Posts Tagged ‘Tubes’

Tube Amplifiers Used For Professional Performers

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Tube Testing – A common requirement for tube amplifiers used for professional and stage purposes is that there should be a high percentage of confidence that one or more tubes will not fail during the performance. Tubes are often thought of in the same manner as light bulbs, in that they are most likely to fail catastrophically at switch on. This means that the moments just after the switch on point constitute the most stressful and potentially damaging periods in the life of the equipment.In an attempt to guard against this possibility, it is common practice to do one of two things on a regular basis.

1/ regularly remove the tubes and have them commercially tested;

2/ replace the tubes with new stock on a regular basis.

These two methods may give the operator a degree of confidence ///but in fact, it can be shown that the faith placed in both methods is misplaced.

It is a known fact that removal of a tube from its socket results in a number of potentially damaging mechanical stresses on the metal to glass seals around the pins. Each insertion of an all glass tube will cause micro-cracking of the glass around the pin. This will invariably cause a small leakage of air into the tube, causing ‘gassing’ and eventually leading to its demise.

Removal for testing will also break the intimate contact between the holder and the tube contact pin, resulting in a poorer contact on re-insertion.

Many tube testers apply unreasonable electrical stresses to the valve internal electrodes and it is not uncommon for a known good valve to be damaged during the test. Tube testers can also give erroneous results depending on the way they perform the tests, possibly allowing faulty tubes to show ‘good’ and the good valves to be rejected as ‘bad’.

The second method of ‘blanket replacement’ with new stock on a regular basis can also lead to problems because if the failure distribution curve for tubes is analysed, it can be seen to follow the classic ‘bathtub’ failure curve. This inevitably means that an amplifier which is regularly ‘re-tubes’ will inevitably be considerably more likely to fail during the first hundred hours service than one which has been left untouched.

TubeSync overcomes these problems by performing an ‘in circuit’ test on the tubes every time the amplifier is powered up. The mutual conductance (gm) of the tube is measured by monitoring the cathode current of each valve whilst adjusting the grid bias in fixed steps. The results are tabulated and the new value is compared with previously stored values. A decision is then made on how far the tube has decayed in emission since the last test. Outputs from the device inform the user of the predicted remaining life of the tube.

Doug Doppler Demos Orange Amps Rockerverb 100 with DIVO Frankfurt Musikmesse 2011

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Doug Doppler Demos Orange Amps Rockerverb 100 with DIVO Musikmesse 2011

Orange Amps Rockerverb 100 with DIVO Musikmesse 2011 / Doug Doppler

Orange Amps Rockerverb 100 with DIVO Musikmesse 2011 / Doug Doppler

Tube Amp Testing For Professional Stage Performers – Engineering Tube Talk

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

A common requirement for tube amplifiers used for professional and stage purposes is that there should be a high percentage of confidence that one or more tubes will not fail during the performance. Tubes are often thought of in the same manner as light bulbs, in that they are most likely to fail catastrophically at switch on. This means that the moments just after the switch on point constitute the most stressful and potentially damaging periods in the life of the equipment.

In an attempt to guard against this possibility, it is common practice to do one of two things on a regular basis.

1/ regularly remove the tubes and have them commercially tested;

2/ replace the tubes with new stock on a regular basis.

These two methods may give the operator a degree of confidence but in fact, it can be shown that the faith placed in both methods is misplaced.

It is a known fact that removal of a tube from its socket results in a number of potentially damaging mechanical stresses on the metal to glass seals around the pins. Each insertion of an all glass tube will cause micro-cracking of the glass around the pin. This will invariably cause a small leakage of air into the valve, causing ‘gassing’ and eventually leading to its demise.

Removal for testing will also break the intimate contact between the holder and the tube contact pin, resulting in a poorer contact on re-insertion.

Many tube testers apply unreasonable electrical stresses to the tube internal electrodes and it is not uncommon for a known good valve to be damaged during the test. Tube testers can also give erroneous results depending on the way they perform the tests, possibly allowing faulty tubes to show ‘good’ and the good valves to be rejected as ‘bad’.

