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How many tubes has Steve blown? (Read 2100 times)
jorgen
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How many tubes has Steve blown?
03/04/18 at 22:56:13
 
As Im sitting in my listening chair I started wondering. For the life of me I couldnt figure out how to build an amplifier. I guess I understand some, but the difference between understanding some and to have the skills to build an amp, a good one. No way.

So Im wondering; there should be at least two opportunities in terms of how to approach this. One is the fact the a developer just understands the principles. The other is learning from ones mistakes. But still. How many tubes has Steve blown?

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jorgen
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Re: How many tubes has Steve blown?
Reply #1 - 03/04/18 at 22:59:02
 
... and maybe a philosophical question
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Steve Deckert
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Re: How many tubes has Steve blown?
Reply #2 - 03/05/18 at 05:36:58
 

My experience in commercial HVAC combined with computer hardware and software in the 1980's gave me the confidence (actually ignorance is a better word) to jump into tube amps by collecting schematics from the library and then using them to try to understand and repair tube amps I found on the curb or at garage sales. First I had to teach myself what the new symbols I found on the schematics meant.

At some point along the way I decided to make an old Harmon Kardon tube amp look beautiful like the pictures in the magazines of fancy tube amps. I made a new chassis for the amp and proceeded to take it completely apart and rebuild it in the new chassis with the new symmetrical layout.

You should of seen it. If they had digital camera's back then you would have... it was beautiful. The underside was all made of solid uninsulated wire bent at right angles. Sadly it didn't work when it was time to test it. In writing this I am at the same time realizing how much I have learned since then.

The hardest thing in the world to do is trouble shoot something you have no idea of how it works or why it works. I spent 30 days learning the hard way. I had no idea that analog was so complicated coming from a digital background. I had no idea that amplifiers were actually oscillators and oscillators are actually bombs.

Beginning on the first day instead of music coming out of it, smoke came out instead. Smoke was a nightly theme as I soldiered on. Learning about capacitors included a visit to an old troll down the street who fixed me up with some large hi-speed photoflash caps which in my excitement got installed backwards as soon as I got home...

The explosion turned out to be what opened a portal to the audio Gods who watched me scramble to get the smoking bomb off my floor and throw it out the window where it smoked like a signal flare letting everyone know there was an idiot nearby. If you've ever exploded food in a microwave you know what my room looked like. I have apparently entertained these audio Gods ever since as they're still tuned in.

Towards the end of the experience of trying to get this amplifier to play music instead of melting stuff I would spend all day at the library studying schematics of other amps and of my amp and formulate a plan. I would then come home and execute the plan and by evening I would be ready for the test. Since I did not have a VARIAC I used to hide under the bench when I plugged it in each night with heart pounding while I listen for something sizzling or worse.

On the 30th night of this tenacious ritual I plugged it in and nothing happened. There was no smoke, no screams from hell which the audio Gods have taught me were oscillations, and no noise or hum. I had no reason to actually think it might be working but just to be scientific I hit play on the CD player and music came out!!! I was so stunned that I put a permanent crack in space time as I realized what had just happened. I let it play for about 15 minutes on the bench and still nothing smoked so I put it in my listening room and the experience of that is why you are reading this, here, today.

So ironically I've gone through a lot of tubes since then, but blown precious few.

Steve
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Re: How many tubes has Steve blown?
Reply #3 - 03/05/18 at 06:06:27
 

As I have flashbacks now having told the story, I know that I built and oscillator on day one, and at the time didn't even know what that was. I certainly had no idea that oscillations can make voltages all over your amp rise and fall in some cases hundreds of volts nor did I know that everything can be hooked up seemingly exactly right and it can still oscillate. Just the raw beauty of my internal layout which in reality formed an antenna capable of hearing other planets was responsible for my initiation into audio heaven from the smoldering depths of audio hell.

In looking back on it I have to say I'm pretty impressed with myself for making it through that. It was like jumping into a tank full of piraas and resulted in injuries from shrapnel, high voltage shocks, poisonous gasses, smoke inhalation and a fair degree of mental torture.

The reward at the end was no doubt proportional to the suffering which was so great that it taught me the harder something is to do and the longer it takes and the more you suffer working to make it happen the better it's going to be. Since I set the first benchmark so high it not only hooked me on amplifier building for life but on also set my methodology.


Steve
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ginny
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Re: How many tubes has Steve blown?
Reply #4 - 03/05/18 at 12:35:06
 
Great story, thanks for sharing Steve.

I'm waiting for the movie release.
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Re: How many tubes has Steve blown?
Reply #5 - 03/05/18 at 12:40:01
 
Maybe we can get Bryan Cranston to play Steve!
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stone_of_tone
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Re: How many tubes has Steve blown?
Reply #6 - 03/05/18 at 16:59:24
 
Ha! ....just saw B. Cranston yesterday morning, on the Sundance Channel/Hollywood Reporter....Round Table discussion. BC, was one of the Guests. ....my vote too, to play Steve!

Great read Steve and insight.

Same here Jorgen, understand some or even more sometimes...but can't wrap my brain around building it.

I just watched a recent video....J. Atkinson at PS Audio....right after CES 2018....JA went to Boulder PS Audio/for a Factory tour.....understood what they were jarring about when they got geek techy' here and there....but I could not implement inside an Amp;D ....I have implemented some good room treatment/going on 23 years now! ....this recent interview wraps up with Paul's Listening Room.....clap echo first and foremost! ....boy, that went off on a tangent!? ...just my passion shining through!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRs6OBAv5kQ
25:20....tube input to Solid State....is the best (big surprise, right)? However, I'm not selling my ZMA anytime soon or running heavy cross-overed Speakers anytime soon either. ;)
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Archie
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Re: How many tubes has Steve blown?
Reply #7 - 03/05/18 at 17:34:07
 
Quote:
The reward at the end was no doubt proportional to the suffering which was so great that it taught me the harder something is to do and the longer it takes and the more you suffer working to make it happen the better it's going to be.



Steve, you'd have made a great Dark Ages penitent!  Who knows, maybe your were?   Wink
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stone_of_tone
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Re: How many tubes has Steve blown?
Reply #8 - 03/05/18 at 18:46:54
 
In regards to my just recent post above. I will stick to rewarding Steve with my purchases.....for all the pain he has gone through (as he eloquently describes above). I'm an all Decware Tube guy in my Listening Room/for amplification.

However, the utmost respect for Paul M., like I have for Steve D. I had Paul's first Power re-generator/300 and I have a P3 now. It produces repeatable discernible differences. I want a dedicated line again too.

The whole 46+ mins, is worth the watching (above Link ~ I posted). ....a most recent look into PS and Paul.
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will
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Re: How many tubes has Steve blown?
Reply #9 - 03/05/18 at 22:32:58
 
Thanks for these stories Steve. Nice!
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Donnie
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Re: How many tubes has Steve blown?
Reply #10 - 03/05/18 at 23:23:37
 
Quote:
The hardest thing in the world to do is trouble shoot something you have no idea of how it works or why it works. I spent 30 days learning the hard way. I had no idea that analog was so complicated coming from a digital background. I had no idea that amplifiers were actually oscillators and oscillators are actually bombs.


As I have said before," Any technology that I don't understand is magic".
Steve, you are working with PFM.
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Steve Deckert
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Re: How many tubes has Steve blown?
Reply #11 - 03/06/18 at 03:36:04
 

Knowledge is the gift that is earned.

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