Philadelphia Tube Audio Show
So here we are at
the PA tube show. This is a yearly event which brings in many manufacturers and
home-brewsky guys to show off their wares and have fun. Generally, the featured products
are single-ended tube yummies and horny speakers (not referring to the guys speaking at
the podium. Shame on you!). The tube love-in began at 1pm on Sunday, April 26,
1998 with opening statements by Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg.
| Harvey got the crowd going with his
usual discussions of Triodezilla, speakers using alnico magnets, and he even brought with him a
55 lbs. speaker made by Sunlight Engineering which uses said alnico as seen to the left.
Harvey also told about the many new possibilities now happening because of the SE
resurgence in the USA. Though Japan has been on this craze for many years, it's the
new American craze that is making Americans finally realize the advantages of low powered
tube units and high sensitivity speakers. In fact Western Electric is going to
reintroduce speakers which will be using the alnico-type magnet structure! Harvey
ended his schpeil by asking the crowd "What is the sound of one tube clapping?"
Next up was Dennis Had of Cary Audio who was showing his companies model 805
amplifier and proceeded to play the American National Anthem followed by the famous Abbott
and Costello baseball comedy skit... Who's on first? Yes. Why?
Because. i don't know... Third base! After Dennis played the 805 he then
changed to the Cary 2A3 unit to show that even a small three watt SE tube unit can play
music to good levels when used in the right system.
| Speaking of systems, the speakers used
during most of this tube love-in were the T-1 Project made by Classic Audio Reproductions
(tele (810) 229-5191). These speakers are a three-way design using components
consisting of alnico and cobalt magnets, Carbon fiber cones, and Beryllium diaphragms.
They are 45 inches high, 30 1/2 inches wide, 28 inches deep and shipping weight s
around 300 lbs.! The tweeter and midrange are horn loaded and these babies can get
quite loud with only a few watts of power. Speaker grills for the lower section are
available and bring about more physical beauty to the design. Genuine maple is used
for that all wood horn "natural sound". During the show these speakers
easily filled a very large room with ample sound. It was very hard to judge sound
quality though during the show because of the large room and over one hundred people in
R U horny yet?
| The other speaker used during the very
latter part of the show was the Köchel ($8,995 in black ash and $9,995 in sapelle,
cherry, or oak) which personally i was under whelmed with after hearing it at the WCES
98. It did sound a bit better at the PA tube show though who knows with such a weird
setup. The Köchel is a 97 db/w/m sensitive horn speaker with a claimed frequency
response of 52Hz - 22kHz @ -5db (average in-room response). A single 12 inch back-loaded
woofer, 2 inch compression driverhorn for the midrange, and 1.75 inch compression driver
for the tweeter. Though this unit can handle 200 watts, 2-3 watts are a suggested minimum.
This three-way horn system is beautifully finished and the construction looks first rate
too. Köchel claims this speaker can even output a 100Hz square wave without distortion!
Not an easy task, yet high sensitivity horn speakers have quite a few advantages
such as very low distortion which hopefully one day the mainstream audio press will
realize. Until then it seems like only folks like me and you who are willing to
forget about specifications and follow out hearts will truly know the joys which are
capable from low powered tube gear and horn loaded speakers. Well, enough about the
speakers, let's get back to the tubes!
| Tubes this baby! In fact here is a
photo of the new Western Electric 437A tube many of my friends are impatiently waiting to
buy as soon as possible. Production should be in full swing in a few months so save
your pennies! In fact Western Electric has planned a full revision of their web site
too! Can guess who might be their new webmaster? My humble apologies but i
can't tell you. Oh, my new digital camera rig is so good you can see me
holding the camera in the reflection on the top of the tube. In fact none other then
the President of Western Electric, Charles Whitener Jr., was personally running the W.E.
booth and was also handing out free stickers too!
| Speaking of new tubes, here's a first
look at the new KR Enterprises single-plate 2A3 tube. Never heard it but it looks
promising. Only time will tell i guess. Me? Still looking to buy the ultimate
2A3 unit money can buy. Well, let's get back to the fun of the show.
Dennis Had came a dude, who's name i forget, showing the new Tim de Pavavicini designed
EAR V-20 which uses a whole lotta parallel-connected 12AX7/ECC83 tubes to achieve a 24wpc
output per channel. The V-20 uses the tubes so as to run the tubes in what EAR calls
"Enhanced Mode Triode" which treats the pentode like a triode with it's grid
biased positive. Unlike Dennis Had of Cary, this dude played real music.
Namely some great jazz and then the excellent Jimi Hendrix "Axis Bold As
Love". In fact i held my lighter up high in full flame! Tubes, horn
speakers, Hendrix... What more can a man want? Well, maybe a great drink, a
Cohiba cigar, a Ferrari... Anyway, the point was that it wasn't just
"audiophile music" being played. Call me what you will, but i can only
take so much "audiophile" music in a day, and then it's time to jam!
