UV-201a DHT Preamp Revisited


I previously implemented a preamp with the UV-201a. These are very old globe valves, somehow fragile and hard to get in good shape. Despite all this, it’s a superb valve. I have managed to acquire a decent set of them to pair the best valves to use in my preamp.

Recently I developed a prototype PCB for the source follower circuit. The source follower is ideal to place at the output of this preamp due to its low driving current. My 4P1L PSE amplifier will be pleased with more current to pump the Miller capacitance effectively. 

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Source Follower PCB

I’ve been posting about the use of source followers in the circuits with some interesting results from testing. Some interesting posts to read, If you haven’t read them so far:

  1. Slew Rate, Slew Rate (Part 2), Slew Rate (Part 3) and Slew Rate (Part 4).
  2. 6SF5 driver for 300B/GM70/813 SE Amps
  3. DHT Phono Stage Test

After several tests over a variety of circuits, I finalised the prototype for a Source Follower PCB. The circuit is incredibly useful. Some examples of uses cases are:

  • Amplifier output stage grid drive
  • Screen drive amplifiers
  • Screen voltage stabiliser for pentode stages
  • HT voltage stabiliser for preamps
  • Buffer stage for high-mu/high-anode resistance stages – either triodes or pentodes (e.g. Phono)

Some key aspects of the board are:

  • The PCB has been designed to accommodate all sorts of power MOSFETs (both TO-220 and TO-247), in particular the high transconductance and low Crss ones which perform the best in this role.
  • The tail CCS is simple and leverage the option of using same MOSFETs.   
  • The board takes into account the use of any bipolar supply up to 450V diferential. You only need to change a resistor depending on the supply voltage levels and make sure there is a sufficiently big heatsink on the MOSFETs.
  • There is a current limiter circuit built in to protect screen or grid from excessive current. This is also very useful when the board is used as a voltage stabiliser for a preamp. You can limit the peak current and avoid destroying the MOSFETs when capacitors are charged or if accidentally the output is shorted. This circuit can be bypassed easily with a jumper.

Here is one of the boards submitted to the usual abuse during testing:

This is a very useful PCB in my view which can be used extensively in preamps, line stages and amplifiers.

If there is sufficient interest, I will run a batch of PCBs for the DIY audio community:

4P1L (4П1Л) Siberian Gen4 – DHT Preamplifier

The return of the Siberian

After trying out so many DHTs and pre-amplifiers, I decided to wire up my 4P1L preamplifier Gen3 and fit the gyrator board to drive my 4P1L PSE Amplifier.  

I have a pair of 4P1L/4П1Л dated 1968 which are properly burnt in. I’ve used them lately in my previous preamp incarnation with great results. 

The circuit doesn’t need explanation, I think I’ve covered this repeatedly for a long time.  I will only point out the differences:

The main change was fitting a pair of Russian wirewound 27Ω resistors in parallel to get closer to the 15Ω used in this position. I found these Russian wirewound resistors to sound extremely well as filament bias resistors. I tend to be skeptical about the “sound” of some components in circuits, however, they do make a big impact in the cathode of a filament bias arrangement. 

The gyrator has my preferred combination: IXTP08N100D and BSH111BK. I have now an upgraded PCB Rev07 which fits the BSH111BK and similar FET and I will offer them shortly. 

The latter benefits from the 30mA idle current. The result is lower output impedance whilst providing a great frequency response overall.

M3 needs a proper heatsink, it does get hot with about 2W of dissipation. 

How does it perform?

Well, this valve has the reputation of amazing performance and low distortion. The gyrator setup provides the best out of this valve in my view. You can get a flat response as well as great bandwidht from 10Hz up to 3MHz loaded with 100kΩ:

The distortion is very low and is lower than 0.05% below 10Vrms. Dominant H2 with a lovely harmonic profile characteristic of this valve. 

