John Broskie's Guide to Tube Circuit Analysis & Design

14 January 2017                                                                     Post 369

PCB Shipment Arrives!

It is indeed a Happy New Year, as my latest PCB production run has finally arrived. (Never order a PCB production run just after Christmas.) Be warned: this was a relatively small PCB run, so several of the hotter PCBs will once again sell out soon. Here is which PCBs are back in stock:

12Vac Aikido
Probably the easiest way to experience Aikido Mojo magic, as its on board power supply only requires a 12Vac wallwart .Aikido

Octal Stereo
The most popular Aikido PCB. Use 6SN7 or 12SN7s and enjoy octal Aikido sound.

BCF
The non-transformer way to convert a balanced input signal into unbalanced output.

Select LSA-HPA
Select LSA/HPA rotary switch and PCB allows you not only to select where the output signal goes, but which capacitors are used. The big coupling capacitors that attach to headphones, are usually only very good, whereas the smaller coupling capacitors that attach to our power amplifiers are usually much better although smaller in value, but not always in size. With the Select LSA/HPA switch, we can use both types of coupling capacitors, with the headphones getting both in parallel, and the line outs getting only the smaller valued capacitor.

Stereo-Mono Switch
A rotary switch for phono playback that presents three positions: mono, mute, and stereo.

Tetra Phono Stage
Probably the easiest (and inexpensive) way to build a great-sounding tube phono preamp. The Tetra Sans PS phono stage uses two tube-based gain stages with a passive equalization network in between. The gain stage's topology is the Constant-Current-Draw Amplifier [CCDA], whose low distortion, fairly high gain, and low output impedance are all desirable attributes in a phono preamp.

Tr-PS-1
The Tr-PS-1 is a low-voltage, regulated 12Vdc (or 9Vdc or 12.6Vdc) power supply, perfect for powering vacuum tube heaters or replacing the wallwart power supply that powers DACs and other audio gear. The Tr-PS-1 holds its own 36VA power transformer.

Unbalancer
The Unbalancer is a tube-based, balanced-to-unbalanced converter that accepts a balanced input signal and puts out a single-ended, unbalanced signal, much like a Broskie cathode follower, but with gain. (In fact, a Broskie cathode follower is the output stage in the Unbalancer circuit.) The input stage is a differential amplifier with a constant-current source load on the coupled cathodes. Besides performing its unbalancing conversion, the Unbalancer circuit provides voltage gain and exhibits a fine CMRR.

 

 

 

Making Big Holes in Bud Boxes
Two readers asked how did I make the holes on top of my Noval All-in-One line stage amplifier. Now, assuming that each email represents 100 emails not sent, but could've been sent, this means that 200 readers were wondering the same thing. In general, you should never drill any hole in sheet metal larger than 1/4 an inch, as punching is the better way to go with large holes. I own a bunch of Greenlee hole punches and they work well. One trick is to apply a thin film of machine oil on both halves of the punches. Another trick is to punch half way, then undo the punch and rotate the die 90 degrees and continue punching al the way through.

By the way, Harbor Freight sells a four-hole-punch kit for less than the price of one Greenlee punch. The only downside is that the dies are rather small: 1/2 , 3/4 , 1, and 1-1/4 inch.

They also sell a 4 piece hydraulic punch kit for less than $100, which can make up to a 2-3/8 inch diameter hole. Amazingly cheap.

In fact, I think I just might pick this kit up today. Another Harbor Freight option is their 3/4 In to 2-1/2 inch bi-metal hole saw kit.

This is the sort of circular saw that I used to make the holes in my chassis. A hole saw, however, requires drill-press to make a clean hole. But if you must, you can use a power hand-drill. After making a hole, I like to finish the raw hole with a plastic trim ring.

(Check out boat supply stores for a selection of fancy hole trims; for example, follow this link.)

 

 

 

More Horizontal Transformations
A quick recap. Going horizontal allows us to use half the B+ voltage that we would normally use in the same vertical version of the topology—but the circuit will draw twice the current; thus the same total dissipation. Last time, we saw the SRPP turned horizontal. This time we will start with the White cathode follower.

