In the early days before circuit boards were designed, technicians relied on various “anchor points” to connect wires together. Primitive layouts consisted of terminal strips screwed to the chassis or even pieces of cardboard fitted with brass eyelets. Components and wiring were then soldered, point-to-point, to these terminals or eyelets to create the circuit. As time went on, clever technicians figured they could etch the wiring patterns into copper foil laminated to a strong and rigid phenolic board. The components could then be soldered directly to these copper “traces.” This was the beginning of modern printed circuit (PC) boards. In modern boards, epoxy reinforced glass fiber replaces phenolic and more than one layer of copper is now possible. When using PC boards, precise part placement and consistent wiring is guaranteed.
I feel that point-to-point wiring is still very useful when designing an amplifier prototype or building a custom one-of-a-kind amp. It’s quicker, easier, and cheaper to do than a one-off printed circuit board and it’s generally easier to make circuit modifications when using this method. Well done point-to-point wiring is also very nice to look at—if you’ve ever seen the inside an early Hiwatt, you’ll know what I mean.
In my opinion, however, it is far more cost effective and less labor intensive to use PC technology in a production environment. To the consumer, this means a better amp for less money. I believe that a guitar amp with well designed circuit boards is easier to work with, is far more consistent and reliable, and is more rugged mechanically than a point-to-point wired guitar amp. Another advantage is that, since the circuitry is clearly mapped out on the board, PC boards are also quicker and easier to service.
One should also bear in mind that there is absolutely no sonic difference between point-to-point and printed circuit board wiring. Detractors of PC boards have argued that they are less reliable due to cracked solder joints or failure prone to burned traces—neither of these complaints are ever an issue with a properly designed board.