uTracers6 in service:
15th of May 2022 Dario from Venice sent me a few pictures of his excellent uTracer6!
I am sending you some photos of my uTracer6 now completed ....
I also added the circuit to reform the capacitors ....
I hope you like it.
Congratulations, a really nice project. Good job
Ik heb de uTracer6 inmiddels afgebouwd. Bijgevoegd twee fototootjes. Ik heb gezocht naar een compacte bouwmethode en hiervoor een soort 'sandwich' gemaakt van het pcb en de frontplaat met een aantal buisvoeten. Een bekabelde foto heb ik niet gemaakt helaas, maar op deze manier is het mogelijk om zo kort mogelijk te bedraden. Het is een beetje passen en meten om de 4 grote elco's niet in de weg te laten zitten, maar uiteindelijk is het goed gelukt. Ook heb ik uiteraard rijkelijk gebruik gemaakt van ferrietkralen. Het kistje is uiteindelijk ongeveer 20x25cm geworden. Frontpaneel een eenvoudig geanodiseerd alu plaatje, en de letters met ouderwetse wrijfletters aangebracht. Het plaatje met de vleugelboutjes is nu nog een blindplaatje (kan er de meetsnoertjes er onderin opslaan), maar kan in de toekomst gebruikt worden als ik andere buisvoeten nodig heb.
Bedankt voor het samenstellen van de mooie kit,
Next step is a cabinet and valve base fixtures.
I prefer a little sub-cabinet for each base type, which then connects to the uTracer6 via a short cable and octal plug and socket.
Many thanks for such a fine kit, that is almost impossible to build incorrectly with such excellent and detailed instructions.
All the best to you and team.
Dear Marie-José and Ronald
Yesterday, I received the stray transistor. Thank you very very much !!
Immediately, I have completed my uTracer6 with the transistor.
My uTracer6 works with the extension board so nice !
Attached image is one of the first traced graph, 4P1L triode connection.
It tells me the real design request. Wonderful !!
The uTracer6 system is the most excellent tube tracer in the world, I believe.
Thank you !!
Shin-ichi also made a small circuit that automatically increases the gain of the OpAmp when the smaller current range is selected
This is the description in his own words:
This is a gorgeous looking of uTracer6 system with the extension board.
A small brown board piled on the extension board is the experimental circuit which enables Ig sense gain change without GUI restart.
To change Ig sensitivity, this circuit switches sense amp gain by means of selecting feedback resistors.
Gains x10 ( GUI standard ) and x100 ( ten times higher ) can be selected.
4.7ohm ( R7 ) is always used to current sense. When x100 gain is selected, GUI shows ten times larger value for grid current.
Operator who knows which gain is selected can find true values by simply shift decimal point position.
In this circuit, 90k resister is two 180k resistors connected in parallel.
The relative accuracy of these 180k resistors and 10k resistor is important for good result.
23rd of March 2022 Honghak sendt me a few pictures of his fine uTracer6!
With the kit you sent me and the excellent production manual, I finished making the uTracer 6 easily. I would like to thank you my appreciation. I've also made uTracer3+, but the production manual is much more sophisticated than before.
I love measuring vacuum tubes with uTracer, making amplifiers, and listening to music.
Ronald provided me with great art, making my hobby deeper and more enjoyable.
Thank you very much.
First off let me say thank you to both you and Marie-José for putting together such a well thought out and organized kit, as well as making sure it got home I Canada safe and sound (and surprisingly quick!)
The build was a success! I was struggling to come up with an enclosure solution and came up with this, we had some scraps of acrylic sheet at the lab so I threw together some templates and took advantage of weekend access to the 50W laser engraver/cutter. Originally it was just for the top mounting plate but the way the standoffs were spaced it gave me the idea to just do everything vertically for a nice small footprint on the desk. It’s still reasonably open and potentially a bit of a danger so version 3 will most likely be a little more contained but for now this is great for still having access to things as I get used to using it. Also a few empty spots for the 4, 5 and 7 pin sockets for older tubes which are on the way from the US.
