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What's the Big Deal About Point-to-Point Amps?

January 24, 2013
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THE TERM POINT-TO-POINT (PTP) refers to the method of wiring up a tube amp’s circuit with each component connected to the next using the components’ own leads with a minimum of wire,and little or no intervening circuit board of any kind. The theory is that a shorter, more direct signal path means better tone.

But, hold on—there are other elements to consider here.

For one thing, while a lot of amps are billed as being “point-to-point,”genuine examples are rather thin on the ground. For example, Matchless and Bad Cat make genuine PTP amps, but many other manufacturers use elements of PTP construction with added terminal strips for support. In fact, the circuits in many amps that are frequently referred to as PTP are actually hand wired using a circuit board of some type, whether an eyelet board (vintage Fender), turret board (vintage Marshall), terminal board (vintage Vox), or something similar.

Are non-PTP amps inherently inferior to true PTP amps? Of course not. Many true PTP amps are acknowledged classics, and they sound great. But so do plenty of amps built with circuit boards. Each approach has its benefits and drawbacks, and the tonal differences between them probably have less to do with wiring techniques than with other factors of their designs.

While the term “point-to-point” sounds cool—and many players and manufacturers like to talk the talk—you should seriously consider that, on an amp that’s not true PTP, the circuit board’s easy access and logical layout makes those amps easier to work on. In fact, some amp techs find the rat’s nest of components in PTP circuits can be tricky to navigate, and it’s often hard to break a connection between components to make a simple part replacement. In addition, many amp makers will state the extra wire used to connect components in non-PTP production causes no discernible loss of tone, and that the man-hours saved in circuit board construction vs. true PTP often saves buyers a few bucks.

So take care to identify if the term “PTP wiring” is being abused as a marketing tool to imply some superiority over other hand-wired circuits.Ultimately, it’s worth knowing whether or not an amp is truly PTP if you genuinely take an interest in how different amps are built. But your priorities might be misplaced if you make PTP a primary factor in choosing the best amp for your sound and style. To make an informed decision, you really need to plug in and play.

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