by: Rey Andres

AUDIOPHILE PREFERS VINTAGE: Rey Havana of Orange County, a certified audiophile, monitors the oscilloscope for his “vacuum tube” amplifiers in his garage. After 20 of restoring sound equipment as a happy, he is just more than happy to have more time for his passion now that he is retired as a medical equipment maintenance

In this age of miniaturized sound technology, collectors still prefer the high-fidelity rendition the tube in their sound systems. The technology that many baby-boomers grew up with still commands a following in this high tech, user-friendly world of gadgetry.

Rey Havana of Orange County is a throwback to the good old days of the brick and mortar stores when audio companies took great pride in their engineering skills and designed receivers in-house. His passion for vintage sound system has intensified through the years.

For 20 years, buying and restoring sound equipment using the “tube technology” was a hobby from which he derived hours and hours of pleasure. Now, officially retired from his work in one of the hospitals in Orange County as maintenance guy for medical electronic equipment, he’s looking forward to keeping himself busy now that he can frequent his favorite hunting grounds more often for vintage sound systems that use vacuum tubes which he claims “produce better sound quality”. “

Adherents of the tube technology swear to the claim that “the music from tube amplifiers is more musical and true to its source”.

Some audiophiles may have disagreements on the merits of tube against the other system known as solid state amplification and prefer the sound quality of tube amplifiers in it “being more natural and satisfying”.

Electronic amplifiers using vacuum tubes have been around even before the introduction in the 1960s of transistorized solid state amplification system that many prefer for being smaller, lighter, lower heat production and reliable.

Tube amplifiers have retained a loyal following over the years among audiophiles and musicians. Some tube designs even command higher prices.

Like vintage car buyers, vintage sound system collectors go through great lengths to seek for items they fancy.

A buyer from Asia specifically sought him out for a rare vintage tube-powered sound system and paid good dollars for his unit. Apparently, an experienced collector knows a good find when he stumbles into it.

In recent years, preferences for tube amplifiers have been undergoing a revival that Chinese and Russian markets have been opened to global trade. Tube production, however, never went out of vogue in these countries.

Havana scours several sources for his audio system equipment and has brought him to many swap meets, garage sales and thrift shops where he occasionally hits the jackpot in his hunting sprees. Many of the electronic parts he uses for his restoration work in rebuilding sound systems come from his collection he amassed through the years as a hobbyist.

Just how does a vacuum tube work?

In a modern vacuum tube, four principal elements work together to make a tube work. The Filament (heater), Cathode, Grid and Anode (or plate). When the filament is connected with voltage that boils the cathode it emits electrons that pass through the grid and hits the Anode. The electron flow inside  the tube amplifies a small alternating current (AC)  signal into a larger AC voltage.. By controlling the grid voltage, the current flow can be regulated to create the desired electronic characteristics, while amplifying the signal (source).

Inside the glass or tube is the silver deposit, also called getter, which helps increase the vacuum in the tube.

The vacuum tube is what powers most electric guitar and bass amplifiers and preferred by professionals as an amplification device.