Skip to main content
Start a topic JOIN NOW!

New Conrad Echelon Amp

Member for

12 years 7 months
Dave Dog played on my new Echelon amp last night at a local jam. His response was positive. There are some interesting features on this amp and I would be interested in getting feedback from you recording guys indicating how useful these features would be in the studio.

There are three inputs on the amp. Clean (low gain), Crunch (high gain) and Lead (combines the low and high gain)

There are two preamp level controls - Gain and Drive. Each has a different flavor when driving the preamp into distortion. Next is the EQ - Bass, Middle, Treble. The reverb section has a dwell control and reverb mix control.

The output stage is unique in that there is a "Headroom" control that sets the output wattage from 28 watts down to less than 1 watt - continuously variable. In addition there is a "Trim" control which sets the drive level to the output stage. Lets say you turn the amp down to 10 watts and then drive the output stage pretty hard with the trim control turned up. The result is the amp compresses and results in a pretty heavy sustain.

So I'm curious to know how desirable these features would be in the studio?

Conrad Sundholm

Comments

Member for

15 years 8 months

MrEase Tue, 03/23/2010 - 12:51
Sundhy, post: 300667 wrote: MrEase, you are right concerning core saturation of the output transformer. I have been able to create it on the bench and have observed it on the scope. I believe it is possible that some players get into this region with their hot pickups and running an amp beyond its limits.

Hi Conrad,

Thanks for responding - I haven't looked here for a while!

From that I presume you agree that core saturation cannot be achieved when the power level is backed off and all that lovely sound comes from saturating the output stage rather than the transformer! :

Member for

19 years 9 months

Davedog Mon, 11/23/2009 - 09:11
Of course theres really 'nothing new' in terms of tube technology. The trick is to build something useful as well as musical and available. I'm sure there are similar designs floating about in someones lab somewhere in the world. I'm also certain there will some differences as its easy to arrive at the same place through differing paths with technology that is over 75 years old.

Cottage industry, consisting of boutique or custom built gear, is where the inductry is pointing to. While its cheaper to mass produce a design that can be assembled via automation, the personal touches and voicings that you can get through a custom built piece of gear far outweighs the sterile pablum from the other.


Next week, I'll have the new model amp, The Echelon, in my new room for a bit of a shake down cruise. It may make it out to a gig, but it will be tested to what it will do and how it does what it does.

If I can get the studio back up a little bit, enough to record some clips, I'll post them. If not I'll at least give my impressions.

Member for

21 years

audiokid Mon, 12/07/2009 - 10:38
wow, Interesting topic.

I don't understand much on the theory side of this but I do know things don't have to make sense to sound good. I think at this point we might be suggesting Conrad disclose his design secrets. I really think we should ease and move on.

I look forward to hearing what the users are hearing, and hearing more on the different amps, designs, speakers, and how he builds these gems.

Member for

15 years 8 months

MrEase Tue, 11/24/2009 - 02:31
Dave,

As a designer for over 30 years I realise what you are saying but I was trying to do two things, firstly point out that the amp's designer claimed a "unique" feature, which it is not. As Sundhy is presumably selling these he could get in hot water by making this claim. Just a warning really.

Secondly, I am unable to comment (as requested by the OP) directly on his particular amp but can comment on a similar design and its usefulness in the studio. I think I gave a little insight into how I found the power level control useful.

Member for

19 years 9 months

Davedog Tue, 11/24/2009 - 03:16
MrEase wrote: Dave,

As a designer for over 30 years I realise what you are saying but I was trying to do two things, firstly point out that the amp's designer claimed a "unique" feature, which it is not. As Sundhy is presumably selling these he could get in hot water by making this claim. Just a warning really.

Secondly, I am unable to comment (as requested by the OP) directly on his particular amp but can comment on a similar design and its usefulness in the studio. I think I gave a little insight into how I found the power level control useful.

I agree that certainly someone has thought of a feature like the one Conrad has described. The technology has been around for so long its inevitable.

That was my point.

He may have arrived at its function through a completely different way than what your acquaintence has done. Even though the results may be similar.

This is the beauty of old technology being wrung out for all its worth with modern applications.

My point being, do not assume that it ISNT unique in how its being implimented.

Conrad has been doing this a very long time.

Ever hear of Sunn Amplification? 'Sundholm' is the clue here.

Yes your point is well taken. Just dont assume the process is the same as the result.

