Roger Hebert was an audiophile for most of his life, and had a passion for music and his reproduction in home stereo equipment. He acquired many high-end speakers, components, speakers and amplifiers in pursuit of audio nirvana.
Roger was also an electronics tinkerer, and loved to spend time in his workshop. Early on in his journey, these two pursuits merged and the result was the first Wyetech Labs product, the M-500 power level meter. The M-500 was distinctive for its LED display, which became iconic for its pulsing light display. Roger built the meters out of his home, and sold them to dealers and hifi enthusiasts in the Montreal audio scene of the 70s and 80s.
Many years later, in the early 1990s, Roger began experimenting with vaccum tube amplifiers. What started out as a hobby and quest for knowledge ended up as a relentless almost obsessive pursuit to reach perfection in sound amplification. It was a time when the hobbyist / DIY scene was pursuing artisan hand-wired circuits and the single-ended triode tube in their search for better sound.
Roger decided to find out what all the fuss was about. He built a very small single ended amplifier using triode tubes that put out only a few watts as his first experiment. Using a pair of output transformers formerly found in vintage tube radios and bought from a surplus warehouse, the amplifier was quickly built with only 2 triodes per channel. Roger was blown away the moment he powered up the amplifier and began to listen to it. It was a shock to hear the pleasure of listening to music through this amplifier.
Even though the bandwidth of this first amplifier was limited by the small output transformers used, it became very clear to Roger that the road to perfection lied in this circuit. After building dozens of push-pull tube amplifiers in his research, he was now focused and realized that the simplicity of single ended circui topology was the way to go.
Roger also was aware of the reputation single ended amplifiers had of having poor low frequency response. The designs that he investigated had two common design weaknesses. The first problem was that these designs were not using enough iron in their transformers. They were sacrificing the low frequencies in order to attain an extended frequency response of 50 kHz or beyond.
Roger believed that a response that starts to fall off at 25 kHz was all that was required to get the best sound possible from single ended tube amplifiers. This approach allowed Roger to use much heavier output transformers that have extremely good low frequency response to 20 Hz. This is usually the first thing noticed by people when listening to Wyetech Labs amplifiers.
The other weakness of other designs was the use of low value coupling capacitors, which diminish the low frequency response even more. The resistance to the signal going through a capacitor increases as you decrease the frequency. Roger decided to use between ten to twenty times the capacitance value found in other coupling stages. This resulted in a frequency response that was as flat as possible between 20 Hz and 20 kHz. These design decisions added to the cost of an amplifier, but Roger refused to cut corners in any of his designs.
As Roger retired from his 30 year career in the computer industry, he decided to turn his hobby of tube amplifier design into a business. The Wyetech Labs brand was reborn, and Roger worked to refine his design into a production-ready amplifier. After many iterations, he arrived on what would become the Topaz 211A amplifier.
The Topaz used the 211 tube in its output stage, and employed a single ended, self-biased, zero negative feedback design. The self-biasing circuit allowed owners to change the tubes at any time without consequence. The use of point-to-point wiring on fixed terminals and vector circuit boards allowed for easy component replacement and servicing. The Topaz quickly gained a reputation for being one of the best sounding and highest build quality amplifiers on the market.
Roger was not content to rest on his laurels, and quickly iterated on the Topaz. He released a new version using 572 tubes, the 572B, and also a monoblock version, the 572M. These new models replaced the 211 output tubes with the Svetlana SV-572-10 triodes, due to two problems that the previous 211 manufacturer had. Eventually, Roger found some new and improved 211 tubes from Valve Art, which addressed the shortcomings of the previous 211 tubes, while soundin better than the former 211's and 572-10's tubes. With the new 211 tubes, Roger was able to increase the power out from the amplifier while still operating in pure class A1.
Following the rave reviews and market success of the Topaz, Roger set out to design a preamplifier that would be its equal. Being a perfectionist, Roger wanted to build the perfect line stage preamp. Continuing with his primary design philospohy of "less is more", Roger set out to achieve an exceptionally wide bandwidth exceeding 250,000 hertz. The result was a circuit that highly exceeded his expectations, and became the Opal preamp.
The Topaz and Opal preamps were now the flagship products of Wyetech Labs, and represented a no-holds-barred approach to curcuit design. Roger now wanted to fill out his product lineup with some more affordable products, while making as little compromises in quality as humanly possible.
Out of this desire to complete the lineup came the Jade preamp, in 1999. The Jade aimed to mimic the Opal as close as possible, while making it more affordable to a wider audience.
In 2002, after having obtained a lifetime supply of quality military new old stock [NOS] tubes, Wyetech Labs set a new benchmark in price and performance with the Coral linestage, initially priced at $ 2300 USD. Having secured these exceptional military quality tubes at a very reasonable price made it possible to implement a pure triode topology in a attractively priced package.
A year later, in 2003, Roger began developing the Pearl line stage preamplifier, one that was " as close to an Opal as one can get". The Pearl followed in the tradition of the Opal, delivering exceptional sound quality with low distortion and ultra linearity. It nearly matched the Opal in performance with a price point at one third less than the Opal, a monumental achievement. All this was accomplished while maintaining the highest standards of parts and construction.
Roger also quickly filled out his line of power amplifiers, introducing the Onyx monoblocks in 2001, and the Sapphire 300B monoblocks in 2004.
The Onyx used the dual triode octal base 6AS7GA for its output stage, and and contained automatic self-biasing circuitry. It output 13 Watts RMS per monoblock with solid bass and absolute stability into all low impedance loads.
The culmination of Roger's work was the Ruby reference line - which used a no-compromises approach to amplifier design. The line includes the Ruby STD preamp, the Ruby P-1 phono stage, the Ruby monoblock amplifiers (in three versions - the XR 300B, the XM 300B, and the XP 211).
The legacy of Roger Hebert's desgins will live on, as all of his products were built to last. They will be around for years to come - probably decades!