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. 




1. Does it matter what volume a power tube is played at? Does that effect tube life?


If the tube is operating class A1, the power its making won't matter. If operating class A2 or A3 the higher power levels will probably affect tube life. If the tubes are running class AB then they will run cooler, which could translate to longer life, but higher power will shorten that. You didn't mention the load but that affects things too- its rare that the speaker actually loads the output transformer correctly for a given tap; transformers transform impedance in both directions so a load too low on the output transformer will be a load too low on the output tube(s) as well. That will reduce tube life as more of the power made by the output section will be dissipated in the tube(s) rather than the load!

2. Does it matter if a tube is cooled, say, by a small fan nearby?

It helps! During WW2, 6L6s were used due to shortages to get amazing power levels by being water cooled.

3. If a tube is powered up but not making music does that "cost" tube life just as if you were playing music through it?

Always- how much depends on the class of operation and other variables such as dust on the envelope and so on.

4. What is harder on a power tube? Turning it on and off, let's say twice during a day (two listening sessions totaling three hours) or letting it stay on, let's say for an eight hour period?

Tubes wear out no matter what you do. They also draw power... The longer the off time the easier it is to answer a question like this. If we're talking about an indirectly heated power tube, the turn on should include time where no B+ is applied until the power tube cathode is properly warmed up. We supply a Standby switch for this purpose on our amps. If the tube is directly heated it won't matter. So if it were me I'd shut the amp down when not in use, even if for only an hour.


Great response, Ralph, answering questions I have long wondered about.  My Sachs monos put out a fair amount of heat so I mounted a couple of noiseless computer fans at the back of my rack to dissipate the heat to a degree.  

The Statement ... or Blackbird ... or whatever it’s called, is pretty sensitive. Don told me 1.5 Vrms to full clipping, and my gain calculations indicated a bit more sensitive than that. Since there is no RC loading anywhere, and all the cathodes are bypassed, all tubes run at full gain.

For a 6SN7 that’s a mu=20, and for a triode-connected 6V6 that’s a mu=8. Since the 300B grids take 80 volts to reach zero bias, and can go positive to +20 above that, that’s 100 volts of swing for each side, about 3x what a pentode requires. Since this is a PP amplifier, full power requires +100 volts on one grid, while the other receives -100 volts. The input+driver provide 20 * 8 = 160 gain, excluding transformer losses, which are typically 5% or less.

Imagine those 200 volt peaks at 30 kHz, with no local or global feedback, at less than 1% distortion, with another 3 dB of headroom above that. This is why driver design for DHTs is difficult, and not in the Radiotron Designers Handbook.

Let’s talk a bit about distortion, particularly in a DHT driver. It defeats the purpose of using a very low distortion 45, 2A3, 300B, or 845 if the driver has more distortion than the DHT itself. You might as well use a much cheaper power pentode or beam tetrode and save yourself a lot of trouble. Not only that, but pentode and ultralinear-connected output sections requires feedback across the whole amplifier, which cleans up the mess from the input and driver sections. This is why the driver section is an afterthought in Golden Age PP pentode amplifiers. In the Dynaco circuit, there isn’t even a driver ... the power tubes are driven from the split-load inverter, or "concertina" stage.

But ... if the goal is the most linear possible amplifying stage, with zero feedback, a completely different approach is required. True, push-pull substantially reduces distortion, but in reality it only reduces even-order distortion ... 2nd harmonic, 4th harmonic, 6th harmonic. etc. It has no effect on odd-order distortion ... 3rd harmonic, 5th harmonic, 7th harmonic, etc. Most tubes have dominant 2nd harmonic distortion. But not all. The 6DJ8/6922, an RF tube, has dominant 3rd harmonic. Tubes designed for video amps can also have dominant 3rd harmonics, since distortion in a video tube has almost no effect on the picture (even 5% distortion would be barely visible).

Aside from the subjective sonics of dominant 3rd harmonic, this has consequences for a PP amplifier. The PP circuit will have no effect on 3rd harmonic; it will not reduce it even 1 dB. So tubes with dominant 3rd harmonic should be avoided.

What about more "normal" tubes with dominant 2nd harmonic? Well, one of the requirements for PP cancellation is the magnitudes and phase of the cancelled harmonics line up with each other. The magnitudes of the (even) harmonics from each tube should be within 1 dB of each other, and the phase of the (even) harmonics should be within 45 degrees of each other. Normally this would be of no concern with reasonably matched tube sections, but it does matter if the capacitive loads are not the same. The odd harmonics, of course, do not cancel.

The notion of harmonics having phase might seem a little odd, but keep in mind that square waves and triangle waves have identical magnitudes of harmonics; the only difference between the two signals is the phase of the harmonics. So the phase of the harmonics is not insignificant, and actually reflects a different transfer curve. In graphical terms, you want complementary transfer curves; if kinks appear in the curve of one tube but not the other, that kink will not cancel.

The full scope of the driver requirements for DHTs is probably now coming into view.

* Three times as much swing is required, compared to pentode or beam tetrode.

* Linearity should be better than the DHT itself.

* The load is mostly capacitive, consisting of the 60 to 80 pF Miller capacitance of the DHT grid. Reactive loads increase distortion at high frequencies, where it is most audible, and also reflects the power back to the plates of the driver tube.

* If the driver is PP, 2nd harmonic should be at least 10 to 20 dB greater than 3rd harmonic, and the two loads should be symmetric to keep the phase of the driver harmonics the same.

* There should be at least 3 dB of driver headroom so the amplifier doesn’t all clip at once. More headroom is desirable.

* Momentary sags, or program-correlated noise, in the power tube B+ supply should not interact with the driver tube B+ supply.

Since rolling out of bed in the morning, your amps have been filling my room with amazing sounds, and I appreciate greatly the design thought that went into them, the technical derivations of which is way over my head.

The amps, now with the excellent new Linlai WE300b tubes also run in, create a sheer wall of sound, effortless in its presentation, heft in the LF, delicate highs, and a mid-range to that sounds exactly right.   Even compared to Don's excellent Kootenai KT88, these monos are in a whole different realm.  The sound with my Spatial Audio speakers just hangs effortlessly the room.  

This thread, with both the participation both you and Don, has been most informative, and I am an early beneficiary of your design which as been to elevate my listening enjoyment to degree to a level that I never anticipated possible.  With your monos, there is no amp at all... just joyous music, heard in a way I never thought possible with no sonic signature at all... just pure clean vivid sounds.  Perhaps that ought be the design goal for all... create front end gear that sounds like nothing at all...  You gents have succeeded in that respect.