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Blog posts of '2011' 'December'

MULLARD MAGIC'S PART IN THE DAMBUSTERS REMAKE

 As some of you may be aware, Stephen Fry and myself are chums from our university days. You may not know that Stephen has been very busy writing the screenplay for a remake of the Dambusters which will be distributed on release by Universal Pictures & Studio Canal. I am pleased to report that due to my connection with Stephen, Mullard Magic has been asked to help with the radio installation in the Lancaster mock up that has being used for filming.

I have taken Stephen to task for his meddling in renaming Guy Gibson's beloved pet, why should we rewrite history for the sake of political correctness - history is inviolate! Anyhow, we were fortunate enough to meet one of the stars of the new film when we were fitting out the R1155/T1154 station. Remember, you saw it here first, direct from the Boreham Wood studios, I bring you this picture of Tigger, Guy Gibson's beloved cat gambolling inside a T1154 casing.

 

 

TODAY MITCHAM, TOMORROW, THE WORLD!

It was 1937 and SS Eriks, General Manager of Mullard, sat in his office, comfortable in his Tan-sad office chair but he was troubled. Mitcham could no longer keep up with the pace of production required to fulfill the radio world's voracious demands for thermionic devices - something had to be done.

Eriks was a chap whom melded humanitarianism with good business acumen, the Mitcham site could not be expanded further, what he needed was an available work force and a surfeit of cheap plentiful land upon which to build a new plant yet still have plenty of room for future expansion. Eriks hit on the idea of building his satellite plant 'uuup north' and he chose Blackburn in Lancashire as a good location. You see, due to the decline of the cotton industry there was a sizeable unemployed workforce of mainly dexterous women, freely available and even quite a few chaps too with collarless shirts and big flat caps. Remember, that part of Lancashire was a depressed area in the 1930s, with no nipping out to The Three Fishes, Ferraris or The Calves Head for a gastro meal - you were lucky if you got stew & hard and that's a Burnley delicacy really. Accordingly, the foundation stone for the Blackburn plant was laid on 30th March 1938 and a new era dawned for Mullard.

 

STANLEY MULLARD HAS GONE SO HOW, WHERE AND WITH WHO DID MULLARD GO FORWARD?

With Stanley out of the picture, Philips wasted no time in installing SS Eriks as General Manager. With technology transfer totally complete, valve production started at Mitcham and F Kloppert and ex Dutch forces man was sent over as Production Manager. By introducing draconian measures, he made Mitcham an effective plant. With production tightly controlled and mastery by Dutch management complete,, Eriks again repeated his proud boast that 'the only British part within a Mullard valve is the vacuum!'

Eriks viewed his empire with puzzlement, efficiencies in manufacturing had been taken as far as they could but by 1937 it was evident that more production capacity than Mitcham could supply was required, the problem was, what could be done?

 

 

WHAT STANLEY DID NEXT!

 Well, things were rubbing along famously but in 1925 Stanley decided that it was time to cash in his chips so he then spent the next couple of years wooing Philips and other shareholders alike to sell. Philips eventually stumped up £7 per share and the sale went ahead secretly in 1927 with all shares being registered in Stanley's name so the public didn't get wind of a major British manufacturer being taken over by a foreign company. This fiction was maintained quite successfully until 1938.

With Philips now owning all of the shares in Mullard, change was looming as although Stanley was kept on as MD, he was put firmly in the picture that Philips was now firmly in control. In 1929 when Stanley floated the idea of Mullard diversifying into receiver manufacture, Anton Philips gave him the hard word and refused. As if this rebuttal wasn't enough, Anton Philips then despatched a 26 year old wunderkind engineer in the form of Wim Julius to modernise the Mullard factory. Stanley Mullard realised it was time to move on and in 1930 he resigned from Mullard Valves to spend more time cultivating roses which were his passion. In later years, Stanley was heard to muse that he made more money from horticulture than he ever made from electronics. In fact he was responsible for using vermiculite in potting mixtures as this mica derived material was used to pack the mica stacks bought in for valve manufacture - was this an early example of green recycling I wonder? - whatever, please remember this interesting fact the next time you are buying vermiculite at Dobbies or Wilkos!!

 

PUSSY TREATED VALVE SHOOT OUT.
Last time I described the exciting treatment that Noctode, our cat provides for the valves I have on sale. It has long been my opinion that Pussy treatment of valves gives EXACTLY IDENTICAL audible effects to that provided by cryo treatment of valves, but ho-hum, that’s a very subjective claim so I sought a more scientific unbiased opinion.

To this end, I lobbied some famous reviewers from the hifi comics, sorry magazines, to do a blind comparison on my behalf. The day dawned and the critical ears of Flemming Vansittart and Xmas Cipher-Thicket were called upon to perform.

I tried to do the best I could, so, I fitted a new thorn needle to my trusty Dansette turntable/single ended amp/wide range speaker combo system (in faux snakeskin rexine cabinet finish) and instead of the £400 mains lead some bloke near Morcambe tried to flog me, I used a B&Q mains extension lead, 2 gang (a bargain at £3.89) to connect us to the mains via the shortened 1960s two core bell wire turntable flex

The programme material was chosen to explore the tonal qualities and bring out any differences the valves possessed and we then played in sequence during our blind comparative test:-

The Cat Fugue ; Domenico Scarlatti.

The Monk & The Cat ; Samuel Barber.

The Cats’ Duet ; Gioachino Rossini.

The Kitty Valse; Gabriel Faure.

The results were interesting as two pairs of highly experienced golden ears – could not find a difference between any of the valves. Amazing. Now, it may be that they were feeling a little jaded that day, it may be that the rich pre audition spread of beef potted meat sandwiches followed by Angel Delight mandarin orange trifle washed down with Tizer caused them heartburn or other digestive distress but I suppose this unexpected result did at least vindicate my own opinion that Pussy treatment of valves does give EXACTLY IDENTICAL audible effects to those provided by cryo treatment of valves.

But hey, don’t take my word for it, why not buy some Pussy treated valves for me and try them yourself – look for the PMT (Pussy Manufacturing Technology) valve range in our product listings. And remember, using my super website review facility you can tell everyone else what you think – wowser!

The first 10 customers to buy Pussy treated valves will also get an exciting free gift, a sample of organic free range acoustic felt, ideal for tube damping and as acoustic wadding for loudspeaker enclosures. Now this organic free range acoustic felt is in short supply as I have stuffed my Chartwell LS3/5A pair with most of my stock and Noctode doesn’t get furballs as frequently as she used to so be sure to buy early to secure your free sample. Be lucky......................!!!

 

 

POST PRODUCTION PUSSY TREATMENT OF VALVES

Here’s what you have all been waiting for, they say a-picture-paints-a-1000-words well, here’s a picture: -

  
 
 

What you see above is our beloved Devon Rex pussy cat, Noctode, post production Pussy treating a valve. It has long been understood that cats provide a sense of wellbeing in humans due to their ‘chi’ which manifests itself as an orthogonally protagonised Van der Waal force which undergoes a Balz – Schieman transfer due to the periodontal trickulum gradient that is produced between the person or item and the pussy.

Scientific experimentation by myself has conclusively shown that this force has an equally beneficial effect on valves where it ‘Pussy – Whips’ the electrons in the valves cathode to an altered hybridization state that allows better emission. What is fascinating is that it works for directly AND indirectly heated cathodes irrespective of whether or not the treated valve is a rectifier or even a small signal pentode. This enhancement imbues the valve with deep reaching sonic properties and, get this.... the effects are permanent – at least until the cathode reaches the end of it’s emissive life.

Kirlian photography can show up these forces, emanating from the Pussy as you can see in this Kirlian photogram of Noctode below. I should like to stress that Kirlian photography is a real technique and is in no way related to the fact that the first Devon Rex cat was called Kirlee or because all Devon Rexes have curly fur. Trust me, I am a scientist and pseudo-scientific psycho babble when applied in an audiophilic sense - just like in the hifi comics, sorry, hifi magazines - means that all I am telling you is true – cross my heart and hope to find a PX25!  Remember, you read it on the internet so it MUST be true.