He will enlighten on the process soon. Its quite interesting for all you DIY'ers and designers.

From someone who knows his way around vacuum tubes.

Member for

16 years 7 months

moonbaby Mon, 12/07/2009 - 12:51
Good idea, BT. Besides, my comment ws probably mis-spoken in that I never intended it to be CORE saturation of the tranny, but simply saturation of the output stage (with the tranny acting as a LP filter). At least that is how things were explained to me by the engineers at Yamaha many years ago when they were developing their line of "transistorized-but-we-make-them-sound-like-tube-amps" in the late 70's. Guess what...they didn't !!!

Member for

15 years 8 months

MrEase Mon, 12/07/2009 - 14:55
Can I just explain that is certainly not my intention for Conrad to reveal any of his design secrets. All I have been trying to clarify is that when running a transformer at reduced power, saturation of the core is never going to happen. He was very specific in his earlier conclusion and I am confident that on reflection he would agree with the points I raised.

This is not intended in any way to be a comment on the performance of his Echelon design. This is something I thought I had made clear in my first post on this thread. Having heard and used a different amp that also reduces available power I can confirm that the overdrive at lower levels is equally lush and powerful as that at full power. This characteristic sound that we all seem to love arises from output stage saturation though and certainly not from output transformer core saturation.

I only took this up as I far too often see such simple mistakes bloom into urban myth! I think it is unfortunate that Conrad has not been back here lately as I'm sure that this could have been acknowledged and nippped in the bud very easily. Sadly instead of this Dave seemed to think I was having a gripe and decrying Conrad's design (which I had taken care to point out was not the case) and he also made a false assumption that it was a case of alternative terminologies -which it definitely isn't.

Member for

19 years 9 months

Davedog Mon, 12/07/2009 - 16:45
I have explained my position very carefully and clearly in PM's to you, Mr.Ease.

My take is not an assumption as much as a suggestion of misinterpretation of technical forms as was laid out by Moon in his last post.

I appreciate your willingness to keep the airwaves clear of assumptions and half-truths. It is something we strive for here and have done a good job with over the years. Its good that someone also cares deeply about these things.

Member for

12 years 7 months

Sundhy Tue, 11/24/2009 - 21:59
OK audiokid, I'll start down your list of the features found in the Conrad Amp line.

1. Aluminum Chassis - Since tubes and power transformers generate heat, the aluminum chassis acts as a heat sink to better dissipate heat to the air. Aluminum is certainly better than steel in this regard. Some amp manufacturers use aluminum because it is a better conductor for grounding purposes. If this is their claim then they are using random grounds throughout the chassis which could lead to ground loops and higher hum levels. I prefer to use a star grounding scheme where all grounds are starred at the input jack. The AC ground is at the other end of the chassis. All jacks are floating on the chassis with the exception of the input jack.

2. Mono-Crystal wire. - Mono Crystal wire (sometimes called Continuous Cast Copper) was developed by a Mr. Ohno in Japan. It is the process of drawing the wire that contributes to it purity and crystaline structure. Typical high quality Oxygen Free Copper wire has 500 crystal junctions in the metal every 10 meters. The Mono Crystal wire I use has .08 crystal junctions every 10 meters. The guitar signal must "negotiate" these junctions. Since there are far fewer crystal junctions in the Mono Crystal wire, the signal is purer with greater clarity and "quickness".

All internal wiring inside of each Conrad Amp utilizes this expensive superior wire. In addition, I use a copper content solder that insures that all connections with components and the Super Wire is copper. This way there are no dissimilar metals in the connection. In an earlier post DaveDog has commented that these amps do not "blur". This is because of the MonoCrystal wire. These amps are very quick and forward sounding.

There are 9 perfect Characteristics of Mono Crystal wire:

1.    Unidirectional
2.    Free of Impurity
3.    Flexibility
4.    Fatigue-Resistant
5.    Corrosive-Resistant
6.    Low Electric Resistance
7.    Non-Crystal Boundaries
8.    Rapid Transmissibility
9. Perfect in Structure 

Those all make Mono Crystal Wire an optimal material to be used for the internal wiring of a guitar amplifier. For the time being, Mono Crystal pure copper  has been considered the state-of-the-art conductor material in Hi-End  Audio cable industry. Yes, even superior to silver wire.

I think I will stop here and continue down audiokid's list in the near future.

