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Old 4th October 2010, 05:51 PM   #1
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Default A little digression= read on

I recently attended an tube amp audio design meeting (no not a HiFi magazine) and this question was thrown from the audience;
“ Those of us who are tube addicts; Of all the HiFi amplifiers one has built in spare time, was there one design that sounded and stood out from the pack ? Nirvana. This certainly applies.

A bit of a wild question but a reasonable one in raising the point. I felt the person hadn’t really researched the foundations that staple audio designers had laid nearly ¾ of a century ago.
Later on, a questionaire showed that a third of the audience (some outsiders) and not so deep technically minded had actually risked life and limb and built a HiFi tube amp during their sparetime hours. I thought that was quite a high percentage, considering financial misery annum 2009. Some like myself came from abroard, so it was a mixed bag.

Ha!...Now my turn...The person who stood up knew my presence, exposed the fact that I had designed and assembled 45 HiFi push-pull Tube amps over a 40 yr evening sparetime period. Yes, that’s me all right but sure, I’m not the only one beavering some evenings behind the soldering iron. I like to play my card Bridge as well. So as the conversation digressed; that person also exposed that (some decades ago) I worked for the famed Rupert Neve. Audio engineering, by gosh, it’s mighty addictive stuff with a never ending kudos. One gets into it and mighty hard to get out.
Now the debate can really start.
Question: Does that sparetime number over a 40 yr period seem alot or not ?
There must be others out there who have also burnt wicks of midnight oil on exotic designs and risked their marriages and the warm bed of loved ones ?
The thing about all these amps, they weren’t copies of existing designs although the circuits often resembled others with modifications. All the amps had something unique about them, beit the sound quality or the punch they provided. The mains & output transformers in all my designs were bespoked as was the circuitry, which to some appeared to eschew convention..but never botched up.
Looking at this backwards and a bit commercial, a tidy number of people have profitted out of my lot. Transformer winders, yes; tube suppliers, yes; component suppliers, yes; and 30 tube amps which I sold privately around the world are still working. 2 of them, the most powerful (200W+200W) and the best sounding ended up in a recording studio. Influence yes.

The British Carboot sales has also seen some of my reject power amps which had a bit of a streak in them, i.e transformer errors. Sold an outright bargain, still fine.

So, I’ve ended up up with 10 custom amplifiers which audibly are the closest to recreating the absolute sonic fidelity which I set out to do. Out of this lot, I cannot decide which amp sounds the hottest.. So when I’m in the listening mood, each evening I connect a different amp from the previous and end up unable to compare. There is alot more to all this analysis, a bottle of vino is the quickest way to destroy it.

Back to the bench; “If one builds a custom amp design would one commend it to others as a build” ? As a designer, this is in the "ingrain" back of ones mind. Does one feel psycho’ confident about the design ? Not only the standpoint of a technical specification coupled with good aesthestic looks, but also more importantly the sound quality. Lets hope the ethos continues.

Keep up the good work you lot out there.

richy
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Old 4th October 2010, 07:48 PM   #2
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richy,
You are not alone in asking that question. From my perspective it is quite normal.

I am not at your level of understanding and am probably incapable of obtaining that level.

While most of these are copies of a design the *** indicate that I was at least being creative.

Bride of Zen
Zen v4
Aleph 3
Aleph 5
Son of Bride of Zen
*** Aleph X 100 Watt
A chip amp (I had to put it in sorry)
3x 12b4 Preamps
2x Simple SE
Tubelab SE
*** The OPUS 5.0 monoblocks
Salas Simplistic RIAA
*** Have version 4 of the 12b4 on my bench
*** Have various parts of a new SE amp on the bench
*** Parts of a revisit to the Opus 5.0(beta) on the bench
*** My turntable is on the bench (and dining room table, and a few other places as well)

Too many speakers to count.

Yes it gets commented on by my wife, kids and others as some sort of OCD. And no, my wifes kitchen cabinets are still not done.
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Old 5th October 2010, 03:57 PM   #3
Cassiel is offline Cassiel  Libya
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richwalters View Post

Back to the bench; “If one builds a custom amp design would one commend it to others as a build” ? As a designer, this is in the "ingrain" back of ones mind. Does one feel psycho’ confident about the design ? Not only the standpoint of a technical specification coupled with good aesthestic looks, but also more importantly the sound quality.
It's always difficult to judge your own work. You never know for sure. 40 years of experience should help but the fact is that you are constantly changing; your perceptions are not the same, audio memory is short and so on.
Does your amp sound great to you? Good, that is a first. Now you must find out if it sounds great to others.

