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An Ethical and Technical Ampeg Tube Related Question...

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Unrepresented, Apr 23, 2009.

  1. Unrepresented

    Unrepresented Something Borderline Offensive

    Jul 1, 2006
    San Diego, CA

    Have taken SVT-II into local, well respected repair shop. It went into standby mode and wouldn't come out for several minutes, plus haven't been happy with the tone for a while. Needs a tune up and diagnosis. Shop looks it over, says, "needs a retube." Quotes me nearly $400 out the door for Svetlanas + labor + tax.

    Research online and talkbass regarding tube choices and such, find a lot of often conflicting info regarding brand qualities etc., but quickly note that shop is charging me full MSRP on tubes in a post-internet world.

    Technical Question: Are Svetlana 6550's going to satisfy me? Do I need something more boutique or am I just throwing money away? Shop sounded unimpressed with other brands. Groove Tubes was the only upsell they recommended (when I pushed) but quoted full MSRP for those which are more expensive.

    Ethical Question: Shop, when confronted by their higher than street price quote for retail parts offered to drop a few bucks off the bill, but is still ~30% higher than for me to order them myself online, which for a sextet of 6550's adds up pretty quick. Do I support the local business knowing they've got to make profit somewhere? Do I demand to purchase my own parts, and expect to suffer a corkage fee of sorts? Do I dare try doing the retube myself, and cut them down to simply the fee for the diagnosis?

    I want to take care of the small business owner, my amp, and my bank acccount. Which part gives? Mature answers appreciated.
  2. Red Planet

    Red Planet SUSPENDED

    May 29, 2005
    I will try to help.

    First off are these "Svetlana's" real Svetlana's (Winged C SED =C=) or those new Sensor ripoff Sovteks rebranded as Svetlana?

    Second off here is your delima

    If you purchase the Tubes elsewhere the shop is not going to warranty the Tubes for you should one or more fail shortly after the install. You would then need (after a second look by the shop and a bench charge) need to send back bad Tubes, get a replacement, and then pay the shop again for another install. Bet all that costs wayyyyy more than the shops markup on the Tubes.

    These guys are not in business to work on your stuff for free and they do like to buy groceries on occasion. The markup most likely covers some of their time should they need to relook at an amp due to a Tube failure a week or so later.

    Mind you failures do not allways happen but they do and when they do you want the guy on your side.

    Now back to the Tubes.

    I would put either Winged C or JJ in but absolutely not GT or New Sensor.

    Also some really nice NOS tubes are very nice but can cost you a small fortune. A set of GE 6550's can set you back some change.

    What you need to do IMO is develope a relationship with at least one Amp repair shop and as that relationship grows they will give you really good deals and start to treat you better and better as time goes by.

    I have one Tube amp shop I use, and one SS amp shop, plus one Speaker repair shop. They all know me when I walk in, I get the best prices, as well as usually a better turn around.
  3. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I'm very immature, but I'll answer anyway...

    I've never used them, but people in the know on here seem happy with the Svetlanas in SVT's. Seems to be one of the big go-to brands.

    I think you can make a case for him overcharging, but whether he gets the tubes or you get them elsewhere, someone's going to have to bias the power tubes. Preamp/driver tubes are easily replaced, but not power tubes. And at this point, you're going to have to pay a minimum bench charge, so if you take it out of the shop and install new tubes in it then have him bias it, he's going to hit you up for another bench charge for a 10 minute job. I'd probably go ahead and let him do it at this point.
  4. Unrepresented

    Unrepresented Something Borderline Offensive

    Jul 1, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    Not winged C's. Made in St. Petersburg. I brought up Tung Sol and Ruby. Shop said both were not as reliable in his experience.

    I don't have NOS in my budget, but that's the thing... my budget is also defined by the shop owner's prices. I can afford to spend more on tubes if I want to dick him over for his retail profit margin. For the price that he's quoting me for Svetlana's and Electro Harmonix stuff I could be purchasing higher quality brands.
  5. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    No experience with Tung Sols, but Ruby Tubes do usually suck if the ones I've been stuck with are any example.

    On thinking about it a little more, I'm a little untrusting of someone who tells you that you need a complete retube. I guess some techs like to replace all the power tubes so they can get matching tubes, but it's rare that every single tube needs to be replaced. I'm feeling the guy less and less, quite honestly. At this point, I think you need an expert opinion from some of the guys who do this for a living. I'm sure they'll chime in shortly.
  6. Sure you could buy a higher priced tube yourself, but would you them sell them, as a business, for what you paid for them? Give away the shipping costs and the rent you pay to have a shop to work out of ? I would imagine he is not buying 1000 or more matched sets at a time so HE is not getting the volume discounts the online stores get.
    In the end you either put your trust in the shop or you go elsewhere.
    Just the 2 cents of a former tech......
  7. wwittman


