When considering what to recommend for beginner’s interested in learning enough theory of operation to have a practical foundation in tube amp design I was torn between two excellent series, so I’ll write about both, in two separate posts.
I’ll start with the two volume set by Morgan Jones, “Valve Amplifiers” and “Building Valve Amplifiers.” BTW, Amazon has the ’search inside this book’ feature enabled for Valve Amplifiers, so you can see the contents for yourself before you buy (just click on the book picture below).
I’ve decided to lead off with Morgan Jones’ books because they are the most readable pair of books that I’ve seen on tube amp design and construction. They are more oriented towards audiophile equipment, but the information is applicable to instrument amplifiers as well. Morgan isn’t overly heavy on theory and has a very pleasant style of writing that helps you to clearly comprehend the important fundamentals. I’ll quote from the back cover:
Morgan Jones’s Valve Amplifiers has been widely recognised as the most complete guide to valve amplifier design, modification, analysis, construction and maintenance written for over 30 years. As such it is unique in presenting the essentials of ‘hollow-state’ electronics and valve amp design for engineers and enthusiasts in the familiar context of current best practice in electronic design, using only currently available components. The author’s straightforward approach, using as little maths as possible, and lots of design knowhow, makes this book ideal for those with a limited knowledge of the field as well as being the standard reference test for experts in valve audio and a wider audience of audio engineers facing design challenges involving valves.
Morgan Jones takes the reader through each step in the process of design, starting with a brief review of electronic fundamentals relevant to valve amplifiers, simple stages, compound stages, linking stages together, and finally, complete designs. Practical aspects, including safety, are addressed throughout.
This book really lives up to the hype in the copy above. All the major preamp tube circuit topologies are covered, component selection, transformers, a thorough coverage of power supply design for tube amps and power amplifier design as well. I really appreciated the power supply section as this seems to be neglected by other authors. The back quarter of the book has example projects oriented towards audio equipment not musical instrument amplification.
Building Valve Amplifiers
I’d have to say this book is optional. The construction techniques featured are far removed from the common practice in guitar tube amplifiers. The back half of the book gives a good introduction to test equipment, using it, and faultfinding (debugging) of tube circuits. He closes off with some performance measuring, oriented again towards audio equipment.
All-in-all these books are excellent introductions to practical design of tube amplification equipment and enjoyable reading. I highly recommend them.
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