One consequence of the very compact chassis that was hoped for and seemed to work out is that I have yet to experience any oscillation whatsoever, even when testing 12AX7’s or the big KT120’s. I feel the ability to use very short leads helped here a lot (and the possibly over-generous use of ferrite beads, a consequence of them only coming in a pack of 50). My impatience I’m not waiting until the other sockets arrived will be paid for when it’s time to measure new loops and rewire the sockets but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.
The only little issue I had when doing the calibration was getting the bias perfectly at 0mV, I believe it settled around 45mV, I’ve sent a separate email about that though and hopefully it’s not the end of the world.
As for how the tester is to be used, that’s actually more interesting than the original intention. I set off to build it so I could personally verify the tubes in a few of my stereos as well as just learning more about their operation. I also have a cache of mostly TV tubes which I had no way of testing until now. The interesting part though is that I borrowed a nice 1kV DVM for the calibration step from the physics department at the University where I research and they were all very intrigued, turns out they have a sub-basement with a pile of boxes of old tubes from when they ran 40 or 50 tube oscilloscopes in the labs. They’ve asked me to spend a few days/weeks this coming summer cataloging and testing them so they can be put to good use instead of languishing in the basement. So the tracer will be getting some tubes out of retirement!
Again, thanks so much for a great design and kit, have some photos!
ps: Eagan was very happy to share the design files with the uTracer community:
Please find the dxf and Solidworks files attached. This is the simpler design without the cut-out for the power supply brick as those will be completely different sizes for everyone, the tube socket hole spacing is for the pretty standard 7, 8 and 9 pin varieties and the top three are for the larger ceramic bottom mounted sockets for 4, 5 and 7 pint older style ones. The dxf file for the blank cover is included as well since I feel most people will just use the three popular sizes anyway. Also the standoffs used were 10mm and 20mm M3 standoffs, if someone were to have a 25mm or larger standoff they could omit plate 4 as it was mainly there due to what I had on hand for standoffs. Hopefully, this can help some folks out! As for the lettering and graphics I had just sort of done those within Corel Draw before sending it to the printer so they’re unfortunately lost in the ether.
I thought I would report back on the uTracer 6 project status. The Build has been a great success! Instructions were great making building very easy. I fitted the new tracer to my old suitcase that was built for uTracer3+.
Small hiccups occurred. After building and testing successfully boxful of preamp tubes and 300bs I thought I would recalibrate the machine. After that I FORGOT TO INSTALL J2 back to the board and the next 300b test failed badly. I was fortunate and the mistake only blew up the T62, T63 and T64 in the Anode HV switch. Changed them and I was back in business. Own mistakes, lessons learned :)
Here are some photos including 211 traces I tried with higher voltages. I still need to put the protection switch thingies nicer somewhere in the box :)
Best Regards Mika
18th of February 2022 Tim from the UK has his uTracer6 geared up to trace “an awesome” 6C33!
My uTracer is completed and now in use!
I built the uTracer in two separate Hammond powder-coated steel chassis. The PCB and ex-laptop SMPS are housed in the main unit which has six valve sockets for the most commonly tested valve types. The other chassis serves as an extension, holding a further ten valve sockets with space for several more if needed in future. Splitting the valveholders between the two chassis effectively reduces the overall length of the connections between them which should (hopefully) discourage oscillation. Also, for many common valve types, I only have to make space for the main unit on my bench
I have attached some pictures for your gallery - a 6L6 under test on the main chassis and an awesome 6C33 cooking nicely on the extension chassis.
Many thanks again for all your hard work developing and producing the uTracer and for your help getting mine up & running.
All the Best,
I’ve finished my uTracer a couple of days ago and I’m very happy with it. I have attached some pictures if you like to show some more examples. Due to my interests in, and collection of “exotic” tube I decided to use an external power supply for heating. In addition, it allows me a much better control over the filament voltage and / or current.
Have you considered in “modernizing” the Software? I’ve good experiences in making it “open” and start for example a project on GitHub. This gives other the chance to contribute.
Just to let you know utracer is up and running!
