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Bruce Rozenblit

Published By
Transcendent Sound, Inc.
Kansas City, Missouri
Copyright c 1999 by Bruce Rozenblit

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any
form or by any means without permission in
writing from the author.

The information contained in this document is

the intellectual property of the author and is for
personal use only. Commercial use is strictly

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 98-91127

ISBN: 0-9669611-0-2

First Printing

While every precaution has been taken in the

preparation of this document, the author
assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions.
Neither is any liability assumed for damages
resulting from the use of the information
contained herein.

Cover by Visage Design

Table of Contents
Whats This Book About? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
My Philosopy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
What Makes Good Sound? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10


Audio Science . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Electricity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Conductivity and Resistivity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
Conductors and Connections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Insulators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Capacitance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Inductance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Skin Effect . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Reactive Networks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Impedance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
The Decibel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
Filters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
Real versus Reactive Power . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
Interconnects and Grounding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
Balanced Lines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
Transmission Lines . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Bi-Wiring Speaker Cables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
Power Supply Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
Power Cords . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
Isolation Transformers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
Damping Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
Component Compatibilty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
Voltage Drive Compatibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
Speaker Compatibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
Vacuum Tubes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
Feedback and Imaging . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
Servo Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
Acoustics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
Apparent Loudness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
Dymanic Range . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Masking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Conclusion to Part One . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59


What Do You Need to Know? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
Machining a Chassis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64
Mounting of Components . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
Wiring . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
The Transcendent OTL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
Checkout . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
Grouded Grid Preamp . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
Checkout . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
Super Compact 150 Watt Amplifier . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89
Checkout . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93
Single-Ended with Slam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97
Checkout . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101
Grounded Grid Cascode Phono Preamp . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105
Checkout . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107

My OTL Patent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111

Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121
Whats this Book About?
Audio became a hobby of mine when I of 25. The pleasure of enjoying music from qua-
was a teenager. Every month, new issues of my lity equipment should not and does not have to
favorite magazines were published, which I read be restricted to folks with six-figure incomes.
from cover to cover. Articles describing the Thats what this book is about. It is a
latest developments and products were fascinat- means to get people involved with high perfor-
ing to read. Most of all, I loved learning about mance audio at the lowest cost possible. Audio
the technology, the newest circuits, speakers, is a wonderful hobby, pastime, and intellectual
recording techniques, and hardware. How did pursuit. Much can be learned by building your
they do it? What marvelous innovations would own equipment. It is something fun to do and,
I learn about next month? The articles con- when completed, a high-quality product is yours
tained much technical information and taught to enjoy for years to come.
me many aspects of circuit design. Many myths and misconceptions are com-
One consequence of youth is a chronic monly held among audiophiles. That seems to
lack of money. Virtually all of the tantalizing be the unfortunate nature of this industry. For
components I read about were financially unat- those who wish to purchase commercially pro-
tainable. Only one avenue was available that duced equipment, I will attempt to debunk
allowed me to have an audio system: I built many falsehoods and clarify misunderstandings
kits. with solid, scientific fact, which is the truth of
Back then many excellent kit options were my work. All explanations will be simple and
available. Most were high performance compo- wont require any math. I hope to equip the
nents that were highly regarded in the industry. reader with the knowledge required to weed out
Sadly, due to changing times and peoples false claims, appreciate the legitimate, and reap
interests, the kit powerhouses of the past have the maximum benefit from your purchasing
disappeared, eliminating the traditional low-cost dollar.
entry into the hobby. To make matters worse, Just as with the kit giants of the past, these
the prices on contemporary high performance projects are not seconds or substandard in any
audio gear have risen to extremely high levels. A way. They are the actual designs of my com-
preamplifier that lists for $3000 is considered in pany, Transcendent Sound, Inc., that are already
some circles as moderately priced. in production or will be introduced later. The
I dont know about your situation, but sonic performance is virtually identical to my
many audiophiles cant afford to spend $3000 commercially produced products. The only
on an entire system, let alone one component. difference is that they have been adapted to use
This is particularly true for people under the age off-the-shelf components that are easy for the

hobbyist to find, primarily in regard to power to swap out a capacitor, change a binding post,
supplies. An electronic circuit doesnt care or hang some device on the ceiling that claims
where it gets its power as long as it is of suffi- to redirect cosmic rays. Driven by their over-
cient quality and there is enough of it to go whelm-ing desire to help, they enthusiastically
around. report of the phenomenal improvements of
The reader who wishes to purchase their great discovery which undoubtedly gets
assembled equipment is strongly encouraged to published somewhere. Many of these claims are
study the project chapters. Much information is sincere in intent, but have little or no basis in
presented that is nontechnical and concerns the fact.
how and why of equipment design. Reasons A major factor that contributes to this
and explanations are given that illustrate my conflict is distinguishing between what one
decision-making process, exemplifying why actually hears and what one thinks they hear. I
Transcendent Sound products are designed and can calibrate my voltmeter to give precise
built the way they are. They represent the proof readings, but I cant calibrate someones ears for
of my work, verifying the many innovations of degrees of sound stage width, voice localization,
my designs. dark tonality and other nebulous characteris-
You will notice that none of the projects tics that cannot be quantified in any possible
use any exotic, so-called audiophile grade way. How wide is wide and how dark is dark,
componentsfor good reason. I dont use them whatever dark sound is anyway? (I really have
in my commercial products either. All specified trouble understanding when people tell me
parts will give the highest quality performance at something sounds bluish or whitish).
the lowest possible cost with no compromises in The placebo effect must always be consi-
sound. It doesnt make much sense to spend dered. It seldom is. Credible psychological and
500% more to achieve a 1% difference, particu- physiological studies are always run with
larly when you could use that money to buy placebo. This is the only way to statistically
something else, like speakers or a refrigerator. determine if the results are valid. People are
Contrary to commonplace reports in also highly influenced by visual appearance. We
todays popular literature, the differences caused generally dont choose our mates based on the
by these components are barely discernible, if sound of their voice but by their appearance. If
detectable at all. Yes, some parts do make a an audio component looks very attractive, the
difference. Practically speaking, the selection odds are increased that the listener will think it
process has a lot more to do with avoiding the sounds better.
bad than finding the best. There is a lot of Successful marketing can implant a
good to choose from at relatively low cost. preconceived notion in the mind of the listener
Once a sufficient level of quality is obtained, any concerning the quality of performance. The
further expenditures produce results that are products reputation and image can convince the
extremely subjective and subject to interpreta- listener that the performance is superior before
tion. Often the difference detected is not any music is heard. Expectations and visual
necessarily better or more accurate, just a slight influences, therefore, play a definite role in the
alteration of the perceived sonic experience. For aural evaluation of audio components.
some reason, the magnitude of the perceived I have had the pleasure of discussing with
benefit is often proportional to the amount of many audiophiles, both consumers and people
money spent on the device. in the industry, shared sonic experiences of a
I believe much of the hype associated similar nature. That is, we listened to a piece of
with these and other audio accessories is gener- equipment and were able to describe a similar
ated by what I call the frustrated audio designer sonic impression. It is possible, therefore, to
syndrome. Those afflicted want desperately to form a consensus about the nature of how
make a contribution to the field by revealing something sounds. How good it sounds is
some new discovery that dramatically improves another matter. Either you like the way some-
the performance of one thing or another. thing sounds or you dont.
Unfortunately, they usually only have the ability Example: If you went to the two finest

French restaurants in town and ordered choco- consumers to get excited about. How many
late mousse (assuming you like that stuff) and times can you repackage something, call it new
thoroughly enjoyed each dessert, how can you and improved, and expect people to part with
say which was better? Both differ, but are still serious amounts of money to buy it? This
wonderful. The best-tasting mousse depends on problem is greatly worsened by the fact that
who is doing the tasting and what kind of mood most of the potential buyers already own a
they are in when the tasting occurs. The only similar product that works perfectly well! Mass
practical answer is that there is no best or marketers have been doing repackaging for
ultimate anything. The problem cannot be years with cereal and detergent, but these are
solved. So, once I get outstanding results, I go consumables, not durable goods. Audio ampli-
no further and keep my money in my pocket. I fiers usually last longer than breakfast. Many
assure you that if correctly assembled according people will only consider replacing an expensive
to these plans, you can make audio equipment item if it breaks down or wears out and isnt
that has equivalent performance to my commer- worth repairing, or they can upgrade to some-
cial products (and better than most other thing with higher performance and more
commercial products) at a fraction of the cost. desirable features. Without innovation any
Why am I publicizing my designs for all of market will stagnate, contract, and eventually
the world to see? First of all, anyone that wants could even disappear.
to find out what I am doing can buy a unit, take
it apart and trace out the circuitry. Hiding the MY PHILOSOPHY
design is impossible. Secondly, most everything Every designer has an orientation or
I do completely contradicts current audio philosophy that steers his work. Heres mine:
convention. Since everything I do is thought to
be wrong, obviously no other manufacturer 1. Fully 99% of the sonic characteristics reside
would have any interest in copying my work. in the design. Circuit topology controls every-
Doing so would just validate and endorse my thing. The designer manipulates inter-stage
technology. Lastly, lets just say I have some- impedances, time constants, signal headroom,
thing to prove. Becoming a commercial success feedback and many other parameters to achieve
is primarily dependent on marketing. It doesnt a desired result. It is not a matter of which is
matter what you are selling. You just have to do right, but one of achieving a desired result.
a really good job of selling it and the profits will
come. 2. I totally reject all generally accepted audio
I want to be known for my design achieve- convention, both past and present, regarding
ments. Each project presented in this book is what should or should not be done. I dont care
markedly different from the status quo of typical about doctrines that dictate rules governing use
high-end amplification equipment. All are of feedback, class of amplifier operation, variety
genuine alternatives to the standard offerings of of tube, types of parts, arrangement of parts,
the predominant manufacturers. The major circuit topology, etc. There are no rules. All
product variation you are likely to see between combinations are possible. I use whatever
the popular brands is in cosmetics alone, not in works best, period. Good results are solely the
design or performance. My work represents result of good implementation which emanates
truly original creations that produce actual from good design. You wouldnt tell a master
benefits in form and function. The projects chef he cant use oregano in a recipe. If he
presented in this book verify my claims of knows what hes doing, a delicious recipe will
originality. What better demonstration of result. Audio is the same. You just have to
innovation could there be than presenting the know what youre doing.
actual design itself?
I firmly believe that most of the economic 3. Reliability is everything.
woes that high-end audio is currently experienc-
ing are self-inflicted, caused by a severe lack of 4. Simplicity is the keynote of design. If the
innovation resulting in no new product for parts arent there, they cant break.

5. All audiophiles come equipped with the all wrong. This is another one of those ques-
most important piece of test equipment there is: tions that cannot be answered. In audio, the
a pair of ears. The only person that the compo- whole is the sum of the parts. The parts by
nent has to please is the person using it. Its your themselves do nothing. The audio signal that
system. Once an audiophile called me to talk emanates from the output port is the result of
about buying a used OTL (Output-Transformer- the assembly behind it and how all the parts
Less) from a previous owner. I asked him to function together as a single unit. That is solely
describe the amp and he gave me a very exact a function of the values of the parts, how they
description of the construction. Then he kept are operated, and how they are connected
asking me how it sounded. The amp was sitting together. In short, the sound is determined by
in front of him, probably already connected into the design. Accepting this concept changes the
his system, but he still felt compelled to call and question from What is the ultimate? to How
ask me how it sounded. Why couldnt he just do I make the device sound and work in the
turn it on and find out for himself? He had to manner desired? The task is then one of
have a third party advise him. He was looking engineering. Thats what I do.
for a hero to show him the way. My friends, In order to engineer a specific sonic result,
audio gurus make lousy heroes. What I or it is necessary to understand what amplifiers do
anyone else says doesnt matter. Your impres- and why some sound differently than others.
sion is the only one that counts. This has been the subject of much debate over
the years with no clear-cut resolution. From my
6. Audio gear should be designed to share space years of experience building amplifiers, I believe
with human beings. It has to fit in a room and that I have been able to distill my experiences
have space left over for people. into a methodology that can be utilized in real
world applications.
7. The less waste heat produced, the better. Few Music is an incredibly complex form of
audiophiles live in Antarctica. information. It is dynamic in amplitude and in
spectral (frequency) content, both at the same
8. Mechanical transformer/chassis hum is just time! The task of the amplifier is to generate
as undesirable as hum from the speaker, if not electrical power to drive a type of motor (the
more so. loudspeaker) to faithfully create an acoustic
parallel to the original electrical signal. This is
9. Cost does not directly relate to performance. not an easy task when attempting to achieve the
A superior design is one that achieves outstand- highest standards possible.
ing results at the lowest cost. If a test was run with two similarly
powered low distortion amps, one tube and the
10. Audio components should have no sound other solid-state, where a sine wave was run
of their own. Instead, they should only reveal through each at high power, I seriously doubt
the music to the listener to the fullest extent that anyone could tell the difference. One could
possible. The best amplifiers are those that you then deduce that solid-state and tube amplifiers
dont consciously listen to. You forget that they sound alike. The test fails because it checks for
are there and you are only aware of the music. the wrong criteria. Play music through each and
Thats how I feel about it! a difference can be heard.
Why does the tube amp sound differently
WHAT MAKES GOOD SOUND? from the solid-state amp or for that matter, why
For one reason or another, it seems like does any amp sound differently from another?
many people in audio proclaim that they have The answer lies in the world of engineering. Im
found THE answer, or the ULTIMATE configura- sorry to disappoint, but this has nothing to do
tion for the best sound. The purveyors of such with magical devices, absolute truths, altered
thinking are always saying you cant use this or states of reality, or other realms of mysticism.
that or you have to use this or that. They are Its about hardware and their operating charac-

teristics called transfer functions. and provide a signal to the speaker with all of its
Amplifiers have transfer functions. So do harmonic components in the right place at the
the individual tubes and transistors that com- right time. This is a far cry from driving an 8
prise them. A transfer function is a mathemati- ohm resistor on a test bench with a sine wave.
cal relationship that defines what gets added to I am absolutely convinced that the most
or taken away from an electrical signal when it critical power range that primarily determines
passes through a device. This must be true, how an amplifier sounds lies below one watt
otherwise all amplifiers would sound the same. and quite possibly below 100 milliwatts. I
The differences in sound are caused by informa- believe that there are tiny subcomponents of the
tion being left out and added to the original audio signal that are 20 to 40 dB below the
musical signal. program material which distinguish amplifier
Individual active devices such as tubes and sound. (See pages 34-35 for a thorough discus-
transistors have their own transfer functions. sion of dBs). How the amplifier handles and
Specifically, the active devices transfer function resolves these tiny signals at small fractions of a
defines how the component translates voltage watt, while simultaneously generating the main
into current. In the case of music reproduction, signals, is where the battle is fought.
how the device handles the wildly changing Many may not realize it, but a speaker
dynamics of the program material also factors in with a sensitivity of 90 dB can play loudly on
the equation. just one watt. For music to sound twice as loud,
Tubes and transistors are made of com- the power must increase 10 times. That means
pletely different physical structures and operate our subject speaker will sound twice as loud
on different principals. Therefore, they have with 10 watts and twice as loud again with 100
different transfer functions. Dissimilar tubes watts. An average sound pressure level of 100
have varied sounds because of their respective dB is extremely loud. When listening at moder-
transfer functions. Tubes possess other charac- ate volumes, the base sound pressure level will
teristics that cause further changes. When probably be 75 to 80 dB. This corresponds to a
driving large amplitude signals through tubes on power level of roughly 50 to 100 milliwatts into
the test bench, they can be made to sing. The our example speaker. That means these critical
signal going through the tube causes mechanical subcomponents of the sound must lie at power
forces to act on the internal structures and make levels of less than 10 milliwatts. This is why I
them vibrate. The signal can actually be heard am convinced that the first watt is everything as
projecting out of the tube. This tells me that far as quality is concerned.
tubes actually modulate themselves. Tubes with High power operation is another matter.
rigid structures tend to have more detail. Less In order for quality to be maintained, different
rigid tube structures tend to sound softer with characteristics are required from the amplifier.
less resolution. This reasoning helps to explain The drive signal must be clean without excessive
why different types of tubes can sound so distortion. This does not mean distortion levels
different even though they may have similar of only tiny fractions of 1 percent are mandated.
electrical measurements. Actually, 2 or 3 percent distortion will sound
A major factor is that a loudspeaker is a fine at high volumes. Things fall apart when
nonlinear load for the amplifier. It is a reactive distortion rises to over 10 percent. Then the
load. That means that the current flowing sound gets muddy and breaks up. It is more
through it and the voltage across it do not important that the amplifier generates enough
follow in lock step with each other. They are power to achieve the desired sound pressure
actually displaced from each other in time. To levels than to try to hold distortion to .05
make matters worse, the degree of this time percent. You cant hear the difference between
displacement is also nonlinear. It changes with tiny fractions of distortion when you are trying
respect to frequency and amplitude. Everything to pin your ears back with a blast of sound.
is moving around in three directions at once! Often times, the loudspeaker itself will produce
The amplifier must cope with this changing load distortions of more than 10 percent under these

conditions. of those less is more situations.
Another task that an amp must perform at Similarly, feedback affects the sound
high power is maintaining resolution of indi- staging and imaging. With no feedback, images
vidual voices. When listening to passages of tend to blur, with no precise localization and
complex orchestral music at high volume, lesser the sound stage tends to broaden out. Some
quality amplifiers will tend to merge the indi- people really like that effectI do not. As
vidual instruments into one homogeneous feedback is added, localization becomes better
sound. The best amplifiers will preserve the defined and precise but the sound stage will
voicing of the individual instruments so all of tend to narrow.
the sections of the orchestra or band can be The manner in which an amplifier or
heard. Tube amplifiers tend to be better at this preamplifier handles large transients also affects
task than solid state units. I dont know of any bass performance. Feedback and damping
test that can be done to measure this characteris- heavily influence circuit behavior under these
tic, but it is most definitely audible. I suspect conditions. When a large bass transient occurs,
that the manner in which the amp translates under-damped circuits can overshoot and
voltage into current while driving a highly actually produce an exaggerated bass sound. My
reactive load has something to do with this. products do not suffer from this problem as they
If I am correct in my assumptions, then all have a flat response to low frequency
steady-state, or static, measurements where a dynamic signals. Whenever people hear more
single tone is injected into an amplifier and bass energy emanating from their speakers, they
measured for distortion, reveal almost nothing usually think they are getting better bass because
about how the unit will sound. I am not saying there is more of it. What they often fail to
that conventional distortion measurements are realize is that they might be hearing an exagger-
unimportant or frivolous. Certainly equipment ated bass signal. The bass was never there in the
producing 15% distortion is quite objectionable. first place and was created by the equipment.
What I am saying is that once distortions are Rise time strongly impacts an amplifiers
reduced to low levels, such as less than 0.5%, ability to resolve low level, high frequency
the measurements dont really tell us anything. information. Slowing down the rise time can
Furthermore, steady state measurements reveal soften the sound and round off the edges.
almost nothing about performance with har- Speeding it up reveals more detailsometimes to
monically complex, highly dynamic signals fed the point of sounding irritating and harsh. The
into reactive loads, which is a more realistic high frequency damping characteristics integrate
scenario. with how well the unit handles reactive loads.
Many alterations are available to the Some crossover networks are highly reactive and
circuit designer to manipulate the way an can cause terrible problems for amplifiers.
amplifier sounds. There are techniques that can There are many other things that can be
be applied which will have similar effects in any done. The point I am trying to make is that for
circuit. The major areas to adjust are input and every design, a series of compromises must be
output impedances, rise time, feedback and made. Everything you do affects some other
damping, and inter-stage impedances. parameter in a negative way. There are no
Amplifiers that operate with no closed absolute rules or answers, just a good set of
loop feedback are sometimes said to have super compromises to achieve quality sound.
bass. What is usually happening is that the It is not possible to make any type of
woofer is operating uncontrollably, and is amplifier sound like any other type. Adjust-
generating much more bass energy than was ments can only skew performance so much. The
originally present in the signal. As feedback is range of possibilities with the many configura-
added, the bass tightens up and becomes much tions available are broad enough that everyone
more percussive. There is an optimum point should be able to find something to his or her
where the sound is very realistic and faithful, but liking.
it takes some feedback to get there. This is one


Its oh so easy to run out of time,

oh so common to run out of patience,
and oh so costly to run out of knowledge.
Bruce Rozenblit

When I first started marketing my OTLs, Followers range from the mildly interested to
audiophiles would call and ask me to describe the fanatic. There is nothing wrong with having
the product. I would then proceed to explain belief systems. They serve an important func-
the highlights of the circuitry. They would stop tion by providing a means for people to interact
me and say, No, Im not technical. I just want and bond together. In the case of audio, getting
to know what kinds of parts it has. I soon too involved with a belief system can cause a lot
stopped trying to describe the circuit. of unnecessary expense. After investing a
For some reason, many audiophiles have significant amount of money in equipment,
a terrible apprehension of anything that is consi- based upon a particular belief system, it be-
dered technical. What motivations could comes very difficult to convince someone that
cause these attitudes? Im sure one is that they could have obtained better performance for
technical information is considered by many to half the money. The more money spent, the
be totally unreachable by the lay person because stronger the belief system becomes.
it is shrouded in advanced mathematics and Much of what is taken as proper and
mired in incomprehensible abstract concepts. correct in this business is nothing more than he
Another possibility is that true high-end audio- said-she said. The weight given to the informa-
philes have broken the shackles and limitations tion depends on the speakers image and
of science and engineering and do not wish to following. These people often dont provide any
be restricted by such earthly things. This justifications for their recommendations or
requires using devices and procedures that create reveal any reasoning to back up their predic-
perceived benefits but defy all attempts to reveal tions. Neither do shamans. They usually just
any measurable differences, even with the finest say, You should do this because I said so. I
and most sensitive scientific instruments. am a follower of science and only care what the
If one is a follower of either of these two science reveals. Science teaches us the mecha-
belief systems, then one is at the mercy of the nisms of nature. If you understand how and why
mass marketers who have intentions to capture things work, then you can predict the outcomes
as much of your money as they can. It is to the of natural events. Instead of relying on someone
benefit of all audio consumers to educate elses preaching, knowledge can be used to
themselves so as not to fall prey to the unscru- determine what beneficial approach should be
pulous. You dont have to go to college to taken. Faith is a necessary component of
acquire basic information; just read this book. spiritual matters but knowledge will go a long
Belief systems work like a religion. way when selecting hardware.

For some unexplained reason, technical of the physics of electricity and electrical signals.
and academic credentials dont seem to be a This reads very slowly. Each sentence can cause
major factor in labeling someone an expert in one to pause and ponder. Its supposed to. Take
the often strange world of audio. There are no your time and dont give up. Scientific material
exams, academic standards, professional require- never reads like a novel. You will probably have
ments, or certifications of any kind required for to read each paragraph two or three times.
anyone to design, manufacture, sell, review, Depending upon how much science you have
publish, or engage in any activity concerning been exposed to, the next section probably
audio equipment. The industry operates like a should not be attempted in one sitting. Odds
sixteenth century bazaar. You set up your table are that you are not going to fully absorb and
under the tent and start selling. Anything goes comprehend 100% of the concepts presented
and most everything does. The types of products the first time through. This is normal when
sold in this industry range from those with the studying science. Come back to it in a few days
highest integrity based on solid design and top- and the obscure parts should become clearer. It
notch construction to total fraud. Claims range is very important that you try to understand this
from the honest and legitimate to statements material as it forms a foundation for much of
that are so bizarre that they would never make it what follows. The information builds on
into a low budget science fiction movie. Im successive sections so it would be best if you
sure none of you would ever consider letting the didnt skip around. Hold on for a wild ride.
mailman put braces on your childs teeth, or let Some of you are not going to like what follows.
the plumber remove your appendix, but most
dont think twice about buying a $10,000 ELECTRICITY
amplifier from someone who doesnt even have We use it all of the time. Our lives are
two years of tech school training. Perhaps the totally dependent upon it. Most people dont
mass marketers know something I dont, like have the vaguest idea what it is. In order to
how to sell anything to anybody. understand it, we have to examine its three
The information presented here is scien- manifestations: the electric charge, the electric
tific fact, all drawn from standard textbooks and field, and electric current. We can then under-
professional references. It is not feasible to stand where it comes from, what makes it go,
attempt to present all of the theory that one and what to do with it.
would receive in a four-year degree program. All matter is composed of atoms. No
Instead, I will concentrate on those issues that substance can be broken down into anything
most directly relate to purchasing decisions smaller than an atom without being changed
commonly made by audiophiles; primarily into a different material. The most principal
cables, wire, capacitors, connectors, amplifica- element of electricity is the electron, one of the
tion and power supply equipment. Im not a three major components of atoms. The other
speaker guy, so those areas will be omitted. I two are protons and neutrons. In an atom, the
know enough to know what I dont know. I am protons and neutrons form the center called the
not going to say which products are legitimate nucleus. Surrounding the nucleus are the
and which are not. What I am going to do is electrons which move around it in spherical
present fundamental engineering science and shells, like concentric spheres. Think of placing
then let you decide. No equations and math- a soccer ball inside a beach ball at its center and
ematics will be used in the explanations for fear a baseball inside the soccer ball at its center.
of repelling the people who need this informa- This arrangement would form three concentric
tion the most. spheres. The areas that contain the electron
The next few sections will concern basic movement are called electron shells. There is a
fundamentals of the nature and properties of tremendous amount of space between the
electricity and electrical signals. The category of electrons and nucleus. In fact, atoms are mostly
science that addresses these subjects is physics. empty space. If an atom was the size of a
What follows is a highly condensed discussion baseball, the nucleus would measure only 25

millionths of an inch. Studying the behavior of
electrons, their fields and motion, will reveal
what electricity is.
An electron possesses an electrical charge,
making it a charged particle. The amount of
charge is constant and equal among all elec-
trons. There are two kinds of charges, positive
and negative, with electrons possessing the
negative type. Protons have a positive charge.
Associated with the electrical charge is an electric
field. A field is a type of energy projected into
space like a light beam or radio signal. The field
emanates from the electron in all directions like
Electrical Field Projecting from Charged Particle
an expanding sphere. The farther away, the Field expands equally in all directions. The closer to the
weaker the field gets. When two or more particle, the stronger the field. Field lines move farther
electrical fields interact, a resultant force is apart as the field expands showing a reduction in strength.
created called the electrical force which is one of
the fundamental forces of nature. It causes
oppositely charged particles to be attracted
(drawn toward each other) and like charges to
be repelled (pushed away from each other). The
electrical force is the glue that binds atoms
together to form materials and compounds.
In many metallic substances there are + -
electrons in the outer most shell that are loosely
bound to their atoms. The connection is so
loose that these electrons freely move at random
through the metal, jumping from atom to atom
in a totally haphazard fashion. This ease of
electron movement is what allows an element to
Electrical Field For Two Oppositely Charged Particles
be used as a conductor. Field lines show particles are pulled toward each other.
Nothing in the universe moves without
the application of energy. Energy from the food
you eat allows you to walk, energy from gasoline
powers your car, and energy from electricity
operates a fan. Because of the ease of electron
movement between the atoms of a good con- _
ductor, very little energy needs to be applied to
coax them to move in any particular+direction. -- _
The source of energy that powers the aforemen-
tioned random movement of electrons in a
conductor is heat. At ambient conditions of 77
degrees Fahrenheit, a considerable amount of
heat energy is present. Only at a temperature
called absolute zero would this motion stop and
that is 459 degrees F. below zero! Electrical Field For Two Same Charged Particles
Field lines show particles pulled away from each other.
By applying energy to a conductor in the
form of an electrical field, electrons can be made
to flow through it in a specific direction. An Electrical Fields of Particles
electric current is therefore the flow or migration of Figure 1

electrons (charged particles) through a conductor. electrons into the suspended wire of our ex-
The classical analogy for electric current is to ample. This would obviously cause a concentra-
think of a pipe full of water. The water mol- tion of charges at the injection point. These
ecules represent the electrons. If there is no pres- charges by virtue of their close proximity would
sure on the water, it will not flow through the generate an electrical field. The resultant field
pipe. Water pressure represents the electric field. would then act to immediately disburse the
Applying pressure pushes on the water and it extra electrons. They would move away from
moves through the pipe. What actually makes each other until they were equally dispersed.
the electrons move and how do they move? An- When they disperse, they jump to the nearest
swering these questions reveals how to control atom and displace an existing electron which
or modulate electrical current to do useful work. jumps to its neighbor causing electrons to move
We must now turn our attention to the in a chain reaction. In fact, they would disperse
static condition of adding excess charges to a until the same number of electrons that were
conductor where there is no place for them to added had relocated to the very surface of the
flow. This is called an insulated conductor and the conductor. This happens because no conductor
subject is called Electrostatics. can maintain a static internal electric field. Any
Imagine a piece of wire suspended in the electrical field inside a conductor will set up
air, not in contact with anything. What would forces that will move electrons until the field is
happen if we could somehow inject a quantity reduced to zero. This action is so complete that
of electrons into the wire? Where would they the extra electrons we added will displace exis-
go? ting electrons until an equivalent number are
The mechanism for causing electron located on the actual surface of the conductor.
movement in wire is the application of energy. The water analogy for this action would be a
Energy added in the form of heat will only cause bucket of water under a flowing spigot. As the
increased random motion with no net direction bucket overflowed, the water going over the side
established. The type of energy used to cause is not the water immediately dropping into the
electron movement in a particular direction is bucket. The overflow is caused by water being
the electric field. We have already stated that a displaced by the additional water added to the
charged particle has an electric field associated bucket.
with it. So to generate an electric field, we need There is a limit to how many electrons can
to collect a quantity of charged particles. be added to the conductor. Eventually, the
Static electricity is an example of this charge becomes so great that the electrons will
collection process. Sometimes, when you walk jump through the air to another object and
across a carpet and touch a door knob, you get discharge. The discharge of static electricity
shocked. The energy from walking causes elec- when a door knob is touched is an example of
trons to be transferred from the carpet to your this. So is lightning.
shoes or vice versa. The direction of transfer is Those who have studied physics know
determined by the materials involved. The more that energy cannot be created or destroyed. We
you rub your shoes against the carpet, the more added energy to the wire when it was injected
charges are transferred and the greater the shock. with electrons. Where did the energy go? The
The charges that are picked up are equally electrons that moved to the surface of the
distributed all over the surface of your body. conductor contain the extra energy. It is held in
Touch the doorknob with your elbow, forehead, an electric field which is now projecting out of
or leg and you will still receive the same shock. the surface and is always oriented perpendicular
The shock is caused when the charged particles to it. We say that these electrons have a higher
leave you and is therefore a discharge of electric potential than the electrons inside the conductor.
current from your body. The rate of that dis- These extra electrons have a voltage.
charge is obviously very fast as it lasts only as When we say that an electron has a
long as the instantaneous flash of a spark. voltage, that is a measurement of how much
Lets suppose we did inject a quantity of energy it contains. The higher the voltage, the

greater the energy and the capacity to do work. maintained field. The field cannot go away
Large residential air conditioners always operate because the battery is still connected, so the
on 240 volts instead of 120 volts. Thats be- electrons keep moving. Disconnect the battery
cause, at 240 volts, the same amount of current and all migration stops.
can do twice as much work as 120 volts. The The direction of electron movement
delivery of energy is therefore more efficient, defines polarity. Reverse the connections on the
allowing more energy to be transmitted in the battery and the current will flow in the opposite
same size wire. Utility power lines operate at direction. When current flows in one direction
many tens of thousands of volts for the same only, it is called direct current or DC.
reason. Returning to our water analogy, voltage Now here is where things get really
can be thought of as the amount of pressure on strange. Electricity moves at practically the
the water. The greater the pressure, the more speed of light but electric current does not. In
force the water has, and the more work it can fact, it creeps along at a speed of about one inch
do. A high pressure stream of water can wash per second! How can this be? There are two
more dirt off a car than a low pressure stream. factors that must be examined.
The static case just described illustrates the Electric fields are like radio waves in that
mechanism of charge redistribution inside a they both travel at the speed of light. This
conductor. It is this mechanism that causes means that all of the free electrons in the
electrical current to flow. conductor are instantly affected by the field.
In order to sustain a current flow through Remember, a field is like a voltage. So when the
a conductor, a means must be found to main- field is set up, all the free electrons instantly
tain a continuous electric field. Some external acquire essentially the same voltage (assuming
device must be employed to provide this the wire has zero resistance), and consequently
function. A battery is such a device. the same energy. What is crucial to understand
Batteries produce electrical energy through is that all the electrons are the same. The
a chemical reaction. They constantly generate capacity for them to do work is proportional to
free electrons that move to one terminal as they their voltage which is now equivalent. Return-
are drawn off by an apparatus or load like a light ing to the water analogy, increasing the water
bulb. Every electron that is drawn off changes pressure at one end of a pipe will essentially
the chemistry inside and another is sent to take cause that same increase in pressure to appear at
its place. the other end. The electrons do not have to race
The concentration of electrons at the through the conductor at the speed of light. It is
battery terminal is the source of the field. If a the electric field, which is moving at the speed of
conductor is connected between the two termi- light, that transfers energy through the conduc-
nals of the battery, an electric current will flow. tor by raising the voltage of all the free electrons.
The difference in voltage between the terminals The electrons barely move in the direction of the
of the battery produces an electric field through field. The speed of the electron current flow is
the conductor. called the drift velocity.
An electric field is a manifestation of a Earlier, it was mentioned that, in an
voltage. They are, in effect, the same. The uncharged conductor, the electrons freely move
voltage across the conductor defines the strength from atom to atom in a random fashion. The
of the field. Field strength is measured in volts speed of this motion is billions of times greater
per distance. The maintained field is not a than the drift velocity. When a current is
contradiction with the static case just described. established, the electrons still bounce around all
That example refers to conditions where there is over the place, constantly running into other
no continuous source of electrons and no atoms at high speed. An applied electric field
applied external field. With a maintained field, causes them to drift in a general direction setting
the conductor acts as a conduit which carries the up a current. Think of a storm cloud full of
electric field. The electrons inside of the con- water droplets in the sky. The individual
ductor migrate in an effort to dissipate the droplets within the cloud may be traveling in

various directions at one hundred miles per contained energy by giving up their voltage into
hour riding on strong internal wind currents. a load. They leave the load with no extra
The cloud itself might only be drifting along at voltage; the load consumed that energy to do
five miles per hour. The cloud movement rep- work like operate a fan or light a light bulb.
resents current flow and the high speed random An audio signal is an AC signal. The
movement of the water droplets represents difference between audio and electric power is
electron movement caused by heat energy. that electric power operates over much higher
Drift velocity is not fixed. The quoted voltages than are typically produced in an audio
speed of one inch per second is a typical rate. system. Also, power signals are at one frequency
For any given current flow, the smaller the (60 Hz in the U.S.) while audio frequencies vary
conductor, the higher the drift velocity. More over the range of human hearing.
electrons have to pass through a narrower An example using audio equipment
passageway forcing them to travel at a higher would be a loudspeaker and a speaker cable.
velocity. The larger the conductor, the lower the The cable contains a tremendous amount of free
velocity. In any event, the speed of current flow electrons, one for each atom. What actually
in a conductor can almost always be outrun by a happens is that during the positive half cycle of
bicycle. an audio signal, the amplifier pushes electrons
The case of an alternating current, or AC, is into the cable. Because of the electric field,
then quite the different phenomenon one might electrons instantly move from the cable into the
envision once electron movement is understood. speaker. During the negative half cycle, elec-
An alternating current is defined as reversing trons are pulled back into the amp and out of
polarity periodically. Power from the electric the speaker back into the cable. The process
utilities in North America has a frequency of 60 keeps repeating. Because of the huge reservoir
cycles per second. The current actually reverses of free electrons in the cable, it is highly likely
direction at twice that rate at 120 times a second that the electrons coming out of the amplifier
because each cycle consists of equal positive and never make it to the speaker. Current flow is
negative sections. Now this poses an interesting then a constant exchange of electrons into and
situation. We have already established that
electrons migrate very slowly. With AC the
electrons in the conductor oscillate back and
forth, never really going anywhere because the
field reverses polarity before they have had a 1.5 V Current Out
chance drift very far. A frequency of 60 Hz has a
polarity reversal time of .0083 second. If the +
drift speed is one inch per second, the electrons
will drift only .0083 inch before they reverse
direction. - Light Bulb
The transmission of electric power always 0V
requires two conductors. We usually think of
them as one going out (the hot lead) and one
Current Return
coming back (the grounded lead). The current
flowing in each conductor is equal. The differ-
Current Out equals Current Return.
ence between the two is that the current in the
Voltage of Curent Out equals 1.5V.
grounded lead is at a lower potential, a lower Voltage of Current Return equals 0V.
voltage, than the current in the hot lead. The
voltage of the grounded conductor is virtually Lost voltage of current converted into
heat and light in light bulb and wires.
zero. The voltage difference between the two
conductors was consumed by the load and
signifies all of the energy delivered to it. There- Power Transfer from Current to Load
fore, the mechanism of delivering electric power Figure 2
into a load is electrons transferring their

possible effect. By the way, stepping on cables
Positive or bending them doesnt do anything to the
sound either.
Polarity Time Conductivity and resistivity are inverse
Reverses properties. A good conductor is a poor resistor
and a good resistor is a poor conductor. What
Negative causes resistance? Why do some materials make
Voltage better conductors than others?
The ability of a material to act as a con-
Current reverses direction each time it passes ductor is set by its atomic structure. We cant
through zero volts. One complete cycle requires a change that. Its a natural property. The best
positive going portion and a negative going portion.
conductor is silver. Copper is second best, but it
Alternating Current-Sine Wave is very close to silver. Actually, copper is only
Figure 3 6% less conductive than silver. Thats not much
of a difference. Increasing the cross sectional
area of a copper wire by 6% makes it equivalent
out of the cable. Voltage is transferred from the to silver wire as far as the electrons are con-
electrons to the voice coil, thereby liberating cerned. We have already determined that the
their energy and causing the speaker cone to electric field controls the behavior of the signal,
move. I fear that some cable manufacturer is not the electrons.
going to read this and claim that their cables Any current flowing through a conductor
contain special audiophile grade electrons that will cause it to heat up. As the electrons travel,
will improve the performance of any speaker. It they constantly smash into other atoms. From
wouldnt make any difference. The electrons are classical physics, the energy of a moving body is
merely messengers that transfer the energy of the called kinetic energy. When the electrons slam
audio signal, via their voltage, into a load. All of into an atom, they transfer their kinetic energy
the electrons are the same. The transfer of to the atom and make it vibrate. The vibrational
energy is totally controlled by the electric field. motion of atoms causes heat. The more they
The field is everything in transferring signals. vibrate, the hotter they are. This is why a small
Electric current flow in a conductor is wire gets hot when a large current passes
always controlled by an applied field. The through it. The current density goes up and the
electrons can only move in response to the field. drift velocity increases, both causing many more
They are totally subordinate to it. Only by collisions and significant heating.
changing the field can current flow be manipu- The hotter a conductor becomes, the
lated. Thus, the mechanism for altering an greater its resistivity. Thats because there is
audio signal as it travels through a conductor is increased random movement in the free
altering the electric field. electrons as they are excited by the additional
Audiophiles have often told me that their heat. The more they move around, the harder it
cables have to be connected in a certain direc- is for them to flow in a given direction as they
tion because they were broken in that way. keep slamming into more atoms. Cooling a
Unfortunately, this is an incorrect assumption. conductor decreases resistivity by reducing the
Since audio is an AC signal, the direction of the random electron movement. When temperatures
current flow changes with each half cycle. Half approach absolute zero, some materials actually
the time it is traveling from left to right and half loose all resistivity and become super conduc-
the time it is traveling from right to left. There- tors. I hope I didnt just create a monster so that
fore, there is no net direction to the current flow. now some cable manufacturer is going to come
Current flow is equal in both directions. Conse- out with a refrigerated speaker cable. Hold on
quently, reversing the cable connections has no to your wallets!

