Thomas Mayer plies his mostly direct/custom valve electronics business out of Lindau am Bodensee on the German/Swiss border. Until the rise of the German Elrog 300B, he didn't much care for this tube type and much preferred working with 45, 10Y, 845/211 and 801. When he announced a visit to my friend Dan on Lake Geneva to present his top-line SET monos where a 10Y drives a 300B plus a 10Y-based line stage and a prototype phono stage, I was invited to clap some ears on rolling the 300B (between classic Western Electric and Elrog), the 10Y driver (between classic and prototype Elrog) and NOS amorphous-core Tamura vs. NOS Tango output transformer. The Tribute Finemet output transformer Dan had ordered for his personal pair after an audition in Lindau hadn't arrived yet.

Thomas Mayer

Dan's system is anchored by battery-powered field-coil Voxativ widebanders in their big Dué cabs augmented by Acapella ion tweeters (his subwoofers that day weren't connected). He has both analog and digital sources, the latter an Alex Peychev tube-buffered DAC which upsamples all incoming data to DSD512 aka quad DSD. Like all of the Thomas Mayer top models, the monos are two-box affairs with outboard full-wave rectified choke-loaded power supplies with four valve rectifiers. For the occasion, Thomas had brought two head units with interstage transformers and Lundahl input transformers which only differed in their OPs. One had the amorphous-core out-of-production Tamura, the other the also discontinued Tango. Disconnecting the Amphenol-terminated umbilical and quickly swapping tubes made for quick iron comparisons.

To swap drivers between the Elrog and classic NOS 10Y, Thomas had to rewire two connections on the filament transformer to adjust for different bias voltage.

Long story short: If you've always favoured the 45 triode over the 300B for its quicker more lucid and extended performance but remained depressed about its measly 2-watt output, with the Elrog 300B you now have 45-type directness and immediacy at four times the power. By comparison, a Western Electric has no bass, is fatter and fuzzier in the midrange and overall lazier, less twitchy, softer and darker.

Swapping 10Y drivers, all of us preferred the classic NOS. Thomas opined that given the original's already thoriated Tungsten filaments, there was very little room for improvement . Plus, this was Elrog's very first prototype pair. Follow-up efforts could well narrow the gap or even build out a lead. The big advantage of the Elrog 300B is that it also runs on thoriated Tungsten. None of the olf-timey originals ever did. That makes a decisive difference which was easy to hear to trump the Western Electric by no small margin.

For output transformers, all of us agreed that the amorphous core transformers reduced contrast ratio to work like an opaque negligée. Things got softer and a bit fuzzier. For the full Monty, you'll want the Tangos. The amorphous cores sounded - well, more amorphous. Really. Thomas promised that the incoming nanocrystalline Finemet cores from Hitachi wired by the Dutch Tribute company would retain the speed of the Tangos but add even more suaveness.

About pricing for the ER300B, I was told €900/pr. About QC, Thomas does all his own testing and matching to currently work with a 30% rejection rate. The first run of Elrog 845/211 which Inès Adler of Voxativ worked with had documented issues. This was due to a premature product release before all the design parameters had been licked, leading to a falling out between Voxativ and Elrog. The ER300B reportedly has already undergone a few beta-test generations with subsequent adjustments to eliminate a rerun of the early 845 failures.

Based on our informal auditions which included Dan's Berning Siegfried 300B OTL outfitted with Elrog bottles, I think it safe to say that if you've looked for that mythical 8-watt direct-heated 45, your ship has come in with the freshly minted ER300B (and not via the slow boat from China). Given his extensive testing and matching of these tubes and his consulting role during their development, I'd strongly suggest dealing directly with Thomas Mayer if you mean to embark on a getting-to-know-ya adventure with Germany's new plug'n'play 300B which isn't exactly a 300B any longer but more of a transmitter tube with 300B specs...

Your scribe makes a brief cameo appearance.