The second method of ‘blanket replacement’ with new stock on a regular basis can also lead to problems because if the failure distribution curve for tubes is analysed, it can be seen to follow the classic ‘bathtub’ failure curve. This inevitably means that an amplifier which is regularly ‘re-tubes’ will inevitably be considerably more likely to fail during the first hundred hours service than one which has been left untouched.

TubeSync overcomes these problems by performing an ‘in circuit’ test on the tubes every time the amplifier is powered up. The mutual conductance (gm) of the tube is measured by monitoring the cathode current of each valve whilst adjusting the grid bias in fixed steps. The results are tabulated and the new value is compared with previously stored values. A decision is then made on how far the tube has decayed in emission since the last test. Outputs from the device inform the user of the predicted remaining life of the tube.

TubeSync_350

Backline Rental Companies Save Time & Money With TubeSync

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Backline rental companies don’t shell out on big, powerful expensive amps if they’re not going to be used on stage by pro musicians or semi-pro at the very least. That also means that the public shell out to go and see the artists play. Therefore, neither party will be particularly chuffed if an amp tube goes in the middle of a performance. Many travelling pro’s use the services of a backline rental company to take care of their equipment, however many tube guitar amps have problems which cannot be avoided by even the best tech.

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So yes, the pro musician or backliner probably carries a spare amp or three just in case, not to mention a box full of matched tubes!

Peace of Mind

TubeSync gives the backline tech and the musician peace of mind; simple. With TubeSync fitted in the amplifier, it’s a bit like having a dedicated amp tech working full time on that amp from the moment it’s turned on to the moment it’s turned off. Best not to fiddle around too much, then. Better still, let TubeSync do what fiddling there needs to be done. Tubesync sits within the circuitry and ensures that the pairs remain matched throughout, and micro-adjusting the biases when necessary. Four LEDs display the status of each tube, in a 100W head for example, if a failure occurs TubeSync will immediately switch out the affected pair; OK, the amp will be functioning at only half power, but at least it will be working. That’s peace of mind. Knowing that this technology is available but not using it would be a bit like driving really fast whilst wearing welding goggles. Don’t want to worry you or anything.

Crowd at the rock concertWhy Choose TubeSync

•    Performance peace of mind
•    Greater efficiency due to reduced maintenance back at the workshop
•    Can be configured to work with any fixed bias tube amp
•    Logs how the long the amp has been driven with audio
•    Records faults seen by the amp – Gives the tech full diagnostics
•    No need to purchase tubes in matched pairs anymore, TubeSync takes care of the biasing
•    Save money, better tube life / only need to change the defective tube
•    Reduces quiescent power consumption
•    Detects tube failure and prevents catastrophic damage to amp
•    Switches out faulty tubes and runs amps at half power until tube can be changed

and there’s much more….

Bias Runner Software

Improving amplifier biasing methods, servicing and fault diagnostics

Interfacing with Bias Engine hardware, the Bias Runner software has been designed to allow professional amp technicians to interrogate the status of an amplifier, alter bias settings, perform field diagnostics and configure the amp for best performance, further adding value to your services.

Bias Runner

Bias Runner is easy to install, offering full fault diagnostics, enabling tube biasing with and without audio present, either collectively or as individual tubes. It is the perfect tool for warranty provision and servicing, providing a database of hardware serial numbers and storing amplifier parameter settings for full traceability.

Please click here for your free information pack

KBO Dynamics TubeSync Technology

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Introduction

There is a certain quirkiness about the British psyche. On the one hand, the proportion of consumers in this country who actually bother thoroughly to read instruction manuals is undoubtedly very low. On the other, there was a Japanese survey, apparently, that found of all significant inventions going back over 200 years, 55% of them were British. Obviously, the Germans are more disciplined and better organised. The Americans are driven. The Japanese are still incredibly advanced technically, yet the British struggle to get the trains running on time. Maybe that’s the point: because we’re surrounded by chaos, we’ve had to become inventive.

