Counterfeit tubes-i'm sure this has been discussed before, but it deserves to be revisited

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by doctorunderhill, May 24, 2020.

  1. doctorunderhill

    doctorunderhill Tele-Meister

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    especially for those individuals new to tube equipment and their understandable desire to upgrade by way of the universally held "holy grail" vintage tubes.
    I read a fine column by George Gruhn in Vintage Guitar magazine back in the mid 2000's (right before the crash in 2008) that dealt specifically with Fender guitars and the ease of producing of high grade counterfeits by way of their construction and the vast amounts of monies involved in the vintage market. at the time it was nothing to see standard finish Tele's and Strats going for $50,000, $60,000 and more- and low production run custom colors higher still.
    Mr. Gruhn laid it out in all it's ugly reality- and the advice was pretty straight forward. if you were not truly equipped to spot a fake, or did not have access to an expert so equipped then you had best have seriously deep pockets and be prepared to take a potential hit of enormous proportions.
    I have been reading extensively on this same scenario when dealing with the Vintage/NOS vacuum tube market and frankly I have finished some of the articles with my sphincter wound up like a snare drum. the levels of deception are mind blowing- from remarking tubes (in many cases so well that again an individual would need to be equipped to the same level as museum procurators dealing with antiquities to spot the fakes) as well as the aging/production of boxes/packaging that to an inexperienced person looks absolutely genuine. and all driven by the ever escalating prices as the finite supply of authentic tubes grows ever smaller in relation to demand.
    at the risk of repeating previously referenced material the Hall of Shame by Vacuum Tubes Inc. in particular is a Must Read for anyone venturing into this market place. a serious read of this, and similar articles, will give one a whole new perspective when sifting through the numerous offerings through Ebay in particular.
    it is of critical importance to utilize the experience of seasoned players/techs in choosing reputable dealers who value the reputations they have earned through honest and ethical business practices and are proactive in rooting out the bad players, as well as those who are either no better equipped to spot the fakes or simply do not care.
    I apologize for the length of this post. but even with over 50years of playing tube equipment I was Totally unprepared for, and shocked by the level of deception in this area.
    there are many solid, reputable dealers out there- but there are also Untold numbers who, whether intentionally or through their own shortcomings, are Not.
    you work hard for your money, and you are genuinely motivated to get the best out of your equipment.
    take care that in the process you don't become another victim to this growing problem.
     
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  2. 3-Chord-Genius

    3-Chord-Genius Poster Extraordinaire

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    Good information. It further solidifies my propensity to avoid NOS, etc. and buy only new production tubes. Short of an actual defective item, I'm not getting ripped off. And they sound great.
     
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  3. audiopablo

    audiopablo Tele-Meister

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  4. radiocaster

    radiocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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  5. archetype

    archetype Fiend of Leo's

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    What articles are these? Please provide links.

    Are you experienced in the NOS tube realm? Not just using tube equipment and buying replacements, but *understanding* NOS tubes? There have been a number of fakes in the marketplace for decades, mostly Russian ones, but there is no shocking "level of deception" going on. Just buy from sellers known to be reliable and and educate yourself like you'd educate yourself about anything else you'd buy.
     
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  6. doctorunderhill

    doctorunderhill Tele-Meister

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  7. doctorunderhill

    doctorunderhill Tele-Meister

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    that was sort of the whole point. to get feedback from players/techs as to reliable suppliers.
    as far as "shocking levels" of deception i'll just let the articles speak for themselves.
     
  8. doctorunderhill

    doctorunderhill Tele-Meister

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    no it was one of his regular columns in Vintage Guitar Magazine back around 2005, 2006
     
  9. PeterUK

    PeterUK Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    It's interesting to me that when that article was written it had been quite difficult to accurately recreate an early Broadcaster, Nocaster or Telecaster because of the scarcity of some specific parts (milled jack cups, knobs, period correct strap buttons, etc.) but nowadays it's much easier/easier.

