Print – Books related to vacuum tube electronics
The RCA RECEIVING TUBE MANUAL especially those from 1960 to 1968, some basic tube theory and standard circuits. Also specs for popular tubes from that era. The RC-30 edition (about 1971) has been reprinted by Antique Electronics Supply. It contains the largest number of receiving and industrial tubes, although “antique types” are gone, and the data is thinned out on some types.
The RADIOTRON DESIGNER’S HANDBOOK by F. Langford Smith. The fourth edition is the best. Available on CD from Old Colony Sound. It can be downloaded from several sites around the web.
VALVE AMPLIFIERS by Morgan Jones. I bought this book on a recommendation from a friend. It is written on a level that requires a good working knowledge of electronics to understand, even though it covers the basics – in one chapter. Definitely not a book for total beginners, although many have found it useful. Loaded with technical explanations for all things related to vacuum tubes. A few amplifier designs are presented along with the theory of operation, and the design tradeoffs that were made.
BUILDING VALVE AMPLIFIERS by Morgan Jones. This book covers most aspects of physically building a vacuum tube amplifier, testing it, and basic troubleshooting if it doesn’t work. No theory or circuits are presented. Unlike the other book, I would recommend this book to someone that has never built an amplifier before. Most of the material pertains to a conventional point to point wired amplifier on a conventional chassis. There are only a few pages that relate to PC board construction. My “industrial strength amplifier” was based on a chassis design presented in this book. Both of these books come from the UK, so some of the terminology may be unfamiliar to Americans. Both are available at Amazon.com.
Sources for vacuum tube related components
I have purchased from these vendors many times without any problems. Often many vendors stock the same parts with widely differing prices. It pays to shop carefully.
http://www.digikey.com Panasonic capacitors and resistors are good quality parts. Small power transformers useful for filaments. Most of the parts used in my amplifiers come from DigiKey or Allied.
http://www.mouser.com Xicor capacitors are not as good as Panasonic, but cheaper. They now carry Mallory coupling caps and Sprague Orange Drops. There are plenty of other useful parts for building tube amps.
http://www.tubesandmore.com Antique electronics supply. Transformers, tubes, and most everything else that you need to build a tube amp.
http://www.triodeelectronics.com A tube sales web site with lots of additional information. The links page is extensive. I have purchased tubes from them with good results although their management has recently changed.
http://www.alliedelec.com Allied electronics has been around longer than I have. Once part of the Tandy empire, they now are a full line electronics distributor. They stock many Hammond transformers, but my favorites are “Allied’s own tube power transformers” on page 683 of their 2005 catalog. These appear to be made by Hammond, but cost less than the equivalent Hammond part. I have used # 6K56VG in most of my Tubelab SE amps. I have used # 6K7VG in my 845SE and in 300B versions of the Tubelab SE as well as several push – pull amps and in guitar amps. I have never had a problem (except the one that got wet in a hurricane). They also carry Cornell Dubilier 500 volt capacitors.
Sources for tools used in building your amplifier
http://www.jameco.com A good source for the small tools that you will need to build an amplifier. I use one of their soldering irons, a Xytronic model 168-3CK. I have had it for over 10 years and use it several times a week. They also have several low cost multimeters. I like the MASTECH MAS830L it costs $14. Most of their components are for low voltage circuits.
http://www.harborfreight.com Their customer service is slow. You get one automated confirmation of your order, no tracking number or order acknowledgement. The order arrived 3 weeks after I placed it. They have a good selection of cheap tools (Chinese) and multimeters for as low as $4. The multimeter, item # 90899 is currently on “overstock clearance” for $3.99. It appears to be the same meter as the ones that Jameco sells for $10. These meters are useful for working on vacuum tube amplifiers. I recommend purchasing several. You will inevitably blow up at least one meter in your life, make it a cheap one. The test and bias setup procedure for the Tubelab SE now requires 3 meters, for safety reasons.
Web sites with vacuum tube content
www.tubecad.com One of the few good sources of unusual circuits and ideas, supported by selling tube simulation software. I personally use his software and it works. I just received the “push pull calculator” and am using it to zero in on a totem pole amp design. This site went stale for quite a while, but has recently come back with lots of new circuits.
http://members.aol.com/sbench101/ An excellent source of some truly weird circuits. Who else would use the plate for the input and the grid for the output. (inverted operation) I tried it and it actually works. Not updated in a while.
http://www.ne.jp/asahi/evo/amp/contents.htm A Japanese site with some unique approaches to solving the drive problems in the totem pole amp. Many strange amplifier circuits, vacuum tube, solid state, and hybrid.
http://www.triodeelectronics.com A tube sales web site with lots of additional information. The links page is extensive. I have purchased tubes from them with good results.
www.dr-jordan-design.de FFT analyzer and audio generator software which turns your PC (with a good sound card) into a useful amp testing and tweaking system.
http://tubesall.hihome.com/tube.htm Links to many unique designs. This site seems to move often.
http://www.pacifier.com/~gpimm/ Information about Constant Current Sources, including amplifier designs.
http://home.wxs.nl/~frank.philipse/frank/frank.html The biggest tube manual on the internet. Select search, type in a number, and if it isn’t there it doesn’t exist. Actually I have found a few tubes that he doesn’t list, but not many.
http://hereford.ampr.org/cgi-bin/tube?tube another internet tube manual.
http://www.allaboutcircuits.com/vol_1/index.html A good electronics web site that covers basic electricity, solid state circuits, digital electronics, and some experiments. They cover vacuum tubes, but oddly enough they are in the semiconductors section. There is some good information on electrical safety, and one of the experiments is a single ended vacuum tube amplifier using a 12AX7 tube and an automotive ignition coil for an output transformer. Someday I will build it.
http://www.aikenamps.com/ A web site that is all about tube guitar amplifiers. Click on tech info. There is some information here of use to all vacuum tube amp builders. Check out the introductory page for a list of useful books, although I have not read any that are not listed below. There is a humorous look at safety. In the advanced section there is a detailed explanation of most types of tube amplifier distortion. The “blocking distortion” page offers another explanation of the particularly nasty distortion that led to the design of the PowerDrive circuit.
http://www.beigebag.com/ A SPICE type simulator that is capable of vacuum tube circuit simulation. It is even capable of simulating hybrid circuits containing tubes and transistors. The Demo version only has a few vacuum tube models.
The diyAudio Forums
http://www.diyaudio.com I have previously avoided any of the forums related to audio because of the behavior of a few of the participants. It seems that a few people are self appointed “experts” who will attempt to ridicule and humiliate all who do not agree with them. The diyAudio forums is a web log (blog) format Q and A session where you can ask a question and anyone can answer. I have been on this forum for over a year, and have only met one such person. There are topics for just about anything related to audio (and video) that you could build yourself. Some topics are speakers, solid state, chip amps, digital, construction, and of course tubes. Anyone can read, but you must register to participate. Even a seasoned vacuum tube veteran can learn something here. Some of my projects began as ideas that started as a question on these forums.