The Americans make the best electric guitars but the British make the best amplification, goes the old adage. Doubtless, there are as many British luthiers as American amp manufacturers chorusing their disagreement, but as a general rule, this is probably true. And although if you look at all the great British amp makers – Hiwatt, Marshall, Sound City, Orange and the rest – they all have an Achilles Heel: the tubes. Ironic, really; amps that collectively have been responsible for the greatest sounds in contemporary music relying on components whose design hasn’t altered at all for decades. Enter TubeSync.

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The engineering guys here at KBO Dynamics – inventors of TubeSync technology -are into power supply. Their background ranges from white goods to defence, and to be fair, making a washing machine go is hardly rock’n’roll. But when they turned their knowledgeable gaze towards tube amps, well, that’s different. For example, when a technician at Hiwatt builds a Custom tube amplifier, he and he alone will spend 20 hours soldering the components to stringent quality control guidelines: no production line or PCBs here. Yet, despite this labour of love, if the tubes fail, the amp won’t work. So when KBO Dynamics approached Hiwatt with a system that could monitor the tubes constantly when the amp is turned on, adjust the biases, forewarn if the tube was getting flaky and even switch pairs should one of the tubes fail completely, they pricked up their ears.

TubeSync

Musicians don’t shell out for a big, powerful expensive amp if they’re not gigging. That makes them either pro musicians or semi-pro at the very least. That also means that the public shell out to go and see them play. Therefore, neither party will be particularly chuffed if a tube goes in the middle of a performance. Yes, the pro musician probably carries a spare amp just in case, as most guitarists have a spare guitar in case they break a string, but it’s not ideal. TubeSync gives the musician peace of mind; simple. With TubeSync fitted in the amplifier, it’s a bit like having a dedicated amp tech working full time on that amp from the moment it’s turned on to the moment it’s turned off.

custom ampThe output from a traditional 100-watt valve amplifier comes from two pairs of EL34 tubes: matched 1 and 4, and 2 and 3. There are companies who sell ‘matched’ pairs of these tubes, as two identical tubes will tend to last longer than an unmatched pair. Normally, the EL34 will operate at 50Ma, although they can be rated higher, but the higher they are rated, the shorter their life. Best not to fiddle around too much, then. Better still, let TubeSync do what fiddling there needs to be done. The device, which is not an integral part of the amplifier, sits within the circuitry and ensures that the pairs remain matched throughout, and micro-adjusting the biases when necessary. Four LEDs on the facia plate – one for each tube – serve as a visual indicator of the state of each one. So the musician is given adequate warning if one of the tubes is getting flaky. In the unlikely event of one of the tubes letting go completely without warning, TubeSync will immediately switch out the affected pair; OK, the amp will be functioning at only half power, but at least it will be working. That’s peace of mind. Knowing that this technology is available but not using it would be a bit like driving really fast whilst wearing welding goggles. Don’t want to worry you or anything.

hayden Granted, having TubeSync installed in the amp is going to give peace of mind, but then we at KBO Dynamics haven’t just left it at that. Professionals in the music industry need to find out not only that there are certain strains on the tubes within the amp, but are there conditions within the live situation that perhaps put an amount of stress on the tubes above others. Handy that the techies can plug a laptop into TubeSync and get a readout, then. Handier still, we are working on an interface that when completed will allow the TubeSync-ed amp to hook up with either us or Hiwatt via the internet, and the amp’s performance can be monitored remotely in real time, even if the gig is in Australia. How formula 1 is that then? But then again, it isn’t, when you think about it; it’s more like professional progress. The Rolling Stones, for example, earn millions every time they tour – having seen them, they’re worth every penny, but that’s just one opinion – but they will never have toured in the past with amps loaded with TubeSync. Imagine the poor old amp techs frantically peering through the grilles of the back line checking for the dreaded EL34 red death glow while the band is laying it down for over a million fans on a beach in Brazil: now that’s stress.

