is more than one year since I started thinking about new tube amplifier. I
acquired some experiences building my first DIY amp based on 300B power tube.
I tried to get as much as possible from the 300B tube, trying different
brands, operating points, different coupling methods, drivers, parts,
bypassing caps etc.
I get good results, confirmed by my audiophile fiends, I wasn’t fully
satisfied with the sound.
speakers are Audio Note model E,
which has quite high sensitivity (94dB), but also quite demanding impedance
curve. I suspected, that I could get more from the speakers, especially in
lower registers, by using the stronger amplifier. My idea was to use high
power triodes like 845, 211/VT-4C or Russian GM70.
wasn’t sure what tube to use, so to make my amp as much as possible flexible,
I drew the first schematics with possibility of switching between 211 and
GM70 tube by changing the heater voltage (10 and 20V) and removing the first
capacitor in a power tube PSU, to change the anode voltage keeping the same
bias voltage for the both tubes.
I decided to use GM70 tubes
only. They were cheap and had excellent reports among audiophiles. They were
also more “off road” J, exotic.
started building the test circuit on the breadboard. First setup was:
AV8 – IT 1:1 tribute, 5k, 30mA DC max – 300B – IT Lundahl LL1677 1:2 80mA DC
was not fully satisfied of an idea of using 1:2 step-up interstage
transformer, because GM70 was intended to work also in A2 class, when GM70
grid current has to be taken into account. The better idea was to use 1:1 or
even step-down transformer. What I really wanted, was to keep the amp away
from indirectly heated tubes.
bought the second pair of AV8
tubes (there was a discount for them, about 40% off!) and second 1:1 interstage
transformer and changed the 1:2 IT to 1:1 ratio. The gain of that stage was
almost the same. AVVT AV8 has a mu=8 which is equal to the mu=3.8 of 300B
multiplied by two (IT1:2).
decided to choose the operating point of GM70 at 850V/125mA/-70V. The gain of
the driver stage was more than 60x, so I get about 1.2V for full A1 output
and about 2V for full A2 output and about 35W output power. My preamp is able
to deliver 4V with very low output impedance (about 10ohm!), so no problem to
drive this amp.
make this amp fully noncompromised design, I decided to use only amorphous
I already bought the IT from TRIBUTE,
I followed that way and ordered the 7k/150mA/30W amorphous transformer from
TRIBUTE also. 7k primary impedance was a compromise between power and
distortions (and of course damping factor).
you can see how big are transformers cores. Transformers are potted in a
15x15x15cm can. Each has 10kg.
stages has it’s own PSU with CLCLC filtering. At the beginning, the idea was
to use LCLC filtering, but it requires physically big, low value bleeder
resistor, to prevent caps from damage, in case of any tube failure and no
current going thru tube anode. CLCLC setup requires only 5mA going thru
used Lundahl LL1638 and LL1673 low DCR
chokes. Two 20H chokes for a driver stage and two 10H chokes for GM70 tube. HV caps I used
are Black Gate WKZ (yes, very expensive…), so another reason for safer CLCLC
GM70 voltage is provided by Russian 5z8c indirectly
heated rectifier in a hybrid configuration, with two 1200V hexfred diodes and
0-770V of the secondary of the mains transformer. Tube rectifier has about 8s
to warm up. First two caps are polish NOS PIO 2uF/1000V in parallel, to give
4uF/1000V. After the second choke I have two 100+100/500V BG WKZ caps in
series, to give 100uF/1000V final capacity.
tubes uses 5u4g directly heated rectifier. First cap is an SCR 10uF/630V,
second BG 100uF/500V and the last one 100+100uF/500V BG WKZ. Operating point
AC from the secondary of the mains transformer.
tubes use DC heating (schottky bridge), smoothed by 20000uF-resistor-20000uF
filter. AC made the sine wave dancing on a scope screen, even when using the
tubes uses the fixed biasing.
the first listening sessions of the test circuit, I decided to remove the
first AV8 tube from the drive stage and change it to Lundahl LL1674 1:8
amorphous core input transformer. It gives much better sound than the active
stage, and utilizes the very low output impedance of the preamp. To get the
flat frequency response with such a step-up transformer you must have the
preamp output impedance lower than 150ohm. No problem for meJ
I used the pure silver 0.4mm
diameter wire to connect all the parts except heaters. I get much better
sound than any thick cable/wire can offer. Only litz wire may compete with
it. Skin effect really exists!
you can see the test circuit:
tube, especially copper plate version, shines with beautiful yellow light!
Here is the final schematics
have measured the frequency response of the amplifier. Below, the measured
characteristic up-to 1kHz for 1W output power. With HF there is no problem.
Curve is flat till 20kHz, and after that is slowly going down to reach about
35kHz at –3dB. The amp has three transformers in the signal path. Each of
them is weakening the LF. The final result isn’t bad at all, because I get
-1dB @ 30Hz, –2dB @ 20Hz and –3dB @ 15Hz.
frequency response is given for +/-3dB, so my amp sings between 15Hz - 35kHz.
I have to design the chassis. I decided to use 3mm cooper sheet and monoblock
arrangement. It took me 4 days to draw the elements layout.
Auto cad design of the chassis, one monoblock.
punching the wholes, I got two beautiful copper frames, each weighting 8kg.
Copper sheets - picture
them for covering with nickel and chrome. I wanted to have the oxygen
resistant surface, conducting the current, for easy transformers grounding.
Chromed sheets – picture
took me 12 hours to build the first monoblock.
