WHY BUILD A SINGLE-ENDED TRIODE AMP
To explain how building a single-ended triode amp will improve your taste of music, I am going to take you wild boar hunting, which is my favorite form of hunting. But first let me explain the reason that I engage in this ancient ritual. I am a vegetarian, who loves the taste of meat, and because of that I do not eat the meat that is on butchers shelves. I only eat meat from the animals I have personally killed, because I love the taste of meat, and all other meat doesnt have flavor, spirit, or passionate energy that only a barbecued wild piece of meat can create. Store bought, and restaurant prepared meat has no real flavor. So if you love meat, you have only choice you have to got into the woods and face the beast mano y mano.
Hunting wild boar (check your search engines for wild boar hunting) is much more dangerous than building a tube amplifier. I know many who have been run down, gored and wounded by wild boars. In forty years of building tube amplifiers, while I have received shocks (which relax me) I have never heard of anyone who has been wounded, but like wild boar hunting, building a tube amplifier demands our attention.
By now you, the hi-IQ gifted listener already understand the journey we are on, and the relationship between process and perception. The process of hunting the dangerous animal, who can fight back, the heart throbbing excitement of the hunt, and killing the beast, taking out our knives and cleaning and preparing the meat and then creating the barbecue ritual transforms the flavor of this animals flesh. (It is tragic that many young men confuse the dating ritual with hunting dangerous wild game). What could taste better than sitting around a fire on a star filled night as you ripe chunks of barbecued wild meat as it juices flows down your chin, as the smoke rises to the sky and you hear the drum beat? This feast is not normal, and by normal I mean.....Honey, pick up a sirloin at the supermarket..I am watching the NFL game....and I will turn on the Weber grill. Some men need more than normal when it comes to the taste of life and music.
The wild meat you kill and barbecue will taste much better than the finest restaurant served sirloin because your heart and soul is in your feast, and so it is with the single-ended tube amplifier you build.
Clearly there is a relationship between vulnerability, commitment and pleasure...the more you put yourself into an activity the more you get out, and that is as true for hunting, marriage, sports or your music system.
Those of you who have studied Joseph Campbell know how much importance he gives to male initiation rites in native cultures where boys must be put to the test in arduous and painful task so they may triumph and make the transition from boyhood to manhood. These rites of passage are essential for the male soul and almost completely lacking in our culture. This also explains why Tube Schools are all over Japan, where young men go and study and learn the art of building a tube amp with a master. Soon the initiate has created his own work of tube art, and he is no longer a boy, and can now dance with the men around the triode tribal fire. The Samurai spirit is still alive.
The excitement of single-ended triode circuits is not only that they produce such high quality music juice, but this extraordinary aptitude is due to their simplicity, which also explains why they are so easy to build. It is fascinating how tube amplifier kits, which were once much more complex, have become so simple, and that is great news for those seeking higher, non-normal levels of music pleasure.
Single-ended amplifiers are so simple that all you have learn is how to use a soldering iron, and a volt meter, which should take about two hours of practice. Radio Shack has everything you need. I dont know a kit today that doesnt have sophisticated drawings of parts layout so that even if you cant read a schematic, and most of you dont, there is no problem knowing exactly what to put where. And again....Less is More...means that there arent that many parts to connect.
FIND A SOLDERING SLINGING BRO ON THE WEB
Hey Mr. Smart & Sensitive, why dont you use the audio chat groups to find a local solder slinging bro that can take you through the first steps of your kit building process...in the same way you find a hunting bro who will teach you how to stalk the wild boar? If you dont have the courage to face your fear, you will never have the opportunity to know the taste of victory.
Here is another good suggestion: Most kit companies will sell you their manuals for a nominal price so that you can check out the instruction and circuit...to get comfortable with it. I also suggest you find out if the kit company has a service of finishing your amplifier if you cant finish it. Most do, and charge a fee for it, but you will feel more confident knowing that this back up is available. If you get to that point of frustration, dont panic. Chill out, and walk away from the project for a couple of days. Read a book about Sir Edmund Hillarys climbing Mt. Everest, or Lindberghs account of his flight, or Stanleys account of finding Dr. Livingston.
Great adventures, those which offers us the possibility of discover our soul, must be filled with frustration, defeat and pain, all of which give victory its sweet taste, like when you first turn on your amplifier as your heart is madly pounding in your chest and before you, after your long struggle, is the lost valley of the Golden Wazoo and its mysterious music.
THE PARADOX OF SINGLE-ENDED KIT BUILDING
Of course it makes perfect sense to start with the easiest and cheapest kit so that you can get experience, but the more expensive kits are not more complicated, they just have more expensive and higher quality parts. This could be a big benefit for you, because it is possible that the kit you choose might have higher quality output transformers than is available in ready made amplifiers.
Now we segue back to Japan where kit building has a different vibe. Here kit building is about creating the highest quality possible, not saving money. Remember when you buy a store bought amplifier only 25% of the price you pay went into the parts, the rest is labor, and profit. If you are a Japanese audiomaniac and you want to spend $5,000 on an amplifier you can spend $5,000 on parts and use your own labor to create and equivalency to a $20,000 amplifier. My upcoming review of the Sun Audio of Japan amplifiers mentions that these amplifiers are available in kit form for over $4,000, which is typical of many kits in Japan. Such kit prices are unheard of in America.
But there is another advantage in building a single-ended triode amp. You always have the option retrofitting a much higher quality output transformers( which takes about one hour, and two solder connections), and using much higher quality output tubes. You can buy single-ended output transformer for 300Bs or 2A3s from $75 to $800, and 300Bs range in price from $50 to $400 each. What I am suggesting is that you can build a much higher quality amplifier than you can buy in any store, if you are ready to put up your cash. And let me remind you again...more refinement is not about greater complexity...it is about simple circuits with a small amount of very high quality parts...very Zen.
This shouldnt upset anyone because the same is true for hot rod cars, custom guns, custom motorcycles, or flyrods.....the true state of the art is not available ready made off the showroom floors.
I suggest you check my article, Long Live King Tone, for more info on companies that make kits and, again, check you chat groups for advice, comments and feedback. While you are thinking this over subscribe to Sound Practices, Glass Audio, and Vacuum Tube Valley because these magazines will give you lots of insight into wild boar hunting....which is the best process to engage in to end being a wild bore.
e-mail Dr. Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg: firstname.lastname@example.org
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