We are talking with other amplifier manufacturers, but Hiwatt was a logical place to start: they are fiercely proud of their reputation for reliability, rightly so, and any technology that compliments that reputation is clearly going to be of interest to them. Both KBO Dynamics and Hiwatt feel that the incorporation of TubeSync technology genuinely adds value not just to the amplifier, but also to the whole amplification process. Tubes are still fairly reliable; with or without TubeSync, manufacturers wouldn’t build tube amps if they weren’t and we’re not in the business of scaremongering. However, the fact of the matter is that they are still the least reliable component part of the amp, and if you have experienced ‘sod’s law’, then you’ll know that if a tube is going to fail then it’ll pick the most inconvenient time to do so. Going back to the driving analogy, the odds of you needing the airbag in your car are reassuringly long. But try driving a car without one fitted, you genuinely do feel vulnerable.

Conclusion

In recent years, there has been an exponential rise in ‘extreme sports’ and the arrival of the adrenaline junkie, doubtless in response to an increasingly risk-averse society. The term “Nanny State” has been coined as a result. But let’s keep things in perspective; there’s a big difference in safety for safety’s sake and straightforward common sense. TubeSync technology has been designed to prolong the life of the tubes in the gigging musician’s amp – which is good – and also to alert them to the fact that the tube is approaching the end of its life – also good. We think that’s common sense, which is why we invented it.

TubeSync_500

TubeSync Service Points : Why Should You?

Friday, September 10th, 2010

TubeSync technology

TubeSync streamlines with the amp’s circuitry to constantly test and monitor the amp without altering the fundamental amplification process, tone or sound. It eliminates the need for bias current matching, increases tube life by micro-adjusting the bias on each tube, predicts tube failure and can, in the event of tube failure, even run the amp at half power, preventing catastrophic amp damage. ­­

The result is an amp unhampered by many of the problems associated with conventional tube amplification allowing musicians to enjoy classic tube sound quality without the frustrations.

These are just some of TubeSync’s unique features:

  • Eliminates the need for bias current matching of output tubes
  • Micro-adjusts the bias on each tube to ensure its full potential is realised
  • Assures reliability
  • Maintains optimum performance
  • Increases tube life
  • Reduces quiescent power consumption
  • Sets tubes at their optimum temperature as soon as you power up
  • Detects tube failure and prevents catastrophic damage to amp
  • Switches out faulty tubes and runs amps at half power until tube can be changed

A new industry standard

TubeSync technology has now been incorporated in new amp designs from some of the world’s most prominent amp manufacturers. Hiwatt, famed for their legendary reliability, was one of the first OEMs to recognise the potential of TubeSync for further enhancing the reliability and performance of their amps. KBO Dynamics continues to work with the industry’s biggest names to raise the bar in tube performance and reliability, creating a new industry standard in amp design and manufacture.

Introducing the Bias Engine

The Bias Engine is the hardware that encapsulates TubeSync’s unique technology. Fitting the Bias Engine is a straightforward procedure, with all necessary components supplied within the retrofit kit. It is stipulated that the Bias Engine is fitted by an accredited technician.

Bias engine retailThe Bias Engine is sold as a part of the TubeSync Professional Amp Upgrade Kit containing:

TubeSync Bias Engine Hardware

TubeSync hardware is wired straight into the amp’s circuitry. The Bias Engine is a very compact component that can be incorporated in both point-to-point and PCB wired amps.

Tube fault LED indicator harness and amp chassis LED plate

The Bias Engine is wired to 4 LED indicators that permanently illuminate when the tube is faulty and ‘flash’ when the tube needs to be replaced. The LEDs sit on the amp chassis, surrounded by the LED plate.

Wiring harness and mechanical fixings

The wiring harness, bundling all necessary wires and connectors, completes the kit along with a full set of mechanical fixings for securing the Bias Engine.

TubeSync Bias Runner software

Improving amplifier biasing methods, servicing and fault diagnostics

Interfacing with Bias Engine hardware, our Bias Runner software has been designed to allow OEMs and professional amp technicians to interrogate the status of an amplifier, alter bias settings, perform field diagnostics and configure the amp for best performance, further adding value to your services.Bias Runner_02

Bias Runner is easy to install, offering full fault diagnostics, enabling tube biasing with and without audio present, either collectively or as individual tubes. It is the perfect tool for warranty provision and servicing, providing a database of hardware serial numbers and storing amplifier parameter settings for full traceability.

