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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
I’m a firm believer than sharing knowledge and experience is the best way forward to continue learning yourself. It always pay pack at some point. This time Paul Prinz, a fellow implementer of the 3B7 DHT Preamp using the gyrator PCB, came back with a great suggestion. He found a MOSFET which could do high drain currents, it has high transconductance and most importantly the parasitic capacitances were low even close to the BF862. Hooray, I thought. We may have a great solution here to use the gyrator load for currents above 25mA and with similar performance to the great BF862. There are some other depletion MOSFETs that can do high currents, however they all have relatively high capacitances and low transconductances when VDS is low, like in the cascoded gyrator circuit.
The BSH111BK is an enhancement MOSFET, so doesn’t have a “depletion” behaviour like the jFETs. This isn’t a problem as the bias voltage can be set by the reference CCS.
For comparison, here is a brief summary of the key characteristics of these three devices:
An enthusiast blog reader (Paul Prinz) implemented a nice version of the DHT preamplifier using the gyrator PCB but for the 3B7 triode. The 3B7 triode has a pair of DHT triodes on the same bottle. It has a high mu for a DHT (about 20) but with that it comes the higher anode resistance. This was a drawback when implementing a choke or transformer loaded stage due to the high anode resistance (there is no free lunch am afraid). However, with the mu-stage, this doesn’t become an issue and we can get the most out of this valve using the gyrator load.
Although I tried the 3B7 in the past, I proceeded to get it out from my valve stash and trace it again. Here is a nice set of a Sylvania military NOS one: