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Cigar Box Amp Construction Notes:

Parts included in the Kit:

 

  • Amp Board – 1 each
  • Input Jack – 1 each
  • 10K Gain Control Potentiometer
  • Knobs – 2 each
  • LED – 1 each
  • LED Grommet – 1 each
  • Metal Battery Holding Clip – 1 each
  • 9 Volt Battery Clip – 1 each
  • Power Jack for Optional AC Adapter – 1 each
  • Hook-up Wire
  • Cigar Box (Not Shown)
  • Speaker (Not Shown)
  • Hardware (Not Shown)

Wiring Diagram

Back of Amp Board Showing Connections

 

Input Connector Wiring Details

Gain Control Details

Completed Amp Wiring

Wiring Instructions

Wire the components as shown in the diagrams and pictures supplied. The amp board is marked to show where the speaker, input jack, battery and LED are connected.

Input Jack Connections

Use the included hook-up wire and cut a red and black wire to the desired length for the input jack leads. It is best to keep the lead lengths as short as possible to reduce hum and noise. Using a wire stripper, cut back the insulation to allow for soldering. Using a soldering iron, tin the ends of each wire for best results. Solder the wires to the connector as shown in the picture. Connect the red wire to the tip of the jack, black wire to the ground of the connector. The other ends of these wires will be connected to the input and ground connections on the amp board.

Speaker Connections

Use the included hook-up wire and cut a red and black wire to the desired length for the Speaker connections. Pay attention to the polarity of the speaker and connect the positive from the amp board to the positive of the speaker and the negative from the amp board to the negative of the speaker.

Gain Control Potentiometer

Connect the gain potentiometer as shown in the pictures. “Gain 1” on the amp board is connected to the left leg of the control (looking from the back of the pot) and “Gain 2” is connected to the center leg of the pot.

Negative/Ground Connections

There are three (3) wires that get soldered to the one common ground connection of the amp board. To insure a good electrical connection, you may need to solder all the ground wires together first and then to the board.

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To build the amplifier you must start with a cigar box large enough to install the amplifier board, battery, and speaker.

Once you decide on a cigar box to house your battery powered amp, you need to generate a layout for how you would like to position your components.  Be sure to keep in mind what the inside dimensions of the box are and don’t cut or drill too close to the edges of the box.  Also, be sure to avoid any possible issues of components being too close to each other inside of the box.

Once a suitable layout has been created, it’s time to start working on the cigar box.

Preparing the Cigar Box

To build the amplifier you must start with a cigar box large enough to install the amplifier board, battery, and speaker.

The cigar box must be prepared by cutting/drilling holes for the speaker, input jack, amplifier controls and any other mounting holes necessary.

The speaker requires that either a large hole be cut in the shape of the speaker or that a series of holes be drilled that allow the sound from the speaker to pass through.

To cut a large circle or opening you can use a

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Cigar Box Amp Construction Notes:

Parts included in the Kit:

 

  • Amp Board – 1 each
  • Input Jack – 1 each
  • 10K Gain Control Potentiometer
  • Knobs – 2 each
  • LED – 1 each
  • LED Grommet – 1 each
  • Metal Battery Holding Clip – 1 each
  • 9 Volt Battery Clip – 1 each
  • Power Jack for Optional AC Adapter – 1 each
  • Hook-up Wire
  • Cigar Box (Not Shown)
  • Speaker (Not Shown)
  • Hardware (Not Shown)

Wiring Diagram

Back of Amp Board Showing Connections

 

Input Connector Wiring Details

Gain Control Details

Completed Amp Wiring

Wiring Instructions

Wire the components as shown in the diagrams and pictures supplied. The amp board is marked to show where the speaker, input jack, battery and LED are connected.

Input Jack Connections

Use the included hook-up wire and cut a red and black wire to the desired length for the input jack leads. It is best to keep the lead lengths as short as possible to reduce hum and noise. Using a wire stripper, cut back the insulation to allow for soldering. Using a soldering iron, tin the ends of each wire for best results. Solder the wires to the connector as shown in the picture. Connect the red wire to the tip of the jack, black wire to the ground of the connector. The other ends of these wires will be connected to the input and ground connections on the amp board.

Speaker Connections

Use the included hook-up wire and cut a red and black wire to the desired length for the Speaker connections. Pay attention to the polarity of the speaker and connect the positive from the amp board to the positive of the speaker and the negative from the amp board to the negative of the speaker.