Conrad

Member for

15 years 5 months

BobRogers Wed, 11/25/2009 - 05:37
Conrad - In relative terms, how much does using mono-crystal wire add to the cost of an amp? I'm all for using high quality components, so features 2,3,4,5 make it worth paying a bit more for good wire. But I have to say that if the other claims are true, I'm going to have to change a chapter or two in the book I'm writing on partial differential equations. In fact, if you have a wire that conducts a signal faster than the speed of light, you are wasting your time making amps. You can make a time machine.

Of course, that is a joke. I'm well aware that the effective wave speed of electromagnetic waves is different in different media. But we are talking about speeds on the order of magnitude of the speed of light in a vacuum over a distance of a few feet. Not an easily measurable (much less audible) time lag.

Since the crystal structure of copper is face centered cubic, I would expect a long mono-crystal should have greater bi-directional symmetry than a multi-crystalline structure. So I'm very skeptical about the unidirectional claim.

Low crystal boundaries and lower resistance I would expect to be true, but as with the argument about silver wire: how is this better than thicker standard wire?

Again, if you like working with the wire and feel it is the best product you can get, that's fine. The best reason to pay for a handmade amp is because you trust the ears and judgment of the builder. In the end it is the sound of the amp that matters. Scientific arguments (even ones that are easier to verify than these) don't carry much weight.

Member for

12 years 7 months

Sundhy Wed, 11/25/2009 - 07:27
Hey Bob, when it comes to wire there are skeptics, especially those with engineering degrees. My intention here is not to engage in a back and forth discussion of differing opinions but share my experience with using this wire.

I have successfully used the Mono Crystal wire in the recording studio as well as in the amps I build. My son Steve is the head engineer at Nightbird Recording Studios in Hollywood. (http://www.nightbirdrecordingstudio.com)

Together we have built custom mic pre's with this wire. In addition we have stripped the wire out of Manely mics and replaced it with the mono crystal wire to improve the performance. We have made Litz braided speaker cables with this wire. He has rewired the entire studio including the patch bay with this wire. We have also constructed mic cable with mono crystal wire - all with highly successful results. All I can tell you is that the midrange clarity and extended response in the studio is superb. This is what led me to use this wire in the Conrad amps.

Despite all the differences in technical opinion the proof is in the tone and the feel of the amp. Ask anyone who owns one.

The cost of the wire does run up the price of the amp somewhat because of the cost of the raw wire and the labor required to use this wire. However, the major cost of any guitar amp are the transformers, chassis tubes, speakers and labor.

Member for

16 years 7 months

moonbaby Wed, 11/25/2009 - 10:47
OK, dialing down the output power is cool, but when you do THAT, aren't you failing to sufficiently saturate the output transformer to the same degree that the higher output power would be doing that? I was always under the impression that the output tranny was/is key to the coloration of the tone as it got whalloped by the tubes...acting as a kind of lowpass filter. Maybe that was "old school" ?

Member for

19 years 9 months

Davedog Wed, 11/25/2009 - 13:16
Moon, I'm no expert on what goes on inside there but I do understand the concepts inherant to sound reproduction and the effect that transformers have on the overall sound.

Conrad will have to address the technical side of this, but when you operate the amp in the manner you're talking about, not only do you NOT lose the high-end or the 'feeling' of the gain to the output, but you get this great compression. However its not the type of compression that has that little delay while the circuit grabs hold of the signal and then compresses it. It is now and immediate and quite unlike anything I have ever played through. Plus theres not that 'release' bloom.

I want to comment just a moment on the wire.

Understand that I am not a proponent of witchcraft or voodoo special cable claims that are the norm these days. I have operated on the fact that if it passes signal and does it without noise then its 'good' cable. Also realize that I am an Electrician with over 30 years of experience and have seen all sorts of wire especially high-tech cables used in computer suite construction and specialty equipment.

So. I have tried the M*^%ster cable, and several other oxygen free, special insulated low impedance blahblah blah etc etc wire and cables and have NOT noticed a difference from the good old Belden you can buy at a tenth the cost of these other magic wire thingys.

Of course this is an argument that takes up most of some peoples lives on other audiofile type sites and encites a riot whenever its mentioned in certain circles.

