Tube amps contributesa lot in producing a great sound quality. But due to usual wear and tear, they also deteriorate over time. However, this can be lessened or prevented when you know how to bias a tube amp. It only takes a few simple steps to get those tubes to work properly to get the right sound quality you like when you listen to music while keeping the tubes durable.
Tube amps have been around for decades making a significant impact in the music industry. They help in enhancing the quality of sound that an audio system produces. They make a good sound amplifier on music reproduction because they work well with distortions even if the volume is set high. There are different ways to improve sound quality using vacuum tubes as amplifiers. One of which is through biasing.
Just like keeping ourselves healthy by doing productive routines, Biasing acts as a regulator when setting up the tube amps. It controls the amount of current to be distributed to various parts of the circuit of the tube amp to condition electronic components so that it is able to function properly.
Make it loud! Make it great! Make it lasting!
Tube bias is not just some sort of an amplification function, it is also affecting the tonality of the sound produced. You need to consider two tube states: under-biased and over-biased.
Under-biased may shorten tube life due to overheating on the account of employing a higher voltage that causes an early signal distortion.However, this can also cause a louder satisfactory sound quality. Whereas, an over-biased may damage the tube but not much alike under-biasing because the current applied is too low and may cause a slowly fading audio signal and a thin sound.
Don’t Get Shocked!
Now that you are aware that biasing is necessary to make tube sounds better and to extend tube life, you now must pass the second level of awareness which is down to safety precautions. You should be careful when tampering the tube amp as there are voltages inside the chassis that may cause a fatal injury.
- You are encouraged to learn but not to toy around when tube biasing; meaning, you should get assistance from experts.
- Tube rolling in most cases is vital from cleaning the tubes to adjusting the sound. You must keep the amplifier unplugged.
- The tube illuminates. You should not be tempted into touching it because they tend to be hot. Plus, it’s not a plasma ball.
- You should wear any glasses in case the tubes explode. Myth or not, prevention is still better than cure.
- You should also remove any highly conductive accessories.
- Rumor has it that tubes tend to implode in contact with grease. It is advisable that you wear protective hand cover – latex gloves perhaps?
What to Consider?
Hold your horses! Before going into battle and jumping into action, it is important to know certain parameters. You need to first consider the amplifier type, plate voltage, and tube type. Dissipation is the transformation of one state of current to another. It is necessary to determine the idle current and surprisingly dependent on the type of tube used.
The real plate voltage can be determined by directly measuring the socket of the output tube.
Usually, class-As are low powered amps. Meanwhile, class AB circuits are push-pull and high powered amps.
How it’s done!
Congratulations! You just passed phase three! Phase four involves different types of bias adjustment: adjustable fixed Bias, non-adjustable fixed bias, and cathode or Self Adjusting Bias. Not only that tube amplifiers cannot be adjusted; it also employs fixed resistors in a non-adjustable fixed bias. This is where tube rolling becomes a hobby as the tube amp is designated to properly operate with a specific tube – good luck finding the perfect one! The plug-and-play amps don’t need any adjustments as the circuit is “self-adjusting”. It makes tube rolling easy.
Finally, the adjustable fixed bias is usually done by experts with the use of a potentiometer. There are different varieties of tube amps but knowing how to bias a tube amp can be generalized. The tube amplifier should be first loaded and warmed up for a while by plugging it to the speaker. By determining the test point and setting the multimeter, the reading should be noted and rechecked. The bias should adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendation.
The bias test point and bias trim pot are labeled and located inside the chassis with the electronic components which is required in the absence of a bias point or trimpot. The connection on the multimeter should be grounded, and the bias is set to the right measurement by checking the reading and adjusting the trimpot. This is repeatedly done with other tubes. Note that there are tools online which provide bias adjustments given the plate voltage and tube type.
Tubes are not like diamonds; they are not forever. Although everything deteriorates as time passes, there are ways when such occurrence could be bypassed or decelerated. Biasing is a method to regulate the flow of current as it is distributed to electronic components. It is not just making the amplifier work properly but it also is prolonging the tube’s lifespan and improving sound quality. The tube amp may produce a good quality sound but the tube may degrade as it goes to an under-biased state where it is operating under a high voltage for a long period of time.
Your overconfidence may lead you to a fatal incident if you are going for a one on one interaction with the tube amp when doing bias adjustments. It is important to heed an expert’s advice, follow safety precautions and identify the parameters.
Biasing does not focus much on other tube amp bias other than the adjustable fixed bias type of tube amplifier. Biasing the tube amp involves identifying the test point, setting the multimeter, and checking the reading repeatedly to make it conform based on the manufacturer’s recommendation. Instructions might vary as there are different types of tube amps.