Now is time to make nice case for this gem.
Thank you so much!
23rd of March 2022 Nebojša sent a few pictures of uTracer6 beautifully encased!
24th of January 2022 Sérgio sent me the first pictures of his working uTracer6, and a detailed account of his experiences!
Happy New Year for both of you!
I was able to find some time to assemble the uTracer6 board with no issues. Even the calibration was easy with my two bench digital multimeters (TTI 1604). The only issue I had was measuring the heater voltage for confirmation, since this multimeter is TrueRMS only in AC ranges!!!
I decided to keep the high voltage capacitors vertical as I finally decided for installation on a 2U rack enclosure instead of the 1U enclosure I was considering before. Did you know there are already electrolytic capacitors for 600V? Not a direct replacement due to dimensional reasons and because they are snap-in, but maybe you could have selected them for the uTracer6. Take a look at https://pt.mouser.com/c/passive-components/capacitors/aluminum-electrolytic-capacitors/?capacitance=100%20uF&product=Aluminum%20Electrolytic%20Capacitors&voltage%20rating%20dc=600%20VDC~~700%20VDC&rp=passive-components%2Fcapacitors%2Faluminum-electrolytic-capacitors%7C~Voltage%20Rating%20DC
It was a pleasure to take my roll of leaded solder from storage and use it again after 20 years using lead-free solder. Oh... that smell!! The assembly manual is very detailed and complete. Due to my experience in hand soldering both THT and SMD components I skipped some of your tips but without breaking any rule, even the transistor tabs were soldered more completely as I have the appropriate tools to remove them if I ever need to. By the way, the manual is very complete but the text for item 12 on page 36 is incomplete.
Attached to this message, you can find a picture of my assembled uTracer6 PCB, plus one which shows the two headers on the anode section where the sampling resistors should be. The basic sampling resistors (not shown) are soldered under the board, and I can plug extra resistors in parallel on the header to increase both compliance and limit current values. I have some plans to complement this, which I intend to report back to you when implemented. In fact, I have much more plans to add to my setup. I just gave up increasing the maximum heater voltage to 50V due to the lack of simplicity involved and the rising cost. Not impossible, but tricky and limiting for lower voltage heaters. I haven't given up rising the heater current limit to 5A, though, even if I have to build my own inductor (which seems to be the way to go). What is the maximum power supply voltage you recommend for the uTracer6?
I am using your software under wine on Linux with success. I can't export the chart to bmp, may be some some feature not enabled or some missing software library in wine but I am not worried about that right now. It was really easy to make it work as it is.
I have been able to trace a few tubes for testing, including an old PCF86 which showed a not so emissive triode, a PL504 pentode (27V heater powered externally) and a brand new EL84. Tracing is a bit slow (slower than I expected) but very enjoyable.
I am very pleased with my uTracer6, and will be even more when I finish installing it in an enclosure. Next step will probably be sanding and painting the enclosure, as it has some rusty spots on it. Expect more photos of my uTracer6 in the future. :-)
Are you still looking for parts for the positive grid bias expansion board? Is there any part you would like me to ask for from a local supplier (they sometimes make miracles), in order to help you make the kits available sooner?
Thank you for your dedication to the uTracer project.
I apologize for not writing sooner. I'm pleased to report that I successfully assembled and tested the uTracer6. I made some mistakes during assembly, and burned a few components, but I managed to find replacements. Of course, this was totally my fault and the issue would have been avoided if I only followed your instructions in the manual more carefully. I'm hoping to put it in a nice enclosure very soon, I'll send you another picture when I do. On the image, you can see a Valvo branded metal base EL34 SYO-56F (the only one I have), which tested better than the factory specs. I can finally test the tubes I've collected over the years, thanks to the uTracer6. In the near future I'll be testing and pairing some Russian GU-50 tubes and also testing and pairing a bunch of Russian 6P15P-EV tubes for future amplifier projects. Thank you for everything. Recommendation to future uTracer builders: Follow your instincts, triple check everything, but more importantly, follow Ronald's instructions to the dot.