I can hear the critique now.....your testing parameters arent up to par...(okay, U87,Genelecs,EQ switched out)...You have faulty ears...(no doubt)

But heres my point. Conrad gave me a mic cable to dink with a few months back. Of the wire he has mentioned. Its WAY too stiff to make a good cable to lay-out on a setup but other than that, its the only cable I have ever heard a noticable difference in response from my trusty Beldens and etc's.. And its not a whole lot. But in a studio with this stuff in the walls and lots and lots of tracks going, there would be enough difference to make a difference.

And these amps responds quicker than any I have owned or played on. So........maybe theres a reason.

I'm, just sayin...............

Member for

15 years 8 months

MrEase Wed, 11/25/2009 - 13:56
moonbaby wrote: OK, dialing down the output power is cool, but when you do THAT, aren't you failing to sufficiently saturate the output transformer to the same degree that the higher output power would be doing that? I was always under the impression that the output tranny was/is key to the coloration of the tone as it got whalloped by the tubes...acting as a kind of lowpass filter. Maybe that was "old school" ?

Well as a designer, I would avoid any saturation of the output transformer like the plague! When a transformer core reaches magnetic saturation the inductance drops alarmingly and would seriously overload the output valves leading to premature failure (the cathodes would get stripped very easily - transistors would just pop!). Normally output transformers are generously rated because of this. Output stage saturation normally refers to the valves running out of either grid drive or anode voltage and it is this that leads to the "valve" overdrive sound. Reducing anode voltage or limiting grid drive both lead to overdrive conditions and it is these that I presume Sundhy is doing in these new amps.

EDIT: That is not to say that the design of the output transformer will not affect the sound. Also conventional transformers approach saturation more gently (shall we say) than a toroid. Saturation in both cases though is still to be avoided unless you really like the sound and are happy to keep buying output valves!

Member for

16 years 7 months

moonbaby Wed, 11/25/2009 - 14:01
I believe ya!
I have heard the other amps on Conrads' site, awesome tone, awesome player (THAT certainly helps, doesn't it...LOL!).
BTW, I have a Supro 1624T that has these power tubes- 6973's- the same thing that they used in Wurlitzer juke boxes. Crank the amp and it grabs the note and "blooms" just like what you described...albeit at a bit louder volume levels:) I'll have to check out that Echelon...Tell Conrad to let go of his pretty wife long enough to post some new pix and clips!!!

Member for

12 years 7 months

Sundhy Wed, 11/25/2009 - 18:18
Moonbaby, you are right about core saturation in the output tranny contributing to the tone of the amp. Output transformer core saturation occurs earlier in the lower frequencies. Out of curiosity I put the Echelon amp on the bench and ran some tests at full power and about 1/4 power. Here are the results:

Core saturation of the output transformer on this amp starts at about 150Hz and increases as I went down in frequency to 40Hz. The trim control on this amp determines the signal voltage swing into the phase inverter. I was able to create core saturation at 1/4th power by advancing the Trim Control.

Therefore Output Transformer core saturation can be achieved with this amp even at the lower "Headroom" settings. Thus the tone is preserved.

Conrad

Thanks, Moodbay for the question.

Conrad

Member for

15 years 8 months

MrEase Thu, 11/26/2009 - 04:36
Sundhy wrote: Moonbaby, you are right about core saturation in the output tranny contributing to the tone of the amp. Output transformer core saturation occurs earlier in the lower frequencies. Out of curiosity I put the Echelon amp on the bench and ran some tests at full power and about 1/4 power. Here are the results:

Core saturation of the output transformer on this amp starts at about 150Hz and increases as I went down in frequency to 40Hz. The trim control on this amp determines the signal voltage swing into the phase inverter. I was able to create core saturation at 1/4th power by advancing the Trim Control.

Therefore Output Transformer core saturation can be achieved with this amp even at the lower "Headroom" settings. Thus the tone is preserved.

Conrad

Thanks, Moodbay for the question.

Conrad

With due respect I don't think we are talking about core saturation here but a drop in anode load impedance at low frequencies caused by limited primary inductance of the output transformer and this is independent of power level. Like I said earlier, magnetic saturation of the transformer core is to be avoided like the plague. True core saturation could never be maintained at the lower power levels as lower power inherently lowers the magnetic flux in the core. I do agree though that you should be able to maintain the "sound" with the lower power levels!

Member for

12 years 7 months

Sundhy Wed, 02/24/2010 - 15:34
MrEase, you are right concerning core saturation of the output transformer. I have been able to create it on the bench and have observed it on the scope. I believe it is possible that some players get into this region with their hot pickups and running an amp beyond its limits.