This is not my first signal tracer, but it’s the first one I’ve gone to this much trouble on. These have been getting pricey ever since musicians discovered they make cute little practice amps, so whenever I see one at a good price, I’ll snag it.
When I got it, it ‘worked’. The indicator indicates, and sound played as expected. It had a bit of hum and noise – not unreasonable, but definitely room for improvement. At first, I thought I’d just replace any parts that were out of spec, but given how this is constructed, I decided a ground up re-build would be a better approach.
Here’s the before pic – the component count isn’t so high that it’s difficult to trace out in it’s condition, but it’s not exactly easy on the eyes.
Unbuilt Heathkits are getting fantastically expensive, but I figured if I did a complete tear-down, and ordered all new caps & resistors, I’d essentially get some resemblance of the new kit experience. So off I went ordering parts, and stripping the chassis.
Everything showed up as ordered, but I didn’t pay attention to the physical size of the resistors. Everything that showed up was 1/2 W as ordered, but they’re suspiciously small – even though they’re probably ‘correct’, they look out of place. They look like 1/8 W, they’re absolutely tiny.
The one’s in question are:
47Ω – on the output
10kΩ – in the power supply
470Ω – on a cathode
There’s also the 1W 1kΩ in the power supply (the one that was looking toasty in the original build). It’s bigger, but it still just doesn’t feel right. I’m going to go 2W on all these, somewhat for piece of mind, and somewhat for looks.
The solid-core for the wire used throughout measures .025 which puts it at 22 AWG. The OD w/ insulation is .056. I have a bunch of 24 AWG solid core PVC jacketed hookup wire in various colors, and some cloth covered 20AWG from New Old Sounds. The PVC wire has a slightly smaller OD than the original stuff, whereas the cloth covered stuff is on the thick side; slightly thicker than the transformer leads. 24 AWG is really fine for all of this, and I may use the cloth covered stuff for leads that pass through the deck. The highest current is probably the heaters. Each tube is 150 mA, and 24 AWG is good for 3.5 A, so we should be fine.
Ground = Black
Filaments = Brown
B+ = Red
Control Grids = Green
Plates = Blue
AC Line = Grey
I was able to strip out almost everything, with the exception of the transformers and a few of their connections. There’s really no slack on the transformer leads, so I didn’t want to risk it.
Here it is as disassembled as it was going to get – note I already started on re-stuffing the electrolytic capacitor.
Speaking of capacitors – this one was a bear to empty out. I think it tested OK, but I was trying to make it future proof. In my experience, really dried out, dead electrolytics seem to come apart rather easily. When I opened this one up, it was still a damp, packed, impervious mess. Picking, poking, & drilling did nothing, nor did soaking in water. Boiling did the trick – a poor mans double-boiler with a sauce can kept me from exposing my cookware to the nasty innards.
I generally followed the instructions, making a few modifications to component placement, particularly where smaller replacement components allowed for a neater layout.
The face-plate was installed after getting a polish. It’s not perfect, but it’s better. The screw-heads & jack hardware also got hit with a wire wheel – It’s easy, and I think makes a big difference.
I’m pretty proud of how this came out. There was one guy razzing me on the Vintage Test Equipment group about how some of the runs were too long & unsupported, which would cause variations in capacitance when they vibrate, or there was a possibility of exposed leads shorting if the unit was dropped. I’m dismissing those as non-issues; I’m not going to sweat variations in picofarads on a device that tops out at a few kilohertz, and any drop hard enough to cause these components to come into contact would have much larger consequences anyway. It may be difficult to tell from these photos, but leads that look close to touching are either at the same point in the circuit, or are a few cm away from each other. These construction methods aren’t appropriate for high frequency circuits, but for audio, it’s just fine.
With the final assembly complete, all that’s left to do is power this up, slowly on a Variac. It came to life with little fanfare – no creaks, pops, crackles, or smoke. Once I saw the glow of the eye tube, but didn’t hear anything, I was convinced I’d screwed something up – I expected at least a little noise. I tried playing back some music through the 1/4″ just for kicks, and was pleasantly surprised to hear clean audio reproduced. It’s sounds as good as can be expected for this tiny speaker, but it’s quiet and clean. I haven’t tested the wattmeter function – I may at some point, even though I’m confident it’ll never get used. The paint on the outer case isn’t in great shape, but I don’t have the means to strip it down, so that will be a future project – perhaps doing a whole batch in one go.