Now I’m back from our long trip, I found some time to play with the “Mule“. I wanted to revisit my old VT-25 preamplifier. Many years ago I had my first VT-25/10 preamplifier which was based on a gyrator load. Then it morphed to a transformer coupled (LL1660/40mA) version to drive my TVC before I settled into the 4P1L for some long time.
The circuit design
The VT-25 has always been on my list of favourite DHTs. It’s gone ridiculously expensive these days and is hard to get. I have a couple of pairs in very good shape luckily.
On my last post I covered how the gyrator PCB can be used in a pentode driver. The pentode driver is the best candidate in a “plate to plate” / shunt feedback or “Schade” feedback amplifier which is the name typically used in the DIYAudio world. The triode doesn’t work well here as you need high gain and low distortion with a load which can get quite low (due to the feedback effect of the feedback resistor). I’m not going to cover the subject as it has been covered (and discussed) extensively before by many people, so I suggest you do a bit of research yourself if you are interested in the subject and want to learn more.
If you need gain and good drive, our friend the pentode is there. However, with the high anode resistance, it’s hard to implement as a driver. With a resistor load you get good results, but not optimal. The gyrator load (as a hybrid mu-follower stage) brings a good option to the pentode driver. The workaround to the high gain of the stage has been cleverly addressed by Gary Pimm. Here is just a brief summary of how to implement it:
The circuit can be explained easily. The pentode (U1) is loaded with the gyrator (g1). The pentode screen has a stable voltage (vs) which is provided by the voltage regulator (U2) and the CCS formed by M1+R2. You can implement the screen voltage source that best suits you. Anyhow, the input is provided to the grid (g1) and the grid resistor (Rg) provides ground reference. The cathode resistor (Rk) is un-bypassed. Quite unusual for a pentode. The thing is, we have gain to spare, but thanks to the gyrator, the output impedance of the stage isn’t mu times the Rk. Hence we can afford adding this resistor which also linearise the stage thanks to the negative feedback introduced. Ra is required to provide a stable output and limit the gain. The gain is therefore Gm times the Ra, Gm is degenerated due to Rk (unless you bypass it). Ra could be also be placed in parallel with G1, but as Gary Pimm well explains, it’s better to have it referenced to ground to improve the power supply noise rejection (PSRR).
The output is take from the mu output of the gyrator. The load is connected here. If you need all the gain from this stage you can bypass Rk or better replace Rk with a series of diodes (SiC) or LEDs. Whatever you please.
This stage can be a great driver for a SE stage. Like a 300B. A 4P1L will work brilliantly here. As most of the Russian pentodes.
Also if you want to go further, you can implement a pentode output stage and provide plate to plate feedback (a la Schade) and create a fantastic amp. Michael Koster and Anatoliy have covered this topology at length in DIYaudio, check it out. If you elevate the cathode of the output stage you can DC-couple it. Great stuff and sounds amazing, I did implement this with my 814 SE Amp.
As you can see, a very flexible stage, thanks to the gyrator. Once again, a very handy topology to use.
The start of a different DHT experience with the Mule
I built the “Mule” to provide enough flexibility to test other DHTs as pre-amplifier / line stage. Using the gyrator board, the flexibility is fantastic. Can share same HT and dial the right anode voltage. The LT supply can also be shared amongst many DHTs and Rod Coleman provided me with a set of different resistors to test the list of 9 or 10 DHTs I have in mind which haven’t listed carefully on this design.
I’ve been travelling a lot lately so haven’t had the chance to update on this project. A couple of weeks ago I finished the 4P1L PSE Amp:
The amp is outstanding, just like previous incarnations and tests I have conducted over the years. The level of detail and tone is unique. This is what I always loved from the 4P1L. I’m running it very hot (70mA per pair) and the output transformer is Amorphous Core 3K2 (more detail to be shared soon). It’s a simple stage with filament bias, so no cathode capacitor. The filaments are wired in series to reduce the heat dissipation. Despite this adds a bit more on the output impedance, the bass is powerful. I’m very surprised with the bass, but the level of treble is amazing. It goes over 40-50kHz, I will still need to undertake the classic measurements but so far is great!
Yesterday I started with the build of a new 01a preamp Gen2. I made some component changes during the build process thanks to Andy Evans who reminded me of the Russian FT-2 teflon capacitors. I had a pair left of 220nF FT-3 caps in stock!
The circuit is the same as the original preamp but with some component changes:
Filament resistors are NOS Russian wirewound 51Ω/20W. I use a pair of them in parallel. Bias is about 5V.
Filament bias using Rod Coleman v7 regulators. Set starved to 200mA
The output caps are Russian NOS teflon FT-3 220nF / 600V. You can use a pair of FT-2 100nF alternatively.
The bias point is changed slightly up to 5V so the anode voltage is increased to 115V to get the 3mA of anode current. This time I’m using the BF862 which can be soldered in the gyrator PCB instead of the 2SK170. I preferred the sound and higher bandwidth as well as lower output impedance. The BF862 is a real winner as lower FET.
Here is a view of the preamp inside:
The heavy FT-3 caps are mounted on top of the gyrator PCB boards. The top anodised plate is 4mm thick and anodised. The teflon UX-4 sockets from Luciano Bandozzi (Jakeband) are mounted with silent blocks and Rod’s regulators are bolted to the top plate. you don’t have to as they dissipate very little power in this case.
How does it sound? Well, just played it for a couple of hours and I’m amazed with the subtle differences that the Russian wirewound resistors and output cap + BF862 can bring to this preamp. We did some listening tests recently with Andy Evans comparing filament resistors and these ones were real winners for both of us.
I hope it improves with time after breaks in a bit more.