Because the electrons keep bumping into environment of a residence is fairly easy to do
atoms, they cannot accelerate to higher velocities compared to the rigors of interplanetary space
as they travel. The collisions keep electron drift travel. However, the mass marketers make it
velocity low. Therefore, drift speed is so low seem as if this is the most difficult task in the
because there are just too many road blocks in world requiring exotic materials (read expen-
the way. sive) and top-secret proprietary technology.
The primary factors that determine how Before we pass any judgements, lets investigate
much resistance a conductor has are its resistiv- how the non-audio world makes electrical
ity, its cross sectional area, and its length. These connections.
relationships are all directly proportional. The most widely used material for electri-
Increase the cross sectional area by two and the cal conductors is copper. The type of copper
resistance drops by a factor of two. Double the used is called electrolytic copper, ASTM type B5.
length and the resistance increases by a factor of ASTM stands for American Society of Testing
two. Use a material with twice the resistivity Materials. They set the manufacturing specifica-
and the resistance doubles. Materials that make tions for just about everything. B5 copper is the
good resistors have an atomic structure in which benchmark for conductivity as all other materi-
the free electrons are slightly bound to their als are gauged against it. It is 99.95% copper,
atoms. They have a lattice structure that presents .04% oxygen and .01% miscellaneous impuri-
lots of collisions to the movement of electrons. ties. It is usually cold drawn when formed into
The quantity of resistance, measured in ohms, is wire. That means it is pulled through succes-
that which opposes the flow of current in a sively smaller dies until it reaches the desired
conductor. For any given resistance, a specific diameter. No heat is applied during the drawing
voltage is required to push a specific amount of process. Cold drawing gives it more tensile
current through it. Double the resistance and strength.
twice as much voltage will be needed to push There is another type of copper wire that
the same amount of current through the conduc- is much more expensive. It is called Oxygen
tor. That is Ohms Law. Free High Conductivity, or OFHC. The ASTM
The heating of a conductor or resistor designation is type B170. It has a fairly impres-
represents a transformation of energy. The heat sive name indeed. The content is 99.95%
energy that is liberated is taken from the electri- copper without the oxygen and .05% other
cal energy of the current. The debit of electrical impurities. Its primary application is that it
energy is accompanied by a corresponding drop better tolerates severe cold forming operations
in voltage. We say that a resistor has a voltage when being fabricated into intricate parts. Its
drop across it when a current flows through it. name would tend to make one believe that it
The amount of energy given off as heat is exactly would be a great material for audio applications.
equal to the amount of energy lost in the voltage However, the conductivity of OHFC is exactly the
drop. The flow of energy is always conserved. same as standard type B5 copper. You just cant
judge a book by its cover! It pays to always read
The technology behind this area is very
mature. Switches, relays, terminal blocks, cords,
and all manner of connection devices have been
in use for more than 100 years with every
conceivable type of signal imaginable. Further-
more, electrical connections are made in every
type of environment from under water to outer
space and at frigid temperatures to blast fur- Copper tarnishes when exposed to the air
naces. A tremendous variety of materials, and forms a black oxide. Once the oxide sets
platings, alloys, and fabrication techniques are up, it doesnt keep getting progressively worse,
available for the designer to utilize. but maintains a steady thickness. If exposed to
Coupling an audio signal in the benign moisture and carbon dioxide (outdoor applica-

tions), it acquires the familiar green patina that or wire placed beneath it, thereby ensuring an
you no doubt have seen on buildings and excellent connection. It is extremely important
statuary. These oxides actually protect the to achieve a high quality, highly conductive
copper underneath, but they make electrical connection when working with power wiring. A
connections difficult and soldering practically poor connection will get hot, degrade and
impossible. Therefore, for electronic applica- corrode, causing it to become hotter still and
tions, copper wire and connectors are always even cause a fire. Terminal blocks with binding
plated with another material. Before we discuss head screws have been in use for many decades
plating methods, we need to investigate just but have all but disappeared from the high-end
exactly what an electrical connection is. audio scene. By far, the most common material
If you examine a highly polished piece of used for this and most other types of electrical
metal under an electron microscope, the surface connections is nickel plated brass.
would look like a jagged mountain range. When Brass is a very old and useful alloy. It
a connection is made between two such pieces, consists of copper with a 35 to 40 percent tin
the peaks on the surfaces would make random content. Its conductivity is only about one
contact. Most of the contact area is actually fourth that of copper but that is easily compen-
open space. If the connection is under sufficient sated for because connectors have very short
pressure, the contact points are forced into each lengths and the cross sectional area can be easily
other and a bond is formed called a cold weld. increased as needed. The big advantage it offers
The contact points really do weld together. You over copper is that it is much harder and has
probably have experienced this many times much greater tensile strength. Copper is too soft
yourself. Have you ever tried to loosen a metal to be used as a connector in many applications.
screw from an unpainted metal object? This One of the problems with brass is that is
does not have to be from an electrical connec- tarnishes very easily, hence the need for plating.
tion. The screw might be small but you have to Nickel is the most commonly used material.
use all your strength to make it move. It sud- Why?
denly breaks free and makes a pronounced Nickel bonds to brass very well when
snap noise when it first moves. Then it electroplated. Nickel also is extremely resistant
unscrews very easily the rest of the way. The to oxidation. You dont have to worry about
usual reaction is What kind of a gorilla tight- cleaning it. It is hard and durable, preventing it
ened this screw down? The snap you heard was from wearing off during repeated fastenings.
the welds breaking. The screw was not over The conductivity is only about one fourth that of
tightened. Over time, maybe years, the constant copper, but the plating thickness is so thin, that
pressure caused the welds to become more its contribution to resistance is negligible. A few
numerous and stronger because metal tends to extra micro ohms arent going to make any
flow under those conditions. Sometimes the difference.
welding is so pronounced, you have to drill the Gold is a highly popular plating material
screw out in order to get the thing apart. in audio. Its conductivity is very high and it is
This type of connection is called a gas tight virtually immune to all forms of oxidation.
connection because atmospheric gasses cannot
penetrate the contact areas and cause them to
oxidize and deteriorate. The screw may tarnish
and look bad, but the actual connection is quite
good. High pressure is required for this type of
connection to be effective.
The traditional way to implement a gas
tight connection is with a binding head screw. Superb for speaker terminations. Cost: $2.50
This type of screw has a wide head with a rim
that projects under the outer circumference. The Feed Through Terminal Block
rim of projected metal has the ability to cut Figure 4
through any surface oxidation on the terminal

Gold is also very soft and cannot withstand much tion is made at the terminal, what possible
abrasion as it will wear easily. benefits can be obtained by having an all-metal
There are different classes of connections top piece?
that require different technologies. Two major Another consideration regarding the
categories are high pressure/high power and low connections made with binding posts is what
pressure/low power connections. High pressure/ type of terminal is used. I use standard tin-
high power connections are primarily found in plated copper terminal lugs that I buy at the
electrical switchgear where hundreds of amps of hardware store for about 25 cents each. That
current are switched from 480 volts up to tens of choice shouldnt surprise you by now. For a lot
thousands of volts. The closest analogy to that more money, audiophile grade lugs are
type of connection is the speaker binding post available. They sometimes cause more prob-
albeit the power levels are many thousands of lems than they solve. First of all, they can be so
times lower. These types of contacts require thick that they often wont fit inside the binding
great mechanical strength to withstand repeated post. Their thickness makes them so stiff that it
operations. The materials used for the contacts becomes difficult to tighten the post down
may be subject to surface oxidation. They are without using a wrench. Compounding this
selected for their ruggedness and longevity in problem is the fact that many speaker cables are
this application. The surface oxidation is not a so rigid and inflexible that they place a large
problem because when the switch closes, an arc twisting force on the connection, mandating the
is formed which literally burns it off allowing use of a wrench to apply enough torque to keep
for a good metal-to-metal connection. In very the binding post from unscrewing.
high voltage applications, the arc is so powerful When cables with reasonable flexibility
it actually vaporizes contact material and the are used with a conventional sized lug, no
switches are designed to allow most of it to con- wrench should be necessary. Finger tightening
dense back on the contact, thereby recycling it. should suffice. If additional torque is still
The case of the binding post is similar required, a nut driver should be used, as an
only because the relatively high pressure and open-ended wrench can easily apply too much
rotational action when tightened down cuts torque and twist off the binding post.
through any surface oxides on the terminal The case of the RCA jack is completely
facilitating a good metal-to-metal connection. different from the binding post. It definitely
The question then arises: does it matter what falls into the low pressure/low power category.
material the binding post is plated with since The current levels are in the low micro amp
mechanical action alone will create a good range and there is no screw type device to
connection? The plating material need only
provide a durable bearing surface and control
oxidation to the extant that it doesnt interfere
with the connection.
Many audiophiles feel that a plastic
(usually nylon) insulated binding post is cheap
and ineffective. The internal construction of the
so-called cheap post is usually a solid one
quarter inch brass shaft set in a nylon collar.
The plastic around the metal is functional. It
provides insulation on the order of 1500 volts.
The hexagonal part that is tightened has a heavy
threaded brass bushing inside which makes the
Heavy-duty binding post, rated at 30 amps, 1500 volts.
connection with the terminal. The brass parts
Cost: Gold plated-$5.00, Nickel plated-$3.50
are plated with either nickel or gold. The
consumer should ask: Why is this system any Insulated Binding Post
different from any other? Once a solid connec- Figure 5

increase contact pressure. These conditions equipment and they work just fine.
indicate that an oxide-free surface would be
desirable. The low contact pressure minimizes INSULATORS
wear. Gold is therefore a suitable, if not ideal, In an insulator, like rubber or plastic,
candidate for a plating material on an RCA jack. there are no loosely bound electrons hopping
This does not mean that a nickel-plated jack will from atom-to-atom at will. All the electrons are
sound any worse. I personally cant tell any tightly bound to their host atoms. It would
difference. The use of gold increases the reliabil- require a tremendous amount of energy to get
ity of the connection particularly in corrosive them to move. So much so, that the insulating
environments and it certainly doesnt hurt material would be destroyed in the process.
anything. Nickel is often used as a sub-plating Materials that make good insulators generally
for gold. It facilitates good adhesion between make poor conductors of heat because of the
the gold and brass. Some believe that a nickel lack of free electron movement.
plating is damaging to the audio signal, but An insulator must do three things. It has
more times than not, whenever you see gold to be long-lasting in the environment that it is
there is nickel underneath. The RCA jacks that I used, it has to have sufficient mechanical
use in my equipment are gold over nickel over strength to withstand any abrasion and pound-
brass. ing it might experience, and it must provide
Selector switches are another type of low enough dielectric strength to prevent a short
power/low pressure contact. By far, the most circuit at the voltages used. Thats all any
widely used material is the silver-plated brass insulation does, no more, no less. Insulation
contact. The brass provides a strong base and itself has virtually no effect on the propagation
silver gives it the lowest contact resistance pos- of electrons through a conductor or the nature
sible. Silver is also soft, so low contact pressure of the electric field that is moving the electrons.
is necessary to keep it from wearing out. It only serves as an impenetrable boundary to
The problem of silver oxidation must be the electrons to keep them from going where
addressed. It is handled by the mechanical they should not. Different types of insulation
nature of the switch. One half of the contact is can contribute to minute differences in capaci-
shaped like a blunt knife, the other like a flat tive effects but these are negligible at audio
band. When the switch is rotated, the flat band frequencies.
is dragged across the knife edge and literally cuts
through any oxide. This is called a wiping
action. A reliable, low-resistance connection is
then assured. I have examined many rotary
switches on old equipment and, upon looking at
the contacts, it is plain to see a dark tarnished
contact with a shiny, clean narrow stripe
through it. The action of rotation cleans the
contacts with each pass. It is good maintenance
to exercise a rotary switch at least two or three
times a year to prevent too much oxide from
Movable Flat
building up. Leave an amp in a damp basement Stationary Blunt Band Contact
for 15 years, and the switches will require more Edge Contact
aggressive cleaning with chemical agents. Movable contacts are spring loaded and press against
Gold is sometimes used as the plating for blunt edge contacts. Rotating switch drags movable
switch contacts and so are gold/silver alloys. contacts across blunt edge contacts thereby removing
The ultimate choice is dependent upon the oxide build up and making a good connection.
Cost: $1.60, enclosed type-$3.00
applicationprimarily with regard to the envi-
ronment in which the switch will be used. I use Rotary Switch Contacts
switches with silver-plated brass contacts in my Figure 6

There are three and only three constitu-
ents that comprise all passive electric networks.
We have already discussed one and that is Lead Electrode
resistance. The other two are reactive properties 1234567890123456789012345678
called capacitance and inductance. Capacitance 1234567890123456789012345678
1234567890123456789012345678 Dielectric
relates to electric fields and inductance to mag-
netic fields. An electric field can store energy,
like a battery. Capacitance is the property that Electrode
describes the storage of energy in an electric
field. Electric field contained within dielectric
A capacitor has a simple structure. Imag- and perdendicular to electrodes.
ine two parallel metal plates one inch square. Capacitor
Aluminum foil would work nicely. Separate the
Figure 7
plates and sandwich a one inch square piece of
plastic wrap between them. Press the assembly
together so there is no air in between the plates. able improvement when changing out a lessor
You just made yourself a capacitor! The plates performing unit with a better one. The principle
are commonly referred to as electrodes and the change I notice is that the sound is smoother
plastic wrap is called the dielectric. When a and less brittle. I do not detect any spacial or
voltage is impressed across the capacitor, an dimensional changes in the sonic image. I can
electric field is set up between the plates. This confidently say that there is an improvement in
field stores energy. The amount of energy the tonality. I can also confidently say that you
storage is determined by two things. One is the should be able to find good-sounding capacitors
capacitance which is primarily controlled by the from between $1.50 and $3.00 each. Experience
dimensions of the structure and the dielectric has shown me that film type capacitors generally
material. The other is the voltage across it. So sound better than those with metalized film
the two requirements for capacitance to be pre- construction. I have no idea why one type
sent are two electrodes separated by a dielectric. sounds better than another and have no infor-
The units of measurement for capacitance are mation to offer.
the microfarad and picofarad (one millionth Different dielectric materials change the
and one trillionth of a farad, respectively). capacitance of any capacitive structure. The
In a commercial capacitor, the internal mechanism for this is that the molecules on the
structure is composed of a film of a conductor very surface of the dielectric become polarized
and a dielectric, similar to an aluminized plastic when immersed in an electric field. That means
tape. These films are highly specialized products one of their electrons moves slightly to cause
and are only manufactured by a few firms in the one end of the molecules to be more negative
world. There are many types of films made out than the other. The degree of electron move-
of a broad range of materials. Browse through ment is less than the size of an atom. The term
any electronic parts catalog to get a feel for the for this effect is called a dipole. The polarization
variety. The capacitor companies buy the films of the dielectric sets up an electric field that
and wind them into the body of the capacitor. opposes the field across the capacitor. The net
Then they attach leads and encapsulate the unit effect is to reduce the total electric field across
in a durable housing. the capacitor. The more the dielectric reduces
All capacitors have a voltage rating. the electric field, the greater the capacitance of
Whatever unit that is selected must be rated to the capacitor.
withstand the maximum voltage that will be Air is a dielectric. Two bare wires aligned
impressed across it. Otherwise, failures can parallel to each other with a space in between
occur. constitute a capacitor, albeit a really small one.
Do coupling capacitors affect the sound? The farther apart the electrodes, the lower the
Absolutely yes! I can attest to a definite notice- capacitance for any given arrangement.

All wiring possesses capacitance. There is have to paddle to move forward. The conductor
stray capacitance between wires and the chassis therefore becomes more inductive and the
they are enclosed in. There is also stray capaci- assembly is said to have more inductance. The
tance between individual wires. These quanti- more turns, the greater the inductive effect.
ties are all very small and are usually negligible A major difference between the action of a
at audio frequencies. The crucial determinates magnetic field and an electric field is that the
in setting these capacitances are the length of the magnetic field has a directional component
interconnecting wires and their proximity to associated with it. Two nearby conductors can
each other. The type of insulation has virtually be physically arranged in such a way as to cancel
no effect on altering internal wiring capacitance any mutual magnetic effects. This can be
because the distances between the wires pre- accomplished by twisting wires together or
dominate. The use of a printed circuit board can rotating their axis 90 degrees in one plane.
greatly reduce these effects because it provides If a magnetic material, like a piece of iron,
for very short, direct connections between is placed inside a looped conductor, the mag-
components. Long cable runs between circuit netic field is made many times stronger. This
stages are the biggest contributor to stray characteristic is called permeability. Air has a
capacitance. In critical applications, the physical permeability of one. Some magnetic materials
layout of the circuit must be arranged to mini- have a permeability that ranges into the tens of
mize stray wiring capacitance. thousands. The inductive effect is proportional
All capacitors block DC. When an input is to the permeability. Strengthening the magnetic
designated as AC coupled, that means a field increases the ability of each loop to induce
capacitor is in series with it. Capacitors there- reverse currents in its surrounding loops. The
fore only pass AC. The resistance a capacitor has inclusion of a highly permeable core in any
to the flow of AC is dependent on the frequency inductor dramatically increases the efficiency of
of the signal. The higher the frequency, the the assembly, requiring far fewer turns of wire to
lower the resistance. This relationship is directly achieve the same inductance.
proportional. A capacitor is 1000 times less Inductors for loudspeaker crossovers can
resistive at 20,000 Hz than it is at 20 Hz. Large be purchased with air cores or magnetic cores.
value capacitors are called electrolytic capacitors The air core inductors are much more expensive
and their internal structure requires that they are because they require many more turns which
polarity sensitive to DC signals. Install one necessitates using large wire to keep the resis-
backwards and they act like a short circuit and tance down. The advantage of using an air core
will self destruct. inductor is that it is totally linear with high
currents. A magnetic core inductor can saturate
Whenever current travels through a wire, a
magnetic field is produced. A time-varying
current (AC) produces a time-varying magnetic
field. The magnetic field emanating from a
straight conductor takes the form of concentric
cylinders aligned with the conductors longitudi-
nal axis. Whenever a time-varying magnetic
field passes through another conductor it induces
a current that flows in the opposite direction. If
the conductor is formed into loops, each loop
induces a reverse current in the loops near it. Inductor constructed of four layers of enameled
copper wire wound over a cylindrical magnetic core.
Since the induced currents flow in the opposite
direction of the original current, the conductor
becomes more resistive. The effect is like trying
Figure 8
to paddle a canoe upstream against a river
current. The stronger the current, the harder you

and become nonlinear with high currents. This special magnetic shielding to minimize corrup-
can be avoided by designing a core that is big tion from external fields. Output transformers
enough to handle the worst case current loads can pick up hum from nearby power transform-
without going into saturation. ers. This is a common problem.
Just as in the case of the electric field, the The only possible way to alter the output
magnetic field stores energy. If you have ever signal of a transformer with an external device is
unplugged a motorized electric appliance while to introduce a time-varying magnetic field into
it was in operation, you probably saw a spark the core, or project it across the coils. That
jump from the outlet to the plug. In order for a requires another inductive device (something
spark to jump through the air, a high voltage with coils of wire) and a power source to
must be present. When you pulled the plug, the provide the needed energy. In addition, due to
magnetic field in the windings of the motor the directional component of magnetic fields,
collapsed very quickly. The speed of the fields any interaction is highly dependent on the
movement as it contracted induced a voltage physical orientation of the external field source.
spike which propelled the spark. The visible Passive devices that contain no power source
discharge is then the liberation of the energy cannot possibly affect the output signal as they
stored in the motors magnetic field. have no means to generate a magnetic field. It
Induction is the mechanism that makes would be possible to construct a device that had
transformers work. In a simple transformer, an internal coil that could, through mutual
there are two separate coils called the primary inductance, draw some minute amount of
and secondary. They are wound on a core of power from field leakage off the core. Distance,
magnetic material. The two coils are electrically orientation, available field leakage and turns
isolated from each other. When an alternating ratios cannot be controlled. There is, therefore,
current flows through the primary, a corre- no way to implement this scheme successfully
sponding alternating magnetic field moves even if some beneficial sonic effect could be
through the magnetic core and transfers most of derived from the extracted power, which it
the energy of the primary current into the cannot.
secondary. The replication of the current from The unit of measurement for inductance is
primary to secondary can be extremely accurate the Henry, usually expressed as millihenries. The
with the proper configuration. Transformers are resistive nature of inductance is the inverse of
used to change voltages, provide isolation from capacitance. The higher the frequency, the
the power line, and change impedances. higher the resistance. This relationship is also
Sufficient DC injected into a transformer directly proportional with frequency. Inductors
winding will cause the core to saturate and pass DC and consequently are subject to power
become nonlinear. Thats why it is important
that bias levels in output tubes be closely
balanced to prevent premature saturation in the
output transformer as it usually doesnt take
much DC to overload the core. The single-
ended amplifier has a special type of core that is
specifically designed to withstand a heavy DC
flow. Output transformers originally designed
for push-pull operation cannot be successfully
used in a single-ended design.
The magnetic field inside a transformer is
almost wholly contained within the core. There Secondary Coil Primary Coil
is always some leakage. A certain variety called
the toroid has virtually no leakage. Transform-
ers are also susceptible to external magnetic Power Transformer
fields. Critical low-level applications require Figure 9

dissipative effects. The coils of wire inside them to get a feel for the magnitude of this.
contain resistance which will convert some A typical size for a hookup wire is 22
voltage into heat. Also, the magnetic core gauge. It has a diameter of .0253 inch. At 20
material can only hold so much energy before it kHz, the effective resistance due to skin effect
saturates. These two conditions make it neces- increases by 0.5%. That isnt much of a differ-
sary to rate inductors for a maximum current ence. For example, a ten-inch long wire looks
level they can safely handle without risk of like a 10.05-inch wire to a 20-kHz signal. The
damage. Also, they are rated for a maximum increase in resistance is therefore insignificant.
circuit voltage because the insulation system A common size for speaker wires is 12
between the coils and core is designed to gauge which has a diameter of .081 inch. Skin
withstand only so much voltage. effect is much more pronounced with the larger
Magnetic fields have one other property wire as the effective resistance at 20 kHz is 33%
that must be addressed. They exert a force on greater. The initial calculation however, doesnt
any conductor that cuts through the field. This reveal the whole story. A typical length of
is the force that makes motors turn and trans- speaker cable is about ten feet. That means there
formers hum. It also is the force that moves is 20 feet of conductor because two are required.
loudspeakers in and out. The study of these The DC resistance of 20 feet of 12 gauge wire is
forces almost exclusively applies to electric .033 ohm, which is an extremely low amount.
machine theory and does not mandate further The action of skin effect increases that to .044
discussion. The area of concern that I would ohm at 20 kHz, an increase of only .011 ohm.
now like to address is inductive effects in cables. Again, this is an insignificant increase in resis-
SKIN EFFECT So when does skin effect become domi-
One of the most widely used terms in nate enough to cause problems? It is a highly
cable talk is skin effect. What really is skin effect? important parameter to consider in the design of
Any single conductor experiences a degree electric utility high voltage transmission lines
of self inductance. Alternating currents generate because the cables can be as big around as your
magnetic fields that create reverse currents that wrist and run for miles. These cables may carry
vary through the interior of the conductor. This hundreds if not thousands of amps of current. If
causes the effective resistance to vary through the they are too resistive, a lot of power will be
cross-sectional area of the conductor with re- wasted. Another case is in the design of high
spect to AC signals. The increase in resistance is amperage switchgear busses that often carry
caused by the distribution of current flow which upwards of 1000 amps. They are made of huge
is reduced at the center. The resistance at the bars of copper or aluminum which can cause
circumference is the same as with DC and is not equipment failures if they overheat when skin
impaired. Hence, the net effective resistance of effect isnt taken into consideration. These two
the conductor is increased. This effect does not examples involve signals of only 60 Hz where
apply to DC. The next questions that must be the size of the conductor is what makes skin
answered are: how much of a change occurs and effect a potential problem.
what factors modify the change in resistance? At very high frequencies, such as those
The two primary factors that control skin used in radio transmission, skin effect becomes
effect are the diameter of the conductor and the a dominant factor. The problem is doubly
frequency of the signal. The smaller the diam- compounded in a high-power radio transmitter
eter of the wire and the lower the frequency, the such as one used for a commercial FM radio or
lower the skin effect. The type of conductor is television station because now the conductor
also a factor. The higher the resistivity, the has to handle high current and high frequency.
lower the skin effect. Aluminum has less skin These applications necessitate special dedicated
effect than copper. Silver has more. A high re- use cables to bring about an efficient transfer of
sistance conductor like nichrome wire hardly power through them. Microwave transmitters
has any. Lets look at some practical examples are even more difficult and require conductors,

called wave guides, that have special geometries to reduce skin effect. The cost is only 80 cents per
efficiently transmit power. foot and that can be reduced if you share the
The examples illustrated so far have cable with a friend. There are dozens of multi-
nothing in common with the types of signals conductor cables with a wide variety of configu-
generated in a stereo system. It could be rea- rations that the audiophile can purchase from
soned that skin effect is not a significant param- parts distributors. Most of these can be bought
eter when transmitting audio signals through in 100-foot spools for $30 to $150. Many
cables. The frequencies are too low and the speaker cables cost over $100 per foot.
conductors are too small to cause any material Another interesting speaker cable project
problems. would be using tined copper braid for the
Many cable manufacturers claim that their conductors. It is available in either tubular or
cables use tiny wires grouped together which flat configurations and can be purchased for less
greatly minimizes skin effect since the individual than $2 per foot, depending on size. The braid
strands of conductors are so small that the skin will have to be encased in heat-shrink tubing to
effect goes away. The small conductors are bare. provide insulation. Use the very flexible kind,
There is no insulation separating them. Conse- 3M type VFP-876. This will add a little under
quently, they are all in intimate contact with one dollar per foot. An inexpensive electric hot-
each other. How can they function as individual air paint stripper can be used to shrink down the
conductors if they are all connected together? I tubing.
submit that they cannot. Furthermore, the data Considering the extreme range of geom-
for calculating skin effect have no entry or etries and configurations available, what does
compensation for stranded cables. Large power make dissimilar speaker cables sound differ-
cables are always constructed of many multiple ently? There must be something else going on
strands to achieve flexibility so they can be that alters the electric field. There certainly is,
wound onto a spool and installed in the field. and the answer involves studying the subject of
The criteria in determining skin effect is the reactive networks.
overall diameter of the cable assembly, not the
size of the individual strands. REACTIVE NETWORKS
The speaker cable I use is made up of 260 Capacitance and inductance are electrical
individual strands of tiny copper filaments. It properties that store energy in the form of
clearly sounds better than 16 gauge, 20 cent-a- electrical and magnetic fields respectively. The
foot lamp cord. (By the way, I paid $1.50 a foot natural process of storing and releasing this
for that cable at a retail store and it was not on energy takes time. There is always a rate of
sale.) I am unable to identify any specific mech- energy delivery into and out of any reactive
anism associated with using finely stranded component. The charging rate of the reactive
cable that makes it sound better than lamp cord, component is controlled by the resistance of the
but I only spent $35 so Im a happy customer. charge source. The higher the source resistance,
My best guess is it has something to do with the the longer the charging time. Using a water
self-inductive properties of the cable. analogy, it takes longer to fill a bucket of water if
Here is an interesting experiment that can the spigot is partially closed. The partially
be used to investigate whether or not skin effect closed spigot creates additional resistance that
in speaker cables is a factor in audible perfor- opposes the flow of water. The reduced water
mance. Ten cables of size 22 gauge are roughly flow takes more time to fill the bucket. A full
equivalent to one 12 gauge cable. You can buy a bucket of water represents a fully charged
100-foot spool of ten conductor, 22 gauge cable reactive device.
for about $40 (Alpha type 1180C). By using Because a finite amount of time must pass
one length of cable for the hot lead and one for to charge and discharge these devices, they have
the ground, two speaker cables with a length of the capability to alter the voltage of the signal.
up to 25 feet can be made. Simply strip the ends They can actually cause the signal to be dis-
of the individual wires and connect them all placed in time. The mechanism for the time
together. This configuration will dramatically displacement is the rate of charging the device.

When a reactive device charges, the frequency roll offs of the audio signal. This, I
voltage across it develops as the charging process believe, is the major factor that contributes to
continues. For instance, a capacitor cannot the varying sonic performance of different cable
instantaneously jump from zero volts to 10 volts assemblies.
just as you cant instantly fill a bucket of water. When inductance and capacitance are
A certain amount of time must pass for the both present in a network, the possibility of
bucket to fill. Depending on how fast the water oscillation exists. If stimulated with the proper
flows, the fill rate could be a couple of minutes signal, a network that causes an oscillation
or a couple of seconds. A slow fill rate is actually generates spurious new signals that ride
indicative of a slow charging process caused by a on top of the original signal. This is called
high-resistance charge source. When using an ringing and must be avoided as it can cause
AC signal, if the charging resistance is suffi- serious colorations. The frequency of the osci-
ciently high, the voltage across the capacitor llations are totally dependent upon the values of
cannot change fast enough to stay in lock step inductance and capacitance in the network.
with the AC signal. This causes the voltage Some cables are highly inductive and should be
across the capacitor to be delayed from the AC investigated for this possibility. If any oscilla-
signal. The voltage across the capacitor has to tions do occur, they probably happen in the
catch up with the voltage from the source. It ultrasonic or even radio frequency region. The
constantly lags behind. The signal across the characteristics of the amplifier also must be
capacitor has been displaced in time. considered because it may or may not be able to
When the rate is too slow to keep up with dampen out these oscillations.
the changing AC signal, a frequency roll off The larger the wires and the closer they are
occurs. Example: Charge a capacitor with a 10
volt square wave through a sufficiently large
resistance such that it took longer to reach 10
volts than the duration of the square wave. The Voltage
maximum voltage attained across the capacitor
would never arrive at 10 volts. The square wave
would then return to zero at the mid-point of its 0
cycle. With the square wave at zero volts, the Square Wave
capacitor would discharge and the cycle would A square wave is an AC signal that stays at 0 volts for a
then repeat. period of time and then almost instantaneously jumps
This is an example of a low pass filter and to a maximum voltage. It stays at the higher voltage
for a period of time and then instantaneously drops
it causes a time shift of the signal. The filtering
back to 0 volts. The cycle then repeats. Square waves
effect is evidenced by the rounding of the contain many high frequency harmonics and are useful
corners of the square wave. The frequencies for testing the bandwidth and phase accuracy of
affected by the time shift are primarily in the amplifiers.
range of the roll off. The maximum time shift
charge charge
caused by any one individual reactive compo- discharge
nent is one quar-ter cycle of the signal. When- discharge
ever an electronic circuit experiences a frequency
roll off, signals in the attenuated range are Square Wave Routed Through Low Pass Filter
displaced in time. The steeper the roll off, the
Square wave is highly misshaped. During charge
greater the time displacement. Any time dis- portion of signal, waveform is curved indicating time
placements within the audio band will alter the required for reactive components to reach maximum
harmonic structure of the musical signal, which voltage. Discharge portion is the inverse of the charge
is highly undesirable. portion. The curved waveform indicates a loss of
Audio cables always contain resistance, high frequenciesa low pass filter.
capacitance, and inductance. These are the three Filtering Effects on Square Wave
properties that constitute an electric network.
Figure 10
They have the capacity to create time shifts and

together, the greater the capacitance. This follows cable (the amplifier), the cable, and the device
the structure of a capacitor because the larger wires loaded to the cable (the speaker). Similarly, an
have more surface area and the closeness reduces interconnect cable reacts with a line level source
the thickness of the dielectric. The smaller the (a preamp), and a load (the amplifier). A
wires and the farther apart they are, the greater the loudspeaker can also be modeled by passive
inductance. A common 300 ohm twin lead devices into an equivalent network. The affect
television antennae cable is an example of this any cable has directly relates to the interaction
type of structure. It consists of two small diameter of the cables equivalent network with the signal
wires widely spaced by a plastic dielectric. source and load.
No matter what the cable designer does Obviously, cables that possess the mini-
(assuming any design took place), there will mum of inductive and capacitive reactance
always be reactive characteristics to the cable should impart a minimum of coloration to the
assembly. Procedures that reduce capacitance sound. Likewise, the length of the cable should
increase inductance. Procedures that reduce be proportional to the changes since reactance is
inductance increase capacitance. Neither can be calculated by units of cable length. Perhaps a
completely eliminated. good benchmark test for a speaker cable would
Any cable can be modeled or simulated by be to position an amplifier directly behind a
an assortment of resistive and reactive elements speaker and connect the two with a few inches
(passive devices) called an equivalent network. of wire. This has to be the configuration of
This model alone cannot predict how the cable minimum interposing reactance.
will affect any particular sound system. The Understanding these characteristics
network functions as part of a system which, for provides a scientific justification for why cable
a speaker cable, comprises the device driving the XYZ creates a certain sonic change in one system
while that change does not materialize in
another. The mechanism for affecting these
250 500 1K 2K 4K 8K Hz sonic changes is influenced by how the reactive
properties alter the electric field. The reactive
properties are primarily determined by the
physical configuration of the conductors and
insulators, not the materials used. Claims that
attribute sonic changes to the subatomic
behavior of electron flow are highly suspect and
dB probably false.
Plot of 1kHz, 6 dB per Octave Low Pass Filter The science of quantum mechanics
describes the behavior of subatomic particles.
Graph show attenuation as frequency increases. The first thing that the student must realize
Vertical axis depicts signal strength in dBs. Negative about the field of quantum mechanics is that it
sign shows signal reduction relative to low frequen-
is so difficult and abstract that no one under-
cies where there is no attenuation. Horizontal axis
depicts increasing frequency. Phase shift of signal stands it. The mathematics required are so
becomes significant at frequencies greater than 1 kHz advanced that a graduate degree in math is
and reaches a maximum of one quarter cycle or 90 needed just to acquire the tools to investigate it.
degrees at 4 kHz. As difficult as it is, there is one lesson that we
A 12 dB per octave filter would be at -12 dB at 2
can pick up from this field. Quantum mechan-
kHz and -24 dB at 4 kHz. The slope of attenuation ics teaches us that it is not possible to determine
is therefore twice as steep. The ultimate phase shift how any one subatomic particle will behave
would reach 180 degrees at 4 kHz. while under the influence of an external field. It
does tell us the probability of behavior of a group
Low Pass Filter Characteristics of subatomic particles. That means we can
Figure 11 determine with a high degree of accuracy what
percentage of available free electrons will behave

in a certain manner while under the influence of As a designer, I try to make my equipment as
an electric field. We cannot, however, determine neutral as possible, within the confines of any
precisely which ones will exhibit the behavior. particular configuration, in order to achieve
Claims that boast of specific electron manipula- maximum clarity and faithful reproduction. A
tion caused by subatomic structures cannot cable analogy would be a conduit for transmitting
possibly be verified by any means possible and a signal from point A to point B without disturbing
are suspect, to say the least. In any event, the it or changing it in any way. I suspect my philoso-
electric field provides the stimulus to which the phy is not shared by many in the industry.
electrons respond and the electric field is acted
upon by the reactive properties of the cable. IMPEDANCE
Because of the thousands of equipment and The quantity of resistance applies to the
cable combinations, there is no reliable way to opposition of current flow. When only DC
predict how any particular arrangement will signals are present, resistance is the only factor
ultimately perform. You dont know what that effects current flow once steady state
youre going to get until after you get it. conditions have been met and all the reactive
I would like to add that, when I speak of components have charged. When AC signals are
sonic changes, I am referring to changes in present, the quantity of impedance is used to
tonality and the character of the sound. Quali- describe how devices oppose the flow of current.
ties such as bright or harsh or muffled can AC signals are time varying and cause reactive
usually be agreed upon by several listeners and components to constantly alter their state of
often times measured with instruments. When charge. Actually, resistance is a subset of
you start saying the first chair violinist moved impedance as all passive devices possess an
three feet to right and the sound stage of the impedance of which resistance is always a
percussion section contracted by two feet, there component. Therefore, impedance contains
is no way two people will ever agree with such properties that oppose the flow of current in
statements. It is pointless to argue something addition to resistance.
that cannot be verified by any means possible. In the previous section, capacitance and
This is like trying to explain your personal ex- inductance were introduced. They both have the
perience of seeing green to someone else. The characteristic that their opposition to current
perceived change may be real or it may be the flow changes with frequency. More correctly
result of gastric disturbances or a reaction to stated, the impedance of capacitance and
prescription medication. Like I said before, you inductance changes with frequency. The quan-
either like the way something sounds or you tity of pure resistance does not change with
dont. frequency.
Interconnect cables also can make changes One might ask, Why make the differen-
in the way a system sounds. The varying param- tiation between resistance and impedance?
eters that control the degree of change are the What must be understood is that the mechanism
output impedance of the signal source and the that causes the impedance of reactive compo-
input impedance of the receiving device. Out- nents to change always produces a phase shift
put impedances can vary from one ohm to between the signal current and voltage. The
several thousand ohms. Likewise, input imped- magnitude of the phase shift is determined by
ances can vary from 10K to over 100K ohms. the impedance of the circuit providing the signal
These factors greatly influence how any intercon- that is charging the reactive component. The
nect will sound in any particular system. impedance of the reactive device alone does not
A somewhat disturbing reality of this cause the phase shift. Any phase shift is always
discussion is that cables which affect the sound, the result of the combination of the impedance
either by design or accident, are not neutral. of the signal source working into the impedance
They are active participants in shaping the re- of the reactive device. Impedance can then be
sponse characteristics of the system. I have to used as a tool to identify and quantify the magni-
ask the question, Are cables supposed to do this? tude of the phase change between current and

voltage. If a circuit was purely resistive, no phase a range of one million billion from the softest
change between current and voltage would occur. sounds to the loudest. Furthermore, perceived
This would hold true for both DC and AC signals. changes in levels are based upon percentage
However, no such circuit exists. All circuits increases not absolute increases. To your eyes,
possess the properties of resistance, capacitance, the difference between one foot candle and ten
and inductance. Phase changes always occur foot candles is enormous. The difference
when AC signals are present. between 1000 foot candles and 1010 foot
The actual phase displacement can be candles is not detectable. The intensity of light
calculated but the derivation will require will have to increase to 2000 foot candles before
calculus which is beyond the scope of this book. most people can detect an increase of brightness.
What is important to understand is that, while The ears work in a similar fashion. The decibel
phase changes always take place, they are only is a mathematical function that compresses
significant when frequency roll offs occur. these ratios into percentages that more closely
All circuits have a frequency bandwidth. resemble natural experiences.
Amplifiers have a bandwidth and the subcircuits The absolute minimum level of sound
inside the amplifier have a bandwidth. When that the human ear is supposed to be able to
the bandwidth is exceeded, the audio signal detect is 0 dB. There is a specific pressure
becomes attenuated. The farther in frequency associated with that quantity. The absolute
past the beginning of attenuation, the more the minimum resolution in sound intensity that a
signal is reduced. We say that the amplifier highly trained ear is capable of detecting is 1 dB.
rolls off. Signal roll off points almost always The average untrained person is supposed to be
exist at both high and low frequencies. I say able to hear a change of 3 dB. A 1 dB increase in
almost because some amplifiers are flat to DC loudness requires 10% more amplifier power
and experience no lower frequency roll off. and a 3 dB increase requires 100% more ampli-
(This is not necessarily an advantage.) By fier power. This means that for the average
manipulating where circuits roll off, another person, an amp putting out 50 watts doesnt
kind of device can be constructed called a filter. sound any louder until it outputs 100 watts! For
Filters are used in speaker crossovers, tone sound to be perceived as sounding twice as loud,
controls, equalizers, and any kind of analog an amplifier is required to increase its output by
signal processing. 10 times, or 1000%, an increase of 10 dB. As
There are basically three types of passive you can see, the ear is very insensitive to changes
filters commonly referred to as high pass, low in volume. This is because it has to function
pass and bandpass. Filters are also designated as over such an incredibly huge dynamic range.
first order, second order, third order, etc. The The application of decibels relating to
order of a filter determines how quickly it amplifier power and apparent loudness are a 10-
attenuates a signal. The units used to express log function. (Dont worry about the math.)
these rates of attenuation are decibels (dB). When the decibel is applied to voltage gain, it is
a 20-log function. That means if you double the
THE DECIBEL voltage, the decibels increase by 6 dB. Similarly,
The decibel is one of the most widely used if you reduce the voltage gain by a factor of two,
parameters in audio. The term means different it decreases by 6 dB. This is double the amount
things, depending on the application. It is just stated for power. A voltage gain of 10 times
actually a dimensionless quantity. It is a ratio. is 20 dB, and 100 times is 40-db. Just remember
Its purpose is to compare two different levels. to always differentiate between power and
The obvious question is why not just compare voltage gain when using decibels.
the two levels and skip the dB transformation? When two voltage amplifying components
There are many processes in nature that are connected together, the total voltage gain is
occur over incredibly huge ranges. The eyes the sum of the two. A power amp that has a
operate over a range of a tiny fraction of a foot gain of 20 dB and preamp that has a gain of 20
candle at night to tens of thousands of foot dB combine for a total gain of 40 dB. Ten times
candles in bright sunlight. The ears operate over ten is 100 and 40 dB is a gain of 100 times.

