January 16, 2009 

Matchless Makeover, Lightning strikes in November!

It's been some time now since I've actually built an amp. Recently I became interested in the Matchless Chieftain. I liked the schematic and I really liked the sound clips I heard on the net. But there were a few problems. First, I would have to buy everything, including output tubes. Second (and probably more important), where would I put it. And third, I really didn't want to explain why I needed another amp!

Common sense prevailed, but the Matchless itch was still there. So, I decided to dust off the old November chassis and evaluate for a makeover. It had almost everything I needed to build a Lightning. This solved all the logistics problems mentioned above.

So I did some research and decided to use the Lightning schematic from Schematic Heaven and Trinity since they were in agreement. I never found an original schematic. Then I used Visio to redraw the schematic using my own style. Next came the layout. I made the board the same size as the old November board so it could just 'drop in'.

I spent just under $40.00 for parts (resistors, caps, and pots). For some reason, I decided to use only metal film for this build, a first for me. While Doug was fumbling with those little hard to read MF resistors, I stripped the November chassis, keeping any wiring that would remain the same for the Lightning. Basically, I just removed the board, pot harness, jacks and switches from the rear and a couple chassis mounted components.

Doug's  parts package arrived the same day I completed the board. The next day I loaded the board, built the new pot harness, and made the necessary changes to the chassis wiring. The following day I finally put it all together. It fired up without a hitch.

My initial impression is that the amp has good clean tone, is loud, and hard to set the tone controls. I'm unimpressed with the overdrive, but that could change Friday when I get a chance to crank it up.

Friday is here and I've had a chance to crank the amp. There's a lot more tone to this amp than I first realized. And there's a lot more crunch than I first thought, although it will clean up fairly easy. Playing loud seems to improve the tone. The tone controls are very interactive. It'll  take some time to learn how to dial it in. I don't think it's gonna be my favorite. Still a fun project though.

Here's the November before the facelift.

And here's the Lightning after the makeover. Very similar, don't you think?

Download my Visio created schematic and full size board layout in a single PDF. matchless_lightning.pdf (386KB)

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