1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

NOS tubes

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by mikgag, Aug 31, 2008.


  1. mikgag

    mikgag Guest

    Mar 25, 2002
    Just a little story....

    I've always been of the mindset that NOS tubes where all hype and for gear snobs exclusively. Driving around the other day and pass a TV repair place. Curiosity got the best of me and I checked it out, and got a NOS 1968 Westinghouse 12AX7 for $5. Being as skeptical as I was, especially as it going into a hybrid as a single preamp tube, I didn't expect much.

    Wow.

    I now have a new amp....that sounds amazing. Tamed all the probs I was having before, even after trying many others (last one was a JJ that died after 3 months, EH was the best of the lot). I'm think a believer now....or just really lucky.
    :D
    What is/was the difference in the manufacturing process? Why can't they make good tubes now? What's so different?
     
  2. tv repair shops are holy grails
     
  3. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    What's different from what I'm told is a lack of a good inspection process, so you get a lot more bum tubes than the old days.
     
  4. edbass

    edbass

    Nov 8, 2004
    One of the greatest mysteries of mankind.

    The old ones sound better and last longer.
    Modern technology is superior to 60's tech.
    The person(s) who actually duplicates the sound and stamina of a NOS tube stand to make a fortune.

    Yet, it hasn't been done. Maybe it's magic that made a Mullard EL34 or Genelex KT88 sound so sweet.
     
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Not really. The tube market is a niche market now, and pretty much the only ones using tubes anymore are ham radio operators, musicians, and audiophiles. So there's no incentive to make great tubes other than pride, and we've all seen how much pride the Chinese take in their tubes :(
     
  6. fireincairo

    fireincairo

    Jul 8, 2008
    The phrase "They don't build them like they used to" really does apply to tubes. That being said, like anything, some tubes will really make an amp come alive and some can really make them dull and lifeless. It all depends on the circuit and how much gain the tube has. My experience with guitar amps is that amps that are vintage or based on vintage circuits typically benefit most from NOS tubes. Newer amps, which may have actually been tuned around new production tubes in order to get the best tones and maintain economical construction may sound better with new production tubes.

    I never give up on a NOS tube, I just stash them away for another amp. What may sound like crap in one amp, may sound like gold in another.

    I've not tinkered with tubes and my bass rig yet, mainly because I haven't found a cab for it yet. When I do, there will be some tube tasting going on. :bassist:
     
  7. edbass

    edbass

    Nov 8, 2004
    Thanks for attempting to set me straight, but unlike some others I don't make a habit of posting half baked hyperbole.
    Here's some interesting data that could help enlighten your opinion.

    While still a mere shadow of it's glory era, it's currently the industry (MI industry) estimate that the demand for audio tubes is growing 10% to 20% annually.
    Audio tubes are already an over $200 million dollar industry in the USA and possibly $500+ million dollars worldwide.
    An estimated 90% of all glass audio tube production goes to guitar amp manufacturers.

    Granted, any run of the mill tube is acceptable fodder in the majority of these amps, the jump on the bandwagon "me too" low priced/low quality tube amps being mass produced as cheaply as possible in Asia to satisfy this growing tube trendiness among guitar/bass players.
    But NOS Gold Lions can bring $1000+ for a matched pair, and that price increases almost daily as supplies dry up. You would have to pay a King's ransom for a matched quad, if you could actually find a matched quad.
    It's not like it can't be done, or isn't being tried, or the tooling and machinery doesn't exist. Western Electric has been threatening a US made KT88 since the beginning of this millenium, but so far all they have produced is the pricing; $1700 for a matched quad. Reportedly the majority of the old RCA, Tung Sol, Sylvania tooling was purchased intact leaving that door open as well.
    I think the market is there, but it will likely take a few more years of our current reawakening "tube consciousness" to make it a viable business proposition.
    Hey, I'm a customer, that's a start!

    As far as Chinese tubes, I've heard some good ones and I've had some rejects as well. Ei KT90's can sing in the right circuit, hold together well and output more power than 6550's or KT88's, and maybe the best available KT77 is Chinese made. I don't have much use for the Chinese preamp tubes I’ve had firsthand experience with.

    However, I think you may be misrepresenting and prejudicing the Chinese people by insinuating that they don't take pride in their work.:scowl:

    I deal with Chinese imports on a daily basis, and I think this inferior quality attitude (that seems to be pervasive in some circles) is actually caused by domestic importers/retailers specifying an unrealistically low price point to begin with rather than your seemingly inferred "inferiority" inherent to the Chinese work ethic.
     
  8. Really?
     
  9. Red Planet

    Red Planet Banned SUSPENDED

    May 29, 2005
    Atlanta
    I'm cranky in my old age.
    Yes that was Western Electric though I believe it is Westrex now.

    Charles Whitener is producing tubes over in Alabamma and has been for some time. He purchsed the old factory tooling and has been building 300B's for some time. He claims he will be building a 12AX7 and 6L6 in Bamma. and has purchased the old Genelex Factory which he says he will be building EL34's, KT77's and KT88's there. He has also purchased the EI factory (Elektronska Industria) over there across the seas a ways.

    I have talked to Charels pesonally and he has really gotten my hopes up but I havent seen diddly yet. He has offered me to toure his Bamma factory inperson but I havent gotten back to him on that. I hope he does something sometime soon.

    I believe production on his 300B's is really slow/low numbers and very expensive per set. They say they are very freakin good though.
     
  10. Red Planet

    Red Planet Banned SUSPENDED

    May 29, 2005
    Atlanta
    I'm cranky in my old age.
  11. Red Planet

    Red Planet Banned SUSPENDED

    May 29, 2005
    Atlanta
    I'm cranky in my old age.
    I hope he gets all this going. If and when he does he will all but own the tube market. You wont be able to give all those Sovtek pices of crap with the fancy plagerized names on them away, let alone most of the Chinese stuff.

    The quality of the Chinese tubes has lessend through the years on a lot of tube types. Sovtek just changes one little part and puts the Mullard name on it and there ya go, a piece of crap with a fancy name.

    An old buddy of mine once told me paint was worth a thousand dollars a gallon (new paint on whatever your selling) but I didnt think a fancy paint job on a piece of crap tube would bring so much more money. All on a tube that may very well last a week.


    I have some 1956 Mullard ECC83's Long Plate Vacuum Tubes that will turn the front end of a Hybrid Bass Amp into Majic Fairy Dust Tone (not for sale though).

    I currently have a couple hundred NOS Tubes in my basement but I have seen guys with lots more than me. That dude at Catherdral Stone has thousands of them.

    A Nice set of NOS GE 6550's in the Power section of a Tube Bass Amp coupled with a set of NOS Sylvania 12ax7's is eough to make a feller cream his genes. :bassist::hyper:
     
  12. SUNNydayr.

    SUNNydayr.

    Jul 1, 2008
    San Franish
    I was hanging out with my friend on Friday and we were Tube swapping 12AX7's in my PAS3 preamp for my Dynaco ST-70 while listening to different music in different formats. I would have to say that an older Ei 12AX7 was clearly the best sounding to my ears. The others included Amperex,GE, and the Siemens that were in there. They all added different qualities but the Ei really did it for me. Of course this was stereo listening and not instrument amps. I guess we all can't get our hands on NOS tubes so finding a modern made tube with pleasurable qualities and lasts is what we are left with cause we sure as hell don't have any sway over quality control for the new stuff. I am lucky enough to have a quad of the GE 6550's in my Sunn and just picked up an Ampeg V4B with all of the original tubes in it. Hell, the amp itself was NOS!:hyper: I also didn't balk when my buddy offered to sell me a set of Sylvania 12BH7A's in the original packaging for a nice price. He knew I might need them for my SVT one day. Just hold onto or stock up on those NOS tubes and it doesn't hurt to have an audiophile as a friend either!:smug:;)
     
  13. i amp tech for fender told me something pretty interesting in that he only like using tubes that are from the same era as the amp whenever he can because they were designed with them in mind. He explained to me that no new amps are designed using old tubes. i dont know it made sense to me
     
  14. Red Planet

    Red Planet Banned SUSPENDED

    May 29, 2005
    Atlanta
    I'm cranky in my old age.
    EI's are dang good tubes IMO. I have about 20 or so NOS EI Gold Elite ECC83's and they are crystal clear as a bell.
     
  15. fireincairo

    fireincairo

    Jul 8, 2008
    I think it's great someone will be trying to produce quality tubes in the USA, but from what I understand, the actual process can be bad for the environment and the laws have shifted so they can't actually be made just like they used to be in the USA. Whether or not that changes the way they sound remains to be seen.
     
  16. Did you notice my reply was a link there? What happened with the old Kansas plant? I knew about the move to Alabama, but this new version of Western Electric had been producing US made KT88's for several years until recently in Kansas.
     
  17. That's a myth that Aspen Pittman made up.
     
  18. Red Planet

    Red Planet Banned SUSPENDED

    May 29, 2005
    Atlanta
    I'm cranky in my old age.

    The Kansas Plant has been gone for 6 or 8 years. All the equipment from the Kansas Plant is in Alabamma.

    Charles purchased the Equipment and the name and moved everything to Alybammy. The KT88's that have been around are NOS from Kansas and I'll bet you cant find many of em these days.

    Sorry if you posted the same link I did. I may not have seen it.
     
  19. Red Planet

    Red Planet Banned SUSPENDED

    May 29, 2005
    Atlanta
    I'm cranky in my old age.
    I dont know anyone that has seen anything other than the 300B's and some other odd ball stuff. As far as KT88's from Westrex I have not seen a one.

    I foyu care to share aset of em I would be glad to think otherwise.

    So far all I have seen from them is smoke and mirrrors though I do hope they get something going.

    They used to sell the KT88's (from Kansas) but I think they are well out of stock now and the factory in Kansas aint there no more.
     
  20. edbass

    edbass

    Nov 8, 2004
    As far as I know, Western Electric moved all tube production to Alabama in '04.
    I'm pretty sure that your "Really?" link is to a spec sheet that is simply a copy of the original Genalex spec sheet from the 70's that Westrex put "Draft of new spec sheet 4/30/2002" on.

    As far as I can tell the Westrex KT88 is just a concept so far. If you actually have a Western Electric produced KT88, PM me about how I can obtain it/them. I would love to compare it/them to the NOS Genalex.

    IMO the original Genalex KT88 is pretty much the Holy Grail of big output tubes for MI applications. The point of my initial post about the fiscal viability of actually producing them and other industry standard tubes seems to be bolstered by the responses in this thread.
    If anyone has solid, accurate info about original spec tubes being produced, regardless of the cost, please keep the TalkBass community informed. Let's be hopeful that we will all be able to benefit in the near future!
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.