Components that introduce losses are calculated high and low corner frequencies and attenuates
the same way except the negative gain is all others. A typical application for this type of
subtracted. filter would be for a midrange driver.
By incorporating filters with active
FILTERS components, all manner of wave-shaping
A low pass filter is one that lets frequen- circuits can be produced. Tone controls utilize
cies below a certain threshold pass and attenu- high and low pass filters that boost and cut
ates higher frequency signals. A typical applica- signals above and below a specific frequency.
tion would be a crossover for a woofer. A 1000 Bandpass filters are used for equalizers as they
Hz low pass filter would pass signals less than partition the audio spectrum into sections that
1000 Hz with little or no attenuation but reduce can be individually adjusted. Filters are indis-
signals above 1000 Hz. The transition between pensable in the production of recorded music as
signals that are and are not attenuated isnt well as in playback systems.
abrupt but is smooth and continuous. The rate
of attenuation starts off very slowly, long before REAL VERSUS REACTIVE POWER
the corner frequency of 1000 Hz, and then This subject is the source of much conster-
increases until a constant rate of attenuation is nation among engineering students, including
obtained. The ultimate rate of attenuation is yours truly. It is traditionally taught with
determined by the order of the filter. strange mathematics that use concepts called
A first order filter has an ultimate attenua- complex numbers that use indefinable quanti-
tion rate of 6 dB per octave. That means when ties like the square root of negative one, which
the frequency is doubled from the corner does not exist, so they call it j and use it
frequency, the signal has been reduced by 6 dB anyway. Fortunately we dont have to get into
or cut in half. The signal at the corner is down that, but it is important that the concept of
about 3 dB. In our example of a 1000-Hz low reactive power is differentiated from real power,
pass filter, the signal would be down about 1 dB because it has everything to do with driving a
at 500 Hz, 3 dB at 1000 Hz, and 6 dB at 2000 loudspeaker.
Hz. At 4000 Hz the signal would be reduced by When a resistor gives off heat, that is real
12 dB or 75%. By 8000 Hz the signal would be power. When a motor shaft rotates a machine
attenuated by 18 dB or 87%. The frequency of and does mechanical work, that is real power.
8000 Hz is three octaves above 1000 Hz, hence The consumption and dissipation of real power
an attenuation of 18 dB. does not involve a phase shift between current
A second order filter has double the and voltage. It is therefore, consumed by
attenuation rate of the first order type. Using an resistive elements. The units of real power are
example of a 1000-Hz second order low pass watts, like a 100-watt light bulb.
filter, the attenuation at the corner frequency The existence of inductance and capaci-
would be 6 dB. At the first octave, the signal tance cause the phase between the voltage and
would be reduced by 12 dB. By the time the current of a signal to decouple and become
third octave is reached at 8000 Hz, the signal displaced from each other in time. The time
would be reduced by 36 dB or only 1.6% of its displacement requires a special type of power to
original level. This is a very rapid reduction in satisfy it called reactive power. The units of
signal strength. Higher order filters have even reactive power are volt-amps or vars which stands
greater rates of attenuation. for volt-amps reactive. Whatever device is
A high pass filter is just the inverse of the powering the load must supply sufficient
low pass type. It passes frequencies above the reactive power to satisfy the demands placed on
corner, and attenuates those at lower frequen- it by the load. This is always true whether the
cies. A typical application would be a crossover device is a utility generator lighting a city or an
for a tweeter. audio amplifier driving a loudspeaker.
Connecting a high pass and low pass filter Now heres the tricky part. The classical
together forms a bandpass filter. This type of way this is taught is that reactive power is
filter passes a group of frequencies between the

referred to as imaginary power. Thats because INTERCONNECTS AND GROUNDING
imaginary numbers are used to calculate it Over the many decades of the audio
although it really does exist. The difference industry, several standard configurations have
between reactive power and real power is that all evolved to connect two pieces of audio equip-
real power is eventually dissipated as heat. ment together. Each is valid for its intended
Reactive power is never dissipated as heat. Since application. Unfortunately, the reasons for
it is not dissipated, it is said to be imaginary, but using one or the other are often obscured to the
it really isnt. Are you confused yet? audiophile because they are constantly being
What is important for us to understand bombarded by advertising claims of the best or
about this subject is that loudspeakers are often ultimate this or that. Lets see if I can bring
highly reactive loads that require reactive power some clarity to the issue.
in order to operate. Often times, impedance The most common type of audio intercon-
plots of speakers are published. They describe nect is the coaxial cable type. It consists of a
the impedance of the speaker at any particular central conductor surrounded by a thick insula-
frequency. This does not tell the whole story. If tion which in turn is covered by a shield and an
a speaker has a stated impedance at a certain outer plastic jacket. The audio is sent down the
frequency of 3 ohms, the label 3 ohms does central conductor and the return path is the
not reveal what percentage of the impedance is shield which is connected to ground. The shield
real or reactive. It could be almost entirely functions as both a current carrying conductor
resistive at that frequency, which would require and an extension of the chassis which shields
mostly real power, or it could be almost entirely the central conductor from interference from
reactive, which would require mostly reactive external electric fields. This is the classic unbal-
power. Or, it could be any combination be- anced audio cable.
tween. There is a way of documenting these The coaxial cable contains both capaci-
ratios using a polar impedance plot which Ive tance and inductance. Due to the concentric
always found difficult to read. We should all conductors, a magnetic field develops when
acquire familiarity with these plots when they current flows through the cable, the amount of
are available. which is very small and is only significant at
Basically, the more reactive power the radio frequencies. Television antenna cable
amplifier must provide for the speaker, the more employs the use of this inductance which is
difficult the speaker is to drive. Amplifiers are engaged to develop common 75 ohm coaxial
commonly tested with purely resistive loads. antenna cable. The coaxial structure is also two
This is done for uniformity but does not corre- electrodes separated by a dielectric, which forms
late to real-world conditions. The danger for the a capacitor. Cable capacitance is much more
consumer is that an amp that performs well into dominant in an audio system and must certainly
a resistive load may fall apart into a highly be compensated for.
reactive load. Lower power amps tend to be Cables must do two things. One is to get
more susceptible to these problems. All kinds of the signal from here to there. The other is to
things can go wrong, like premature clipping, keep it from being polluted with various types of
excessive distortion, ringing, and just sheer bad hum and noise. The biggest offender is power
sound. It would be beneficial to all if power line noise and its harmonics because we are all
amplifiers were tested into a standard reactive immersed in it. Even though the cable is
load to more closely simulate actual conditions. shielded, noise can still get in. How does this
Getting the industry to agree on a universal happen?
standard is probably an impossibility. My point The analysis involves studying the interac-
is that reactive testing of amplifiers is just as tions of power transformers and power line
important, if not more so, than reactive testing grounds. Just what is that third prong in the
of loudspeakers. The speaker generates the need outlet for anyway?
for reactive power, but the amplifier must In an electric power circuit, there are three
provide it. wires: hot, neutral and ground. The hot (black)

there are no conductive parts with which to come
into contact and they do not require a three-wire
Insulation ground type power cord.
High end stereo equipment is not double
Braided insulated. It is made of metal. Tube equipment
Shield has very high DC voltages inside it. I take no
chances; all of my equipment is solidly ground-
ed and provided with a three-wire ground power
Common coaxial cable for audio applications.
Cost: 20 cents per foot. cord. Never defeat that third prong!
Just as grounding provides for electrical
Coaxial Cable safety, it creates a baseline to which all audio
Figure 11 signals can be referenced. In an improperly
grounded audio system, voltages can be im-
is held at 120 volts and is the source of power. The pressed on individual chassis which cause them
neutral (white) is held at zero volts and functions to float to different potentials causing all kinds
as the return path for the current. The ground is of problems with noise. What is the source of
also held at zero volts but it is not intended to these voltages?
carry any current. It is in fact tied to the neutral The culprits that cause these voltages are
bus in the service panel but has a completely power transformers. The configuration of the
different function, which is to keep people alive. interconnect cables has nothing to do with it.
For instance, if an electric dryer developed a short They are merely the recipients of the problem.
circuit and caused 120 volts to come in contact There is capacitance between the primary
with the chassis, what would happen if it was not and secondary windings of any power trans-
grounded? Lets say the dryer is in the basement former. This provides a pathway for coupling
and that it is mounted on rubber feet. The short the AC power line directly to the chassis. The
occurs which applies 120 volts to the body of the flow of current is small, on the order of a few
appliance. You come along in your bare feet, milliamps or less, but it is large enough to cause
standing on the damp concrete floor, with wet problems. Since the chassis is grounded to the
hands from pulling clothes out of the washer. As third prong, a pathway is now in place for this
soon as you touch the dryer, you die. Get the leakage current to flow. As it works its way to
picture? earth ground, it causes a small voltage drop
The circuit breaker did not trip because between the equipment ground and earth
the chassis was not grounded. It was floating ground. The voltage drop doesnt have any
with respect to ground. There was no return effect on the equipment causing the leakage
path into which the fault current could flow. current. Problems arise when a cable connects
When you touched the dryer, your body pro- the offending equipment to another device. The
vided a path to ground for the 120 volts to flow connected device has a different transformer
through, hence your sudden electrocution. causing different leakage currents. The respec-
A properly grounded system would have tive voltage drop of the second equipment item
the dryer chassis solidly connected to a from chassis to earth ground is then different.
grounded conductor. When the short occurred, The two chassis grounds are connected together
a heavy fault current would have flowed, which through the cable shield. Since the grounds are
would have immediately tripped the circuit at different voltages, a current will flow in the
breaker, thereby disconnecting the power. Its shield. The voltage difference between the two
not a good idea to leave a shorted chassis grounds is added in series to the audio signal
energized. and we now have a classic ground loop with
This is the function of the third prong. It associated hum and noise. In addition to the 60
keeps the body of any appliance from acquiring Hz fundamental, power line harmonics also get
a lethal voltage. Nowadays, most appliances are through and cause buzzing sounds.
double insulated. They are made out of plastic so Of course, this scenario doesnt always

happen but it could and does occur from time to interconnects necessarily present a lot of capaci-
time. It is most prevalent in professional sound tance to the signal source which is difficult for
reinforcement applications because cable them to drive because of their limited current
lengths often run into the hundreds if not capability. An amplifier output operates at an
thousands of feet. extremely low impedance and there is no gain
Another problem caused by transformer between it and the speaker, making it virtually
coupling capacitance is that it can couple immune to noise pick up. Power amps have high
rectifier spikes back into the power line and current capability which can easily drive any cable
circuit ground. If present, these spikes can cause capacitance. A properly sized speaker cable will
buzzing sounds. Again, these problems are introduce less than 50 milliohms of resistance,
application specific and you neednt be con- which is entirely negligible. I say keep the
cerned with them unless you are experiencing interconnects short and put the length in the
stubborn noise problems. speaker cables.
What can the audiophile do to minimize Another type of cable is the twisted
problems with ground loop hum? The choice of shielded pair. It was originally designed for
power transformer is the first step. Toroid balanced lines but can also be used for unbal-
transformers have very low interwinding capaci- anced applications. It has two conductors and
tance, greatly minimizing leakage currents. This an overall shield. When used in an unbalanced
stops the problem before it starts. A conven- configuration, one conductor carries the audio
tional stacked core transformer can be made signal and the other provides a return path
with an electrostatic shield installed between the which is connected to circuit ground. The shield
primary and secondary, called an isolation
transformer, which also greatly reduces these
currents. Another tactic is to properly design the
power supply so it doesnt feed noise back into
the primary and circuit ground. Most designers Line
are concerned about noise entering the power AC to circuit
supply from the power line but the opposite can
occur when noise is generated by the equip-
ments power supply which ultimately gets into
the circuit ground. Ground
One could use an interconnect with a
heavy shield conductor to minimize any voltage Leakage
C2 Current
drop through it. Also, one could use short
interconnects for the same reason. Plug all the Circuit
components into one outlet strip and then plug Earth Current
the outlet strip into a grounded outlet. This Ground
helps tie all the grounds together and equalize
Capacitors C1 and C2 represent interwinding coupling
any voltage differences. These techniques capacitance and provide a pathway for leakage current.
should stop any serious ground loop problems. The currents travel through the power cord ground and
The established practice in audio land is the interconnect ground. They also couple the power
to use short speaker cables and long intercon- line to the circuit allowing high frequency transients to
pass through the transformer. The leakage currents
nects. Once again, I do just the opposite. The
produce a voltage drop that causes the circuit ground to
audio signal is subject to interference and noise be at a slightly higher voltage than earth ground. If
pick up when it is at low levels and loaded into excessive, this voltage will cause hum to be introduced
high impedances. Any noise that gets into the into the system. Toroid transformers greatly reduce
input of an amplifier will be magnified by the these effects.
amps gain. The problem is worse in preamp
inputs because there is more gain between the Transformer Coupling Capacitance
noise and the speaker, amplifying it further. Long Figure 12

is also connected to circuit ground, but at one Signal Wires
end only. The shield should always be con-
nected at the signal source end. The inner two Foil Shield
conductors are twisted together which helps
reject interference from magnetic fields. The Ground
shield provides electrostatic shielding from elec- Wire
tric fields. By connecting it at one end only, no
current can flow through the shield. At the same Heavy-duty shielded twisted pair cable suitable for
time, it keeps any electrical fields from causing professional installations. Cost: 22 cents per foot.
interference for either the signal or ground con-
ductor. If current was allowed to flow through Shielded Twisted Pair Cable
Figure 13
the shield, it could create a ground loop.
Notice that I am making a distinction
between the shielding of magnetic and electric that the signal source has not been properly
fields. Shield material is nonferrous and can designed to drive a reasonable amount of cable
only stop electric fields. Magnetic fields can capacitance. It should not be necessary to
penetrate a nonferrous shield and induce a sacrifice shielding for performance.
current in the underlying conductors. Remem- As an experiment, I encourage the reader
ber magnetic fields have a directional compo- to buy a 100-foot spool of 22 gauge stranded
nent. When the inner conductors are twisted wire (less than $10) and twist or braid your own
together, the magnetic field hits opposite sides interconnect cables. Once you get going, it
of the wires each time they twist around and any shouldnt take more than a couple of hours to
induced currents mostly cancel out. The benefits make two one-meter cables. The fiberglass
of magnetic field rejection can only be realized if sleeving may set you back another $10. Parts
there is a field present that is causing problems. distributors also sell high quality RCA connec-
The benefits of the open-ended shield have tors for about $5 to $7 each. The entire project
more frequent applications and could be the will then cost about $45. Assembly will be
answer to stubborn noise problems. much easier if you buy two or three different
The shielded twisted pair is inherently colors of wire for quick identification but that
superior in its ability to get an audio signal from will add another $15 to $20 in cost. With three
here to there without picking up any noise. This conductors, you can experiment with using one
doesnt mean that the coaxial type of audio as a shield by leaving one end open and ground
cable should not be used. Either can provide the other, just as is done with a twisted shielded
excellent results depending on the environment pair. If you like the way it sounds, the project
in which it is used. If noise pick up is a prob- was successful and you just saved yourself a
lem, or the interconnects are more than a few considerable amount of money.
feet in length, then give the twisted shielded pair Likewise, there are many professional
a close look. audio cables that can be used for interconnects
There are many interconnects sold in and purchased in the required lengths for about
todays market that have no shielding. They are $2 per meter. Solder the connectors on the ends
merely two or three small conductors twisted and youre done.
together and covered with a fiberglass sleeve.
Some have their conductors braided together. BALANCED LINES
Many believe that they have a superior sound to Balanced lines are one of the most
the shielded type. A necessary consequence of misunderstood topics in audio. Many think
this arrangement is that these cables are highly they are absolutely necessary. Oftentimes,
susceptible to interference from electric fields. people think they have them but really do not.
That means they easily pick up hum and noise, Most do not have any idea how they work but
which is extremely unsatisfactory. If eliminating are convinced of their superiority because there is
the shield improves performance, this indicates something psychologically comforting about

having something that is symmetrical and desired signal is only expressed as the voltage
balanced. You dont suppose the mass marketers difference between the two cables. If a balanced
have been exploiting our cultural desire for line is immersed in an electric field, the same
symmetry, do you? Lets start at the beginning noise signal will be impressed on each cable.
and discuss where they came from and what The noise signals are then equal to and in phase
their intended uses are. with each other. The voltage difference between
More than 100 years ago, before the age of any two inphase signals is zero. Thus, by
vacuum tube amplifiers, the telephone company responding to only the voltage difference
had a big problem trying to send voice signals between the two cables, the noise that is com-
miles away. Operating on just the power of the mon to them (common mode noise) is ignored.
microphone, how could that feeble signal be A balanced system can extract a useful signal
transmitted many miles down the road without even if the noise signals are greater in amplitude
any means to boost it? The signal cables were than the desired one.
routed on the same poles as the power lines, It is important to note that it is critical for
immersing them in strong electric fields. Deal- effective noise rejection that the impedances of
ing with signal loss is bad enough, but what the signal driver and receiver be well balanced.
about all that noise from the power lines that Noise rejection will suffer greatly if an exact
would invariably swamp out the signal? With balance in the lines terminating equipment is
some brilliant engineering, the phone company not maintained.
invented the balanced line. This was a major All of this sounds wonderful, but what
milestone in the evolution of telecommunica- does it have to do with audio? That depends on
tions technology. What they came up with was the application. In professional sound systems
two number 6 wires separated by 12 inches. It used in arenas and stadiums, it is common for
had a characteristic impedance of 600 ohms. audio cables to have lengths of several thousand
How did the balanced line solve the noise feet! Thats a long way to carry a one volt signal.
problem? Furthermore, the sending and receiving equip-
All voltages have to be referenced to ment is probably connected to different power
something. Thats why a voltmeter has two systems with different ground potentials. Under
probes. Whatever the negative probe is in these circumstances, balanced lines are a must.
contact with forms the reference for the mea- Oftentimes, because of the problems with
surement. The voltage that the meter measures unequal ground voltages, the lines must be
is always the difference between the probes. It isolated with transformers to decouple them
doesnt care about any other voltages in the from ground voltage differences.
universejust the voltage between its probes. If
the negative probe is connected to a place in a Line 1
circuit that is 100 volts above ground, and the
positive lead is connected to a point that is 110
volts above ground, the meter just responds to
Line 2
the difference of 10 volts.
In a balanced line, the audio signal is Balanced Signal
transmitted as two equal and out of phase In-Phase Noise Out-of-Phase Signal
signals. The signal voltage between the two lines Lines 1 and 2 represent the two conductors of a
is twice the voltage to ground of either line. The balanced line. In-phase noise is equal and common to
power feed to an electric dryer is an example of a both lines. Out-of-phase signals are the desired audio.
The voltage between the two lines is the balanced signal
balanced line. The voltage between the two
which has twice the amplitude of the out-of-phase
power conductors is 240 volts. The voltage to signals. The noise does not appear in the balanced
ground of either power conductor is 120 volts. signal because the voltage difference between the two
The two power signals are therefore balanced in-phase signals is zero.
over ground. Balanced Line Noise Rejection
The benefit of this arrangement is that the
Figure 14

How does this apply to a residential I am happy to report that the sound quality was
based, consumer audio system? It doesnt. The excellent. The transformers did not degrade the
practical requirements necessitating balanced sound in the least. The transformer input floats
lines do not exist in a typical residential audio the interconnect ground from the chassis ground.
system. The cable lengths are just too short to They also incorporate an electrostatic shield
matter. If you want to install your power amp between the primary and secondary windings.
two blocks down the street, then by all means These features serve to isolate the input from any
use balanced lines. If all your equipment is in rectifier spikes coupled through the power
the same room, then there is nothing beneficial transformer windings. An electronic balanced
to be gained. It is not possible to eliminate a input cannot do this. Quality input transformers
problem if the problem doesnt exist in the first are expensive and cost about $140 per pair.
place. However, they certainly dont hinder performance
I can feel the anger swelling among the and may be the perfect fix for stubborn hum and
devotees of balanced lines. It has been my noise problems caused by leaky power transform-
experience, when dealing with customers, that ers or other system problems.
followers of the balanced line faction tend to be
a rather fanatical bunch. No matter how hard I TRANSMISSION LINES
try, I cannot convince them of the soundness of A common marketing tactic used in audio
the argument presented above. Their convic- is to apply real engineering concepts from areas
tions are so strong that some insist I install XLR that have no bearing or connection to a residen-
jacks on my amps for them. I tell them I can do tial based audio system. The products claim to
that but the input still isnt balanced. It is just eliminate various problems while in reality, the
an XLR jack configured an a single ended RCA problems were never there in the first place.
jack. They still dont care. What I then do is Another tactic is to refer to properties that do
connect pin one to ground, put a dummy load exist, but in amounts so small as to be totally
resistor on one signal lead and connect the other irrelevant. The units of measurement for these
signal lead into the circuit. The customer sees events can be one billionth of the smallest
the XLR connector and is happy. He connects increment that can be detected. Nonetheless,
his balanced line cables and all is well, even they are quoted as being highly significant
though the balanced cable is functioning as a problems. An example would be a ten-foot long
single ended cable by virtue of the connection at structural I-beam that is designed to carry a load
the amplifier. The consumer should exercise of 20 tons, concentrated in the middle. A fly
caution when XLR jacks are installed in audio landing on the center of the beam will cause it
equipment. Their presence does not guarantee a to deflect. The amount of movement may be
balanced input. It is highly possible that they less than the diameter of an electron, but it still
are just a different type of receptacle for a single- moves. The deflection caused by the load of the
ended signal. At least I tell my customers what fly is insignificant and will certainly be omitted
they are going to get. How they accept the from any structural engineers calculations. An
information is out of my control. area in audio that often uses irrelevant science in
True balanced line operation can only be a similar fashion is high frequency radio trans-
achieved if the input port is a truly balanced mission. The subject usually targeted is trans-
input, and that requires special circuitry. The mission lines.
only other way to get a truly balanced input is to Transmission lines are necessary when
use line input transformers. sending audio signals over tremendous dis-
Recently, I built an OTL for a customer tances, like 50 miles! They are also required for
who had a requirement for a balanced input. I transmitting high frequency radio signals. What
installed a pair of high quality line input do these two applications have in common?
transformers to accommodate him. The amps The factors that mandate the use of a
circuitry was still unbalanced. The interconnect transmission line are the length of the line
and signal source that I used were also unbalanced. versus the frequency of the transmitted signal.

Frequency determines wavelength which is the explained to me that bi-wiring separates the
actual physical distance a sine wave travels high and low frequency signals on the way to
before it repeats itself. Wavelength is then the speaker which improves fidelity. I had to sit
calculated by dividing the speed of wave motion down after that one.
by the frequency. A 500 Hz audio signal travel- Lets look at this objectively. When a
ing at light speed has a wavelength of 372 miles. composite audio signal travels through an
A 20 kHz signal has a wavelength of 9.3 miles. amplifier, it moves as a complete unit. It is not
A 100 MHz radio signal has a wavelength of 9.8 split up by frequency bands. On its journey, all
feet. When the length of the line is a significant kinds of things happen to it. The amplifier
portion of the signal wavelength, unusual things pushes and pulls, distorts it, adds noise and
happen. The signal can reflect back and forth shifts its harmonic structure around. Now are
from the ends of the cable and cause interfer- we supposed to believe that after the signal
ence with itself. So much interference can be leaves the amplifier, it is so delicate that it can
generated that very little power flows down the no longer travel down one cable? If that is true,
cable. This is not a good situation if you are why arent interconnect cables bi-wired. This
trying to transmit a radio signal because the reasoning alone should cast enough doubt on
signal transmission will be very weak. In radio the issue. In fact, the validity of the concept is
talk, a measurement of this parameter is called totally false to begin with.
the standing wave ratio, or SWR. We have already determined that it is the
A common TV antenna installation will electric field that creates the signal. When two
acquaint you with the procedures for minimiz- speaker cables are connected to the output of a
ing this problem. The antenna has a transformer power amp, the electric field representing the
output with a 75 ohm impedance. The coaxial audio signal is equal and present in both. There
cable has an impedance of 75 ohms and the can be no reduction in interference between the
antennae input on the television is rated at 75 high and low frequencies because they are both
ohms. All of the impedances in the system must present in each cable. The crossover in the
be equal. speaker still has to filter out the unwanted
A transmission line can be configured as a frequencies when using two cables just as when
coaxial cable or a balanced line such as origi- using one.
nally used by the phone company. The termi- If two cables are used, the reactive load
nating equipment is what makes it function as a placed on the amplifier is increased. Resistance
transmission line, not the cable itself. Cable is reduced as a parallel feed is established, but it
impedance is critical, but without the proper was probably already so low that further reduc-
hardware at each end, the transmission line will tions would be insignificant. The reduction in
fail to work. resistance cannot improve the damping factor
The cable lengths in a home-based audio because the second cable is not connected to the
system rarely exceed 15 feet in length. As can be woofer. The load placed on the amplifier is
plainly seen, this is such a tiny fraction of the changed but the signals driving the woofer and
signal wavelength, that transmission line effects tweeter are not altered. When one cable is used,
do not occur. Any comparisons made to radio the woofer and tweeter see the reactance of
frequency phenomena are therefore completely one cable between themselves and the amplifier.
invalid. If two cables are used, the woofer and tweeter
still see the same reactance of one cable
BI-WIRING SPEAKER CABLES between themselves and the amplifier. The same
When I first became involved with the signal travels through both cables. The reactance
retail end of audio, I was immediately intro- of the cable is what alters the signal and, in each
duced to the concept of bi-wiring loudspeakers. case, the reactance does not change. Therefore
This is where two separate speaker cables are the signal does not change. The current flows in
used, one for the high frequencies and one for the two cables are different because they have
the low. My initial reaction to this was total different loads. The only mechanism that I can
bewilderment. Whats this guy doing? It was identify which could possibly be attributed to

High X1 High
Pass Tweeter Pass
X1 Cable
Amplifier Amplifier
Cable Low X2 Low
Pass Woofer Pass
Crossover Crossover

Single Speaker Cable Bi-Wired Speaker

X1 and X2 represent the reactances of the tweeter and
X1 represents the total reactance of the speaker cable. woofer cables respectively. X1 equals X2. The audio
The entire audio signal is affected by it. The signal signal traveling through each cable is identical. Since each
input into the two crossover sections is identical. cable possesses equal reactance and they carry identical
signals, the signals arriving at the crossover sections are
no different than if a single speaker cable was used.
Single Wire and Bi-Wired Speaker Cables
Figure 15

changing the sound is that the combined current POWER CORDS

when using one cable could create more skin What then is the function of the power
effect. However, the crossover should separate cord? AC power is an electrical signal. All of the
these factors out as skin effect is frequency previous discussions about transmitting audio
dependent. The net result is that the tweeter and signals and connections apply to power cords.
woofer should both recieve the same signal with The discipline that specifically deals with the
one or two cables. It appears that the primary transmission of electrical power is called power
beneficiaries of bi-wiring are most likely the engineering. I worked in this field for 16 years
people selling the cables. as a power systems engineer. A basic discussion
of power transmission characteristics is neces-
POWER SUPPLY EQUIPMENT sary before power cords can be investigated.
This is another subject that is not going to All AC power distribution systems possess
increase my fan appreciation rating. I sure am an impedance. The impedance is different at
glad Im not running for public office. Dealing every point within the distribution system.
head-on with reality alienates each faction one Looking into any outlet, the net impedance at
by one until everyone is mad at you. Thats why that point is primarily controlled by all the
politicians never give a straight answer about wiring on that circuit, the appliances operating
anything. I just dont have the right stuff for that at that time in the house, the power panel, the
kind of behavior. cables to the power pole, the utility step down
What does a power supply do? What is its transformer on the pole, and all the other
function? A power supply in any piece of houses connected to the utility transformer. The
equipment takes the raw AC power from the calculations can be taken back further, but these
wall outlet and converts it into DC at the are the major factors. The impedance of the
voltages necessary to operate the circuitry. The power cord is in series with the net contribution
power supply contains devices that filter out of all these elements. What do you suppose is
noise, transients and various electrical garbage the ratio of the impedance of the power cord to
from the power line to create a clean source of the impedance of the power system? It is
power for the equipment. A properly designed insignificantly small. It can be deduced then
power supply provides excellent isolation from that the impedance of a power cord is so small
the outside world and allows the equipment to compared to the power system that it can have
exist in its own little power universe. no material effect on the delivery of electric
power. Having said that, lets assume that power

cords do make a difference in audio perfor- shielded power cords and that involves intercon-
mance. Is there any other possible mechanism nect cables. Many people use unshielded
involved? Yes there is. Power cords carry the interconnects which are very susceptible to
earth ground cable. It may be possible that interference from AC fields. Using shielded
different power cords have different impedances power cords should reduce the amount of hum
in their ground paths that could have some pick up caused by the rats nest of twisted cables
effect on audio performance. behind the equipment rack. Shielded intercon-
We discussed that transformers have nects are basically immune from this type of
leakage currents that flow through the ground interference and would not benefit from using
system. Perhaps there is some connection shielded power cords.
between those leakage currents and ground The consumer concerned about value
impedance in making subtle changes to the should check out alternatives. The power cords
sound. There is also a minute amount of that I furnish with my equipment can be
leakage current that bleeds into the ground from purchased in single quantities from the parts
the two power conductors. This is caused by distributor for $3.98 each. I wouldnt use them
cable capacitance and is very low, on the order if I could detect any degradation. Shielded cords
of a few microamps. Some audiophiles have are also available. A Beldon type 17600 is a six-
told me that a power cord made the background foot, seven-inch, 18 gauge, detachable shielded
sound blacker. I will infer that they meant power cord that has a single quantity price of
quieter. Either that or their lunch was disagree- $6.90. If you want a heaver gauge, a Beldon
ing with them. A quieter background could be type 17604 is a 14 gauge version which can be
the result of a superior ground connection purchased for $10.24 in single quantities.
particularly in response to high frequency noise. (Source: Allied Electronics catalog no. 980, page
Im trying to be positive about this. 747). Be advised! These cords will not come
I have used expensive power cords on my packaged in a fancy box.
OTLs and could not hear any difference. Some
customers have reported the same. My OTL uses ISOLATION TRANSFORMERS
a toroid transformer which has very low leakage The origination of isolation transformers
currents. Perhaps when used with transformers is the power industry. They were developed to
with high leakage currents, a noticeable provide clean, low-noise electric power for
improvement will occur. This possibility sensitive equipment like mainframe computers.
requires additional investigation. An internal electrostatic shield eliminates almost
A common claim in advertising touts the all of the noise from the power line. The shield
benefits of using shielded power cords. The breaks the capacitive coupling between the
concept espoused is that a shielded power cord primary and secondary windings. They also
keeps nasty AC fields out of your equipment. provide what is called a derived ground. This is a
Now think about this. What do you think clean ground isolated from the power system
happens when you plug a power cord into the greatly reducing ground current noise. The
back of an amp? The AC line current goes transformer creates a separate power system that
inside! The AC power is cabled to the on/off is essentially decoupled from the buildings
switch, hopefully through a fuse, and to the power system.
power transformer. Its running all over the What can an isolation transformer do in
place! How can shielding the power cord keep an audio system? For starters, there is nothing
AC fields out of the equipment when AC power wrong with feeding audio equipment with clean
is being pumped inside the box? The correct power. Electrically, the inclusion of the isola-
answer is the obvious oneit cant. Furthermore, tion transformer can have some interesting
transformers radiate all kinds of AC fields and effects. Anything powered from the transformer
there is one sitting inside gloriously spewing out now has a different impedance driving its primary
AC fields. windings. This additional impedance will
There is one possible benefit to using definitely alter the electrical characteristics of the

equipments internal transformers. As far as the
circuits are concerned, they are now being Electrostatic
powered by a slightly different transformer. Shield
This, by all means, could impact the character of
AC to circuit
the sound in some subtle way. When working
with prototypes, I have noticed a difference in
the character of the sound when the product is
outfitted with the custom-made production Interconnect
transformer. The magnitude of the hardware Neutral Ground
change required to generate these results is going
from an off-the-shelf stacked core unit to a
toroid optimized for the application. Changing Circuit
the effective impedance of an existing trans- Earth Ground
former is a much smaller leap, but nevertheless, Ground
the possibility exists that a realizable sonic
Electrostatic shield is usually a heavy aluminum foil
alteration could occur. placed between the primary and secondary windings.
The isolation transformers electrostatic It breaks the capacitive coupling between the
shield will break the capacitive coupling be- windings thereby interrupting leakage currents.
tween the primary and secondary windings.
This will decouple the audio equipments Isolation Transformer
leakage paths to the power line and ground. The Figure 10
leakage is initiated by the components internal
transformer which is then interrupted by the
shield of the isolation transformer. By doing so, reducing noise. Again, any improvement would
a derived ground is established. The chassis be dependent upon whether or not there was a
ground is therefore more effectively isolated noise problem in the first place. Still, it is an
from the power line. This most definitely could interesting concept.
impact the sonic characteristics of the system To date, I have logged no experience with
and could be the dominant factor in any perfor- isolation transformers in my system and conse-
mance enhancements. The magnitude of any quently have formed no firm opinions about
changes would be influenced by how much their effectiveness. There is electrical justifica-
interwinding capacitance existed in the tion that they can have an impact. Because of
equipments internal transformer. Conse- the thousands of possibilities of equipment
quently, a toroid should be less affected than a combinations and residence wiring, I would
conventional stacked core transformer. A value suspect that repeatable results would be difficult
judgement of better or worse will have to be to predict.
applied by the listener.
Providing a clean, isolated ground could DAMPING SYSTEMS
also be beneficial in reducing cable noise and I would like to address vibrational damp-
creating a stable ground reference. If the system ing but have no science to verify or disprove
is already quiet this is a moot point, but a clean anything. I know of no data that can be corre-
isolated ground could be used to help remedy lated to actual results. Does acoustic feedback
noisy systems. The improved ground reference exist? Certainly it does. How much of a prob-
could help components interface with each lem it is and where it manifests itself is up for
other, thereby improving performance. discussion. Having said that, I currently do not
The isolation transformer could be wired use any damping materials in any of my prod-
to provide a balanced power system. If the ucts. Tube type phono preamps are very suscep-
secondary was center-tapped and grounded, the tible to vibration and acoustic feedback whereas
output would now be 60-0-60 volts, or balanced. power amps are much less influenced by exter-nal
This could reduce radiated electrical fields, further vibration. This is because power amps have far