    Apr 21, 2004
    Westchester, NY
    I haven't been shopping for 6550s recently but I WILL tell you my tube amp guru still recommends the Winged-C SEDs for EL34s, and they ARE the best sounding... and what i use in my Hiwatts.

    but more to your point, yes, I can find said SEDs online for a bit less than what aforementioned tube amp guru will end up charging me to find a quad, check the matching on the quad, install them, recheck the bias, listen and measure and generally make sure everything is great, and so on.
    It's well worth it to me to pay a bit more "for tubes" including his overall price of repair/set up because I know it will be RIGHT.

    but, you can of course also just order tubes on line and bung them in and see how they sound.
    and you could still bring it in and say "I put new tubes in but I think it needs a tune up"

    but that's up to YOU as to how much the guy is worth ultimately.
  8. One thing with any repair, unless it is a warranty repair, always ask for your old parts.
  9. doctorus


    Apr 24, 2004
    Berkeley, CA
    It is important to change all the power tubes at a time. Not doing so causes biasing problems/cross-over distortion issues, and you're tone and output power would be limited by the weakest link in the chain. That's why tubes are matched (by trans-conductance).

    It's usually standard op. procedure to knock off about 20% off retail. Biasing an amp only takes about 20 minutes, perhaps a little longer if you let the new tubes warm up good before hand. If I could save some decent money buying my tubes on line, I wouldn't feel guilty about paying a bench charge and bringing my amp back to be biased. I'd say, "Sorry, but I can't afford to pay your full retail prices, but I'm glad bring you some business and have you bias my amp for me."

  10. MIJ-VI

    MIJ-VI Banned Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2009
    :eyebrow: I'm not a tech, but I'm wondering if the SVT-II suffers from the same standby switch relay problem (the relay drops the amp into standby mode if the supply voltage diminishes to 112 VAC or less) as the SVT-VR...
  11. doctorus


    Apr 24, 2004
    Berkeley, CA
    I'm curious Red Planet, why do you say absolutely not Groove Tubes? I've been out of the loop for a bit, have I missed something?
  12. Red Planet

    Red Planet SUSPENDED

    May 29, 2005
    OK let me say this another way for Jimmy.

    My good friend who does this for a living says what I said up top. You buy the Tubes elswhere it is no skin off his back. You have a Tube go bad shortly after, you have a problem.

    Just to clarify.

    You said Not Winged C.:confused:

    If they are not Winged C's they are not Svetlana and they are not made in St Petersburg.

    New Sensor equals

    Electro Harmonix
    Svetlana (fake)
    Tung Sol (fake)
    Gold Lion (fake)
    Mullard (fake)

    Made in Saratov Russia

    Winged C equals

    True real Svetlana's

    Made in St Petersburg Russia

    GT equals

    Do not make anything, rebrands anything they can get their grubby hands on. Bad about selling junk, sometimes have good Tubes. Recently puchased by Fender (hope they do a better job).

    Ruby equals

    Another rebrander screens their Tubes well.

    JJ equals

    Old Tesla factory and machines, same designs new owner. Been around as JJ for a while.

    Made in Slovak Republic

    Mesa Boogie equalls

    Yet another rebrander, screens their Tubes very well.

    Tech Valve equals

    Releasing new Tubes this year, made in original Mullard Blackburn Factory. New Tube designs to superceed old Mullard designs. 09 making 12ax7, 12au7, and 12at7 adding power tubes 2010.


    Made in various plants all over China (these plants are shutting down faster than you can shake a stick). Look for all the Current Production Chineese Tubes to be gone shortly. Like this year.


    Currently developing a number of Preamp and Poweramp Tube Designs based on a number of NOS manufactures. Production to be USA and UK from what I understand. Currently building 300B's in Alabamma. Not sure if any of these will pan out or not.

    Made in Birmingham Alabamma

    EI Elektronska Industria

    Now out of production may be back soon though. Just purchased by Charles Whitener.

    There is another manufacturer in the UK that builds 6550's but they are like $1200.00 a pair. Can not remember the name though.

    I like the JJ's, the Winged C's, EI's, and that is about it. I am looking forward to getting some of the new Tech Valves and trying them. I have high expectations of those Tubes.

    Not many Compare to any of my NOS stuff though some do.
  13. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Yeah, but in an SVT, the power tubes are biased in 3's so a full retube for one bad tube is ridiculous. People are wasteful with tubes, and some techs build themselves a nice little collection from replacing all the tubes in an amp when only a couple need to be replaced. That's why I always ask for my old tubes back. I've found many that actually work. If you burn two tubes out in a matchet triplet set, might as well replace all 3, but I'd make sure tubes are gone on both sides before I'd commit to a whole retube.

    I think that's reasonable.
  14. Red Planet

    Red Planet SUSPENDED

    May 29, 2005
    Well this just be IMO IME.

    GT never made/built anything.

    GT eluded to building Amps, Tubes and other products but never actually made anything.

    GT did many a bait and switch marketing.

