Wavebourn - Hercules .....Perfect name!
The name fits this amp perfectly, but before I get into the amp and the sound and all the flash of the amp here is some background on it from the designer Anatoliy.
Hercules amp is an attempt to design a high-end audio amp better than first Pyramid amp that required 4 of 6L6GT tubes in parallel in order to get satisfactory low audible distortions, and additional driver tubes to drive an output stage. 12BQ6 tubes were based on 6V6 design, with bigger cathodes for higher current swing, and denser and closer to cathode grids, for better transconductance and more linear swing. As the result, only one pair of tubes was needed for the same result, and no additional driver, that shorted the signal path and allowed to further decrease audible distortions.
Like Pyramid, Hercules is an amplifier with nested feedback loops. Nested loops were calculated such a way to get deep feedback for minimum of distortions on all powers up to clipping, but still get controlled clipping, when on peaks distortions increase gradually, “softly”, so you can run the amp on higher average power than similar amp with the same amount of feedback through a single loop, that would exhibit audible distortions on peaks.
The preamp and phase splitter stages use a frame-grid triode-pentode. It is one of the latest development of tubes, where grids were made on frames, for better precision. It allowed making tubes with high transconductance and amplification factor at the same time, which were required for fast color TV stages.
Why the name Hercules?
Because relatively small tubes on a big chassis resemble a body with big muscles. However, production version may use different, more optimal chassis, that may look slim, but the name was already given.
It is not like the Pyramid amp (another amp designed by Anatoliy) that uses small, medium, and big tubes. It is simpler, more straightforward design, with only 2 amplification stages and a unity-gain phase splitter between them.
Now back to the amp impressions!
This amp uses technology that keeps the amp from clipping and sounding horrible. It is described by Anatoliy as soft clipping. When the amp is driven hard the sound doesn’t degrade to the point of needing to turning it down.
When we talk about tube amps we usually all have this thought of tube sound. With some amps, this can be thought of as a warm coloration to the sound without definition. That is 100% NOT the case with this amp. It has a very holographic airy sound on the highs. They feel like they continue to extend. Bright in a very good way! By bright I am referring to the level of treble that the amp seems to spotlight.
Some amplifiers will have a very forward sound in the higher frequencies that can be tough to listen to. This can cause fatigue pretty quick and makes listening to music for long periods of time tough to do. This amp keeps them smooth and really allows you to enjoy them. The lows from this amp are nothing short of amazing. I run a sub with my tube amps and I had to adjust the sub down as it was no longer blended. The speakers were very crisp and accurate with the bass and the sub wasn’t needed as much. A tube amp with some punch can be a rare thing especially an amp with only 30 watts per channel.
This amp does not disappoint in the dynamics area. In my system, it never sounded sluggish. It was always helping push the music along effortlessly. My foot did plenty of tapping while listening. This is one of my signs that happens subconsciously when I’m enjoying something in the chain of the system.
My only complaint regarding the amp is the midrange could be just a bit softer. More tubey sounding if you will. I talked with Anatoliy about it and he said a pass control knob to carry the signal through a special triode stage to add low order harmonics for “presence” on mids could be added. I think that’s a great idea as long as it doesn’t change the overall sound of the amp.
Final Thoughts and Impressions
It should be noted that this is the prototype and will change before he sends it to final production. More inputs, possible layout change, etc. Personally, I like the look of the amp. It commands attention on the shelf and when listening to music through it. It is a solid performer and didn’t have an issue keeping up with other amps that have come through my music room. Hercules a perfect name for a clearly powerful amp!
- Push-Pull 30watts per channel
- posts for 4, 8, or 16 Ohm speakers
- Inputs are switchable, unbalanced RCA, or transformer-balanced XLR
- Output tubes are 12BQ6
- Preamp and phase-splitter tubes are 6F12P
- Does not need a speaker load to be on
Equipment used with the Hercules Amp:
- Doge 8 LP Preamp
- LESBOX MK3 Phono Preamp
- Parks Audio Puffin Phono Preamp
- Technics SL-1700 MK2
- Klipsch La Scala
- Klipsch Forte
- Polk Monitor 7
- Cambridge DACMAGIC