Gyrator hack: Enhancement MOSFET option

Happy Easter to all! (whatever you celebrate, doesn’t matter, it’s always good to have some days off)

I have my preferred gyrator setup which includes a top (depletion) MOSFET IXTP08N100D, which has a unique high VGS(th) which helps improving the performance of the bottom FET, in my case the BSH111BK. The combination of both is superb and they do measure (and sound) superb. The frequency response is flat until 3.4Mhz (-3dB). Yes, a high bandwidth amplifier, so you need to be mindful of this when using high gm/gain valves. I read somewhere people complaining that gyrator “oscillate”. Well they don’t, however they create a high bandwidth amplifier which is therefore prone to oscillate if you don’t take the right measures. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it will oscillate for sure, you have been warned.

Ok, if you can’t get hold of (any) depletion MOSFET as the top device, there is an option, a la Gary Pimms.

The circuit can be tweaked slightly, as can be hacked the PCB (I can show you how if you’re intending to use this circuit)

Here is the design:


The main difference is that D4 provides a stable reference voltage (18V) which ones you subtract the VGS(th) of the top MOSFET (typically 2-5V) then will give you enough headroom to allow the bottom FET to operate under low output capacitance due to higher VDS. This is the common limitation of the cascoded pair of depletion devices. You can’t get more than 2-3V.  As the top device forms a “cascode” with the bottom, it also limits the maximum voltage possible to the drain of the bottom device. The protection zener of the bottom device can be removed to ensure maximum swing. This stage can do 20Vpp easily. C5 provides some filtering to the zener noise, which is very low. I can’t see an issue at the driving levels in place. 

The protection zener (D2) for the top device is needed unless the MOSFET comes with a pair of back to back as some do.

There are multiple options for the top MOSFET. I like the (nearly EOL) STP3NK60ZFP which is a FP TO-220 device, very handy for heatsinks and high voltage and comes with the bonus of the protection zeners. The best option is the AOT1N60 and also the easier to get hold off FQPF2N60C

So, the performance is great. You can get flat response up to 2.1 Mhz. Here is a snapshot with my buffer which limits to 1.5Mhz:



However, my prefered stage can do 3.4Mhz under same conditions!


L3-3 valve tester repair 

I’ve been working on repairing  a fantastic L3-3 valve tester. It arrived safely, albeit not working the anode regulation circuit. I replaced the pots for either 10T (for grid regulation) and the screen and anode pots (1M). The regulation of the anode isn’t working, so after some time of a frustrating troubleshooting, I decided to open a nice Ale and listen to Herbie Hancock on LP. Happy Friday!

VT-25 DHT Preamp Update

Well, it was just a question of time to make an update to the VT-25 DHT preamp. I wanted to try the BSH111BK as lower FET as shown below:

The result is visible on the frequency response. It does have an improved FR and the bandwidth gets up to 800kHz on same testing conditions. If you increase the HT to 280-300V you can increase the anode current to 30mA which should be good as well. 

I love the sound of this stage driving the 4P1L PSE output stage. It has a deep bass as well as clear treble. Dynamics on the system are fantastic. 

The bass on my system is fantastic now. Stronger than with previous setup. That is what you get when you marry low ra (4P1L pair) with a high-quality OPT.

I have a pair of pre-soldered BSH111BK boards (which are painful to solder) so I will give them away on a first come first serve basis

Weather is really nice today in London, so I’m going out right now…

cx-112a DHT preamp


This was one of my first DHT preamps. I found a quartet of NOS CX-112a Cunningham (globe) back in Buenos Aires many years ago and built one of my first DHT preamps. I loved it. I played with it before I moved into the 26 and then started the long exploratory journey with DHTs. 

The CX-112a can be easily fit in an existing 01a preamp. Take a look at what Thomas Mayer recently blogged about this valve, worth reading it. 

Well, you can get more current drive than 01a (nearly double) but no thoriated tungsten filaments. Anyhow, the gain is slightly higher but is very easy to adapt to my gyrator-based circuit, that I couldn’t resist to take the quartet out of my valve stash and make them sing again after so many years.

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VT-25 DHT Preamplifer

VT-25 in action 

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. 

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“Schade” SE Amp Example


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. 

A Study example

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Pentode driver with gyrator load

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.



C-299/CX-299 DHT Preamplifier

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. 

The C-299

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Gyrator FET options (More!)

Someone had to invest and sacrifice some gyrator boards to test various lower FETs (either depletion or enhancement devices as well as TO-92 or SMD options). That was me. 

Why? Because I want to push this circuit further and find the best options as well as provide to the builders out there some other device alternatives when they can’t solder SMD components. 

So let me present you the abused test mule and the various boards under the mercy of my tests:

Boards with different FETs under test

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