Posts Tagged ‘valves’

Orange Amplification Announces DIVO VT1000 Valve Tester

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Orange Amplification has released the DIVO  VT1000 Valve Tester, an automatic valve tester that performs a host of diagnostics on both preamp and power amp tubes. The unit has one octal and two nine pin valve sockets to fit pe-amp and EL34 valves. Once inserted, the user presses the start button and the tests are run.

Vt1000 valve tester

VT1000 Details:

Tests run:

  • Heater filament test: Short circuit
  • Heater filament test: Open circuit
  • Heater filament test: Tolerance check
  • Heater cathode insulation: Leakage
  • Heater cathode insulation: Short Circuit
  • Tests for heater current abnormalities
  • Amplification factor
  • Voltage gain
  • Power gain
  • Screen grid test
  • Mutual conductance test
  • Dual test for double triodes
  • Emission
  • Inter electrode leakage
  • Inter electrode short circuit
  • Flash-over (arc detection, high voltage breakdown)
  • Gas ionisation test

Compatible Valves:

  • EL34/6CA7
  • EL34L
  • 6L6
  • 6V6/6v6GTA
  • KT66
  • KT77
  • KT88
  • 6550
  • 5881
  • EL84/6BQ5
  • ECC81/12AT7
  • ECC82/12AU7
  • ECC83/12AX7
  • ECC99
  • 12BH7

Does Plate Dissipation Affect Valve / Tube Life In Practice ??

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

In general, the obvious connection between higher anode dissipation and shorter tube life holds good, however,  many other factors affect tube life, including accuracy of heater voltages and the efficiency of tube cooling within amplifiers.

The tube leaves the factory with a known amount of cathode coating material which is the source of all the electron emission. In use, this material is used up as it emits electrons when heated by the filament and plate current is drawn.

If plate current is drawn before the cathode is at operating temperature, the surface of the cathode can be damaged (so called ‘cathode stripping’).

This is why the Standby switch should be off when the amplifier is warming up. If, however, the tube is operated for long periods with the filament hot with little or no plate current being drawn, then an oxide-like coating can form on the cathode, effectively blocking the emission of electrons even when normal operation is required (known as ‘cathode poisoning’). TubeSync takes care of this by automatically controlling the bias at both start-up and run conditions.

vacuum tube EL34 valve

Plate dissipation is generally quoted by the manufacturer as a maximum value which, if exceeded could cause damage to the tube and should not generally be used for ‘normal’ operation. The relationship between tube life and plate dissipation follows an exponential curve. Tubes operated correctly at around 30% maximum dissipation can have lives in the region of tens of thousands of hours and can last several decades of years. This figure decreases rapidly as the dissipation increases, in some cased down to hundreds or even tens of hours as they approach or exceed their maximum plate dissipation rating.

Cooling is extremely important as running tubes very hot also increases the risk of arcing and a condition known as thermal runaway, which can instantly destroy the cathode material, making the tube useless. Conventionally biased tubes are most at risk when biased towards ‘Class-A’ operation, as they experience maximum power dissipation when no audio signal is present.

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Orange TubeSync DIVO OV4

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Engine management for your valve amp? It’s here and it works brilliantly

Nick Guppy (Guitarist).

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Bias, and how to set it, is probably one of the most contentious issues for many valve amp users, especially those who like to tweak their amp by installing different makes or types of output valve.

Put simply, bias is your valve’s idle adjustment – it’s like making sure your car is ticking over properly. In fixed bias amplifiers, this is achieved by applying a negative voltage to the valve’s control grid – literally a grid of wire that sits between the cathode and plate.

“Once set, the OV4 continually micro-adjusts the bias current for each individual valve, keeping the amp running at peak efficiency.”

When you switch your amp on, electrons are generated at the cathode and pulled towards the plate, causing current to flow. This happens because electrons are negatively charged particles and the plate is energised with a strong positive voltage – opposite poles attract.

Varying the control grid’s negative voltage means this flow of electrons can be slowed to a trickle, or even stopped – like poles repel.

Although people often refer to the negative bias voltage setting, it’s the actual idle current that is important. All valves have an ideal idle current, typically around 30-50 milliamps, and for the amp to operate at its best it’s important that all your output valves are idling equally.

Click here to find out more!

This is done by fitting valves that have been matched in pairs or quartets, however even the best matching doesn’t mean that valves will wear equally, so in order to keep your amp operating at its best, an occasional small adjustment to the bias is sometimes necessary.

Usually these adjustments are at best a compromise; as individual output valves rarely draw the same idle current. What if there was a device that could measure and automatically adjust the bias for each individual valve? Well now there is: the Orange/TubeSync DIVO, which stands for Dynamic Intelligent Valve Optimisation.

It’s been available in OEM format for some time, however retrofitting this to an existing amp isn’t easy and is definitely beyond most guitarists’ capabilities. What was needed was a simple, bolt-on accessory that can be added to any fixed bias amp, and that’s what Orange has now come up with, in the shape of the DIVO OV4.

Built into an aluminium case about the size of a small paperback, the OV4 module comes with both a bracket and strong industrial Velcro fixings. Four piggyback octal sockets, or interceptors as Orange calls them, are connected to a strong nylon multi-pin plug that is located at one end of the module.

There are two small push-button switches, one offering a choice of standard and custom bias settings, while the other is called ‘share the wear’. At the other end of the module there’s an earth connection, together with an RJ45 socket and a standard 6mm jack socket.

