12AX7

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12AX7
RCA12ax7.jpg
RCA 12AX7
Classification: Dual Triode
Service: Class-A amplifier
Height: 2.2 in (56 mm)
Diameter: 0.8 in (20 mm)
Cathode
Cathode type: Indirectly heated
Heater voltage: Series / Parallel
12.6 / 6.3
Heater current: Series / Parallel
150 / 300 mA
Anode
Max dissipation Watts: 1 per section
Max voltage: 300
Socket connections
EIA-9A.png
Typical class-A amplifier operation
Amplification factor: 100
Anode voltage: 250
Anode current: 1.2 mA
Bias voltage: -2
Anode resistance: 62500
Reference
Sylvania 12AX7 datasheet

12AX7 (also known as ECC83) is a miniature dual triode vacuum tube with high voltage gain. It was developed around 1946 by RCA engineers[1] in Camden, New Jersey, under developmental number A-4522. It was released for public sale under the 12AX7 identifier on September 15, 1947. The 12AX7 was originally intended as replacement for the 6SL7 family of dual-triode amplifier tubes for audio applications. It is popular with tube amplifier enthusiasts, and its ongoing use in such equipment makes it one of the few small-signal vacuum tubes in continuous production since it was introduced.

History[edit]

The 12AX7 is basically two 6AV6 triodes in one package. The 6AV6 was a miniature repackaging (with just a single cathode) of the triode and twin diodes from the octal 6SQ7 (a double-diode triode used in AM radios), which itself was very similar to the older type 75 triode-diode dating from 1930.

As of 2012 the 12AX7 was made in various versions by two factories in Russia (Winged C, formerly Svetlana, and New Sensor, which produces tubes under the Sovtek, Electro-Harmonix, Svetlana, Tung-Sol, and other brands for which the firm has acquired trademark rights), one in China (Shuguang), and one in Slovakia (JJ), for a total annual production estimated at two million units. The vast majority are used in new-production guitar amplifiers or for replacements in guitar and audio equipment.

Application[edit]

The 12AX7 is a high-gain (typical amplification factor 100), low plate current triode best suited for low-level audio voltage amplification. In this role it is widely used for the preamplifier (input and mid-level) stages of audio amplifiers. It has relatively high Miller capacitance, making it unsuitable for radio-frequency use.

Typically a 12AX7 triode is configured with a high-value plate resistor, 100k ohms in most guitar amps and 220k ohms or more in high-fidelity equipment. Grid bias is most often provided by a cathode resistor. If the cathode resistor is unbypassed, negative feedback is introduced and each half of a 12AX7 provides a typical voltage gain of about 30; the amplification factor is basically twice the maximum stage gain, as the plate impedance must be matched. Thus half the voltage is across the tube at rest, half across the load resistor. The cathode resistor can be bypassed to reduce or eliminate AC negative feedback and thereby increase gain; maximum gain is about 60 times.

The initial "12" in the designator implies a 12-volt heater requirement; however, the tube has a center-tapped heater so it can be used in either 6.3V or 12.6V heater circuits.

Similar twin-triode designs[edit]

The 12AX7 was the most common member of what eventually became a large family of twin-triode vacuum tubes, manufactured all over the world, all sharing the same pinout (EIA 9A). Most used heaters which could be optionally wired in series (12.6V, 150 mA) or parallel (6.3V, 300 mA). Other tubes, which in some cases could be interchangeable in an emergency, include the 12AT7, 12AU7, 12AV7, and the low-voltage 12U7, plus many 4-digit EIA series dual triodes. They span a wide range of voltage gain and transconductance. Different versions of each were made for enhanced ruggedness, low microphonics, stability, lifespan, etc.

Those other designs offered lower voltage gain (traded off for higher plate current) than the 12AX7 (which had a voltage gain or A_v of 100), and were more suitable for high-frequency applications.

Some American designs similar to the 12AX7:

  • 12AD7 (October 10, 1955 - 225mA heater - low hum)
  • 12AT7 (May 20, 1947, dual 6AB4, A_v = 60)
  • 12AU7 (October 18, 1946 dual 6C4, A_v = 17-20)
  • 12AV7 (February 14, 1950 - dual 6BC4, A_v = 37-41)
  • 12AX7 (September 15, 1947 - like miniature 6SL7, A_v = 100)
  • 12AY7 (December 7, 1948 - A_v = 44, for audio preamp use)
  • 12AZ7 (March 2, 1951 - 225mA heater, A_v = 60)
  • 12DF7 (A_v = 100, low microphonics)
  • 12DT7 (A_v = 100)
  • 12DW7 (First triode: A_v = 100, Second triode: A_v = 17)
  • 12U7 (A_v = 20, for use in automotive radios on 12-volt plate supply)

Although commonly known in Europe by its Mullard-Philips tube designation of ECC83, other European variations also existed including the low-noise versions 12AX7A, 12AD7, 6681, 7025, and 7729; European versions B339, B759, CV492, CV4004, CV8156, CV8222, ECC803, ECC803S, E2164, and M8137; and the lower-gain low-noise versions 5751 and 6851, intended for avionics equipment.

In European usage special-quality valves of some sort were often indicated by exchanging letters and digits in the name: the E83CC was a special-quality ECC83. In the US a "W" in the designation, as in 12AX7WA, designates the tube as complying with military grade, higher reliability specifications.

The 'E' in the European designation classifies this as having a 6.3 volt heater, whereas the American designation of 12AX7 classifies it as having a 12.6 volt heater. It can, of course, be wired for operation off either voltage.

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jung, David (September 2010). "Draw! A 12AX7 'Shooutout'". Vintage Guitar: 114. 

External links[edit]