Tamotsu Saito reports: A solid fan base has grown for vacuum tube audio amplifiers, which create a sound full of tone and depth. With their glowing glass tubes resembling something a mad scientist would use, these amps have a unique beauty.
Vacuum tubes are designed to amplify weak electrical signals. In their basic mechanism, when a metal part in the vacuum inside the tube is heated, large amounts of electrons are emitted.
In the 1970s and ’80s, these tubes were mass-produced for audio technology in Japan and the United States, but they were replaced by semiconductors, which are cheaper and use less power.
Today, these tubes are mostly just relics found in stockpiles from the past, although they are still manufactured mainly in China and Russia.
Although opportunities to see and hear tube amps in action are few and far between, they still have a fan base thanks to their perceived natural sound quality and “charm.”
In Tokyo’s Akihabara district, for example, Audio Professor Inc. runs a store that sells vacuum tubes alongside amplifiers it produces, itself.
The FOX-BAT MK-3 amp (¥122,500 before tax), for example, is popular for its symmetrical design. The same type of vacuum tubes are said to have been used in the MiG-25 fighter jets of the former Soviet Union. The PROFESSOR-2 Ver.F913-N7 (¥136,000 before tax) is beloved for its minimal sound distortion and background noise.
Many of the shop’s customers make their own amps by collecting the necessary parts, according to manager Yusuke Morikawa.
“Everybody’s different when it comes to what kind of range they want their amps to have,” he said. “They change the vacuum tubes to try to get closer to the kind of sound they’re aiming for — this is the most thrilling part of using them.”
Susumu Sakuma, based in Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture, has made over 150 types of vacuum tube amps while also running a restaurant.
He holds a music event every six months to showcase some of his new creations … (read more)
via The Japan News