less voltage gain than phono preamps and the cant let consistent methodology get in the way of
signals through them are 1000 times greater in product development. Some systems use spongy,
amplitude. The larger amplitudes tend to override rubbery feet. Some use conical pointed feet of
and swamp out any vibrational effects. hard material. Some use hydraulically damped
As in the case of transmission lines, some feet. Some use heavy platforms of various materi-
of the mass marketers of these products special- als and any type of feet. The types of products
ize in applying principles of science that do range from one extreme to another. I find it
exist. Unfortunately, the magnitudes of these comical when reading audio catalogs that sell
events are so small that they defy all attempts at these products to see how they espouse the
measurement, just as with our example of the fly wonders of brand X damping system, and then on
on the I-beam. The advertising never makes the very same page, tout the marvels of brand Y,
statements concerning the degree or percentage which uses a completely different system that
of the boasted improvement. They just say it totally contradicts the methods of the tremendous
sounds better and hand you the bill. brand X. To say the least, this is very suspicious
Vacuum tubes are subject to vibrational indeed.
disturbances. The internal structures can and do If anyone is interested in investigating this
vibrate. The exact position of the tubes struc- area, go to a sporting goods store and get some
tures control how they operate. If they move, small spongy balls and hard rubber balls. Then
then the tube outputs a different signal. There- take a trip to the hardware store and buy some
fore, preventing tubes from excessive vibration short, fat bolts and grind points on the ends.
should be desirable. Note the word excessive. Then go to a cooking supply store and get a large
Thats where the ambiguity comes from. How marble cutting board to use as a platform.
much is too much? It isnt possible to get rid of Finally, stop by a building supply or landscaping
all of it. From this argument, it seems that store and buy the mother of all platforms, an 18
techniques that control vibration at the tube inch square by two inch thick concrete paver for
would be more successful than ones that a whopping $3.50. Concrete is very brittle, so
dampen vibration at the side panels of the dont jolt it and make sure it is evenly supported
enclosure. or it will break. The total bill for this shopping
Most tube equipment is either made with spree should be far less than $50 and you now
many ventilation holes or is completely open. have enough hardware to experiment with for
There is nothing protecting the tubes from being the next six months! Find out for yourself. See
directly impacted with airborne sound waves. what, if anything works. If one particular
Powerful sound waves can make furniture combination makes an improvement then
vibrate. It would seem reasonable to assume youre done. Or, you can purchase a commercial
that these same sound waves can make tubes product that uses the same general principles. If
vibrate and there is nothing that can be done to you know what you are looking for, the odds of
stop them except for putting the amp out in the a successful purchase will be improved.
garage. Many products employ heavy metal
Is vibration conducted through the enclosures as a means to dampen vibration.
mounting feet much more critical? Should Metal is probably the worst material in the
amplifiers hang from rubber straps inside of world for that application. Hit it with a hammer
closets? Or, is the whole endeavor of vibration and it rings. If it was inherently acoustically
isolation an exercise in futility? I dont have any damped, the hammer blow would sound like a
concrete answers to give you. My best guess is dull thud. A rubber based material should be
that vibration isolation products are installation much more effective. Loudspeaker cabinets are
specific. It all depends on the particular situa- almost exclusively made of wood products
tion as to how much benefit will be realized. rather than metal for their superior damping
There are many products on the market that capabilities.
employ completely different principles, which of The use of heavy metal enclosures brings up
course is contradictory. But hey, this is audio. We the issue of thick face plates. There is absolutely

no performance advantage that can be realized doned consumers with incomes of fifty to seventy-
from installing a -inch thick, machined face five thousand dollars per year and have chosen to
plate. These things are horribly expensive and add only pursue the super rich. Who else would buy a
hundreds of dollars to the retail price. The audio $15,000 CD player? These customers have so
industry has adopted a defacto standard that if much money they dont bother asking the obvious
equipment doesnt have a thick face plate, it isnt question: What could possibly be inside a CD
high end quality. This is baloney. The reasoning player to justify a price of $15,000? In situations
for their inclusion is that the customer supposedly like this, I feel that the most highly desired feature
views them as increasing the perceived value of of the equipment is not the actual performance.
the equipment. I should certainly hope so! The Its the price tag.
unfortunate customer probably paid $10,000 for The structures of transistors and integrated
the thing. I can perceive of a lot of things for circuits are completely different from tubes.
that much money and value isnt one of them. As They are solid blocks of semiconductor material
a manufacturer, I refuse to participate in this folly. and plastic, all molded into one monolithic
Perhaps this means that my company does not slab. There are no individual elements that can
produce high-end equipment. Instead, I would vibrate. How then can they be disturbed by
much rather be known as a company that makes acoustic feedback? Just because I dont have an
high performance equipment at an affordable answer doesnt mean there is no answer. Then
price. Thats what I perceive as value. again, I have yet to find any answers from
There is nothing wrong with making anywhere else.
stereo equipment attractive. No one wants to A loudspeaker is an acoustic transducer.
own ugly components. However, there are ways Its purpose is to generate sound waves. A
of making fine looking stereo gear that doesnt solid-state amplifier does not function as such.
double the price. Mainstream high-end manu- Why would principles of vibration isolation
facturers have chosen to pursue and sell the intended for a loudspeaker have anything to do
public on the look of massive blocks of with a solid-state power amp? These are two
machined metal. This industry selected aesthetic entirely different systems. Even with my tube
necessarily drives up the cost to the consumer so based OTLs, experiments have been run where
much that it oftentimes doubles the price. The sophisticated damping materials were applied to
reasoning is simple. General Motors would the cabinet and chassis with no noticeable
rather sell 100,000 Cadillacs a year than improvement. In any event, the consumer
100,000 Chevy Cavaliers. Why? Because they should never install anything inside an amp or
make a heck a of a lot more money on each on its components that could retard heat
Cadillac. There is much more margin per unit rejection, thereby causing failures.
sale. So the audio industry has spent 25 years Caution is always warranted when
convincing the buying public that they must considering these products. This particular field
have a Cadillac type box to own real high-end is rife with false science where advertising often
equipment. The mass marketers have been so quotes scientific principles that do not exist.
successful with their advertising campaigns that (This tactic is not exclusive to damping products
when the consumer sees a preamp advertised for and appears everywhere.) Its bad enough when
less than $2000, he thinks theres something totally nonapplicable science is used to sell
wrong. The initial reaction is, Its too cheap to products, but the mass marketers involved with
be any good. Prices have escalated to the point some of these devices actually invent their own
that even successful professional people cannot science and represent it as fact. Legitimate
afford new equipment and are forced to buy products are unfortunately thrown in with the
used gear in the aftermarket. mix and, by tolerating the phoney, the credibil-
People in the business have often told me ity of the genuine suffer too. My best advice is that
that the mid-priced buying public has aban- if it sounds bizarre, it probably is.
doned premium audio equipment. I think its Audiophiles seem to have an overpower-
the other way around. The industry has aban- ing desire to improve their systems so they try to

wring out every last bit of performance. This is the gain, restricting users from rotating their volume
motivation that the mass marketers prey up-on to controls past the nine oclock position. This is a
get people to buy their accessory products. If dramatic loss of adjustment resolution. Its like
someone has invested $12,000 in a system and driving a car that goes 10 miles per hour and 35
finds out about a product that is purported to reap miles per hour with nothing in between. The
wonderful benefits for $395, the temptation to buy setting of the volume control has nothing to do
is strong. The wonder product may only cost with maximum power output. It is merely an
$10 to manufacture and actually does nothing. As attenuator. Just because there is more rotation
competitive as audio is, dont you think manufac- does not mean that the amplifier can play
turers would use some of these things to gain an louder or that there is more reserve power. Only
edge in the marketplace if they felt they worked? the useful range of adjustment has been com-
The answer to that question should bring clarity to pressed. Ideally, the system gain should be set
the issue. so that maximum desired loudness is obtained
at about three-quarter rotation of the volume
Every item in an audio system contributes As a general rule, when using speakers
to the final acoustic output. There are no with an efficiency of 90 to 95 dB, a system gain
formulas or rules that can be used to determine of 25 to 30 dB should be satisfactory. Speakers
what a system will ultimately sound like. The with an efficiency of 80 to 85 dB will require a
acoustics of the listening room play just as system gain of 30 to 35 dB. Again, room
important a role. What can be determined is the acoustics and listening habits are important
electrical compatibility between the various factors. These figures are just general guidelines.
components. Understanding how input and The input impedance of power amps can
output impedances, voltage gain, and speaker vary from 10k ohms to 100k ohms with most
characteristics interrelate should make the either 50k or 100k. For efficient voltage transfer,
question of what works with what easier to the input impedance of the power amp should
answer. be at least ten times greater than the output
impedance of the preamp. This will result in a
VOLTAGE DRIVE COMPATIBILITY signal loss of one dB, which is negligible. The
The simplest case of component capability greater the ratio of impedances, the lower the
is the preamp driving a power amp. The gain of signal loss. Some preamps have output imped-
these two components combined with speaker ances of two or three thousand ohms. When
efficiency set the gain of the system. Customers using these products, make sure the selected
usually ask me what the voltage sensitivity of my power amp doesnt have a low impedance input.
amps are when they should be asking me, What Another parameter that must be checked
is the gain? when using high output impedance preamps is
Unfortunately, there are no standards the cable capacitance of the interconnect it must
governing how much signal a CD player or tape drive. If a mismatch occurs, a loss of high
deck or any other program source must output. frequency response will result. Typically, cables
These levels on a CD or phonograph record are have a capacitance of 30 picofarads per foot, but
set by the recording engineer. Variations in this specification must be checked for each
speaker efficiency alone easily traverse a range of cable. A three-foot interconnect driven from a
10 dB. The average level of the program source preamp with an output impedance of three
primarily sets the requirement for system gain. thousand ohms will create a negligible high
That level varies considerably. frequency roll of 0.3 dB at 20 kHz. At 30 feet,
Practical experience must therefore be the response will be down 3 dB which could
used to establish a baseline for gain. My OTLs start to affect the treble. Preamplifiers with
have a gain of 20 dB which is a little lower than output impedances of less than 1000 ohms have
most. However, many of my customers use sufficient current drive to handle the vast
passive preamps which have no gain. I am majority of installations.
convinced that most systems have too much

SPEAKER COMPATIBILITY load. When a transistor is turned full on, it
Electrical compatibility between speakers operates like a switch and will pass as much
and amplifiers is much more difficult to estab- current as the load requires. If the impedance of
lish. The impedance characteristics of loud- the speaker falls by a factor of two, the transis-
speakers vary considerably, making improper tors just pass as much current as necessary to
matches a common occurrence. Solid-state and fulfill the load. If too much current is de-
tube amplifiers generate current by completely manded for too long, they will overheat and
different means. Both must be examined to burn up. Consequently, solid-state amps have
fully understand the intricacies of speaker com- over current protection on the output stage to
patibility. prevent this from happening. The maximum
Tubes can only pass a limited amount of power a solid-state amp can deliver is set by the
current. Once that threshold is reached, clipping power supply voltage. Power limits are reached
will occur. Increasing the voltage across the tube when the amp goes into voltage clipping. The
will increase current availability, but only output voltage rises and tries to exceed the
minimally. There is just a finite amount of power supply voltage which of course it cannot
available current. do, hence the familiar truncated, or clipped,
Transformer-coupled tube amps have waveform.
different impedance taps on the outputs. When Because of the preponderance of solid-
an eight-ohm speaker is connected to the eight- state amplifiers over the last 30 years, speaker
ohm tap, the tubes are loaded with an imped- designers have not optimized, and many times
ance determined by the transformer. If a four- have ignored, the impedance characteristics of
ohm speaker is connected to the four-ohm tap, their products. Solid-state amps can easily
the tubes are loaded with exactly the same handle the dips in load impedance but they can
impedance. As far as the output tubes are be terribly difficult for tube amps. Personally, I
concerned, they cant tell the difference between feel that this is highly unfortunate and speaker
a four-ohm and eight-ohm speaker provided the designers should try to minimize any extremely
proper transformer tap is used. Everything is low dips in impedance.
fine so long as load impedance is constant. Because of the distribution of musical
What happens if the impedance of the energy, the impact an impedance dip has on an
four-ohm speaker drops to two ohms? The amplifier is tied to the frequency range in which
impedance presented to the tubes will then drop the dip occurs. Fully 90% of the energy in a
by a factor of two. Because of the lower imped- typical musical signal lies below 500 Hz. A
ance, the tubes will have to supply an additional loudspeaker that may be rated for 100 watts
41% more current to achieve the same power should have a woofer with at least a 100 watt
level. They will try to drive the heavy load and power rating. Its tweeter may only produce
will supply a little more current, but nothing frequencies over 5000 Hz and have a power
near the required 41% will be developed. The rating of only 25 watts. The reason for the lower
result is that maximum power output will fall. power rating of the tweeter is that there simply
Running out of drive current is called current isnt as much work for it to do. The musical
clipping. This is a problem all tube amplifiers energy is not great enough at those frequencies
have with very low impedance speakers. All to necessitate an equivalent power rating. By the
speakers exhibit variations in impedance. The time harmonics stretch out to 20 kHz, power
magnitude of the impedance variations are what requirements may drop to a fraction of a watt.
cause problems. It is therefore beneficial to any An impedance dip in the power range of 100 to
tube amplifier that minimum speaker imped- 500 Hz is very significant, while a dip in the
ance does not fall much below the rating of the midrange rarely presents a problem. Dips at the
output tap. highest frequencies are of no consequence.
Solid-state amplifiers operate in a com- People are constantly asking me about speaker
pletely different way. The current capability of a compatibility of my OTLs with electrostatic
transistor is primarily limited by the voltage of speakers because they see minimum impedance
the power supply and the impedance of the specifications of 1.5 to 2 ohms for the screens.

These lows always occur at 20 kHz and do not free electrons is heat. The source of the heat is the
represent any kind of drive problem. filament which is usually a tungsten alloy that is
I hesitate to mention this, but OTLs are closely fitted inside the cathode. It is electrically
the best amplifiers for electrostatic speakers. The insulated from the cathode with a ceramic-based
reason for my hesitation is that market percep- material.
tion has labeled my OTL as useful for only this When we discussed current flow in a
application. This is totally untrue. The amps conductor, the random haphazard movement of
easily drive dynamic speakers, but market electrons was caused by heat at room tempera-
perceptions built up over many years are very ture. If a conductor is further heated to a dull
hard to overcome. I fear emphasizing the red glow, the electrons gain so much energy that
electrostatic application just reinforces these they actually leave the base metal and venture
false beliefs. At the same time, I would like to out into space. To facilitate the process of
explain why the combination is successful. electrons leaving the cathode, it is coated with a
Electrostatics typically have impedances in the chemical (usually barium oxide) that dramati-
acoustic power range of over 100 ohms. These cally increases this activity.
high impedances require correspondingly high Once the electrons are jettisoned, they
voltages to drive them. My OTLs can deliver up have to go somewhere. As the electrons leave
to 70 volts RMS into these types of loads, which the cathode they gather around the cathode in a
is twice what a big solid-state amp can produce. type of cloud. Remember, charges with the same
Thats why theyre such a good match. polarity repel each other. Eventually the num-
ber of electrons becomes sufficient for them to
VACUUM TUBES generate an electric field strong enough to repel
The invention of the vacuum tube is one any more electrons from leaving the cathode.
of the hallmark achievements in the history of An equilibrium develops where the forces trying
technology. Its development marked the to eject electrons equals the forces that are
beginning of the age of electronics, which repelling them back. The resultant electron
probably has been responsible for more changes cloud is called the space charge.
in human culture than any in history. The Now that there is a quantity of free
vacuum tubes inner workings are worthy of an electrons available in the tube, a way must be
examination. implemented to get them to do some work for
A vacuum tube consists of several basic us. Surrounding the cathode is a concentric
parts. The most obvious is a glass bottle with all
the air removed. Electrons dont travel through
air very well because air is a dielectric. Vacuum Grid
tubes dont have any air in them for that very
Electron motion through tubes is a
completely different phenomena than electron
motion through a wire. In a tube, electrons
actually leave a solid material and literally travel
through space. Electric fields are the sources of
energy that control the motion of electrons in a
A triode is the simplest type of tube and it
has three parts or structures mounted inside the
glass bottle. They are the cathode, the grid and Shown are the three major elements of a triode
the plate. The cathode is a metal sleeve, usually
with an oval cross sectional area made of a nickel-
based alloy. It is the source of electrons that pass
Vacuum Tube Construction
through the tube. The method of releasing these Figure 16

cylinder called the plate. A positive voltage is The efficiency of electron emission is much lower
applied to it which sets up an electric field with this configuration and requires three or four
between the plate and cathode. Since the plate times as much heat. They are harder for the
is positive and the electrons are negative, the designer to work with but some audiophiles
electrons are attracted to the plate. The field greatly prefer the type of sound they produce.
applies a force to the electrons and they begin to Another common tube is called the
accelerate toward the plate. pentode. It has a total of five internal structures.
There are no air molecules to impede the One of the two additional structures is the screen
flow of electrons. That is, there is nothing for grid. This is another coil of wire, even more
them to bump into. Because the pathway is widely spaced than the grid, that is placed
unobstructed, they continue to accelerate as they between the grid and plate. The electric field
travel. By the time they reach the plate, they are created by the screen effectively shields or screens
traveling at maximum speed with minimum the grid and cathode from the plate. The net
density. The electrons near the cathode are affect of the screen is to dramatically reduce
moving at minimum speed and are at maximum input capacitance, making the tube easier to
density. Therefore the density of electrons varies drive and increasing gain. The shielding proper-
through the tube. ties of the screen make the tube much less sen-
For every electron that leaves the cathode, sitive to plate voltage variations. In fact, plate
it must be replaced. The electric field, set up by voltage can often vary a couple of hundred volts
the space charge surrounding the cathode, is before it has any material effect on the current
weakened every time an electron leaves. The through the tube. Pentodes are much less
reduction in field strength allows another susceptible to power supply ripple than triodes.
electron to escape the cathode to replace it. The There is a fifth element called the suppres-
faster the electrons are drawn off, the weaker the sor grid. It is a coil wound between the screen
field becomes and the more electrons are and plate. When the electrons hit the plate, they
liberated to replace them. The system constantly are going very fast and cause electrons in the
balances itself, replenishing electrons as needed. plate to be knocked free into space. The sup-
There is a limit to the rate of electron pressor is connected to the cathode so it assumes
replenishment. There is only so much cathode a negative potential relative to the plate. The
material and so much heat. Ultimately, a limit free electrons are repelled by the suppressor and
will be reached where no more electrons can be find their way back to the plate. This makes the
made available. The tube simply runs out of tube more linear and maximizes gain.
current. This is why tubes can only pass a Triodes and pentodes have different
certain amount of current. distortion characteristics. Triodes produce
One more element is required to com- mostly even order harmonics while pentodes
plete the assembly. Surrounding the cathode is produce both even and odd order distortion
a single layer coil of wire with widely spaced products. Even order harmonics are generally
turns called the grid. A negative voltage is considered less objectionable than odd order.
applied to the grid which has the effect of Pentodes get a bad rap for this as they can still
creating another field between the plate and be employed to make great-sounding equip-
cathode. The fields negative polarity retards the ment. Triodes have another advantage in that
flow of electrons. It acts as a throttling mecha- they are a little quieter that pentodes. The extra
nism that controls or modulates the electron grids generate some additional noise. Pentodes
flow. The grid is where the audio signal is can be connected as triodes and in that case,
applied. The audio then sets up its own field, acquire all of the performance advantages of
thereby controlling the tube. The negative triodes. I often do this.
voltage on the grid is called the bias voltage. FEEDBACK AND IMAGING
There is another kind of triode where the Now we are going to enter into the treacher-
filament is also the cathode. They are primarily ous realm of the most notorious scoundrel in all of
used as output tubes for single-ended amplifiers. audio, the domain of the dreaded negative feedback.

The mere mention of this villain strikes shear called tracks. If several instruments are grouped
terror in the hearts of any high-end audiophile. It together, each usually has its own microphone.
has been blamed as the sole cause for every sonic Rarely is music recorded in concert halls using just
deficiency that has ever existed. Any association a few microphones. The tracks are subject to all
with this monster justifies complete rejection and sorts of manipulations by the producer and
persecution by the true believers. Someone please recording engineer. Signals are boosted, cut,
send me an exorcist to remove this vile corruption reverb is added, and on and on. Elaborate consoles
from my home! are used, loaded with sophisticated electronics to
Of all the concepts that the mass marketers implement these alterations. Finally, the tracks
have planted in the minds of audiophiles, none are mixed together into a two-channel recording.
have been more successfully embedded than the The end product oftentimes bears no resemblance
virtual brainwashing that has occurred regarding to the original and is the result of the application
negative feedback. Every belief system needs an of very creative technology.
enemy to focus upon and negative feedback is the The audiophile buys the recording, plays it
unfortunate target of the wrath of the priests of on his system and then describes sound staging
audio. and imaging. What sound stage? There never was
Well, I dont think this persecution is at all one to begin with.
justified. In fact, its sheer nonsense. The use of Psychoacoustic phenomena exist that
feedback will not condemn anyone to eternal cause the sensation of sound localization in a
damnation. Please forgive my heresy, for I am two-channel recording. We have all experienced
but a confused engineer whos been using this. Sounds appear to hang in the air, some
feedback for years to make some really great- closer to the left or right, front or back. How
sounding equipment. Perhaps if I was an does this happen?
ordained priest of the high order of audio, my Human beings determine the location of
vision would be cleared and I would see the sounds by the time delay detected between the
error of my ways and realize that it was the two ears. This is a highly precise adaptation
cosmic ray deflector all along. (My analyst says which Im sure was essential to survival in
that its good therapy to get these conflicts out in evolutionary times. People had to know where
the open.) the lions roars were coming from so they could
Negative feedback is one of the most run the other way!
useful and versatile tools a designer can utilize When music is played on a two-channel
to improve the performance of an amplifying stereo system, time-based information is embed-
circuit. It can reduce noise, lower distortion, ded into the signal. All of the sounds and their
extend bandwidth, and reduce output imped- harmonics start and stop at different times.
ance, all at the same time! It can be used to Time variations obviously also occur between
make equalization networks, filters, boost sounds common to both channels. The entire
signals and a host of other applications. So stereo system acts on this information and then
whats the problem? adds its own variations on top of those origi-
There is a general acoustic correlation to nally in the recording. Furthermore, room
the application of feedback, particularly in acoustics are a major factor in adding yet
power amplifiers. Its presence definitely can another layer of directional effects to the sound.
alter the acoustic experience. We must define The final outcome is a perception in the listener
what a proper acoustic experience is before the of the placements of instruments. So I have to
affects of feedback can be analyzed. ask again: What sound stage?
When a recording is made, the usual The perception of localization of individual
procedure is to use a multitrack tape recorder and instruments and voices must therefore be an
separately record individual voices and instru- artificial contrivance. This phenomenon is purely
ments. Oftentimes these sources are segregated a product of the recording process and the play-
into separate recording booths for complete back system. But its a good thing!
acoustic isolation. These individual recordings are Because of these effects, additional realism

is added to the experience of listening to music.
Without them, much pleasure would be lost and Subtract Gain
the music would sound flat and lifeless. The
2V 1V 10V
point I am trying to make is that these percep- ( ) (X10)
tions are neither correct nor incorrect. They are Input Output
just there or not, and in differing amounts. 1V
Some amplifiers emphasize localization in ( 10)
different ways, and feedback definitely plays a Divider
part in this process. With the addition of
feedback, instrument localization tends to be
more pronounced and identifiable. With its Negative feedback system with a closed loop gain of 5.
reduction or elimination, individual sonic
images tend to blur and the overall width of the Internal gain is 10 times. Input voltage is 2 V. Divider
samples output and sends a 1V signal to subtract stage
apparent sound stage tends to widen.
where it is combined with 2V input. Difference is 1V
Identifying and verifying the mechanism which is fed into gain stage. Feedback reduces gain
that causes this would require years to establish from 10 times to 5 times by reducing input voltage into
and a four hundred-page book to prove it! I do, gain stage. Benefits are achieved at the expense of gain.
however, have an idea as to why this happens. All signals are in phase.
When feedback is added, bandwidth is
Negative Feedback
extended and rise time is improved. These are
changes in the time characteristics of the ampli- Figure 18
fier. I liken it to focusing a camera. As the
image is brought into focus, the individual like fairly important parameters to me. The
elements of the picture are brought forth and obvious and reasonable solution is to apply
the resolution is increased. When the image is feedback as needed to achieve a balance of
taken out of focus, the elements blur. The time performance. Thats what I do in my designs.
characteristics of amplifiers can be tested with Feedback is neither good nor bad, right or
impulse testing using Fourier Analysis. It wrong. It is simply a tool that can be used to
would be interesting to see if there is a correla- optimize performance.
tion between any repeatable results and the Electrically speaking, how does feedback
perception of localization. Perhaps this is the work? The mechanism for feedback is rather
wrong avenue to pursue, but it certainly merits amazing in that it acts like a computer, but it has
further investigation. no means to think. It is implemented by
For some reason, contemporary audio sampling a portion of the output signal and
culture seems to prefer a blurred image with combining it with the input, usually at the first
exaggerated width. This effect is enhanced with stage of the amplifier. If an amplifier was
the elimination of negative feedback. Zero perfect and did not alter the signal in any way
feedback, single-ended amplifiers are quite except to provide gain, the input and output
popular now. Do you suppose the mass market- signals would be exact copies of each other,
ers have something to do with this? except the output would have greater amplitude.
Getting rid of feedback creates many other The reason only a portion of the output signal is
problems. Output impedance rises, which ruins combined with the input is to compensate for
the damping capabilities of the amplifier, gain. This is done with a resistive divider.
causing mushy, boomy bass. Noise will go up The two combined signals are in phase.
or expensive power supply filtering will be The sampled portion of the output is always lower
required to keep it at tolerable levels. Distortion in amplitude than the input. Because the two
will necessarily rise. The speed of the amplifier combined signals in our perfect amplifier are exact
will be reduced potentially causing transients to parallels of each other, the result of the combina-
be muffled or lost. tion is a third signal that is also an exact parallel,
I dont know about you, but these seem but has an amplitude which is equal to the

difference between the two. This third signal is somewhere in the process causing the desired
what the amplifier uses to send to the output. It parameters to change. It functions as a correc-
always has an amplitude less than the original tive signal. The greater the output is skewed, the
input signal. Thats why negative feedback greater the magnitude of the corrective signal. It
always reduces voltage gain. The feedback is important to note that the corrective signal
effectively reduces the amplitude of the input does not have to be added to the input,
signal. although it can be. It all depends upon what
Getting back to reality, all amplifiers alter you are trying to do. I might add that servos can
signals in other ways besides increasing ampli- and often are implemented entirely with digital
tude. These alterations could be lumped togeth- microprocessor circuitry.
er in one category and called distortion. When Servos affect the transient response of a
the output and input signals of a real amplifier process. In that sense, they share much with
are combined, the resultant third signal now negative feedback. Parameters like rise time,
contains an error signal that has the opposite damping, and overshoot apply to both. They
phase, or inverse, of the distortion. The error add complexity to a project but their inclusion
signal tries to push the amplifier in the opposite opens up many possibilities. I am not currently
direction that the distorted output signal is using any in my products, but who knows what
going. The two cancel out and the distortion is the future will bring?
reduced. The signal traveling through the
amplifier circuit will possess additional distor- ACOUSTICS
tion but it is there to cancel out the effects of the The whole purpose of processing electrical
distortion at the output. So an amount of signals in stereo equipment is to create sound.
distortion is added to the audio that is the That is ultimately the final product. There are
inverse of the distortion naturally produced by many similarities in the behavior of sound to
the amplifier. The effect of this added distortion electrical signals but there are also many distinct
is to cancel out and negate distortion in the differences that should be discussed.
output. Thats what negative feedback does. Sound is a mechanical disturbance
propagating through a medium. It cannot be
SERVO SYSTEMS transmitted through a vacuum. Some type of
These are sometimes used in amplifiers to material must be present for it to go through. It
compensate for DC levels or in subwoofers to can travel through air, water, or a solid. Sound
linearize cone motion. In an academic sense, transmitted through the air is actually a pressure
they use feedback signals but in a completely wave.
different way. Air is a compressible substanceas
Servo systems are used to control a anyone who has ever pumped up a tire can
process. Some kind of output is generated at the attest. Therefore, the pressure wave should not
end of the process whether it is sound or the be thought of as air movement. The air
position of a mechanical actuator. The first molecules do move, but only at microscopic
thing the servo does is monitor the output and distances and for low level sounds, at atomic
derive an analog of that output. In feedback, we distances. Think of the air molecules as just
use the actual output voltage signal. A servo pressing against each other and your ears.
may monitor output current, or second order A pressure wave moves through the air
distortion, or DC output or position of a laser just as a ripple moves across a pond. Once a
beam in a CD player. The derived analog signal disturbance is set up, the wave front moves out
then goes into a process amplifier that may equally in all directions. As the wave travels, its
perform a mathematical operation on the signal. amplitude decreases because the waves energy is
The signal could be amplified or scaled or dissipated, or absorbed, into the air. Because
changed in some other way. This is what an the wave spreads out as it moves, its energy is
analog computer does. applied over an increasingly larger area. Eventu-
The altered signal then gets injected ally there is no wave and no sound.

Every sound wave is built of a region of other structures nearby. The anechoic chamber
increasing and then decreasing pressure. The achieves this effect by having special geometries
positive part of the wave is called compression and sound absorbent materials lining all the
and the negative part of the wave is called interior surfaces that capture all of the sound
rarefaction. (There is no polarity that can be and prohibit any sound from being reflected
associated with an acoustic wave. I am using the back into the room.
terms positive and negative here only to In a non-reverberant sound field, every
correlate with an electrical signal.) During time the distance is doubled between the
compression, the pressure in the wave is greater listener and the loudspeaker, the volume, or
than the general pressure in the air. During more accurately the sound pressure level (SPL),
rarefaction, the wave pressure is lower than the decreases by 6 dB. This is because the sound
general air pressure. There are three characteris- wave is being stretched and spread as it travels.
tics to the wave that essentially describe its Actually, the reduction SPL has to be a little
properties. The shape of the wave is determined greater than that because air is not a lossless
by the rate at which the pressure increases and medium. Because of its compressibility, energy
decreases. The frequency of the wave is deter- from the wave is absorbed into the air as it
mined by how much time elapses before the travels. This continuously attenuates the
pressure goes from compression through amplitude during propagation in addition to
rarefaction, and the loudness is determined by losses attributed to wave spreading. The energy
the waves amplitude. content of the sound wave gets soaked up by the
When a loudspeaker cone pushes forward, air as it travels.
a compression wave is formed. When it pulls Listening to a speaker in a residence is a
back, a rarefaction wave is produced. The faster totally different experience. This type of envi-
the cone moves back and forth, the higher the ronment is called a reverberant sound field.
frequency. The greater distance the cone moves When a sound wave reaches a hard
back and forth, the greater the volume. When surface, much of the wave is reflected back into
you place your hand in front of a woofer and the room. The harder and denser the surface,
feel air movement, thats what it is, air move- the greater the propensity for reflection. Im
ment, not sound. The air moves simply because sure you have experienced echo effects in large
the woofer is pulsating back and forth so empty rooms with hard plaster or concrete
violently that air is being pushed around. This surfaces. Rooms that are fully carpeted with
actually represents inefficiency in coupling the heavy drapes and much overstuffed furniture,
woofer to the air. Energy is wasted in creating a are highly damped and do not tend to exhibit
breeze instead of making sound. Most loud- these effects. Soft surfaces absorb sound by
speakers have an efficiency of less than 1%. The letting their molecules vibrate when stimulated
most efficient loudspeakers available are not by the sound, thereby converting it into heat.
more that about 5% efficient. This means that if Ultimately, all of the electrical energy that flows
an amplifier is producing 100 watts of electrical into a power amp from the wall outlet is
power, the actual power of the sound projected converted into heat.
into the room is probably on the order of The amount of reflected sound in a typical
watt. listening room predominates what we hear. If
Loudspeaker measurements are often you stand directly in front of a speaker and
made in an anechoic chamber in order to slowly move back, you will notice that, at first,
simulate a free field environment. Free field the SPL starts to reduce. By the time you have
means the sound leaves the speaker and radiates moved back a few feet, the reduction in SPL levels
outward with no reflections to interfere with the off and becomes relatively constant. This is
waves propagation. This type of sound field is because there is so much reflected sound energy in
also called a non-reverberant sound field. The the room that it swamps out the effects of the
easiest way for you and I to accomplish this is to sound wave spreading out as it travels. The
set the speaker outside in an open area with no loudspeaker doesnt really project a specific type of

sound in the room. It stimulates the room with much of either characteristic can cause excessive
acoustical energy and the room does what it wants colorations.
with it. The acoustical properties of rooms so Other sources of room colorations are
dramatically alter the final result, that no speaker mechanical resonances with the structure itself.
will sound the same in two different rooms. This All structures have natural mechanical reso-
unavoidable fact makes buying speakers the most nances, and when they are excited by sound
difficult choice the audiophile faces. waves, they start vibrating and generate more
Merely changing the placement of speakers tones. These resonances can be a real problem
can have a huge effect. Recently, I reversed the in accentuating parts of the music, particularly
orientation of my listening room by just exchang- in the bass region. They can cause a muddy,
ing everything from one side to the other. The exaggerated sound at specific bass frequencies.
room was not symmetrical in this regard. This When these resonances are excited, you can
made a tremendous improvement. Why do these actually feel the walls or floor vibrate, often at a
things happen? What mechanism causes the considerable level. Years ago when I was living
sound to change as you move about the room or in an apartment, I built a signal generator and
move the speakers? was playing around with my system. I went
The speed of sound in air is 1087 ft. per hunting for room resonances and found a major
second. This is slow enough that many effects one at around 50 Hz. I remember it was a very
similar to those in transmission lines occur. A sharp, or finely tuned, resonance as the fre-
100 Hz tone has a wavelength of 10.87 feet. If a quency had to be carefully adjusted. I made that
room had two reflecting surfaces that were 10.87 apartment shake like you wouldnt believe. The
feet apart, they would be tuned to harmonics of experiment probably upset quite a few roaches!
a 100 Hz signal. As acoustical energy is reflected When sound hits a reflective surface that is
back and forth, standing waves will form at larger than one quarter wavelength, it will
whole number multiples of 100 Hz. That means bounce off it. If the surface is smaller than one
frequencies of 200, 300, 400 Hz etc. will be quarter wave length it tends to diffract, or bend,
created. These additional frequencies reinforce around the object. This lengthens the pathway
other signals or reduce them depending upon that the sound wave can travel. Diffraction,
where the listener is standing. They are of lower therefore, can increase time delays of reflected
amplitude than the fundamental but they are sound by increasing the time the sound takes to
still there. This phenomenon occurs for every bounce off something and end up at your ears.
pair of reflecting surfaces. If two walls were 15 All of the above-mentioned effects
feet apart then the fundamental frequency culminate in the sound that is heard at any
would be 72.5 Hz and the generated harmonics specific location in any room. They all combine
would then be 145 Hz, 217 Hz, 290 Hz, etc. in different amounts everywhere in the room
There are literally hundreds of frequencies of causing the room to sound different depending
standing waves causing interference in each on where the listener is located. Most of these
listening room and there is absolutely nothing characteristics cannot be altered short of making
you can do about it. drastic physical changes to the rooms interior.
When sound reflects around the room, it Drapes and carpets can be added as well as other
arrives at your ears at different times. This is a damping and reflecting materials but you are
kind of echo called reverberation. Clap your still stuck with the rooms basic geometry.
hands in a highly reverberant room and you Room acoustics are by far the most dominant
hear a pronounced ringing sound. Do the same in variable in determining what a stereo system will
a highly damped room and the ring is gone. The sound like and, for the most part, is the least
ringing sound is caused by sound waves bouncing alterable by the audiophile.
around until they finally decay. Sound projected The science of acoustical treatments is
into such a room has a lively character to it. highly developed and widely employed in
Sound projected into a highly damped room may professional sound reinforcement systems. The
sound dull and lifeless. Neither is correct. Too methods and techniques used are hardly propri-

etary to high-end audio. Much literature is
available on the subject. Performance character-
istics of acoustical damping materials have been
widely published in a variety of sources. There

Sound Pressure Level-dB

are no secret devices and materials. Generally
speaking, it takes a lot of acoustical material to
significantly alter the sonic characteristics of a
room. I have seen the experts in action at the
trade shows, and I mean real experts. The
process of determining what do you put where
and how much do you use is entirely trial and
error. They just keep working with it until they
hit on right combination. Its a tough job. The
consumer should therefore be highly suspect of Frequency-Hz
any miraculous, instant treatments that are
purported to significantly improve the sound of Equal Loudness Curves
any room. Figure 19

APPARENT LOUDNESS fier by over 100 times. Therefore, the audiophile

Not only is the ear relatively insensitive to should not be overly concerned with speakers that
changes in loudness, apparent loudness is also roll off at 30 Hz because it is almost impossible to
heavily influenced by frequency versus relative produce sounds below 30 Hz at anything but
loudness. Explaining this phenomenon will moderate levels. Unless the audiophile wants to
require the use of a graph. Figure 19 shows a set invest in expensive active subwoofers with
of equal loudness curves for the human ear. kilowatt amplifiers, accepting a lower limit of 30
Each curve represents the apparent perceived Hz is the only realistic choice. Compact disks are
loudness over a range of frequencies relative to a capable of providing sounds well below the limits
specific measured loudness at 1000 Hz. This of human audibility. Just because you can do
means the listener perceives the sound to be something doesnt mean that you should. There is
louder or softer than what is heard at 1000 Hz virtually no musical energy below 30 Hz and very
as the frequency changes. Also the curves show little below 40 Hz. Im aware that there are a few
how the variation in apparent loudness changes organs in the world that have a 16 Hz pedal tone
as the level at 1000 Hz is changed. and a few drums that generate tones at the very
Looking at the curves, at a SPL of 10 dB, limits of hearing, but that doesnt mean that
for a 20 Hz tone to sound as loud as it does at everyones system has to be burdened with these
1000 Hz, it would have to measure at 78 db. very expensive requirements.
This is an increase in power of 68 dB or 6.3 Many loudspeaker frequency response tests
million times! At a more realistic level of 70 dB are run at just one watt. This can be highly
SPL at 1000 Hz, a 20 Hz tone will have to be misleading in describing the speakers ability to
increased to108 dB to sound as loud. This is a reproduce bass tones. As has just been dis-
power increase of 48 dB or 63 thousand times. cussed, the power requirements placed on the
At a very high level of 100 dB, a 20 Hz tone will speaker and amp in the lowest octave are
have to be increased to 128 dB to sound as loud, sizeable even at moderate listening levels. A
which is an increase in power of 631 times. As speaker that has a flat response curve at a couple of
you can see, producing high power sounds at the watts may not be able to generate the lowest
lower frequency limit of human hearing takes frequencies at high listening levels. This is a
such colossal amounts of power that is a practi- type of dynamic compression. Severe distortion
cal impossibility. Raising the lower limit can result when the volume is turned up.
required of a stereo system to a more realistic 30 Dynamic compression of bass signals explains
Hz reduces the power required from the ampli- why some speakers have great bass at low

listening levels, but the bottom end disappears The quieter speaker will appear to be off.
when the system is pushed to its limits. The Masking is then a characteristic of the ear to
root cause of this effect is the ears extreme ignore a sound if there is another sound at
nonlinearity to low frequency signals. Only exactly the same frequency that is just slightly
frequency response tests performed at maximum louder. Perhaps back in evolutionary times, the
power will reveal the audible bass performance. louder a sound was, the closer and more immi-
It is highly possible that a speaker that rolls off nent a potential threat was. Maybe our minds
at 35 Hz has more bass than one that rolls off at evolved to ignore similar but quieter sounds
25 Hz if the former can generate much more because the loudest sound probably had the
powerful signals at the 40 Hz level. closest teeth.
At the treble end of the spectrum, the Audible noise is always present. The only
curves show us that the ear is most sensitive time it is heard is when the program material
between 2000 and 3000 Hz. Sensitivity then becomes sufficiently quiet that the noise comes
decreases to about 9000 Hz and becomes a little through. At all other times, the program
more sensitive at 12,000 Hz. Because of the very material masks over the noise, rendering it
low power content of musical energy in the top inaudible. Noise reduction systems such as
octaves, the power requirements of the amplifier those used for tape decks are prime examples of
and speaker are nowhere near as great as in the exploiting this condition. During the recording
bass region. process, high frequency signals are boosted such
that they are well above the noise floor. During
DYNAMIC RANGE playback, the highs are reduced to their original
The ear has a dynamic range of 130 dB. levels. The noise is reduced along with them,
However, the complete range can never be fully causing a significant reduction in background
realized. First of all, most residential systems are noise. The ratio of boosted highs to noise is
not capable of producing over 110 dB. Getting preserved because during recording, the noise
to 120 dB requires highly efficient horn type was not boosted, only the highs. Upon playback
speakers, which are available, and many hun- after the signal is restored to the original level,
dreds of watts of amplifier power. It can be the highs mask over the noise because they are
done, but is so impractical that it makes this still at a much higher level. This description is a
goal virtually unreachable. At the other end of simplification. The amount of signal boost is
the spectrum, the quietest environment that can variable depending on the strength of the highs
be expected in a home is about 30 dB. The present at any one time.
sounds of breathing begin to dominate at these Another technique that can be used to
levels. Its really hard to listen to music if you reduce existing noise is dynamic noise filtering.
cant breathe. Many home environments dont Back in the 80s there were several products that
get any quieter than 40 dB. Realistically, the employed this process. With the advent of the
maximum dynamic range that can be achieved is compact disk, however, they have all but
80 dB and quite possibly only 70 dB. Once the disappeared from the scene. They work by
noise floor of a stereo system gets below the actually restricting the bandwidth of the pro-
noise floor of the listening room, any further gram. When no highs strong enough to mask
improvements are not noticeable because the the noise are present, a variable low pass filter
ambient noise will swamp out and mask the quickly closes down the bandwidth, thereby
system noise. filtering out the noise. As soon as the music
MASKING returns, the filter opens up and restores the
Masking is an interesting effect that forms bandwidth, letting the highs through. The speed
the basis for most noise reduction systems. It is of the filter has to be very fast or some of the
a characteristic of human hearing. If two music will be lost. One of the few remaining
speakers are playing the same tone and one is applications for a device like this, is to clean up
made just 3 dB louder than the other, the louder old noisy tapes and records. Otherwise, they
speaker will dominate and the tone will sound have few if any applications in a modern system.
like it is only being generated by one speaker.

