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From Atmasphere - how to properly (and neatly) wire a vacuum tube amplifier...

Xulonn

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For many years I have been aware of the OTL (Output-TransformerLess) vacuum tube amplifiers designed by of Ralph Karsten of Atmasphere, a small St. Paul, Minnesota company. Ralph's contributions to discussions here at ASR under the handle "atmasphere" have been intelligent, courteous and enlightening. (And no, I do not own an Atmasphere amplifier, nor have I ever owned one.)

So, this afternoon, I decided to take a look at the current offerings of Atmasphere, and was greeted at the website by an absolutely superb video showing an M60 Atmasphere amplifier being manufactured. This excellent time-lapse video was posted in 2014, and I am surprised that I had not stumbled across it sooner. Many of you know that I like art, and that I enjoy and appreciate good design and craftsmanship when it is displayed in the design of audio components. This video shows the results of an incredible level of skill and training that is required to do a meticulously laid out wiring scheme. Wiring like this is the antithesis of the "rat's nest" of point-to-point wiring found in many vacuum tube products and components. The hands doing that detailed and excellent wiring appear to be those of a woman, whom I assume is one of Ralph's employees - but who trained her?

Independent of his design skills and philosophy, Ralph's attention to details that are hidden inside the chassis of an amplifier tells me that he cares about all aspects of his products.

Can any of you link to other small and boutique audio companies that pay such attention to all details - from mechanical assembly to the audio performance of their products - in the same manner?

 
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Doodski

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This video shows the results of an incredible level of skill and training that is required to do a meticulously laid out wiring scheme. Wiring like this is the antithesis of the "rat's nest" of point-to-point wiring found in many vacuum tube products and components. The hands doing that detailed and excellent wiring appear to be those of a woman, whom I assume is one of Ralph's employees - but who trained her?
Hiring women to assemble at the manufacturing stage is very common in electronics, harness manufacturing and assembly. They stay with the job and tend to be around for a long time, are good at what they do and because there are many industries with women assembling harnesses and hardware it's a matter of head-hunting a good one and making a offer or simply interviewing a bunch with experience and have a impromptu demonstration of skills by the prospective employee at a service bench. :D
 

Haflermichi

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I once worked with a guy who worked at Atmasphere (we both worked for Meyer Sound at the time) and built his own PAIR of M-60s. His wiring job was astonishing and superb. Every bit as good as that shown in the video.
He let me borrow them once...
 

HarmonicTHD

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… so it’s neatly wired … not really the first criteria I would base any purchasing decision on. What else is there?

(Edit. Just looked at their website. So it is refreshingly empty of any flowery stories (except the linked reviews) about its sound and lists quite a few technical specs. Something one does not find often with boutique amps manufacturers. Price for two handcrafted monoblocks seems reasonable too. So maybe not a complete rip-off from the get go. Tube is not my cup of tea, but for those who like it. Maybe worth a second look).
 
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charleski

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neatly wired … not really the first criteria I would base any purchasing decision on
It is a bit of an OCD fetish. But making sure that complementary wire pairs are twisted evenly does help with noise rejection and obviously it’s a good idea to keep connections as short as possible. Also, if both channels have a consistent wiring topology it’s less likely that one channel will display excess noise and distortion (something often seen in measurements of some expensive boutique amps).
 

HarmonicTHD

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It is a bit of an OCD fetish. But making sure that complementary wire pairs are twisted evenly does help with noise rejection and obviously it’s a good idea to keep connections as short as possible. Also, if both channels have a consistent wiring topology it’s less likely that one channel will display excess noise and distortion (something often seen in measurements of some expensive boutique amps).
It sure does. I was looking at it more from a larger perspective as there are also surely other engineering aspects which define an amps performance but the wiring.
 

OldHvyMec

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Very nice work. Ralph has always insisted on visually pleasing work inside with regards to function first. Repairs are not an after thought
nor are upgrades. That is a result of years of thought.

I've had a few of their pieces through the years from friends leaving me a pair to bringing a pair for comparison. I've never seen an issue with them other than preference in a different manufacture. Cary, Mac, Dodd, Victrola, ect. I've never seen a failure. Both pairs of 60 kept the room warm. Great sounding amps too. Driving small planars and the way they are voiced, was very engaging with ZERO fatigue like a lot of SS units.

I want to hear his new SS amps. My room, my preamp, my speakers. I bet they are exquisite.

Wiring is a measure of pride. When I look inside my old Carys I get vertigo. There is no rhyme or reason. They look like a tornado hit inside.
I've spent hours cleaning a few up. They still looked like they needed another day of work.

Ralph has been a master designer/builder for many years. He is also willing to engage even the most critical of his work with great professional courtesy.
I've never seen him act any way other than as a gentleperson.

I admire his work, it seldom needs to be critiqued. I'm sure he listens to everyone without pre-justice. The company has been around for a long time.
There is a reason.

Regards
 

Gary_G

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egellings

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Hiring women to assemble at the manufacturing stage is very common in electronics, harness manufacturing and assembly. They stay with the job and tend to be around for a long time, are good at what they do and because there are many industries with women assembling harnesses and hardware it's a matter of head-hunting a good one and making a offer or simply interviewing a bunch with experience and have a impromptu demonstration of skills by the prospective employee at a service bench. :D
Big reason is that women get paid less than men for the same work. That's what's driving it.
 
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