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HOW TO CONVERT A BELL & HOWELL FILMOSOUND AMP FOR GUITAR

Looking for vintage tone on a budget? Converting a movie-projector amp may be the answer. Find out how in Part One of our DIY project…

Vinyl may have made a comeback, but don’t expect cine film to follow suit any time soon. That said, before you take that ancient Bell & Howell Filmosound down to the dump, you might be surprised to learn that clever amp techs have found a way to repurpose these homemovie projectors into great-sounding tubedriven guitar amplifiers.

Bell & Howell Filmosounds were introduced back in 1932, but the models we’re interested in, with the removable amplifier section and easy-to-source valves, were made from the mid 1940s. The mechanical projector apparatus, light source and audio sections were integrated, with the amplifier section bolted onto the underside. The amplifiers can therefore be removed and used independently of the projector.

If you’re patient, unrestored Bell & Howell amplifiers can be bought online for £150 or less. When you consider that you’re getting high-quality vintage transformers, an aesthetically pleasing chassis and – if you’re lucky – a set of working vintage valves, that’s a real bargain. If you need convincing, try pricing up a 5E3 Deluxe kit and then factor in the cost of NOS valves.

The brief for this project is simple. I want to find out if it’s possible to enjoy vintage valve-amp tone without paying thousands for the privilege. As usual with our Workshops, a certain about of soldering and metalworking will be required, but when I’m done, I’m hoping for around 15 watts of juicy, old-school 6V6 tone.

SILVER-SCREEN TONES

As the prices of big-name vintage guitar amps soar, some people are looking for cost-effective alternatives. The interest in Bell & Howell Filmosound amps goes back to the 1990s and many credit Bernie Raunig with kicking the whole thing off.

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