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Do you think the tube dealer matters?

Discussion in 'Glowing Bottle Tube Amp Forum' started by bluesholyman, Jul 21, 2017.

  1. bluesholyman

    bluesholyman Tele-Holic

    Nov 10, 2013
    Greater Atlanta
    I have bought tubes from an online retailer, very reputable for the brand of tube they carry and I have bought the same tube over the counter at local guitar stores and I have always had great success with this brand from the online dealer and not so much when buying from some random "over the counter" location. I am talking about current production tubes.

    Anyone else think this is the case? I think "good tube dealers" test and sort through the tubes first and don't sell tubes that may not perform well while stores get them from wholesalers who probably just pass on whatever the factory sends them.

  2. jannodude

    jannodude Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

    Aug 10, 2016
    SF Bay Area/California
    I buy my tubes from my local guitar shop.
    My local guitar shop tube prices are almost as cheap as online stores.

    I always shop through my local store before going online even though I have 0% interest 24 months financing. I like to support my local shops :)

  3. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

    Aug 8, 2016
    Chattanooga, TN
    Yeah, I think that a reputable online tube dealer is going to be a better bet than a local guitar store, though probably also more expensive. Many guitar stores only sell Groove Tubes because GT has tested them and offers a warranty. The stores that receive them do nothing, and if you have a problem, they'll just give you another one. A reputable online tube dealer gives you good tubes. They test everything multiple times and only ship out something known to perform at its peak, or at a level described on their site.
    JustABluesGuy and Staypuft1652 like this.

  4. JustABluesGuy

    JustABluesGuy Friend of Leo's

    Sep 2, 2016
    Houston, TX
    I worry a bit less about where I buy new production tubes because I figure there must be some quality control at the factory if not by the reseller.

    With NOS or old used tubes, having a reseller you trust to check them out thoroughly seems more important than it would be with new tubes.

    A generous return policy is nice as well.

  5. Ricky D.

    Ricky D. Poster Extraordinaire

    Oct 22, 2006
    Raleigh, North Carolina
    The vendor always matters. It's good to have a neck to put your hands around when the deal goes wrong.
    telemnemonics likes this.

  6. radiocaster

    radiocaster Friend of Leo's

    Aug 18, 2015
    I've seen some dealers sell non-equivalent Russian tubes as equivalent.

  7. mherrcat

    mherrcat Tele-Holic

    Dec 12, 2013
    I mostly buy NOS from KCA and sometimes from Hi-Test and Brent Jesse.

    I did just buy a couple of NOS GE 12AT7 from Tubes and More because they were on sale.

  8. milocj

    milocj Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Aug 21, 2005
    If you're buying new stock, I think the dealer can definitely make a difference, but it can be hard finding the ones who do. My deceased buddy and tech only carried one (two at the most) brand of any size tube, and it may not have been the same brand for each tube.

    He always burned in and matched power tubes himself before selling any and he kept track of which brands of which tube were the most consistent with the least returns and failures. He would only sell the brand that had the lowest failure rate regardless of which brand it was. Figured tone took a second place to failures, especially when many of his repairs and retubes were for pros who were playing nearby and needed the reliability.

  9. GoldDeluxe5E3

    GoldDeluxe5E3 Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

    Aug 5, 2015
    Concord CA

  10. Axis29

    Axis29 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Jan 2, 2007
    Virginia, USA
    The biggest problem I have with local shops is choice.

    All I can get at my favorite local Mom & Pop is one duet of JJ 6l6's. Literally, that's all they have for 6l6 tubes... I don't think they have any preamp tubes. It sucks, I work there very part time, and unless I want to order some tube sin, thats what they have. In their defense, they've been known for decades as an acoustic guitar place, not so much electric.

    My other choice is GC... Where I can get GTs. I doubt very seriously that they even have 5881's or a quad of either.

    I know of a few online dealers who have excellent reputations... But, I am a cheap S.O.B. and end up on Ebay buying older tubes a lot of the time. I've had very good luck with both vintage and new production this way.

  11. Tomm Williams

    Tomm Williams Tele-Holic

    Jun 11, 2016
    Unless I'm shopping for vintage tubes, I buy JJ's from Eurotubes in Oregon. Those guys are the MOST helpful bunch I've ever dealt with. Not only do they give great tech tips but just enjoy BS'ing about vintage amps in general.
    When it comes to vintage tubes, I just take my chances on eBay, haven't been burned yet.
    SPUDCASTER likes this.

  12. Darkness

    Darkness Tele-Afflicted

    Apr 7, 2016
    Stygian Gulf
    Yes. There are dealers out there that have always done right be me when buying old glass. I'm sure the hucksters vastly outnumber them, but honest dealers still exist.
    JustABluesGuy likes this.

  13. DaveKS

    DaveKS Friend of Leo's

    Oct 21, 2013
    I can buy a JJ el84 at GC for $11.99 with factory only testing, which is crap actually these days. Or I can buy same tube from KCA for $13 where he tests them again on precision equipment and matches them up precisely and screens for other problem as well as gives them a burn in to eliminate tube drift before matching. Well worth that $1 extra.
    JustABluesGuy likes this.

  14. JustABluesGuy

    JustABluesGuy Friend of Leo's

    Sep 2, 2016
    Houston, TX
    Right? It's a service worth paying for, especially if one doesn't have the ability to do the testing themselves.

  15. Paulie Walnuts

    Paulie Walnuts Tele-Meister

    Apr 15, 2017
    Absolutely it matters. Good dealers test the new tubes and toss out anything noisey or microphonic. It's totally worth spending a few extra bucks per tube for this service. Anyone familiar with new production tubes will tell you it's a crap shoot. One tube can be perfect and the next noisey and problematic. Eurotubes is great for JJ. Tubes. Upscale audio does great testing. And plenty other good sellers too but no don't risk your money buying blindly hoping for best when there are guys that can insure a good outcome
    JustABluesGuy likes this.

  16. xafinity

    xafinity Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Dec 24, 2015
    my Mom's basement

    How on earth do you know that is true? Every tube? Every time? Maybe, maybe not. Ad hype is always reassuring especially when paying a premium.

    That sounds like Sweetwater's "51 pt inspection" of new guitars. Maybe so, maybe no.

  17. Tsquared

    Tsquared TDPRI Member

    Oct 10, 2016
    While we are making specific recommendations, I have always used TubeDepot out of Memphis for anything they had that I needed. Tubes and amp parts have always been top notch, and service is outstanding. Never have had a complaint.

    Edit: Besides. They even stock Rendezvous' BBQ Rib Dry Rub. How cool is that?

  18. theprofessor

    theprofessor Friend of Leo's

    Aug 8, 2016
    Chattanooga, TN
    Perhaps it does not apply to all reputable tube dealers, but I think it applies to Mike Kropotkin at KCA NOS tubes.
    Strum und Twang likes this.

  19. JustABluesGuy

    JustABluesGuy Friend of Leo's

    Sep 2, 2016
    Houston, TX
    It would by definition apply to "reputable" dealers. A reputable dealer is one who tests them well, describes them well, and then stands behind them if they don't work as described.

    If they don't follow such a procedure, I personally wouldn't call them reputable.

  20. Syrinx

    Syrinx Tele-Meister

    Aug 7, 2016
    Champaign illinois
    I always use reputable dealers like eurotubes, and have always been satisfied. One must wonder though that if the upcharge for a prograded tube is only 2$ more than a non graded tube-then not too many tubes must fail testing. Unless the tester was able to refund the bad tubes of course.

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