Linear Tube Audio Introduction

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. Read 641 times.

LTAmark

  • Newbie
  • Posts: 2
Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« on: 8 Nov 2018, 02:35 pm »
Hello, my name is Mark Schneider. I started Linear Tube Audio, LTA, 4 years ago.  Here is my story.

I had met David Berning through a friend, who had him make some custom amps for some homegrown electrostatic speakers. I had retired from my engineering director life and had spent a couple years reading the paper, then learning some board layout software, and then re-animating a Eico HF-81 integrated amp design from a schematic on the internet. I guess back in the 60s, there were no metal film resistors and they used an excess of ceramic disc caps. Using modern parts, this amplifier came to life and sounded better than anything I had hooked to my Magnepans previously. I was drawn like a moth to the flame to making tube amplifiers.

So, I took may little amp to David Berning’s house, not really understanding that he was one of the leading tube amplifier designers in the world.  I told him that I was thinking about starting a company making this tube amp, because it provided such high quality sonics for a few hundred dollars worth of parts.  He laughed and looked closely at my amp design. He made some slight corrections, and asked what was the maximum input voltage. I said 2 volts and he said, lets try 5..then he proceeded to put several combinations of resistors and capacitors across the output to make the amplifier oscillate. He adjusted the feedback so that it would never oscillate. I went home and made the mods and came back. I asked if he wanted to be a partner in my little hobby company I was going to make. He laughed again and declined, but said he would license me some designs.  I said I wanted to make some products that would provide high end audio sound at reasonable prices. Davids’ least expensive amp at the time was over $8K.  So, he mentioned he had been playing with a low cost 10 watt amp design and he had this product he used to make, the microZOTL, a headphone amplifier.

So, I don’t much now, but I knew far less then. I said ok, let me license your designs if you teach me how to make them. He suggested the microZOTL should be my first product, not my Eico knockoff amp, and he had a pile of letters from people begging him to make them a microZOTL. He was using Chinese tubes, the switching supply was in the box and you could hear the hum, and he mentioned that people had asked for more inputs and one guy used it as a preamp. So, I thought I would move the supply to an external supply, get some much nicer Russian tubes, lose the battery input, and put it in a better case.

My background was 20 years in a complex manufacturing environment, and I knew how to breakdown complex processes into smaller subassemblies, using detailed instructions and sub assembly testing. So, I gave him a pile of cash, and proceeded to spend a year and a half learning the microZOTL, making manufacturing instructions (taking a lot of phone pictures of David’s fingers winding things)…getting my friend to make a sheet metal case, and making 50 units myself.  I made a website and put the microZOTL on the site.  I shipped a unit to one of the people who sent a letter to David. The amp arrived with half the screws undone and the tubes reduced to a pile of broken glass.

I went back to David and he told me about where he got the foam rubber factory to custom cut 3 inch foam scraps into amplifier packing material. I received my order a few days later and shipped a new amp to the guy who had sent the letter. He had one of David’s original microZOTL headphone amps. He compared the new one to the old one. It turns out he is the highly respected guy on Headfi.  He writes this two page review raving about the sonics of the new microZOTL and starts a thread on Headfi. The next week we get 5 orders, the week after 10….and we were off.
So, after learning about thicker cases, front panels, external power connection schemes, NOS tubes, long lead parts, linear power supplies, whether looks matter, dealers vs direct, etc., we continued to improve the product in many, many ways. We sold a bunch, and decided to try a couple more products. Working closely with David we came out with the ZOTL10 and the ZOTL40 power amps.  Making the first 5 ZOTL40s and taking a month to do so, and then having only 2 work, I really understood how complex and difficult David’s designs were. Then he tells me we were the 3rd company to attempt to make his ZOTL amplifiers. The first two failed and gave up…thanks, David….

So, now it is 5 years later. I have 5 employees, most have been with me building the amps for more than 3 years. We are very comfortable making David’s designs. We have worked everyday to understand how we can enhance his unique approach to operating the tubes that creates the magical realism and reproduction of the original performance. 
We have partnered with Fern & Roby to design some cool cases and have paired David’s designs with the best components and parts, to bring out as much performance as possible, and tried to provide the features and configurations that we are asked for.  Our newer products are more expensive, but are chock full of the best components that we can find… as long as they provide true product improvement.

We have developed our own control system of remote stepped attenuators, displays, input control, etc. to wrap around David’s amplifiers.  We want to provide even more connectivity in the future.

David’s stuff all requires much more labor than other designs, as many components are unique and not available to buy, and must be hand-made.  We do not mark up our products as much as many others, as we are still very committed to providing components that punch well above their weight.  We get much satisfaction from the happiness that our customers express…and we sell direct, so we don’t have to raise our prices to accommodate dealer margin.