I mention them because they exemplify another intentionally misleading the buying public. I am
case of masking effects. no ultra bleeding heart liberal, but it does upset me
to see people throw out their hard-earned money
CONCLUSION TO PART ONE on products that cannot possibly perform as
I have talked to so many audiophiles who claimed. When shopping at a bazaar, the best
are terribly disenchanted with the current state advice is let the buyer beware. Dont totally trust
of affairs in audio. They often tell me that they anyone or anything when money is changing
have spent many thousands of dollars but the hands, including me!
equipment never performs as expected. Quite It is my hope that whatever equipment
frequently, mediocre or even poor performance you do decide to purchase, this book will help
is the result. They are looking for answers to you get your moneys worth and prevent your
help guide them in their purchasing decisions being taken advantage of by someone. Please
but are unable to secure reliable information. dont base your purchasing decisions upon what
Ask ten experts and you get ten different I say or do. I want you to base your decisions upon
answersdepending upon what the experts are what the science tells you. Science isnt interested
selling. in your credit card number. Learn to use
Whenever unrealistic claims are reported knowledge as a tool to guide you instead of just
in the media, audiophiles tend to develop high blindly following the edicts of a media sage.
expectations that can never be satisfied. I have The so-called sages of the audio media were not
had many conversations with experienced sent from the heavens on a divine mission to
audiophiles who told me they had purchased purify the marketplace and shield the helpless
various items with high hopes and were terribly from charlatans. Everyone in this business is
disappointed when no appreciable benefit selling something, including the sages.
resulted. Their system still sounded basically the What then is the consumers best choice of
same. action? Become your own expert. I would be
Once, an inexperienced audiophile came overjoyed to learn that many of you, after
to my shop because he wanted to hear an OTL. I reading this book, went to the library to learn
gave him a demonstration and he was disap- more about electronics and acoustics. Some-
pointed. He said the sound wasnt magical times being a nerd is a good idea. You dont
enough. The fellow then examined my setup have to tell anyone that you read a book on
and informed me the problem was caused by electronics. It will be a secret between you and
my cables. If I had used the right cables, the me. If you can absorb the basic concepts set
system would have possessed the required forth in these few pages, then there should be no
magical qualities. The demonstration abruptly stopping you from continuing on. Most of the
ended. math you will encounter is no more difficult
This encounter illustrates what inaccurate, than simple algebraic relationships requiring
exaggerated media reporting can do to the only addition, subtraction, multiplication, and
novice. Why did this individual expect magic division.
from my OTL? I certainly didnt tell him that. How do you determine if your system
His anticipation of a supernatural sonic experi- sounds right? Easy! Attend a few live, musical
ence was probably formed from reports pub- performances. Whatever venue you desire, there
lished in the media. When reporting turns to are always opportunities to experience live
hyping, everyone loses. The consumer becomes music. The best types to learn from are
frustrated and confused because he doesnt know nonamplified acoustical instruments and vocals,
what to believe or expect when finally confronted which are predominately orchestral music.
with reality. Most of the time, reality doesnt show Virtually all pop music (including jazz, folk,
up until after the check is signed. rock, and blues) is heavily amplified, mixed and
There is nothing inherently wrong with equalized and then pumped through another,
trying to sell products. I am trying to sell my often substandard, sound system. So how do
products. There is something wrong with you know if your system produces pop music

accurately or not? You dont. Dont worry, you
arent alone. Since there is no pure acoustic
source, no baseline exists with which to make a
comparison. Either the system produces an
acoustical experience that is pleasing and
satisfying to the listener or it doesnt. The only
person that can make that determination is the
individual using the system, and that includes
you, me, and everyone else.
Now its my turn to prove what I have
done. The next section contains the actual
designs of my products. Complete working
schematics, parts lists, and checkout procedures
are included. Anyone with the necessary skills
to assemble electronics can build my equipment
and find out for themselves if I am telling the
truth or am just another carnival act. Anyone
can say anything. Proving your claims is
another matter. Well, heres the proof.


If they dont understand it,

it doesnt exist.
Bruce Rozenblit

I would never claim that anyone can build interpret the readings. This is very straightfor-
these projects. Obviously, the more experience ward and simple, but it is a skill that some do
one has with electronics the better. The projects not have, nor wish to acquire.
represent varying degrees of difficulty. The It would be wonderful if you owned an
novice should start with a simpler project before oscilloscope and signal generator. Scopes are
attempting a more difficult one. available now for less than $400 (dual trace, 20
The circuit explanations assume a basic MHZ, quite powerful) and you can get 5 MHZ,
elementary knowledge of electronics. If youre single channel units for slightly more than $200
not quite there yet, you should read my first that would be perfectly adequate for check out
book, The Beginners Guide to Tube Audio Design. and trouble shooting. They are your eyes into
This book is a straightforward distillation of the workings of an electronic circuit. A simple
electronics engineering principals that teaches signal generator can be had for around $60, and
lay people how to design their own circuits. If first class units are less than $200. Experience is
your needs are even more fundamental, then go your best teacher when using test equipment
to the library or book store and pick up a title and there are many books commonly available
that covers introductory electricity and electron- that can help you. Part of my plan for this book
ics. A good test of competence is to check and is turning unsuspecting audiophiles into profi-
see if the author holds at least a Bachelors cient electronic hobbyists. Hopefully, if you
Degree in Electrical Engineering. If the author understand how the equipment works, you will
has been to school, the odds of getting credible develop an appreciation for superior design and
information are greatly improved. There are demand it for your dollar.
also many wonderful texts from decades past You will have to know how to use a
that are available as reprints (I have many in my soldering iron and work with wire. Again these
library) but most are a little too difficult to skills are easy to acquire, and absolutely essen-
digest if you are just starting out. tial for completing a project.
Some projects require extensive voltage Cutting holes in the chassis is not that
measurements during check out. You dont just difficult. This work requires using drills, chassis
slap them together and throw the power switch punches, files and a nibbling tool. If you dont
on. These measurements involve working know which end of a screwdriver fits in your
around dangerous voltages. You need to know hand, you are going to have problems machin-
how to use a digital voltmeter (around $30) and ing a chassis.

The general procedure to follow in they produce are always clean with no ragged
building a project is to first acquire all the major edges. Apply a couple of drops of machine oil
components and lay them out to ensure a large to the punch to help it cut more easily.
enough chassis has been selected. Then buy the Draw lines on sheet metal with a scribe
chassis, mark all the holes and cut them out. If which scratches an accurate line in the metal.
desired, now is the time to paint. Mount all of Use the scribe to make a small indentation for
the main components where any connections the hole centers. Then use an automatic center
will be made. Wire it up and then check it out. punch to enlarge the indentation prior to
drilling. An automatic punch is much more
MACHINING A CHASSIS accurate then the kind you hit with a hammer.
Working with sheet metal takes a little It makes quite a bang when the spring-loaded
getting used to. Unlike wood, sheet metal can mechanism drives the punch so I often wear
bend or even tear if you dont use the proper hearing protection. The metal chassis acts like a
tools and techniques. The operations needed diaphragm and really amplifies the sound.
will be cutting small round holes, cutting large Whenever you drill through, burrs will be
round holes, and cutting rectangular holes. left on the other side that must be removed. I
It is far easier to work with aluminum have found that a -inch drill bit held in the
than steel because it is much softer. Steel is hard hand, is quite effective at removing the burrs. A
and leaves sharp little slivers that can easily cut standard de-burring tools cutting angle is too
your fingers. Since I dont enjoy bleeding, I steep. You might need to use a rag to hold the
always use an aluminum chassis. drill bit as the side flutes can be sharp.
For round holes of diameter 1/4 inch and Components, like tube sockets which
smaller, a sharp drill bit works well. For holes require two or more mounting holes with tight
larger than this, the drill bit usually chatters, precision, should be handled as follows. Always
jams and severely distorts the metal. One way make the major hole that accommodates the
to minimize this is to use several drills and body of the device first. Then, place the device
increase the hole size a little at a time. Incre- in the hole and mark the location of screw holes
ments of 1/16 inch are in order. The larger bits for the mounting flanges. This compensates for
always chatter when they break through and you most of the error in making the big hole. If you
can never get a clean hole. For good hole center drill all three at once, they will never come out
accuracy, always drill a pilot hole of no bigger right. I think this has something to do with
than 1/8 inch. Unless you are using a drill press Demons or evil spirits.
with the work piece clamped, the larger the bit, Sometimes holes still end up a little off
the greater the tendency for the bit to drift off center. Needle files are then used as hole
center. Its not a question of when but of how stretchers. Place the component on the chassis
much. and mark how much to file with the scribe. A
Dont use a high power drill and be sure few quick strokes of the file and the problem is
to keep the RPMs down. Slower speeds, in the solved. No one will ever know.
range of 500 to 750 RPM, cut more cleanly and Cutting rectangular holes is more difficult.
dont load up the bit. A powerful drill is The most important rule to follow is to take
dangerous because if the bit jams (and it will!), your time. Mark the shape of the opening on
the drill will spin out of your hand. That really the chassis. Take a 1/4 inch drill and remove
hurts because your hand is gripping the drill most of the material by drilling successive holes
tightly and since it is attached to your arm, it has that just overlap. Now use the nibbling tool to
a hard time spinning at 1200 RPM. A small square up the hole. The cutting head will
cordless model is best. probably be on the inside of the chassis and
For larger holes, always use a chassis your hand on the outside. This makes it hard to
punch. They are a little pricey but will last see where the cut will be made. Sometimes it is
forever. Commonly needed punches are 1/2, helpful to draw the hole on the inside of the
3/4, and 1-1/8 inches in diameter. The holes chassis to alleviate this problem. Otherwise,

nibble as close to the line as you can without holding screwdriver is a real time saver. If you
going over and then finish the job with a -inch dont have one, you can always tape the screw to
wide flat file. The metal cuts quickly so use little the screwdriver with a piece of masking tape to
pressure on the file. Most devices, like power get it started.
cord connectors, have overlapping flanges that Dont over tighten small screws as you can
cover the hole so perfection is not required. easily shear them off. This isnt about winning
Now place the device in the hole and mark and the strongmans competition.
drill for the mounting screws. Mounting components on the front and
If you wish to paint the chassis, the best rear of the chassis first is always easier. Then
time to do it is after all the holes are cut. I use mount the components on the top. If you dont,
150 grit aluminum oxide sandpaper in an you will be constantly scraping your knuckles on
orbital finishing sander and give the chassis a top-mounted components as you hold the nuts
thorough once-over. This removes all scribe for the front and rear-mounted items. Make
marks and roughs up the metal to accept the things easier for yourself and mount the trans-
paint. Wash with an abrasive kitchen cleanser or formers last.
Brillo pad to remove all the metal dust and
manufacturing oil. Use a top quality, aerosol WIRING
appliance-grade paint and primer of your If there is one area in audio loaded with
choice. misinformation, its wiring. Once you under-
Now heres the bad news. The paint stand the magnitude and breadth of sonic
instructions will tell you that it dries overnight. changes that can be implemented by altering
That is true, but it doesnt cure overnight. That circuitry, it becomes a very difficult proposition
means it is still soft and scratches easily. It could to believe the many wondrous claims made for
take three or four weeks for the paint to fully replacing a 3-inch piece of wire.
harden. I have never been able to wait that I select wire the old-fashioned way by
long. After a couple of days, its full speed ahead matching the insulation to the application.
and I start building. I know the paint will be Tube amps are hot places, so wire with high
scratched somewhere, but how long can you just temperature insulation is a benefit. . The best to
sit there and watch the thing dry? use is 105 degree C., U.L. rated 1015, PVC insu-
lated hook- up wire. It has a thick, tough insula-
MOUNTING THE COMPONENTS tion that can take a lot of abuse which, believe me,
The next step in assembly is bolting all of it will receive. The high temperature allows it to
the components to the chassis. Tube sockets withstand the heat of soldering very well. The
and terminal strips require size 4/40 by 1/4 inch voltage rating is only 600 volts, but that is a U.L.
long machine screws. Low profile binder head standard rating. The insulation is thicker than
screws work best for most applications. Some- other types of PVC insulated wire rated for 1000
times flat head screws are required as the volts. So for our purposes, 1015 wire will work at
surface of the head must be nearly flush with the any conceivable voltage which we will
chassis for clearance with the tube. This will encounter.
require countersinking the screw head. Small The conductors are tin-plated copper,
transformers are usually held with size 6/32 by which is the standard for all electronics assem-
3/8" screws, and larger ones with size 8/32 bly. The tin plating makes the wire much easier
hardware. to solder. At this point I dont want to delve
A set of screwdrivers with blades of 1/8, into the myths about secret alloys, plating
3/16, and 1/4 inch are essential. A set of nut compounds, geometries, crystalline structures
drivers are equally indispensable. Always use an and other topics that permeate contemporary
internal tooth lock washer under each nut as it audio literature and culture. They are far too
prevents loosening over time and eases assembly numerous to mention and the previous section
by grabbing the nut as the screw is tightened so clarified many of these issues.
it doesnt spin. For tight locations, a screw- There are many other types of hookup

wire that will work just as well. Wire with an 80- ground. The ground terminal of the input jack is
degree rating will work but it doesnt hold up as then connected to the chassis through the resistor.
well to soldering. It is perfectly functional but it This of course requires the use of an insulated
cant take as much abuse. Hookup wire is not input jack.
expensive. If you are paying more than 15 cents a It isnt absolutely necessary to use the 10
foot, look for something else. Buy it in 100-foot ohm resistor with the insulated input jack. I
spools for best economy. Youll be surprised how have built many projects with the jack directly
fast you can use up a spool of wire. connected to the chassis. It is just that the
For most low current wiring up to a couple diversity of installations in the marketplace
of amps, 22-gauge is adequate. For cur-rent levels varies considerably. As a manufacturer, I have to
up to about 5 amps, 20-gauge should be used. Any compensate for the worst possible conditions.
application that requires currents over 5 amps The ground wire of the power cord is
should be wired with 18-gauge wire. These are always solidly connected to the metal chassis,
rough break points; theres lots of room for which is necessary for electrical safety.
overlap. Another consideration for wire size is There are solders available that are billed
how much physical abuse the wire will be exposed as no clean, meaning they leave virtually no
to. If it will be tugged and pulled, go with 18-gauge flux residue. This makes for a neat and tidy job.
for the superior physical strength. I dont use wire Kester 245 is one type, but there are others that
smaller than 22-gauge because it is too easy to are just as good. Conventional rosin core solder
break. will also give excellent results. Solder for elec-
A common concern among audiophiles is tronics is 60/40 tin/lead respectively. The 60/40
the choice between solid or stranded hookup means 60% tin, 40% lead which has been the
wire. Ive used both and cant tell any difference standard for electronics use for many decades.
in sound quality. Solid conductor is easier to Expensive alloys and exotic varieties are unnec-
work with because you dont have to deal with essary. Lead is toxic so dont forget to wash your
all those little strands not threading through the hands after soldering. Although its safe to work
terminal. Personally, I prefer to use 20 gauge with, you dont want to eat any of it.
solid conductor wire for rapid assembly. It is The fumes produced by soldering are irri-
thick enough to give it excellent mechanical tating to some people. In any event, its not the
strength. Any applications where flexing will best substance in the world to breathe. When
occur should be wired with stranded wire. doing a lot of soldering, I often turn on a small
Connections are made at terminal strips. fan at the end of my work bench to blow the
Many sizes and configurations are available. fumes away. For serious fume control, you can
They are positioned as needed in the chassis. get bench top devices that draw the fumes away
Often they have one terminal that is grounded and trap them in a filter. They are somewhat
to the chassis. For most applications, that expensive at about $100, so I still use my fan.
terminal should not be used. For minimum Soldering irons are inexpensive and
noise, the circuit should be connected to the commonly available. You dont need to go
chassis at only one point. Otherwise, ground farther than your local Radio Shack to find a
currents could flow through the chassis and decent iron. A 30 watt unit will work for most
create noise. applications and a 40 watt iron will be needed for
To minimize the possibility of circulating large, heavy connections. Quality irons can be
ground currents in audio cables, I often make purchased for $15 to $20 and premium units for
the chassis ground connection to the circuit $35 to $40. Avoid anything less than $10. I have
through a small 10 ohm resistor. The best place found that conical tip works best for most applica-
to connect the resistor is at the input jack. Do tions. If you want to go first class, get a tempera-
not confuse this with the circuit ground. The ture- controlled iron. They do a super job and are
circuit ground should be made at one point at the now available for much less than $100. Tempera-
power supply to minimize ground loop hum. The ture-controlled irons let you select the tip tempera-
input jack is directly connected to the circuit ture for the application, greatly eliminating the

need for more than one iron. I use 650 degrees (less than $10) that has preset dies for each wire
for most work and 750 degrees for heavy connec- size will sharply reduce these problems. I
tions. Higher temperatures turn the flux to ash. wouldnt do this kind of work without one.
In general, when making a solder joint, the Routing of wires is a skill. Professional
less solder used the better. Just cover the wires and wiring assemblers can do an absolutely beautiful
terminal with solder, dont load up a big blob on job at lightning speed. I have yet to master this
the terminal. A finished joint will be smooth and art form. Remember, never wire point-to-point
shiny. Solder has to be motionless for the few in a straight line. Always wire in a grid pattern,
seconds it takes to solidify. If you use too much, it bending 90 degrees as required. When you are
will try to flow under its own weight and cause a done, all of the wires should be essentially
cold joint. These are easy to find as they are dull arranged in only two directions. That is, up and
and whitish. Wires should always be mechani- down and left and right. They can then be
cally fixed to the terminal by bending and crimp- bundled together with nylon wire ties to give a
ing so they dont move when soldering, assuring a quality job. Use enough wire ties to keep the
good joint will be made. cables from bouncing around. Always leave
One of the most common pitfalls, when some slack so no wires are under tension.
doing this type of soldering is missing a wire There are some wires that should never be
when there are several on a terminal. What bundled together. Any wires carrying AC power
usually happens is that one wire is attached at should be segregated from wires carrying audio
the bottom of the terminal and the others are signals. This includes AC filament power and
wrapped around the top. You solder the top the power line. You will find that it is physically
wires and the lower one gets missed. Now you impossible to totally segregate filament power
have an intermittent connection that can drive from the audio. These signals often will cross
you nuts. Always check each wire to make sure paths and be in close proximity to each other.
this does not occur. Give any questionable wires Dont worry about it. Problems only arise if you
a little tug. If they move at all, then re-solder. bundle these wires together for long distances
Take your time, dont be in a hurry. and a few inches in close proximity isnt going
Whenever a joint must be re-done or wires to make any difference.
moved, the solder must be removed. Pump Traditionally, AC power cables are twisted
action vacuum devices do the job quite well and together to minimize radiated fields from
are less than $10 with premium units at $15 to contaminating the signal. In power amps, this is
$20. Sometimes there may not be room to use a good practice. It is not the end of the world,
the vacuum device. In that case, solder braid however, if you dont. Its just not that critical.
can be used to clean off the joint. Just place the In preamps, twisting is definitely necessary but
braid on the joint, apply the iron, and solder most modern preamp designs use DC for the
will be wicked into the braid. filaments thereby eliminating the interference
Another common failure is broken wires. problem. Distance is quite effective at reducing
If one is careless when stripping insulation, the interference from radiated fields. I always
conductor could be nicked. Repeated bending mount the power transformer, power cord, and
during installation can cause the wire to break at switch on one side of the chassis and the audio
the nick. You might not see the break because it input on the other. Also, it is always preferable
usually occurs just under the insulation and to mount the active device of the first stage near
everything looks fine! Again, the culprit is the input jack to reduce the possibility of
found by tugging on wires. This problem is picking up any hum and noise. The larger the
confined to solid conductor wires. Stranded amplitude of the audio signal, the more resistant
wire can also cause problems as some of the it is to noise pick up. This is because the ratio of
strands can break, causing more stress on the the signal to the noise is greater, thereby masking
remaining strands, which eventually could fail. the noise, rendering it less audible if not inaudible.
Avoid a lot of trouble and re-strip any nicked The sooner the signal is amplified, the greater the
conductors. The use of an inexpensive stripper masking effect. Again, this is not super critical.

Just dont route input signals haphazardly all over RULES OF THE GAME
the chassis. 1. Please do not contact the author with
Make sure the wires are not in physical questions about changes, modifications, and
contact with anything that gets really hot, like a alternate parts selection. Build the projects
big power resistor. It is also important that the exactly as shown. If you wish to alter the
wires are not pressing or chafing against any circuitry, then do so at your own risk. If your
sharp surfaces that could cut through the idea doesnt work, you can always change it back
insulation and cause a short. A little care and to the original design.
common sense goes a long way in doing a good
2. All voltages shown on the schematics are
wiring job.
approximate. Expect variations of 5 to 10
The more comfortable you are, the better
job you will do and the more enjoyable the
work becomes. Dont build projects on the 3. All resistors are 1/2 watt, 1% metal film unless
floor. Set up a small work bench or table with a shown otherwise.
good light that can be dedicated to the project. All 2 and 3 watt resistors are 5% metal oxide.
This kind of work doesnt require a lot of space All 5 watt resistors are 5% wirewound.
but some small amount of real estate must be
allocated or mistakes and much frustration will 4. All capacitors larger than 1.0 mfd are
follow. Grab the wrong end of a soldering iron electrolytic.
once and you will heed my advice thereafter.
The projects in this book have varying 5. Capacitors with higher than specified voltage
ratings may be substituted.
degrees of difficulty and the reader needs to be
cognizant of his or her skill level before attempt-
ing one. If I had to rank them from easiest to
build to most difficult, the list would be as
1. Always wear safety glasses when cutting
follows: metal, cutting wire, or soldering.
1. Grounded Grid Preamp
2. Phono Preamp 2. Never place both hands inside an energized
3. 150 Watt Compact Amp chassis. Never let any part of your body come
4. Single-Ended With Slam into contact with an energized chassis.
5. The Transcendent OTL
They all have a distinctive sound. What 3. Always unplug a unit from the wall outlet
would be the point of having four different and discharge all capacitors before making
amplifiers if they all sounded the same? Many circuit modifications.
amplifier companies try to make all of their
4. Never hold wires or parts with your mouth.
products produce the same sound and use their
advertising clout to prove that sound is the
best. My approach is completely different
because I am covering all of the basic configura-
tions and pushing the performance of each type
to levels higher than the standard products that
grace most dealers showrooms.

This is it! It doesnt get any better than power brings for any amplifier.
this. If you want clarity, detail, resolution and The net heat rejection for these amplifiers is
accuracy, nothing beats an OTL. No trans- less than half of any other OTL in the world.
former-coupled or solid-state amplifier can The 25-watt amp will only put 300 watts of heat
match it, and this is the best OTL there is. A into your room per pair. That is low enough
transformerless tube output produces a sound that you can operate the unit for hours without
that cannot be duplicated with any other any appreciable temperature rise in most
technology. It is light, airy, open, tremendously listening rooms. Dont let the low power rating
fast, yet totally musical and natural without any fool you. It will drive a lot of speakers. The 80-
coloration of any kind. Two power levels are watt model will take up more space and produce
presented in monoblock format at 25 watts and twice as much heat, at approximately 600 watts
80 watts. The higher-powered unit can drive all per pair, which is definitely in the noticeable
but the most difficult loads. It can make a solid range. This may sound like a lot of heat, but
50 watts into 4 ohms. That is plenty of power competitive OTL designs have heat rejections of
for most speakers. Output impedance is a very 1500 to 1800 watts which are impossible to live
low 0.4 ohm. This is no weakling. I would pit with unless you keep your amp on the front
the 80-watt unit up against any other amp at any porch. In fact, any large solid state class A amp
price. Of course, it cant play louder than a 500- will put out at least this much heatif not 800 to
watt monster amp, but the issue I raise is quality 1000 watts. So the amps could definitely be
of reproduction. considered reasonable with respect to heat
I would characterize the difference in sound rejections compared to other products that are
quality between the two as the 80-watt model currently available.
being slightly more relaxed in the mid-range and The driver circuitry is exactly the same in
treble, which is a subtle but noticeable improve- both versions. The only difference is that the
ment. Otherwise, the tonality is the same. The 80-watt amp uses eight output tubes instead of
biggest difference between the two is in the four and has a huskier power supply for the
bottom end. When it comes to bass drive, there extra outputs and filaments. If desired, you
is no substitute for horsepower. The 80-watt could take its power supply and drive two 25-
amp has much more slam and impact than the watt amps, all on one chassis. Thats what I do
25-watt unit. I would say that the bass is no in the commercial stereo version. However, it is
deeper, but it can generate a lot more of it. That easier to build the monoblock configuration
is the most significant benefit that an increase in since there is much less wiring congestion.

Monoblocks also give greater performance with What I have created is what I call a user
regard to peak power and lack of crosstalk. friendly OTL. You just plug it in and use it, no
As good as these units are, they are ex- fiddling required. When you want music, you
tremely hard to sell. Because of the many failed turn it on and it works, day after day. The amps
designs that have been put on the market over will easily drive conventional cone speakers and
the last 30 years, most audiophiles are afraid of are not restricted to electrostatics in any way. All
an OTL and wont touch one. The audio com- OTLs benefit from higher load impedance but
munitys conception of an OTL is based upon this is not an absolute requirement. Any 4 ohm
the many disappointments and unacceptable speaker with a sensitivity of 92 dB or greater is a
products that have resulted from substandard suitable candidate for the 25-watt model as the
engineering or, I am sorry to say, no engineering amp will produce a clean 15 watts into 4 ohms.
at all. People have been working on developing Any 8-ohm speaker with a sensitivity of 89 dB or
OTL amps for decades, never once solving all the greater is also a good match. For some reason, a
chronic problems of extreme heat, terrible single-ended amp that can produce only 5 watts
reliability, weak bass, and incompatibility with is considered adequate but a push-pull amp that
dynamic speakers. Audiophiles have asked me makes 25 watts is considered underpowered.
many times: How could you have possibly This is another of those mass marketing myster-
come up with a better design when all those ies that I dont understand. A clean 25 watts is
many people from all over the world have been really a lot of power.
working on this for more than 40 years? The A proliferation of speakers are available
answer is an easy one. The wrong people have that are intended for use with low power amps.
been working on the problem. They can produce quite high sound pressure
Tube amplification equipment is very levels on 15 to 25 watts. Speakers with imped-
forgiving and it is easy to make it sound good. ances that fall into the 2 ohm range are unsuit-
Consequently, the untrained or novice, provided able. The 80-watt version, with its much higher
he can secure enough capital, can go into the current capability, can tolerate low impedances
tube audio business. The products may have much easier and drive all but the toughest loads.
good sound, but that doesnt mean they wont Any 4-ohm speaker with a sensitivity of 88 dB or
break down twice a week and three times on greater or 8-ohm speaker with a 86 dB rating
Sunday. It would be interesting to see the actual will work welland that covers most of them.
failure rates of much of the highly regarded tube My point is that these amps do not require a 16-
equipment. It is no wonder that tube equip- ohm speaker and will drive the majority avail-
ment has the reputation of being unreliable. Its able. The myth that they cannot is a result of the
not the tubes fault. When properly constructed, other OTL products that cannot drive a 4-ohm
tube gear can easily go for 20 or even 30 years load.
without failing. It just has to be put together Driving low impedance speakers requires
properly. That requires schooling, training and two things: sufficient current and a low output
experience. impedance. These are must have conditions
This amplifier is dramatically different that cannot be compromised. This is an engi-
from anything that has ever been produced. neering fact.
How do I know that? I have been awarded a Audiophiles often get confused when
United States patent for the design. If anyone in distinguishing between a published fact and a
the world had ever filed a patent for, or pub- published opinion. Anytime I say something is a
lished a design similar to mine, I could not have fact, that means it can be measured and verified
received the award. This is not my opinion. Its with instruments in a repeatable fashion, just
a fact. like a scientific experiment. Water always flows
The problems of the OTL are all practical downhill. That is an engineering fact. A person
in nature. They were just impossible to live with can spend an entire lifetime trying to get water
and only people willing to put up with the most to flow uphill but it never will. Due to the
esoteric of an esoteric field, ever bought them. proliferation of unqualified people in the audio

industry, there are many more opinions than low damping factors. What they are actually
facts in circulation which, unfortunately, costs hearing is a woofer out of control generating
consumers a lot of money. I suspect the mass more bass energy than was in the original
marketers have something to do with this. program material. This is particularly evident
The only practical way to meet the re- during sustained tones. Listen to sharp percus-
quirements for driving 4-ohm speakers with an sive bass, and the sound falls apart and gets
OTL is to use enough of the proper tubes and mushy. In fact, the impact of the bass is
apply negative feedback around the output rounded off so much that it almost sounds like a
stage. If you elect not to use feedback, so many continuous tone. The woofer simply cant start
tubes are necessary that a forklift will be re- and stop quickly enough. All of my amplifiers
quired to move the amp and an exhaust fan will have a low output impedance, giving the bass a
have to be installed to pull the heat out. Units quick, tight and precise sound. You hear what
that claim no use of feedback have a much the music is and the speaker works to its maxi-
higher output impedance and consequently mum ability, not like a boom box generating
much poorer bass response. sounds that were never there in the first place.
A loudspeaker is a type of motor with a To achieve high reliability, tube longevity,
linear armature. It goes in and out instead of and low heat in an OTL, it is absolutely essential
round and round. It has a mechanical compli- to use as low a bias current in the output stage as
ance similar to a cars suspension system that possible. Class A, or anything approaching class
keeps the wheels from bouncing wildly when A, is asking for trouble. The only way to achieve
you hit a bump in the road. When the cars any substantial power output is to overdrive the
spring is compressed, energy is stored which the tubes to their maximum limit. Here is where
shock absorber dissipates in a controlled the trouble starts.
fashion, thereby damping the motion and The more current a tube has to produce,
preventing an oscillation. Otherwise the car will the hotter it operates and the faster it wears out.
bounce up and down uncontrollably. The Music is dynamic in nature. Even highly
mechanical suspension of a loudspeaker oper- compressed pop music has a peak to average
ates in a similar fashion. The compliance of the dynamic range of 20 db. That means if the amp
loudspeakers suspension is reflected into has to produce 100 watts during peaks, it only
electrical impedances that the amplifier must needs to produce 1 watt for the average signal.
drive. These impedances are reactive in that they Low-level signals are then small fractions of a
store energy just as the cars spring does. The watt. Obviously, the percentage of time an amp
stored energy must be dissipated somehow. The operates at maximum power is very small
place it goes is across the impedance of the indeed. So peak power capabilities more closely
amplifiers output stage. So the lower the correlate to how an amplifier actually performs
output impedance the greater the ability for the in a real-world application.
amp to dissipate the stored energy and the better Most OTLs produced by other firms
control the amp has over the cone motion. This (many are out of business) run the output tubes
results in more accurate and faithful sound at maximum plate dissipation. This is a big
reproduction. The ratio between the amplifiers mistake. During peaks, the tubes go into severe
output impedance and the speakers impedance overload. Since the plates are already at maxi-
is called the damping factor. mum, there is no capacity to absorb the thermal
I have found that a damping factor of 10 shock of the short term overload. The result is
gives good control and 20 is excellent. Damping that the tube gets very hot and is prone to fail.
factors greater than 20 dont seem to yield much Your listening room gets really hot, too.
further improvement. Amplifiers with damping If the output tubes are biased at low
factors less than 5 cannot possibly extract the currents, the resultant plate temperatures are
best sound out of the loudspeaker. Audiophiles much lower than the allowable maximum.
have told me of outstanding bass response When the peaks come along, plate temperatures
obtained with zero feedback amplifiers that have do go up, but the average dissipation is still well

within a tolerable range. I call this a thermal output would be limited to a few watts, which is
reserve. Hence, tube temperature and reliabil- insufficient and hardly cost effective. Feedback
ity are primarily determined by the bias current is necessary to linearize the output stage under
setting. Class AB operation is therefore abso- these conditions. Designs that boast of no
lutely essential for reliable OTL operation. feedback must have a lot of distortion at high
Were just knocking audio myths off the power levels because there is no way to avoid
table with each paragraph. Another is about tube nonlinearity in the overdrive condition. I
to fall. can see it coming. Somebody is going to read
How do we deal with all of that awful this and develop a zero feedback OTL with a
crossover notch distortion produced by class AB dozen tubes that puts out only 15 watts. I just
operation? The answer is another question: hope they include a range hood with the
What crossover notch distortion? My friends, I shipment. Of course, then the mass marketers
cant find any. Ive been looking for years and will get involved and promote an audiophile
nary a notch can be found. I cant find them in grade range hood that retails for only $5000
my OTLs or in my work with transformer installation extra.
coupled amps. Honestly, I dont have the The heat problem affects not only the
vaguest idea what the rest of the world is talking reliability of the output stage but the entire
about when they say class A push-pull tube assembly as well. All of the other components
amps are more linear because they dont have in the unit get baked by the output stage.
crossover notch distortion. The only conclusion Electronic components are prone to fail if they
I can draw from experience is that there is get too hot. So by cooling off the output stage,
absolutely no reason to operate any push-pull the rest of the amp is given a heat reprieve
tube amplifier in any mode other than class AB. thereby increasing reliability.
My best guess as to why this myth exists is that it Another factor necessary for reducing
is just another mass marketing ploy to get output impedance, greatly improving bass
people to get rid of their economical, long-lived response, and making terrific sound, is a direct
class AB amps and buy very expensive, failure coupled connection to the loudspeaker. Output
prone class A units. If the United States during capacitors are expensive, failure prone, and
World War II produced tube equipment like greatly restrict bass response. Solid state amps
some contemporary high end amplifiers, we eliminated output capacitors decades ago for the
would all be speaking different languages. same reasons. This mandates the use of compli-
In addition to the bias setting, the con- mentary power supplies (both positive and
figuration of the output stage is crucial to negative) for the output stage. This and the
making the amp run as cool as possible. The preceding paragraphs illustrate why the output
series connected (or totem pole) push-pull pair stage for my OTL is configured as it is. The
is absolutely the most thermally efficient selected configuration has the lowest heat
possible. Thats a fact. The positive half cycle is rejection and highest reliability and performance
provided by the upper tubes and the negative of all possible choices. Thats a fact.
half cycle is provided by the lower. By virtue of As you can see, Im setting the practical
the connection and class AB operation, the tubes requirements as the top design criteria. Instead
are off roughly 50% of the time during moder- of playing around with circuits to see which
ate to high current operation. This gives them a sounds best, my initial task is to get the thing to
chance to cool down, greatly relieving thermal work properly, maximize reliability, and make it
stress. Designs that incorporate a floating or easy to live with. I know I can make it sound
differential output require all tubes to conduct good later. That will just take some more
at the same time, thereby doubling plate heat engineering to work out. My pathway of
rejection. Better open a window. development is probably exactly the opposite of
Because the output tubes are overdriven most of the rest of the industry. If more compa-
during high current operation, they become nies followed my procedure, tube equipment
rather nonlinear. If we didnt overdrive, power would have a much better reputation.