Dear Ronald and Marie-José!
I congratulate you on the new year 2022! First of all, I wish you good health in this difficult time, as well the achieving more greater success in your interesting business, increasing the number of customers and expanding the geography of your shipments.
I hasten to inform you that the uTracer 6 kit that you sent was successfully assembled and tested by me.,br> All is working properly and perfectly!!!
First I tested four 5687 tubes and the tester in quick test mode successfully diagnosed the condition of all tubes, which was very useful for me (see the attachment).
Due to the collapse of the postal service, I am not able yet to test my vintage 50EH5 tubes as I promised earlier.
But the main thing is the start and it's just great.
Hi Ronald, and happy new year !
I have my uTracer 6 up and running.
It seems to work fine, maybe a slight oscillation on one tube once, and there were something that was messing with the GUI communication, but it disappeared.
I have tested many big tubes like 813, 829B, QQE06-40, and DA41, some with positive grid from G2 output, and small tubes, with nice results.
I use external filament PSU when necessary.
24th of December 2021 Luis (CT1CVL) from Portugal finished his uTracer just before Christmas!
Hi Ronald and M.José,
At last! finished the uTracer 6 before Christmas! hi hi
I must congratulate both of you, for the excellent work that you made with those kits.
Very good manual, the pcb is super, the instructions are flawless!
One suggestion, to put additional pins or terminals to connect the LED to an external one, in the panel.
I put a big one, red LED 10mm for the HV! ;-)
See the photos, the only thing that is missing, yet, is the panel work, with the lettering, to make a more "professional" look !, but I was in a rush to work with the tube tester.
Hello Marie and Ronald!
I would like to start by thanking you for the great project, well designed, documented, and of excellent quality (I noticed some components ...).
I would like to thank Marie for the prompt and quick replies by email ...
My Christmas present is completed ... all tests have been performed successfully, now i should calibrate the card but i think this depends a lot on the supply voltage and i really need to know if i can use the Siemens power supply I was talking about in previous emails ... it is of excellent quality and has exceptional stability ... I think the whole circuit would benefit from it. Given the schematic and 7815 I don't think there are any problems but I would prefer to have a point of view from whoever designed the circuit. Then I still have a few days to find the right 'home' for my uTracer6 ... make the gift package ... put it under the tree ... heee yuuuu !!
I appreciated everything ... the order of the components ... the instructions ... the Tips and Tricks ... the printed and bound manual (I had printed a copy ... I did not expect to receive it). There are excellent boxes to check the components as they are assembled and the warnings and reminders to be careful ... ... all useful and well done. And in fact, completed without problems!
The only note, if I may allow myself, would be to add a way to verify the correct welding of L60 L61 L80 L81.
Personally, I checked the continuity between the pads of T60 and T80 ... and then again, not convinced, I measured the inductance ... but I think that some advice for the less experienced could be useful; the circuit is small and it would not be convenient, once everything has been assembled, to put those components back.
I hope to receive an answer on the power supply soon so that we can proceed with the calibration.
Ik wilde even laten weten dat de uTracer6 perfect werkt. Ik zal later wat meer foto's sturen als ik alles in een behuizing heb gemaakt. Dat wordt een koffer met pcb als frontplaat, die moet ik nog even ontwerpen.
Ik las iets over een extension board voor positieve grid spanningen en grid stroom meting. Is daar al zicht op? Of nog work in progress? Lijkt me een interessante toevoeging.
Thank you so much for your reply and for your help.
Now the reason for my "problem" is perfectly clear to me.
In fact, the measures that had "problems", all concerned very low current tubes in the range of 0,5 to 5 mA.
I did some testing with the advice you gave me, but they still don't work for very low current tubes.
The problem does not exist anyway!
I always have my utracer 3 to perfectly measure the high gain, low current triodes! ??
The new utracer 6 seems to be doing great so far.
Untill now, I was able to test several KT88s, 2A3s, 6550s and 300Bs without any problems or signs of oscillation.