How does it sounds?

i’ve been listening and using this valve extensively since 2011. I have to say that it sounds amazing. I never get tired of its sounds. Before I listened to a 4P1L-4P1L system and found a slight edge on the sound (probably due to its H3 component) which I don’t hear on my system. The drive, clarity and tone is amazing. It can drive the 4P1L PSE perfectly well and you get a strong and clear bass. Very powerful. My +600 hours 4P1L are very quiet in this setup, no microphonic noise. I don’t have even dampers in the 4P1L sockets!

Anyway, if you need 19dB (x9) gain in your system or you need a driver for your  SE amp, then this is the valve to go. I Still can be found cheaply and is a great contender to the thoriated tungsten filament DHTs like 01a and VT-25. 

Build this one and enjoy!

6Ж49П-ДР/6J49P-DR High Gain Stage

Time ago I wrote about this sterling Russian valve. It’s extremely linear in triode mode, sounds superb and isn’t microphonic. My friend Paul LeClerq has used it as first stage of his guitar amplifier and is delighted. A real dormer one. I hope it doesn’t disappear when valve hoarders go out and grab every big lot of valve that exists. Anyhow, I have more than I need myself, so I’m not worried.

The triode driver

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Custom transformer for Discrete DAC

Some 3 years ago I built the famous “Starlight” discrete DAC and CD transport, the DIY version from Sonic Illusions.  This is, in my opinion, one of the best DACs I’ve every listened to.

One of the disadvantages of the DAC output is the high (10kΩ) resistance and AC coupling requirement (unless you are prepared to balance DC, etc.) The traditional output configuration is an output capacitor feeding a step-down transformer to provide lower output impedance. The DAC can do only 1Vrms maximum due to the TTL output logic. With a 4:1 output I had to date, I wasn’t able to drive properly my VT25/10Y preamp into the 4P1L PSE amplifier

I decided to try a 1:1 output transformer but I had a clear challenge. The big primary inductance (Lp) needed demands a careful design and construction of the transformer to minimise the leakage capacitance and inductance which will impact the HF response. As I’m driving a long cable into the DHT preamp, this presents a demanding load of 47kΩ||400-600pF.  

I contacted DvB transformers to order a custom transformer to fit my needs:

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6SF5 driver for 300B/GM70/813 SE Amps

Some years ago my friend Paolo brought up this lovely valve which looking at the curves seemed to be a great candidate for a driver which required large voltage swing. This indeed is needed for 300B, 211/GM70, 813 SE Amps. I build it and tested with the 300B, which is great. 

The immediate challenge (and probably the reason why it hasn’t been used extensively in the past) is that has a high anode resistance as well as very low current capability. These 2 things are of course a killer for driving these demanding output valves. However, with a gyrator load and a follower stage, the reality is different

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DHT Phono Stage Test

High gain stage with DHT

Some time ago a colleague  (Shawn Fox) contacted me to find out whether I could test some rare high-mu DHTs. I didn’t have them in my stash, so he offered to send them across for testing. He was quite keen to find out the performance with a gyrator load due to the particular characteristics of the DHT in question. The valve in question is the CX-340. There isn’t much information about this valve am afraid and coincidentally, Thomas Mayer (Vinyl Savor) wrote not long ago a review of this valve.

Tracing the curves, the first step

The high anode resistance as well as the low anode current in which this valve operates makes it a real challenge to implement successfully. Hence, this is why the gyrator load plus an output follower stage comes into play as the best companion for this valve. Before we look into the circuit itself, I submitted the 40 valve to the mercy of my tracer:

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2P29L DHT Preamp

The Mule saga continues and it was time to modify the 3B7 preamp and to test the 2P29L valve. This was quite easy as they both have loctal sockets. I had to modify the Rod Coleman filament regulator to set the filament current down to 120mA. Then a bit of wiring work, and in less than an hour a new preamp was ready. Job done, this is why I built the Mule:

The circuit is quite close to my original design time ago. I modified the filament resistor to use an existing Russian NOS wirewound part I had in stock and suit this preamp quite well. Added grid and screen stoppers as well:

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