    GT shipped many a thousands of Tubes out the door knowing most of them would fail right out of the Box.

    And theres more but no sense in going on.

    I filed a report with the FTC over GT.

    Fender now owns GT and is known for bringing companys back from the dead and doing a dang good job at it so I hope they Turn this one around.

    FTR New Sensor is about the same as GT. Though the products are made in the Saratov/Sovtek factory they are part owned by an American Company New Sensor/Electro Harmonix. They have a bad tendency to put a fancy paint job on the same ol rehashed Tube, change one small piece (to make it look different) and sell them to consumers at a massive profit. The products they sell with the old well know names on them are nothing like the NOS versions at all or even remotely close and most of them are almost identicle to their less expesive versions. It is a shame how us consumers get ripped new ones so often.
  15. Unrepresented

    Unrepresented Something Borderline Offensive

    Jul 1, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    Psycho Bass Guy, who appears to be banned unfortunately, has stated that the Ruby 6550's were manufactured on the same equipment as the GE's, in one of the searches I did on this subject.
    Definitely appreciate a tech's perspective.:)

    I'm not saying he has to sell them for what he paid. If he's losing money on the installation (which he's billing me $85 for), I'm okay with him making it up somewhere, but it feels like he's double dipping to me... Once for the cost of the bench time and then again for 30% markup over street on the parts. I don't know if he gets parts for street or if he gets them wholesale, I mostly just want to know if I'm getting gouged or not.
    If it were less than $50 markup for parts I'd eat it for exactly that reason. Even his revised price is still almost $70 over what I'd get them shipped to my door for. That seems excessive to my sensibilities. Am I being cheap?
    Read the post when I had the issue. I suggested that to tech, tech said while pulling individual tubes he found one that caused that issue.
  16. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    If Psycho said it, it's probably dead on, but I've had bad luck with Ruby preamp tubes. I hear they're getting better about QC in China, but I still don't trust them.

    So he's found only one bad tube and wants to do a whole retube? RED FLAG!!! At most, he should only have to change 3.
  17. willsellout

    willsellout Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2002
    Fort Wayne, IN
    Sweetwater Sales Engineer
    Whatever B-String said:D

    I have his V4B and he tool immaculate care of it. I'd trust him and his advice.
  18. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2008
    If the problems with the amp were corrected and it sounds good now, then despite the cost, the most important issues have been dealt with.
    The cost was higher than normal, but if the turnaround was quick and it was convenient to deal with this shop, then all you have to decide is if the premium was worth paying for.

    If you weren't happy with the tone of your amp, it could be that the pre-amp tubes needed looking at as well. I'm wondering if they checked them out and what exactly was wrong with your power tubes. If the amp was sounding weak, power levels down or varying, or you are hearing less lows or highs, these are all indications that your power tubes needed attention. If asked, a good shop should be willing to provide more details than "you need a retube" to justify why you would need to replace all the tubes. There can be other alternatives. For example, if only one tube is bad, they could install a new or used tube that matches your other tubes. They make more money selling a new set. You need to ask questions so that you'll know exactly what was wrong. Then you can decide what the best course of action should be.

    I'd be concerned about anyone that's pushing only Svetlana 6550's and was unimpressed with other brands. Maybe they are getting a good deal on Svetlana's or had them in stock and this is what they want to push. That alone would make me question as to whether or not I would want to do business with them.

    For what you paid, you could have bought two sets of matched sextets of the type of tube that you bought and followed the bias procedure in your manual to set the bias yourself. Ampeg designed the amp so that the user can set the bias. That's why they included the procedure in the user's manual. If you don't feel confident in doing this, you can find someone that can sit with you and show you how to perform the procedure. The nice thing about the SVT is that you don't have to open the amp and solder resistors to set the bias like you have to on other amps. Every tube seller that I deal with offers a warranty on their tubes so you're not left out in the cold if you buy your own tubes and there is a problem.

    It's always a good idea to learn how to perform some basic maintenance on your amp. It helps you to keep it operating optimally.
  19. Unrepresented

    Unrepresented Something Borderline Offensive

    Jul 1, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    I'm okay with the full retube just because I don't want to have to pay bench time twice on this when the next tube goes out -- as long as the tubes are indeed bad.
  20. BassmanPaul

    BassmanPaul Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2007
    Toronto Ontario Canada
    Not quite jimmy. The main reason for matching is to equalize the current flowing in each side of the OPT. If all are matched you are ensuring that each tube of the set is doing the same work as any other. If the tubes were a matched set before the failure it's odds on that they are no longer fully matched due to aging and drift. Matching all the tubes on one side of the opt is pointless unless you have independent bias pots for each side. Putting a Matched pair, one on each side makes more sense.

    You could also just replace the one tube and get on with life. When the original SVT was designed there was no such thing as matching and the imbalance this caused could also be part of the Mojo of vintage amps.

    You could also modify the bias circuitry so that each tube has its own bias pot. That way you could get just about any tube to work with the others.


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