I'm sending you some photos. In the frame I have added a very simple but functional linear variable DC power supply, which allows me to power even triodes with filament up to 5A in DC.
The display if for heater voltage and current off course.
Finally I also changed the Rs value to 7,5 ohm. Now the maximum compliance current is 480mA. I found that is enough for my need.
That's it... for now! ??
Thank you again.
Hello Marie-José and Ronald,
Now uTracer 6 up and running.
Thank you for you for the very good construction manual!
Everything works fine and I have got interesting measure data.
Hi Ronald and Marie-José,
Thank you for your kit and the excellent manual.
I already finished making and tested a pair of Soviet G-807 radio tubes. https://ua9uqb.livejournal.com/325300.html
There are plans to make a case, perform a full calibration and select pairs of lamps for my RIAA corrector and amplifier.
It took several weeks to complete. Just wrapped it up this weekend and the uTracer6 is fully functional. Here is what I built.
Thanks for supplying a superb kit,
25th of August 2021 Dave is very pleased with his uTracer6 and used it to test a giant ELROG ER300B!
Hi Ronald, I can't thank you enough for the effort, years of experience, ingenuity and attention to detail that went into designing, productising the uTracer6 and turning into a kit.
The uTracer6 assembly instructions were again first class and I really enjoyed putting it together. Building it myself was part of the attraction.
As with my uTracer3 (which I'll still use for small tubes) I put the uTracer6 board into a simple plastic case with a clear lid so I can see the LEDs. Unlike the uTracer6 I haven't included any tube sockets. I'll build an external box for each tube-type with optimised anti-oscillation measures. You can see the 300B extension in the first picture.
The second picture shows a couple of Ihor Smal's ESP32-based units running his software. One of my original uTracer and one for my new uTracer6.
The only tubes that I currently have that can utilise the uTracer6's advanced capabilities are 6550s (and only just). I've attached pictures from both Ronald's software and Ihor's software.
I've ordered an XH-M403 DC to DC Digital Voltage Regulator Buck Converter for driving heaters beyond the capabilities of the uTracer6.
Test setup with one vintage 6SN7, works now!
Made one mistake during calibration, cost one Mosfet in Anode HV ,T65. (hard to get).
Had a very god time during this trip. The instructions is great, Next is to box it.
Report later boxed.
It takes almost four months, and now I have finished assembling my version of uTracer6 based tube tracer.
Attached tracing.jpg is its figure !
I made build-in dc filament supply ( heater is also available, of course ) to trace direct heating tubes easy. This circuit refers to the PWM1 signal of uTracer6 to generate dc voltage that tracks the value of the Vh field of the GUI. Soft start ( This is a nice feature ! ) and on/off operation are controlled in the GUI's manner. Missing PWM1 pulse during measure period doesn't affect on filament voltage. A collage from my notebook (block.jpg) shows the simplified block diagram of this supply. A tiny flowchart of square root calculation gave me an inspiration about this circuit. This simple algorithm revives from 70's, the Cambrian period of eight bit microprocessors.
Inside the cabinet with uTracer6 is shown in interior.jpg. The floating supply board is positioned under the uTracer6 board.
The mainframe of this tracer does not have tube socket. A socket of required type is set on the fixture box as fixture.jpg shows. Pin selection is done in the box. Two types of fixture unit I made. One for MT sockets and another one is for larger sockets of GT, ST, compactron etc.
I thank you and uTracer6 !
Happy tracing !!
29th of May 2021 Jonas traced the “heaviest” tube so far on the uTracer6 a huge GU-78B!
Hi Ronald and Marie-José,
I am very grateful to you for your adventure with uTracer6. 2021 May 29 The most powerful tube tested by uTracer6 is the GU-78B. The GU-78B is a Russian tetrode with a maximum anode dissipation of 2500W. The tube GU-78B requires forced air cooling, a fan is applied. Oscillations are suppressed and the tube shows a curve trace. In the attachment there are several pictures in the form of a report, for free use.
The uTracer6 kit went together nicely, and as usual the manual was superb.
I can't wait to give it an appropriate case and put it to use!
