I think you’ll find this interesting. I have a friend that’s been trying to nail a spot-on Matchless Spitfire clone for some time. I recent bought him a real one to study. While he made some significant improvement to previous models, there is no accurate clone of the main power transformer. He has the circuit as close as we know how to get it. While it behaves similar to the real thing, there IS a noticeable difference between the two. And even disregarding the transformers, small parts like a pot or a cap can make a big difference in the sound. This is something I should have picked up on when John (that’s the other guy) and I were modding those Vox and Fender amps. I didn’t think the (small part = big change) metrics applied to preamps and compressors. Namely because I believed the sonic differences between a Behringer hardware compressor and an API 2500 are much less noticeable than the differences between a Matchless DC30 and a Behringer BC-30 Matchless clone. But I was wrong. My mistake was comparing the relative difference between brands, when I should have been comparing the relative difference between key components in the circuit boards.
Manley also hardwires all their transformers in house at the factory in California. The emphasis on those things leads me to believe they ARE sonically significant. Hairball told me over the phone, if I were to order the bare minimum to start building the unit, the one part you can’t find anywhere else is those transformers. And they limit the number of them that any one person can order. Now Hairball’s business model enables them to commission them to spec because they order and sell so dang many of them. So it seems a transformer CAN be accurately cloned. But I was mistaken to believe other parts like potentiometers, resistors, and caps, could simply be ordered from mouser and inserted into the Hairball circuitboards.
(picture of the Manley factory)
Hairball told me strait up, that they don’t make any money re-selling transformers and pre-printed circuitboards. Their markup is selling kits. And after having ordered a set of only the trannys, pots, and boards, I understand why the time and effort it takes them to decide the best stuff to go in those kits justifies the markup. They’re really saving you time, effort, and research. And its not like a Lego kit, where if every kid simply follows the instructions, they’ll all come out the same. This was another misconception. At the time I ordered the first round of these, I didn’t know there was technique involved in building these. And ones knowledge of building these impacts more than the speed or efficiency at which they are assembled. At the end of the day, you don’t end up with an authentic 1176. You end up with the closest thing to one that Hairball was able to package and sell you in a way that makes them money. By no means does this make the Hairball 1176’s inferior, but it does make you re-think why you’re getting it. Hairball would tell you that it helps you learn electronics, and I agree with them. Its a great DIY starter project. And I think a properly built one is perfectly usable. But honestly, the project was over my head. If I really wanted one, I should have just outright bought it pre-assembled. I mistakenly thought I was gonna learn how to build them, order the smaller parts of Mouser, then build 50 of these things. Wishful thinking lol.
Hairball 1176 REV A
Hairball 1176 REV D