High Desert Sonic Institute is more than just another boutique amplifier company. We don't just want to sell you the best amplifier you'll ever own, we want to help you build the best amplifier you'll ever own.
Understanding how your gear works will help you understand how to get it to sound the best. Being able to work on your own gear will also help minimize expensive visits to the repair shop. Beyond these tangible benefits to learning basic tube electronics, the journey into the nexus of sound and electricity can be a life-long exploration that we'd love to get you started on. Our workshops are designed with three goals in mind:
To have musicians leave with a terrific sounding, versatile and durable amplifier that will last for the rest of their lifetime
To give attendees confidence in their ability to solder and safely perform basic tech work on their gear
To provide a rudimentary introduction into the basic electronics tube amplifiers use, and provide resources for further study
Which ever model you pick to build, you'll not only leave with an incredible amplifier, but one that you can point to with pride and say:
"I built that."
Our workshop is located 20 minutes north of Joshua Tree National Park, so you can experience the joys of a world-class vacation while learning to build your own amp. Weekend workshops for the 5 Watt model take place over a Saturday and Sunday, while the 15 Watt and 50 Watt models include a Friday night to ensure enough build time. We provide lunches and snacks during the class, but food and lodging are largely the responsibility of the attendees. There are plenty of wonderful places to stay in the area from hotels to camping and everything in between. Check out our Workshop Logistics page for more info on where to stay and eat.
We'll primarily focus on the physical process of building a tube amplifier, with bits of theory peppered into the process at opportune moments. While we cannot offer an in-depth course in electronics within this timeframe, the goal is to give attendees enough information to go on and continue exploring and learning on their own. You will leave the workshop with a complete amp, two days of soldering experience and a basic intro into how tube amps work. We'll also cover common tone mods that you can apply to most any tube amp, and also safe methods of working inside tube amplifiers.
The base-line price for the workshop covers the cost of the class plus all the electrical components for the build, including tubes, chassis, transformers and everything else electrical. If you intend to build your own cabinet for the amp, this is a good way to go. You'll leave with an amplifier that is ready to plug into a speaker cab and rip as it is, but will be naked of cabinetry. If you'd like to add an HDSI hand-built cabinet to the price and leave with a complete product, we offer two basic cab models: a head cab of dovetailed, solid pine with matching 1x12" open-backed speaker cab loaded with a Weber Vintage Series Alnico speaker, or a Baltic Birch 1x12" Combo Cab with the same speaker. Our combo cab is a closed-back, ported design that helps fill out the sound and efficiency of the single speaker, and tho the heavy-duty construction results in a pretty hefty combo, it sounds like so much more than a 1x12"! Custom-built cabinets are also available, just contact us with your ideas and we'll see what we can do.
The workshop starts with a 2 hour session Friday night in which we get all the components mounted on the chassis. We'll also cover a quick overview of the signal chain so you have a basic idea of what the amp does.
Saturday morning we jump right into soldering and lead dress. You'll learn best practices for wire layout and how to avoid parasitic oscillations, as well as how to solder properly. You'll also learn about the different components in your amp and how to read the resistor color code. By the end of the day Saturday you should have most of your transformer leads run and your turret board loaded with components.
Sunday we finish wiring the amp, mount it in a head cab, and should have some time for you to put your amp through the paces!
Questions about electronics theory will be addressed throughout the process, but the focus of the workshop is about the building process. There is only so much theory we can cover in the time provided, and I will do my best to impart to you a basic understanding and also answer specific questions you may have. A full understanding of electronics theory isn't achievable in a single weekend. What you will leave with is confidence in your ability to solder, to work safely on amps and a good foundation to continue learning - oh, and a rad amp.
"Hatchet" 15 Watt Guitar Amp
Our most popular model, the Hatchet takes the approach that simplicity in the circuit will let the tube's true tones shine thru the best. A classic 12AX7 preamp feeds a long-tailed-pair phase inverter and a pair of EL84 tubes biased in high class AB for that vintage British singing overdrive. But like it's namesake, this amp is impressively versatile for its compact size. It has plenty of volume both clean and dirty, and is a great amp to learn on. The build will push beginners hard, so it would help to have some prior experience with a soldering iron or hand tools, but it is very doable even for complete noobs and is a killer amp to boot.
The Hatchet's Vitals:
Drive, Bright Switch, Treble, Bass, Master volume
Full-Boost foot switch
LTP Phase Inverter
2x EL84 power tubes for 15-20 Watts
5Y3GT Rectifier Tube
4, 8, 16 ohm outputs
$1000 Includes workshop, electronics, and a dovetailed solid-pine head cab
$1400 Includes workshop price, electronics, head cab and matching 1X12" open-backed speaker cab loaded with a Weber 12A125S Alnico speaker
Below is a link to a short Demo video of the Hatchet I recorded at Hi-Lonesome Studio with Gene Evaro Jr.
"Flagship" 50 Watt Guitar Amp
Inspired by the mythical "Black Flag" JTM50, we've reimagined a rare circuit with our own twist. This amp begins with a paralleled input stage into our HDSI HI/LO preamp, with a cathode follower for that classic harmonic distortion. With a pair of EL34 power tubes biased for maximum plate dissipation and a GZ34 rectifier, we've developed a touch-sensitive vintage rocker with fat tones that straddle the atlantic. This amp will devour your pedals and spit out great, classic sounds, and has the response to dial in just about any sound. Simplicity, versatility and durability are our main goals in amp design, and this one offers all three in high doses.
The Flagship's Vitals:
12AX7 parallel input into a Cathode Follower
Drive, Hi/Lo Voice Switch, Treble, Mids, Bass and Master Volume
LTP Phase Inverter
2x EL34 Power Tubes for roughly 50 Watts
GZ34 Rectifier Tube
4, 8, 16 ohm outputs
$1000 Includes the workshop and all electrical components, with no cabinetry
$1400 Includes workshop, electrical components and head cab of baltic birch