Does anyone care to ask an amplifier designer a technical question? My door is open.

I closed the cable and fuse thread because the trolls were making a mess of things. I hope they dont find me here.

I design Tube and Solid State power amps and preamps for Music Reference. I have a degree in Electrical Engineering, have trained my ears keenly to hear frequency response differences, distortion and pretty good at guessing SPL. Ive spent 40 years doing that as a tech, store owner, and designer.
Perhaps someone would like to ask a question about how one designs a successfull amplifier? What determines damping factor and what damping factor does besides damping the woofer. There is an entirely different, I feel better way to look at damping and call it Regulation , which is 1/damping.

I like to tell true stories of my experience with others in this industry.

I have started a school which you can visit at There you can see some of my presentations.

On YouTube go to the Music Reference channel to see how to design and build your own tube linestage. The series has over 200,000 views. You have to hit the video tab to see all.

I am not here to advertise for MR. Soon I will be making and posting more videos on YouTube. I don’t make any money off the videos, I just want to share knowledge and I hope others will share knowledge. Asking a good question is actually a display of your knowledge because you know enough to formulate a decent question.

Starting in January I plan to make these videos and post them on the HiFi school site and hosted on a new YouTube channel belonging to the school.

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Yow, things are warming up around here ;-) . I like opinionated people, it requires and reveals passion. That’s true even if I see things differently; no two people agree on everything, and everyone develops their own priorities and tastes in music and it’s reproduction. I, not being an engineer, love reading about hi-fi design by those who are, and find discussions of design philosophy and styles very intellectually stimulating.

Like many Americans, on Thanksgiving day my assembled family expressed, member by member, what they are thankful for. I’m thankful for having Ralph, Roger, and all the passionate Audiogon music and hi-fi enthusiasts contributing to this forum!

Thanks for your kind words. I like strong opinions as long as they can be supported. So many audio "truths" are more rumors than truth. Who said what and when. I strive to quote members accurately, check spelling and grammar. (where is the spell check on this forum?)

Passion sometimes brings out the best and the worst in people. Somtimes an honest answer from someone skilled in the field is not appreciated. Sometimes no matter how well one can back up his point it is never taken. A lot of this would play miserably in a formal (Harvard style) debate.

Why do people who dont design preamps or even understand them want to say which is harder to design. Thats a very personal thing. I don't go around saying things like that. Each design, pre or power, is its own challenge. One picks his challenge and goes for it. I like to do things that have not been done before and I feel the few designs that I choose to produce and sell are my best work. Others are just studies. Thats the art part of it.

Thanks again ramtubes.  Sorry did not get back to you in time.  I was the one asking about the reliable electrolytics.  The amp I am building is about 300 rms watts/channel int 8 ohms.  I usually like over engineering things mostly for purposes of reliability and longevity rather than sound quality since after a certain point sound difference becomes indistinguishable.

I am therefore using 1800 VA toroidal and a 270 amp rectifier.  Caps are 4 x 47,000 uF but s I mentioned, at 85 degrees C the caps are rated at 2000 hours.  Therefore they are the weakest links in the amp.  I saw some Nichicons with 105 degrees C at 10000 hours but they were about $250 EACH (phew).  The rectifier, altho likely to be used for welding applications, has soft switch characteristics AND it is quit fast, so would be suitable for audio.

I over sized the rectifier so that it would easily handle the initial short circuit of the caps when the amp is first turned on.  I am also using an inrush current limiter, composed of Airotronics MC1004531J (rated to 25 amps AC) and a flame proof 33 ohm 25 watt wirewound resistor as the current limiter.

