My good friend, Travis Bauer over at Staub Precision Machine Inc., shot this video for me yesterday during production of some LBA 3D logos with their super fancy 3D printer.
There's been quite a few people interested in the NuVision... mainly, interested in more demos. Thats definitely something scheduled down the pipeline, but there are holdups slowing down progress. The holdups have been case manufacturing and PCB manufacturing. These two things, by two different companies are taking longer than initially expected. I should have the first small batch of cases this coming week and a large order of PCB's coming in hopefully by the end of the week. Basically, I'll have 10 NuVision pedals to work with in early March. Just 6 will be available for sale, with the remaining 4 going off for reviews/demos. Sales this month have been exceptionally good, so I expect those 6 pedals will sell before I can get more cases made. Another case order is planned for early March so I can keep up with anticipated sales. Expect to see some 3rd party demos of the NuVision in April.
I've never done a kickstarter, gofundme, or similar online fundraiser. Consider the auction I'm about to tell you about as my own version. I need to raise capital for some big moves for LBA and so I'm selling off a few personal items. The most noteworthy item is the original prototype for the Thunder Knob pedal... serial #000. I put it up on Ebay this morning. If you'd like to help LBA grow and potentially own a piece of LBA history, please check out the listing. I started the bidding at just $49.99. https://www.ebay.com/itm/Lightning-Boy-Thunder-Knob-prototype-000-12AX7-vacuum-tube-overdrive-pedal/263494047744?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2060353.m1438.l2649
LBA is participating at NAMM in a shared booth, hosted by Delicious Audio/The Deli. Stop by booth 3231 today for the opportunity to check out the brand new NuVision! Guitar, headphones, and amp simulator all provided. LBA will not be present tomorrow. I decided to leave after today to avoid some extra fees, which I think are ridiculous. Plus, Sunday is only a half day.
I just checked out Sweetwater's new demo of that new pedal that uses one of Korg's NuTube's. It was a very informative demo if you haven't checked it out yet. After digesting that I downloaded the NuTube datasheet from the Korg website so I could take a look at its electrical qualities. I'll break my thoughts into two categories... sound of that pedal from the video and then the side of NuTube technology.
To be as nice as possible, it sounded okay. My very first thought was that sounds like butt, but then he bypassed the pedal and played clean and it still sounded like butt. Okay, upon more listening I thought to myself, "where's the headroom?" That marvelous headroom that you can only get from real vacuum tubes running at very high voltage... not 9, 12, or even 18. So basically, they're selling a starved plate pedal for $250. But is it a real vacuum tube?
I took a very thorough look over the data sheet with my vacuum tube scientist hat on. It appears as though the NuTube is a tube with a directly heated cathode. That means no cathode biasing, grid only. That also means no cathode follower circuits, which are great for driving low impedance loads. The data sheet specifies the plate resistance to be 330k Ohms, which is significantly higher than any vacuum tube I can think of. That means any circuit utilizing these "tubes" will have a much higher output impedance than a typical vacuum tube (which is high compared to a transistor). That's probably why that new pedal doesn't have a bass knob. A treble roll off pot (like on a guitar) doesn't need a driving force to make it work. Having the ability to boost and cut, as in a bass & treble configuration, generally requires a low impedance stage to drive the EQ circuit properly, thus ruling out the use of a NuTube. Another point to make is it will be next to impossible to design a circuit with these in which the NuTube drives a line output transformer. I'm thinking anything studio related - mic preamp, compressor, microphone, etc. But even if it were possible to incorporate transformers, why would you? The NuTube's greatest flaw when comparing to a traditional vacuum tube is its lack of headroom. It surely has more headroom than a transistor, but with a maximum plate voltage rating of 80v, its no where near tube town. Headroom comes from the voltage. More voltage = more headroom. If you ever compared a starved plate pedal next to a high voltage pedal, you'll know what I'm talking about. Big difference in feel and tone. When it comes to a studio application where high fidelity sound is paramount, tons of headroom is most desirable. One of my favorite things about tubes is the insane amount of headroom you can get out of them. Its the reason why tube gear tends to sound "big." Lastly, the NuTube is not as small as Korg likes to tout. Dimensionally speaking, it is thinner than a 12AX7, but there were many vacuum tubes developed that are far smaller than the NuTube. Take the NuVistor for example. Where do you think Korg got the name NuTube from? That's right, the NuVistor was invented in the 1950's to be the vacuum tube's answer to the coming transistor. Its literally smaller than the size of a thimble. Freaking tiny. Korg states their NuTube to last 30,000hrs, which is longer than a miniature vacuum tube's (ie. 12AX7) rated 10,000hrs. But, and I mean a very big BUT, the NuVistor had a rated 100,000hrs!!!
