By Steve Graham
Octogenarian Gives Birth to Triplets
I thought I’d start this installment of My Audio Life with a supermarket tabloid-style headline. Noam and I had a brief and slightly silly email exchange where he shortened My Audio Life to MAL. “Maybe we should start a Wall of Sound clothing line called MALwear”, was my response. I can see it now, hoodies, caps, T-shirts and baggy shorts so fans of this site can proudly display their support for WOS.
Maybe if I slip Drake a couple of choice 1956-vintage, NOS Valvo Hamburg 12AX7 long plates from my stash, he’ll appear in a future video sporting some MALwear. If Drake or any of his fans are reading this, please don’t take offence. It’s meant in the spirt of fun only. Drake, if you want a personal apology you can call me on your, “Cell Phone”.
Silliness aside, all future installments of MAL will lead with a bold title to grab the reader’s attention and hopefully help it pop up on internet searches. So here goes:
Should HiFi Equipment have Donor Cards?
Hip Hop Mega Star Caught With 12AX7 Tubes
Embarrassed Singer Says, “I Just Called Them On My Cell Phone”
When I smell the new lumber in the local big box home reno store, my first thought is: let’s build something. My Dad, a child and teen in the 1920’s and 30’s, was the same way. Dad built most of his house with a hammer and a hand saw. He was a veteran of World War II and as such qualified for government assistance to buy a lot and build a home through the veterans land act. Here’s something that will make most of you cry: my Mom and Dad bought a ½ acre building lot in Eastern Ontario in 1950 for less and a hundred bucks. You read that right, less than $100. It’s sad to think that we as Canadians (through our federal government) treat some of today’s veterans very shabbily indeed.
Dad even built a couple of boats and reassembled an old Triumph Bonneville that was in a completely torn-down state when he acquired it. My brothers and I also helped him build additions to the house. Dad built in every direction but up and down. Actually, he did build down in a way. With picks and shovels we dug out the crawl space under one of the additions to a full height basement. I get my DIY gene honestly.
I’m going to build a single-ended tube amp. My Altec Flamencos require so little power that 7 or 8 watts will likely suffice. The neighbour I spoke of in part 2 of MAL gave me four identical power transformers and four matching power chokes ten years ago.
Eight years ago I used two of each to build a pair of single-ended mono amps based on a circuit found on the Angela Instruments web site. The amps I built use triode wired EL34’s and inexpensive Hammond OPTs. They were kind of cool, but at the time I didn’t have the speakers for them. I traded them off to my pal Dougie for some NOS tubes. He put the amps to good use with a pair of Coincident speakers in a small living room.
Tucked away in my shop are the remaining power transformers and chokes. I got to thinking I’d just make copies of the previous pair of SE amps. Then the internet intervened and I found myself on the Tubelab web site.
George (Mr. Tubelab), an electronics engineer by profession, guitar player and tube amp designer in his off hours, has brought modern design and components to SE amps. Updated circuits for directly-heated triode (2A3, 300B) and indirectly heated pentode (6L6, EL34, 6550) amps are his gift to the DIY audio community. PCBs may be purchased from George, but in a generous move he makes all of the circuit information and schematics available on his site, for those wishing to roll their own. The Tubelab.com website is definitely worth a look, if only to see the picture of a shirtless George playing his guitar.
The free power transformers and chokes will stay in my stash for now. Tubes have been purchased from Thetubestore.com. A Hammond power transformer and a pair of Edcor output transformers will be the “anchors” of a new SET amp. Jeez Louise, the Edcors cost a lot to ship from the USA, $102 in USPS charges for transformers costing $176 the pair. The US Postal Service raised their rates to Canada a year or two ago, and now we pay almost as much as someone shipping to Australia (insert raspberry sound, aka the Bronx Cheer, here).
An old and unloved DAC will donate its case and play music again as a Tubelab SSE Amp. Just a little metalworking and assembly required.
On a personal note:
As “My Audio Life” is about a journey, I like to relate personal stories. I hope readers find the stories in this series diverting and entertaining. I try to keep each installment to no more than 500 words. This one has crept past 900 due to the stories, the subsequent tangents I’m prone to explore and the resultant wordiness.
One more thing before I go:
As I write this in early May 2016 I’ve just connected my main system back up after more than four months of down time due to a listening room reno. The room sounds better than before but needs a some acoustic treatment to deal with a few side and back wall reflections. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed music on this system until I spent the better part of a day reacquainting myself with it.