Sunday, March 31, 2019

"Calibre 834" - tube phono MM preamp

Esoteric, some years back, sold a tube phono preamp called the EAR 834p. It got excellent reviews. The schematic is available and kits based on the original schematic are plentiful. This is one of the cheaper ones by not providing tubes. I have three pairs of match 12AX7s - Mullard, Sovtek and Tung-Sol. Time to put them to use. I used the Sovteks as they had the smallest plates which is good for microphonic control. The third tube is a cathode follower for driving the next stage. GNFB is used.

The kit comes with top shelf components;- Vishay resistors and capacitors, Dales and other quality parts. The brd. is silk screened and double sided plated through. A trick I have used in the past (and used here) is to mount the passives on the bottom of the brd. and not on top. This allows the tubes to poke through the top of the preamp. The brd. is easy to assemble. Also mounting it in yet another Hammond wood cheeked light Al chassis was easy. Once more an XLR plug and socket bring in the HT and heater voltage from a choked external PS. The PS itself runs from a 24VAC 1A wall wart.

WBT silver solder was used and silver plated wire-warp wire used in the signal path. A light multi-stand hooks up the HT and heaters. The brd. is designed to utilise two separate PSs but I joined them to one. Excellent sounding preamp and well worth the cost of parts.

Friday, March 22, 2019

"Overture" - LM4780 chip power amp

Built two Audio Sector LM4780 based amp modules. Each module is a stereo amp. They can be bridged and paralleled. On a request I finally put these compact modules into a finished amp. The enclosure is a 2U 19" rack mount which gave me plenty of space to work. The buyer was happy to spend money on better parts. These included Panasonic caps on the board, 2X 22000uf Mundorf MLytic audio grade filter caps. copper, palladium and Teflon RCAs and extra heavy duty speaker posts.

The signal wiring was with fine silver plated copper wire and heavier wiring is twisted pairs of solid core cat5. All caps are snubbed and the amps is absolutely dead quiet. Should produce near 60Wpc.

Excellent sounding amp and well worth employing these compact "Overture" modules. 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

"Icon" - CV-181Z (6SN7) preamp

After a very successful build of three similar preamps I wanted to make another using some excellent and less expensive Shuguang CV-181Z (6SN7) 50 Year Treasure tubes. I bought these some years back and it was wrong not to use them. Staying with external DC supplies and using similar construction methods I used in the past "Icon" was born. But this build had to stand out, be different and not just another Grace or Elite (see earlier posts). There are some similarities; same chassis, ceramic sockets and the use of an XLR socket to bring in the two DC voltages to power the preamp.

Where the big changes occurred were mainly in the passives (of course the tubes are very different). Firstly all wiring was with twisted pair or single strand solid core Cat5. I retrained the use of WBT 4% silver solder. The output caps are Mundorf EVO Al and oil types and the resisors are metal film instead of 1W carbon film. A single 4uf PIO cap (snubbed) was used on the HT at the plate instead of one cap for each tube.

I never use a cathode resistor bypass cap (Ck) because I want some local NFB and to supress 2nd harmonic. This time Ck was employed but not with the electrolytic suggested,\ - NP caps. This raised the gain a little but has produced a much fuller and even deeper bass. Also here three inputs instead of two and the selection switch at the front and not the rear. A cheaper stepper attenuator was used rather than the premium version used in Elite. Caps, tubes and stepper were cheaper in this build.

The preamp sounds glorious. It is rich and deep in tone and bass. A big full sound with real depth. Is it better than Elite? That gets down to personal taste, regardless it is an excellent and less expensive build.