Our biggest issues are that few people know of us, and it seems in audio, if its less expensive, people tend to not believe it can be better than something much more expensive. We are hoping that getting more involved in a forum such as Audio Circle will give more visibility to our products. I am happy to answer any questions about anything. We are looking forward to engaging in this community of positive audiophiles and discussing technology topics and hopefully becoming a site sponsor.  Thanks very much for reading this.

RPM123

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 418
Re: Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« Reply #1 on: 8 Nov 2018, 04:47 pm »
Cool...welcome Mark and looking forward to hearing more from you! Your products have received many favorable reviews.  :thumb:

Glenn

woodsyi

  • Volunteer
  • Posts: 6475
  • Always Look on the Bright Side of Life!
Re: Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« Reply #2 on: 8 Nov 2018, 04:51 pm »
Welcome to Audio Circle.

LTA was very impressive in Daedalus room set up.  It matched up very well with the Zeus and Lampi.  Sounds like you are based around DC.  I had dinner with David a few years ago during CAF.   I am in Vienna.  I am sure I probably talked to you at some point.  Looking forward to learning more abut your products.

Ciao,

Phil A

Re: Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« Reply #3 on: 8 Nov 2018, 04:54 pm »
Welcome!

Chris Adams

Re: Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« Reply #4 on: 8 Nov 2018, 06:56 pm »
Hi Mark,

Welcome to Audio Circle. Glad to see you here.

It was a pleasure to speak with you at CAF! Thanks so much for taking the time to discuss product.

Rocket_Ronny

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 1116
  • Your Room Is Everything - Use It Well.
    • ScriptureSongs.com
Re: Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« Reply #5 on: 8 Nov 2018, 07:34 pm »
Nice you are here. Fun read.

A friend who is extremely hard to please in high end audio was raving about the microzotl. He brought it over and we hooked it up to a pair of 98db eff. GR Research Super Vs. Expecting nervana we got what sounded like a broken amp. Just sounded completely stressed and broken. Don't know why. My only experience with your company.

Rocket Ronny

Rusty Jefferson

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 319
Re: Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« Reply #6 on: 8 Nov 2018, 07:40 pm »
Hey Mark,

Glad to see you're making an introduction and implementing David's designs.  That guy is an audio savant.

richidoo

Re: Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« Reply #7 on: 8 Nov 2018, 08:37 pm »
Auspicious 1st post!  :thumb:

Welcome to AudioCircle, Mark

I hope I get the chance to hear your amps.

Rich

PS, don't forget to add your company website to your member profile. That will put a web icon under your username to make it easy for AC members to visit your site.  https://www.lineartubeaudio.com/
Rich

SlushPuppy

Re: Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« Reply #8 on: 8 Nov 2018, 09:19 pm »
Welcome aboard!

Bemopti123

Re: Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« Reply #9 on: 8 Nov 2018, 10:50 pm »
Nice you are here. Fun read.

A friend who is extremely hard to please in high end audio was raving about the microzotl. He brought it over and we hooked it up to a pair of 98db eff. GR Research Super Vs. Expecting nervana we got what sounded like a broken amp. Just sounded completely stressed and broken. Don't know why. My only experience with your company.

Rocket Ronny

Sometimes efficiency does not translate well into easy to drive.  From
What I remember of the MicroZotl is that it is a very low powered amp and on top of it being transformerless...it might not have the juice to drive certain loads. 

ArthurDent

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 9251
  • Don't Panic / Mostly Harmless
Re: Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« Reply #10 on: 9 Nov 2018, 01:12 am »
Greetings & Welcome to AC Mark  :thumb:  Thanks for the background on your work & company.  8)

RDavidson

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 2286
Re: Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« Reply #11 on: 9 Nov 2018, 01:43 am »
Sometimes efficiency does not translate well into easy to drive.  From
What I remember of the MicroZotl is that it is a very low powered amp and on top of it being transformerless...it might not have the juice to drive certain loads.

Yup. A set of speakers can be efficient, but that doesn't mean they are necessarily a benign or non-complex load. Context of the efficiency rating is really important. :wink:

Welcome, Mark. I enjoyed the read.

LTAmark

  • Newbie
  • Posts: 2
Re: Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« Reply #12 on: 9 Nov 2018, 01:51 pm »
Ok, my second post...this weekend I will try to talk about some of our products, as we also have some new ones about to appear.

Thanks for the tip about updating my profile with our website link. For some reason, clicking on my profile takes me to an not-allowed area error. Maybe I have to get through the intro period first.