Total service hours

Reads and displays the total number of hours the amplifier has been powered up. Optional reset facility available if required.

Total duration with audio

Reads and displays the total number of hours the amplifier has been driven with audio. Optional reset facility available if required.

Total hours idle

Reads and displays the total number of hours the amplifier has remained idle i.e. has not been driven with audio. Optional reset facility available if required.

Faulty tube log

Reads and displays the number of times a tube has been switched off due to a fault during the lifetime of the amplifier. A reset function is available for each individual tube.

Bias current (Audio present)

Enables the user to adjust tube current bias settings collectively or individually

Bias Current Idle (No Audio Present)

Enables the user to adjust tube current bias settings collectively or individually

Hardware and version status

Displays the serial number of the TubeSync module and the hardware version number

Serial number and settings database

Stores all serial numbers together with amplifier parameter settings in a   database for full traceability

Our commitment to you

We work closely with all of our partners to promote high standards and to support you in realising the full benefits of our truly innovative and impactful core technology and associated products.

As a TubeSync retailer or accredited technician you will receive:

Guaranteed product quality

All of our products are manufactured to the highest quality standards using state of the art assembly equipment. All components are ROSH compliant and uniquely identified for full batch traceability

A comprehensive solution

A complete package of hardware and software supports ease of use and easy configuration

Technical support

Our approach is founded on product and service quality. We offer our retail partners generous technical support to ensure that you are fully equipped for promoting TubeSync technology and advising your customers appropriately.

As an authorised retailer you will appoint a technician(s) who will receive training from our own technical team and who will be required to become certified as an accredited TubeSync technician before performing installations.

Warranty

All components come with a 12 month warranty which commences from the date of installation. Full warranty terms are available on request.

TubeSync Bias Engines Roll Off The Production Line

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Due to popular demand the TubeSync Bias Engine is now in volume production!

TubeSync

For order enquiries please email sales@tubesync.co.uk

TubeSync UK Service Points Being Appointed

Friday, August 13th, 2010

We are offering select retailers and amp technicians the opportunity to become authorised suppliers of TubeSync technology and to take advantage of our new innovative amplifier technology.

  • Become a supplier of KBO Dynamics’ TubeSync Bias Engine
  • Generate revenue from hardware sales and fitting
  • Benefit from accreditation as a TubeSync technician
  • Add value to your offering with improved amplifier biasing methods, servicing and fault diagnostics, using TubeSync Bias Runner software
  • Get involved as TubeSync emerges in new amp designs from major amp manufacturers.

If you would like to be considered as TubeSync ‘Service Point’ then please email : info@tubesync.co.uk or telephone +44 (0) 1207 585846.

TubeSync_Service_Point

Hiwatt Amplify Their Success With TubeSync

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

IT TAKES more than sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll to make a guitarist sound great. John Hill meets North East amplifier makers at the cutting edge of technology.


Hiwatt & TubeSync

ANDY Fallon and Colin Arrowsmith are not guit- arists. Their affair with the valve amplifier isn’t born of a youth spent practising solos or arguing over kit specifications next to the counter of their local guitar store.

In fact, Andy’s experience lies in automotive and military engineering, while Colin is an expert in microelectronics.

However, their contribution to a piece of kit beloved of the White Stripes, The Who and Black Sabbath has attracted the attention of major international amp-makers.

Andy and Colin are co-founders of KBO Dynamics, a Consett company created to market technology designed to improve audio and guitar amplification.

They are the men behind TubeSync, a “tube management system” which monitors the performance of valve amplifiers to avoid meltdowns while maintaining sound.

The product won the innovation award in the Durham and Wearside heat of the nebusinessawards 2009, run by The Journal and Evening Gazette.

KBO co-founder Andy said: “We were looking for a niche market. Neither of us plays the guitar, but we did a lot of brainstorming.

“Colin worked with microelectronics, but he’s also an expert with valve technology. We realised very quickly that the biggest application for valves was inside guitar amps.”

