Saturday, December 5, 2009


Merlot-entry level valve audio.

The build criteria for the Merlot valve amplifier was to construct a simple and excellent sounding valve amplifier from inexpensive parts. But this amplifier had to set an example of what can be expected from any valve amplifier.

Merlot's goal was to demonstrate to those listening to their first valve amplifier that, in a number of areas of quality audio, valve amplifiers can challenge, at a musical level, not only solid state amplifiers but inexpensive commercial designs. The design is single end (SE) and ultra linear (UL) with diode rectification.

Merlot uses two common valves: the 6N1P and KT88. The output valve can be replaced by a number of other valves: EL34, 5881, 6550, 6L6, 6V6 etc. I encourage "tube rolling". Feel free to replace the two output valves. Very different timbres and tonal balances can be obtained by tube rolling. This amplifier supports that practice.

If Merlot looks like this amplifier was hand built completely from scratch that is because it is. From the very solid Mirbeu timber base to hand assembled modules. There are no printed cct. brds. or commercially prepared modules Incorporated in construction. There is no additional wire used in the hand made modules, on component wires joined to other components. This is a technique I have used extensively here called component-2-component wiring. Fewer solder joints and less "hook-up" wire than point-to-point wiring. Individual modules are available.

retro-thermionic attempts to bring back some of the look and sound of early valve amplifiers. The use of heavy timbers, metal, large transformers and protruding valves is purposely done to produce a retro look and to reproduce music as it was meant to sound. Like music.

The sound of the Merlot is excellent mid-range tones, clean clear highs extending to 46khz and a balanced bass down to 35hz. Merlot's greatest strengths lay in its mid-range. Human voice and acoustic instruments are rended with great transparency, natural tone, real depth and immediacy. Output is 6.5W RMS per channel so efficient speakers are required.

This amplifier can be ordered and built with minor modifications should you require. Other models include: Cabernet and Shiraz which use more expensive parts but still the same retro look, more refind and detailed sound. These amplifiers will feature on this page.