One thing is to be a good audio engineer and another to be a discernable listener. Maybe you're both or maybe not. Isn’t the affect of music on the soul really what we are after here? And isn't it true that audio engineers have sold their souls to the Devil in exchange for "nice sounding" distortion numbers?
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Old 5th October 2010, 04:19 PM   #4
Bigun is offline Bigun  Canada
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What if, instead, you had dedicated that time spent building amplifiers and speakers, to learning to play a musical instrument ?
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Old 5th October 2010, 04:35 PM   #5
TheGimp is offline TheGimp  United States
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I would (1) not have built the amps, and (2) would still not be capable of playing the musical instrument.

"A man's has to know his limitations" ... Dirty Harry
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Old 5th October 2010, 04:39 PM   #6
kevinkr is offline kevinkr  United States
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A couple here and there stand out in my mind, others not so much, and the occasional grand failure that no one knows about, maybe.. (That would be rare since I usually that figure someone somewhere might learn something useful from my most egregious mistakes.)

Did audio design professionally for more than 15yrs, not doing it now, and find it ever so much more fun.. Doing it as a day to day seems to sap my enthusiasm for diy..

I too have spent a disproportionate amount of time slaving away with a hot soldering iron, evenings and week-ends, some vacations, and the inevitable bane of modern life when redundancy (layoff) strikes as it so often does in the engineering career path.. In my case probably 45+ yrs, although I started in my pre-teens, got my first solder iron at the age of 7..

I got started with the audio hobby specifically because I could not afford the gear I dreamed of owning. (Audiophile going way back, back to a time when that label was not pejorative.) Initially I felt this was second best, but the best I could do - when I did finally get my hands on some of this stuff to compare I found in a lot of cases my designs suited my goals better, and fortunately those of a lot of other people too.

Now it is mostly for fun.. (I tell myself)
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Last edited by kevinkr; 5th October 2010 at 04:42 PM.
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Old 5th October 2010, 04:41 PM   #7
kevinkr is offline kevinkr  United States
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheGimp View Post
I would (1) not have built the amps, and (2) would still not be capable of playing the musical instrument.

"A man's has to know his limitations" ... Dirty Harry
Sadly I think the case for me too.. Love music, but not a musical bone in my body..
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Old 5th October 2010, 05:36 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stalker View Post
One thing is to be a good audio engineer and another to be a discernable listener. Maybe you're both or maybe not. Isn’t the affect of music on the soul really what we are after here? And isn't it true that audio engineers have sold their souls to the Devil in exchange for "nice sounding" distortion numbers?
Quite right. Das problem. I've become two animals. One of my early mistakes was to build amps to a rigid spec. Being of Germanic trait encourages this. So, yes there's a historical element too.
How very wrong can one be ! An amp with a shocking thd can sound beautiful. In one example I was in concert playing with an amp that had a duff output tube. Fortunately in parallel push pull, the question of redundancy crops up, but neverless I remembered it sounded "quite good" for a trumpet. One can get away with it.

My connection with MI is via trumpet, However in years to come I shall probably end up into Cello or Bass end. On replay one hears all the wind noises and it's mighty putting off as is a wind organ keyboard.

However, I consider myself as extremely lucky having the career I did.

richy
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Old 6th October 2010, 12:57 AM   #9
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Hello All,
Engineering is an iterative process; it is not complete until the client runs out of time or money sometimes both. Many of my creations are built on a piece of plywood and do not last a day. Is there the pride of authorship? You bet!
DT
All just for fun!
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Old 6th October 2010, 06:31 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by DualTriode View Post
Many of my creations are built on a piece of plywood and do not last a day. All just for fun!
I never went through the "plywood" build botch phase allthough a collegue successfully used plywood and assembled a SW transmitter using an 807. In the late 1950's my electronics pick up was the massive electronic surplus WW2 available & schooling that steered a career toward the merchant fleet and Cold War service. So it was the miL metal and electronic workshops that got me started and REME. This training was the superlative anyone could have had, far better than todays stuff. I was later to regret by doing the foolish thing by selling my Fender 58. Had the guitar stayed with me, perhaps things would have turned out different. As it was I did play in local Country & Western groups. Rather feral stuff. We all were farmers son's !
The remaining evidence of my 1950's electronics past is sharing with others on this forum and the boxes of junk that permeate the chalet loft. After the war games ended I emigrated to the ALps to persue studio electronics design proper.
The circle is complete, MI has returned and just as loud as it used to be. The 1960's sound did resonate the guts more. The over-dimensioned loudspeakers did sound alot better than alot of the modern stuff.

On the bench, My helmet is close too. Anyone nervous of electrolytics and plastic MOS blowing up ? In some evening classes I did a decade ago, I found more enthusiasts are more frightened than I thought..... High voltage confidence and proficiency problem. Takes time.

richy
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