we commonly see as a hand-made piece.
Nowadays could be nearly impossible to find mass-produced hand-wired amps except for a few boutique brands that still sell these types of models regularly.
That’s because there is no way a machine can wire an amp automatically, wiring an amp from scratch just by using your hands is a tough and complex process that is still impossible to machine manufacture.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.