Let’s get one thing straight: we are biased! Most readers will already know that as we have always
stated our preference for solid-state amplifier designs, even though quite a few
people are interested in valve amplifiers.
Underneath, the Altitude 3500-SS is very neat, just like the top side. The only real giveaway that it is a valve amplifier are the sockets on the PC board (and possibly the absence of ICs and transistors!). This shot also gives a good idea of the rear panel input/output layout with its gold-plated sockets.
Having noted our bias, let’s try to set it aside while we check
out the impressive Altitude 3500-SS amplifier.
This very well presented amplifier is made by Fountek
Electronics Co Ltd, in China but has been carefully tweaked for our market by
the noted Australian designer, Russell Storey, on behalf of WES Australia.
It is fairly conventional in layout, with the valves on top of
and toward the front of the chassis while the very large power and output
transformers are at the back. These transformers have cylindrical housings but
they are unlikely to be based on toroids – they are too tall for that. We think
they probably have conventional E-I laminated cores.
The chassis itself is especially impressive, being made from
interlocking aluminium extrusions 7mm thick while the top and bottom plates are
3mm thick aluminium secured with multiple stainless steel countersunk screws.
Everything has been precision machined for close fit of all sections. The valve
sockets are recessed into the top of the chassis and they sit on a large PC
board underneath. The front panel knobs also fit into machined recesses on the
The valve line-up is two 12AX7 and two 12AT7, both twin
triodes, and four EL34 pentodes, used as matched pairs in each channel.