The RJ45 socket is where the DIVO OV4’s interface module plugs in, allowing the product to be configured and interrogated from a PC using a small Windows-compatible program. This handy software lets authorised resellers/installers configure the custom bias switch setting, either globally or for each valve individually, as well as a second ‘idle only’ bias current that operates as a progressive standby feature.

Once set, the OV4 continually micro-adjusts the bias current for each individual valve, keeping the amp running at peak efficiency. It also means that you can run any combination of standard octal power valve you like, although pairs, such as 6L6s and EL34s are more useful.

With no audio present, the OV4 can automatically drop the bias current to a lower setting to reduce wear and tear, instantly returning to its higher level when audio is detected.

In the event of a valve fault, a clever algorithm shuts off the affected pair automatically and remembers which valves are at fault, displaying them on warning LEDs, as well as in the software, while also keeping a record of how many hours use the amp has had, both with and without audio.

The jack socket connects to a standard footswitch letting you switch the amp from full power (all four valves on) to half power, moreover the ‘share the wear’ function remembers which pair of valves were switched off the last time and alternates them, keeping wear as even as possible, although if you use two different pairs of valves, such as 6L6s and EL34s, you can use this as a tone option, swapping from one pair to the other. Cool or what?

In Use

Click here to find out more!

Installing the OV4 on an unmolested 1970s Marshall 100-watt Super Lead head, we deliberately plug in an assortment of unmatched power valves – an EL34, a 6V6, a 6L6 and a 6550.

Setting the custom bias measurements for each valve in the DIVO’s software, we use a special piggyback test socket connected to a multimeter to verify the DIVO does actually do what it says on the can – needless to say, it does.

We then install an old set of EL34s and compare these results with a brand new matched quartet of Groove Tubes – the OV4 automatically senses the difference, easily dealing with big variations across the old valves and smaller ones on the new set.

Sonically, the OV4 noticeably tightens up the Super Lead’s midrange focus and attack while also slightly reducing mains hum, indicating that the magic DIVO box is actually making a positive improvement to the amp’s performance.

For owners of most fixed bias four-valve amps, DIVO offers a reliable and simple means of ensuring peak operation at all times; it works efficiently and transparently and should extend the working life of valves way beyond the point when most people would start thinking about replacement.

There was a time when all cars used a mechanical device called a carburettor to spray fuel into the engine – mechanics had to adjust them by hand, using a plethora of vacuum gauges, stethoscopes and experience to get the best results.

Today, this dark art has been replaced by the convenience and reliability of electronic fuel injection and engine management – if your mechanic wants to know what’s happening inside your engine he doesn’t make intelligent guesses any more, he plugs in a laptop instead and the car tells him what’s wrong.

The DIVO OV4 is really like engine management for your valve amp. It’s ready-fitted to the Orange Rockerverb 100, meanwhile this retrofit version is quick and easy for authorised installers to fit to almost any four-valve design.

As there’s presently no competition, it’s difficult to make comparisons, but we think the price is pitched just about right. Those who like to tweak things may be frustrated that the PC interface and diagnostic software isn’t available to the general public, however there is the possibility of damaging your amp if it isn’t configured properly, so this is an entirely sensible decision.

DIVO works perfectly and does an excellent job of keeping even the most wayward valves on the straight and narrow. If you want to get the absolute best out of your amp and improve its reliability, DIVO is almost an essential – it’s a real innovation.

Verdict

A brilliant idea from the UK that could be the way of the future for valve amp design.

TubeSync Fitted To A Mesa Boogie F-50

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Sensational blues guitarist Mitch Laddie has been out touring with the product fitted to his Mesa/Boogie F-50, which he said sounds “incredible”. “I had totally fallen out of love with this particular amp before Tubesync was fitted but the difference in sound is more than substantial.The response and tone have been improved ten-fold. Very tight, very fat and all round punchier, especially in the low to mid frequencies.”

Mitch & His Mesa F50“I believe the product is very interesting and definitely nothing like anything I’ve seen or used before. The main advantages of the product are that not only does it give you a valve maintenance feature by displaying a light if a fault is found within a valve, but it manages your valves to run at an equal number of milliamps. This means that each valve is working at an equal rate which in theory gives you optimum amp performance.

F50

Above : TubeSync fitted to a Mesa Boogie F-50

Oranges in the Tornado

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Pics from Glory Days music in Joplin, MO USA. A reporter at CNN saw the orange tolex and took the pics.

We sincerely hope that the company can recover from this, our thoughts and best wishes go out to all.

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Checkout the cymbal sliced into the door frame

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Orange Amps DIVO TubeSync and OV4 Explained

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Orange Amps presents DIVO with TubeSync technology. DIVO helps increase the life of your tubes, protects against unexpected tube failure, and even allows for (4) different tube types to be installed in the same amp.

DIVO will come pre-installed on select Orange Rockerverb 100 MKII heads beginning Summer 2011. The OV4 stand-alone unit, also available in 2011, can be installed on almost any amp that has (4) power tube slots.

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TubeSync DIVO A Brilliant Idea From The UK That Could Be The Way Of The Future For Valve Amp Design

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Checkout the TubeSync DIVO review in the April 2011 Guitarist Magazine.

”TubeSync DIVO works perfectly and does an excellent job of keeping even the most wayward valves on the straight and narrow. If you want to get the absolute best out of your amp and improve its reliability, DIVO is almost an essential – it’s a real innovation”.

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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.

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TubeSync Facebook Friends Are Now 2,000+

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Due to the growing demand TubeSync has now over 2,000 friends on Facebook!

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Click on the link above if you would like to join the TubeSync Revolution

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.

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