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TUBE  RATINGS

and their significance

part 1

This article is a part of the tube information as presented by the

RCA VICTOR Tube Division, June 1, 1943 .

It is largely based on standards of the Radio Manufacturers Association. (1940)

However "Old-fashioned", most of the info given here is also applicable

to amplifier and rectifier tubes today!

A rating is a designation, as established by definite standards, of an operating limit of a tube. Tubes are rated by either of two systems, i.e., the "absolute maximum" system or the "design- center maximum" system. Of the two, the absolute maximum system is the older and dates back to the beginning of tubes. With either system, each maximum rating for a given tube type must be considered in relation to all other maximum ratings for that type, so that no one maximum rating will be exceeded in utilizing any other maximum rating. For convenience in referring to these two systems, the former will here in after be called the "absolute system," and the latter, the "design-center system."

In the absolute system,* the maximum ratings shown for each type thus rated are limiting values above which the serviceability of the tube may be impaired from the viewpoint of life and satisfactory performance. Therefore, in order not to exceed these absolute ratings, the equipment designer has the responsibility of determining an average design value for each rating below the absolute value of that rating by an amount such that the absolute values will never be exceeded under any usual condition of supply-voltage variation, load variation, or manufacturing variation in the equipment itself.

The equipment should be designed to operate the filament or heater of each tube type at rated normal value for full-load operating conditions under average voltage-supply conditions. Variations from this normal value due to voltage-supply fluctuation or other causes, should not exceed 5 per cent unless otherwise specified by the tube manufacturer.

In the design-center system** adopted by the receiving-tube industry late In 1939, the maximum ratings shown for each type thus rated are working design-center maximums. The basic purpose underlying this system is to provide satisfactory average performance in the greatest number of equipments on the premise that they will not be adjusted to local power-supply conditions at time of installation. In the setting up of design-center ratings, consideration has been given to three important kinds of power supply commonly in use, i.e., a-c and d-c power lines, storage battery with connected charger, and dry batteries.

In the case of a-c or d-c power lines, the maximum ratings for tubes rated according to the design-center system have been chosen so that the tubes will give satisfactory performance at these maximum ratings in equipment operated from powerline supplies whose normal voltage including normal variations fall within 10 per cent of a specified center value. In other words, it is basic to the design-center system of ratings for tubes operated from power-line supplies that filaments or heaters as well as positive- and negative-potential electrodes may have to operate at voltages differing as much as 10 per cent from their rated values. It also recognizes that equipment may occasionally be used on power-line supplies outside the normal range, but since such extreme cases are the exception, they should be handled by adjustment made locally.

 The choice of 10 per cent takes care of voltage differences in power lines in the U.S.A. where surveys have shown that the voltages delivered fall within 10 per cent of 117 volts. Therefore, satisfactory performance from tubes rated according to the design-center system will ordinarily be obtained anywhere in the U.S.A. in equipment designed so that the design-center maximum ratings are not exceeded at a line-voltage-center value of 117 volts. While 117 volts represents present-day conditions, the design-center system permits the utilization of a new line-center value as new surveys may indicate the necessity for such a change.

In the case of storage-battery-with-charger supply or similar supplies, the normal battery-voltage fluctuation may be as much as 35 per cent or more. This fluctuation imposes severe operating conditions on tubes. Under these conditions, latitude for operation of tubes is provided for by the stipulation that only 90 per cent of the design-center maximum values of plate voltages, screen-supply voltages, dissipations, and rectifier output currents is never exceeded for a terminal potential at the battery source of 2.2 volts per cell. While a tube's operating voltages in this service will at times exceed the maximum values, satisfactory performance with probable sacrifice in life will be obtained.

In the cases of dry-battery supply and rectified a-c supply for 1.4-volt tubes, recommended design practice is given in RMA Standard M8-210.

RMA Standard M8-210 (Jan. 8, 1940 Rev. 11-40) is reproduced here for the convenient reference of design engineers with permission of the Engineering Department of the Radio Manufacturers Association. Although worded to cover only receiving tubes, it can be applied to any tube having design-center-system ratings.

