Your Questions Answered About The Korg + Noritake Nutube ‘Vacuum Tube On A Chip’

korg-vacuum-tube-chip

At the 2015 NAMM Show, Korg and Noritake introduced the Nutube, a new miniaturized, high performance ‘vacuum tube on a chip’.

Korg says that the NuTube generates the musical harmonics of traditional vacuum tubes, but offers three key benefits:

  • Low power Consumption –  less than 2% of the power required by conventional vacuum tubes;
  • Compact – less than 30% of the volume of a conventional vacuum tube; and
  • Reliability – Nutubes offer up to 30,000 hours of continuous operating life.

We asked Korg for more information, based on reader questions to our initial post about the NuTube.

Here are their answers, via Korg Marketing Manager Junko Fukai:

korg-nutubeQ: Can you share any information on expected applications for the Nutube?

A: We are still developing several ideas and we are afraid that we cannot provide details right now.

However, you can imagine that places where tubes have been used before is one obvious field we are exploring, and as well we are seriously considering some products where tubes could make a positive difference to the sound, but have not been used because of lack of physical space and minimum power requirements.

Q: The NuTube design that was announced at NAMM is a triode design. Are there only plans for a triode tube, or are tetrode or pentode tubes planned?

A: The Nutube shown at Winter NAMM 2015 is Twin Triode type which we named 6P1.

We are considering to make other types as well.

Q: Is the Nutube technology going to be limited to Korg products, or do you expect to market the chips to other companies for other types of applications?

A: We would like to consider every possibility for Nutube.

Q: How do these sound compared to traditional tubes? Are any audio demos available?

We demonstrated it in a guitar amp format at Winter NAMM 2015. In all our tests, we are very satisfied with the sound quality, we think it has same sound and feeling of traditional tubes.

No audio demos are available currently. There are so many variables to consider when doing A/B testing, and also the product is still being refined.

Q: When do you expect to introduce Korg products based on this technology?

A: We are planning to have some products from KORG and VOX which we will support with this our technology. We hope to unveil more by early next year.

Q: What is the goal for introducing this technology at NAMM, independent of a specific product?

A: We are steadily advancing in the development of the Nutube and wanted to know the market’s reaction at the biggest music instrument show, Winter NAMM.

Fukai adds, “Sorry that we can not give detailed information right now. But when we are ready to announce, we will.”

While Korg is limiting what they say about potential products based on the NuTube at this time, they did share several key points:

  • The NuTube offers the same ‘sound and feeling’ of traditional tubes;
  • The NuTubes can be used for traditional vacuum tube applications, but they also expect them to allow for new types of electronic music gear applications;
  • Korg is considering making a variety of types of vacuum tubes in the NuTube format;
  • It sounds like they are open to making the technology available to third parties to use; and
  • They expect the first Korg NuTube products to be available by early next year.

Got ideas for applications for a reliable, low-power ‘vacuum tube on a chip’? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

31 thoughts on “Your Questions Answered About The Korg + Noritake Nutube ‘Vacuum Tube On A Chip’

    1. Longer than that – subminiature tubes were developed in the 40s.

      But the NuTubes are designed for audio, not military applications and look like they will be way more compact, cheap and, very importantly, low-power.

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      1. Yes, you have to remember that the Pentagon has access to unlimited amounts of our money so budget constraints are usually limited to deciding how many zeroes to place after the first billion. If a microvalve costs a few hundred dollars it might be cost effective in a cruise missile designed to vaporize a city or in a satellite that photographs you walking your dog. Nutubes will hopefully be no more expensive than other ICs you can buy from places like Mouser. Factor in longevity for the number of high voltage valves you would need over 30,000 hours, and a Nutube pays for itself, as they say. Imagine low cost tube amps in car stereo, or a pre-amp in your smart phone or tablet.

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        1. Uhh, these subminiature military tubes are mostly russian NOS going for something like five dollars a pop, hardly limiting them to million dollar pentagon missiles only. Check out L1, Elby Designs, and Befaco’s Tube VCAs which are all based on a Ken Stone design using a 1.2 volt russian subminiature tube developed (I believe) for shortwave radios or something.