The next myth that must be smashed is damage in an instant. So how do I know the
the one that OTLs blow up speakers. This one protection works if the fault never happens?
does not. A little more engineering must be Before discovering the 509, I had several
mixed in with the brew. years experience with the 6AS7G. This tube
Before a protection scheme can be de- experienced arcing faults from plate to cathode
signed, all possible failure modes must be quite frequently. When the arc occurred, a
examined. As a manufacturer, I have had the tremendous pop could be heard. The energy of
opportunity to test hundreds of tubes, revealing the power supply would be dumped into the
the problems that can occur. I can find most tube, always ruining it. At that stage of develop-
bad tubes upon initial checkout. Sometimes, ment, I did not include any resistance in the
however, an output tube will fail in the first few cathode circuit (R31-R34, R45-R48). The
weeks of use. In electronics terminology, this is magnitude of the fault was enormous, probably
called an infant mortality. more than 1000 amps. The power supply rail
The tube I use in the OTL is the best I have fuse would blow virtually instantaneously. I
found for the application, the EL-509. The big would estimate fuse clearing time in less than a
tetrode has many advantages over other possible millisecond. No speaker damage ever occurred.
candidates. Specifically, it is much more Why?
consistent, in good supply, rugged, and sounds a Several circumstances protected the
heck of a lot better than anything else Ive tried. speaker. Most of the fault energy went into the
The tube is used in a triode mode by connecting tube. The brunt of the energy was absorbed by
the screen grid to the plate through a 100-ohm the tube which always sustained physical
resistor. The plate impedance for this configura- damage. Although the magnitude of the fault
tion is less than 150 ohms, which is very low was extremely high, it was over within an
indeed. There are beam plates (pins 2 and 7) instant. No steady state DC current flow was
which are left open. In tetrode mode, they allowed to become established. There simply
would be connected to the cathode. Experi- wasnt enough time for any voice coil heating to
ments in tetrode mode did not result in any occur. The fault was a spike, an AC condition
increase in power. An OTL with a full tetrode or whose energy was contained in very high
pentode output stage would be dramatically frequencies. The inductance of the speaker and
more complicated as floating regulators would associated cables opposes the energy of the
be required for the screens. spike. No DC can flow until this reactance has
Three possible failure modes have been charged. Before that could happen, the fuse
identified, two of which are rare and one which would blow, thereby shutting off the current.
has never happened as far as I know. One Also notice C11 and R40 strapped across the
failure is a short between the cathode and the output. Their primary function is for feedback
filament. When this happens, the tube doesnt stabilization but during a fault they act like a
light up. In one customers amp, this failure snubber circuit to shunt any high frequency fault
caused the power supply fuse to blow. The tube current into ground. So, because of load
was replaced and there was no damage to inductance and the snubber circuit, very little of
anything. The few other times this has occurred, the massive fault ever went into the speaker.
no fuse blew and again no damage occurred. Looking at the tube specs sheds some light
The failure that everyone is most afraid of as to why the 6AS7G would often fault and the
is the one that has never happened in the field: EL509 does not. The 6AS7G has a plate voltage
the plate to cathode short. This has the poten- rating of 250 volts. The amp applies 170 volts
tial of strapping the power supply directly to the across the tubes. The 509 has a plate voltage
speaker. I hate to give anyone nightmares, but rating of 900 volts with a pulse rating of 8000
all solid-state amps have the same problem and volts! No wonder it doesnt arc over. The
they do blow up speakers when output transis- physical structure of the tube allows it to
tors short. The energy stored in a big high- withstand the much higher electric fields
power, solid-state amp can do a great deal of associated with OTL operation which are

particularly exacerbated by the overdrive My protection scheme is just the opposite
condition. of what everyone else does. Typically, OTLs use
Since those early days, I have improved a separate active circuit to monitor the output
the fault protection considerably. There is now for DC and then disconnect the power supply or
a 2 ohm resistor in the cathode of each output speaker or both. The protection circuit has to do
tube. The small resistance reduces the peak fault three things: (1) recognize the fault; (2) make a
from an estimated 1000 amps to a maximum of decision about the fault; and (3) take corrective
75 amps. Fault energy is proportional to the action. All that takes time. It takes 25 millisec-
square of the current, so the fault energy is then onds to operate a relay after the circuit decides to
reduced by a factor of 200 times. If a tube ever do something. What happens if the protection
does arc over, the power supply fuse would blow circuit fails in any of these tasks? Damage to
in a couple of milliseconds and the tube would something most certainly will occur. A simple
not be damaged. fuse will always work.
The cathode resistors provide an addi- These amps do not have any separate
tional benefit. They create just enough degen- protection circuits. In fact, they dont use any
erative current feedback to equalize the current voltage monitoring at all! What I am doing is
through each output tube during high-power controlling the current by keeping it from
operation. This helps prevent any one tube reaching destructive levels for both the speaker
from hogging all the current, becoming over- and the amplifier. The protection is integral to
stressed, and failing. The cathode resistors the audio circuit, not an external network that
increase the output impedance by about 10% has been added on. It cant fail because there is
and consume a few watts of output power, but nothing there to break. The system is extremely
the benefits they create are well worth it. reliable due to its utter simplicity. That, my
There is one more fault that we have to friends, is the difference between good design
protect against. That is the grid-to-cathode and great design.
short. This failure does occur from time to time Now we get to the good stuff! The stage
in the field. When the grid shorts, no bias driving the outputs is the essence of my patent.
voltage is available to modulate the current Everything discussed so far are refinements and
through the tube and it turns full on. The enhancements to the prior art. All of these are
maximum current that a 509 can pass is just valuable, but not worthy of a patent award.
over one amp. Only four U.S. patents have ever been
Each grid has a resistor connected to it in issued for the series connected push-pull
series. Its primary purpose is to prevent parasitic vacuum tube output stage. One to a Mr.
oscillations and a 1K unit will suffice for that Peterson in 1957, two to Mr. Futterman in 1956
task. I am using 100K resistors instead. When a and 1964, and one to yours truly in 1997. As
grid does short, the large resistor effectively you can see, these things are hard to get.
isolates each tube from each other by greatly What I have discovered is terribly simple
limiting how much bias current can flow into and so obvious that its a wonder no one found
the shorted grid. Then, only the shorted tube it earlier. It seems that everyone else has been
turns full on. If a 1K resistor is used, the bias following in the shadow of Futterman. It must
voltage is pulled down for all tubes of that bank be my rebellious nature that drives me to try
(4 in the 80 watt unit, 2 in the 25 watt unit) and new things. Hero worship is not necessarily
they all turn full on. conducive to creativity.
The power imparted into the speaker from There is a fundamental problem in driving
the fault is minimal. If the speaker has a DC this type of output stage. The lower tube has its
resistance of 5 ohms, it will be subjected to cathode referenced to ground via the negative
about 6 watts of heating. If your speaker cant power supply. Any tube is driven by the audio
take that, youd better get something that doesnt signal voltage between its grid and cathode.
use a $5 woofer. The offending tube is easily Since the cathode is at ground potential, the
found as it will be glowing red hot! driving voltage is also referenced to ground.

Most tube circuits work this way. The upper output is increased a proportional DC offset is
triode has its cathode connected to the output. generated that pulls the output negative. That
This means that the cathode is not at ground phenomenon is what prompted me to start
potential but floating on top of the output looking for problems. At that time, I had
signal. The output signal is in phase with the resolved to myself that OTLs just couldnt have a
audio driving voltage at the upper tubes grid. great bottom end.
This causes degenerative feedback for the upper When I finally realized what was going
tube. The lower tube does not experience any on, I tried the circuit that formed the basis of the
degenerative feedback by virtue of the cathode patent and launched me on the path to becom-
being grounded. The result is that the output ing an audio manufacturer. The solution to the
stage is unbalanced. A means has to be devel- unbalanced gain problem was to simply com-
oped to increase the drive signal to the upper pensate for the degenerative feedback for the
tube to compensate for the loss of voltage gain upper triode and leave the signal for the lower
caused by the degenerative feedback. (For a triode alone! Implementing this requires an
more detailed discussion with illustrations, see intervening stage of unity gain buffers where one
My OTL Patent at the end of the projects). is used to apply the corrective signal to the
The traditional way to do this is to apply upper tube and the other buffer is used for
100% feedback of the output signal to a phase symmetry and has no signal correction.
splitter through a floating voltage regulator. The immediate result of this discovery is
This technique will amplify the upper drive dramatically improved bass response. At last, I
signal by the amount needed to overcome the had an OTL with a bottom end. Observing the
degeneration. But what about the lower? The circuit on the oscilloscope, the amount of
amplitude of this signal is unaffected by the negative DC offset is greatly reduced. There is
feedback because the phase splitter operates as a still a slight vestige of negative voltage at maxi-
cathode follower for this output. Everything mum output, but it has been reduced to insig-
seems to be perfect. But there is a problem here. nificant levels. As is, the circuit sounds so good
The upper signal is increased in amplitude and is so unbelievably simple to produce, I say
by positive feedback which means the gain leave well enough alone.
through that stage is increased. The opposite The upper buffer applies the corrective
happens for the lower signal. The feedback, signal through a bootstrapped two-terminal
while being positive, acts to amplify the upper shunt regulator. Thats a lot of words for three
signal; it is negative with respect to the lower zener diodes. A series pass three-terminal
signal and tries to reduce it. The lower signals regulator will certainly work, but would be
amplitude is not reduced because the cathode vastly more complicated. The zeners are ex-
follower action constrains the amplitude to be tremely rugged and get the job done perfectly
about 95% of the drive into the splitter. The well. Resistor R16 feeds current into both the
forward voltage gain through the system is triode (V3, upper) and three zeners. The
increased for the upper drive signal and reduced cathode resistor (R17 plus R18) and zeners are
for the lower. What happens then is that forward connected to the output. This connection forms
voltage gain through the entire amplifier is con- a floating reference or a ground above system
sumed to compensate for the negative feedback ground. The voltage at the plate of triode V3 is
connection for the lower drive signal. The gain the addition of the DC setting of the zeners plus
that is consumed is extracted from the previous the audio output. The voltage at the end of the
voltage gain stages. The system is unbalanced cathode resistor is the audio output. The
because it has unequal forward voltage gains for difference between the two is just the DC voltage
the two split phase signals. This unbalance is of the zeners. So the triode exists in its own
the primary reason for the poor bass response isolated world, thinking it is sitting in an
when driving dynamic speakers. envelope of 450 volts, not realizing that it is
When observing the circuit of the prior art bouncing up and down with the output signal.
on the oscilloscope, as the amplitude of the This is how bootstrapping works. The resultant

audio signal output at the cathode of V3 upper ing the splitters plate resistors as shown, the
is then the audio input at its grid added to audio split phase signals are essentially equal in
output signal being fed into the speaker. The amplitude. Additional balance adjustments
signal degeneration of the upper tubes, there- dont yield any performance enhancements.
fore, is completely compensated for. The power supply voltage is set high
Coupling capacitors are used to isolate the because the stage must output linear signals with
different DC voltage levels of the two buffers amplitudes of 200 volts peak to peak. There are
from the negative bias on the output tubes. many other configurations that will work,
Making the entire circuit DC coupled would be including solid state, but this gets the job done
an accident waiting to happen. With no capaci- with the fewest parts. The first stage provides
tive isolation, any DC voltage upset in the gain most of the gain at just over 70 times, while the
or buffer stages of the amplifier (like pulling out second stage provides an additional gain of
a tube) would cascade through the system with seven times. Everything is DC coupled up to the
potentially catastrophic results. I have seen this output stage, giving excellent low frequency
in solid state amplifiers before where a 20-cent stability and freedom from motorboating.
input transistor fails, which takes out the next The open loop gain of the circuit is 42 dB.
stage, cascading all the way through to the Feedback is set at 22 dB yielding a total closed
outputs, burning them out and then the power loop gain of 20 dB. That is lower than most
supply! By using an AC coupling before the amps by 6 or 8 dB but still adequate for most
outputs, this cannot happen. In fact, I have had installations. Many of my customers use passive
customers put the driver tubes in the wrong preamps. An active preamp with 12 to 15 dB of
sockets and proceed to use the amp. They call gain is a good match. Use a preamp with too
me in a couple of days and question why the much gain and you will never be able get the
power seems to be low or there is a slight buzz. volume control past the 9 oclock position.
Switch the tubes and everything works fine, no There are two compensation networks
damage at all. Some customers have used amps used. One is on the output comprised of R40
for months with a blown output tube and never and C11. This type of network is commonly
knew it. I have even had people use the amps used in solid state amps to compensate for
with a blown power supply fuse, which means highly inductive loads. The other network is the
only one bank of tubes is operating (all push feedback loop itself, simply R11, R12 and C4, all
and no pull), and not realize it. On each of in parallel feeding R6. I have set the compensa-
these occasions, simply replacing a tube or fuse tion to a slightly over-damped condition to
corrected the problem and no damage ever enhance the amplifiers ability to drive highly
resulted to the circuitry. These events verify that capacitive loads. The unit can drive a 2 micro-
my OTL is a very tough and rugged product. farad capacitor in parallel with an 8-ohm
The output stage and the buffer stage resistor while being fed with a 10 kHz square
comprise two of the three sections of the wave and not oscillate. That is a very tough test
amplifier. The third stage is the voltage gain of stability. It is also stable with or without
section. The output stage has a voltage gain of anything connected to the input or output.
0.25 and the buffers have a gain of about 0.95 The bias network is very simple. Instead
so all of the forward voltage gain has to come of adjusting each tube, one bank is balanced
from somewhere else. This section needs to against the other. The bias voltage for the upper
provide a gain of at least 500 times to overcome positive tubes is set at minus 40 volts. The bias
the losses of the other two sections and have voltage for the lower negative tubes is then
enough gain left over to use for feedback. I am adjusted to give a zero DC offset voltage in the
using a very conventional gain section that has output, at approximately minus 210 volts. The
been included in hundreds of designs because it zero is obtained by balancing the net current
works so well and is so very simple. The circuit from one bank of tubes against the other. The
is comprised of a high gain triode direct coupled bias is not regulated because the output tubes
to a common cathode phase splitter. By stagger- are very sensitive to plate voltage. Any variation

in power line voltage will cause the plate voltage two minutes. Another important benefit is that
to change, resulting in a change of plate current. they eliminate any large current inrush into the
By not regulating the bias it is allowed to rectifiers and filaments when a unit is turned on.
roughly track the changes in plate voltage and That inrush is very stressful and potentially
compensate for these aberrations. Regulating damaging to electronic components. Careful
the plate voltage would be a reliability night- listening tests revealed absolutely no change in
mare and would necessitate an outboard power the sound with the thermistor present. I con-
supply chassis. There is a very good possibility sider it a $2 insurance policy.
that doing this may not improve the sound and Any large bridge rectifier contains a lot of
may actually make it worse. capacitance. The capacitance will react with the
The power supply is conventional but inductance of the power transformers secondary
crucial for proper operation. Many voltages are winding and create some nasty voltage spikes.
needed. The commercial model incorporates a These spikes have a lot of power and will
custom-wound transformer but its function can permeate the entire circuit. They get into
be duplicated with commonly available off-the- everything, even showing up on the circuit
shelf units. ground! They can be eliminated by installing
Toroidal transformers are seldom used in capacitors to ground on the transformer second-
tube equipment. I dont understand why not. ary leads. The spikes are primarily high fre-
They are half the size and weight of E.I. stacked quency energy and can be harmlessly bypassed
lamination types, have better regulation, and to ground. The impedance of the transformer
most important of all, dont hum. Many highly keeps the capacitors from being subjected to
regarded tube amps have a terrible mechanical damaging current surges. These spikes are the
hum emanating from their power transformers. cause of a lot of high frequency buzz in audio
This noise is every bit as objectionable as hum amplifiers. They have to be treated on the AC
from the speakers but is often overlooked. side of the power supply because the filter
Maybe the extra weight is a desirable feature. An section wont stop them.
audiophile once told me he was going to buy a There is no DC connection of the filament
single-ended amp because it weighed 90 supply to ground. This is to relieve voltage stress
pounds. He never heard it. I am serious. He between the filaments and cathodes of the tubes.
wanted it because it weighed so much. Maybe I An AC connection is required to minimize any
should offer an optional -inch thick lead high frequency parasitic oscillations from these
bottom plate, if thats what it takes to make a same elements. This is accomplished with a
sale. Of course it would be audiophile grade small capacitor that ties the filaments to ground.
lead so I could charge another $1500 for it. I It is connected to the center tap of the filament
could say that it had a pronounced effect in for the 12AX7.
magnifying the upper midrange presence, You dont have to use the transformers
particularly during periods of low humidity. I that I have specified. If you have something in
jest, but the sad side to this humor is that many the junk box that will work, by all means use it.
people have spent a lot more than $1500 for If you dont know how to determine what else
products that do less than that lead plate would. will work, then use the parts specified. The goal
At least you could use it for protection against here is to feed the amp circuit with the correct
nuclear radiation. voltages. The most critical one is the bias
There is a minor downside to the toroid. voltage. With the network shown, the desired
If you close the power switch at the zero crossing result is minus 40 volts for the upper bank of
of the power line voltage, you get a tremendous tubes. The ends of the bias pot at are at minus
surge. Power switches dont like that. I have 200 and 220 volts so center rotation of the wiper
begun to use current limiting thermistors to is near 210 volts.
nullify this problem. They have a high resis- The output stage should be plus/minus
tance when cold and the resistance drops to a 170 volts, within a range of 165 to 175 under no
fraction of an ohm as they warm up in about load. Under full load, the plates will pull down

to about 155 volts. Setting the filament trans- in. Back the voltage off until the current draw is
former at 20 volts will produce about 25 volts just a couple of amps, which will probably be
DC under load. All filaments have to be run on very close to zero volts. Now look for some-
DC to minimize hum. The high voltage trans- thing that is getting hot. Whatever is overheat-
former shown is a 200-volt unit wired as a ing is where the problem is. This is a power-
voltage doubler. A 400-volt unit will work when limited smoke test. If done correctly, the
wired with a full wave bridge. The desired problem can usually be found without damag-
output is between 550 and 575 volts at the first ing any expensive parts. Its a little crude, but
filter section under load. Regulating this voltage effective. The variac can always be used during
will cause no improvement in performance. initial power up of any new project to protect
Thats really about it. Now its time for assembly against component burnout. I often use the
and check out. procedure and it has proven to be very useful.
Yes, I make wiring mistakes too.
CHECKOUT If there are no shorts, then check to see if
The power supply can deliver a lot of all of the output voltages are present. Be careful!
energy, so a staged checkout procedure is Keep one hand in your pocket. The voltages are
necessary to prevent component damage in the potentially lethal. They should all measure 10%
event of a miss wire or a defective part. Follow to 20% higher than the rated levels because
this procedure and do not connect the amp into there is no load. The main thing we are testing
your system unless it has been thoroughly for is to verify that voltage is there. So far, so
checked out. This isnt the type of product that good.
can be dropped off of a conveyer belt into a box The next step is to install all of the tubes
and shoved into the back of a truck. The but do not install the output stage fuses. Strap
following comments apply to all of the projects an 8 ohm 20-watt resistor across the output.
in this book. Radio Shack sells them. The circuit has to have a
The first thing to do is check and see if all load connected for check out. Turn it on and
of the power supply voltages are present. Do carefully inspect all of the tubes. Keep looking
not install any tubes at this time. Install the for smoke. Allow a couple of minutes to pass.
power fuse, plug the unit in and turn it on. All of the filaments should be glowing. If any
WATCH, LISTEN, AND SMELL. output tube is dark, then it has a short and is
If there is a short, the transformers will bad. If they are all glowing, proceed to the next
grunt and buzz loudly. Shut the unit down test.
immediately. If you see or smell smoke, shut it Measure the voltages for the circuitry as
down. Electrical components have a distinctive shown on the schematic. They should all be
odor when they start overheating. Sooner or within 10% of stated ratings. I have never found
later, you will be introduced to this aroma. Start an amp that had an audio problem that did not
looking for a miss wire or possibly a diode or have a DC voltage problem. (These problems I
electrolytic capacitor that was installed back- refer to are not failures in the field, but wiring
wards. That will act like a short. errors made during assembly.) Back to the
If the short is massive, it will blow the line output stage.
fuse. This protects the amp but makes it hard to Set the bias adjust pot to mid rotation.
troubleshoot. A close visual inspection is the Measure the bias voltage on each output tube.
next step. If you still cant find the problem the They should all be within a volt or two of each
following procedure should get the job done. other. If any grid measures markedly lower than
Obtain a variacan adjustable auto transformer the other, then it is shorted. The positive tubes
with a built-in current meter. Set it to zero volts should measure about minus 40 volts. The
and plug the amp into it. Very slowly, begin to voltage on the negative tubes is dependent on
increase the voltage and keep your eye on the the position of the bias pot. Turn the pot from
current meter. As you increase the voltage, the one extreme to the other and the voltage range
current draw will skyrocket when the short kicks should be from about minus 200 to minus 220

volts. Set it to about 210, shut the amp down, nitely run a sine wave signal through it and
and install the output stage fuses. We are getting observe the trace on the scope. It should be
closer but are not out of the woods yet. clean and symmetrical. The final test is to drive
Turn the amp back on and after a couple the amp into clipping and try to pop any
minutes of warm up, set the speaker output to marginal tubes. That has only happened to me
zero volts by adjusting the bias pot. If you can once or twice, but it has happened. When
get to zero volts, actually anything within 50 conducting maximum power tests, do not leave
millivolts is essentially zero, we are probably the amp in a maximum output condition for
there. Observe the reading. It should fluctuate more than a few minutes at a time, or youll risk
slightly (variations of 10 to 15 millivolts) but if overheating the output tube plates.
it changes wildly and wont calm down, then a I dont mean to worry you with all of this
tube is marginal and will fail shortly. The grid failure stuff. I just want you to be aware of all
circuit is breaking down. When a grid shorts, the the possible things that could go wrongjust in
tube turns full on and the output voltage across case something does go wrong. Then you will
the 8-ohm resistor will rise to 8 volts, positive or be able to recognize it and take corrective action
negative depending on which tube shorted. instead of being stuck with a smoldering mess.
Dont forget to check the output stage fuses if an The most common failure during initial check-
output tube starts sucking current. One may out is the grid to cathode short. Odds are, you
blow, which is what it is supposed to do. At any will be able to just plug in the tubes and every-
time during use, if you cant get the output to thing will work perfectly. This gives you some
zero, check the output stage fuses first. Just insight into the care and effort that I, as a
because a fuse is blown, that doesnt mean a manufacturer, must give these amps to ensure
failure has occurred. It most probably means the high reliability for which they have gained a
the amp experienced an intermittent overload reputation in the field. Nothing good ever
and the fuse did its job. So back off the volume, comes easy.
please. The amp will sound a little harsh for the
The output stage does not require first hour of its life. It takes about 10 hours for
matched tubes but they should be somewhat most of the break in to take place. After about
balanced. It is commonplace for the DC bias 50 hours, it is essentially through mellowing.
current through the tubes to vary by a factor of 3 Watch the bias setting for the first two weeks in
to 1. If, by random chance, you get a couple of case there are any infant mortality problems.
high current drawing tubes on one side and low Check the bias about once a month but you will
on the other, the bias control will have to be find that adjustments are rarely needed.
skewed all the way to one end of its rotation and
conceivably not even be able to reach a zero on
the output. Ideally, the grid bias voltage on the
negative tubes should be between minus 207
and minus 213 volts. If the bias voltage on the
negative tubes is set to less than 205 or greater
than 215 negative volts, the stage could stand
for some balancing. The solution is to swap a
tube from positive to negative bank to bring
about a more balanced condition. The offend-
ing tube(s) can be found by measuring the
voltage drops across the 2-ohm cathode resis-
tors. The more equal the voltages are, the more
balanced the output stage.
Having passed all of these tests, the amp
should be ready to listen to. If you have access
to an oscilloscope and signal generator, defi-



R4 220K S1 15A SWITCH
R5 3K
R6 100 T1 200V-100MA TRANSFORMER
R9 39K-2W T3 240V-1.38A CENTER TAPPED
R11, R12 2K T4 20V-8A TOROID, HAMMOND 180 N40
R13, R14 300K
R16 10K-2W V2, V3 12AU7A VACUUM TUBE
R17-R20 33K-2W V4-V11 EL-509 VACUUM TUBE
R21,R22 1K
R23-R26 100-5W FOR 25 WATT VERSION
R31-R34 2-5W V6, V7, V10, V11, R25, R26, R29, R30, R33, R34,
R35 30K R38, R39, R43, R44, R47, R48, C20, C21
R36-R39 100-5W
R41-R44 100K F1, F2 TO 3/4A, SLOW BLOW
R45-R48 2-5W F3 TO 3A, SLOW BLOW
R51 1M HAMMOND 180 H240
R52, R53 82K T4 TO 20V-4.5A TOROID, HAMMOND 180 L40
R54 10K
R55, R56 47K-2W
R57 82-5W
P1 5K LINEAR POT, 1/2W, 500V

C1 22 MFD-450V 3 OR 6
C2 100 MFD-25V 1 OR 8
C3 .1 MFD-630V
C4 1500 PF-500V PINS 2 AND 7
C5, C6 47 MFD-350V 9
C9, C10 22 MFD-350V
C11 .1 MFD-630V
C12-C15 22 MFD-350V
C16, C17 .1 MFD-630V
C18-C21 2200 MFD-200V
C22 20,000 MFD-40V
C23 .01 MFD-400V
D1-D4 1A-1000V DIODE
Z1-Z3 150V-5W ZENER

R13 R14

+ + R15

(500V) C5 C6 (170V)

R16 R23 R24 R25 R26

R3 R8 R9
+ 6 2 Z1
C1 R4 1
R27 V4 R28 V5 R29 V6 R30 V7
(135V) 2 7 Z2
1 V3
V2 3
INPUT (375V) R21 R31 R32 R33 R34
2 R7 (150V) C7 Z3 OUTPUT
3 8 R17

R2 V1 R36 R37 R38 R39

3 C3 R10 R40
C2 +
R1 6 C11
7 R41 V8 R42 V9 R43 V10 R44 V11
R45 R46 R47 R48
8 R22
(370V) C8 R49
(-40V) (-200V to -220V)
(550V) R20 C9 C10
+ +

T1 D2 T2 D4 R51 C16

D1 + C12
C14 P1
+ - B1 +
R52 R53 + C18 + C20
+ C19 + C21

4 4

V4 V6

5 5
4 4 4 4
120V F3 T4
S1 9
CL1 V3 V1 V5 V7
- B2 + 5 5 5
5 C23
+ 4 4 4
N C22
V2 V8 V10

5 5
Protected by FILAMENT 5 4 4
U.S. Patent No. 5,604,461 V9 V11


Copyright c 1999 by Bruce Rozenblit
All Rights Reserved Commercial Use Strictly Prohibited AUDIO REALITY / 81
My OTLs are very fast. If used with slower have large power supplies, transformers, and
front-end equipment, their benefits will never be chassis which drive up the price. Preamplifiers
realized. There are many tube base line stages do not have these requirements. Therefore, it
on the market that are terribly slow. In lieu of seems reasonable to me that they should be
using these products, I often tell my customers much less expensive. Unfortunately, this is not
that they would be better served with a high often the case. This question should be asked
quality solid-state preamp instead. before you buy anyones preamp, including
There is absolutely no inherent reason mine!
why tube equipment has to have a slow, soft The design criterion for this project is a
sound with the transients rounded off. To purist or minimalist design. I stripped out all of
expand my product line and provide a good the features that everyone thinks they need and
mate to the OTLs, I developed the grounded grid most people never use. This makes the project
preamp. much easier to build and greatly lowers cost.
Although this type of gain stage has been There are no tone or balance controls, tape
around forever, it has been virtually ignored by monitor loops, high and low-cut filters and,
the industry. It was primarily used for radio most important of all, no remote control. I have
frequency applications. Advantages are extreme more remotes than dishes. The world is becom-
bandwidth, very low noise, and high linearity. ing enslaved by the dreaded remote control
This sounded like a winner to me, so off I went cartel. Lose one under the couch and your
to the shop with high hopes for a good design. I system is useless. Then, in a panic, you have to
wasnt disappointed and you wont be either. run all over town to find a replacement and are
The bandwidth is flat from a few Hz to forced to pay the price. I often wonder if large
300 kHz. Voltage gain is set to 12 dB which is electronics corporations have done studies of
just right for most applications. Distortion and how much money they can make by predicting
noise are virtually nonexistent. Detail and how many remotes will be lost.
resolution meet or exceed the best solid state I am sure that there are people who want
preamps. Output impedance is low at 300 one or all of these features but I targeted this
ohms, allowing it to drive anything. You cant product for simple playback from a few sources
overload it because it will output more than 20 with the highest quality at the lowest cost. The
volts RMS. It sounds good toonatural and mass marketers are probably laughing at me as
musical with no coloration. they read this because such a product cant
Power amps are expensive to make. They possibly sell. Got to have gizmos and widgets,

they would probably say. Well, we will see how off to sell their equipment and just iron their
it plays out over time. socks. I have heard the most outrageous things
When I finished the design and looked at like, You cant touch tubes with your fingers,
the circuit, it struck me as remarkably similar to You cant re-solder a connection, You cant
a solid-state differential amplifier. It was not my step on cables or you will realign their crystal-
intent to mimic that topology with tubes, but line structure. Believe me, thats the mild stuff.
that is what it took to make it work so well. I It gets worse. Perhaps the remote control cartel
would not be surprised if many years ago solid- has planted mind-altering chips in their prod-
state engineers working on similar problems ucts that brainwash people into believing any-
came to the same conclusions, hence the thing they hear. Particularly if the message tells
similarity. them to spend 10 times more on an item than it
A grounded grid gain stage works differ- is worth, especially if it doesnt do anything.
ently than a traditional gain section. All tubes (Boy, am I going to get some hate mail!)
are modulated by the voltage between the grid The signal then goes through R2, a 10k
and cathode. In most applications, the cathode resistor that prevents small parasitic grid oscilla-
is held at ground and the grid is modulated. tions. The plate of the cathode follower, V1A, is
With the grounded grid, the grid is held at held at about 75 volts. Its cathode is coupled to
ground and the cathode is modulated, which is a 51k resistor and the cathode of the next triode,
exactly the opposite. When this is done, the sig- V1B. This is where the gain takes place. The
nal phase at the plate is not inverted as it always audio input is developed across the 51k resistor
is for the grounded cathode. The problem here because of the cathode follower action of V1A.
(there is always a problem) is that the input Since the resistor is also connected to V1B, it is
impedance for the stage is very low, restricting the input, or driving voltage, for gain stage V1B.
its applications. The solution is to buffer it with Notice that the cathode resistor is rather large at
another stage that has a high impedance input 51k and is connected to a negative 200 volts.
and a low impedance output. The cathode Remember, the negative 200-volt rail is at
follower fits these requirements perfectly. ground potential as far as the audio signal is
Starting at the beginning, lets see how it concerned. For good linearity and efficient
all fits together. Both channels are identical so coupling between the stages, the cathode
an examination of one tells the whole story. The resistance needs to be large. To make room for
input is a dual 50k audio taper pot. A standard the large voltage drop across the resistor, a
pot is fine and you dont have to spend more negative power supply is necessary. Another
than $5 for one. Expensive pots will track more alternative would be to use an FET as a constant
closely through the minimum range of rotaion. current source. This would eliminate the need
The improvement is very slight and borders on for the negative supply entirely. Other tech-
the limits of perceptibility. I cant hear any niques are possible but they would require AC
difference. Some claim they can. If your ears coupling the input, which is less desirable. The
are that sensitive and you listen to music at chosen method is totally reliable and has great
extremely low levels, then use a premium pot. I sound, so Im leaving things alone.
chose 50k because I thought it might be a trifle Instead of using a plate resistor as the load
quieter than a 100k unit. for V1B, Im using another tube. This is an
The decision to use a 50k pot may be a active plate load, a tube connected as a direct
vestige of some residual audiophile neuroses coupled constant current source. It doesnt have
that I still harbor. We all have some. I have a high enough impedance to really function as a
managed to get rid of just about all of mine. current source, but the connection is the same as
Audio is a lot more fun when you finally an FET would have for that application. Its
become liberated from all that nonsense and advantages are that it conserves power supply
just enjoy the music and the equipment. Some current, is fully direct coupled, and provides a
audiophiles are so terribly afflicted that they low impedance output. With the values shown,
would be financially and psychologically better it behaves like a plate load resistor of 63k which

is just right for linear operation. The 10k without having to resort to large, expensive
resistor from its grid to the plate of the gain tube capacitors. Many line stage preamps have huge
eliminates parasitic oscillations as on the input power transformers just to supply a few
tube. milliamps of current. I guess they are selling
The output is taken directly from the their equipment by the pound. The fellow that
cathode of the load tube and is AC coupled to wants the 90 pound single-ended amp must be
the output jack. The grid of triode V1B opens up on their customer list.
an interesting possibility. It must be referenced A line fuse is required to protect against
to ground to achieve a DC current balance component failure. All electrical devices should
through the tubes because the grid of the input be fused for safetys sake. The .01 capacitor
tube is referenced to ground through the volume across the power switch is required to keep the
control. This is achieved by tying it to ground unit from making a popping sound when you
through a resistor. Because the output signal is turn the unit off. There is no need for a ther-
in phase with the driving voltage, it can be mistor to limit the current as the inrush with the
applied to this resistor for negative feedback. small transformers is very low.
The 100k resistor does just that and provides 7
dB of feedback. That is just enough to clean up CHECKOUT
the output and knock a little noise out of the There is not a lot to test with this project.
signal. If you are being overcome with severe Insert all of the tubes and the line fuse and turn
audiophile neuroses and are having a psychotic it on. If you hear any buzz at all from the
episode because I just ruined a perfect design transformers, there is a short. There should be
by including a little feedback, then leave the no noise at all. Shut it down and see if a
100k resistor out. I certainly wouldnt want to capacitor or diode is installed backwards. If all
upset anyone. The gain will increase to 19dB is quiet, measure the power supply voltages.
and the output impedance will rise a little. The filaments should be glowing normally.
The filaments are powered from a 12-volt Now measure the voltages on the schematic
integrated circuit regulator for ultra low noise which demonstrates that the tubes are conduct-
operation. It must be heatsinked. Notice that ing and biased properly. If you have a signal
the supply is grounded. That is done to refer- generator, then input a sine wave and see that
ence the 12-volt system to ground to eliminate the volume control is not wired backwards.
any small parasitic oscillations between the Clockwise rotation increases the resistance from
filaments and cathodes. There is a tiny capaci- the wiper to ground. Make sure the left and
tance between those elements that can cause right channels did not get transposed some-
these to occur. We have to treat signals with a where along the way. There should be no DC
little more care in a preamp than a power amp voltage on the output.
because the lower amplitudes, render them There is one precaution when using this
more vulnerable to contamination. preamp with a solid state amplifier that re-
The power supplies are very straight sponds down to nearly DC. At about five
forward. Because of their low cost, it is very cost seconds into warm up, a voltage disturbance will
effective to use two small 120-volt transformers appear on the output which will vanish in one
for the positive and negative supplies. Each has second. This is caused by the output capacitor
a rating of 50 mA. They are wired as voltage charging as the preamp warms up. The fre-
doublers. The zener diodes make an excellent quency of this disturbance is about 0.5 Hz,
low current shunt regulator just as in my OTLs. which is so low that it is practically DC. It has
Extremely precise voltage regulation is not the potential to drive the amplifiers output
necessary. The shunt regulators hold the rail stage full on for about one-half second resulting
voltage steady if you pull the tubes out or the in a potentially damaging heavy current flow
utility power starts fluctuating. The voltage in into your speaker. The risk of damage is
my shop often bounces between 115 and 125 dependent upon how rugged your speakers are
volts. They also remove a great deal of ripple and how your amp responds to these kinds of

signals. The way to prevent any problems is to
always turn the preamp on first, wait 15 sec-
onds, and then turn on the power amp. Tube
power amps pose no threat because they cannot
pass signals of these extremely low frequencies.
One way to engineer this away is to connect a
muting relay with a 15-second timer that shorts
the outputs to ground and then connects them
to the circuit at the expiration of the timing
cycle. Many commercial preamps employ
circuits of this nature for the very same reason.
Its time to hook it up to your system and have a

R1 10
R2, R3 10K
R4 30K-2W
R5 10K
R6, R7 51K-2W
R8 3K
R9 100K
R10 20K
R11 10K
R12 3K
R13 100K
R14 20K
R15 5.1K-2W
R16 10K-2W
R17 5.1K-2W
R18 10K-2W


C1 22MF-350V
C2, C3 1.0MF-400V, quality film type
C4 - C11 22MF-350V
C12 .01MF-600V
C13 1000MF-25V

D1- D8 1A-1000V, 1N4007 DIODE





1 V3A

+ 2
(75V) R8 R9
1 V1A V1B
R2 2 7

(2V) R10
3 8
B R6



R1 8
R12 R13
(2V) R14
3 8


T1 D1 R15 R16 D3 R18

(-200V) T2 R17 (200V)

