In the KR Audio glass room, I saw two different steps of glasswork -- the shaping and cutting of the envelope, then the connection of the glass stem to the inner electrode and sealing the tube, making it ready for the vacuum room. I met Ladislav Krouzel, the glassman, a man of around 70 or so, I guessed, and about my height (five feet eight), wearing a dark blue polo, denim trousers, boots, and no work apron.
Invented in 1999 by Riccardo Kron, the KR T1610 is the largest audio tube currently produced. When I asked KR chief engineer Marek Gencev why he thought KR founder Riccardo Kron had decided to create it, he shot back with a matter-of-fact "Why not?"
Before he toured me through the KR Audio factory's tube-manufacturing facility, chief engineer Marek Gencev provided a brief lesson on the history of the audio tube and an explanation of how KR creates its own tubes.
According to Eunice Kron, KR Audio started one day in 1991 when she and her husband, Riccardo, a collector of old radios, were browsing through a flea market in Scandiano, Italy. The Berlin Wall had just fallen, and there was excitement in the air "like a new age was dawning," Eunice said. Behind a wooden table covered with old tubes was Alessa Vaic, a "scarecrow of a man" as described by Eunice, and an inventor and tinkerer who'd come up with his own working version of the original Marconi radio tube. It sat there among an array of new old stock radio tubes. Riccardo Kron immediately recognized Vaic's accomplishment. "He got a sensation," Eunice told me. "This man would be the turning point in my life," Kron said.
Recently this summer, while on a two-week teaching stint at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, I made a visit to KR Audio, one of only three tube manufacturers outside of Russia and China (Emission Labs, also in the Czech Republic, and JJ Electronic of Slovakia are the two others). KR produces more than 15 different triode output tubes, including the classic 300b and the famed "Kronzilla" T1610 (50W-60W, $5180 USD/pair), the largest and most powerful audio tube currently in production.
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