A Single Ended Vacuum Tube Amplifier With A Modern Twist

Despite the oldest solid state audio circuitry now qualifying for a pension and a bus pass where this is being written, the thermionic tube retains a foothold in the world of audio — cherished by enthusiasts for the warm sound it is claimed to impart. For  the electronics enthusiast a tube audio amplifier makes for an interesting and unusual project, and for that reason it’s one tackled by many. [Keri Szafir] is no exception, and she’s produced a stereo tube amp with a few modern features.

Electrically it’s a relatively conventional single-ended design using a double triode and a power pentode for each channel. It follows a so-called ultra-linear circuit, with a tap on the output transformer feeding one of the pentode’s grids. The modern features come via a switched Bluetooth input and a motorized volume control, something that would have never been found on such an amp when they were the cutting edge.

We have to admit a soft spot for this type of amp, and we particularly like this one for its very period construction style using cable lacing to keep the wiring under control. We more often see these amps using the cheaper integrated triode-pentode tubes which makes them especially easy to build, so the separate preamp is a little different. We’re not sure we’d have spent extra on the fancy E88cc tubes though. Continue reading “A Single Ended Vacuum Tube Amplifier With A Modern Twist”

Tube Audio Amplifiers Needn’t Be Complex

There’s a mystique in audiophile circles about tube amplifiers. They can have a very nice sound which is attributed to their even-harmonic distortion, but they are often portrayed as requiring rare and expensive components. You don’t need matched gold-plated tubes and special transformers wound by Japanese monks with oxygen-free silver wire when the tube you’d have found in a TV back in the day paired with a repurposed mains transformer will do. [Mikremk] demonstrates this with a simple but effective amplifier using a PCL82 triode-pentode.

It’s a conventional tube amplifier circuit in which the triode is a preamplifier for the pentode power output stage. The pentode is running in class A mode, and the high impedance of its output is brought down to speaker impedance with that mains transformer. Best of all it doesn’t need a particularly high voltage, with the 40 V DC power coming from a DC-to-DC converter module.

These amplifiers could be found back in the day in some form in most consumer electronics, and remain a spectacularly cheap way to boast a tube amp in your hi-fi even if it might not always be the best possible amp.

The Best Stereo Valve Amp In The World

There are few greater follies in the world of electronics than that of an electronic engineering student who has just discovered the world of hi-fi audio. I was once that electronic engineering student and here follows a tale of one of my follies. One that incidentally taught me a lot about my craft, and I am thankful to say at least did not cost me much money.

Construction more suited to 1962 than 1992.
Construction more suited to 1962 than 1992.

It must have been some time in the winter of 1991/92, and being immersed in student radio and sound-and-light I was party to an intense hi-fi arms race among the similarly afflicted. Some of my friends had rich parents or jobs on the side and could thus afford shiny amplifiers and the like, but I had neither of those and an elderly Mini to support. My only option therefore was to get creative and build my own. And since the ultimate object of audio desire a quarter century ago was a valve (tube) amp, that was what I decided to tackle.

Nowadays, building a valve amp is a surprisingly straightforward process, as there are many online suppliers who will sell you a kit of parts from the other side of the world. Transformer manufacturers produce readily available products for your HT supply and your audio output matching, so to a certain extent your choice of amp is simply a case of picking your preferred circuit and assembling it. Back then however the world of electronics had extricated itself from the world of valves a couple of decades earlier, so getting your hands on the components was something of a challenge. I cut out the power supply by using a scrap Dymar Electronics instrument enclosure which had built-in HT and heater rails ready to go, but the choice of transformers and high-voltage capacitors was something of a challenge.

Pulling the amplifier out of storage in 2017, I’m going in blind. I remember roughly what I did, but the details have been obscured by decades of other concerns. So in an odd meeting with my barely-adult self, it’s time to take a look at what I made. Where did I get it right, and just how badly did I get it wrong?

Continue reading “The Best Stereo Valve Amp In The World”

A Cake Tin Makes A Great Tube Amp Chassis

If you have ever had a go at building a tube-based project you will probably be familiar with the amount of metalwork required to provide support structures for the tubes themselves and the various heavy transformers and large electrolytic capacitors. Electronic construction sixty years ago was as much about building the chassis of a project as it was about building the project itself, and it was thus not uncommon to see creative re-use of a chassis salvaged from another piece of equipment.

This morning we stumbled upon a rather nice solution to some of the metalwork woes facing the tube constructor courtesy of [Bruce], who built his tube audio amplifier on a chassis made from a cake tin and with its transformers housed in decorative display tins.

The circuit itself is a straightforward single-ended design using an ECL82 triode-pentode on each stereo channel, and comes courtesy of [Nitin William]. The power supply is on-board, and uses a pair of silicon diodes rather than another tube as the rectifier.

It’s true that [Bruce] has not entirely escaped metalwork, he’s still had to create the holes for his tubes and various mountings for other components. But a lot of the hard work in making a tube chassis is taken care of with the cake tin design, and the result looks rather professional.

We have something of a personal interest in single-ended tube amplifiers here at Hackaday, as more than one of us have one in our constructional past, present, or immediate futures. They are a great way to dip your toe in the water of tube amplifier design, being fairly simple and easy to make without breaking the bank. We’ve certainly featured our share of tube projects here over the years, for example our “Groove tube” round-up, or our look at some alternative audio amplifiers.