* * *

It shall be standard to interpret the ratings on receiving types of tubes according to the following conditions:

1. CATHODE--The heater or filament voltage is given as a normal value unless otherwise stated. This means that transformers or resistances in the heater or filament circuit should be designed to operate the heater or filament at rated value for full-load operating conditions under average supply-voltage conditions. A reasonable amount of leeway is incorporated in the cathode design so that moderate fluctuations of heater or filament voltage downward will not cause marked falling off in response; also, moderate voltage fluctuations upward will not reduce the life of the cathode to an unsatisfactory degree.

A. 1.4-Volt Battery Tube Types-- The filament power supply may be obtained from dry-cell batteries, from storage batteries, or from a power line. With dry-cell battery supply, the filament may be connected either directly across a battery rated at a terminal potential of 1.5 volts, or in series with the filaments of similar tubes across a power supply consisting of dry cells in series. In either case, the voltage across each 1.4-volt section of filament should not exceed 1.6 volts. With power-line or storage-battery supply, the filament may be operated in series with the filaments of similar tubes. For such operation, design adjustments should be made so that, with tubes of rated characteristics, operating with all electrode voltages applied and on a normal line voltage of 117 volts or on a normal storage-battery voltage of 2.0 volts per cell (without a charger) or 2.2 volts per cell (with a charger), the voltage drop across each 1.4-volt section of filament will be maintained within a range of 1.25 to 1.4 volts with a nominal center of 1.3 volts. In order to meet the recommended conditions for operating filaments in series from dry-battery, storage-battery, or power-line sources it may be necessary to use shunting resistors across the individual 1.4-volt sections of filament.

B. 2.O-Volt Battery Tube Types-- The 2.0-volt line of tubes is designed to be operated with 2.0 volts across the filament. In all cases the operating voltage range should be maintained within the limits of 1.8 volts to 2.2 volts.

2. POSITIVE POTENTIAL ELECTRODES-- The power sources for the operation of radio equipment are subject to variations in their terminal potential. Consequently, the maximum ratings shown on the tube-type data sheets have been established for certain Design Center Voltages which experience has shown to be representative. The Design Center Voltages to be used for the various power supplies together with other rating considerations are as given below:

A. AC or DC Power Line Service in U.S.A.-- The design center voltage for this type of power supply is 117 volts. The maximum ratings of plate voltages, screen-supply voltages, dissipations, and rectifier output currents are design maximums and should not be exceeded in equipment operated at a line voltage of 117 volts.

B. Storage-Battery Service-- When storage-battery equipment is operated without a charger, it should be designed so that the published maximum values of plate voltages, screen-supply voltages, dissipations, and rectifier output currents are never exceeded for a terminal potential at the battery source of 2.0 volts per cell. When storage battery equipment is operated with a charger, it should be designed so that 90% of the same maximum values is never exceeded for a terminal potential at the battery source of 2.2 volts.

C. "B"- Battery Service-- The design center voltage for "B" batteries is the normal voltage rating of the battery block, such as 45 volts, 90 volts, etc. Equipment should be designed so that under no condition of battery voltage will the plate voltages, the screen-supply voltages, or dissipations ever exceed the recommended respective maximum values shown in the data for each tube type by more than 10%. 

D. Other Considerations

a. Class A1, Amplifiers-- The maximum plate dissipation occurs at the "Zero-Signal" condition. The maximum screen dissipation usually occurs at the condition where the peak-input signal voltage is equal to the bias voltage.

b. Class B Amplifiers-- The maximum plate dissipation theoretically occurs at approximately 63% of the "Maximum-Signal" condition, but practically may occur at any signal voltage value.

c. Converters-- The maximum plate dissipation occurs at the "Zero-Signal" condition and the frequency at which the oscillator-developed bias is a minimum. The screen dissipation for any reasonable variation in signal voltage must never exceed the rated value by more than 10%.

d. Screen Ratings-- When the screen voltage is supplied through a series voltage-dropping resistor, the maximum screen voltage rating may be exceeded, provided the maximum screen dissipation rating is not exceeded at any signal condition, and the maximum screen voltage rating is not exceeded at the maximum-signal condition. Provided these conditions are fulfilled, the screen-supply voltage may be as high as, but not above, the maximum plate voltage rating.

3. TYPICAL OPERATION-- For many receiving tubes, the data show typical operating conditions in particular services. These typical operating values are given to show concisely some guiding information for the use of each type. They are not to be considered as ratings, because the tube can be used under any suitable conditions within its rating limitations.

Tube ratings part 2

"Tubes are for Music, transistors are for TV and electronics in general"