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Valve Amplifiers

primary to secondary turns ratio, which makes a high quality design more
difficult to achieve. Because of this, the cathode bias resistors must be
bypassed by capacitors, and this is where the problems really begin.
The capacitor is a short circuit to AC, and so prevents feedback, but its
reactance rises at very low frequencies, so it is no longer a short circuit, and
allows feedback. Because the output stage is matched to the load, feedback
causes an immediate rise in distortion and reduction of output power due to
the mismatch. The obvious solution is to fit a large enough capacitor to ensure
that the LF cut-off for this combination is below all frequencies of interest,
perhaps 1 Hz. Remembering that the resistance that the capacitor sees is Rk
in parallel with rk, we can easily calculate the value required.
For a pentode, rk ˆ 1/gm; a typical output pentode has gm ˆ 10 mA/V
at its working point, so rk  100
, which is in parallel with a bias resistor of
, giving a total resistance of 75
. For 1 Hz, we therefore need
2000 mF of capacitance.
2000 mF 50 V capacitors were simply not available at the time, and they
weren't fitted. They are readily available now, but there are two reasons why
you might wish to use a smaller value.

. A 2000 mF capacitor has considerable inductance compared to its capa-

citance, and therefore allows feedback at HF. However, we can avoid this
problem by using a low inductance electrolytic designed for use in switch-
mode power supplies and bypassing it with a smaller capacitor.
. This reason is rather more subtle. If the output stage is driven into Class B
by overload, each cathode tries to move more positively than negatively. It
can't turn off any further, but it can certainly turn on harder. The cathode
capacitor smooths these changes into a gently rising DC bias voltage, which
biases the valve further into Class B, and the problem continues. The effect
of this is that a momentary overload can cause distortion of following
signals, even though they would normally have been within the capabilities
of the amplifier. As the cathode bias capacitor becomes larger, the recovery
time from overload lengthens. Theoretically, we never overload amplifiers,
and this is not a problem, but occasional overload is inevitable, and the
effects should be considered.

The ideal way to deal with all of these problems is to reduce the cathode
bias resistor to 1
, so that it no longer causes noticeable feedback, and
measure the current through it using an operational amplifier. This then feeds
an asymmetric clipper so that when the valve strays into Class B and clips one
half cycle, the clipper removes an equal amount from the other half cycle

Classic power amplifiers

before feeding the processed signal to an integrator. The integrator can have
an RC time constant of almost any value we choose, and 10 s is not unusual.
The output of the integrator is a smoothed DC voltage proportional to anode
current, which can be compared to a fixed reference, and the difference
between the two levels drives an amplifier whose output sets the negative grid
bias for the output valve.
If the anode current of one valve is set as a reference, then the other valve,
or valves, can share this reference, which then forces anode currents into
balance. The increased complexity of this scheme is (partly) offset by its
improved performance and reduction in HT voltage required, since the
cathode bias scheme wastes HT. See Fig. 6.25.
This circuit was designed to sense a 40 mA anode current by developing
40 mV across the 1
resistor; the rest of the circuit is based on this 40 mV
signal, so if a different current is to be sensed, the sense resistor should be
changed to suit. The 5534 has a gain of 100, and amplifies the mean DC
level to 4 V, with AC peaks rising to 8 V. Any peak above 8 V is clipped by
the diode/transistor clamp, since the other half cycle will already have been
clipped by the valve. The clipped signal is integrated by the 2:2 M
in combination with the 470 nF capacitor, giving tˆ 6:5 s. The 071
compares this smoothed DC with a reference derived from the potential
divider chain, and uses this to control the bias transistor. The clamp reference
voltage set by the 2 k
variable resistor should be adjusted to achieve constant
anode current under all conditions of overload. Although this circuit was
designed to provide 11 V bias, this can easily be changed by returning the
bias transistor's collector load to a more negative supply as necessary; no
other changes are required.

The Quad II
The Quad II is an unusual design, which at first sight does not look too
promising, but works because the design is synergetic.
In this design, not only has the phase splitter been combined with the
driver stage, but it has also been combined with the input stage. In order to
achieve the necessary gain, pentodes have been used. Output resistance is
therefore high, as is input noise. To make matters worse, a variant of the see-
saw phase splitter has been used. The output stage has local feedback,
requiring increased drive voltage. See Fig. 6.26.
The output stage is a pair of KT66 beam tetrodes with anode and cathode
loads split in the ratio 9.375:1. The cathode connection therefore provides
little drive to the loudspeaker and may be considered to be series feedback

+ 15V
Set for constant
anode current
2k under all overload

1N4148 +8V

10k 1k
40 mV
+ 2M2 +4 V
5534 +
– 4M7 071
470k 1k 3n9 –
4M7 100 p

1k 1k 470 n


470 n 3k

10k –0.6 V

-11 V

–15 V

Fig. 6.25 Principle of output bias servo