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The TAB Guide to Vacuum Tube Audio: Understanding and Building Tube Amps (TAB Electronics) Paperback – 1 Nov 2011

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About the Author

Jerry C. Whitaker is Vice President of Standards Development at the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), Washington, D.C. He was previously President of Technical Press, a consulting company based in the San Jose area. Whitaker has been involved in various aspects of the electronics industry for over 30 years, with specialization in communications. He is the former editorial director and associate publisher of Broadcast Engineering and Video Systems magazines, and a former radio station chief engineer and television news producer. Mr. Whitaker is a Fellow of the Society of Broadcast Engineers, an SBE-certified professional broadcast engineer, a fellow of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.


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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Overall an excellent book, plenty of technical detail but didn't quite live up to expectations
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Amazon.com: HASH(0x96ca8780) out of 5 stars 9 reviews
32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96da4720) out of 5 stars A total miss 15 Dec. 2011
By MythBuster DownUnder - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Firstly, any book on vacuum tube audio is or should be welcome, there aren't enough of them. It takes lots of effort to write and produce such a book, so that is the first star from me. Unfortunately, this is where the problems start (from the very start).

1. The first two chapters (almost 50 pages) are not necessary.

2. The title of the 1st chapter is totally wrong, it is NOT an overview of Vacuum Tube Audio Applications at all, but a weak overview of AC and DC principles, you will not learn much from such a superficial scan of hodge-podge topics such as "Dimensions of Hearing" and "the Atom" A drawing of an iron (FE) atom in a book on building tube amps???

3. The 2nd chapter is better, but again, not deep or practical enough, and as such, not necessary.

4. Some sections of Chapter 3, such as "Electron Optics" again have no place in a book of this kind. The computer "drawing" of a triode's construction on page 60 is weird, totally wrong or impossible to understand! The family of plate curves and transfer curves on page 78 show only the linear parts of the curves, this is NOT what real curves look like, misleading!

5. The choice of circuits used as examples in Chapter 4 is strange, only one type of phase inverters is shown, and the section on "protection measures" does not mention any such measures, simply talks in general terms about maximum grid dissipation.

6. Chapter 5, Interconnection, Layout and Operating Environment" is a total miss, a very shallow overview of an otherwise important topic.

7. The language used throughout the book is very strange, very bureaucratic, such as: "A vacuum tube suffers wear-out because of a predictable chemical reaction" and then it continues "The cathode is the heart of any tube" without saying what that chemical reaction is and why is it important and why is the cathode the heart of any tube. Again, so is the heater, and the anode, and the grid ...

8. Chapter 6 is so-so, but the photograph on page 148, showing 25 or so Heathkit instruments is weird. The caption says "Test equipment for audio project construction". You don't need most of these to build an amp, you may need a few basic ones to test it (such as a dummy load, a function generator, a multimeter and perhaps a scope).

9.The choice of tubes in Chapter 7 again is strange. No 6L6, no EL34, no 6BQ5, no 6SN7 or any other commonly used tubes.

10. Page 189 is the REAL start of the book and this is where in my view the biggest problem with the book becomes obvious, and that is its unsound methodological approach. For instance, the first power supply project is a regulated power supply. Why not start with an unregulated supply (90% of commercial amps do not use regulated power supplies), measure its performance, listen to both amps, then compare it with the regulated power supply IN THE SAME AMP? That would show the readers the benefits gained so they can decide if the prize is worth the price (complexity, cost, etc)

11. The first of many PCB (or what the author calls PWB) designs is given here. Using PCBs in hi-end audio in my view is wrong, it over-complicates things, point-to-point wiring is much easier for constructors. PCB have only one advantage, and that is faster mass production. They have no place in making a one-off amp!

12.There are quite a few errors and omissions in the book, to many to list here, one is on page 214, where a simple phono preamp diagram shows the use of a guitar jack at the input!?

13. On page 254 the author says "Hammond (and perhaps other manufacturers) describes this as "ultra-linear operation." With billing like that, the author had to try it out." It seems the author had never heard about UL circuit or theory of operation before, patented by David Hafler (of Dynaco fame)and Herbert Keroes in 1951.