Gain Control Potentiometer

Connect the gain potentiometer as shown in the pictures. “Gain 1” on the amp board is connected to the left leg of the control (looking from the back of the pot) and “Gain 2” is connected to the center leg of the pot.

Negative/Ground Connections

There are three (3) wires that get soldered to the one common ground connection of the amp board. To insure a good electrical connection, you may need to solder all the ground wires together first and then to the board.

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Why a battery powered guitar amp?

 

Battery powered guitar amps are typically small in size.  This makes them extremely portable and easy to take anywhere.  Being battery powered, these micro amps can be used anywhere.  A small guitar amp can produce some really rough and aggressive overdrive tones.  The tones these little amps produce remind me of the sounds of the blues players that used to Jam on Maxwell Street in Chicago.

 

 

 

Besides Chicago style blues, They also produce nice vintage rock tones as well.  What really surprised me was how nice an acoustic guitar equipped with active electronics sounded like through one of these small amplifiers.

 

My biggest gripe about these mini amps is the cheap look of them.  They simply lack character. That is why I started to build and modify these little amps.  To make them sound and look as cool as possible.

 

I stared putting small battery powered amps in cigar boxes.  I got some inspiration for this from the cigar box guitars I had seen.  Cigar box amps are cool because you can find some interesting cigar boxes and with a few odds and ends from the hardware store you can build a really unique looking amplifier.  The wood in the cigar box is also a nice step up in tone from the plastic enclosure typically used for these small amplifiers.

 

When I initially started to build these amplifiers, I used a combination of custom built, hand wired circuit boards and prebuilt circuit boards that I purchased.  I soon realized that the speaker and the enclosure had a large effect on how the amp would sound regardless of the circuit being used.  I also stared to look at some of the other mini amps available to compare sounds.

 

One of the first readily available amplifiers I looked at was the Pignose.  Before I started to build my own amplifiers I never really had any interest in the Pignose.  I always thought they were kind of ugly  and I wasn’t in need of an ugly, battery powered amplifier.  When I received my Pignose amp and pluged my guitar into it I immediately began to smile.  The Pignose sounded good to my ears, a lot like a small tube amplifier.

 

 

These amps have been around since the 1970s are are still being built using the same original circuit and speaker combination.    The Pignose sounded good to my ears, a lot like a small tube amplifier.  I decided to take it apart to see what was inside.

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The Danelectro Honeytone is certainly one of the least expensive battery powered amps available.  It is a small, plastic amplifier with a 3 inch speaker.  The amplifier runs off of a single 9 volt battery and includes Volume, Tone, and gain controls.  The Honeytone utilizes a 2 inch speaker and is contained in a plastic enclosure.

honeytone-guitar-amp-1

honeytone-guitar-amp-2

The circuit board contains 2 integrated circuits (ICs) and 2 diodes. I don’t have a schematic available as I write this review but I assume the amplifier uses one of the ICs as a preamp circuit that includes a diode clipping circuit for an overdrive effect.  In this circuit, the overdrive effect is created using diodes to clip the guitar wave form to give the amplifier a distorted tone as you increase the gain.  The remaining IC is used as the power amplifier and drives the speaker.

honeytone-circuit-board-1

honeytone-circuit-board-2

The amplifier uses one small 3 inch speaker.

honeytone-guitar-amp-speaker-1

honeytone-guitar-amp-speaker-2

honeytone-guitar-amp-circuit-speaker-1

 

