August 29, 2018 - 01:08 am|
|Hi Jonathan -- First of all, I want to apologize for the absurdly late response, but it appears that digital gremlins have been at play, in that the usual automatic notification on this end that notifies me of a posted comment failed in its duties. Such glitches are not tolerated on Tronola, so the gremlins will now be hunted down to the ends of this world and beyond!|
In any event, your question likely has wide spread interest, so I will go ahead and answer at this late date if only to serve all who visit the site, and hope that you will pick up on my response at some point.
As for drifting bias readings, it can occur from a number of things, but the usual culprits include:
1. A varying AC power line, being from various appliances in your home, to a varying AC power grid, most particularly in the summer time, when early morning and late evening the voltage can run high, but will be notably lower during the heat of the day due to all the A/C units operating.
While EFB™ action from the EFB regulator will account for the varying B+ voltage levels that a varying AC power line produces, it cannot account for the change in heater voltage applied to the tubes, which can easily change quiescent current draw a couple of mA either way from an ideal bias setting.
2. Poorly matched tubes to begin with -- as in they were matched with element voltages that are well off of typical operating voltages in actual use. Also, new tubes need time to cook for their characteristics to stabilize so that a real match can be had. This is why tubes from the better providers like Jim McShane take the time to cook the tubes in large batches, with each tube being monitored so that when he sends out a matched set, the tubes you get will all typically pull within 1 or 2 mA of each other, and do so over time, which is a very good quiescent match indeed. It's also why tubes from these vendors cost a little more as well -- but the cost is well worth it. The Russian EL84M tubes are excellent tubes, but are well known to vary all over the map in terms of characteristic consistency from one example to the next. Therefore, it is always best to purchase these tubes from a quality vendor who does an honest job of culling out the unstable pieces and who supplies matched quads and pairs that were determined to be so matched under real world operating conditions over time.
3. Gassy tubes -- Tubes that have been stored for many decades and then sold as NOS NIB tubes can often be gassy internally. Such a tube will be quite unstable when first placed (or re-placed) into service. A tube with this history and displaying this behavior should be watched initially for the first few hours of operation, but the good news is that tube will in fact re-stabilize again with a little use, during which time the getter collects the lose gas molecules and stabilize the tube again.
There are other issues too that can cause bias instability, like components drifting with thermal heating of the unit, but if the specified parts are used to populate the boards, this will be held to an absolute minimum.
The drift you have observed with those tubes you purchased from Jim appears to be rather normal, with minor drift moving back and forth between the tubes (possibly a number of times) for up to about the first 50 hours of use. After that, the tubes will have settled into the individual characteristic they will typically display throughout most of their usable life.
I hope this helps!
March 24, 2018 - 12:59 pm|
I'm looking for guidance gauging the health of my amp. I have an SCA35, my first tube amp, restored with all Tronola boards, including the EFB. The voltages to the output tubes all run a little high, but I believe are within an acceptable range (I get 17.35VDC to pin 3 and 392VDC to pins 7 and 9).
However, I initially installed a quad of new Sovtek EL84's, which I thought I had biased around .27VDC, but I now assume were never stable and, within maybe 10 hours of playing time, redplated a tube. I have now installed a quad of matched Sovtek EL84M's from Jim McShane. These appear quite stable and I have set the bias around .27VDC as per the EFB instructions, but I am now checking the bias at regular intervals and within 8 hours or so, they have gone from 10mV difference left to right to 20mV apart.
Is this a normal amount of drift or is it a symptom of a problem. If so, what tests can I perform? Any advice is greatly appreciated, and apologies if these are too vague of questions.
January 10, 2018 - 03:59 pm|
|Thanks, once again, for your insight Dave. |
January 09, 2018 - 09:20 am|
|Hi Bill -- Looks like you're getting to the bottom of things regarding your question. I appreciate Steve stepping in during my absence.|
A couple of points that your exercise points out:
1. Unfortunately, in the vacuum tube world today, it is not entirely uncommon to find as much as a 20% variation in Eg1 voltage required to achieve a set current draw This is particularly true if you are comparing American manufactured tubes to the Russian tubes produced today.
2. The good new is that, assuming a good tube, this variance from one tube to the next is not the prime consideration; it is the quiescent current flow through the tube that is most important. Granted, the amplifier will produce the best performance when the characteristics of all four tubes are (nearly) the same, and particularly so at the LF end of the spectrum. But whether they are all matched at a characteristic that requires an EG1 of -13.5 vdc or -16.5 vdc, that is of far less importance than the fact that they are in fact matched at the same characteristic. Now technically, tubes requiring a lower negative Eg1 versus those requiring a greater value will theoretically have a performance edge due to the increased open loop gain they will provide. But we're talking performance differences that would need a proper lab to demonstrate.
3. Your exercise also points out what really good tube testing can tell you. Steve's new VTA is of priceless value in this regard. It has the ability to check the characteristics of a tube at precise, real world (or unit identical) operating voltages to ensure they are all the same, and within the range that a unit was designed to operate at. I have done something similar for years in testing the actual power output that a tube can produce, which is another indicator of a tube's capability as well. At issue then, consider this:
If tubes that require -16.5 vdc Eg1 voltage are well within the characteristic norm, then are tubes that require only -13.5 vdc simply out of norm by normal manufacturing production variation? Or are they out of norm because their cathodes are well worn requiring reduced grid voltage to produce a set, target cathode voltage?
Conversely, if -13.5 vdc Eg1 is the norm, then tubes requiring -16.5 vdc would typically be considered as having a wide tolerance from the norm, or in today's lingo, be considered a "hot" tube. But again, without thorough testing at honest real world operating voltages, you just won't know if the issue between these two sets of tubes is production variation related, or due to worn emission capabilities. Emission testers that check this quality at very low operating voltages are near meaningless as the target current flow is also quite low: Therefore, a well worn tube can still perform quite well in an emission test.
Thanks for posting your observations. It gives a chance to address basic issues that no doubt others grapple with as well!
January 05, 2018 - 11:54 am|
|My suspicion has been realized. I had the bias set at .270 with the new tubes, took them out, and put the old ones back in. Bias was around .070. I adjusted the trimmer to achieve the desired .270. Lo and behold, the cathode voltage was 13.6. Put the new tubes in, readjusted the trimmer to .270 and cathode was 16.6. I had no idea there was that much difference with EL 84’s, especially the same brand. I guess my original tubes matched those used by Dynaco when they published their spec of 13.5. I|
I think I read somewhere that Dave designed the EFB to accommodate most EL84’s.
January 04, 2018 - 04:55 pm|
|Yeah, I’m probably worrying about nothing except for a couple of years I was always getting 13.4 - 13.64. In fact, just before Christmas I was getting 13.64 and then a few days later, 16.4 or so. Same wall voltage, same everthing. I always have bias set at .270 VDC. WEIRD! |
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