After almost a month of listening to my new tube amp there was one slight problem I began to notice. The right channel seemed to be a little bit louder than the left. The problem seemed to get worse the more I listened to it. Or maybe I never realized it and now that I have, I listen FOR it which makes it more apparent. Either way... after a lot of checking, swapping channels of signal sources, switching speakers, etc... the right channel was louder than the left.
I figured I had three possible causes of the problem. A single or several bad/weak tubes, an out of tolerance resistor, or a bad capacitor. I started with the tubes. I swapped the 6V6GT power pentodes to see if the louder channel swapped, which it did not. I moved the 12ax7 triodes around as well, with no difference in channels. There was really nothing more i could do without a tube tester (which I find myself needing). But for now I'll assume that the tubes are ok.
Next step will be the capacitors... which I wanted to replace anyway. Lots of browsing websites of tube amp builders and repairers turned up a ridiculous amount of information about the best capacitors to use for an amp. Lots of people recommend things called "orange drops" which provide the best 'classic' sound . Whether this was the technical name of the caps or a description of what they looked like, Digi-Key turned up zero results for 'orange drops'. Now on to the more scientific approach. This site provided me good information on the linearity of different types of capacitors. After looking at this data, it looks like most capacitors would be well suited replacements with the exception of a few(ceramic disc, tantalum, etc...). I purchased high quality Panasonic polyester film capacitors for the signal paths and ordered high quality Panasonic 105 degree C. electrolytics for the power supply filtering while I was ordering parts. The original filtering capacitors were introducing a slight 60hz hum into the audio, and I know a fresh set of electrolytics for the power supply would solve this issue. I have always used these Panasonic high temperature caps for replacements in other devices... always with positive results.
The results? It sounded better... for sure! The 60hz hum was definitely gone. I always use the Panasonic 105 degree C. electrolytics in all my projects, the extra price is worth it. The overall sound with the new caps in the signal path? Better... definitely. The only problem was my ears were still annoyed at the louder right channel. Time to start checking resistor values. :(