honeytone-guitar-amp-circuit-speaker-2

honeytone-guitar-amp-circuit-speaker-3

When I plugged a Fender Telecaster into the Honeytone I was surprised by how good the amp actually sounded.  When you look at the little plastic amplifier and factor in that it costs $20 bucks, it is impressive.  In fact, I don’t believe you can beat this thing for what it costs.
Being me, I decided the little honeytone needed some improvements.  The plastic enclosure isn’t too bad as it reminds me of an old bakelite radio. What I don’t like is the chromed plastic speaker grill and integrated “HoneyTone” emblem.
I made a wooden speaker grill to replace the cheap plastic one. I used milk paint to give the wooden grill an old, distressed look.
I also disliked the cheap looking knobs that come with the amplifier. The controls are placed very close to each other so any replacement knob needs to be narrow in design. I replaced the knobs with ivory colored Davies 1900H Clone.
The little Honeytone can also benefit from a speaker out connector.  These little amps sound so much better through a larger guitar speaker.  I have a small Epiphone Valve Junior cabinet that contains a 12 inch Eminence speaker that I hooked up to the Honeytone. The larger 12 inch guitar speaker made a vast improvement in sound quality.  I also connected smaller 6 inch and 8 inch speakers to the Honeytone and both sounded great.
The Honeytone amp fits into a Hammond effects pedal chassis perfectly allowing you to build a small battery powered guitar amp head. This gives you a small amp that can be plugged into an external speaker or use as a headphone amp.  You just need to drill the holes for the input and output jacks as well as the controls.
In this scenario, You would add an output jack for a speaker to make a micro amp head.
The Honeytone is also the basis for many cigar box guitar amplifiers.  You can remove the Honeytone amp circuit board and speaker and place them in an old beat-up cigar box to create a unique amplifier that actually sounds decent.  I would scrap the included speaker and put something larger in, say a 4 inch or 5 inch speaker.
cigar-box-guitar-amplifier-honeytone-3
cigar-box-guitar-amplifier-honeytone-4
cigar-box-guitar-amplifier-honeytone-5
cigar-box-guitar-amplifier-honeytone-7
cigar-box-guitar-amplifier-honeytone-8
The Honeytone is an inexpensive little guitar amp that sounds good and can be used as the basis for your own guitar amp project.  For a price of about $20, you really can’t go wrong.

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The Orange Micro Crush is a small, 9 volt battery powered amplifier.  The amplifier is rated at 3 watts of output power and the orange covered wood and metal enclosure contains a 4 Inch speaker.

orange-micro-crush-6 orange-micro-crush-8 orange-micro-crush-9 orange-micro-crush-10

 

Here is a rear view of the orange micro crush guitar amplifier.  The rear panel contains a 3.5mm headphone jack and input jack for using an AC power adapter.

The 9 Volt Battery is inserted into the bottom of the amplifier.  This amplifier works best with the AC Adapter connected.  The AC adapter provides a noticeable volume increase over the battery.  A typical 9 volt alkaline battery will not last very long in this amp so I would recommend a rechargeable Li-ion battery and charger.

orange-micro-crush-1 orange-micro-crush-inside-view-1 orange-micro-crush-circuit-board-1 orange-micro-crush-inside-view-2 orange-micro-crush-inside-view-3 orange-micro-crush-speaker-2 orange-micro-crush-speaker-1

 

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The Danelectro Hodad Guitar Amplifier comes in 2 flavors, the Danelectro Hodad DH-1 and the Hodad DH-2.

The Danelectro Hodad DH-2 has Volume, Gain, and Tone controls where the DH-1, adds echo and tremolo effects.

Danelectro Hodad-Guitar-Amp-5

The basic version of the Danelectro Hodad is the DH-2 Mini Amp

 

Danelectro Hodad-Guitar-Amp-3

 

The DH-1, adds echo and tremolo effects

Danelectro Hodad-Guitar-Amp-2

 

Danelectro-Hodad-Guitar-Amp-1

The DH-1 shown as packaged.

Hodad-Amp-1

 

Top View of Hodad DH-1 Controls

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The Pignose is probably one of the most famous and oldest battery powered amps and is still currently being manufactured and sold.

Pignose-Front

 

The Pignose has been used as not only a practice amp but also for performing and studio recording.

Pinose-Side

 

It’s small size coupled with the portability of battery power makes it the ideal amp for practicing at low volumes.

Pignose-Back

 

The amplifier uses a 5 watt circuit and is powered by 6 AA batteries or an optional 9 Volt adapter.  The amplifier utilizes a 5 inch speaker and weighs in at about 5 Pounds.

Pignose-Inside

 

Here is a Vintage “Pygmy” Amplifier.  This was built from a kit that was sold by PAiA in the early 80’s that was very similar in looks to the classic Pignose Amplifier.

 

2014-12-31 10.49.06 HDR

 

The pygmy had a very unique feature.  You could add a a accessory that turned the Pygmy into a “talk box”.  You placed a plastic cover over the speaker bezel on the amplifier that had a small hole where you connected a flexible plastic tube that carried the sound from the speaker to a microphone.  You would then use your mouth to produce wah wah effects made famous by artist such as Peter Frampton or Joe Walsh.

 

2014-12-31 10.49.00

2014-12-31 10.48.24 HDRThe big difference between this amp and the Pignose is the circuit being used.  The PAiA Pygmy used a LM380 Integrated circuit where the Pignose used a Transistor circuit that incorporated a push-pull configuration in the power amp that utilized two transformers.

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Cigar Boxes make great enclosures for a battery powered guitar amp or an amplifier for connecting your MP3 Player.  What I like is the uniqueness of the finished amp since there are so many varieties of cigar boxes available.

