DIY Tech Info - Tips and More!
And... our first video! Not exactly what I do best but gave it hell.
Every now and again we receive an email saying one channel of an amplifier is acting up, sounds scratchy or is making odd noises. Or that a customer is trying a new tube but when they plugged it in, there was no sound or really distorted sound. We reply back with "Did you check or set the bias?" The majority of the time the response is "uhhh??? what's that???"
On our Project Sunrise, Starlight and Horizon Amplifiers, you must manually set the bias and tube voltage for every tube you use. We make it quick and easy via a feature we call Easy Set LED bias. All you need is a small flathead jewelers screwdriver. This is all outlined in the video and only takes a few moments to complete
Some notes for setting bias:
- Let the amplifier and tube warm up for a few minutes before setting bias
- Once set, check back after 15-30 minutes to make sure all is stable
- Once stable and set, check back every few weeks to every few months to make sure all is still set. As tubes age, bias will drift
- New tubes may require extended time before stabilizing. I have had some take many hours even days before things settled down. Most of the time this is not the case. No worries, you can still listen during initial settling period
- This video outlines how to use the Easy Set Bias on our current Sunrise III, Horizon III and Starlight amplifiers. The method was 99% the same on previous generations of these amplifiers except for the fact that instead of dialing both LED's OFF, you would set the bias so the high LED just barely illuminate. Make sure to check the owners manual that came with your amplifier to know which version you have.
Setting tube voltage / bias on Project Sunrise, Horizon or Starlight
Here at G1217, we sell and assist in a LOT of DIY projects. Besides not paying attention to instructions, the most painful thing we see are customers / friends using terrible quality soldering equipment and more specifically, terrible quality solder!
Now, will a ratshack cheapo iron get the job done? Yes it can, but combine it with bad solder... and the universe starts to implode. I have seen everything from plumbing solder being used to stuff ordered off ebay from overseas which left a flux so acidic, the solder turned to mush within a week / white colored. Sadly for these customers, the choice to cheap out on solder or not educate themselves on solder resulted in projects that could not be saved.
Good solder and soldering equipment MATTERS!
Example of bad solder being used. This board could not be saved as the actual Tin / Lead turned to mush and the flux was conductive! No amount of cleaning could save this PCB. Worst stuff I have ever seen. Customer stated they ordered it from overseas, branded as silver solder. Once the solder started to deteriorate, you could push a toothpick right into it
Example of a quality solder being used and the PCB properly cleaned. Results speak for themselves and solder joints should last a lifetime
Many think a good quality solder station and good quality solder costs a mint. This is untrue. I have had the fortune to own and use a LOT of different stations in my lifetime. The best, affordable stations I have found cost from $59.99US to $74.99US. The interesting part is - these two stations are virtually identicle. The higher priced station looks better - that is about it. Both of these stations are equal or better IMO than stations costing double, triple or more the price. In fact, I use them both myself. And no, I am not affiliated with the seller or business in any way. They heat up in about 10 seconds and tips are quick change. Also the length between the handle and tip is short, giving more control. They come with a nice iron holder and cleaning sponge. You also have a wide range of tips to choose from.
Now on to the taboo subject of solder. And with the DIY community, it can be worse than discussing politics at dinner. Everyone seems to have a favorite and a reason why theirs is better. So how am I going to explain this without starting the great solder war of 2014? It is simple... I am just going to tell you what I use, recommend and like. If you want to use something else, feel free! My only elbow jab in this one is that I am speaking from YEARS of experience and tens of thousands of solder joints performed so my recommendation should be at least considered... somewhat :)
Down to it, I use Kester 331 Organic - flux solder for most PCB based projects. Besides flowing great, forming SOLID joints and turning out like chrome on a Harley when cleaned... it is EASY to clean up the flux! 331 contains a flux that can be cleaned up with distilled water. YES WATER.
- Once you finish your project - DO NOT POWER IT ON. Place the power switch in the ON position to make sure all capacitors are drained
- Then simply rinse the PCB in distilled water (USE ONLY DISTILLED - NOT TAP WATER) Use a scrub brush or toothbrush and scrub the entire PCB. Then, rinse and repeat a few times just like the instructions on your shampoo (that you never follow)
- Once finished with the bottom, douse the top of the PCB and components in distilled to make sure there is no residual goo on the top side
- The last step is to quickly use compressed air and dry the bottom and top side of the PCB. Be sure to get into every nook and cranny - blowing the remaining water out. You can use canned - compressed air however we recommend you use high pressure from a shop air compressor instead
- If worried at all, let dry for a few hours in front of a small fan before powering on
If you only need enough of our recommended solder to finish up one of our amplifiers, we do sell it in 6' lengths in the link below. Otherwise if you are an avid DIY'er then we recommend purchasing the solder in a 1lb spool from the great internet expanse (We do not sell the spools) Part number 24-6337-6403