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. 

VT-25 DHT Preamp Circuit

The VT-25 isn’t easy to implement in filament bias due to the bias point and the high filament current. However, for a line-stage / pre-amplifier you can bias the valve at a lower point where it’s achievable without burning ridiculous amounts of heat (Like I did with the 46 driver in filament bias for the 814 SE Amplifier).  The design of this circuit compromises available supplies. The HT is 230V so the operating point was chosen to be around 200V to ensure headroom for the top MOSFET (M3). The bias point operates the valve in about in a region where anode resistance is about 5kΩ. The high anode resistance is a challenge for a transformer couple stage, but with the gyrator this isn’t a problem at all, as the output impedance is determined by the BF862 and its operating point (Id). The gain is close to 8 (18dB).  R4 needs to be 390kΩ to allow higher bias voltage than 180V. I reused a pair of available gyrator boards using the BF862. For a bias point of about 20mA/200V you need a filament resistor of 5Ω. I used a pair of 10Ω NOS Russian wire-wound resistors in parallel. They do get hot as need to dissipate about 7.2W. In my previous designed I starved the filaments even down to 1060mA. This time I dialled up the current to just 1.2A as had headroom on the supply. The bias point of 6V is healthy and provides good headroom for input signal. I’m using the latest version of Rod Coleman’s regulators and just changed the resistor to trim the current. The actual modification of the “Mule” took me a couple of hours. 

Building and Testing

The filament regulators are using mounted TO-220 small heatsinks as well as the top MOSFET (M3). I have a multi-tapped secondary on my filament supply so I can accommodate multiple DHTs. That was a real bonus, so getting it to work was easy and fast job. 

Here is a test of the distortion profile at 8Vrms output. The second harmonic is predominant as expected. Distortion stays below 0.1% when is driven to full 15Vrms output:

The gyrator circuit provides a hybrid mu-follower with high bandwidth. Here is a snapshot of an early test biased at 15mA instead of 20mA:

The actual response will vary depending the load. However, it’s very good! This is one of the unique things of this circuit topology. 

How does it sound?

The most tricky question indeed. I love it, I always loved the VT-25. It has the clarity of the 01a or most of the thoriated-tungsten DHTs. I think the bass is strong and overall response is fantastic. I need to listen to it more to give further impressions. At this stage, this preamp can stage on my system for long. Wow, it does sound good!

8 Replies to “VT-25 DHT Preamplifer”

    1. Thank you. A great combination indeed. The high ra of the VT-25/10 isn’t a great match for an OT topology. With the gyrator, this is not a problem.

      The BF862 sounds really good here as the JFET. With 20mA is good enough to operate comfortably

      I sent you the boards with the BSH111BK to test. They have higher gm so lower output impedance.

      I’m listening now to Maria Schneider Orchestra’s “The Thompson Fields” (thank you Tony) and the brass sections and dynamics of the record is blowing my mind away. I have lately used this record to do some listening tests.

      I’m loving this stage indeed, a great match to the 4P1L PSE output stage though!


  1. Hi Ale, I am using BSH111BK in my 4P1L Preamp after using BF862, there is definitely an advantage in changing this to get the operating point up to 30mA, even 25mA on the BF862 will test reliability, as I soon found out, as before these Valves are Burned in, they do drift a little, I had one board fail.

    1. Interesting feedback. I never had any issues with the BF862. What was the failure? I suspect on the 4P1L as they don’t drift unless in bad shape

  2. This is really interesting Ale! It wouldn’t cross my mind to set my 10Y preamp at -6V and use filament bias with your gyrator board. Keep using your imagination it serves you well! PG

  3. I have a 10Y line stage up and running – sounds very detailed with good bass. I’m running it at 8.5mA right now and 210v HT, because I want to try out the 26 in the same setup. I’ve set the filament bias up for 1 amp to suit either tube. Cathode resistor is 5R with the 10Y and 10R with the 26 so easy to just change it by unsoldering the connection paralleling two 10R resistors, for which I use Russian military surplus these days.

    I currently am listening to a 01A preamp with gyrator and a 2P29L with 126C as plate choke at 15mA. Hard to choose between the three – I like them all. Next i’ll try out the 26, which is the tube that first turned me on to DHTs 8 years ago so I always feel a debt of gratitude for it.

    Once I’ve tried the 26 I’ll up the HT and run the 10Y hotter, like 20mA. Fun having a few line stages to play around with.

    1. Hi Andy
      I’m glad you like it. In my experience the VT-25 comes to real life at above 20mA. With this circuit the higher the anode current the better is for the hybrid mu-follower design. The transconductance of the lower FET will increase and improve the bootstrapping effect of R-MU (R7). The result is twofold: lower output impedance (1/gm) as well as a higher reflected impedance to the anode, therefore a more linear response of the valve. From a listening point of view, it sounds with stronger bass and very detailed. Try it when you can

      The 01a, VT-25, 4P1L and 2P29L are my favourite so far. I agree with you that is hard to make a decision between them. They all bring their subtle differences which is the amazing thing with the DHTs. There are so many things to try still…

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