1st of May 2021 Winfried sent me a few pictures of the monster GU-81 he traced with the uTracer6!
The GU-81 is a Russian military pentode with a maximum anode dissipation of 450W. The heater alone dissipates 120W (12V @ 10A). A look at the datasheet shows that the uTracer6 can only trace a small part of the curves! Winfried traced the GU-81 both in pentode as well as triode mode.
Winfried sent me a beautiful present in the form of a 3D printed case for the uTracer6 complete with all the accessories and in our national color: orange!
7th of April 2021 Francisco finished his uTracer6 and made a YouTube movie of it!
I have enjoyed so much building the new uTracer6 this weekend, and I gladly completed it without a problem. I have compared the results with my uTracer3 and they are exactly the same.
I attach some pictures and a short video.
Happy Easter Ronald,
I finished my uTracer 6 and be back with the pictures. I already finished two tube adapters also (next will be one for GU-81 tubes probably :-).
You can see the indirect LED signals at the neck of the tube adapter socket (starboard and port accordingly with red signalling high voltage and green for power on).
I found another thing in the manual that could be corrected. At page 57 you recommend the use of a 330µH inductor wich is already included with the pcb/kit.
Dear Ronald and Marie Josè,
This morning I finished the uTracer 6, following the construction manual to the letter.
I did perform the calibration correctly, extending the calibration points to 600V, and all worked flawless.
Now I'm playing with some tubes, to familiarize myself with the instrument before closing in a proper case (external PSU yes/no... I think it will be necessary).
In any case, I want to thank you for designing and sharing this useful tool, essential to playing consciously with our beloved tubes.
All the best (from Italy)
Dear Ronald & Marie-José
Thank you for your mail.
I attach two photos with this mail, the uTracer6 PCB I constructed and tracing scene. Please use them freely.
Add to my last mail, three modifications are applied to PCB.
LA1 through LA4 RFI suppression beads are covered by insulating sleeve and they are mounted on paper phenol resin sheet.
To avoid careless touching is the reason. They are tall.
Values of parts in the grid bias trimming circuit are changed.
R45 2M7 to 390k
P40 100ohm to 500ohm
The adjustment range was slightly narrow for my PCB condition.
Probably 200 ohm trimmer and 1M ohm R45 is better. But I don't have 200 ohm trimmer in my parts box.
POWER led is changed to green one. Simply because I usually use GaP green led for power indicator.
At this time, tracing is done on a lunch tray. This style is comfortable for experiment.
Upper left unit is USB to serial converter with command display. This unit includes TX/RX isolator by means of two photo couplers, to eliminate large ground loop.
A 6J11 dual pentode compactron is the DUT.
Measured plot image is collaged on the tray.
I am very satisfied with this result. Thank you Ronald!
When I understand enough about operation of this nice device, I will start designing the enclosure for uTracer6.
Yesterday, I showed uTracer6 PCB to my wife.
She said to me, "Mr.Dekker has his own aesthetics, I can feel it. This board is beautiful".
She is a graphics designer. I wish my modifications do not spoil your board design.
The kit went together very well. The instructions were clear and easy to follow. You and Ronald have done a great job putting this together. I really appreciate your effort.
I've attached some photos of the finished product. In case you're wondering, I built the chassis before I received the circuit kit. Although I've only tested a couple of 12AX7's, I haven't seen any oscillations yet. I'm keeping the snubber handy in case it is needed.
Thanks again for all your hard work.
Hi Utracer v6 arrived today, I have assembled and calibrated, works great. I have tested RF Zero Bias Transmitting Triodes, Eimac 3-500Z Russian G811, American 811A , Cetron 572B , Svetlana 572B, and Chinese 572B up to 1 KV Anode and +120V Grid1 via screen Booster.
All measurements are equal to microtracer v3 biz only up to 400 volts and 600 mA current after modification. The next day I will test some audio tubes el 34 el 84 6l6 6p3s kt66 and some double triodes ecc 83 85 88 and Russian equivalent 6n1p 6n2p and 6p3s.
Thank you and have a nice day