 

This force transmission does not tire the pussy as it is carried out by placing the valves in her bed and allowing her to rest on top of them. As Noctode is a 5.2kg pussy, her mass will not damage the valves as she jockeys to get comfortable on her brood for a minimum period of 6 hours (+/- 0.25 hours).  We use this time interval based on the results from a Six Sigma DMAIC process study to achieve maximal force transfer whilst optimising valve throughput. In order to measure the optimal time accurately and consistently, a digital desk clock calibrated to a UKAS traceable standard is used for process timing. Noctode is enticed from her bed after the elapsed time by a handful of Tesco Combino cat treats (chicken & cheese flavour, 65g for 89p). The treated valves were allowed to reach a homogenous state and temperature before removing from the treatment bed. As you can see, nothing was left to chance in processing.

Noctode is not fazed by Pussy treatment and takes her work very seriously, here you see her viewing the fruits of her labour on our AVO VCM Mk2. – her paws are too small and delicate to use the controls on our mighty VCM163. Isn’t it sweet how she is using her tail here to adjust the mA/V control whilst nonchalantly posing for the camera.

 

 
 Now the Mullard Magic website is up and running, we have explained to Noctode that we will need her to treat more valves so she has been busy training at our local pussy gym - here you can see her in action.

 

So there you have it, Pussy treated valves in a nut shell, next time, I will bring you the results of an exciting comparative listening test between cryo treated, Pussy treated and mis - sorry untreated valves.

A MULLARD MAGIC FIRST – FORGET CRYO TREATED VALVES COS THESE ARE BETTER!
 We bring you our latest exciting new development. Some of you will be aware that post manufacturing treatments of valves is currently en-vogue. I have read with interest just how beneficial cryogenic or ‘cryo’ treatment of valves is purported to be. Allegedly, the stresses induced during valve manufacture affect electrode structure tolerances within the valve and cryogenic freezing relaxes these – permanently.

As a scientist, I understand that many of the metals used in valve manufacture such as Copper, Molybdenum , Nickel and Tungsten are transition metals. I am however, unsure how a transition metal’s ‘electron ship in a cation sea’ lattice is permanently affected by cryogenic treatment, however I am no metallurgist.  Maybe there’s a clue in those words somewhere - ‘metal and ‘lurgy’ come to mind.

But it must be true I suppose – after all, look at The Incredible Hulk! And we all know that if we freeze water, it aligns into a new structure which non- scientists call ice. If I were rich enough, I would take my ice to the Bahamas to see if it’s state change is permanent. It doesn’t stay as ice in Cheshire but maybe that’s because I’m using a Frigidaire instead of liquid nitrogen to do the initial freezing.

Anyhow, I digress, because as a PhD qualified scientist armed with a Bash Street Swimming Club 100M swimming certificate and a Swiss Army knife having an attachment for removing stones from horse hooves, I have devised a new post manufacture valve treatment, yes, Pussy treatment and I will be offering it free of charge, on request to anyone who purchases any valve I offer for sale.

In my opinion, Pussy treatment of valves will give a similar audible effect to cryo treatment of valves but to you the customer, it’s free of charge, involves no Dreschel bottles, no Dewar flasks and no liquid nitrogen, it is completely organic, is carbon neutral and no Galapagos giant turtles will be harmed in the treatment of your valves.

Pretty good huh, more details on this exciting new development in my next blog posting.

 

 

 

IMPROVEMENTS TO THE PM SERIES 1926 to 1928
The unreliable 'split-pin' PM series were swiftly replaced by valves having a new improved base. The base was characterized by having the same ebonite base but the inset pins were now tubular, having two slots in orthogonal configuration with electrode lead arrangements..outs being passed up the pin centre and connected by soldering at the tips.

