The History of Valve Amplificiation - Mark Manwaring-White

The human race has in general always liked the sounds of music in many forms. When the first recording cylinder was produced by Thomas Edison in 1878, there was a revolution; now we could record the sounds we made. This was followed by the 78 RPM shellac record, to enable people to replay this wonderful recorded music, however this was all still mechanical. Then came Mr Ambrose Fleming, with the vacuum diode. In 1906, Mr Lee De-Forest added a third electrode to Fleming's diode and succeeded in making an amplifying triode. He did not know it at the time, but sound reproduction was on a roll; he had kick started the way to amplify music, among many other uses for his invention. The first truly reliable Thermionic Valves were actually manufactured in France, in 1915. Then in 1920, Capt. S R Mullard started manufacturing in the UK.

Step forward through the Second World War and we have a really respectable capability for some sophisticated wireless technology. It was then that true High Fidelity reproduction started in earnest!

All was going well until the semiconductor transistor hit the streets in the late 60s when came a further revolution - gone were the heavy, hot and unreliable old-fashioned valve HiFi amplification and in came slim shiny transistor amplifiers, which were modern, sleek, and more powerful; the ultimate Japanese mass production item. We were smitten with this new technology. However, thankfully the thermionic valve never quite went away.

Now jump to 2011, when Malvern Audio Research was born. A business dedicated to valve amplification for the truly discerning listener.

Why go back to valves, you ask??

Modern valve amplification does not have the pitfalls of 60s technology. The new generation amplifiers are modern sounding, reliable, and very stylish. But more importantly, they can produce the most natural and organic sound to transport you into the musician's studio or concert hall.

More importantly is the reason for this.

In basic terms, a typical semiconductor amplifier will contain integrated circuit(chips) along with many semiconductor devices. Now a typical valve amplifier has between 3 and 5 amplifying devices, which is probably on average a 15-1 ratio.

The reason that this is not satisfactory is that every amplifying device in a HiFi unit has a small effect on the signal flowing through it, to a greater or lesser extent. This effect is is known as intermodulation distortion, i.e. the mushing together of all individual notes into more of a noise; still music, but lacking the individual layers. So when faced with an amplifier of 50 devices or 5 devices which is superior? Yes, the valve amp with its 3 to 5 devices. However, this does not mean that all valve amplifiers are better than their semiconductor equivalents, as like everything else in life quality counts!

At Malvern Audio Research not only do we manufacture our Audio Detail range of valve pre-amplifiers, phono stages and power amplifiers, we also import one of China's premier manufacturer's hand built range of amplifiers, with a history of 27 years in business! We do not hide behind a western name, but proudly offer the Ming Da range of high end amplifiers, and have done so for the last 7 years.

As an engineer myself, I care deeply about the right sounds and I have a team of dedicated listeners to check and double check what we offer.

- Mark Manwaring-White - Malvern Audio Research


We at Expressive Audio are huge fans of valve amplifiers, and we are proud to offer Malvern Audio Research's range of Audio Detail HiFi products. Mark's aim has always been to design valve-based products for the 21st century, and we believe that Audio Detail's hand built artisan audio equipment suits all set-ups, including the highest possible quality of streamed music.

Browse Audio Detail's products here, and watch our video interview with Mark Manwaring-White about Ming Da, Audio Detail and all things valves here!

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