Guitar Amplifier Electronics: Basic Theory

Guitar Amplifier Electronics: Basic Theory

Richard Kuehnel

Our new book uses these calculators to design preamps, power amps, and power supplies. An entire chapter is devoted to sculpting the dynamics of overdrive and harmonic distortion.

calculatorLaunch me!

guitar amp cathode bypass capacitor circuit

What does this calculator do?

The cathode resistor in a typical triode preamp is bypassed with a large capacitor to eliminate a form of negative feedback known as cathode degeneration. This substantially increases gain.

When the capacitor is large enough, it acts as a short circuit for audio frequencies, eliminating the negative feedback, but as an open circuit for DC, thereby maintaining DC grid bias. Treble boost can be introduced by using a lower capacitor value, one that acts as a short circuit for high frequencies but allows negative feedback to attenuate bass. This technique is often used for the preamp's bright channel.

The calculator plots gain versus frequency based on the characteristics of the tube, resistor values, and the capacitor value. It does not account for coupling capacitor bass attenuation.

How Does It Work?

The calculator implements a formula provided by F. Langford-Smith, editor, Radiotron Designer's Handbook, 4th edition, (Harrison: RCA, 1953), page 484. The formula calculates the frequency response based on the triode's amplification factor and plate resistance. The following tube parameters are assumed:

  μ rp
12AT7 60 10.9kΩ
12AU7 17 7.7kΩ
12AX7 100 62.5kΩ
12AY7 44 25kΩ
5751 70 58kΩ
6386 17 4.25kΩ
6922 33 2.64kΩ
6SN7 20 7.7kΩ

Guitar Amplifier Electronics: Basic Theory

Guitar Amplifier Electronics: Basic Theory - a modern approach to understanding tube amp design. Learn more.

Guitar Amplifier Preamps Book

Guitar Amplifier Preamps - upstream circuits using triodes and pentodes. Learn more.

Guitar Amplifier Power Amps Book

Guitar Amplifier Power Amps - from the phase inverter to the loudspeaker. Learn more.

Fender Bassman 5F6-A Book

The Fender Bassman 5F6-A - plus Marshall's Bluesbreaker and Plexi. Learn more.

Georg Simon Ohm Book

Georg Simon Ohm - Imagine a world without Ohm's Law. Learn more.