The Ultimate Tone Books - Are they worth it?

Discussion in 'Amps/Cabs Tech Corner: Amplifier, Cab & Speakers' started by MarkF786, Feb 29, 2012.

  1. MarkF786

    MarkF786 Member

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    I'm looking to learn more about tube amplifiers. I have some background in electronics, and have a fair understanding of the topic. I've read books like Dave Hunter's Guitar Amp Handbook and Tom Mitchell's How to Service Your Own Tube Amp and found them too elementary. So I'm wondering if the Kevin O'Connor's The Ultimate Tone series would be a good set of books to get. One thing that puts me off is they are damn expensive and also it seems they are not really in order, so I'm not sure which ones to buy first.

    Would you recommend The Ultimate Tone books? Are they worth the asking price? Which books would you recommend?

    Morgan Jones' Valve Amplifiers book also looks interesting, though I don't know which would serve as a better next step.

    The current goal is to gain a level of understanding to basically know the function of every component in classic amp circuits. Where I'm at now, I have a good understanding of all the sections of an amp and how they work, but I'll often wonder, "what's the purpose of THAT resistor or capacitor?"

    P.S. I recently read John Rider's Inside the Vacuum Tube, and though a lot of the information in the beginning was very basic, and throughout the book he repeats many ideas, overall it did increase my understanding of tubes. It's a great book.
     
  2. diagrammatiks

    diagrammatiks Member

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    merlin's books are the best from a pure theory standpoint.
     
  3. Blue Strat

    Blue Strat Member

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    Pure theory can be boring and difficult to apply for someone without an electronics background (though I haven't seen Merlins' books).

    The original Ultimate Tone is technical and relates directly to common guitar amp circuits.
     
  4. zenas

    zenas Member

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    I have to say if your like I was when I got into working on amps (didn't know a cap from a resister) Dan Torris's book was very helpful.
    That said I don't like his mods and the amp rebuild kits with all the new orange drop caps. Might all be great but I'm into vintage amps and vintage buyers don't want to see orange on a BF Fender board.
     
  5. ECistheBest

    ECistheBest Member

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    Morgan Jones' Valve Amplifier is a bit technical and it's regarding "amplifiers", not just guitar amplifiers so theres a lot of things that doesn't matter in guitar amplification. if you JUST want to do guitar amplifiers, i'd suggest Merlin Blencowe's Designing Tube Preamps for Guitar and Bass. he goes over calculations as well as distortion, compression, and difference between guitar amps and hi-fi amps.
     
  6. smolder

    smolder Gold Supporting Member

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    Gotta be careful here. Many folks will tell you that the orange 225 are the closest thing to a blue molded you can find, with th 6p right behind it. The 715/716 are commonly though to be sterile or to sprint, but I've had luck with them in some circuits. Not all orange is the same.

    The ultimate tone books are a tough read, and very pricy, but the two I have have cone in pretty handy. Sometimes the second explanation helps a lt.
     
  7. Blue Strat

    Blue Strat Member

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    The Torres book is horribly written/edited. I have a BSEE degree and decades of experience in electronics and found his writing to be VERY difficult to understand if not down right wrong in some areas.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2012
  8. diagrammatiks

    diagrammatiks Member

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    this. mostly just wrong.
     
  9. Scottone

    Scottone Supporting Member

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    I have many of the Ultimate Tone books and bought the first edition directly from Kevin in '95. I've found them very useful. The Ultimate Tone 3 is my favorite of the bunch.

    Before getting these, I started out with an RCA tube manual and Gerard Weber's first book.
     
  10. CaptainJake

    CaptainJake Member

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    The TUT series is great - in a discussion among books written by Gerald Weber and Torres the answer is a resounding "YES, these book are worth your money"
     
  11. zenas

    zenas Member

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    Like I said I didn't know beans when I read the Torris book. If I still have it I should page through it again. At this point I may find it sucks.
    The orange drops may be a fine cap but he sells kits for old Fenders to replace all the parts on the board. Not a good plan if you want to resell an old Fender.
    Is he still in the Biz ?
     
  12. Ronsonic

    Ronsonic Member

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    Unfortunately, most of the books directed at guitar amps are weak in that department. Weber and Pittman just plain get stuff wrong. Weber can build and tweak an amp, no doubt, but his technical stuff is shaky. If he says changing the z-cap cleans up a woofy sounding Deluxe, believe him. When he explains why, look for another source.

    Read everything. E V E R Y T H I N G.

    Resistance coupled amp stages in the RCA tube manual is good for preamp stuff.

    Randall Aiken has given away tons of good stuff on the web.

    Basic tube amp technology is a good place to start. Do not fear the Radiotron Designers Handbook. It is 1500 pages, but you do not need to read them all.

    Here's some good reads: http://www.tubebooks.org/technical_books_online.htm#Vacuum Tube theory & circuit design


    Jack Darr's book is still one of the best on basic service.
     
  13. michael stuart 57

    michael stuart 57 Member

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    Darr's book used to be available free as a download on a few sites I think Uncle Spot had it on his link page.
     
  14. MarkF786

    MarkF786 Member

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    Thanks for all the responses. I've been tinkering with electronics since I was a teenager, about 25 years ago. I studied EE for 2 years before changing majors (I wish I never did, though Comp Sci has provided me with a good career). And over the years I've built some pedals and recently began tinkering with amps.

    Books that spend a few pages on what a resistor is and then only a brief blurb on how a tube works drive me crazy (I'd include the Hunter and Mitchell book in that category). At the opposite extreme, I'd prefer to avoid something that is all math (usually I'll ignore the more difficult math and only come back to it if I need to actually calculate something). What's perfect is something in the middle that goes into the theory in more depth, has enough math to demonstrate a point and for reference, and also covers the practical application.

    From my reading so far - books, downloaded PDFs, and website - I continue to learn, but often it's a matter of only picking up a couple of new tidbits of information every few pages. Hopefully I'll find some books to take me to the next level.

    Regarding the TUT books, I've heard many people saying book 3 is the best to start with. What other ones in the series are good?
     
  15. Scottone

    Scottone Supporting Member

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    TUT3 is more construction oriented and has good tips on grounding and other wiring techniques. Also has construction chapters for several popular amp models, which I also find useful for mod ideas. My 2nd favorite is "Principles of Power", followed by TUT1.

    I don't have the later one's in the series.
     
  16. Baxtercat

    Baxtercat Member

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  17. Scottone

    Scottone Supporting Member

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    I have that one too. Good book, but not sure if they are still available.

    I used to buy parts from Dave back in the early 90's (and got a lot of free advice as well)
     
  18. donnyjaguar

    donnyjaguar Member

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    I learned by reading all the rather dry texts of yesteryear pertaining to hi-fi sound reproduction design.

    Any tube amplifier design book specific to musical instrument amplifiers should be treated with suspicion because you know its going to be full of personal opinion and pseudo science.
     
  19. Ronsonic

    Ronsonic Member

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    All hail Norman Crowhurst! All of his stuff is highly recommended. He had a way of cutting through some very tough subjects like transformer design and making them clear.

    That been mostly my experience too.
     
  20. HCStraub

    HCStraub Member

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    +1
    TUT3 is the best to start with...well written, informative books full of practical information and theory.
     

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