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. 




There are a lot of little tricks to DC filament supplies that make them sound better too.  It isn't rocket science, but you can get a bit more performance and noise rejection by connecting them properly:)

I wouldn't try mixing and matching Ralph's approach with ours. Ralph has his way of doing things, and his own unique taste in sonics, and we have ours. Most designers in this biz have a distinct "house sound" that they aim for, which results from design approaches and parts selection.

FWIW Dept.: We've never had a house sound nor 'voiced' our circuits. 

My comments thus far have simply been based in sound engineering practice. Engineering after all made audio products possible, has kept airplanes in the air and provided reliable power when you want light in your house.  

It will always work to apply sound engineering practice to circuit design, plain and simple.

We all apply sound engineering practice.  We overbuild all power supplies and over spec all parts.  But there are choices that affect the sound.  If you need a 1 watt 1K resistor you can use any type on a cathode, but different types have different sounds.  The cathode bypass cap might need to be 100 uF.  Different 100 uF caps sound very different.  All will satisfy engineering standards, but parts and layout choices have profound effect on the final sound.  We make these choices to achieve the sound we desire.  There might be 2 or 3 different tube types that would be appropriate for a place in a design, but can have very different sounds.   I can build an amp with entirely different parts and wire and have it be exactly the same from an engineering standpoint, but have a very different sonic presentation.  I believe that is what Lynn is alluding to.


I can build an amp with entirely different parts and wire and have it be exactly the same from an engineering standpoint, but have a very different sonic presentation. I believe that is what Lynn is alluding to.


Exactly my take away from Lynn. Most of the builders of Japanese tube amplifiers are degreed electrical engiineers from their native universities. European educated electrical engineers with Nagra, Gryphon, CH Precision etc. No question that although their products are at opposite ends of the audio spectrum, they all adhere and practice engineering principles they were taught.

You can certainly follow sound engineering practices and yet have vastly different sounding audio products. I’m sure that Porsche and Ferrari are built adhering to engineering principles and yet drive/feel very differently. A product’s performance can be tailored to achieve a desired goal.


Although I don’t enjoy "tuning", it is an unpleasant necessity for speakers and power amps. For reasons that are not clear, various brands of metallized polypropylene capacitors sound quite different from each other, and there is little correlation with DA and DF parameters. Based on measurements, they should all sound the same.

On a system with moderately high resolution, subjective differences appear that can mimic crossover balance shifts and driver swaps. I found during development of the Ariel, back in 1993, that cap substitutions required 0.5 to 1 dB crossover adjustments to subjectively offset the colorations ... and this was with pink-noise test stimulus, not music.

You can really get into the swamp comparing silver vs copper wire. This should not be audible at all, and I have heard of no convincing argument why any differences are audible. You can go out on a limb and compare silver oxide vs copper oxide, and various weird sources of corrosion, but it’s all very speculative, and again, no useful measurements to be had.

On the other side of the objective/subjective fence, I have heard of well-known speaker designers who never audition their new speakers ... they do it all by numbers, then walk away. I frankly didn’t believe it when I first heard that about fifteen years ago, but other folks confirmed it, so I guess it happens. So it is possible to ignore "tuning" and let the product sound like whatever.

But in the speaker world, it is widely recognized that a "perfect" zero-coloration speaker is impossible at the current state of the art, so it comes down to choosing which set of parameters are most important. Speakers are still very imperfect, compared to any other audio component.

In principle, it should be possible to design and build a zero-coloration amplifier. I started my career in audio design in 1973, and haven’t heard a "perfect" amplifier yet. They all have a sound, and a little bit worse, topologies tend to have distinctive sounds. But that’s my personal experience, not necessarily the experience of others.

If a customer, or reviewer, is in the fortunate position of finding that all well-engineered amps sound alike, that’s great! You can sure save a bunch of money, skip over tubes entirely, and just buy the latest Shenzen-made confection for a few hundred dollars.