14. The literature suggested again is very weird, you will not find books by Morgan Jones or the "Radiotron designer's handbook", but you will find books such as "Maintaining Electronic Systems" What the &%$@?

In conclusion, I cannot recommend this book to anyone, despite my best intentions. It does not contribute anything new to the field, and should be read (but only the second half, after page 189) as one person's experience in building two of the designs from the RCA tube manual, nothing more and nothing less.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9758ed68) out of 5 stars Hard to say what it's good for... 1 Dec. 2011
By Michael Kholodov - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is... strange. In fact it is a practical guide to build a few schematics from the RCA manual. The explanations and schematics seem to be simply copied from the manual (without any specific references). The author did not even change the terminology and the design goals, coming probably directly from the 1970s. He for example uses "PWB" instead of "PCB" and "inverse feedback" instead of "negative feedback". Aside of this nitpicking it seems strange that he talks extensively about the advantages of the negative feedback and power saving in the tube equipment. While it was actual at the time the RCA manual was written, today they are not the main goals of a tube audio designer. Speaking about the design. There is none. After reading the book you will not be able to design a new schematic or change an existing one much. For this I recommend excellent books by Morgan Jones. However the book contains useful information about building equipment but again, the Jones' book on this subject covers more material and makes you think in the right direction. The book may be useful for those who want just to build "something with tubes" with minimum hassle.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9792fe88) out of 5 stars A book I found completely useless 28 Nov. 2013
By Plato - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was extremely disappointed with this book - especially with the quality of the writing and the unsatisfactory organization. I found it difficult to follow the explanations of subjects that I already understood. It was essentially impossible to follow the discussion of material I was trying to learn.

Alternatives: I found "Inside the Vacuum Tube" by John Rider to be an excellent and well written introduction to vacuum tubes; yes, it is over 60 years old, but I know of no better place to start learning the basics of tubes. For someone who knows basic principles of electronic circuits, I suggest "Valve Amplifiers" by Morgan Jones. Neither of the books I am recommending require a knowledge of calculus.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9767384c) out of 5 stars not appropriate for hobbyists 14 Feb. 2013
By A.Reader1 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I'll have to agree with the 2 other reviewers on this book. It's quite strange and, overall, not that useful. There's a fair bit of technical information presented but much of it is irrelevant to the topic at hand and/or not used later in the book. This statement applies to much of the first 3 chapters.

The author says "If, on the other hand, you have an interest in vacuum tube audio amplifiers and want to build a system as hobby, this book is probably for you." It's difficult to believe this book was written with the hobbyist in mind. Many of the sentences are too complex and do not help with understanding of tube amps (as suggested by the subtitle); lots of technical terms are introduced without proper definition. It does not lead anyone step-by-step through basic design or understanding of tube amps.

Like so many books published by TAB, it seems only useful if you already possess much pre-existing knowledge of electronics or amplifiers in general. And then, it only summarizes info.

Fortunately, there are other good books out there the most prominent of which are the 2 books by Morgan Jones. You can also look at "Tubes and Circuits" by Bruce Rozenblit or "Inside the Vacuum Tube" by John Rider or "Mullard Tube Circuits for Audio Amplifiers".

My personal favorite is Basic Electronics, volumes 1-6, paperback set, by Van Valkenburgh, Nooger and Neville, aka the Rider books, first published in the 1950's. Volume 2 is on vacuum tubes and has a simple push-pull amp. No construction details, though.

Glad I borrowed Whitaker's book from the library and didn't shell out any cash for it.
HASH(0x99389900) out of 5 stars Highly recommended. This is an excellent book on the topic ... 29 Feb. 2016
By V. Winkler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Highly recommended. This is an excellent book on the topic of vacuum tube audio. Especially well written and thorough treatment for anyone from the unknowing neophyte to the DIY project builder. Once I made my way to the triode and pentode coverage in the book: I had to have one! (Warning! Tubes can sound far better than what you are probably familiar with, and they require more maintenance. But: I'll never go back to solid state...)
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