The bases now had a paint filled groove also labeled ‘A’ to denote the anode connection adjacent to the anode pin – This paint was applied by deft fingered young ladies but the process was deemed too labour intensive and so was discontinued in 1928, however, the base mould was unchanged so the unpainted groove and letter still remained. Reliabilty was mightily improved by the new connection arrangements.

 

Original valve box images  by kind courtesy of Alan Wyatt of The National Valve Museum = see more at www.r-type.org

THAT MULLARD MAGIC SOUND
 As we all know, Mullard valves are blessed with that special sound – some call it Mullard magic – just like our website title. Bit what is it about these thermionic devices that provide this sound. Is it the Jablonski shift that occurs as the electrons rushing from the cathode electrons flip from one energy state to the next lower one emitting hv as a purple shift – could that be it? 

So the Mullard electrons are purple huh – that explains why that great swing standard Deep Purple sounds so good on a Mullard equipped amplifier. Does your Mullard 3-3 rock when you play Smoke on the Water (………. by Deep Purple). Does your bass boogaloo through your EL37 as Prince riffs along in… Purple Rain. How about on large scale choral musicals such as Colour Purple? Perhaps your Leak presents a lush soundstage so sonically superb that superlatives surpass the sensuous sound???? OMG, I'm beginning to sound just like one of those hifi comics you find in the newsagents.

Am I just being silly, shall we place this myth iof special Mullard electrons 'in the file box' along with wood capacitors, CD felt tip pens, solid silver mains leads plaited by virgin Cuban nymphs specially selected for the tightness of their (ooo-eer) cigar rolling... and other audiophillic pseudo scientific quackery.

Actually, I’ll let you into a secret, the real reason is that Mullard had been making valves for a long time even before they started manufacturing the sonic stalwarts we all crave today – the AC044, AC042, EL84, EL37. EL34, ECC 81, 82, 83, EZ80 81, GZ 30 32, 34, 37. But hey, this was also the case for other big ticket manufacturers such as Telefunken, Valvo, National Union, Sylvania, RCA, Osram, GEC, Brimar and Cossor – they might have each used differing techniques and materials but their manufacturing ethos was the same. Accordingly, during production, each device was subject to strict production controls where quality assurance was built in and end product quality control batch testing meant the product performance and consistency were second to none - inter and intra batch for any given type. And the result of this is very evident - you don't need two heads to tell the difference between these beautifully engineered devices and some of the lesser modern offerings.

 
 
  
And consistency in manufacture is the key to performance and longevity, many a tube affectionado had cause to lament the lack of both of these properties in recent Chinese production valves. Indeed in very recent history,,a new British manufacturer fell by the wayside as they produced a number of interesting high performance small signal audio valves yet they were unable to consistently achieve the nominal specifications as originally stated by Mullard which led to manufacturing hold ups and their eventual demise.

So it’s up to the large scale manufacturers of yesteryear – of which Mullard is only just one – to provide us with our fix of exceptional thermionic devices for a myriad of uses today. Hopefully you will find suitable specimens of tested suitable devices here for sale on our website.

 

 

WHAT DID PHILIPS – MULLARD DO NEXT?
Well, using the recently developed Philips Azide technology for coating and preparing cathodes with barium oxide, the age of the dull emitter had dawned. Following technology transfer from Eindhoven to the Balham works, the production of the PM series valves commenced ( – PM for Philips – Mullard – geddit????.......) with the PM 3 and PM4 in 1925.
 
 

Original valve box images  by kind courtesy of Alan Wyatt of The National Valve Museum = see more at www.r-type.org

 These early PM valves were very distinctive in having four brass pins, each with a single slot cut into them, set into a black ebonite base and having the electrode lead outs wire wrapped and soldered to the pin tops just proud of the ebonite. They were also prone to poor connections and transit damage, so much so that the valves were shipped ‘pins up’ in a box that had a circular peek hole in the lid. The idea was that the valve could be tested at the retailer without unpacking and prior to sale thus allowing the retailer to conduct Mullard quality control on prevent their product’s reliability being sullied by disgruntled consumers finding they had been sold unserviceable new valves!