Regarding this posting from yesterday:
"A friend who is extremely hard to please in high end audio was raving about the microzotl. He brought it over and we hooked it up to a pair of 98db eff. GR Research Super Vs. Expecting nirvana we got what sounded like a broken amp. Just sounded completely stressed and broken. Don't know why. My only experience with your company. "

The microZOTL or MZ2, is a headphone amplifier, a preamplifier and a 1 watt speaker amplifier.  In this case, the relevant info is the 1 watt.

1 watt will adequately drive 107db speakers (typically horns). We were at the NY audio show a couple years ago with Sadurni Acoustics 105db sensitivity horns with monoblocked microZOTLs (2 watts per) and had lines in the hallway and had to play the same 3 songs over and over so people would leave. Many people buy a microZOTL and pair of old console horns or used Klipsh Cornwalls for a gorgeous cheapo system.  Some people operate the Tekton Double Impacts at moderate volume with acoustic music in smaller rooms with the microZOTL, but anything more complex than that quickly runs out of gas.  The microZOTL can be overdriven and clip like any other amplifier. With 98db speakers, 1 watt is just not enough for critical listening. Its going to distort if you just put anything on and turn it to a loud listening level.  You can operate on your desktop and get adequate results at office sound levels, with even lower sensitivity speakers. It is primarily used as a headphone amplifier and a preamplifier.....


dodgealum

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 102
Re: Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« Reply #13 on: 9 Nov 2018, 02:09 pm »
Hi my name is Mark (too) and here is my story (as it relates to LTA):

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/review-linear-tube-audio-lta-ultralinear-amplifier

Glad to see you posting here, Mark. I hope you will consider becoming a site sponsor so we can follow developments with LTA. Those of us who already know and love your gear are a happy bunch and we will be cheering you on as LTA brings new products to the market based on David's peerless designs. I had the opportunity to meet him at CAF last weekend--what a kind, unassuming guy. I have always dreamed of owning David Berning amplification and now, thanks to LTA, his designs are within my grasp. Thanks for the back story on how this came to be and for pushing ahead with LTA so that folks like me are able to enjoy top tier equipment at real world pricing!

Norman Tracy

  • Industry Participant
  • Posts: 214
    • Audio Crafters Guild
Re: Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« Reply #14 on: 9 Nov 2018, 04:26 pm »
Welcome to AC Mark. For decades David Berning's designs have offered valuable alternatives and it is good to have you on AC with details on LTA's implementations.

As someone who also works in manufacturing and grapples with the differences between design engineering and production engineering this quote from Mark's top post made my day:

"I really understood how complex and difficult David’s designs were. Then he tells me we were the 3rd company to attempt to make his ZOTL amplifiers. The first two failed and gave up…thanks, David…"

Oh yeah, been there, done that, got the T-shirt.    :D

rollo

  • Industry Participant
  • Posts: 4008
  • Rollo Audio Where Home demo rules
Re: Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« Reply #15 on: 9 Nov 2018, 04:31 pm »
Welcome Mark. It was a pleasure sharing The room at the NY show last year. Say Hi to David.


charles

Mike B.

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 656
Re: Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« Reply #16 on: 9 Nov 2018, 05:26 pm »
Welcome. Interesting story Mark. The mention of the Eico integrated brought back fond memories. It was the heart of my first real hifi setup. It replaced a Magnavox suitcase stereo I got as a gift in 1962. My audio business mentor was the late Bob Crump, so I know how important it has to have a veteran take you under their wings. I look forward to your input here.

dj1228

  • Newbie
  • Posts: 2
Re: Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« Reply #17 on: Yesterday at 03:24 pm »
I have one of your microZOTL 's  and will try to get a listen to one of your amps soon. Great sounding products! Thanks

Emil

Re: Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« Reply #18 on: Yesterday at 05:55 pm »
Hi Mark

Enjoying my MZ2 very much. Thank you.

For those already owning your wonderful preamp and considering the Zotl10 or Zotl40, I don't see an option
to purchase those fine amps without the Alps Blue velvet volume control. I would assume the cost would be less. What gives? :D



Rocket_Ronny

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 1116
  • Your Room Is Everything - Use It Well.
    • ScriptureSongs.com
Re: Linear Tube Audio Introduction
« Reply #19 on: Yesterday at 06:02 pm »
Quote
With 98db speakers, 1 watt is just not enough for critical listening. Its going to distort if you just put anything on and turn it to a loud listening level.

My friend had used them on way less sensitive 2 ways. Even at the lowest sound levels the amp was stressed out. It had nothing to do with sound levels.

Rocket Ronny