Valve technology has been around since the early 1900s but with the advent of solid state devices valve amplifiers have been eschewed by all but diehard enthusiasts. Much like vinyl records, valve amplification holds a special magic that solid state and digital technologies simply cannot replicate and like vinyl, valve amplifiers have been making a return. Unfortunately the build and sound qualities of many currently manufactured cannot match the same standards as amplifiers made in their heyday of the 1930s to 1970s.
Minuet’, a new integrated valve amplifier, hopes to address this failing by using many of the design and assembly procedures of those golden times.
Why Valve/Tube Amplifiers?
Before we go into the design of the new amplifier it might be a good idea to outline the reason why this ancient technology is so good and why you should to consider Minuet' for your entertainment needs.
Very simply, valves, or tubes in the modern parlance, have a character and sound more suited to our analogue ears, they are not as hard and brittle sounding as many solid state amplifiers. Many listeners might say that valves sound 'warmer' - that might be misconstrued as 'woolly' or ill defined, far from it. A properly designed and built valve amplifier will be just as fast and accurate as any solid state amplifier, indeed many good valve amps faster sounding than solid state amps.
One of the main differences between valves and solid state is the way they handle distortion. Without exception, all amplifiers produce distortion. Our ears, speakers and sources distort further our perception of the sound we hear. Solid state amplifiers and valve amplifiers distort in different ways. Whether these distortions are harmonics or fundamentals or a combination of the two, the result is either a pleasing sound or an irritating one. Digital media is an additional source of distortion and valve amplifiers have an inherent quality of negating digital distortion making it much friendlier to listen to.
The Design Brief
The brief for Minuet's design was for a small, very high quality, fully integrated, all-valve amplifier capable of holding its own with the very best hi-fi amplifiers on the market.
From the outset, Minuet' was designed for the way it sounds rather than a theoretical series of calculations set down on paper. Over many years of experience with the design and modification of valve amplifiers it has been found that the theoretical approach to design seldom, if ever, results in the best sounding outcome. Since sound is very subjective, the sound of Minuet' has been reviewed and evaluated by many listeners with all types of music from various sources such as digital, vinyl and FM radio.
Designed to deliver 10 Watts RMS into a wide range of speaker loads the four major considerations were:
- Very low distortion up to 10 Watts* output.
- Wide bandwidth with particular attention to the low frequency end of the spectrum.
- Fast response.
- Unconditionally stable under all conditions.
* In fact Minuet' will deliver 25 Watts at severe overload. The minimum THD brief being met up to the 10 Watts expected, driven past 10 Watts and the THD exponentially rises.
The benchmark for the way this new amplifier was to sound is the late 1950’s LEAK Stereo 20, perhaps one of the finest sounding amplifiers of all time. This new amplifier is housed in a unique, all enveloping case. In order to achieve this, a separate power supply has been decided upon which has the added advantage of minimising hum and noise plus reducing the weight and heat.