The long era of synthesizers provoked a return sometimes offensive, sometimes conservative to guitars. This brought back into fashion both vintage instruments and equipment. Guitars, amps, stompboxes, all the electric guitar chain turned back to its roots. That did not stop the digital mutation, which is a hugh scale phenomenon, but brought back to light the technical aspects that built the culture of the electric guitar. The return to grace of tube amps represented a major phenomenon. On his humble level, the rediscovery of Germanium seems to be another signifying axis.
forgotten technology, but a lot of stocks
Circa 2000-2005, while digital electronics made the law, both perfect and invisible, I rediscover — like some other eccentric people — the virtues of these obsolete components that were germanium transistors.
It was not difficult to purchase such old components. Obsolescence was so quickly decided around 1969 that huge stocks were left unused in the world. Military stocks added up to general public ones and offered a special quality. Finally, the collapse and the opening of the regimes of Eastern Europe made us discover unknown riches.
Western transistors manufactured
under license in easter Europe
In late sixtiers and first seventies, european and especially french firms used to let manufacture electronic components in eastern lands like Hungary, Tchekoslovakia and even Romania. There are yet important stocks, and nowadays tend to replace the original ones on the vintage markets.
The ACxxx series from Eastern Europe have not exactly that creamy sound the original got — espacially Philips-Mullard ones — but can works fine with their own sonic color when well implemented and biased.
The SFTxxx series — remenber the anglo italian Vox Tone Bender — are quite as good as the originals, for a good reason : i’m persuaded they are the same !
A special case :
Soviet germanium transistors
All those who have been testing soviet germanium transistors have been surprised by their electronic quality, generally higher than that of Western models.
The first reason is that they were produced by the military industrial complex, and were therefore subject to strict standards that influenced common transistors, which were direct markdowns of military series.
The second reason is that germanium transistors were manufactured until about 1988. During these twenty years after stopping production in the West, the Russians have improved the germanium technology, and have solved many initial problems, that Western states had left in the lurch: leakage currents, noise, dispersion of the characteristics …
Combining western historical items, whose properties are confirmed by their use in well known stompboxes, and Eastern models whose qualities are more adapted to reliable devices, it is now possible to build genuine vintage AND contemporary appliances.
As for me, I made up a stock of thousands of these transistors, in numerous types, some of them non longer available at the present time… And I take there what to compose my little sound coketails, just to please the guitars !
Go and see :
Sonic properties of germanium transistors