The valve amp isn’t exactly a rapidly advancing technological product. The technology was developed between the world wars and uses a series of vacuum tubes to regulate a signal. It was present in items from TVs to radios, but fell out of favour in the 70s.

The resurgence of such equipment has been prompted by high-end users in the audio and guitar amp market, who praise its natural sound.

Andy said: “There’s a warmer, more rounded tone to it. Anyone who’s serious about playing a guitar would only use a valve amp.”

When they developed TubeSync, the pair didn’t set out to change the sound. Instead, they set their sights on the downside, the problems that plague valve amp users looking for that special sound.

He said: “The closest you can compare it to is an engine management system on a car. It’s like having a maintenance technician looking after your amp 24/7 without you noticing it. It’s continuously monitoring the circuit, looking for faults.

“We got a market research report from Think M in Newcastle. It conducted a series of live interviews with OEM companies and guitarists.

“We looked at the problems people were talking about, but we didn’t change the sound.

“It can detect faults. It can disconnect a pair of valves if it finds one is faulty. You normally have to buy valves in matched pairs and you need to take the amp to a technician to tweak it, but with TubeSync you only need to buy one valve if one fails and it can tweak the system for you.

“One faulty valve can blow up the output transformer. TubeSync can detect this and prevent catastrophic damage.”

KBO had support from a number of North East backers. It won £90,000 from NorthStar Equity Investors’ Proof of Concept fund, developed its prototype with help from Business Link and got £20,000 from the North East England Investment Centre. The process was then advanced by a grant of £20,000 from One North East.

In all, Andy estimates the product has taken 18 months and around £200,000 to develop.

He said: “We built and developed it from the bottom up. We tried to use components that were available in the marketplace and we created our own unique algorithm.

“We don’t think there’s a similar product to this on the market and we’re hoping to receive a patent in the next couple of months.”

Right now, KBO is on the hunt for buyers. The team has just returned from the international Musikmesse instrument trade show in Frankfurt, where they saw a live band perform using TubeSync technology for the first time.

He said: “It was being used by a band playing Pinball Wizard by The Who. We’re expecting to see the technology on stage properly some time this year.

“The lead time on the product is about eight weeks so it could well be appearing in the summer.”

British amp manufacturer Hiwatt, whose users include Arctic Monkeys, The Killers and The Kooks, has incorporated TubeSync into its amps and Andy says that others, such as fellow Brits Orange, are keen.

The company is talking to manufacturers about fitting it in amps this year and down the line it may create variants of the product that could be fitted by amp technicians or even end users.

TubeSync_225

Hiwatt launch TubeSync at the Frankfurt Musikmesse 2010

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Famed for their legendary reliability and tone, Hiwatt have gone one step further in the reliability stakes by employing TubeSync® technology in their already bulletproof amplifiers.

Over the last year, Hiwatt and Durham-based KBO Dynamics have developed their own version of a pioneering technology called TubeSync®, which Hiwatt will launch at Frankfurt Musikmesse 2010 in March. The technology has been developed in order to overcome problems associated with conventional tube amplification such as biasing, tube longevity and overall reliability. What the collaboration has achieved is to improve amplifier design without changing the fundamental amplification process yet retaining the classic Hiwatt tone and sound.

Hiwatt Launch TubeSync

Although not an integral part of the amplification process, Tubesync® is connected to the heart of the amp’s circuitry, constantly testing and monitoring; it’s like having an amp technician working full time inside the box every time the amp is powered up. This technology eliminates the need for tube bias current matching, increases tube life by micro-adjusting the bias on each tube, predicts tube failure and can, in the event of a catastrophic tube failure, even run the amp at half power. The result is the eradication of many of the problems hampering conventional tube amplifiers and peace of mind for the musician wise enough to have taken this route.

KBO Dynamics Chief Exec Andy Fallon: “It has been a pleasure working with Hiwatt who have been extremely receptive to change and have embraced the new technology. They have seen the benefits it can bring to them and of course, their customers, and we are looking forward to further exciting collaborations. This technology genuinely has raised the bar concerning reliability and classic tube amps, and what’s more. It’s been developed exclusively in the UK.”

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