The White cathode follower is a unity-gain, push-pull buffer. Like the SRPP, it must be optimized for any given load impedance. The current-sense resistor, Rs, must equal (rp + 2Rload) / mu, as this value ensures equal current swings from top and bottom triodes. Going horizontal does not alter this situation, as the current-sense resistor plays the exact same function.

Two output coupling capacitors are needed, along with an inter-stage coupling capacitor. Capacitors, C1 & C2, should be of the same value. The cathode resistor's bypass capacitor must be far larger in value, say 1kµF.

One problem we might face is that the input triode's constant-current source might get voltage starved. One workaround is to do the following.

The negative power-supply rail allows us to forgo both the cathode resistor and its bypass capacitor. In addition, it gives the constant-current source all the voltage headroom it needs. Here is a fleshed-out example.

Triodes, T1 & T2, are assumed to be 6DJ8 types and the B+ voltage can be a low 110V to 120V. The external load impedance is assumed to be 300 ohms.

Since the buffer offer no signal gain, we might need to add a gain stage.

No, it's not an Aikido gain stage; it's just a grounded-cathode amplifier that uses an active load in place of a plate resistor. Here is a fleshed-out example.

Making the move to an Aikido version is simple enough.

The right ECC99 triode's grid now sees about half the power-supply noise and the 12AU7-based input stage is enclosed within the current-sense resistor's purview. The result is a fantastically improved PSRR figure. Note how the current-sense resistor's value no longer conforms to the old formula, Rs = (rp + 2Rload) / mu.

 

 

Horizontal SRCFPP
The SRCFPP is the third brother of the SRPP and White cathode follower. This topology confuses even seasoned tube gurus, which I have discovered whenever I bring it up with them. What makes it so hard to understand is that the bottom triode seemingly does nothing, as its grid is grounded. Moreover, the psychological snag occurs when the brain sees that as the top triode pulls up, the cathode resistor must also pull up, which would seem to imply that the bottom triode's conduction has also increased. In fact, it decreases.

I have already shown several horizontal SRCFPP versions in the past, the last time being in post 296, where we see this version.

Okay, I was wrong. I just did a Google search and it revealed that the true last time was in post 337, where we see this variation on the horizontal theme. (Please read post LM337, if you need more help in understanding how it works.)

Dang, I had forgotten that I came up with this circuit. I find this topology compelling. I would love to hear it. It's a push-pull output stage that uses a single-ended output transformer. Isn't that a liability, not a feature? Not necessarily.

One reason that I believe that single-ended tube amplifiers offer an advantage over push-pull tube amplifiers is found in the air-gapped output transformer, which—due to it's being stressed by the heavy DC current flow through its core— sidesteps hysteresis, the stickiness inherent in the core's flipping magnetic polarity; or, as the dictionary informs us, "the lagging of an effect behind its cause, as when the change in magnetism of a body lags behind changes in the magnetic field." In a typical tube push-pull amplifier, the output transformer's core flips magnetic polarity once per sinewave. In contrast, a single-ended amplifier's output transformer's core is constantly magnetized in one direction only, as the current may alter, but it never reverses direction.

Returning to this output stage, which is a buffer, the input and driver stage must deliver a huge output voltage swings, say +/-240Vpk, which does not fit within the 400V B+ voltage. What to do? The easiest solution is to use an inductor as the plate load on the driver stage.

The inductor will displace some voltage due to its DCR against the driver triode's current draw. Note that +390V is a truly hot plate voltage. A 6SN7's plate-voltage limit is 450V and the ECC99's is 400V. The inductive load allows the driver triode's plate to swing far beyond the B+ voltage.

Two constant-current sources can be used to make the horizontal transformation.

To prevent voltage starving the input triode's constant-current source we can use an input coupling capacitor and a two-resistor voltage divider.

With 12 volts, the constant-current source has no problem. The 110Vdc B+ voltage is a nice relief from the more typical 200V to 300V B+ voltages used in tube amplifiers.

The net move is to insert some Aikido Mojo, which explains resistors R1 & R2.

The way it works is easy to explain. The input triode is configured as a cathode follower that is loaded by a constant-current source, so its PSRR equals 1/mu. SO, if a triode with a mu of 20 is used, then 5% of the B+ ripple will appear at the output. But if we force the same 1/20th of ripple to appear at the right triode's cathode, then the headphone driver will not see a differential voltage, so a stellar PSRR obtains.

