NoSo One introduction
barry (Administrator) 11-16-2015 at 12:02 AM.
Post: #1
The NoSo One is a guitar amp kit you can build without soldering. It uses solid-state circuitry and low-voltage battery power to create a raucous 0.3W amp (or approx 0.7W for the Plus version). At its heart is the LM386 'amp on a chip'.

   

With just 8 pins, you might think that there's hardly any toneful circuitry inside. But it's actually an elegantly designed package. The diagram below shows just how much circuit the designers packed in to the tiny chip: 10 individual devices, plus the necessary resistors and diodes.

   

The result of this tight integration is that this chip needs just a few external components to create a working amplifier. It became a popular chip for all sorts of low-cost, low-power audio projects, from guitar amplifiers built into cigarette boxes (the Smokey Amp) to portable headphone amplifiers. It was never designed to be the best thing in hi-fi, but that actually works in our favour, because it creates quite a lot of distortion and with the right speaker, sounds great for guitar.
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barry (Administrator) 11-16-2015 at 01:02 AM.
Post: #2
NoSo by name, NoSolder by nature
So having chosen the LM386 chip, what next? I really wanted to create a kit that was super simple and quick to build; something that complete beginners could build in an hour or two.

Well, one of the most frequently asked questions is about the soldering skill required to build an amp kit. So I decided to make this a no-soldering kit. I experimented with several approaches, including conductive ink (too messy, and not conductive enough!) and eventually settled on the breadboard.

   

You just trim wires and component leads and push them into the holes in the breadboard. There are spring contacts in each hole and the component is held in place. Beautifully simple. Not the best idea for building an amp to gig with, but perfect for a fast-build home amp.

   

There's no need for test equipment. The only tools you need are:
* needle-nose pliers (to bend the leads)
* wirecutters (to cut wires and leads)

   

There's no need to spend a fortune on these, either. Hobby-grade tools are fine, and you can even find these tools in poundshops and dollar stores.
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barry (Administrator) 11-16-2015 at 01:35 AM.
Post: #3
How simple do you want it?
During the prototyping process for the NoSo One, I came across a problem. Although the LM386 is typically combined with a tiny, low-cost speaker, it sounds way better with a decent speaker. The problem is that a decent speaker costs more than double the price of the whole amplifier!

So, to keep to my original plan of providing the most affordable amp kit, I decided to create a Basic version. This has no frills, but gets you started quickly and on a super-low budget. It includes a 66mm (2.5inch) speaker, and is shown fully built in the photo below. This kit is as simple as you can get: input socket, amplifier, one-wire mod for more distortion and speaker.

   

But I strongly recommend the Plus version. First, because it includes a great 5W speaker I found from the USA. It's 137mm (5.4in) in diameter, which provides a far better bass response. It's also properly voiced for guitar. Best of all, it's much more sensitive - 100dBA versus 87dBa of the small speaker with the Basic kit. So it's MUCH louder. The speaker alone means that the NoSo One Plus sounds more 'grown-up'.

   

But, I also include some extra items with the Plus kit to make it more versatile and more fun to experiment:
* a higher output version of the LM386 for approx 0.7W
* an extra gain stage using a JFET
* extra components (so you can tweak the sound)
* a distortion control
* a bass cut/boost switch
* an output socket (so you can plug into a full-size guitar speaker cabinet)
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barry (Administrator) 11-16-2015 at 03:22 AM.
Post: #4
Lowest cost, maximum fun
The fun doesn't stop once you've made the circuit. There's still a little Do-It-Yourself; making the speaker cabinet and/or enclosure. The NoSo One is so small and compact that you can use almost any object to house it. Think laterally and look around the house/loft/junkyard for something cool. Be sure to email and share photos of your finished amp. Smile

Here's my own NoSo One Basic. This is just the cardboard box I use for shipping, covered with some faux-tweed printed on a colour laser printer.

   
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barry (Administrator) 11-28-2015 at 08:18 AM.
Post: #5
It's a versatile little amp!
Once it's built, the NoSo One is a simple guitar amp with a crunchy tone. But it doesn't need to end there. You can also use it as an overdrive unit for another amplifier. The Plus version is best for this, as it already includes the output socket.

Here's a brief video clip of the amp plugged into a 2x12 with/without a Boss reverb pedal:





You can even modify it with a 3.5mm audio input for your phone or MP3 player and then plug it into a hi-fi speaker for bedroom music set-up.

Keep an eye on the Mods and FAQ section for updates.
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