TRIODE GUILD AWARD: SOVTEK 2A3
MIKE MATHEWS ACCELERATES THE TONE VIRUS
Many years ago I asserted that Mike Mathews, an ex hippie rock and roller, now a major tube entrepreneur, was, by manufacturing and distributing the first high quality and affordable, made in Russia, 300B, was responsible for bringing the DHT revolution to the American music maniac .making Mike a real American hero.
At that time the only 300Bs available were cheese ball Chinese 300Bs. The Western Electric 300B was still a way away.
I am now, once again, asserting the same thing, but this time about the 2A3, which is one of the most interesting DHT paradoxes. To cut to the thermionic mustard this Sovtek 2A3 is an awesome artistic achievement, because it means that the directly heated aesthetic . which is all about the return of KING TONE in the audio arts, has now moved to a much higher plane for Mr. Average Joe Bud Music Maniac .at $39 each!!!!!
But here is the blazing paradox Let us assume, for the moment, that the 2A3 is half as powerful as the 300B. Why is this tube becoming so popular when there are almost zilch, nada, speakers properly designed for the 300B, which means there are even less properly designed for the 2A3?
The answer is obvious to the Guildmeister: music maniacs are just like horney dogs our horniness for musical beauty makes us care we are hot for authentic tone because without it you've got zilch and because once you hear the tonal quality of an authentic 2A3 you know, and no explanation is necessary .even if it means that most are hearing just a small fraction of the 2A3's glory because their speakers can't possibly reveal their full splendor.
THE 2A3 VIRUS
As you know AVVT, (Alessa Vaic) and KR (Count Riccardo Kron) are manufacturing their own "version" of the 2A3, and I have written an article about my experience with these tubes. It requires a sophisticated imagination to connect these tubes with the classic 2A3 aesthetic because they don't sound like the classic 2A3 tubes, but and this is a big advantage they can be plugged into any circuit designed for a 2A3 giving us options.
The impulse to design a new 2A3, which means you are designing a lower powered tube, which uses a 2.5 volt, rather than a 5 volt filament, is to exploit that fact that lower powered tubes tend to be more tonally refined, and by that I mean (because every tube is a musical instrument) sounds more natural which means the balance between lower order and higher order harmonics are naturally balanced .like in real live music.
When I wrote the song the hit marching song ASCEND TO MICROPOWER, I was expressing, that for the gifted listener it was obvious that something major in the emotional/expressive realm was happening with lower powered tubes even with the price paid for their very limited speaker interface. Here is a relevant question "Would you prefer to get the most important 80% absolutely right and give up some bottom and top, or would you prefer to compromise across the board? My critical comments about the WE 300B, in a way, are similar to my comments about this Sovtek this is a glorious exploration of the midrange righteousness.
Which brings me back to Vaic and Kron, who created their own vision of a 2A3, which bears absolutely no mechanical resemblance to a classic 2A3 .and each sounds quite unique and more refined than their higher powered 300B types. The point being those in the tube know, knows that there is a unique flavor and aroma to the 2A3, and once you smell and taste it you must eat it. In that sense the 2A3 is just like watermelon, barbecued steak, and fried catfish.
The excitement about this Sovtek 2A3 is that it is a very successful attempt at creating the classic 2A3 sound that is found in the golden oldy 2A3s, which are now collectible and mostly living in Japan. In that sense Mike has embarked on the Western Electric strategy of not reinventing the wheel, but just bringing it back in its classic form .as much as possible.
IS THE DIGITAL DEVIL DEMANDING 2A3s.
The most delicious paradox of all..in the audio arts is that digital audio is the accelerator of the tube audio revolution because digital audio is anti-tone, and the natural harmonic tone of tubes makes digital edible. For the music gourmet the tone of DHTs is about as high as you can get in a digital world, which is perhaps the best nitty gritty explanation for the emergence of the 2A3 cult. This Sovtek 2A3's unique personality is perfect compliment for digital audio, and many of my CDs which are unlistenable, are transformed by this tube into a velvety tongue of ecstasy.
Is this the most revealing tube of ultimate transparency? I hope not, because if it were I wouldn't love it because then I would be listening to the mealy minded production values of most CDs. My hunt is not accuracy, which doesn't exist, but maximum musical juice, and this Sovtek tube delivers in gallons. This is the DHT that seduces. For men who cry easily, this is the tube that demands wearing a bib .at a price that is a breakthrough in the sobering/price ratio.
THE UNEXPECTED REAL MEANING
Yes, this is gigantic good news for single-ended fanatics, but I want to twist and shout and suggest that the real value of this tube will be realized in push/pull 2A3 amplifiers because the next wave is directly heated triode push/pull amplifiers of extreme refinement and to achieve that we need the Sovtek 2A3.
THE SOVTEK 2A3 IMPERATIVE
Don't let the price fool you. This DHT demands very serious attention in circuit implementation and that means stiff power supplies of very high quality, and very high quality driver circuitry, and most importantly the best output transformers you can afford.
At much less than 30% of the cost of KR/AVVT versions of 2A3s there is no longer any barrier to music maniacs moving up the ladder of tonal refinement, and in the world of audio TONE IS KING.
This is a major achievement, and a huge bargain.
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