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Old 12-29-2017, 05:32 PM   #1
KamaK
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Default Modern tube manufacturers

I did an inventory last night and I'm down to my last seven working RCA 7025's and two Sylvania 12AX7A's. I'd like to put these into storage and use them only on special occasions. I have an AC30 and a JMP50 to feed.

I've been out of the loop for a couple decades. Is there a modern tube manufacturer that doesn't suck?
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Old 12-29-2017, 06:36 PM   #2
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Tubes are a whole new can of worms. Most tubes come from Communist block countries. The Sovtek from Russia make the Groove Tubes and are about as good as you can find. The Chinese make good tubes also but they are very inconsistent. The Chinese tubes are hit and miss. Buy one today and it might be great. Then another one tomorrow and it might not even work. You might try looking up RF Parts on the internet and see what they have. Mostly, they deal in very high power radio transmitter tubes but they might have what you want.
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Old 12-29-2017, 07:50 PM   #3
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Looking through the internets, it appears that almost everything except JJ is now owned by New Sensor.

I see a number of novel/quality tubes being made for HiFi audio, but not a ton of quality guitar tubes. The JJ tube looks exactly like a Tesla...

Might order a dozen JJ's and a dozen Sovtek/GT and see how they work out.

I was hoping to avoid having to order two dozen 12AX7's and then spending a couple days vetting out the half dozen golden ones.
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Old 12-29-2017, 09:31 PM   #4
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I put JJ 6V6's in my amp last time. They got very good reviews, if that's worth anything. I read that the JJ power tube are supposed to put up with more abuse than other manufacturers. Don't know what that's based on. So far, they're working fine.
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Old 12-29-2017, 10:02 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pdawg0 View Post
I put JJ 6V6's in my amp last time. They got very good reviews, if that's worth anything. I read that the JJ power tube are supposed to put up with more abuse than other manufacturers. Don't know what that's based on. So far, they're working fine.
When I see tubes rated in terms of abuse, it's typically because they have short plates or mica bridge pieces, which improve longevity/integrity in sockets that vibrate (ie:
combo amps, load-in/load-out from the van, etc).

I grabbed a quad of JJ EL84's from the shop today and noticed that they're significantly louder in my AC30 than my 60's Packard Bell 6BQ5's. More volume at identical settings, in the realm of two tic's on the Brilliant chan dial.

My Marshall-era (~1999/2000) Vox has the dick-smashing standby switch that I often forget to NOT use. We'll see how the JJ's do with the insta B+ being applied after a couple weeks.

Last edited by KamaK; 12-29-2017 at 10:07 PM.
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Old 12-29-2017, 10:04 PM   #6
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The most consistent new tubes I've found are marketed by (not manufactured by) Tube Amp Doctor (TAD branded). So far, I've been very happy with tubes I've gotten that are TAD labeled. They work great, sound great, and I havent had a bad one come out of the box... yet.
(They ARE vacuum tubes after all, but so far, so good).

They're a bit more expensive than the usual tube, but I like them better than JJ's, Sovtek, Ruby, etc.

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Old 12-30-2017, 01:33 AM   #7
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I remember watching a video on the youtube channel The Tone King in 2016. It was a live hangout/chat with the owner of Diamond Amps, who said that as far as he was aware, there were only 3 plants worldwide still making new tubes/valves. One in Russia, one in China and a newer one in Eastern Europe (Czech Republic?). Sorry, I can't point to the exact vid this was said in, The Tone King did a bunch of hangouts with the same guy. I remember the statement because it surprised me, I didn't think the number of places making new tubes was that low.

Apparently making tubes/valves in the normal manner is somewhat messy in terms of the industrial waste left over that has to be dealt with, so the number of countries where a new tube/valve plant could be set up and run is gradually shrinking due to environmental regulations.

Unless you're buying left over old stock tubes/valves, if the tubes/valves were made recently, they came from one of those three plants, no matter what brand name is on them.
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Old 12-30-2017, 02:09 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by GarethB View Post
Unless you're buying left over old stock tubes/valves, if the tubes/valves were made recently, they came from one of those three plants, no matter what brand name is on them.
Have there been any reissue or reproduction runs as of late? I have trouble understanding why one of these three plants doesn't simply license/make a reproduction of a 60's era Mullard or RCA.

I went through my bin and found a couple extra RCA 7025's, but they're Motorola era. I'm kicking myself for not buying twice as many back in 93'.
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Old 12-30-2017, 05:30 AM   #9
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I guess it depends on both the market demand and the costs to manufacture the tubes. Also, this site mentions four factories that still make tubes, not three as I said in my other post. https://www.amplifiedparts.com/tube-factories

Here's a documentary about how tubes were made at the Mullard factory in the UK. At a guess it was filmed in the 1950's. A lot of the machinery needed to make specialised parts for specific tube models may not exist any more. Also notice how much hand labour is involved through the entire process. Skilled labour is not cheap and is prone to human error, resulting in higher costs and higher defect rates.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDvF89Bh27Y

While it is possible to design new machinery to make those specialised parts again, and there is the potential to automate a lot of the hand labour that was needed 60 years ago, the cost to develop new machinery won't be cheap (find a competent mechanical engineer and ask them how much they would charge to do the design work required before you can even begin to build the machines needed to make specialised tube parts).

I'm not saying it's impossible to reproduce tubes not currently in production, if there is enough demand from buyers then someone will find a way to make them, but depending on the level of demand and the specific design of the tube, the end price may not be wallet friendly.

The next point I want to make is, where is the demand for re-issues of less common tube types going to come from? Amp companies aren't building new amps using uncommon tube types in large numbers, they're using tube types that are still being made regularly. Some boutique amp builders use less common tube types but that's more of a niche within the overall amp market. That means that people buying new tube amps, or newer second hand tube amps, aren't being exposed to other tube types and not creating market demand for those tubes, or for amps that use them as a result.

Another question is whether it's worth trying to keep older tube amps that use uncommon types of tubes running. My guess is that for the majority of tube amp users, the answer is no. I would argue that there are only a small proportion of tube amp users who would say "I MUST have this specific model amp with these specific tubes to get this specific tone". For the other tube amp users, myself included, a tube amp using fairly common tube types that is "in the ballpark" in terms of tone can be refined with a careful choice of cabinet/speaker, pedals and in a recording situation the use of increasingly sophisticated (and affordable) signal processing tools. In a live gig situation, is the audience likely to care all that much about your exact tone, as long as your tone works for the music you're playing?

In the end, what amp you use is entirely up to you, and what tone you want is entirely up to you. Tube amps still have a future for now, but as tube emulation improves we'll reach a point where the demand for even the more common tube types will significantly shrink, because emulation will be good enough that only some people will see tubes as a "better" choice. We're not at that point yet, but it's coming, and in my opinion it isn't multiple decades away.
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