Welcome to the Black’n’wood review. I’ve reviewed several other Nocrotec clocks before and this one comes to us from a combination of sources. Dieter of Nocrotec worked with YanZeYuan (严泽远) to develop the electronics for this device. The tubes are sold by Nocrotec.com and the kit components are sold though nixiekitworld.com.
The first thing that you notice is that this device uses end view tubes. The default set are Chinese QS30-1 tubes. These are uncoated tubes with proper 5s and 2s. These are 30mm diameter tubes that use a standard base. Consequently, there are multiple tubes that can work as substitutes. For example, I have swapped out my tubes for the orange-coated GN-4 tubes (more on this later). Nocrotec has a list of substitutes that I have included at the bottom of this review for reference.
While we’re on the topic of tubes it is worth talking about viewing angle. Side view tubes typically have a wider viewing angle (both vertically and horizontally) than end view tubes. On end view tubes, the digits are stacked on top of each other in a small cylinder. This means that the numeral 9 is easier to see than a 6 because the 9 is at the front of the tube and the 6 is at the rear (digits are not stacked in numerical order). This clock is no exception. Because of this, the clock will ideally be mounted somewhere around eye level. I don’t consider this a problem because it is the nature of all tubes like this.
The enclosure clearly follows the design of some of the original Nocrotec clocks. The wooden base and metal plate look nearly identical to my X2000 [http://www.tubeclockdb.com/numitron-clocks/139-video-review-nocrotec-x2000.html]. I am a huge fan of this design; it gives the clock a nice luxury feel. The case itself is 287mm wide, 49mm deep, and 75mm tall (11.3” x 1.9” x 2.9”). The tubes protrude slightly but only by a few millimeters.
A small feature that I wanted to call out is the colon indicator tubes. They are not led; they are tiny neon bulbs. This was done to match the color of the nixie tubes but it also gives the device some subtle detail. For example, the top of the tubes are crimped and this causes the light pattern to be different from any led bulb. The tubes flicker somewhat; you can see the flow inside of the tube bouncing around. You don’t notice these details at first but when you start staring at them you quickly appreciate them.
The tubes are illuminated with blue LEDs which fade on/off every two seconds by default. You can order other colors (ocean green, deep green, white, purple) and if you don’t like the backlights, you can simply disable them. Earlier I mentioned that I swapped out the tubes with orange-coated GN-4s. The tubes are surrounded with foam padding to prevent light leakage from around the tube. With this surround and the orange coating, the backlight is almost completely blocked. Considering that orange and blue are opposites, this is not really surprising but it does mean that if you want to use the backlight feature, you should stick to uncoated tubes.
Keeping track of the time can be done a few different ways. The device comes with an internal crystal so you can simply set this clock like any other and let it run. You can also use a GPS receiver or a DCF77 receiver to set and maintain the time. The DCF77 and GPS options are external devices that you can purchase at a later time. Enabling them is as simple as changing a menu option on the device.
There is another interesting feature that may be of interest to some users. The Mini DIN connector can be uses to switch con and off other devices when then alarm sounds. You will need to add a relay to switch anything but the +5 V output may be interesting to some users.
Overall, this is a solid design. It offers a robust feature set and looks nice at the same time. I’ve been able to play with this clock for a few weeks and I thoroughly enjoy it.