2A3 for me?
| Then came Don Garber of Fi fame (the
manufacturer, not the magazine). Fi has been making many inroads in the past few
years. Don played quite a few of his products including the "X" amplifier
which retails at $890.20. The 20 cents, Don humorously said, is in observance to the
Audio Note Ongaku's price of $89,200. The new Y preamplifier features five inputs
and two per channel outputs (two right and two left outputs for bi-amplifing). Two
6922 tubes running SRPP are used to achieve an overall gain of about 20db. Below is
the Fi 300B monoblock amplifiers which have received praise by quite a few folks. The
thing i love about Don is that with the X amplifier and the Y preamplifier you have a fun
little hand built SE tube preamp/amp combo and are still under $1,800. Audio
cheapskates take not here! Not to worry though, rumor has it Audio Note is going to
be making an under $1000 tube integrated unit available to the public soon! Is it
getting hot in here or is it just the tubes in my pocket?
Why ask why?
It's the Fi "Y".
Fi 300B monoblock amplifiers ($3,450pr).
Speaking of Audio Note, Herb Reichert was next playing some tunes with the
Audio Note Conqueror ($2,695) with good results. Herb was discussing how it's how
the music is transcended into your home. How it's about the intensity of the
experience, the enhanced textures, more emotional response that matter. Personally,
i highly agree. If the music doesn't "move" me then what's the point?
"Does the music engage you?" Herb asked the audience. He also
harped about the amp/speaker interface. Couldn't agree more. Just wish i could
say this more, but it's about the music stupid!!! When you enjoy your reproduced
music does it also convey the feelings of the composer, musicians, and sound engineer?
Can you feel the music?
Is the Siggie a new biggie?
| David Berning was up next and sounded
much like an engineer more then a music lover. He was extremely technical and
explained how his new amplifier, the Siegfried, worked. It's an OTL design with a
new twist. Mainly, it uses a regulated resonant switching power supply to achieve
extremely low hum levels. Also, the heaters are supplied with RF through a
center-tapped transformer. There are actually two versions of this unit. The
811-10 version ($5,750) and the 300B version ($6,950). Either way they both have
amazing specifications and are technical marvels. As to how they reproduce music,
not sure because as i've said before, the system setup and room was not quite what would
be considered optimal in my humble opinion.
|Then came Komura with his 845 based push-pull
design followed by the great J.C. Morrison. Now J.C. is a great guy who seems to
really know where it's at. He played one of his designs then made a dramatic showing
while telling the audience that if it doesn't play music what's the point? The
audience seemed startled yet i began to applaud which was followed by a smattering of
applause. Personally i highly agree with J.C. If you're not truly enjoying the
music from whatever music reproduction system you have invested in then what's the point?
Of course if you enjoy tinkering around with electronics and toys more then music
then "high-end" audio may be your home too. It's cool with me.
Speaking for myself, it's the music stupid, though you might feel differently. By
the way, the top plates of J.C.'s new amplifier look like beautiful gleaming gold, not the
copper as seen to the right.
J.C.'s new toy.
J.C. and the Sunshine Band?
Did Moses ever part the OTL sea?
| Next came the Ralph Karsten with the
highly regarded Atma-Sphere M-60 MK. II OTL amplifier available in pre-built or kit form.
These 60 wpc. monoblocks are said to be capable of not only musical grace but also
very dynamic music reproduction. It uses eight 6AS7G tubes for output and four 6SN7
for the driver stage. Each monoblock weighs about 30 lbs. A few friends of
mine own these babies and seem to be very happy. Ralph not only played the usual
"audiophile" music, he also played Madonna too. Right on Ralph!
| Last up was Mr. Ricketts with the $50,000
WAVAC HE-833 monoblock. By using the 833A transmitting tube for output and a KT-88
for for driver stage this unit produces 100 wpc. Also used is the Western Electric
437A for the input stage. The output transformers are custom built to very high
tolerances. Like all WAVAC designs, they are also visibly beautiful too. In
fact the entire chassis is machines out of a solid block of CNC. No expense is
spared, as should be expected, for $50,000. Frequency response is claimed as 20Hz -
100kHz. You can see my Tube
Lust page for a larger, tastier photo of this unit by the way.
Tube amp under glass!
A YUMMY treat!
FBI's Top Five Must Wanted Tube-o-philes!
| Here's the famous New York City five!
(Said in humor) Call your local police to be on the lookout for these guys!
They just might have you enjoying the music! What a crime that would be!!! From left
to right is as follows: J.C. Morrison, Komuro, Berger, Don Garber (Fi), Herb
Reichert (Audio Note).
In the end lottsa fun was had by all as this yearly social
gathering of tube lovers was filled with music, fun, and friendly harassment. Can't
wait to see all of you next year! As always...
Enjoy the music!