Z1 + + +
C8 Z3
D2 C4 C6 C7 C10 C11
+ + + D4
Z2 Z4
C5 C9

120V F1 S1

IN OUT (12V)
C12 IC1
+ 4 4 4
N C13

V1 V2 V3

5 5 5
Transcendent Sound, Inc.
Copyright c 1999 by Bruce Rozenblit
All Rights Reserved
Commercial Use Strictly Prohibited
Many people dont have a lot of surplus product that can be easily placed in an out-of-
space that can be dedicated to an audio system. the-way location.
They need small components that can be placed Unlike the other projects in this book, the
on a bookshelf or installed in typical home- circuitry here is fairly conventional. It does,
entertainment furniture. Some purists may however, incorporate some new features and
disagree, but homes are for people first. The engineering refinements that improve perfor-
stereo system usually ranks two or three notches mance and make it easy to live with. I didnt
down on the priority list. build a new house this time, I just gave it a fresh
People do, however, want power. You coat of paint.
cant have too many watts. High power OTLs The commercial model measures less than
are necessarily huge, which is why my largest 10 inches square and weighs only 23 lbs. It will
model is 80 watts and not 250. Any larger and easily fit on a bookshelf. The little beast will
the thing just gets too big to move around, not make an actual 150 watts into 4 ohms. The heat
to mention the problems associated with the rejection at idle is less than 100 watts for each
additional heat load. So, I came up with the channel. Talk about cool running! It will fit just
idea for an amp with a broader appeal. about anywhere and drive just about anything.
Since the EL-509 can output more than Because of the small size, it is an ideal candidate
one amp of peak current, why not take that for bi-amping or home theater applications. By
same peak power ability and use it to make a using off-the-shelf power transformers, your
super efficient transformer-coupled amp. No project will have to be a little larger, but it will
one else is, so it must be a good idea! This still be very compact.
would give me the chance to see what I could I never thought I could make a trans-
accomplish in a more conventional format. The former coupled amp that sounded like this. It is
primary design goal was to create the smallest not the least bit heavy and syrupy like most
and lowest heat amp possible that could supply other tube amps. The sound is clear and fast,
over 100 watts into a four ohm speaker. I not overly warm and slow. It sounds remark-
wanted to develop an amp that could fit just ably similar to the OTL, which should be no
about anywhere and drive just about any surprise to anyone since the same guy designed
speaker. Most high-power tube amps have the it (me). The high frequency half-power point
proportions of a large microwave oven and can (-3 dB) is at 50 kHz. High frequency transients
weigh over 100 pounds. You can get a hernia if are crisp and realistic. Other than that, the
you try to move one. Thats hardly the type of compact amps most prominent sonic character-

istic is a pounding, thundering bottom end. As I the second half of the input tube is used as a
said before, there is no alternative to current cathode follower buffer between it and the
drive when it comes to the bass. phase splitter. It was there, so I used it. The
The amp is 3 dB down at 25 Hz and then only reason I didnt use the buffer in the OTL is
falls off rather rapidly. There is virtually no that in the commercial stereo amp, the second
musical energy below 30 Hz and very little half of the input tube is used for the other
below 40 Hz. I did not see the point of trying to channel.
extend the bottom end into the subsonic region. The only other major difference is that the
That would require a monster of an output cathode resistor for the input stage is not
transformer and greatly increase the cost. The bypassed with a capacitor. This was done to
transformer used is a standard off-the-shelf unit reduce the gain and increase stability. When the
that is sold by many parts distributors. I didnt resistor was bypassed, gain increased to 32 dB
want the design to be based on any crucial, (feedback was set at 20 dB). Thats just a little
custom-made parts. If you want to hear dino- too hot for most signal sources. The increased
saurs stomping through your living room, then stability with the reduced gain is definitely a
an active sub-woofer will be necessary anyway. plus. The amp is completely stable with a 2.2
My concept of a home theater application would mfd load driven by a 10 kHz square wave.
be to use the compact amp for the left, right, Besides, the way the amp is shown, it sounds
and center channels, a mid sized (50-watt) solid really, really good. When I get to the really,
state amp for the rear, and an active sub-woofer really good stage, I stop changing things.
for the earthquakes and such. That should The output tubes are connected in full
sound pretty good! As far as a more traditional tetrode mode. This greatly reduces the cost of
music application is concerned, this amp will the power supply as extensive filtering is not
definitely rock and roll! required. The current through a pentode or
The output impedance is 0.6 ohm, which tetrode is mostly determined by the screen and
provides for very good damping. The forward control grid voltage. It is insensitive to plate
voltage gain is 24 dB, making the amp very easy voltage over a wide range. The range of insensi-
to drive from virtually any source. Noise tivity is much greater than the power supply
performance is excellent at greater than 90 dBA. ripple, rendering it benign. A common argu-
The commercial unit is dead quiet. The ground ment for the use of massive filter banks is that
plane cicuit board provides best possible noise they increase peak power capabilities. But if you
performance. In fact, this is the quietest amp in have 150 watts to work with, what do you need
the book. This noise thing can get out of hand. peak power for?
Ive had customers call me and tell me they The output transformer is configured for a
bought a noisy OTL. I ask them how far away 4-ohm secondary. Most people have 4-ohm
their ear was from the speaker when they speakers and need the current drive. The
noticed the noise and they say, Up against the impedance reflected to the plates will double
grill. I tell them to forget about it. If you want when using an 8-ohm speaker which reduces
a lot of high quality, quiet, tube power in a distortion. The power supply voltage is very
small space, this is the obvious choice. high at 700 volts giving plenty of room for the
I take great pride in bringing to market larger primary amplitudes that the higher
radically new circuitry, but in this case no new impedance 8-ohm speaker requires.
circuitry was needed. I could have complicated Speaking of voltages, the 700 volt output
the design in order to claim some break- stage supply is extremely dangerous. Not only is
through discovery but that would make me a the voltage bad news, but it can generate one
hypocrite, the cost would go up, and reliability amp of current which is enough to kill several
would be diminished. Im sure youve heard the people. So, exercise the utmost in care when
old saying, If it isnt broken, dont fix it. conducting tests. You certainly wouldnt use a
The first two stages are very similar to the chain saw to give someone a hair cut. Likewise
ones in the OTL. The biggest difference is that you wouldnt troubleshoot this amp with wet

hands. If you think Im trying to scare you, it. The tube makes a very simple, reliable
youre right! If youre scared, youre safe. regulator that gets the job done.
Accidents happen when people become compla- The cathodes of the output tubes are each
cent and careless. grounded through a 10-ohm, 5-watt resistor.
The screen grids are held at 150 volts. They are integral to the metering scheme and
This voltage must be clean and stable for low provide a degree of degenerative feedback
noise operation and good control of bias during high current operation where it is needed
current. The best way to accomplish this is with most. Here goes another myth down the drain.
a voltage regulator. The screens draw only a few There is no precise bias current setting for
milliamps but they are powered from a 700 volt optimum operation. There are only ranges of
source. The most reliable way to implement a operation. Generally speaking, the heavier the
regulator in this environment is with another bias current, the warmer the tube will sound.
tube. One of the main reasons many manufac- Some people think the warmer the better. I
turers make unreliable tube equipment is that definitely do not. My designs are based upon
they hang solid-state regulators all over their maximizing accuracy. What is critical here is not
circuits which were never intended to function the absolute level of current, but the balance of
at such high voltage levels. The regulator for this current. Output transformers cannot tolerate
project is a very interesting tube, the 6BM8. It is much of a DC current imbalance. Too much
a dual tube containing both a high gain triode imbalance will cause premature saturation and
and a low power pentode. I am using it in an severe distortion.
unusual configuration. Most regulators use a If the currents through the 10-ohm
low impedance triode as the series pass element cathode resistors are equal, the voltages at the
but I chose a pentode which has a higher plate cathodes will be equal. The voltages are com-
impedance. The regulators output impedance is pared by inserting the test probes of a digital
still low because the pentode configuration voltmeter into two pin jacks which should be
provides gain which eventually goes into the mounted on the front panel. By obtaining a
negative feedback of the regulator and ulti- zero volt reading on the meter, an accurate
mately reduces the output impedance. The balance of current is achieved. The commercial
pentode must drop 550 volts across it. Fortu- unit employs a panel meter.
nately, the 6BM8 pentode has a 600-volt rating, The balance is obtained in a novel way.
a major reason why I chose it. Plate dissipation The bias is set by using a dual pot that is cross-
is 7 watts which is adequate for this application. wired, meaning that the input terminal on one
The amplifier element for the regulator is the section is the output terminal on the other. As
high gain triode section. It is referenced to a 51 the pot is rotated in one direction, the voltage
volt zener diode and compares the output rises on one wiper and falls on the other. The
voltage to the reference via sampling resistors opposite happens if the rotation is reversed. So,
R35 and R37 which constitute a negative when making a bias adjustment, the bias voltage
feedback circuit. Any voltage difference between is increased on the tube that is drawing too
the sampled voltage and reference is amplified much current, thereby reducing it. Simulta-
by the triode and applied to the pentode in the neously, the bias voltage is reduced on the tube
direction that reduces the sampled differential. that is drawing too little current, thereby increas-
For a pentode to act like a pentode, its ing it. The difference in current draw between
screen grid must be bypassed to its cathode. the two tubes is reduced to zero as they are both
Thats the function of C17. It can be small pulled toward each other. They meet some-
because the screen resistors are large. The 33k where in the middle. I am extremely pleased
resistor on the output is needed to give the with the simplicity and versatility of this adjust-
regulator a minimum load to work into in order ment arrangement and plan to standardize it for
to bias the pentode. Without it the triode will use in any future transformer output amps that
push the pentode essentially into cutoff, a require a bias adjustment.
turned-off state with no current flowing through The output tubes make great radio

frequency amplifiers so care must be taken to through to the cathodes and end up in the
keep them from oscillating. A 1k resistor must speaker causing a low-level, midrange buzz. The
be connected directly to the socket pin of the third problem is that the transformer generates
screen grid, and a 20k grid resistor must be strong magnetic fields that couple to the output
connected to the socket pin of the control grid. transformer and put a lot of hum into the
Likewise, the 100k resistors connecting to the speaker. Rotating the transformer core 90
bias pot must also be connected to the socket degrees could not eliminate it. So the wrong
pin of the control grid. By doing so, the circuit kind of transformer can cause three different
is made immune from stray capacitances and is kinds of noise.
very stable. Circuits for audio frequencies that Back to the toroid we go. I find it ironic
have trouble maintaining stability with respect that the classical application for toroids is in
to wiring and component placement are prob- preamplification because of their low magnetic
ably in need of some redesign. Physical place- fields; however, I use them in power amps and
ment should not be that critical at these frequen- use stacked core transformers in my preamps.
cies. Circuits that operate well into the mega- There I go doing the wrong things again. The
hertz range have much different requirements reason this works is that the preamps have very
and component placement can be critical. small transformers which generate small mag-
There are two stability networks. The first netic fields. Theres lots of room in the preamp
is a shelving network which is R7 and C2 to mount the transformers far away form any
connected across the plate resistor of V1A. It sensitive areas, and there arent any magnetic
starts attenuating the open loop response at an components in the preamp, such as an input
ultrasonic frequency and then levels off, hence transformer, which are susceptible to external
the term shelf. This provides a needed reduc- magnetic fields. Power amps, on the other
tion in open loop gain to stabilize the amp hand, require large transformers that generate
when the feedback is applied. The second strong magnetic fields. There is also a highly
network is the 1500-picofarad capacitor across susceptible magnetic component sitting right
the 2000-ohm feedback resistance. This network next to it, the output transformer. The trans-
strongly affects the rise time and damping of the formers are so big, it is next to impossible to
amplifier, and sets the amount of feedback. I mount them far enough away from each other
prefer to slightly over-damp to prevent any high to eliminate the interaction. Then we have the
frequency or ultrasonic oscillations from spikes coupling to the filament winding. So
occurring. I am using 17 dB of feedback. many problems must be overcome.
Transformer coupled amps are much harder to The most economical way for the hobbyist
stabilize because of the reactance of the output to get the right transformers is to use standard,
transformer. Dont even think about changing mass produced units. The output stage needs a
the values of any of the components in the 230 or 240 volt secondary, rated for at least 0.75
compensation networks. amp. The filaments will require a 7 amps at 6.3
The power supply uses three transformers. volts, while the bias needs a small 120 volt
We could get away with one, but performance center tapped, or 60 volt, 50 milliamp unit. The
would suffer. There are stacked core-type output stage transformer will be used as a
transformers available but Ive found them to be voltage doubler. This is a much more cost-
unsatisfactory in this application. Three major effective use of the transformer. A small capaci-
problems appeared. One occurs when the tor (C8) is connected across the secondary to
power supply rectifiers switch. Harmonics are absorb voltage transients to protect the rectifiers.
generated (spikes) that cause the casing to In order to make the power supply super tough,
vibrate and even make a whistling noise. This is I used two rectifiers in series to double the
hardly acceptable unless the amp stays in the voltage rating as high amperage 2000 volt
basement. The second problem is that the rectifiers are not readily available. The one
spikes capacitively couple to the filament megaohm resistors across them serve to equalize
winding and are so strong that they blast the voltages. A common failure in contempo-

rary tube amps is loss of a power supply rectifier.
By adding two more (50 cents) and a capacitor
(60 cents) and 20 cents worth of resistors, the
power supply should be highly resistant to
failure. You would be surprised how many high
dollar amps dont do this. I guess if your
enclosure is beautiful, customers dont mind
frequent equipment failures.
The filament supply is AC. It has 100
volts DC impressed upon it to relieve the stress
between the cathodes and filaments. This
voltage also has the effect of sealing off AC
leakage between the filaments and cathodes,
thereby reducing noise.

Install all of the tubes and fuses. Position the
unit so you can observe the tubes. Turn it on
and watch. If a tube arcs over, you will see a
purple flash. Id get another tube. All filaments
should be glowing. Standard power amp check
out rules apply. If you hear a loud transformer
buzz, see or smell smoke, shut it down. If
everything looks all right, turn it off and posi-
tion it on its side so you have access to the
circuitry. Connect the ground of your voltmeter
to circuit ground with an alligator clip so your
hands are free of the chassis. Turn it on and step
back a little. You do have a strong light illumi-
nating the chassis so you can see what you are
doing, dont you? Take a minute to watch and
see if any components are overheating or there
are any other problems.
Now here is the dangerous part. Take the
voltmeter test lead in one hand. Put your other
hand in your pocket! DO NOT allow any part
of your body to come into contact with the
chassis and circuitry. Measure the power supply
voltage at the output transformer. It should be
around 700 volts. Now measure the voltages for
the phase splitter and input stages. Check the
voltages at the grids of the output tubes. They
should be in the mid-negative forties. The
screen grids should be at 150 volts.
After several minutes of warm up, balance
the output tubes. They need several minutes to
settle down. The bias setting should be checked
again in an hour. You will find that there is very
little fluctuation. Dont worry about trying to
get a super-accurate setting. Its just not that
critical. There really isnt anything else to check.

R1 10
T2 240V-.94A TOROID,
R2 100K
HAMMOND 180 J240
R3 200K
R4 3K
R5 100
R6 2K
R7 10K
R8 100K
R9 200K
R10 33K-2W
R11 39K-2W
R12 15K-3W
R13 1M
R14, R15 20K
R16, R17 100K
R18, R19 10-5W
R20, R21 1K
R22 15K
R23-R26 1M
R27 15K-3W
R28-R31 300K
R32 200K
R33 100K
R34 10K
R35, R36 200K
R37, R38 100K
R39 33K-2W
R40, R41 100
R42, R43 51K

P1 DUAL POT, 10K-1/2W, LINEAR, 500V

C1 22MFD-450V
C2 50PF-500V
C3 1500PF-500V
C6 .1MFD-600V
C7 22MFD-160V
C8 .01MFD-800V
C9-C14 100MFD-400V
C15, C16 22MFD-350V
C17 .1MFD-630V
C18 22MFD-160V

D1, D2 1A-1000V DIODE

D3-D6 3A-1000V DIODE
Z1, Z2 51V-1W ZENER



(215V) (535V)

+ R9 V3
R10 R11
C1 C2 7
C5 R14 3
(365V) 1
R3 R7 C4
(375V) R16 9 R20
(125V) YEL
1 6 1 6 (.15-.3V) BRN (NOT USED)
2 7 2 7 R18
V1 4 OHM
R2 8 3 (140V) 8
3 (0.9V) V4
(127V) BLU BLK
R4 R8 R15 7 T4
C3 C6 R17 9 R21
R6 TP2


(-42 to -50V)
(-42 to -50V)
T1 D1 R22

+ Z1

P1 R32 R33
7 V5
(700V) 6 2

R25 R26 R30 R35 R39 R38

T2 R27
D5 D6 + + + + +
R31 R36
R23 R28 C18
C8 C9 C10 C11 C15
D4 + + + +
R24 R29 1 SCREEN

120V S1
T3 R41
9 9 4 4 4
F1 CL1
V3 V4 V5
V1 V2
N 4 5 4 5 5 5 5 R40



Transcendent Sound, Inc.
Copyright c 1999 by Bruce Rozenblit
All Rights Reserved
Commercial Use Strictly Prohibited
I never really understood the big commo- individuals find extremely pleasing. I have no
tion about single-ended amps. Why would objection to this decision and have already
anyone want an expensive amp that has very low stated that the only person the audio system has
power, no bass, a restricted top end, and high to please is the person using it.
distortion? Apparently I must be missing With my curiosity piqued, I had to find
something because these things have been big out for myself what single-ended sound was all
sellers. After many conversations with audio- about. I set out to build an amp to experience
philes and studying charts of distortion spectra the phenomenon first hand. (You certainly
for several single-ended amps, I think I have didnt expect me to buy one, did you?) I
finally figured out what the attraction is. designed and built a traditional single-ended
The characteristic of single-ended amps amp with no feedback using an output tube
that audiophiles tell me they prefer most is the with a directly heated cathode. I wanted to
way vocals are reproduced. An almost enchant- listen to it before any extensive measurements
ing, mesmerizing effect is usually described. were made.
This effect is so desirable and powerful that The sound was very smooth and pleasing.
people are willing to overlook the shortcomings There was a loss of detail but the character of the
of the amp. What causes this reaction? sound was lush and desirable. Treble response
By studying charts of distortion spectra for was quite good and I didnt notice any serious
several single-ended amps, I have concluded that loss of high-frequency information. Bass
the desired effect is probably produced by large response was pathetic. It just wasnt there.
amounts of even-order harmonic distortion. Damping factor was so poor that transient bass
The distribution of the distortion is an array of tones, such as from an electric guitar, lost all
even-order harmonics that linearly decline with percussiveness and sounded like continuous
each octave. This produces a euphonic effect tones that just got louder and softer. I actually
that is psychologically or emotionally pleasing couldnt stand to listen to it.
to some listeners. I would liken the effect to Measurements revealed why the amp
vocalists singing in harmony. The interaction of sounded as it did. Output impedance was
the singers harmonics produces a pleasing terribly high at 3.5 ohms. No amplifier with an
sound we call harmonizing. Vocals obtain a output impedance that high can accurately drive
richness and fullness that otherwise would be a woofer. Power output was 12 watts, which is a
absent. Therefore the classic single-ended amp reasonable level. Conducting frequency sweeps
provides a particular coloration that some demonstrated how the power output dramati-

cally dropped below 100 Hz. At those fre- extremely difficult to design and this project was
quencies, the signal waveform became highly no exception. The final circuit turned out to be
misshapen and distorted. The distortion somewhat complicated. One factor that prob-
increased as the frequency dropped. The ably slowed me down was my minimal research
amplifier simply could not handle low-fre- into existing designs. I wanted to embark on a
quency signals. journey of original discovery and not have any
The top end was actually quite good. The preconceived notions about how the amp
signal waveform was clean and extended well should be designed. The school of hard knocks
beyond 20 kHz. It seems as though this amp is a terrific place to get an education. Im glad
would be ideal for use in a biamplified that I took this approach because I learned many
subwoofer-satellite system. new things. Its so refreshing and rewarding to
Harmonic distortion wasnt that high at develop new designs in a field where the vast
3% at 10 watts. It dropped considerably as majority of participants believe that it has all
power was reduced. At one watt, it was only been done before and there are no frontiers left
0.5%. I expected the distortion to be much to explore.
higher. Perhaps units that generate more dis- Cathode-follower output stages require
tortion impart even more lushness to the sound. enormous drive voltages. Power supply voltages
The character of the sound had intrigued can easily reach the kilovolt level. Utilizing such
me to the extent that I wanted to investigate the huge voltages will greatly increase the cost of the
concept further. The nature of the sound (above project and make it exceptionally difficult to
100 Hz) was definitely very enjoyable to listen build. Hardware requirements and assembly
to. I pondered that if the coloration could be techniques are much more stringent at these
toned down a bit and the amp had a solid voltages. One way around this dilemma is to
bottom end, this could become a significant new use a special custom-wound output transformer
design. I knew from the start of the project that with a very low primary impedance on the order
the biggest obstacle to overcome would be the of only 200 ohms. Then you just pile on the
bass. Analyzing the electrical behavior of the output tubes in order to generate sufficient
output stage should reveal the right direction to current to drive the primary. I did not want to
pursue in solving the problem. design a project that used custom parts which
The primary winding of a single-ended are impossible for the hobbyist to find. It is also
transformer is highly inductive. Therefore, it more cost effective for my company to use
must consume a lot of reactive power. The standard parts instead of custom-made ones
impedance of an inductance decreases with because of economies of scale.
frequency. Consequently the lowest frequencies The selected transformer has a primary
will require the greatest amount of reactive impedance of 1600 ohms. It also has the lowest
current which further worsens bass linearity. retail price of any single-ended transformer on
The best way to drive a highly reactive load is the market, which has as much to do with my
with a low impedance, high current source. A choice as anything else. The impedance rating
low impedance source should be better able to of the primary corresponds to using an 8-ohm
control the nonlinear reactive load. The prin- load on the 8-ohm secondary tap. By connect-
ciple is the same as an amplifier with a high ing an 8-ohm load to the 16-ohm secondary tap,
damping factor being able to better control a the reflected primary impedance is reduced to
woofer. 800 ohms. Similarly, a 4-ohm load would be
The lowest impedance configuration for a connected to the 8-ohm tap. The altered
vacuum tube is the cathode-follower. If my connection scheme permits using drive voltages
assumptions were correct, then driving the that otherwise would have to be much higher.
single-ended transformer with a cathode- The next step in the design process was
follower output stage should make for a signifi- choosing an output tube and corresponding
cant improvement. It most certainly did. power supply voltage. I didnt see the point in
Cathode-follower output stages are using exotic output tubes that cost hundreds of

dollars for obvious reasons. Triodes are pre- tions indicate. Tests of the cathode follower
ferred because of their low noise and distortion. output with no other ancillary circuitry showed
Also, the marketplace demands triodes in single- extremely linear operation at frequencies below
ended designs. One of the most rugged, low- 100 Hz. The significance of this is great as I used
cost, widely available, high-current output tubes the same transformer in the cathode follower as I
is the venerable 6550. Although this is a beam did in the experimental traditional single-ended
pentode it can, like all other pentodes, be con- amp. The dramatic improvement in low
nected for triode operation. The maximum frequency performance with the same trans-
plate supply rating is 600 volts which is practical former verifies my claims regarding the reactive
to work with. Tubes with higher plate voltage current requirements of a single-ended trans-
ratings tend to be very expensive and have former output stage.
higher plate impedances. So the choice was With the primary winding connected to
made to use the 6550 with a 550-volt supply. the cathodes, the output stage experiences 100%
The plate impedance of the 6550 in triode degenerative feedback. This provides highly
mode measures about 700 ohms. Triode opera- linear operation and is responsible for greatly
tion ties the screen grid to the plate. The screen lowering distortion. However, the degeneration
has a voltage rating of only 400 volts, which makes the stage much harder to drive as it
obviously presents a problem with a 550-volt requires huge drive voltages to overcome it. I
supply. My solution was to connect the screen had to come up with a way to overcome this
to the plate through a 150 volt, 5 watt zener obstacle. Otherwise, power output would be
diode. The voltage drop across the diode will limited to only two or three watts.
keep the screen voltage at a safe level while still What I ended up doing was bootstrapping
maintaining triode operation. The plate imped- another cathode follower to drive the output
ance for this configuration was found to be only stage. The signal requirements of the
500 ohms. This was an unexpected benefit. I bootstrapped driver are even greater than the
have not yet been able to determine why the output stage. It needs to have even more voltage
plate impedance dropped. The effect must be across it to create an envelope large enough to
tied to the action of the tubes electric fields. contain the necessary drive signal. Because there
The output impedance of a cathode are already two capacitive couplings in the
follower is roughly calculated by dividing the circuit, this stage needed to be direct coupled to
plate impedance by the amplification factor. In the output to ensure good stability.
this case, the output impedance calculates to be By using a negative 150-volt shunt power
only about 65 ohms. The design uses three supply to connect the cathode resistor of the
6650s in parallel for a total output impedance of driver stage to the transformer primary, the DC
only 23 ohms. Each tube can supply about 250 voltage applied to the grids of the output tubes
milliamps. The output stage then has a current can be made as negative as needed to properly
capacity of 750 milliamps, an output impedance bias the output stage, thereby eliminating the
of 23 ohms, and a total combined plate dissipa- need for a coupling capacitor. The negative
tion of 126 watts. That should be enough supply also provides additional voltage head-
horsepower to drive the transformer primary. room in which the driver can operate. This
The current demands placed on the eliminates the need for an even higher plate
output stage are much higher than the power voltage supply.
requirements indicate. This is because the The bias voltage for the output stage is the
primary is highly reactive and consumes addi- combination of the drop across the resistance of
tional reactive current. Also, the reactive the primary winding (about 27 volts) subtracted
impedance of the loudspeaker is reflected back from the negative voltage at the cathode of the
into the primary, further loading it down. Thats driver (about minus 18 volts). The total bias
why it is crucial for the driver of a single-ended voltage is then minus 45 volts. The bias current
transformer to be able to supply several times setting for the output stage is set by R19 at 2200
more current than what simple power calcula- ohms which adjusts the current through the

driver tube. The greater the current, the more voltages have low gain. The choice of tubes used
positive the bias voltage becomes. The current was primarily made to solve this problem. The
through the transformer should be set to about first stage is one section of a high mu 6SL7. Its
150 milliamps (50 milliamps per tube) which is output is coupled through a cathode follower
determined by measuring the voltage across the formed from the other 6SL7 section. The
transformer primary. follower is necessary because, at these extremely
The connection of the shunt regulator large signal voltages, the bias of the high gain
(zener diode Z1) to the primary, provides for tube is disturbed causing premature unsym-
the bootstrapping of the driver stage. Any signal metrical clipping. The final gain stage is one
developed across the primary is added to the section of a medium mu 6SN7. It can provide
signal developed at the cathode of the driver the huge 400 volt peak-to-peak voltage swing.
stage. The two signals are essentially equal Because of the many gain stages, several
which overcomes the 100% degenerative damping networks were needed to stabilize the
feedback of the output stage. Think of it as: one circuit. The first stage suffered from parasitic
plus one minus one equals one. The circuits oscillations. A low pass network comprising R3
function is almost identical to the floating and C1 was necessary to eliminate the problem.
cathode follower used in my OTL. Also, a series network of R4 and C2 was needed
The tube used for the driver is the pentode across plate resistor R5. Capacitor C9 installed
section of the 6BM8. It has a 600-volt rating across feedback resistor R33 minimized any
and the ability to withstand signal peaks that overshoot and ringing of the amplifier when
reach 900 volts. It is connected as a pentode square wave testing was done. I always compen-
cathode follower. The triode section is unused sate an amp to minimize ringing at the expense
as it is unsuitable for this project. of bandwidth because I feel it sounds better this
Even with the bootstrapped arrangement, way. High frequency harshness is very irritating.
the signal requirements of the output stage are Each stage has a 10K grid resistor. Lastly, 10K
extreme. An audio signal voltage of 400 volts grid resistors were installed in the grid circuits of
peak-to-peak is needed to drive the output to 10 each output tube to keep them stable and
watts. This is twice what the OTL requires. As prevent any excessive grid current. Leaving out
you might have guessed, developing that much or altering any one of these stability networks
signal voltage isnt the easiest thing in the world will cause severe problems. I had a difficult time
to do. The signal must be clean with low distor- calming this circuit down. Each stage required
tion. A total of three triodes were used to boost some stabilization work.
the signal to the necessary levels. The power supply is straightforward and
With no feedback, output impedance does not incorporate any regulation. Although
measured 2.8 ohms. That is still too high to the commercial unit uses a toroid transformer,
accurately drive a woofer. Negative feedback good results can be obtained with a standard
must then be applied to reduce the output stacked core type. The output transformer,
impedance. I chose a damping factor of 10 either because of internal shielding or its
which requires the output impedance to be no winding configuration, could be placed near the
more than 0.8 ohm. Dividing 2.8 by .8 gives a power transformer and not pick up unacceptable
reduction factor of 3.5 times. The amount of amounts of hum. This was not the case with the
feedback that will achieve this much reduction is 150W compact amp. For minimum inductive
11 dB. The final design uses 10 dB of feedback coupling, mount the power and output trans-
and the output impedance measures 0.9 ohm. formers at opposite ends of the chassis.
Thats close enough. Rectifier noise capacitively coupled to the
One of the problems encountered in the filament winding is still a problem. For the
design of this project was getting enough gain lowest noise performance, a separate six amp
and voltage swing at the same time. Tubes that filament transformer should be used for the
provide high gain cant generate enough signal output tubes and bootstrapped driver. The
voltage. Tubes that can generate large signal center tap of the filament supply for the outputs


and driver is connected to the transformer smooth and lush but retains more crispness than
primary to relieve any voltage stress between the a conventional single-ended amp. You can
filaments and cathodes and also to reduce hum. definitely tell that you are listening to a single-
The cathodes of these tubes operate at the 400 ended amplifier. The distortion measures 0.5%
volt peak-to-peak drive voltage which causes the at one watt, 1% at 3 watts and hits a maximum
voltage stress. The voltage gain tubes should not of 1.4% just before clipping. Again, this is very
be subjected to this voltage stress. Another one- clean performance for this type of amplifier.
amp filament transformer is used for the two The top end is extended and the amp is very
gain stage tubes because it has to be biased up to quick. The treble is only 3 dB down at 35 kHz.
100 volts to minimize heater-cathode voltage Voltage gain is 21 dB allowing it to be driven
stress. All of the filaments are AC. There is from most any source. Square wave response at
virtually no 60 Hz noise in the output so I felt 100 Hz exhibits very little tilt, indicating excel-
that there was no need to go to the expense of lent low frequency bandwidth and phase
using DC filaments. In the commercial unit, all linearity. At 1 kHz, square waves look about
three secondary windings are resident in one perfect. At 10 kHz there is a slight rounding of
transformer. Once again the toroid proves to be the corners and some minor vertical slope,
the best choice for tube applications. showing that the test frequency is close to upper
The triode output is much more suscep- bandwidth limit. However, there is absolutely
tible to power supply ripple mandating good no overshoot and ringing which verifies its
filtering. I used a choke/capacitor type filter superb damping characteristics. The amp is
with two stages of filtering. This subdued the completely stable driving a 2.2 mfd. capacitor at
ripple to very low levels. The amplifier is 10 kHz.
remarkably quiet without having to result to I like it! I would have to say that some
massive, expensive filtering sections. coloration is added. But maybe thats a good
Output stage bias current should remain thing, like adding seasoning to a recipe. Proper
stable because of the degenerative feedback seasoning can bring out the best flavors in food.
caused by the primarys resistance. The more Have I become single-ended crazy? Since Ive
current that flows through the output stage, the fixed the problems inherent to traditional single-
higher the bias voltage. This has the effect of ended amps, my conversion is a distinct possi-
reducing the flow of current. The direct coupled bility. This is a terribly tough call to make. I
driver has no large resistance shunted to ground now have three amplifiers and thoroughly enjoy
which would create a positive grid voltage if the all of them even though they each have a
output tubes generated grid leakage current. distinctly different sound. Im going to have to
Therefore, the inherent configuration of the out- add another rack and use all three. Oh well,
put stage is maintenance free. Matched output worse things could happen.
tubes are not required either. Its a great benefit
to the consumer to design tube audio equip- CHECKOUT
ment that is just plugged in and used, day after The checkout concerns only making sure
day with no adjustments required. the power supply voltages are correct and a few
So whats the payoff? How does it sound? DC levels are in the correct ranges to indicate
Bass response is only 1 dB down at 20Hz! That proper tube bias. The most critical voltage to
is nothing short of amazing performance for a check is the DC voltage at the output trans-
single-ended amp. The bottom end is solid and former primary. It should be around 25-29
not the least bit abbreviated. Bass transients are volts. The voltage at the output tube grids
clean and sharp without any overhang. Of should be around minus 18 volts.
course only 10 watts are available so the bass Check the voltages at the points shown on
pulses arent going to give your internal organs a the schematic. The tubes will need a few hours
massage, but the foundation is there. The to stabilize. Now all you have to do is show the
midrange and treble capture that almost magical amp off to your friends and let them guess
single-ended quality. Although, its not as heavy where the bass is coming from.
or overbearing. The sound is still extremely




R5, R6 100K V4-V6 6550 VACUUM TUBE
R7 1K
R8 100
R9, R10 300K
R11 39K-2W
R12, R13 30K-2W
R14 220K
R15 10K
R16 3K
R17 10K
R18 100K
R19 2.2K
R20 13K-2W
R21, R22 30K-2W
R23 200K
R24 100K
R25 3K-2W
R26-R29 300K
R30-R32 10K
R33 1.5K
R34-R39 300K
R40, R41 100
R42 100K
R43, R44 200K

C1 250PF-500V
C2 100PF-500V
C3 100MFD-25V
C4, C5 22MFD-350V
C8 100MFD-25V
C9 1500PF
C10 .1MFD-630V
C11-C14 22MFD-350V
C15 .01MFD-800V
C16-C23 100MFD-350V
C24 22MFD-160V

DI-D4 1A-1000V DIODE

Z1-Z4 150V-5W ZENER

T2 400-0-400, 200MA TRANSFORMER


(350V) R11 (515V)
+ C4
C2 R9 R12 R25

R23 +
5 + C5 C11 R26
R5 R4 R10 6
R13 V3
(190V) R17 7 (100V)
2 4
3 +
INPUT V1 2 C12 R27
R3 C7 C10
1 V1 C6
6 1 R18 2 R24
C1 3 (1.7V) R6 R14 V2 (-18V)
3 (11.5V) R19
+ 3 Z1 3 Z2 3 Z3
R7 +
C3 R16 C8 4 4
5 4
R1 5 5
R8 8 V4 8 V5 R32 8 V6
R30 R31
C9 (25-29V)

D1 T1
(-600V) BLU BRN

T2 D3
+ L1 + L2 + +
C15 C16 R34 C18 R36 C20
R38 C22

D4 + + + +
C17 R35 C19 R37
R39 C23


T3 R40
7 7

(100V) R43 R44

V1 V2
R42 +
R41 C24
8 8


4 2 2 2

N 5 7 7 7


Transcendent Sound, Inc.
Copyright c 1999 by Bruce Rozenblit
All Rights Reserved
Commercial Use Strictly Prohibited
I get a lot of requests for a phono stage. get unwieldy. A dead end will be eventually
Apparently, many audiophiles spin vinyl, or at reached where no further improvement is
least the ones that do are interested in my possible. The designer is faced with the task of
products. Most tell me that they have huge creating an expensive, complicated component
collections of LPs that they cant replace and or just use a three-dollar integrated circuit and
thoroughly enjoy. Personally, Ive been out of be done with it. Its a lot easier and less expen-
the vinyl spinning business for quite some time. sive to use some of the new low noise integrated
To round out the book and provide an interest- circuits. In fact, a high performance, IC based
ing project for those of you who enjoy your phono stage suitable for moving coil applica-
records, this ones for you. There are many tions could be completely assembled by the
variations and configurations that could evolve hobbyist for less than $75. I firmly believe that
from this design. As of this writing, I have not the most suitable technology should be used for
decided exactly what I will put into production any given application. It may very well be that a
as a Transcendent Sound phono stage. My tube-IC hybrid design gives the best overall
turntable and cartridge are definitely not state performance. I am publishing this design
of the art.. In fact, they arent state of any- because it does work well and is an interesting
thing. Before I can choose a final design, I am configuration. Im not ready to boast that this is
going to have to upgrade my front end. So in the best tube phono stage ever designed.
contrast to the other projects in the book, this In keeping with the theme of this book,
one is still under development. all of the designs presentedincluding this one
If you havent guessed by now, I like to are substantially different from the standard
design power amps most of all. This is just my offerings of the industry. The sonic characteris-
personal preference. All of us tend to excel at tics of the grounded grid preamp are so good, I
tasks that we enjoy the most. Vacuum tubes are theorized that perhaps the configuration would
best suited for power amp applications. The make a good phono stage.
signal levels are high enough that tube noise and The first stage of the circuit is a grounded
microphonics pose little if any threat to perfor- grid driving a cascoded second stage. The signal
mance. As signal levels drop, tube noise begins must pass through the first cathode follower
to become a problem. At line level amplitudes, before any voltage gain occurs. This should
tube noise is still not much of a factor as is theoretically add about 3 dB of noise. It may
demonstrated by the quietness of my grounded reduce the signal to noise ratio slightly but I was
grid line stage. When signal levels get down to a hoping for an improvement in clarity and
few millivolts, however, tube noise becomes a resolution as a more desirable benefit. So there
serious problem. There are ways to bring the is some method to my madness. The
noise down somewhat, but things can quickly unweighted signal to noise ratio measured about


60 dB. Using an A weighting filter should them because they have the lowest noise figure
improve that figure to between 65 and 70 dB. of any conventional vacuum tube. They are
The prototype measured was a raw, open chassis extremely popular with contemporary manufac-
with no shielding or optimization of compo- turers. As you can see, I have not used them in
nent placement or wiring. I didnt even use any of my other projects. This is because I feel
shielded wires for the signal paths. Building the they impart a coloration to the sound that I find
preamp on an optimized ground plane circuit undesirable. Im not interested in following
board with the proper shielding should defi- industry fads.
nitely improve noise performance. So the noise The preamp, as originally constructed, is
figure, while not being equal to modern solid- highly susceptible to acoustic feedback. Tapping
state designs, certainly rivals any conventional on the chassis with the unit in front of a speaker
tube design. can cause howling. This is not a good thing.
The circuit is basically comprised of two The 6922 is supposed to be one of the tubes
sections. The first section contains a cascode most resistant to microphonic effects. The
gain stage which is driven in a grounded grid acoustic feedback was accentuated by having the
fashion. The signal first travels through V1A and tubes installed on chassis mount tube sockets. If
then drives the cathode of V1B. A cascode is the they were mounted on a printed circuit board,
quietest gain stage that can be constructed with they would be greatly decoupled from chassis
tubes. The first section provides an open loop vibration. I can certainly see how makers of
gain of nearly 40 dB. This gain is partially used damping systems can verify the need for their
to create the RIAA equalization needed for products based upon improvements with tube
correct playback. The equalization network is phono stages. The caveat here is that whatever
contained in a negative feedback loop that helps a phono stage will probably have no
connects the output from the first stage to the appreciable benefit on a power amp as stated
grid of V2B. Components C6, C7, R11, R12 previously in the section on damping systems. It
alter the voltage gain to match the RIAA require- would be interesting to enclose a tube phono
ments. The feedback loop consumes about 20 stage inside a heavily damped speaker enclosure
dB of forward voltage gain leaving a net mid- thickly lined with sound absorbent material.
band stage gain of 20 dB. The nature of phono Thats the kind of isolation needed to thor-
equalization requires 20 dB of bass boost at 20 oughly eliminate acoustic feedback. An exhaust
Hz and 20 dB of treble cut at 20 kHz. Thats fan will be necessary to ventilate the enclosure.
why turntable rumble can be such a problem; If you have to go to this much trouble, those
any rumble will be amplified by 60 to 70 dB integrated circuits start to look more attractive
before it even gets to the power amp. all the time.
The second stage is just a simple triode The power supply provides three voltages.
amplifier with an active plate load as was used One is a regulated 12 volts for the filaments.
in the grounded grid line stage. It is not involved The second is a regulated negative 200 volts for
with shaping the response characteristics. No the input stage. The third voltage is a positive
negative feedback is used in the second stage 235 volts for the plate supplies. It is critical that
and neither is any global feedback. An addi- the supply voltages be clean and free from ripple
tional phase inversion is needed to allow for and spurious noises. The advanced hobbyist
global feedback and that would require a third can certainly investigate more sophisticated
gain stage, which is unnecessary. The second regulation schemes as well as individual stage
stage provides a gain of about 26 dB. The total regulation.
gain through the preamp is then 46 dB. This is
perfectly suitable for moving magnet and high CHECKOUT
output moving coil cartridges. If your cartridge As with the grounded grid preamp,
outputs less than 2 millivolts nominal, then a checkout primarily consists of making sure that
step-up transformer or low-noise head amp the power supply voltages are present and the
will be necessary. few circuit voltages are correct. There is nothing
The amplifying tubes are the 6922. I used to adjust.


