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What can the special sound of germanium transistors do for you?

All the talk these days is about vacuum tubes. But what about other vintage amplifying devices, such as the germanium transistor?


If you want to build any kind of analog audio equipment, you have to make a choice - modern integrated circuits (IC's), or transistors, FET's or vacuum tubes?

But the well-known options are not the only options. What about the Nuvistor for instance? OK, we'll leave that for another day.

But although transistors are widely disparaged for lack of warmth, maybe not all transistors are as bad as they are made out to be.

In the early days of transistors, scientists and engineers were struggling for a material that would 'transist'. Among all the elements of the periodic table, some are conductors, some are insulators. But some have the mysterious property of being 'semiconductors'. Silicon is a semiconductor, and is used for almost all of the transistors and integrated circuits made today.

But before silicon was harnessed as a suitable material to make a transistor from, there was germanium. The advantage of silicon over germanium was principally the higher gain that could be achieved.

But maybe something was lost in the transition. Maybe germanium has an elusive 'warmth' that silicon cannot match.

Surely the germanium transistor is worthy of further investigation as an amplifying device.

Do you know of any other vintage, retro or modern equipment that uses germanium transistors? Let us know what you think. Links to audio would be good - just post the link in the comments section and it will be added here.

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By David Mellor Monday April 3, 2006
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