I personally prefer to find a cigar box that is made of wood (thicker is better) and has hinges on the lid and a latch to keep the lid closed.  These types of boxes allow for easy access to the inside of the enclosure.  It also allows for the battery to be located inside the box rather than use a plastic battery tray that requires wood to be removed from the box and possibly altering the tone of the amp.

Since each cigar box is different, each cigar box amplifier can have different sound characteristics. By combining all the elements including the cigar box enclosure, amplifier circuit and speaker, you can create an amplifier that not only looks completely different but sounds different as well.

Since you are using a battery to power the amp, these amplifiers are perfect for street performances, camping, or anywhere else you need a portable amp.

I guarantee, if you pull out a cigar box amp, you will get lots of attention and questions like “what is that thing?” or “where can I get one?’

Here are a few of the amplifiers I have built.

cigar-box-amp-white-01

 

cigar-box-amp-06

cigar-box-amp-01

Red Cigar Box Amp

 

stereo-cigar-box-amp

 

Nick's Sticks Cigar Box Amp

 

Gold-Amp-Front-1

3 Speaker Cigar Box Amplifier

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Amp-Kit-Wiring

Cigar Box Amp Kit

This Cigar Box Amp Kit  Includes:

  • 1 Watt JRC 386 Amplifier Circuit Board
  • Battery Connector
  • Battery Mounting Clip
  • Black “Chicken Head” knob
  •  3 x 5 Inch Vintage Style Oval Speaker
  • Hook-up Wire
  • 1/4 Inch Guitar Jack,
  • 3.5mm input jack (For Input from Mobil Device Headphone Output)
  • AC adapter jack for Adding Optional AC Adapter

Construction Notes for Building Kit:

Cigar Box Amp Kit Construction Notes

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Cigar-Boxes

In this article we explore the vast array of cigar boxes available for building your cigar box guitar or amplifier.  My personal choice for building an amplifier is a box that is approximately 6″ Wide, 5″ High and 4″ Deep.  I also like cigar boxes that are made from wood, have hinges, and a latch that keeps the box closed.


Cigar-Box-For-Guitar-Amp_07Cigar-Box-For-Guitar-Amp_06Cigar-Box-For-Guitar-Amp_04Cigar-Box-For-Guitar-Amp_03Cigar-Box-For-Guitar-Amp_01


Cigar-Box-For-Guitar-Amp_02

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The Artec Guitar Amplifier Board is one of three pre-built amp boards that I have used in some of the amplifiers I have built.  The cost is about $20.00 for the board.  This amp board has the gain pot mounted right on the PCB so you only need to have one control (volume) on the amp.  I have used this technique on some of the custom amp boards I have built so I can fine tune the gain of the amplifier chip and leave it there eliminating the need for an additional control knob on the amplifier.  This works well if your intention is to use something like an iPhone, iPad or similar device running an amp simulator as a preamp into your amplifier.  You can then use Garage Band, Amp Kit or a similar application to dial in your tone and effects.  This board also works well as a small music amplifier for your MP3 player or other audio device.

Sometimes I find that having gain control mounted as one of the amp controls can be a real benefit.  I find that the gain control on these small amplifier boards can really affect the tone of the amp and that tweaks to the gain and volume controls really allow you to contour the sound of your guitar.  Also, since every guitar is different, it is nice to have both volume and gain controls readily accessible for adjustments.  The trim pot on the Artec board can be replaced with a wired gain pot so this board is flexible in that respect.

The sound of this board is on par with other similar amp boards.  With the gain cranked up, this little board rocks!  Reduce the gain, and the amplifier cleans up considerably but you also get a significant drop in volume which is typical for these kinds of circuits.  As always, I find that most of your tone will come from the speaker you have selected and the cabinet-enclosure the speaker resides in.

This amp board can be a good basis for your battery powered amplifier, especially if you don’t want to build your own circuit board.  These boards work best if you are driving the amplifier with a electric guitar that has magnetic pickups or an acoustic guitar that has active electronics.  Most of these small boards don’t have enough gain to work well with a cigar box guitar with a Piezo pickup.

In summary, the 2.5-watt Artec amp board features the following:

  • Good for small homemade guitar amplifiers
  • Easy to mount in a cigar box or other enclosure
  • Runs off a single 9V battery
  • Gain control mounted to PCB
  • Pre-wired with 12″ leads for ease of installation & hookup
  • Optional headphones and output jack hookups

 

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