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Old 4th November 2014, 06:51 PM   #1
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Default DIY to compete with commercial

My goal is to (one way or another) have a tube amp with the sound quality of a commercially designed $2-3k amp. Right now I have a S5 K12G (stock) and after hearing some older McIntosh, Rogue Audio, Primaluna, older VTLs I desire to have that level of clarity and detail in my system. Before hearing those higher end amps, I was just going to upgrade the K12 with new OPT, caps, B+, etc., but now I am thinking it won't be enough because the circuit design and the tubes themselves are not going to be good enough.

So, I was wondering if there were some opinions on what would be a DIY tube amp design (or kit) that would compete with a Primaluna or an older VTL amp. As mentioned above, I am looking for clarity/detail mostly. Not worried about bass as I have a sub. I am not looking for high power because I listen 5ft from the speakers and all of mine are simple two way designs.

In the kit direction, I see the Elekit TU-8200 from Tube Depot or a Dynakit ST35 in the $600 price range, but from research I don't think the ST35 has the level of clarity I am looking for.
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Old 4th November 2014, 07:02 PM   #2
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Just my opinion, but you could spend $2-3k in DIY parts and supplies while you hunt for the right combination of schematics and components to satisfy your desires, or you could spend $2-3k on the amp that you want, hook it up, and be done with it.

It depends if you have the patience to spend the time to build what you want. It's not simple, and to do it right, it's not quick.
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Old 4th November 2014, 07:31 PM   #3
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Hi,

I recoommend you to build amplifier A75 by Nelson Pass. It is not all tube amplifier, but performance and sonics are with the best out there (be it tube or ss). Check it out, as tube lover you will be very satisfied!

https://www.passdiy.com/project/amplifiers/a75-part-1
https://www.passdiy.com/project/amplifiers/a75-part-2
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Old 4th November 2014, 07:32 PM   #4
SY is offline SY  United States
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If you're an experienced designer/constructor, you can do far, far better than most commercial efforts (don't think for a minute that there's any price/performance correlation). If you're not, you'll have to sort through a lot of bad designs confidently published by the clueless to try to find something good- and you won't be able to tell them apart. Worse, because layout and construction are critical, you'll have a frustrating time getting it working properly. Even worse, you won't have the proper tools to make it work correctly (e.g., scopes, generators).

Tube amps as a hobby are very, very rewarding IF you're not looking for a one-off build, but are more interested in a learning journey through several builds of increasing complexity.
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Old 4th November 2014, 10:56 PM   #5
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I definitely don't want to spend $3-4k at this time, I am pretty set on wanting a project to build. I built the S5 which was super easy, and I built the Akitika GT101 SS amp which was also super easy to build. Having one of each, I'm certainly hooked lol. I am pretty set on building Pass' F5 Turbo as my next SS amp, but I have no tube amp to match it. I was hoping for a new tube project that at least included circuit boards and some sort of instructions to follow as I am definitely not experienced, but have lots of patience and want to learn along the way. If I can't find what I am looking for, plan B is to build up the S5, learning how to use a 'scope along the way. At least I would learn how each modification changes the sound and in the end it will be better than I started with...
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Old 5th November 2014, 02:03 AM   #6
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One tried and well-liked design that you can get a PCB for, is Pete Millett's Distortion-canceling "Big Red Board".
That one uses easily available parts, and produces good performance.
It is also scalable to much higher powers than its nominal 20wpc.

Plus the bonus that Pete is often to be found on this forum, and there is a HUGE thread that chronicles the development and build of the original design.
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Old 5th November 2014, 02:12 AM   #7
SY is offline SY  United States
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That's an excellent design. I built one myself, though went a wee bit beyond 20 watts.
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Old 5th November 2014, 02:31 AM   #8
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Quote:
I built one myself, though went a wee bit beyond 20 watts.
I built one too.....just a wee bit more powerful than SY's.

I didn't stop at one either, I built three. One was just for experimenting to see how far I could squeeze the design. I stopped squeezing at 250 WPC, or 525 watts paralleled mono block.

I built the other two at 125 WPC. I loaned one to my boss at work, but didn't get it back before I left Florida, so I finished its twin. Very nice sounding amps at full crank, or idling along at a couple of watts feeding high efficiency horn speakers. The buildup of all different power levels are scattered throughout the long thread.
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Old 5th November 2014, 03:14 AM   #9
wicked1 is offline wicked1  United States
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I'd also recommend a PCB project to get started.
Tubelab has some great options as well, with excellent documentation.
Pete has more than just the 'engineers amplifier' everyone's talking about. But it's probably the most popular, and has the most info available on the forums. I built something w/ his 'universal push pull driver' pcb, and like it very much.

An st35 rebuild was one of my first projects, and I've never been happy with it.
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Old 5th November 2014, 04:15 AM   #10
JMFahey is offline JMFahey  Argentina
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Consider that the BIG problem for home builders is not the "electronics" but the "mechanicals" , specially chassis and iron.

Not only strong enough to hold parts weight but also nice enough to show others.

No need at all for chassis/cabinets CNC machined from a solid 25Kg aluminum billet and wrapped in exotic woods (although that doesn't exactly hurt ) but you'll probably want better than a spray can painted chassis with hand filed holes and little PC printed stickers for labels.

What's the point?

I'd suggest you go for a kit, unless you're mechanically inclined and have some machines available, either at home, work, or know somebody who does.

FWIW I started making tube amps in 1969 and became very friendly with metallurgical shops, which cut and folded my first aluminum chassis, also anodizers who didn't charge me, also met this old guy who knew how to wind incredible transformers (specially output ones) , etc.

Otherwise, it would have been impossible or so hard as to take all fun out of it.
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