Assembling the amps– picture
Inside of the amp – picture
Amp in a daylight – picture
Working amplifier - picture
3 days of assembling and debugging process, I finally fired up the amps. Each
monoblock weights almost 40kg (82 pounds).
does it sounds?
question. Let’s give it some break-in time…
gave my GM70 amp about 40 hours for breaking-in. I didn’t switch it on and
leave it for continues operation. I let it break-in gradually. It is also the
debugging time, so I wanted to stay close to it while it was working. It was
usually 2-3 hours/day. I added the 22k bleeder resistor across the 100uF B+
cap in a driver stage. IT takes additional 15mA current, so the first choke
can work more efficiently. I used two Lundahl 100mA choke, because previously
I wanted to use two driver tubes. Now it is a bit too big, and 50mA choke
would fit better.
have my first DIY 300B amplifier for reference purposes.
after firing up my GM70 amp I was at least satisfied with the sound. The
authority and the balance of the sound is the most obvious sound signature.
GM70 has the excellent balance regardless the volume level. It is almost
impossible to make it clipping. More than 35W output power comparing to 8W of
the 300B amp makes the noticeable difference. J
registers are very solid, fast and vivid. Although, the measurements show
the-2dB weakening at 20Hz, GM70 amp plays much better here than 300B. It is
totally in the opposition to what was measured. You hear it immediately! 300B has midrange magic, but the
rest of the frequency band is only a background. GM70 has at least the same
midrange quality, but it extents to the frequency extremes.
300B amp I had to bypass the electrolytics with the smaller polypropylene
caps to get HF at the GM70 amp level. HF is very clear, very real. Metal,
sounds like metal, not sand.
I wasn’t fully satisfied with the sound when I switched on my amp at first
time. The authority and nice sound balance caught me, but the tone was far
less satisfying. Tribute transformers were too warm and at the same time hard
sounding, a bit glassy and sandy. On jazz recordings, percussion was nice and
clear, but on the rest of the recordings sound was too warm and muddy. Always
wrong. What was warm at the lower listening level was hard and glassy at the
I was delighted; sometimes I had to take a cold beer to relax because the
sound was so terrible.
about 30 hours of listening, about a week, the sound started stabilizing.
Now, after 40 hours GM70 makes a constant smile on my face. Sound
outperformed 300B amp by a huge margin.
don’t blame 300B tube, Lundahl transformers or ELNA caps. My new GM70 amp
should be better. I would be very surprised if it fails the competition with
my first DIY 300B amp.
Amorphous core Tribute transformers
Black Gate capacitors
Double PSU chokes and independent PSU units
Direct heated driver tube (AV8)
Two monoblocks, not a stereo amp
Ones again it turns out, that the final sound
tuning is necessary. Change of one signal element is much cheaper than
the change of complete boxes of the system or cables... however the owners
of the transistor equipment have little to do in that subject...
still tuning my amp. I made a lot of changes in the electrical circuit. I
removed second choke in each PSU unit.
It is another proof, that not always something, which is theoretically
perfect, sounds the best. Double chokes make sound stiff and hard, dry and
shouty, very precise but mechanical. Of course, there is a problem with hum
using only one choke, but can be solve easily. Finally, the C-L-C PSU with
33uF/400V (polypropylene, AUDYN)
– 20H choke and 200uF/500V Black Gate cap sound very well. Sound has the
excellent clarity and musicality. In GM70 PSU I added another 4uF/1000V
capacitors to get finally 8uF/10000V, so: C-L-C PSU with 8uF/1000V – 10H
choke and 100uF/1000V BG caps.
second main change in my amp architecture was changing the self-biasing to
autobias. This change gave sound
more body. Sound is fuller now and it is safer in case of any tube failure.
This is the last amp schematics
3 months are gone; it is time to change something! I decided to reconfigure
my amp architecture. I always had a feeling, that I can get more dynamics and
feeling of power from GM70 tube. I wanted to try to change the input step-up
transformer to the tube active stage. I chose the Russian 6H6P double triode.
It has an excellent reputation and is electrically similar to the tubes like
ECC99, E182CC or 5687. I wanted to have the lowest possible Rp, so the
operating point: –1.8V, 30mA, 125V was one of the best choices. Under the
resistor 5.4kohm load, tube has a gain of 15.5. The whole driver section gain
is about 133x, which givers the overall amplifier sensitivity = 0.85V for
I decided not to use another interstage transformer, but the simple RC
configuration. First listening was done with 0.47uF Audio Note PIO copper
foil coupling capacitor. In anode I used Black Gate WKZ 100uF/500V cap, which
was previously removed together with chokes.
What about sound?
Excellent dynamics, power, energy, but without the input transformer clarity.
Sound was a bit gray. I changed AN copper foil to silver foil 0.22uF/500V
version and…REVELATION! I got back the lost clarity, but the power, dynamics
and energy remained at least at the same level! There is one problem with
silver Audio Note caps…price. I heard the positive comments regarding Mundorf silver PIO caps, so maybe here you
get the less expensive alternative. The side effect of the driver change was
the increased power of the amplifier. Now I measure the clear 48W(!) at
took a chance and measured the whole driver section, with two tubes,
interstage transformer and coupling capacitor. The square wave is perfect,
even for 10kHz. No ringing at all. The frequency response is flat till
120kHz, and starting slowly going down from this point.
20Hz there is a small weakening, about –0.5 to –1dB. Excellent results!
is the newest schematics
the amp look inside now
DIYparadiso – Lundahl distributor
Audio Note – source for parts and
Reference Audio Mods – source
for Black Gate capacitors
Audio Asylum – excellent audio forums