THE MAGIC OF THE TUBES FROM 1930...


Now something completely out of the box and ready to entangle some of the hearts and minds. Our friend Sebastien, from The Tube Clinic, Orléans France is building simple products dedicated to the music. He tries to keep highly affordable prices. For example, one of his single-ended amplifiers cost around 790/900€ and comes with 5 years warranty.  A preamp is around the same depending on tubes box etc. Here are his interesting story and passion revealed... "A very basic High Fidelity system using 1930’s tubes. As a very big fan of tubes amplifiers for more than 30 years, I have tested a lot of vintage and modern tube setups during the years. When it comes to obtaining a real sound that I enjoy I decided to build my amps, spending hours, days, weeks… To build and rebuild until satisfaction. It finally happens that I open my repair shop and began to sell my products in small quantities."

"I always use to build ugly prototypes to test my « new » ideas. And I became slowly a big fan of late 1930’s tubes for the amazing quality of the produced sound and the rather cheap prices compared to more common tubes. EL3n EL6, EBC3 EF6 and many more became the entire part of my production despite rather low power obtained.


Preamplifier made out of old parts and 1930 E424N Philips triodes

To match these small single-ended amplifiers I use as a working tool for development and my pleasure the amazing Davis Acoustics wide range speakers MV One fitted by the stunning 20 DE 8 speaker.

Same preamplifier running the TE24N Dario tubes with the darker sound presentation.

When I had the opportunity, a few months ago, to buy a huge lot of radios, tubes, and various electronics from a retired serviceman I've grabbed it.  From over a thousand tubes I found a lot of triodes from the early 1930’s more two, damaged but identical,  PHILIPS radios from 1937.

 Preamplifier with a rare MH4 Gecovalve English triodes all from around 1930. Amazing quality but sometimes quite microphonic so they can be little bit noisy

No need more to begin to think about a crazy project. I had all these parts so why not build from scratch two monoblocks and a preamplifier with all this old stuff ???

For the monoblocks, no need to think too much, one of my often used schematics can fit the old 4v heating tubes from the radios. The transformers came also from the same source ;

So I use the bottom wood plates of both radios to build two small monoblocs using AZ1 for power supply, ABC1 for input stage and AL4 as power tube.  After spending some time putting everything working together and having chosen good capacitors ( where needed),  I had two single-ended very quiet 3/4 watts class A monoblocs.

The main question is: How was the sound?  As with EL3n, the sound was surprisingly good considering the small 1937 output transformers. To my ears, there was no lacking of good bass and high, very natural and fluid sound for all kinds of music. Maybe a little lack of gain when using a passive preamplifier but … For nearly nothing a perfectly usable everyday amplifier.

So now why not building a preamp ??? Let the fun go on!

In the lot, there was a group of rather rare ( and sometimes expensive)  triodes from the early 1930s... Dario TE24, Philips E424n, Mullard MH4, E438, E415,  all the same so… let’s go!

As always, in my opinion, the simplest and shortest schematic is often better so...

The venerable 1928 E415 Philips triodes. Magnificent sound very quiet. Nice bass and high amazing dynamics and soundstage

Two E424n for the preamp, one old transformer from scratch and one 506 tubes for power supply, one volume knob and one input and one output ( don’t forget it is a prototype I don’t need more inputs) and, one ugly whiskey box after, it was done.

As always good capacitors and well-done power supply are an obvious choice. When fitted together this setup gives amazing results.

First, it is very quiet, no hum, no scratching noise, nothing from so old mainly already used tubes.

More than this the sound is very pleasant to listen despite low power! 

Tube clinic preamplifier made for a customer with 27/56 triodes tubes and tube rectifier

The soundstage is good and wide, offering a very natural presentation. Dynamics are good too and even if the preamp reduces a little high frequency ( with some tubes more than others) there is no obvious lack with deep bass and a little rolled off medium frequencies.

With Jazz, baroque music, voices and live performances, it makes a very sweet system to listen for a long period every day. With electronica and rock, it works also and maybe except for big classical formations it is a system I can live with.

The funny part of this experiment is that it goes against a lot of audiophile rules:
  • You need big output transformers: in this case, not the tiny Philips make the job.
  • You need paired tubes: not really single-ended here and used triodes in preamps works very well
  • You need a lovely box to obtain the best sound:  Absolutely not, look at the pictures of how this stuff is ugly.
  • You need to buy expensive amplifiers to have pleasure and fun:  NOPE here is the cost of the full setup

AMPLIFIERS 
  • Two Philips 1937 tube radio damaged: 20 Euros
  • Two  Sprague black beauty capacitors more capacitors and resistors all from scratch: 20 Euros
  • Tubes from the radios more others bought in huge job lots: 10 Euros,  total cost: 50 Euros
PREAMPLIFIER
  • Whiskey box : 0
  • Tubes from job lot: 10 Euros
  • Various components and capacitors including a good volume pot: 40 Euros, total cost: 50 Euros

So for around 100 Euros, you have music and pleasure at home and even if you buy good boxes, a new transformer, NOS tubes and so on It will cost you only a fragment of some modern audiophiles setups.

Monoblocks  with az1 rectifier abc1 driver and al4 power tube

I must admit the more I listen to the 1930’s tubes, the more I tend to enjoy the luxurious presentation of sound they can give. At the time I will certainly consider changing my line of tube amplifiers and preamplifiers to focus more on these kinds of tubes."

Sebastien, from The Tube Clinic - Orléans France