Guest post by *Rick Belluso
You bought a cool amp. You love it! Now, you’re searching for ways to make it even more awesome. More bass, more headroom, a better looking mesh—the opportunities are endless.
Congrats! You’ve entered into the great big world of modding: customizing, manipulating and maximizing your gear until it becomes your own wild creation. Now what?
Starting off can be daunting for the newbie. Not many people know enough about amps to actually get involved, especially if you don’t come from a technical background. Fortunately, in my travels I’ve come across some great amp mods that are easy for the newbie and interesting enough for the old bull to spend a weekend on. Here are 5 mods I wish I’d thought of myself:
#1: A DIY for Building and Modifying Your Own Amp
Duh. When it doubt, find the starter kit.
If you’re really interested in how to modify your amp, you first need to be interested in how the overall thing works. Luckily, it’s not actually that hard to understand once you get into it.
Wires, tubes, and cathodes - so many fun words to learn, but there’s one that rules them all: safety. Don’t be sloppy when handling electrical stuff. Learn all the precautions, print out cheatsheets for yourself, buy the right static-free gloves - whatever it takes. You may feel a little bit nerdy doing it, but the free space your mind will have when you’re able to relax about the safety bits will be worth it, as you can really immerse yourself in the activity of modding to your heart’s content.
You’ll also want to focus on that ever-important idea of not ruining your amp!
A great starter kit is the Mod 102 Guitar Amp Kit, which teaches you the ins and outs of amps before attempting to mod your own. And since it’s customizable, it’s essentially a mod kit that lets you change your amp in the way you see fit—a sort of cornucopia of potential mods. Once you learn how to do it safely and without any risk to damaging the amp itself, you are free to get into a rhythm and go bananas. On with the list!
#2: Getting More Bass for Your Buck: Coupling Capacitors
Let’s call this the low-hanging fruit mod. The most basic of the avid guitarist’s desires is simply to change the tone and timbre of what their guitar produces. You might be able to hit a great A power chord, but if your amp isn’t maxed out, it’s not going to sound how you imagine it in your crazy rockstar dreams.
Getting more bass out of your amp is an easy win. This mod comes from PremierGuitar.com (see: Mod 5) with a suggestion: swapping the coupling capacitors. Since these capacitors essentially act as filters for frequency, adjusting them gives you a different, well, bass capacity. Boom!
#3: Swapping Out the Grill Mesh
We’ve all seen that show “Pimp my ride” and not all upgrades are for the “ride” itself— many are aesthetic.
And so it goes for amps. A Redditor on /r/Guitar had a great idea a few years back: customizing the mesh on his Marshall amp. While I quite enjoy the stock Marshall grill, you can see the results right here—it came out pretty amazing, if you’re into swirly funkadelics. Just think of the possibilities though...
Ok, now you’ve decided to put some wild fabric on your amp mesh - how hard is it? Well, it’s actually quite a bit of work. You’ll be taking the entire amp apart, removing the Marshall badges (so they could be used again later), and then installing the new ones. Is it worth it? Depends on you. You could make this thing crazy pink, put your band logo on it, blow up your face at Kinkos and somehow get your face on the amp? Yes, I’d say it’s worth it. Style points go a long way in the music world.
#4: Adding a “Suspended Chime”
This is actually a pedal kit for a simple but sweet chorus /delay effect that will give any amp a little more psychedelic sheen. I threw it in this list because it’s simple, fun and I really just like the phrase “suspended chime.”
Anyway, check out the audio sample at ModKitsDIY.com along with the build instructions to see how involved this project is. If you’re a little hesitant to start ripping into your amp, perhaps building a suspended chime pedal could be the right way to start your modding adventure.
#5: Getting More Headroom by Modding the Preamp Tubes
“Headroom” is a big deal in the amp world, and for good reason. It’s what separates your ability to amplify from your ability to distort—the more headroom you have, the more amplification you can squeeze out of your amp before distortion kicks in. Having no headroom is going to feel like having nowhere to put your legs on a five-hour flight; it’s just not going to do.
Another recommendation from PremierGuitars: swapping the preamp tubes.
Make sure you understand how preamp tubes work and why you’re moving them in the first place before you get started. Read through PremierGuitar’s guide and always work with all power off and disconnected.
Guitar amp mods might be a way of life for some, but if you’re new to the game, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Safety first!
What’s Your Favorite Amp Mod?
Didn’t see one of your favorites listed here? Let us know what you think and tell us about the mods you’ve added over the years.
---*Rick Belluso is the Co-Founder and CEO of Ninebuzz, a boutique music software company based in Rhode Island, USA. They make a popular metronome app for guitar Drum Beats+ (Top 50 — App Store/Music), Guitar Jam Tracks - Scale Trainer (Top 25 — Guitar World Magazine) and several other lead guitar practice apps.
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