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. 




@atmasphere Please don't think I was implying that "tube watts" are somehow louder than "SS watts".  Just that I have heard both driving speakers and straining and I know which I would prefer to listen to when driven hard.   When I was building the 60 watt push pull Kootenay amps I had numerous customers sell 120-200 watt SS amps after getting one.  Many of them described the amp as easily playing as loud as their big SS amps on 87-88 dB speakers and sounding better to their ear.  That of course means nothing since obviously 60 watts was plenty to drive their speakers to levels they liked in their rooms, but they were shocked what a "mere" 60 watts could do.  I am not implying that my 60 watt tube amp was the world's greatest, just that a competent 60 watt tube amp can do a heck of lot more than many people think.

As an aside, I have an old customer who has the stereo prototype of the 300b mono project amps.  He hooked it up to a small pair of Maggies that is a difficult load and told me that was the first amp (27 watts/ch) that drove those speakers that well and he had tried some large SS amps before.   So it is quite amazing what a reasonably well made tube amp can actually drive.

The previous point about Class A operation in a differential stage still holds: what happens when more than 100% of the current programmed in a current source is exceeded?

It won't if the circuit is properly designed!

The real question is what happens when the drive to the differential gain stage exceeds the range of that gain stage. The answer is one of the devices saturates while the other goes into cutoff. Picking the right amount of current in the constant current source (if there is one, differential amplifiers do not need a CCS to work... the first circuits we built employed a bipolar power supply; the cathode resistor had the entire B- Voltage dropped across it; this limited current to the same extent that any cathode resistor might in any single-ended circuit) is the key to making sure that the design isn't limited by the CCS. Instead you want it limited by other parameters- the tubes themselves, the plate load, etc. The addition of a CCS increases differential effect- thereby increasing gain and decreasing distortion, as well as improving bandwidth, assuming that the CCS does not impose a bandwidth limit.

@donsachs I get it. I was trying to point out the difference between what sounds 'louder' and actual sound pressure; as you know from playing tube amps the two are not always the same. IMO this is one of the bigger failings of SETs with zero feedback since, more than any other kind of amplifier made, they tend to sound louder than they really are due to how they make distortion.

60 Watts isn't a whole lot less to our ears than 250 Watts is due to the logarithmic nature of our ears. So as long as the 60 Watts can adequately drive the load it can do quite well. This is the same reason we didn't try to build a super high powered class D amp. It was more important to get it right than it was to make a lot of power- as it is, it makes 200 Watts into 4 Ohms (250 at clipping). If your speaker really needs more than that kind of power to really fly, its borderline criminally inefficient, since to merely double the sense of volume to the ear, you need ten times the power. To my understanding there are no 2500 Watt amplifiers that sound like music.


Yes we agree.  If you cannot drive a loudspeaker in a normal room to adequate levels with 60 watts/ch, then you really need to reconsider your speaker choice!

The least efficient speaker I ever owned was a pair of Joseph Audio RM25si Mk2, which were 89 dB and a true 8 ohm easy load.   With the 60 watt amp I could play them to FAR higher levels than I would ever listen to in a very big living room.  Now my speakers are generally in the 95-97 dB range so I could do the same with 10 watts.   The 27 watt 300b monos hardly know the speakers are connected.....

There are so many just brilliant speaker designs out there that are 89-90 dB+ and easy loads.   Why on Earth people get huge 84 dB poorly behaved speakers that require 200 watts/ch or more is beyond me.....

@donsachs Yes- those Joseph speakers were nice.

I can see 88-89 for smaller speakers. I have a little 5 Watt tube amp  I designed for desktop or a bedroom system and I use a pair of Fritz Carbon 6s with it, which are 88dB and I never run the amp out of gas (but I never play it that loud either).

But if they are going to be large there's no reason they should be hard to drive. I keep telling people that if you want to get the most out of your amplifier dollar investment, its best served by a speaker that is higher impedance and easier to drive, on account of the simple fact that the harder the speaker is to drive and the lower the impedance it is, the more distortion the amp is going to make. IOW a simple way to make any amp sound smoother and more detailed is to have it drive a higher load impedance (if all other things were somehow equal, which they never are...).

Most audiophiles do not realize how stupendously inefficient speakers are. By way of reference, 92 dB/watt/meter is about 1% efficient, or put another way, 100 watts of electricity is converted to one acoustic watt (which is plenty loud).

So where does the other 99% of these pricey watts go? Voice coil heating, which isn't great considering how tiny voice coils are, and how poor thermal coupling to the outside world is. First the voice coil has radiate its heat to the magnet, which is the closest thermal sink, then the warmed magnet has to transfer its heat to the inside of the enclosure.

Since the goal is to create X amount of acoustic watts, not a clumsy form of room heating, even small gains in efficiency are worthwhile, since less voice coil heating is occurring for given acoustic output.

Aside from outright failure, another problem with VC heating is copper's change in resistance with temperature. The resistance goes up with temperature, which might be acceptable, excerpt the time constant is fairly slow, on the order of several seconds, This creates a dynamic slurring which is pretty audible.