Since amp-building is a massively broad term, we’re going to focus on Fender’s Tweed Deluxe ’57, or more accurately speaking, the acclaimed 5E3. Before we get to the point of discussing what to look for (and what to avoid) in 5E3 kits, let’s start off by saying that 5E3 actually refers to Tweed Deluxe interior hardware.
Crafting the box, inserting the knobs and finishing the amp aesthetically are the easy parts whereas connecting the wires and building the “brains” of the operation is where things get a little tricky.
First and foremost, ask yourself whether you want to start building 5E3 from scratch or take an easier approach by purchasing pre-built components. Some of the most eclectic kits feature tools and hardware bits required to assemble the 5E3, but other models offer shortcuts for people who simply want to replace or upgrade their amp’s hardware with that of the Tweed Deluxe. The market of 5E3 kits is not as broad and versatile, but you still have quite a few options to choose from.
Here are our recommendations for the 4 best 5E3 kits on the market:
5E3 Kit 1: XLX 2PCS TDA7297 audio power amplifier board module
- XINGYHENG 2Pcs TDA7297 Dual-Channel Audio Power Amplifier Board Module Power Input Mode 4-8 Ohms 10-50W Speakers Audio amplifier Module Converter for DC Power supply Audio System DIY Speakers
- Price: $9.99
- Price as of 06/20/2021 13:58 PDT(more info about ad)
Our opener pick is XLX’s TDA7297 dual-channel digital audio amp board module. In essence, the Tweed Deluxe uses a different kind of audio board, but given the fact that the original circuitry is both patented and extremely expensive, the TDA7297 is more than suitable enough to be labelled as a budget-friendly alternative.
Aside from the fact that it’s available at a dirt-cheap price, this amp board module is also very easy to assemble and fairly versatile. The package contains two amp boards that can either be used simultaneously to ramp up the raw performance of your DIY 5e3 or you can use either of the two as a backup since they’re identically constructed and packed with the same features.
Both TDA7297 modules are outfitted with current limiters and overheat/short-circuit protective features. Last, but certainly not least, due to its ultra-low nominal impedance level the TDA7297 is a perfect fit for any cabinet, circuitry and electronic accessories, which in short means that you’ll be able to mix and match it with any other 5e3 kits.
- Short-circuit and overheating protective features
- Bundle of two identical audio board modules
- Perfectly compatible with most cabinets and amps due to low nominal impedance
- Among the best 5E3 kits for the money
- Flimsy hardware, handle with care
5E3 Kit 2: Mod 102 DIY Guitar Amplifier Kit
Mod’s 102 DIY guitar amplifier kit is a pre-built solid-state tube amp that offers a single channel, five watts of output power and vintage controls for the bass, treble, and volume.
It boasts excellent impedance rating, but it offers only 5 watts of strength, which means that you’ll need a robust, strong pre-amp to compensate for it.
This is an excellent choice for people who don’t want to spend too much time (and effort) tinkering with standalone amp components and who are looking for an easy solution to get their 5E3 up and running for the least amount of cash possible.
- Pre-built; no assembly required
- Plug-n-go operation
- Vintage controls and pilot lamp
- Decently strong while consuming the least bit of power possible
- 5E3 Tweed Deluxe featured a slightly different set of hardware
5E3 Kit 3: Aoshike 6J1 Valve Preamp Buffer DIY Kit
- AOSHIKE 6J1 Valve Preamp Buffer DIY Kits Tube Amplifiers Audio Board preamplifier Pre-Amp Amplifier Audio Board
- Price: $16.95
- Price as of 06/20/2021 13:58 PDT(more info about ad)
If you’re looking for a quality DIY kit that can be used to substantially upgrade your 5e3 setup, we strongly recommend Aoshike’s 6J1 Valve Preamp Buffer.
Basically, this is a 2-channel pre-assembled tube amp board that boasts incredible raw strength and exceptional performance for the buck. Speaking of which, it’s also very affordable, but the obvious downside is that you’ll need to find a bigger cabinet to fit it as it is fairly bigger and bulkier than the original 5e3 hardware.
- Very affordable
- Pre-assembled preamp buffer
- 2-channel stereo tube amp board
- Will significantly increase the clarity of high-gain tones
- Bigger than original 5e3 hardware; requires a taller cabinet to fit
5e3 Kit 4: C.b. Gitty 2.5-Watt Parts-Only Cigar Box Amplifier Kit
- Great 2.5-watt Parts-Only Cigar Box Amplifier Kit
- Price: $39.99
- Price as of 06/20/2021 19:58 PDT(more info about ad)
Our final pick of the day is C.B Gitty’s Cigar Box amplifier kit. Basically, this kit is meant to complement more eclectic 5E3 kits, as it doesn’t come supplied with all the features that you’ll need to construct the entire amp (or the entirety of TD’s hardware for that matter).
However, there’s much value to be had in this cigar box, as it sports a couple of potentiometers, a 2.5-watt amp board, a 9V battery, headphones and output jacks, accompanying screws and bolts, and a mesh wire that can be used to reinforce the speaker.
In a nutshell, C.B Gitty’s cigar box can be labelled as the “bare bones” of your 5E3 project. You won’t be able to finish your 5E3 Tweed Deluxe hardware with it, but it is ultra cheap and it’s enough to get you started.
- Works great with other 5E3 kits
- Highly affordable
- Easy to use for people with modest technical skills
- Contains convenient replacement/backup parts
- Doesn’t have the features necessary to finish the 5E3 hardware
- Does not include any tools
The 5E3 Kits – Conclusion
The Tweed Deluxe ’57 is an iconic amp that boasts timeless tone and impeccable performance that casts a long and sure shadow over many modern amplifiers. Now, you have the opportunity to craft it yourself while saving a ton of money in the process, given the fact that vintage TD’s cost thousands of dollars.
Essentially, all 5E3 kits are different, so it’s up to you to determine how easy (or hard) the process is going to be. Take stock of your tools and hardware, consult electricians if you don’t possess technical knowledge to mix and match the elements, and pick the kit in accord to your budget and handyman skills. Only did will you determine which of the 4 above will qualify as your version of the best 5E3 kit. Good luck!