Valve Leakage Test

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Years ago when I built my analogue curve tracer I added a small, yet very effective valve leakage test circuit. Due to my laziness, I failed to test a  transmitting tetrode which I bought on-line and despite being NOS it damaged my uTracer. I followed the repair and re-calibration process and got the tester back again running, however, I regretted not having used this simple one step test I normally did before.  Lesson learned, now I do use it back again!

Here is the circuit in case you don’t have a proper tester and you want to build something similar yourself:

leakage tester publishedYou can test for leakage current using a simple amplifier made out of a NPN transistor and an indicator. In this case I used a Russian Neon (80V/0.5mA) and the existing supply on my tester (+/-80V). You can replace all this with a simple LED and the supply you have at hand. The circuit is designed to turn on the bulb when 5 μA leakage current is provided on the base of Q1 thanks to grounding the valve element next to the one under test. So for example if we want to measure cathode to grid leakage, we simply ground the cathode and we connect the tester to the grid. Same process is repeated with the other valve elements.

When I asked for some help in the DIYAudio forum, someoone gently recommended this text. Unfortunately I don’t read German, but what I got out of this adivce was:

  1.  valves with poor vacuum (i.e. failed the test described on the procedure in 18A)
    1. preamp valves with less than 4 μA are usable
    2. output valves whit less than 10 μA are usable
  2. Valves that are good and show little Gas on the gas test:
    1. should have less than 0,6-1μA for preamp valves
    2. And should have less than 1.5-2μA for output valves

So the 5μA threshold was good enough in my view. It does work well and the beauty is that when neon light is very dim is an indication that it may be a workable valve despite the tiny leakage in particular with output valves.

Hope this helps




01a Preamp Gen2: Build (Part 3)

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The preamp build is progressing, albeit slowly.  I tried a new breadboard construction approach. A nice Ikea chopping board was used to build the front and back wooden panels. A pair of aluminium squared section rails are used to provide support and hold a pair of top plates for the power and audio connectors. As a bonus given the low power consumption of the filaments, I will use these rails as the heat sink for the Rod Coleman filament regulators as well :)

All in a very compact design as I literally ran out of space for further equipment in my living room!


814 SE Amp: upgrading the gyrator loads

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The upgrade made to the 814 SE was quite simple, I replaced the gyrator carbon 4M7 for a Holco one and the mu resistor for a Mills 820R MRA05 5W. The capacitor was finally reduced from the outrageous 1uF Mundorf Mcap EVO Oil Gold to an 220nF 450Vdc Mundorf Mcap EVO Silver Oil.

The main change was the capacitor and proved to have no loss impact on the bass. I have recently made the OT change so cannot comment on the overall impact in the sound of these changes. I can say at this stage that I cannot notice any big change. It sounds as good as before!


I’d have expected a noticeable change by reducing the size of the cap, but in this case I didn’t.


Custom Transformer Supplier in Europe

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Custom transformer supplier

Custom OT

Given I had several emails asking about the output transformers I used in the recent upgrade of the 814 SE Amp, I asked Mr. Vincenzo to kindly provide an email address so you can reach directly to him. You can send your request via the form below which protects his email address from internet SPAM :).

Alternatively, if you don’t want to use the form below you can browse his website (in italian only sorry).




814 SE Amplifier: Custom Output Transformers

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 Improving the 814 SE Amplifier

photo 3After more than a year listening to this fantastic amplifier, it was time to do the first significant improvement to it despite I resisted to modify it after so much work and effort put into the design and build. The evident upgrade was the output transformer. When frequency response was measured, it was evident to see that the HF response was lower than expected. This is the result of the transformer and its configuration in this circuit. The LL9202 is a better OT for higher impedances and in this circuit, it is used in the 6KΩ /8Ω mode.

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