In summary, the NuTube is an interesting development and well suited for starved plate distortion circuits. It does exhibit excellent power efficiency (2% of a 12AX7), even better than a NuVistor, (~40% of a 12AX7... bearing in mind that was way back in the 1950's!!!). But where the NuTube fails is its diversity due to high plate resistance, directly heated cathode, and low headroom. With a current price of $47.79 USD per NuTube, I can guarantee you I won't be designing these into any new products. You can get a decent current production 12AX7 for under $15 or a great NOS tube for under $45!
12AX7 Amplification Factor = 100
6CW4 NuVistor Amplification Factor = 65
12AU7 Amplification Factor = 20
NuTube Amplificaiton Factor = a measly 14.5
Amazing developments happened for me in the technical world of electronics over the course of 2017. Those developments helped pave the way for a future of less expensive, more reliable, and sexier sounding products. To start off the new year right, LBA will be in attendance at Winter NAMM in Anaheim, CA. My first goal for the year is to unveil a new and amazing game changer of a pedal at the convention. I'm hustling to make it happen, but limited funds are making that goal very difficult to achieve. Fingers crossed on that one! Next up I hope to release my Trinity channel strip this year. The goal is to do it by September, which will make it 4 years in development!!!! Those products will need me to get the word out on them, so that's probably enough for one man to tackle across the span of 2018. Please share the word of Lightning Boy with your pals. Thanks for visiting :)
I decided to take her apart last week to make some modifications. The previous amplifier topology was SRPP, which worked well, but after hearing a number of my mixes through this board I felt it was too colorful. Yes, there's such a thing as too much color! Plus, the tone of SRPP amplifiers is slightly gritty IMO. I wanted a smoother cleaner tone, like what I'm getting out of my Trinity channel strips. That required a new power supply for the board, more tubes, and a whole lot of work. But, now that its done and working I can say it sounds exactly as I had hoped... maybe better! I also needed to add a couple extra controls that I felt were necessary after working with this board for about a year. I added a VU meter kill switch (sometimes I like slamming the output of the board, which pegs the VU needles). I also added VU meter L/R calibration pots. I felt like the meters were too arbitrary before, so now I can dial them in exactly. Lastly, I changed the role of the trim pots from being amplifier input volume controls to output attenuators (post output transformers). This just makes a whole lot more sense to me, because now I can attenuate any noise from the amplifier stage when I attenuate the volume. Speaking of noise, that was a subtle trade-off switching from the SRPP output stage to what is now single-ended. Simplicity and noise rejection are the hallmarks of the SRPP topology. Super sexy tone, low noise (practically as good as SRPP), wider frequency response, greater degree of amplification, and much lower THD are the benefits of the Trinity design, which is a single-ended, Class A, ultra-linear pentode amplifier. I you want to hear the board before all this, you can check out my past work at www.lbastudios.com. It will be a little bit before I can get some new mixes done through the updated board. I'm really looking forward to it though!
LBA will be at the NAMM convention in January in Anaheim, CA. LBA pedals will be featured on a pedalboard, hooked up and ready to demo at a shared booth, thanks to the Deli Magazine/StompBox Exhibit. The Stompbox Exhibit will be supplying a headphone/amp sim rig for testing. Not an ideal demo scenario, but better than none! Stomp on by to check out the Op-2 Comp, the Thunder Knob, and hopefully something new and very special! Hint hint. ;-)
About the Author
Mike Congilosi II, Owner/Designer/Electronics Engineer at Lightning Boy Audio and Owner/Audio Engineer/Music Producer at LBA Studios.