300b lovers


I have been an owner of Don Sachs gear since he began, and he modified all my HK Citation gear before he came out with his own creations.  I bought a Willsenton 300b integrated amp and was smitten with the sound of it, inexpensive as it is.  Don told me that he was designing a 300b amp with the legendary Lynn Olson and lo and behold, I got one of his early pair of pre-production mono-blocks recently, driving Spatial Audio M5 Triode Masters.  

Now with a week on the amp, I am eager to say that these 300b amps are simply sensational, creating a sound that brings the musicians right into my listening room with a palpable presence.  They create the most open vidid presentation to the music -- they are neither warm nor cool, just uncannily true to the source of the music.  They replace his excellent Kootai KT88 which I was dubious about being bettered by anything, but these amps are just outstanding.  Don is nearing production of a successor to his highly regard DS2 preamp, which also will have a  unique circuitry to mate with his 300b monos via XLR connections.  Don explained the sonic benefits of this design and it went over my head, but clearly these designs are well though out.. my ears confirm it. 

I have been an audiophile for nearly 50 years having had a boatload of electronics during that time, but I personally have never heard such a realistic presentation to my music as I am hearing with these 300b monos in my system.  300b tubes lend themselves to realistic music reproduction as my Willsenton 300b integrated amps informed me, but Don's 300b amps are in a entirely different realm.  Of course, 300b amps favor efficient speakers so carefully component matching is paramount.

Don is working out a business arrangement to have his electronics built by an American audio firm so they will soon be more widely available to the public.  Don will be attending the Seattle Audio Show in June in the Spatial Audio room where the speakers will be driven by his 300b monos and his preamp, with digital conversion with the outstanding Lampizator Pacific tube DAC.  I will be there to hear what I expect to be an outstanding sonic presentation.  

To allay any questions about the cost of Don's 300b mono, I do not have an answer. 

 

 

whitestix

As mentioned above, the Mark I Karna used a quartet of 45 tubes, but new production is limited at this time, with future availability an open question. Five years from now? Maybe, maybe not. Ten years? Maybe, maybe not. I can only go by popularity in the market and how many different vendors, in different parts of the world, are currently making them. Not just one factory in one country.

For a DIY hobby amp, availability of tubes not a real concern. But if people are buying a commercial product and expect service (warrantees are a legal requirement in the USA and Canada), availability of new-production matched pairs is a major concern. Don and I looked at the market and we both decided, nope, not yet, still a pretty specialized niche product, and NOS and old-stock supplies have all disappeared into the collector market. When the Mark I Karna was built, they were scarce, but could still be found. Now they are very scarce indeed.

As for sonics, for anyone that’s designed an amplifier from scratch, as I have, the sonics of the 300B are largely determined by the linearity and current delivery of the driver stage. Most of the commercial 300B amps I see at hifi shows have driver stages that are under-designed by a factor of 2 or 3, which results in not enough current to drive the Miller capacitance of the 300B grid. They aren’t as hard to drive as an 845, which is nearly impossible, but they are only second to an 845. A good driver needs high current, high linearity, high speed, and enough headroom to drive the grid 20 volts positive and then recover in microseconds.

Most drivers can’t do that, so the driver and output both clip at the same time, and then both have different recovery times, which can last an appreciable fraction of a second for RC-coupled amps. A typical SET will have RC isolation for the B+ supply between stages, and that RC filter has a characteristic recovery time once a stage saturates. So four things have to recover after saturation: the RC coupling between stages, the RC isolation B+ filter between stages, and cathode bypass caps for each of the cathodes. Typically, they all have different recovery times. Then we get into the subtler issues of capacitor coloration, which can overshadow tube coloration if the caps are not well-chosen.

Most of the "sound" of a conventional SET amp is simply a driver that has run out of linearity. The same is true of preamps, by the way. They run out of linear current to drive the interconnect cable capacitance and then the power supply folds down as it is saturated.

..and what Lynn is not saying is that these amps address these problems.   Without going into proprietary detail, I will say that there are two separate power supplies in each amp and that every tube plate in the amp has a healthy inductance between it and the power supply that feeds it.  These things add up:)  The matching preamp also is transformer coupled and has a ridiculously overbuilt power supply.   

The 300b is incredibly extended at both frequency extremes when you can drive the heck out of it....... It is not slow and syrupy at all, but rather it has lighting transient response and stunning bass.  If driven correctly.....

Great discussion.  My current amp has 3 heater voltages so I can use 300B, 2A3, or 45s.  I've tried all 3, settled on some 2.5V 300b's because I found good tubes in stock.  

This amp is a 6SN7 driven amp so now I wonder is the 45s or even the 2A3s are easier to drive.

I'll put my 45s back in for a while (kenrads) and re-evaluate them.

Jerry

One of the really fun things about designing an amplifier from scratch (not from 1950’s schematics) is you can hear for yourself when you make a change. Reviewers can only treat these things as "black boxes", and customers can only work at the margins with cable swaps. Don and I can change topologies, power supplies, tubes, basically everything.

Every change is audible, but some are far more important than others. Driver design is right at the top of the list. That’s what makes or breaks an amplifier. I wish more designers understood this.

I shouid add there is no 1950’s or 1960’s tech in the power amp or preamp. All of the tubes were designed in the 1930’s, and the circuit is a combination of 1930’s and 21st-century tech. No relation to Golden Age tech, in other words.