Designing Vacuum Tube Amplifiers And Related Topics by Charles Couch – A Book Review
I have been building guitar amps for about a year now, so far, the builds were nothing more than “paint by the numbers” exercises, i.e., simply follow existing, proven schematics, made mods as needed… Pretty straight forward really. Of course, I learned a lot already, for example, parts selection, construction and troubleshooting techniques, wire routing, grounding and shielding, chassis and component layout, front panel design, etc. Perhaps more things that are not really “electronic” per se. And there are many more things that I still yet to learn. In any case, now I am ready to move up to the next step in the amp building ladder… Building my own designs.
I have been on a quest to collect as many tube design software, worksheets, schematics and datasheets as possible. Well I think I have already too many… more than I can ever hope to digest, really! So for past week or so, I have been going through the various software and worksheets systematically to see if I can put some of them to good use. It is through this search that I came across Charles Couch’s great work. The title of the book is “Designing Vacuum Tube Amplifiers And Related Topics”, with the nifty tagline “Written for and about tool-capable guitarists who can use a pocket calculator”.
I downloaded Charles’ book and software quite awhile ago, I think I merely glanced through the content pages without even reading the book – well that turned out to be a mistake – had I done so, I would be much further along on my learning curve. Well it is never too late, I suppose.
Unlike the well-known authors like Merlin Blencowe and Morgan Jones (where are the American writers?), who put out quite a few good books on amp building and design in the past few years. Charles self-published his book online (available at Scribed), and I have never heard anyone online mentioning it. Even doing a search now turned up very little… Anyway, I think this is a great book and just what I was looking for.
The book is very well written, with many instructive examples along the way, it is not overly mathematical like many of the older text books on vacuum amplifiers and tubes but Charles does go through the math when they are needed, he is after all an experienced (retired) solid-stage design engineer. The book follows a logical sequence which I really appreciate, unlike some of the other books, which appear to leap from subject to subject – just a bit too much for my taste.
As a bonus, Charles Couch also created an accompanying Excel worksheet, so some real design work could be done with the knowledge gained after reading his book and following the lessons provided. I think the two combined are definitely the best package on the subject (for guitar amplifier design) that I have found so far. Rating: 5 out of 5!