John's Valve Page

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I bought my first Hi-Fi system when I was 17, and upgraded it over the years. Then in 1997 I bought a flat in London, and went shopping for a whole new system for it. I'd heard that valve amplifiers were making a comeback, and thought I'd better check them out. I was blown away by what I heard - not only did I buy a valve system for London, but I could no longer stand listening to my transistor amp at home in France, and had to upgrade that as well. But once I'd started, I wanted to know more and do more…

 I built a pair of Atma-Sphere M60 transformerless (OTL) power amps, and wrote an article about them as well. I also built a Hi-Fi World KLPP1 pre-amp, but I never got round to writing about it and now there isn't much point since the kit is no longer available.

 I read all the books and magazines I could find on the subject, and there are plenty of them.

I did some analysis of different approaches to heater operation: constant voltage, constant current, and in between.

 I got seriously interested in the theory of valve design and operation, including what it would take to build Spice models. I wrote a long article summarising the theory from a modern, audio perspective.

 At one time I had a big project using the amazing 6C33C-B Russian power triode. I bought a large quantity of them then didn't get round to the project, so they are now for sale.

 Take a look at my systems.

 Suppliers for valve and audiophile components.

My Hi-Fi Systems

I ended up with three systems, one I bought for London, one I assembled in France, and a third (partial) system which I built for someone in the family who turned out not to want it. Since moving to California, all of these systems have been combined, mainly on the basis of what still worked after the move! I have not yet got round to reassembling a workshop that will let me give serious attention to fixing things. The systems were originally put together as follows.


This system is very transparent and very agreeable to listen to. It is more involving when playing vinyl than CD. I spent a lot of time auditioning the power amplifier and CD players. In the case of the power amp, I also listened to the Unison Research Simply 4, the Gamma Rhythm (211), the Simply 845, and a couple of others which I now forget. None had the clarity and transparency of the Golden Tube. I did change the 6SN7s from the supplied Sovteks to RCA (actually some Italian valves made under licence from RCA), which made the system more involving. Although the system is improving as it runs in, I do sometimes find it a little sterile.


I love this system and the Atma-Sphere amplifiers. It is incredibly involving. The Theta Data/X-DAC combination is very sweet and lives up to expectations, although dealing with the Audio Crafters Guild requires a lot of patience.

The Third System:

I built this system for someone in my family, but things didn't work out so it is not currently in use. I like the Laurel a lot, although in the end I find the Golden Tube SE40SE more transparent. The AN pre-amp is not a success. It has a strange boominess in the bass, although this doesn't show up in measurements. As built, with Ei tubes, it is unbelievably microphonic, and has cheap, nasty industrial elctrolytics in the signal path (plate decoupling caps - some may not consider these in the signal path but believe me, they are). I have the parts to do a major upgrade to the caps and put some decent (Mullard) valves in it, which may make it better if/when I get round to it.


What I'm listening to now is:


These are the suppliers of systems and electronic components that I have dealt with in putting all this together.


Audiophile Components

Valves (or Tubes)

Last revised: 27th December 2002.