There are tons of LM386 PCB's available from China. The ones on AliExpress are available all over the net as well., I bought 10 each from EBay for about $2 each.,then I bought 10 JRC LM386 chips from Mouser to make the .3 watt amp into a 1 watt amp. As far as quality goes, all 10 amps worked with the chips that came in them.,.,I powered with cast off wall warts from work., the same place i got my speakers.,.,( we huck it all in the trash at work anyway).,.,.,great for a small amp, CBG amp, pre-amp, or as a overdrive/ distortion pedal.,.The big plus is there are plenty of free schematics online, and the PCB's are easy to mod.,.,.so now you have all my secrets.,.,.,
This is true about the market selling ready-made units so cheap, but not all of the particular effects are made.
I like building my own too. You can easily tweak your own build on a build board or breadboad more so than a ready-made unit because the PCB is made just for that particular version.
The last time I got individual 386 chips of the N1 type they didn't last long and I had to replace mine with the more durable N3 type.
The N1 - N2 - N3 chips are made to handle 9volts to 12 volts DC, but the N4 type is made for higher voltage 12 volt to 18 volt DC.
I also get mine from Mouser or Small Bear when they have them.
Best chips are the Texas Instrument in my mind. But JR (JapanRadio) I think are the designers. If you not gonna buy a Gitty amp Look for one of these. they$ 10 on ebay you can find them $4.
You can find the kits for a little over a dollar, they work ok considering they are a 1/4 watt, but the mods are easy to add as you can swap out the components before soldering. A good and cheap way to develop some soldering skills too.
Internet data on these 9volt amps have been all over the place on output wattage. Some say 1/4watt, some 1/2 watt and some 1watt. I know that the voltage used can play a part in that, these little amps say to use 9volts and up to 12volts.
My home build Ruby is supposed to be 1/2watt at 9volts and 1watt at 12volts. Hard to tell without the right equipment to check though. I can say that my Ruby amp with it's 6" speaker is loud enough to be heard throughout the house. ;)
All three are right. I think it is dash 1, 2, and 3 to designate the wattage. All the really cheap ones I have seen are the lowest output. Someday I will make a full watt screamer!
If you do make one, use the 386 N3 chip, it's a heavy duty chip. The N1's seem to be too cheap.
The Ruby amp is like the Smokey or Lil'Gem amps, but uses a nice Jfet filter circuit in front of the chip and sounds a lot like a Fender Champ. I added a 2-way switch for the caps to have the regular .047 cap on one side and a .1 cap on the other for Fender Bassman type tones. It doesn't really get Bassman tones, but it is darker.
That has been the same outcome for me too.