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    1. They *are* glowing. It’s two the turquoise areas of the chip, glowing like a vacuum fluorescent device, which is the technology they are based upon. I think adapting VFDs to serve as vacuum tubes is a stroke of genius.

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  1. I am glad that this is already being developed for guitar amps but I really hope they do something more than the vintage thing Vox is known for. Please Korg make a multi stage, high gain amp ala Mesa Boogie. It would sell tons and compete well with all the portable mini amps and modelers out there. Especially if it has that real tube tone, in a cheaper smaller package, people would be all over it.

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  2. I’m not into circuit bending, but I’ve recently seen people plug chips into circuit borders that had open spaces. Is there an application here? In other words, could people start popping open their digital keyboards or cheap synths and just plug these guys in?

    I need to know before I sell my $150 Yamaha PSR.

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    1. if you need to even ask this question then you obviously are not qualified to be popping open your digital synth. Short answer is NO. but hey it would be nice if it was that easy eh

      Like this comment?: Thumb up 5
  3. I cannot wait to see the specs on these! I might get that tube preamp built for my Hammond T112 when they release them!

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  4. I’m especially curious about performance specs: dynamic range, noise, frequency range, and distortion (when not clipped).

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  5. First application I thought of for the NuTube was Metasonix synthesizers. They already warn owners about power consumption and heat. Sounds pretty much like problem solved right here. But, Korg would have to offer the device as a standalone product for others to wire in as needed. But, seriously. I think this is fantastic.

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    1. they would also have to make special “TV” tube versions of their nutubes which might be a huge development cost, but this was my first thing to run through my head too. Hopefully we don’t have to wait till 2016 though

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  6. it would be great for korg to get metasonix or someone involved to make a “concept car” type of design. something over the top and new.

    i’d also be interested to try some applications were it’s possible to use the tube “wrong” on of the interesting things about tubes is encouraging experimentation.

    Like this comment?: Thumb up 1
  7. Korg should build a Ondes Martenot with these new tubes! Add tubes wherever possible, hell, build a Tubetron, like a Monotron but way bigger, with real tube VCO, VCF and LFO and with wallwart power! 🙂

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  8. On far sight: get away from discrete components and use tubes for everything, like it was before they invented transistors and stuff! Back to the future!

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  9. I would use these a lot in my DIY projects. I would love Korg to make these available as separate IC’s that I can buy by the dozen. (not thousands)

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    1. i can already see myself buying cheap tube-monotrons or vox distortion pedals for ripping tubes out 🙂

      i think they will use them in guitar-pedals and distortion circuits, probably compressors.
      or .. in a VCO circuit but i think they “have to” produce some fx pedals first.

      first i will rip the cheapest of them apart and built a valve amplifier and an isolation cabinet that fits in my pocket 🙂

      secondly i will build a battery powerd headphone amp that fits in my gibson sg

      as this already will take me years, the third projects will be a pocket sized pulltec 🙂
      stereo of course

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  10. great to see some independent reporting being done by the site! I’d love to see more of these features on companies and products in the future, even sound tests perhaps like magazines do? It would be great to have the site be a hub for news and demos of ALL new products in a good standardized big nice format.

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  11. I am excited about the possibility of some nice smooth audio compressors and limiter being able to be built for broadcast. I work in radio and restore many CBS Volumax and earlier Gates processors. There are things that only tubes can do. This is pure genius. Congratulations to Korg.

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  12. Hope the nuTubes are for Power tubes, not just for preamp tubes. Power tubes are a big deal.
    They should make some convertors so that nutubes can be easily installed in guitar tube amps as we know today, so they can be made more reliable.
    There will be a huge market for these, and surely a lot of help for many!

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  13. I am giddy with excitement, for all of the excellent ‘amp in a box’, pedal makers ie,(Wampler, Keeley, J.Rocket, Strymon, Darkglass, etc.), to get their hands on these, and whoa !…..see what happens !

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