Call me old fashioned if you will, but there's nothing more pleasing than the soft, natural and warm sound produced by a tube amplifier. The Block amplifier by industrial designer Mateusz Glówka is as much a visual treat as a sonic one. The somewhat harsh geometric lines are offset by the gratifying glow of the half dozen tubes on display outside the stainless steel and aluminum housing and, in a novel twist, the main sound board is attached with hinges so that it can be raised for dusting the electronics. The tube amplifier is a working prototype at the moment, but the designer told Gizmag that he expects production models to be available soon.
Glówka – a graduate of the Industrial Design Department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, Poland – told us that he has spent the last few months testing the tube amplifier with some speakers (also his creation) called SoundPunch, featuring a tube amp-friendly Fostex speaker and laminated, 17mm (0.66-inch) thick dimmed glass walls, the latter said to help keep unwanted vibrations to a minimum. The Block prototype was created along with electronics veteran Marian Kopecki, who has "35 years of experience in fields ranging from military microwaves through filtering network interference to electric vehicles."
Two E88CC tubes used for RIAA correction, two 6N6P tubes for the driver and two 6P3S-E tubes for the output stage are positioned on the top of, and outside, the upper housing and connect to the hinged main board within. Other components include TG MAN 67 SE and TS 180/121 output transformers and DS5/200 chokers, a 230V, 50Hz IEC 60320 C14 power input with 630maT slow blowing fuse power protection, a mechanical power switch to reduce stand-by consumption to zero, a 50 kohm ALPS volume control and contactron input selectors.
Internal components known to cause the most signal interference have been placed in closed compartments to isolate them from the audio's path. The 11.8 x 9.8 x 10-inch (300 x 250 x 255 mm) Block weighs just under 40 pounds (18 kg) and is said to take about a minute to warm up.
To the rear are four DC-coupled, 50 kohm RCA line inputs, a 47kohm, DC-coupled RCA input for a turntable and speaker outputs. Output power at 440Hz is reported to be 2 x 3.5W (with total harmonic distortion of one percent) and 2 x 5W (with five percent THD), the frequency response at 3W is 35Hz to 35kHz and the optimum speaker load is 8 ohms.
Glówka told us that the first limited production run will be ready for the end of June and that "the prices are not set yet, but I would think it should cost about a US$1000 per piece."