Fuchs, Tone King, Soldano, Suhr, Bogner.
Sound QualityContrary to what you may have heard, great tone is not the exclusive domain of point to point wired amps. Even the use of top quality components and meticulous assembly methods do not guarantee good tone. There are plenty of examples of great and lousy sounding products in both point to point and PCB categories. There are well built, mediocre sounding amps and sloppily thrown together, great sounding amps. In fact, undesirable sonic characteristics frequently attributed to circuit boards are much more likely to occur in point to point wired amps. Stray capacitance, phase cancellation, signal degradation, and crosstalk between stages are common problems in point to point designs. Most of these conditions are easily minimized or eliminated in a well executed PCB design.One interesting and often overlooked side benefit of PCB design is the ability to precisely control the way the board will "sound" by experimenting with placement of sensitive components. We frequently use this technique of "tuning the board" to tweak various parameters of a circuit which might normally be accomplished with the relatively "brute force" use of added capacitance or tone robbing bundled wire harnesses.ConsistencyOne of the most attractive benefits of PCB construction is their inherent consistency. Once the design is complete, it can be easily reproduced with a very high degree of accuracy. In our particular case, the object is to produce an amplifier that meets a set of pre-defined sonic and functional criteria. These criteria are built into the board design and are not subject to the wide variations in tolerances normally found in the point to point assembly process.In the late fifties, state of the art point to point construction ( i.e. military and recording/broadcast electronics) incorporated "turret boards" that supported most of the small components on Nickel/Silver plated posts staked into thick Fiber or Glass/Epoxy strips. The bulky components (pots, jacks, switches, filter caps, meters and transformers) were chassis mounted and meticulously hand wired to these boards. Some of todays more popular (and more expensive) point to point amps utilize low cost phenolic "terminal strips" with thin Tin plated lugs instead of the much more rugged turret boards. This is a far cry from the venerable point to point designs of the past. The terminal strip method is not particularly rugged or easily serviceable, usually requires much more extensive use of wire, solder and wiring harnesses, and often results in a circuit layout that is subject to wide variations in circuit behavior. Two identical amplifiers built this way are very likely to - and often do - sound completely different!Reliability and ServiceabilityNeedless to say, there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything. One might be a little bit more generous and say that there are an infinite number of interpretations of the term "cost effective". Indeed! There are of course legitimate reasons for peoples seemingly genetic aversion to printed circuit boards and all one has to do it gaze into the guts of a PCB amp that falls into the "cheaper to replace than repair" category to see why this is so. Its a fact however, that circuit boards dominate the electronics industry. Therefore it is important to remember that the Internet connection you are using to access this web page is bouncing off of a satellite orbiting our fair planet that will probably operate flawlessly far into the next centuryutilizing printed circuit boards.How then do we account for this large reliability gap? Simply stated, printed circuit boards pretty much do exactly what the designer intended for them to do. Nothing more, nothing less. If top notch performance and long term reliability are the design objectives, then the end product will perform and last provided that it is correctly engineered. In this context then, it is logical to conclude that a well designed, high quality PCB based amplifier is more than likely to perform as well or better and last easily as long as or longer than a point to point wired amp.CostAll things considered, we feel that the point to point method of amplifier construction is unnecessarily time consuming and excessively costly. When you pay a premium price for a quality point to point amplifier, it is pretty much understood and taken for granted that youre not necessarily paying for performance and flexibility. A well designed and executed PCB based amplifier sacrifices nothing to sound quality, construction quality or long term reliability and value merely as an automatic consequence of the use of printed circuit boards. The labor saving aspect of PCB amplifier construction makes it possible to offer a wide variety of features and functions which translate to a higher "Bang for the Buck" ratio.