The above schematic shows a fleshed out version. here is an example of what often happens: a reader sees the above schematic, builds it, then complains to me that the PSRR is not all that stellar. I ask to see what values he used. He then sends me the following schematic. Note the difference.

He added an RC filter tot he first triode. Why? He didn't get the the idea behind the original circuit and he figured that the more RC filters the better. I then tell him to pull out all the Aikido resistors and capacitors. This brings the PSRR back down.

Actually, I quite this version, as it ensures equal cathode-to-plate voltages between triodes. Here is another approach.

The NPN transistor functions as an emitter follower, while the PNP transistor functions as a constant-current source. The LM317 is configured also as a constant-current source. Its resistor must equal 1.25V/A; in this example, we desire 20mA of current flow, so 62.5 ohms is needed. Since they do not make such a value, we can use a 62-ohm resistor. The two diodes are there to protect the transistors at turn-off, as they allow a discharge path for the capacitors.

 

Next Time
No more horizontal transformations.

 

//JRB

 

If you have been reading my posts, you know that my lifetime goal is reaching post number one thousand. I have 631 more to go. My second goal is to gather 1,000 patrons. I have 975 patrons to go. If you enjoyed reading this post from me, then you might consider becoming one of my patrons at Patreon.com.

 

    

User Guides for GlassWare Software
Just click on any of the above images to download a PDF of the user guides.

For those of you who still have old computers running Windows XP (32-bit) or any other Windows 32-bit OS, I have setup the download availability of my old old standards: Tube CAD, SE Amp CAD, and Audio Gadgets. The downloads are at the GlassWare-Yahoo store and the price is only $9.95 for each program.

http://glass-ware.stores.yahoo.net/adsoffromgla.html

So many have asked that I had to do it.

WARNING: THESE THREE PROGRAMS WILL NOT RUN UNDER VISTA 64-Bit or WINDOWS 7 & 8 or any other 64-bit OS.

I do plan on remaking all of these programs into 64-bit versions, but it will be a huge ordeal, as programming requires vast chunks of noise-free time, something very rare with children running about. Ideally, I would love to come out with versions that run on iPads and Android-OS tablets.

//JRB

     

If you have been reading my posts, you know that my lifetime goal is reaching post number one thousand. I have 631 more to go. My second goal is to gather 1,000 patrons. I have 975 patrons to go. If you enjoyed reading this post from me, then you might consider becoming one of my patrons at

Kit User Guide PDFs
Click image to download

BCF User Guide

Download PS-3 User Guide

Janus regulator user guide

E-mail from GlassWare Customers

Hi John,

I received the Aikido PCB today - thank you for the first rate shipping speed.
    Wanted to let you know that this is simply the best PCB I have had in my hands, bar none. The quality is fabulous, and your documentation is superb. I know you do this because you love audio, but I think your price of $39 is a bit of a giveaway! I'm sure you could charge double and still have happy customers.
     Looking forward to building the Aikido, will send some comments when I'm done!
   Thank you, regards
Gary

Mr Broskie,

I bought an Aikido stereo linestage kit from you some days ago, and I received it just this Monday. I have a few things to say about it. Firstly, I'm extremely impressed at the quality of what I've been sent. In fact, this is the highest quality kit I've seen anywhere, of anything. I have no idea how you managed to fit all this stuff in under what I paid for it. Second, your shipping was lightning-quick. Just more satisfaction in the bag, there. I wish everyone did business like you.

Sean H.


9-Pin & Octal PCBs

High-quality, double-sided, extra thick, 2-oz traces, plated-through holes, dual sets of resistor pads and pads for two coupling capacitors. Stereo and mono, octal and 9-pin printed circuit boards available.

Designed by John Broskie & Made in USA

Aikido PCBs for as little as $24

http://glass-ware.stores.yahoo.net/


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TCJ Push-Pull Calculator has but a single purpose: to evaluate tube-based output stages by simulating eight topologies’ (five OTL and three transformer-coupled) actual performance with a specified tube, power supply and bias voltage, and load impedance. The accuracy of the simulation depends on the accuracy of the tube models used and the tube math model is the same True Curves™ model used in GlassWare's SE Amp CAD and Live Curves programs, which is far more accurate than the usual SPICE tube model.

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