R1 47K
R2 33K-2W
R3 2K
R4 24K-2W
R5 47K
R6 68K
R7 20K
R8, R9 2K
R10 1K
R11 7.87K
R12 97.6K
R13 10K
R14 3K
R15 220K
R16 750
R17 5.1K-2W
R18 1.8K-2W
R19 1.5K-2W
R20 2K-2W

C1-C4 22MFD-350V
C6 .03MFD-100V, 2%
C7 .01MFD-100V, 2%
C9-C16 22MFD-350V
C17 .01MFD-630V
C18 2200MFD-25V

D1-D4 1A-1000V DIODE

D5-D8 2A-200V DIODE
Z1, Z2 100V-5W ZENER







R4 (212V) R8 R9 (225V)
+ +
C3 R5 R6 C4
(100V) C5
1 1
+ 2 2
C2 V2A V3A

R7 R13 C8
3 3
(53V) R11
1 V1A 6
R14 R15
2 7 (76V)
R1 (1.0V) 7
3 8 R10 V2B

T1 D1 R17 R18 D3 R20
(-200V) T2 R19 CHANNEL

Z1 + + +
C9 C11 C12 C13 C15 C16
+ + + D4
C10 C14

120V F1 S1

1 2 (12V)
C17 IC1
+ 4 4 4
D7 D8 3
N C18
9 9
V1 V2 V3

5 5 5

4 4



Transcendent Sound, Inc.
Copyright c 1999 by Bruce Rozenblit
All Rights Reserved
Commercial Use Strictly Prohibited


A patent award is one of the greatest acomplish- based audio equipment has sonic characteristics
ments any design engineer can hope to achieve. that are greatly desired by many audiophiles.
Heres mine. One limitation of the traditional vacuum tube
amplifier has been the necessity of an output
TRANSFORMERLESS OUTPUT transformer to provide impedance matching
VACUUM TUBE AUDIO AMPLIFIER between the high impedance of the output stage
Inventor: Bruce M. Rozenblit and the low impedance of the loudspeaker. The
Patent No. 5,604,461 output transformer is expensive to produce, and
introduces a source of distortion and coloration
ABSTRACT into the sound. Specifically, the output trans-
An audio amplifier including a series former reduces the three dimensional imaging
connected vacuum tube output stage for driving of the sound field-a characteristic highly sought
an audio loudspeaker. The preferred amplifier after by audiophiles.
uses the output signal as a floating reference for Prior art attempts to produce practical
an intermediate stage to prevent output stage transformerless output vacuum tube amplifiers
degeneration for producing balanced push-pull have been generally unsuccessful because of the
drive signals, thereby eliminating the need for following limitations:
an output transformer or AC coupling. (a) Extreme heat outputWaste heat
output is more than double that of conventional
Background-Field of the Invention transformer coupled amplifiers. Heat outputs
The present invention relates to the field for a typical 100 watt transformerless output
of audio electronics and more particularly, to an amplifier range from 600 to 800 watts per
audio power amplifier using a vacuum tube, channel. This is intolerable in a residential
series connected push-pull output stage for environment.
amplifying audio signals to drive a high fidelity (b) Poor reliabilityThe output tubes are
loudspeaker. operated with high bias currents which greatly
shortens tube life and stresses the tubes. High
Background-Description of Prior Art power transients push the tubes well beyond
In the field of audio electronics, the their maximum ratings. As a result, failures
primary objective is to achieve faithful and occur frequently.
accurate sound reproduction. Those individuals (c) Poor bass soundThese types of
skilled in the art appreciate that vacuum tube- amplifiers have always had a very weak and


feeble bass sound when driving dynamic tubes allowing them to last much longer and
loudspeakers. It has been a commonly accepted greatly reduces failure rates.
adage in the audio industry that transformerless (d) Reduced maintenanceSince the
output amplifiers cannot supply bass drive equal output tubes last much longer, tube mainte-
to conventional transformer coupled amplifiers. nance is reduced. Also, chassis temperatures are
(d) DC instabilityThe DC level of the lower, allowing the internal components to last
output stage is unstable forcing prior art designs longer.
to use an AC coupled output. The output (e) Direct coupled outputThe amplifier
capacitor increases cost, further reduces bass employs a truly direct coupled output to the
output because of its reactance and effective loudspeaker which acoustically, is the most
series resistance, and is audibly less desirable to desired type.
audiophiles than a direct coupled connection to Further objects and advantages of the
the loudspeaker. invention will become apparent from a consid-
The root cause of these problems has been eration of the drawings and ensuing description.
the inability of prior art designs to provide truly
balanced push-pull drive signals to the series Brief Description of the Drawings
connected output stage. The prior art techniques (Pages 119 and 120)
provide for equal amplitude push-pull drive Figure 1 is an electrical schematic of the
signals but have unequal push-pull forward vol- prior art illustrating the inability to achieve a
tage gains. It is this gain unbalance that creates truly balanced drive.
the conditions that cause these deficiencies. Figure 2 is a block diagram illustrating the
preferred amplifier design according to the
Summary of the Invention present invention.
The present invention solves the prior art Figure 3 is an electrical schematic of the
problems discussed above and provides a amplifier of the preferred design.
distinct advance in the state of the art. More Figure 4 is an electrical schematic of the
particularly, the transformerless vacuum tube preferred amplifiers power supply.
audio amplifier hereof provides a truly balanced
drive with equal push-pull drive voltage gains Detailed Description of the Preferred
through the system without the use of an output Embodiment
transformer or output coupling capacitor. Other To illustrate the improvements of this
preferred aspects are discussed further. invention, a detailed analysis of the prior art is
Objects and Advantages Figure 1 shows the typical prior art
Accordingly, several objects and advan- attempt to achieve a balanced drive. Bias
tages of the present invention are: circuitry has been omitted for clarity. Triodes VB
(a) Low heat outputThe waste heat and VC comprise the series connected output
output of the amplifier is comparable to that of stage. Triode VA is a phase splitter used to
a conventional transformer coupled design. The generate two equal and out phase signals for
heat output of the 110 watt configuration is in driving the output stage. The gain of stage VA is
the range of 325 watts per channel which is essentially unity. The cathode of VC is at AC
about 100 watts greater than a conventional ground through the negative power supply.
transformer coupled amplifier and half as much The cathode of VB is not at ground
as prior art designs. potential. It floats on the output signal at node
(b) Excellent bass soundThe apparent C. The drive signal for VB, SU, is in phase with
bass sound of the amplifier is virtually indistin- the output signal SO. This causes degenerative
guishable from a conventional transformer feedback for the drive signal at node A. With no
coupled unit. further compensation, the output stage is
(c) Solidly reliableThe low heat output unbalanced.
of the design relieves much stress on the output The purpose of the Floating Regulator is to


provide compensation for the degenerative fore unequal regarding compression and
feedback at node A. The Floating Regulator rarefaction strokes of the loudspeaker increasing
shown is a three terminal series pass type. Since the difficulty of the amplifier to control cone
the regulator is referenced to the signal output at motion. These prior art deficiencies greatly
node C, the potential applied at node D is the reduce the acoustic bass output of the loud-
summation of the regulators DC output voltage speaker, which is easily apparent to those
(B+) and the audio output signal. The signal individuals skilled in the art.
applied to node D is in phase with the drive A further complication caused by the
signal at node A. This provides the exact unbalanced drive is increased distortion in the
amount of signal boost or positive feedback system. This has forced prior art designs to use
required to overcome the degeneration of VB. large amounts of global negative feedback to
The prior art attempt to provide a bal- reduce distortion and has also forced the use of
anced drive seems successful but it is not. This high bias current operation for the output stage.
circuitry does provide balanced drive signal Those individuals skilled in the art recognize
amplitudes for the output stage but it has that large amounts of global negative feedback
unequal forward voltage gains through the decrease sonic quality particularly regarding
system. imaging. Also, the large feedback consumes
The drive signal SL at node B is essentially forward voltage gain thereby reducing the signal
equal and in phase with signal SI at node E. amplitude available to drive the output stage.
Due to the action of phase splitter VA, signal SL This causes designers to opt for high bias current
is constrained to equal SI. The compensation operation for the output stage because it re-
signal applied at node D is out of phase with SL. quires less drive voltage. High bias current
This causes negative feedback to be applied to operation has the detrimental effects of causing
node B. Forward voltage gain is then consumed DC instability requiring the use of an AC
at node B. The output stage is unbalanced coupled output, greatly decreases tube life, and
because the forward voltage gain at node A has causes inefficiency that doubles the waste heat
been increased by the action of positive feed- output over conventional transformer coupled
back and the forward voltage gain at node B has designs.
been decreased by the action of negative feed- All prior art attempts at achieving a
back. balanced drive for the series connected output
The unbalanced forward voltage gains stage suffer from these performance limitations
through the system have many detrimental because they all apply the same compensation
effects on performance, particularly regarding to both push-pull drive signals for the output
bass performance. When making steady state stage causing unequal forward voltage gains
measurements into a load resistor, bass response through the system.
seems satisfactory as -3db points at 10 Hz are Figure 2 illustrates the preferred vacuum
easily obtainable. However, acoustic bass tube audio amplifier 10. Amplifier 10 includes
output is deficient. gain stage 18, intermediate stage 20, output
The prior art technique as described stage 22 and power supply 24. Gain stage 18
above produces a DC offset in the output signal provides all of the forward voltage gain for the
that is proportional to output signal amplitude. amplifier as well as generates two split phase
This pushes the loudspeaker cone in one signals for driving the output stage. Intermedi-
direction which limits cone excursions reducing ate stage 20 applies positive feedback 26 from
acoustic bass output. Bass drive requirements the output line 32 to only one of the split phase
for reproducing music require large amplitude signals and none to the other. In this manner,
signals further exaggerating the problem. drive signal degeneration for the output tube
The unequal forward voltage gains cause whose cathode is coupled to the output line is
the amplifiers output impedance to differ eliminated. No feedback compensation is
between positive and negative going portions of applied to the drive signal for the output tube
the output signal. The damping factor is there- whose cathode is coupled to ground through the


power supply. highly linear outputs of 200 volts peak to peak.
The DC potential at the plates of V2A and V2B is
The Amplifier about 280 volts which is used to set the bias of
Figure 3 presents an electrical schematic of the next stage.
the amplifier 10 except for power supply 24 Drive signal compensation stage 20 is
shown in Figure 4. Triode V1 (type 12AX7A) comprised of two cathode followers, each direct
receives the audio signal at its grid. Resistor R1 coupled to one output of the phase splitter.
(100K) is coupled between the grid of V1 and Triode V3B has its cathode connected to ground
ground which provides an input impedance of through series coupled resistors R14 and R15
100K. Series-coupled resistors R2 (3K) and R3 (both 33K-2W). The plate is connected to the
(100 ohms) are coupled between the cathode of 480V power supply. The grid is direct coupled
V1 and ground and create a negative bias voltage to the plate of V2B. Capacitor C5 (1.0 mfd-
of 1.3 VDC by virtue of the idle current flowing 630V) is coupled to the cathode of V3B and
through the tube. Capacitor C1 (100 mfd-25V), serves to isolate the DC voltage on the cathode
connected in parallel with resistor R2, provides from the negative bias voltage of the output
an AC bypass to minimize local degenerative stage. Triode V3A has its cathode connected to
feedback in V1. Resistor R. (220K) is coupled output line 32 through series coupled resistors
between the +225 volt supply and plate of triode R12 and R13 (both 33K-2W). The grid of V3A is
V1 where the output signal for V1 is developed. direct coupled to the plate of V2A. The plate of
The voltage gain for V1 is about 70 times. The V3A is connected to the output line 32 by way of
DC potential at the plate of V1 is about 125 a 450 volt shunt type voltage regulator com-
volts which is used to set the bias of the next prised of three zener diodes Z1, Z2, and Z3 (all
stage. 150 volt-5W). The plate of V3A is also coupled
The node between resistors R2 and R3 to the 550 volt power supply through resistor
provides the injection point for global negative R11 (10K-2W). Capacitor C4 (1.0mfd-630V)
feedback from output line 32 by way of resistors connected to the cathode of V3A serves to isolate
R9 and R10 (3K each) and capacitor C3 the DC potential on the cathode from the
(1500 pf-500V). Switch S1 connects R10 in negative bias voltage of the output stage. The
parallel with R9 and C3. With switch S1 closed, voltage gain of stage 20 is about 0.95.
the amplifier has a forward voltage gain of 22 The output stage 22 is a series connected
db. With S1 open, the amplifier has a forward push-pull configuration. Triodes V4 and V5
voltage gain of 28 db. Capacitor C3 is sized to (type 6C33C-B) yield a power output of 35
provide a slightly over-damped response to watts. An identical pair of triodes V6 and V7
minimize ringing when driving highly capacitive with resistors R20 and R21 (both 100K) are
loads such as electrostatic speakers. added in parallel at the Xs shown in figure 3
Triodes V2A and V2B (type 12AU7A) are for the 110 watt design. The cathodes of V4 and
connected as a cathode coupled phase splitter. V6 are connected to the ouput line. The plates
The cathodes of V2A and V2B are connected of V5 and V7 are also connected to the output
together and to one end of resistor R8 (15K- line. The grids of V4 and V6 are coupled to C4
2W). The other end of R8 is grounded. The grid through resistors R16 and R20 (100K each)
of V2A is directly coupled to the plate of V1. respectively and receive the compensated drive
The grid of V2B is grounded through capacitor signal. The grids of V5 and V7 are coupled to C5
C2 (0.1 mfd-630V) and connected to the grid of through resistors R18 and R21 (100k each)
V2A through resistor R5 (1M). Resistors R6 respectively and receive the uncompensated
(33k-2W) and R7 (39K-2W) connect the plates drive signal. Negative bias voltage is injected
of V2A and V2B to the power supply voltage of into the node of C4, R16, and R20 through
480V. They are staggered in value to allow the resistor R17 (100K) and into the node of C5,
phase splitter to produce two out of phase R18 (omitted from drawing), and R21 through
signals equal in amplitude. The phase splitter R19 (100K). The bias voltage applied to R17 is
has a gain of about seven times and can produce -70 volts and is fixed. The bias voltage applied


to R19 is nominally -240 volts and is adjustable. drive signals will not be equal which will cause a
The bias voltage at R19 is 170 volts more deterioration in performance. Stage 20 must
negative than the bias at R17 to compensate for have a gain of unity because 100% positive
the cathodes of V5 and V7 being held at -170 feedback compensation is applied to overcome
volts. The loudspeaker is directly coupled to the 100 % degenerative feedback in the output
output line 32 without any intervening active or stage. Cathode followers are used because they
passive devices. Output stage 22 has a voltage have a voltage gain of essentially unity.
gain of about 0.25. Resistor R32 (7.5-2W) and Vacuum tubes have been used for stage 20 but it
capacitor C23 (0.1mfd-630V) are series con- is recognized by those individuals skilled in the
nected between the output line 32 and ground. art that solid state devices could also be
They form a constant load impedance for employed.
ultrasonic frequencies. It is recognized by those individuals
skilled in the art that two closed loop unity gain
Theory of Operation stages consisting of multiple active devices could
Stage 18 is a conventional two stage be used in place of the cathode followers. These
voltage amplifier-phase splitter that has been closed loop stages could be constructed of
used in vacuum tube audio power amplifiers vacuum tubes or solid state devices.
since the 1940s. Critical performance param- In order for a triode to operate as a unity
eters for stage 18 are that it must produce two gain cathode follower, its plate must be con-
linear out of phase audio signals, each with a nected to ground through a very low impedance
maximum peak to peak amplitude of 200 volts, path. In a conventional application this path
and have a forward voltage gain of about 500 would be provided by the power supply. Since
times. Those individuals skilled in the art the cathode resistor of V3A is not grounded but
appreciate that a circuit with lower or higher connected to the output line, this low imped-
voltage gain will still work but will alter the ance path must be incorporated by some other
performance characteristics of the amplifier. It is means. One technique that has been tried is to
also important that section 18 be direct coupled connect the plate of V3A to the output line
because any additional AC couplings would through a large capacitor. This produces excel-
cause low frequency phase shift leading to lent measurable results but the sound quality of
instability and motorboating. Different vacuum the amplifier is very harsh and unpleasant. It
tube circuit configurations are possible so long has been discovered that the DC potential
as they provide sufficient gain, amplitude, and between the plate of V3A and the output line
phase linearity. It is recognized by those must remain fixed in order to produce high
individuals skilled in the art that a circuit using quality sound. A voltage regulator can provide
solid state components could also be used for both a low impedance path as well as fixing the
section 18. This would alter the sonic character- DC potential with a high degree of accuracy.
istics of the amplifier but is a viable way to drive The amplifier uses a two terminal shunt
the series connected vacuum tube output stage. type regulator. A three terminal series pass type
Stage 20 is the intermediate stage that regulator will also provide excellent results but is
contains the drive signal compensation which is more complicated and increases cost. It is
the basis of the invention. Two cathode follow- recognized by those individuals skilled in the art
ers are required to provide symmetry and for that the voltage regulator could be comprised of
equal phase shift and impedance for the two zener diodes, gas tubes, vacuum tubes, or other
push pull drive signals. Triode V3A applies the solid state devices. The zener diodes used in the
required feedback compensation to triodes V4 invention provide the lowest cost method to
and V6 while triode V3B provides no signal implement the voltage regulator with a very high
compensation to triodes V5 and V7. It is noted degree of reliability.
that cathode follower V3B could be omitted and The quiescent voltage drop across resistor
the circuit will still function. If omitted, the R11 is a critical parameter. As the output line
time and phase characteristics of both push-pull goes positive with the audio signal, the voltage


on the cathode and plate of V3A rise in step with transformer T1. Diodes D1 and D2 (1A-1000V
it. The voltage drop across R11 decreases by the each) form a voltage doubler in combination
same amount as the rise on the output line. with capacitors C10 and C11 (22 mfd-350V
Hence sufficient voltage headroom must be each). The resultant 550 volts DC is applied to
present in the drop across R11 or else premature V3A. Resistor R24 (5K-5W) reduces the voltage
clipping will occur. The amplifier uses a voltage to +480 VDC for V2A, V2B, and V3B where
drop of 100 volts across R11 which is sufficient capacitors C12 and C13 (210mfd-350V each)
to achieve full power and not drive the cathode provide the filtering. Resistors R25 and R26
follower into cut off. (300K each) equally divide the voltages across
The primary function of grid resistors R16, capacitors C12 and C13. Capacitor C14
R18 (omitted from drawing), R20 and R21 is to (0.1mfd-630V) provides a high frequency bypass
prevent parasitic oscillation from occurring for V3A and capacitor C15 (0.47mfd-630V)
caused by the low impedance of the cathode provides high frequency bypass for V2A, V2B,
followers and the input capacitance of the and V3B. Resistor R27 (620K) drops the voltage
output tubes. A value of 10K ohms provides to +225 VDC for V1 and capacitor C16 (22mfd-
stable operation. It has been discovered that a 450V) provides the filtering while capacitor C17
10K value causes the sound to be extremely (0.1mfd-630V) provides a high frequency
harsh and irritating. The -3db point for the bypass.
output stage with 10K ohm grid resistors is Filament heater section 38 receives 20
about 250 kHZ. When these resistors are VAC from Transformer T1 which is supplied to
increased to 36K ohms, the sound quality begins full wave bridge B2 (35A-200V). Capacitor C18
to markedly improve. The amplifier uses 100K (20,000mfd-40V) provides the filtering with the
ohm grid resistors which cause the sound to be output being 25 VDC to the filaments of the
very pleasant and musical. The -3db point for vacuum tubes in amplifier 12. The tubes having
the output stage with 100 K ohm grid resistors is 12.6V filaments are wired in series to utilize the
about 30 kHZ. This improvement in sound 25 VDC power supply. Filament connections
quality with large value grid resistors is unique are conventional (not shown).
and specific to the 6C33C-B type triode used in Bias section 40 provides the bias voltages
this amplifier. No other vacuum tubes have for the output tubes at -240 VDC and -70 VDC.
been found that duplicate this effect. Stable bias is important and because of this, this
power supply section is supplied with its own
The Power Supply separate transformer T2 (120V-50mA) to
Power supply 24 shown in figure 4 provide better regulation.
includes output section 34, drive section 36, In section 40, diodes D3 and D4 (1A-
filament heater section 38 and bias section 40. 1000V) form a voltage doubler in combination
Transformer primaries are conventional (not with capacitors C19 and C20 (22mfd-350V
shown). Output section includes a center each). Resistor R28 (39K-2W) drops the voltage
tapped 230 volt winding from transformer T1 to -240 VDC for the bias on tubes V4 and V7.
feeding a 35 amp-600V full-wave bridge rectifier Capacitor C21 (22mfd-350V) provides the
B1. Series connected capacitors C6 and C7 filtering. Potentiometer R29 (10K-0.5W)
(6000mfd-200V each) provide the filtering. provides a range of adjustment of 30 volts to
Resistors 22 and 23 (20K-5W each) are discharge balance output stage 22 for 0 volts on output
resistors for capacitors C6 and C7. Fuses F1 and line 32. Resistors R30 (53.6K) and R31 (24K)
F2 (4 amps fast blow each) protect the output provide a fixed potential of -70 VDC for the bias
stage and speaker against faults. Capacitors C8 on tubes V4 and V6. Capacitor C22 (22mfd-
and C9 (1 mfd-250V each) are bypass capacitors 350V) provides the filtering.
needed to create a good AC ground at high
frequencies. The output voltages are +/- 170 Summary, Ramifications, and Scope
volts at idle and +/-155 volts at full load. Accordingly, it can be seen that the
Drive section receives 200 VAC from amplifier of this invention provides truly


balanced drive signals to the series connected output signal on an output line, said output
vacuum tube output stage resulting in a low stage being operable for driving an audio
heat, reliable, transformerless output vacuum loudspeaker coupled with said output line
tube amplifier with excellent bass sound. without a transformer and without a capacitor
Although the description above contains between said output stage and said audio
many specificities, these should not be con- loudspeaker;
strued as limiting the scope of the invention but said first and second series connected
as merely providing illustrations of some of the vacuum tubes being coupled for respectively
presently preferred embodiments of the inven- receiving at the grids thereof said first and
tion. For example, any of the circuit stages second intermediate signals and responsive
could be constructed of solid state devices or use thereto for respectively producing said output
vacuum tube based circuits of differing topology signal;
that achieve the same functional results; the the cathode of said first series connected
floating voltage regulator could be three termi- output tube being coupled with said output line
nal series pass as well as two terminal shunt so that said cathode follows said output signal
type or replaced with a capacitor; driver circuits resulting in degeneration of said first intermedi-
of lessor or greater voltage gain could be used; ate signal at said grid of said first series con-
the output stage could use a single-ended power nected vacuum tube relative to said output line;
supply with an AC coupled output; different and means for compensating for said
output tubes could be used; high bias current or degeneration including means for providing said
class A type output stage could be used; a output signal as a voltage reference for said first
transformer could be connected to the output intermediate unity gain section so that said
stage for further output impedance reduction; output signal is superimposed only on said first
closed loop feedback could be eliminated; intermediate signal thereby compensating for
different power supply voltages could be used. said degeneration.
Thus the scope of the invention should be
determined by the appended claims and their 2.The amplifier as set forth in claim 1,
legal equivalents, rather than by the examples said gain stage including means for providing a
given. gain of about 500 for said first and second
amplified audio signals relative to said input.
1.An audio amplifier comprising: 3.The amplifier as set forth in claim 2,
a gain stage including means for receiving an said gain means including vacuum tubes.
audio input from source thereof and responsive
to said input for producing first and second 4.The amplifier as set forth in claim 1,
amplified audio signals 180 degrees out of phase said means for said first and second intermedi-
from one another; ate unity gain sections including vacuum tube
an intermediate stage including first and cathode followers.
second intermediate unity gain sections having
means for respectively receiving said first and 5.The amplifier as set forth in claim 4, the
second amplified audio signals and responsive plate of said first intermediate vacuum tube
thereto for producing respective first and second cathode follower be coupled to said output line
intermediate signals; by means of low impedance device.
an output stage including first and second
series connected vacuum tubes coupled in a 6.The amplifier as set forth in claim 5,
push-pull configuration, and including means said low impedance device further providing a
for setting the quiescent current of said first and constant voltage drop.
second series connected vacuum tubes, and for
receiving and responding to said first and 7.The amplifier as set forth in claim 5,
second intermediate signals for producing an said low impedance device means including a


voltage regulator.
18. The amplifier as set forth in claim 1,
8.The amplifier as set forth in claim 6, further including at least one pair of said series
said constant voltage drop of about 450 volts connected vacuum tubes.
direct current.
19. The amplifier as set forth in claim 1,
9. The amplifier as set forth in claim 7, said means for setting said quiescent current of
said voltage regulator including at least one said first and second series connected vacuum
shunt type zener diode. tubes includes injecting negative bias voltage
into said grids of said first and second series
10. The amplifier as set forth in claim 4, connected vacuum tubes, respectively.
the cathode of said first intermediate vacuum
tube cathode follower be coupled to said output 20. The amplifier as set forth in claim 1,
line by way of resistance so that said output line said output stage further includes means of
provides a floating voltage reference to said setting quiescent voltage on said output line to
cathode of said first intermediate vacuum tube zero volts by fixing said negative bias voltage on
cathode follower. said grid of one said series connected vacuum
tube and varying said negative bias voltage on
11. The amplifier as set forth in claim 4, said grid of other said series connected vacuum
the cathode of said second intermediate vacuum tube.
tube cathode follower be coupled to ground by
way of resistance.

12. The amplifier as set forth in claim 1,

said first and second intermediate signals each
presenting about 200 volts peak to peak.

13. The amplifier as set forth in claim 1,

said first and second series connected vacuum
tubes respectively receiving said first and second
intermediate signals by way of respective first
and second grid resistance, each being greater
than about 36K ohms.

14. The amplifier as set forth in claim 13,

said first and second grid resistance each being
about 100K ohms.

15. The amplifier as set forth in claim 13,

said first and second series connected vacuum
tubes being type 6C33CB triodes.

16. The amplifier as set forth in claim 1,

further including feedback means for providing
negative feedback from said output line to said
gain stage.

17. The amplifier as set forth in claim 1,

said output stage including means for operating
in substantially class B mode.


Well, what do you think? Did I make any body know any more than you do?
sense? Or are you waiting for a real expert to tell I have shown the actual schematics with
you how to pass judgement on me? Hopefully, circuit explanations of all of my products. What
by acquiring knowledge and understanding, you else could I possibly do to prove that all my
have become the expert. You just dont realize it equipment is completely different from every
yet. other manufacturer? A schematic is like the
At one of my earliest jobs in the engineer- DNA of electronics. It details exactly how a
ing field, my boss told me that when I go to product has been designed. The schematic is not
meetings with other engineers, vendors, contrac- an expression of an opinion about something.
tors, and clients, I will be surprised as to how It is a statement of fact describing how an
little most of these authorities really know electronic component is put together. I have
about their respective fields. He told me that laid my products bare for all to see and evaluate.
before long I would know more than most of Perhaps Ive got it all wrong. Maybe the
the people that I would be doing business with. buying public couldnt care less about the design
He was exactly right. I soon concluded that and construction of their audio equipment. My
becoming an authority has as much to do with lifes work could very well be an ongoing
selling yourself as it does with actually possess- exercise in futility in that Im trying to sell
ing any special knowledge. innovation and superior performance in afford-
No other manufacturer has such a diverse able equipment. The competition just might
and innovative product line. Look at what the have the right idea after all. Hire an industrial
competition has to offer and compare perfor- designer to come up with some far out looking
mance, features, and price. (Youve got to expect enclosure, use the most expensive, exotic parts
me to hype my products a little!) Other manu- available to create an aura of exclusivity, use a
facturers will show you numerous endorse- common circuit with reasonably good perfor-
ments, heavy sheet metal boxes, lots of advertis- mance, pump the price way up to create the
ing, exotic parts, and big price tags. Ask them illusion of status of ownership and sales will
whats in the pretty box. Ask them to show you certainly skyrocket. This must work because that
their design. Why is it any better than any is exactly how 90+ percent of high-end audio
others? What features in use and performance gear is marketed. The ads virtually never say
does it have that would cause you buy it? how or why their products are different. I
Instead what you will hear is that somebody says remember one amplifier ad that just showed off
its the best in the world. Why does that some- the amps binding posts. Another featured a


photo of the power switch. As ridiculous as to employ mystical devices to sound better?
these marketing techniques appear to me, Thats another question you will have to answer
manufacturers certainly wouldnt use them if for yourself.
they didnt generate sales. There seems to be a continuous battle in
The very nature of audio creates an the media between engineering types and
environment that is perfectly suited for this type nontechnical types concerning why, or if, some
of marketing. If a toaster doesnt make toast, component changes alter the character of the
anyone can see that. If audio equipment has sound. The tech types usually take the position
fabulously mediocre performance, whos going that if a change in the signal cant be measured,
to fault it? It still sounds fine. Theres nothing then any perceived differences are purely ima-
demonstrably wrong with it. Nice sounding gined by the listener. The nontechnical types
music pours out of the speakers. No one (the overwhelming majority) often take the
receives an injury or disease from using the position that this scientific stuff has nothing to
system. No crime has been committed. How- do with it because there is something else
ever, there is a great deal of equipment available going on. The following argument summarizes
(usually made by small manufacturers) that my views on the subject.
sounds a lot better for one half to one third the A loudspeaker is an electric motor. The
cost. So what? People often buy perfume that sound that emanates from it is totally dependant
costs 50 cents to make for $50 a bottle. I myself upon the electric signal fed into to it. Thats a
have occasionally purchased chic bottled water fact. The electrical signal makes the speaker
from France, and Im so tight I squeak when I cone move and cone movement is what gener-
walk. Hey, it was a treat. Its my money and if I ates the sound. Any equipment alterations
want to waste some I will! Thats my point ahead of the speaker that result in a change in
exactly. Its your money and you have every the sound absolutely must alter the electric signal
right and privilege to spend it any way you want. in some manner. Otherwise, no change in the
The question I have for you is: Do you really sound could possibly occur. All sonic character-
know what it is you are buying? If the answer to istics are subordinate to the electrical signal.
that question is a concern, then I sincerely hope These signals are physical entities and their
this book has helped you. nature and behavior absolutely must obey the
Once the endorsements are in place and laws of physics. All physical phenomena behave
the mass marketers get a hold of you, money according these laws. They are the laws of
flows from your wallet to theirs. All the masters nature.
of selling need from the circuit designer is a All electrical signals possess certain para-
decent level of performance. They can handle meters that totally define them. These para-
the rest by creating the necessary images and meters are:
illusions that get the consumer to write the 1. The spectral content of the signal.
check. Lots of checks are written and lots of These are all of the discrete frequencies of
expensive, average-sounding equipment gets which the signal is comprised.
sold. The buyer doesnt know the difference and 2. The amplitude of the spectral components.
is happy with his new status symbol. As long as These are the sizes or strengths of all of
the system plays loud and clean with lots of the individual discrete frequencies.
bass, it really doesnt matter if the sound is just 3. The time distribution of the spectral components.
passable. Audio has therefore become a business These are the times when the individual
that primarily sells illusions. discrete frequencies occur.
There are absolutely no mystical tech- There are no other factors. This is not my
niques, procedures or materials that can im- opinion but a proven mathematical fact and
prove the performance of stereo equipment. Its verifiable with physical experiments. Under-
all science and engineering. The design is what standing the totality of these three parameters
makes the equipment perform as it does. Why is reveals complete linkage between science and
it that people expect their doctor to use science sound reproduction.
to heal them, but expect their audio equipment


Therefore: or inductance acting on the signal. No other
Any device that is purported to change the characteristics exist. The consumer should
nature or character of the sound, must in some way always investigate advertised claims with regard
alter one or more of these parameters. No other these three characteristics. If no mechanism can
possibilities exist. be identified that alters these characteristics,
Therefore: then the products performance is highly
Any device that claims to alter the nature or suspect.
character of the sound but does not possess any Tube equipment is much easier to put
mechanism to alter any of these parameters can have together than solid-state. The circuitry is inher-
no possible effect. ently simpler. All of the parts are much larger and
I have concluded that the measurement of easier to manipulate. The very nature of tube
subtle changes in sonic character can be very circuitry facilitates easy point-to-point wiring.
difficult because of the dynamic nature of Circuit boards are completely unnecessary for
sound. The measurement problem is com- single unit construction. Tube circuits are ex-
pounded because, even if you can determine tremely rugged and can withstand a tremendous
what to look for and have the equipment and amount of abuse. Short out a solid-state circuit
technology to find it, you are looking for a with a test probe and all the semiconductors can
moving target that wont sit still. Static measure- easily be ruined. Ive had that happen more than
ments, therefore, dont tell the whole story. This once. Its very embarrassing to go to the parts store
is a common pitfall that influences many tech to buy two replacement transistors and come back
types. They cant measure a difference so they that afternoon and buy them again plus six more.
conclude there is no difference. The problem is No matter what your opinions of tube
that they are looking for the wrong things. equipment are, this field is by far the easiest way
Thats why they cant find them. to get involved with building your own stereo
The nontechnical majority also falls victim equipment. The costs can be extremely low and
to its own set of predetermined notions. I have the performance is very high. I especially hope
had many conversations with customers who the younger readers will get involved and build
have told me about major improvements to the up a system and even a pair of speakers. Ive
sound when a binding post was changed, a cable always thought that making inexpensive useful
direction was reversed, or a short length of wire things that worked well was a lot of fun.
was replaced. Some of these very same people So where do we go from here? Has
have operated my OTLs for days, or even weeks, Rozenblit designed his last circuit? No way! Im
with a blown output tube, a blown output stage just getting warmed up. I design because I enjoy
fuse, or even with the driver tubes in the wrong doing it. Actually, the process of design is more
sockets and did not realize there was a problem. important to me than what Im designing. The
Eventually they noticed a reduction in maxi- project material drained a lot of creative energy
mum power output. Thats when Id get the call. from me and I need some time to recharge. Its
Then Id get to tell them that my amps are so no easy task to develop four or five radically new
wonderful that they sound great even when they designs in a short period of time. As soon as I
arent operating properly. get good and bored, Ill think of something new
How can they listen to equipment that is to come up with. This is too much fun, particu-
grossly malfunctioning and not notice the larly when the established authorities are
problem while at the same time be convinced convinced that nothing new can possibly be
that questionable enhancements are so produc- developed. We just showed them how wrong they
tive? I can only conclude that many of these are.
benefits result from a self-fulfilling prophesy.
The listener wants to experience an improve-
ment, so an improvement occurs.
For a passive device to alter an electrical
signal it must change the resistance, capacitance


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2. Electric Networks, Hugh Skilling, John Wiley and Sons, 1974.

3. Standard Handbook for Electrical Engineers, Donald Fink and Wayne Beaty, McGraw-Hill,
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4. Electronics Engineers Handbook, Donald Fink and Donald Christiansen, McGraw-Hill, Second Ed.,

5. Linear Circuits, Ronald Scott, Addison-Wesley, 1960.

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9. Reference Data For Radio Engineers, Howard Sams & Co., Sixth Edition, 1975.

10. Handbook for Sound Engineers, Gene Ballou, Editor, Howard Sams & Co., 1987.

11. Jensen Transformer Catalog, Application Notes 002, 003, and 004, Bill Whitlock, 1995.

12. Beginners Guide To Tube Audio Design, Bruce Rozenblit, Audio Amateur Press, 1997.

13. From Compass to Computer, W. A. Atherton, San Francisco Press, 1984.

14. Active Networks, Vincent C. Rideout, Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1954.

15. Principles of Electron Tubes, Herbert J. Reich, Audio Amateur Press, 1995.

16. The Radiotron Designers Handbook, F. Langford-Smith.