Nevada City Advocate
For some, it might be a 1975 Mustang. Or a painting by a favorite artist. Or a World Series baseball. An item from your past that was iconic for you, a slice of life that you couldn’t afford back then, but you always said, “One of these days.”
For musician and electronics engineer Paul Turner that item was an H/H guitar amplifier, made in England and taking its place in music history as the amp of choice for bands like T Rex, Soft Machine, Dr. Feelgood and Thin Lizzie, to name a few. And like many young guitarists in the late ‘70s the sound of this solid-state amp was highly desirable to Turner, but financially out of reach.
Until now, with the design and construction of his own version of the amp.
“The original idea of a Paulverizer was to fulfill a dream I had in the ‘70s, when I was at university,” he said. “There was an amplifier manufacturer in the UK called H and H. They were very popular and very expensive. I could never afford one. The original idea when I came over here was to buy one. But there was no chance, there aren’t any to be had.”
Turner is originally from Liverpool, England, and has spent many years in the broadcast industry. While at the BBC he accepted a job offer from Grass Valley Group, which eventually led to his settling down in the Nevada City area with his wife, singer Claire Diament. But throughout his corporate career he maintained a love for playing guitar and a certain amp.
“I found two in the U.K., which cost about $2,000. An expensive amp, but I wanted this sound. There were bands I loved, and you could only get that sound with that amp. I could buy one that was nearly 40 years old, supposedly in working condition, weighed about 95 pounds, and it would cost me about $1,000 to ship it here. So, the idea of dropping $3,000 on an amp that I was certain would fail as soon as I got it here and couldn’t get parts for because it’s obsolete, made me think ‘Why not just build one?’”
In order to build such a project, Turner required a schematic, and soon found out there were few to be had. After research, he found a man in Birmingham, England, that used to repair the H/H amp and worked on some of the original designs as a technician. Turner contacted him and explained he wanted to build one and could he share a schematic? The tech replied, he did have some schematics, but he wasn’t going to let them go.
“So, I wrote back to him and said I understand your position but is there any way you can supply just some schematics, because I really, really want one of these. He wrote back and said he had about a third of them, for the combo amp I wanted to build. But I’m not going to just send them to you, you could be anybody. So, I’m going to test you.”
The English technician then sent a schematic that had an error in it. If Paul could find the error correctly, the technician would send Paul what he had. Paul correctly identified the error and the technician sent what he had.
“The schematics showed an integrated circuit, a big block that said, ‘I don’t know what this is,’ and a power amp. And this is where we take a right turn at Albuquerque. The block was the tone block for the entire amp, and I won’t be able to make an amp that sounds exactly like an H/H if I must do the tone block itself. But luckily, I have a whole bunch of records that have that guitar amp on it, and I knew the guitars these guys were using, so I could get a fairly good idea of what the tone controls did. And there were videos on YouTube of English guys showing off their H/H combos.”
With the attitude of “If I can’t buy it, I can build it,” Paul used the schematics and electronics he designed himself, using readily available parts, software, and a 3-D printer. He found companies to make the parts he couldn’t, such as preamp circuit boards and the metal panels with printed graphics for front and back of the chassis. He built the wooden cabinet and applied the vinyl covering himself. The result after many months of work is the Paulverizer L/L.
“I’ve added some components that were never part of the original H/H design, so it’s kind of a Frankenstein amp. It’s a little bit of H/H and a whole lot of me, and some off-the shelf-parts. I’d say all-in, including the loudspeaker, it probably cost me $500. Beats the hell out of $3,000.” The L/L designation on Paul’s amp is a tribute to the original amp he lusted after.
“That’s a throwback to the guys who designed the original amp. Their logo was H/H, and I wanted to do something that paid homage to that. Since the amplifier is 50 watts per channel, I took a bit of poetic license. The Roman Numeral for 50 is L, and it’s got two of those amplifiers in it, so instead of H/H, it’s L/L. The Paulverizer L/L,” he said proudly.
About the photos:
The Paulverizer L/L was a labor of love for Paul Turner.
Photos by Andrew Wedgbury