I could not decide between a thermistor and a resistor so decided to go with a resistor.  My concern was that if the relay did not engage due to a fault, the thermistor would run at about 150+ degrees, which in my opinion is NOT safe in a solid state enclosure.  The resistor would most likely burn out open circuit and I would either smell it or notice it the next time I switch the amp on, when the lights dim :-)


It doesn’t make sense to me that some people get so angry/defensive/personal/nasty when discussing audio equipment! It’s fascinating in a way, but doesn’t do much to educate anyone, and most certainly impedes oneself from getting an education. I listen to music because it makes me feel good. I don’t want a discussion about the equipment needed to play music to piss me off! I believe we can agree to disagree on matters of opinion. This thread has much in the way of fact, but also with opinions masquerading as facts sprinkled in. Back on topic... What differentiates a passive “preamp” from a “tube buffer” with level and switching control? I really like the idea of a simple level control with switching capability, but as I stated earlier, my first try at using a passive, albeit a very inexpensive example, was less than stellar. Specifically, I’m looking at a Schiit Saga to try as a replacement for my tubed preamplifier. I’m weighing options for use with a tube amplifier, but I’d also like to understand what a tube buffer does differently than a tube preamp. Also, would the gain of a preamp “help” a lower powered amp sound more muscular, or is that more “made up” information?

I am also looking for a lab/bench symmetric power supply of up to +/- 100 volts DC at about 2 - 3 amps (so about 500 - 600 watts) and having a very difficult time finding it.  The very rare ones I have seen are in excess of $1500.  I need such a supply for testing purposes.  I do not want to build one.

Does anyone know of one around a max of $500 ?

The 6AS7 is a pass tube in a DC power supply. Heres a link, one has to scroll down a bit and read the application paragraph at the beginning. I dont think brand is going to make a lot of difference as they are all made for the same application as stated clearly here. .
I've certainly seen the page for the 6AS7 :)  What I am telling you is the the 6H13C is a different tube (the Russian variant). Once preconditioned, they can hold up better than an American tube. Far less likely to see the cathode coating falling apart, at least until the tube gets weak.

Regarding bias stability, the amp has no need for a servo. If the DC Offset is unstable, its likely noise in the driver tube as the output tubes obtain their bias from the driver tube. Normally the DC Offset is the sort of thing that you set or at least check once every 6 months or so. IOW, its **very** stable!
Current is well defined by science. I didnt know there was a special audio definition.???
There is! I regard the audio versions as common myth, often bandied about inappropriately:
Although we disagree on many things I do appreciate your Gentlemanly approach, unlike that other fellow who left us.
Thanks - let's hope he stays away. His approach produces so much noise, its impossible to have an actual conversation, not to mention his creation of an entirely new wing of physics (or at least alternate meanings to words to which no-one was previously aware)...

Just to be clear, I have a lot of respect for you as I do Nelson Pass, John Curl, David Berning and a number of others. There's a lot of snake oil in this business so its refreshing when we don't have to deal with that. Like you, I've been at this a long time but went down a different path a long time ago: while I understand completely how the Voltage Paradigm works (IOW I don't make amps to be 'tone controls'), I'm not at all convinced that the Voltage Paradigm is the only way to achieve the most neutral presentation. For me, the reason was best expressed by Norman Crowhurst, who pointed out a good 60 years ago that while feedback of course suppresses distortion, it also introduces some of its own, which tends to be entirely higher ordered harmonics. Its not that I'm against feedback, but its inappropriate or inexpert application does bother me, and for that I'll use the current ARC amps as an example.

The problem is that the ear converts all forms of distortion into tonality (and the ear/brain system has tipping points where that tonality can be favored over actual frequency response), and the the most egregious problem in audio IMO/IME is brightness (and its twin brother, harshness), which in transistors is entirely caused by distortion; also in many tube amps that use feedback. This is because the ear uses higher ordered harmonics to sense sound pressure, so is really sensitive to them as a result (moreso than most test equipment due to the range that the ear has to cover)! The line I draw in the sand is I want it to sound like real music as opposed to a just a good stereo. To this end, I do my best to vet every customer's system and expectations in order to make a sale. This limits my sales for sure, but it also results in really excellent results both in sound and customer loyalty when everything is set up right. 

Regarding the different gain in the M-60s, its entirely possible that the CCS is damaged. Clio9 was an early adopter of Mk3.3 and I suspect he has earlier CCS boards in his amps. IIRC that is... If you can send a photo of the CCS board to my email (found on the website) that will tell me a lot.