The sound produced by any given electric guitar is shaped not just by the instrument itself but by the amplifiers chosen to make that sound audible. Plenty of musicians swear by the warm sound of amplifiers with vacuum tube circuits, but they do have some limitations. [Collin] wanted to build a reactive load for using tube amps without generating a huge quantity of sound, and it resulted in an interesting project that also taught him a lot about inductors.
The reactive load is essentially a dummy load for the amplifier that replaces a speaker with something that won’t produce sound. Passive loads typically use resistor banks but since this one is active, it needs a very large inductor to handle the amount of current being produced by the amplifier. [Colin] has also built a headphone output into this load which allows it to output a much smaller quantity of sound to a headset while retaining the sound and feel of the amplifier tubes, and it additionally includes a widely-used tone control circuit as well.
There’s a lot going on in the design of the circuitry for this amplifier load, including a lot of research into low-frequency inductors that can handle a significant amount of current. [Collin] eventually ended up winding his own, but the path he took to it was long and winding. There’s a lot of other circuit theory discussed as well especially with regards to the Baxandall EQ that he built into it as well. And, if you’d like to learn more about tube amplifiers in general, take a look at this piece which notes one of the best stereo amps ever produced.