• WARNING: Tube/Valve amplifiers use potentially LETHAL HIGH VOLTAGES.
    Building, troubleshooting and testing of these amplifiers should only be
    performed by someone who is thoroughly familiar with
    the safety precautions around high voltages.

Necessary equipment/tools for building

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I am trying to get my head around this DIY tube world (hoping to ultimately build a 300B [P?]SE amp and a MC phono preamp), and have the following question. What tools and equipment are necessary in order to build one of these beasts? In the course of searching/reading about various designs, I have notices that some builders often appear to have oscilloscopes (among many other things). If someone can list a recommended collection of equipment that the beginning DIYer should have (or point me to an appropriate site), I would be most appreciative.
Hi Eric,

aside of the most obvious tools as a good (temperature regulated prefered) soldering iron, pliers, srew drivers etc. etc., I would say the most basical equipment You`ll need is:

1.)Multimeter (AC/DC current, AC/DC voltage, resistance), preferable a DVM (Digital Volt Meter) but it maybe an analog meter as well

2.)Oscilloscope, perhaps not urgently necessary but it helps a lot

3.)Signal Generator (sine/ square wave, 100kHz upper frequency is enough, more does not harm)

Of course there is a lot more of handy equipment which might be useful but the three above are the most important IMO.
Recommended oscilloscopes

Thanks Christoph - I was unaware of signal generators.

Follow-up question: are there particular makes/models of oscilloscope and signal generators that I should be on the lookout for (given my level of [in]experience)? I am hoping to be able to pick these things up used/second-hand on Ebay without having to spend a fortune. The fortune goes toward the transformers ...
Hello again Erik,

Without any doubt the world leading company in oscilloscopes is Tektronix and You can find them for sale in masses at ebay. If I were You I would go for a rather "simple" unit (in regards to specifications) but therefore in very good/clean condition (dirt and corrosion is one of the main enemys of switches and contacts and often is the cause for non functional equipment) and guaranteed fully functional. The manual would me fine too but You may have to buy it seperately.
It`s better to spend somewhat more on a fine but "simple" unit than messing around with a high-end model which is in poor shape.
Here is another thread (and even more links from there) with more opinions about oscilloscopes:
Here some other Tek models which might be for interest also:
453 (50Mhz and delayed trigger)
T922 (15MHz)

What concerns the signal generators there are a lot of options.
Here just a few brands: Hewlett Packard, Krohn Hite, Leader, Tektronix, Wavetek. I cannot comment at particular models but would suggest doing a search on ebay (go to: Business, Office & Industrial > Test, Measurement Equipment > Generators)
Sure there are plenty of options.
Maybe somebody else around here can give You some detailled advice of what particular models might be a good choice.

Just watch some auctions (don`t buy the next best, every day there are a lot of offers, watch first) and You`ll see that You don`t have to spend a fortune on a good scope and a generator.

Though at the first glance this kind of equipment seem to be somehow complicated to handle (a lot of knobs and functions) for somebody not so accustomed - but it is really not.
Just don`t be afraid - hook the generator to the scope and play around a bit and after a short time, intuitively You`ll lfeel how it works basically. And with the manual, what I always recommend to buy also, You can explore the more "complicated" functions. Particular the manuals for the older equipment are nicely explaining everything detailled though simple.
Sorry to be tedious, but I have no knowledge of the going prices for these beasts.
Never mind :)
One question - the Tek 453 has been suggested as being appropriate for tube amp construction. Is a selling price of $159 (w/manual) for a working one reasonable?
I guess You mean the one from the fullnet.com link....:)

Here are some completed ebay auctions I found for Tek 453 scopes:

(Look somewhat closer who is the buyer of this one. Click on his "me" sign and follow the "Electronic Test Equipment" link. Any bells ringing......??)



I`m no expert in used Tek scope prices but it appears to me that $159 for a clean and guaranteed fully working Tek 453 including the Instruction Manual seems to be a good deal. You might consider to buy a probe for the scope also. If You intend to buy this 453, I`m sure Mr. Thomas P. Gootee can give You good advice which one is suitable to go with the 453.
As You likely don`t know what a probe is and for what probes are good, here a link to the Tektronix primer: "The ABC of probes".
Tek 453

I had a 453 for years. Although the dispay is a little smaller than it's peers eg 465, it's display is much brighter. This means that it is good for seeing short ocurrence events.
These are the last generation of Tek "portable" scopes that can be fully serviced without specialised test sets. Later models have to go back to Tek for everything.
I upgraded to a Tek TDS210 last year, and although it's small and light, I do miss some of the 453 features.

Bottom line... for a limited budget the 453 is good.

Enjoy it.

I read all threads about scopes in this forum, and following to what Mr Haller said, I looked for Tek 465.

Tek 465 is sold here for 450 Euro.

I bought Tek 7504 with 7B53A, 7A12 and 2* 7A16A for about 150 Euro.

Now my Question to the Professionals like Mr. Haller:

Does it makes sense to buy plugins like 7A22 or 7D13?
Is 7D13 usefull? i own no Bench Multimeter, only a small Metex. Which way is 7D13 used?