10TU26, 122P224, 154-0327-00, 1970-0002, 5031, 50347, 5037, 5092, 5092A, 6770, 6844A, 8037, 8037(B-5031), 8421, 8421(B-5092), 8421/5092, B-5031, B-5031/6844, B-50347, B-5037, B-5092, B-5092/8421, B-5092A, B-6844A, BD-302, CD102, CD18, CD24, CD26, CD32A, CK6844A, CK8037, CK8421, CV5278, CV9316, CV9732, F9057, F9057A, F9057AA, GN-3, GN-4, GN-4A, GN-4D, GN-4E, GN-4P, GNP-4A, GR10M, HB-106, JAN-6844A, JAN-8037, JAN-8421, JAN-CB-6844A, JAN-CZ-6844A, LC-511, LC-513, LC-513A, M2726-102500, M2726-102600, NE-50347, NL-5031, NL-50347, NL-5092, NL-6844, NL-6844A, NL-8037, NL-8421, ST12C, SZ1-1, SZ3-1, SZ-8, Z510M, Z520M, Z5600M, Z560M, ZM1020, ZM1020/01, ZM1022, ZM1022p
Here is a cool 4 digit numitron clock based off of what appears to be an ardunio. Based on the GitHub description:
Good news, the USB powered Magic Eye Winker from NixieKits.eu is finished! It is based on the same dimensions as the tube board from the Magic Eye VU-Meter (50 mm diameter) this gadget does only one thing: "Winking".
It is powered via USB * and all 6V heater tubes can be fitted. Solder bridges on the bottom side will connect the signals according to the socket needed for the tube.
These tubes can be fitted:
EM80 / EM81 / EM84 / PM84 / EM85 / EM87 / EM800 / EAM86 / 6BR5 / 6DA5 / 6E2 / 6E3P / 4FG6 / 6FG6 / 6DH7 / 6HU6
* it can also be powered from an external battery pack up to 18V, so it is possible to fit tubes with different heater voltages like the UM80 with 19V for example
Want to know more? Ask Jürgen in the forums.
This little device comes to us from NixieKits.eu. It is a dual triode headphone amplifier from based on surplus Russian military tubes. This is a largely subjective review but I’ll do my best to stay as factual as possible.
Each new gadget from NixieKits.eu has a more refined enclosure than the previous and this is no exception. The device is made out of (what appears to be) laser cut acrylic and has a very solid feel. The panels are slotted and fit together nicely and give the entire device a solid feel.
These images are from NixieKits.eu. The top graph shows the total harmonic distortion, the middle diagram shows the output voltage with different loads and the final diagram shows the output of a 100 kHz square wave @ 500mV.
Black (no load), 150 ohm (cyan), 23 ohm (green)
As far as testing the device, I performed 12 distinct tests. The sample songs were ripped from a CD and stored in a lossless format and then loaded on to the three test devices.
The source devices used were an iPod (2010 160GB), an iPhone 4s, and a MacBook Pro (early 2011) with a Behringer F Control FCA202 DAC. The headphones used for testing were the original iPhone earbuds and a Sennheiser 5xx series open headphone.
The scale below ranges from -5 to +5 and is in subjective units. Higher is better and lower is worse. The scale is centered on 0 given (iPod, no amp, ear buds). This combination I believe covers the larges portion of the population and so a number higher than this (0) sounds better. A number below this sounds worse.
The results are not too surprising. The best combination is the laptop with the headphone amp with the Sennheisers. However, in EVERY CASE, the headphone amp helped by at least one subjective unit. In my opinion, if you already have a nice set of headphones, you will probably benefit more from this device.
To begin, I left this device disconnected and plugged in my headphones. I let it warm up and turned it up all of the way. The result: silence. This is fantastic. Not even my home stereo amplifier has complete silence when I turn it up all of the way.
To test distortion, I played a techno song with a deep and loud baseline. I compared how it sounded coming directly from my computer versus from the amplifier and the difference was notable. The song was clearer at louder volumes using the amplifier than it was without. I played with a few other demo songs that Jürgen sent me and the results were similar.
On the quiet end, it doesn’t add any noise. On the loud end, it doesn’t distort or clip the waveform like a transistor-based amplifier does.
As far as the “warm” sound of a tube amplifier it is there. If, like me, you only grew up using more modern designs, it may sound foreign at first. It is not very pronounced but if you know that it is there, you can hear it. For things like an acoustic guitar, I really like the results. For piano solos, things sound a little muted but not in any bad. This is completely subjective and depends on your preferences. I can say, however, that since I received this device, I have not disconnected it from my system!
Jürgen shared this color coded photo of the original design on the bread board versus the final product. It's quite an evolution!