Would you suggest to use as it is possible with the pugins listed above or should i look for others? Or should i look on for 465 or 475?

thanks for any answers
Tek Series 7000 scopes

Would you suggest to use as it is possible with the pugins listed above or should i look for others? Or should i look on for 465 or 475?
Though I`m not a "pro" and also not Mr. Haller I hope You don`t mind to hear another opinion about that question:)

I have a Tek series 7000 scope and many plug-ins for it. IMHO the Tek 7000 series oscilloscopes are the most versatile scopes ever built and probably ever will be (things seem to get rather worse what concerns "progress" :sad: ) because there are so many completly different kind of plug-ins.

By changing the plug-ins actually You can change the scope in another kind of instrument as for example a spectrum-analyzer, curve tracer or a sampling scope to name just a few.
For instance for audio applications particular the 7A22 is a very handy and incredible sensitive low frequency (1Mhz bandwith) differential amplifier plug-in and You`ll hardly find another scope which can do something comparable.

I would never change my scope against another and if I were You I would stick with the 7504 and complement it with suitable plug-ins whenever it`s necessary or when there is a good occasion.

The 7D13 is a multimeter plug-in but as it does not have an own display it can be used only in a scope mainframe that has a screen display read out. I don`t know if Your 7503 is suitable for it.

By the way: the last Tek`s 465 I saw here at the German ebay went for around Euro 260 -300 in beautyful shape, including manual and with fresh calibration!
While a scope may be valuable, it isn't necessary. A test CD, multimeter and soldering iron can take you far.

Have a look at my breadboard amp below. No metalwork necessary!


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>>guess what immediatly came up my mind while looking at Your breadboard .......oscillllllllationnnnnssss<<

>>By no means I would like to fire up something like this without help of a scope.<<

Your fears are much worse than reality. In a couple of years and dozens of circuits, I've had one problem with parasitics and that time I was asking for it. (I was using LED bias on a high gain pentode and had rigged up an unwieldy arrangement to swap in different LEDs rapidly.) Now, if I were using lots of valves designed for RF, I'd tend to agree with you, but it is not necessary with the low gain stuff I like to use.

Still, if I had access to a scope, I'd use one, but I don't let not having one stop me from experimenting. If you wait until you've got everything you think you need to build the perfect amp before you're willing to begin, you wont ever start!
Hi cocolino! thank you very much.

My mainframe is not 7503 but 7504, and it has a readout.

It´s calibrated 01´03 and with original manual.

so i understand right 7000 is better than 465, only disadvantage maybe the size?

I ll stay with it and start collecting plugins...

Now i have to learn how to use it.
Hi Till:

as I`m not a pro EE technician, I`m not really in the position to evaluate which of the scopes is actually "better" from the technical piont of view. So maybe someone of the professionals here like Mr. Haller or somebody else additionally like to comment about this.

All I want to say is that the Series 7000 is (and that`s for sure) the most versatile/ universal scope family due to the plug-in technique and likely this is one of the reasons why this kind of instruments were sold in huge quantities and are still used by many pros all over the world (and thanks to this they are easily avaible to afforable prices for us DIYers).

The only problem with them is that due to their age this instruments may need maintenance once in a while. But I guess this applies to the 465 and others of that time as well.
And yes, size might be a restriction, my 4-slot mainframe is really a monster scope.....but I like it:) .

Still, if I had access to a scope, I'd use one, but I don't let not having one stop me from experimenting. If you wait until you've got everything you think you need to build the perfect amp before you're willing to begin, you wont ever start!
Jeff, You are so right with this !!!
And indeed that`s the reason why I stopped experimenting and building a while ago and gathered equipment instead (this costs lots ot time because often must be cleaned and repaired).
One reason for this is that I have to compensate my quite limited electronic knowledge (I`m rather a speaker builder guy) by instrumental checks to proof what I have done. I agree that an expert won`t need so much instrumentation because he KNOWS that his work functions properly.
The other reason is that I`m kinda perfectionist and want to have everything under my control if at all possible and to be sure having not only avoided bugs but exhausted all the potentially performance of my constructions. This is not always possible with knowledge alone.
At the moment (not always) I`m confidential to get through all this and back again to experimenting and building and then things become better than ever. :)
After solving the topic scope, i want to put the focus back to signal generators.

The option to build one by myshelfs seems to fail in the intrinsic THD of the generator -- datasheet of ICL8038 says about 1-2% .... generators made of opamps or so need caibration, how to do calibration?

For scopes i understood Tek is good, and 7000 recommended, so i followed this. (I tested and played around with some different scopes last weeks, and like 7000 most.)

Now, any advice which signal / funktion etc generator to use?

Signal generation

I am lucky to have a good audio signal generator.
If I did not, I would not build one.
IMO a reasonable quality CD player exceeds the performance of all but the best signal generators.
I actually do use a CD player as an accurate level reference.
You can record test disks with a computer CDR and freeware tone generator application. Even though the disk will have occasional imperfections, it will be perfectly useable.
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