    The nemesis is the tuners as modern Kluson and Kluson-style have plastic parts in them, the 50s originals were all metal.

    Having understood and become weary of the vintage guitar guitar market @doctorunderhill now warns us of the pitfalls of the vintage counterfeit tube scams. :eek:

    Good information, Sir. Thanks for sharing. :)
     
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  10. archetype

    archetype Fiend of Leo's

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    I've had multiple, successful dealings with these folks. They know what they're doing and are reliable. KCA also sells used tubes that test within spec and I've bought many that will likely outlast me.

    audiotubes.com
    kcanostubes.com

    Again, I'd appreciate links to the articles you reference.
     
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  11. doctorunderhill

    doctorunderhill Tele-Meister

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  12. doctorunderhill

    doctorunderhill Tele-Meister

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  13. 50ShadesofOrange

    50ShadesofOrange Tele-Meister

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    I recently dipped my toe in the vintage tube world, and in doing so, KCA lived up to his good reputation.

    That said, for my needs, the juice of the NOS/ANOS wasn’t really worth the squeeze (e.g. cost and risk). As 3CG points out, new production is plenty adequate and you know exactly what you’re buying.

    While I don’t think I got burned, going forward, I’ll be sticking with current production.
     
  14. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Circa 2000 or so there was an ad running in VG mag for Fender vintage style replacement pickups, this was before the "relic finish" craze.
    The ad stated "can't be told from originals".
    Around then I went to the NYC Vintage Guitar Show with $4000 cash.
    I only wanted an old Tele, and found among other things a '67 in good worn condition for I think $3500 but it might have been $2500.
    I had friends there in the vintage market and asked them what they thought of that particular guitar.
    They all just shook their heads and felt that the old days of the vintage guitar market were over, replaced by the vintage forgeries market.

    For my dollar, I do not agree with sticking to the reputable sellers who charge top dollar.

    Instead I stick to the crappy sellers who sell too cheap to bother making the effort to create accurate forgeries.
    A good forgery is expensive.
    Vintage tubes sold by unreputable cleaners of garages basements and attics is where it's at.
    Guitars and parts as well, I look for the hacks who take lousy pics and aren't sure of dates or model.

    Maybe a forgery of a NOS holy grail tube is cheaper, but if you're a savvy shopper you know what the internals look like, and there an accurate forgery at the factory level will be too expensive, and once the market knows then all that tooling must be changed to a new forgery.

    What I do see is stuff like '80s crimped plate Philips power tubes being sold at prices of earlier welded plate STR versions.
    Again, easy to spot.
    Non educated shoppers really have no reason to pay top dollar when they don't even know the product well enough to recognize it.
    Crimped plate '80s Philips tubes are fine, just not the holy grail version, rarity and value.

    How do you know those STR415 power tubes are worth $350 a pair to you?
    If you can't spot them visually?

    And why would a guitar player want Telefunken 12ax7s when they are favored by audiophiles?
    We want character, not transparency.

    I'm not even sure why a guitar player would pay $40,000 for a Tele if they know so little they cannot identify it.
    Collectors items should be bought by collectors.
    I used to deal in collectibles in NYC and had collectors on my list who I shopped for.
    They knew their stuff inside and out. Usually better than I knew the stuff, and I studied up to have some buying skills.

    The new trend to become a collector without doing the work is IMO kind of silly.
    If you're not interested enough to study what you think you're interested in, then IMO you're not interested enough to be a collector of those things.
     
  15. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Those pages have some interesting info.

    Notable is the fact that in many cases the fakery originated back during the holy grail production era, but then it was more for the sake of tube warranty claims being directed to the brand name instead of to the actual manufacturer.

    RCA and Mullard commonly sold each others tubes depending on demand and availability at the time orders came in.
    Matsushita was sold with Mullard, RCA and GE branding.
    Those were not counterfeits, just the business of the day.
    All the tube makers did this stuff.
    Raytheon/ Tung Sol/ RCA branding on the same tube etc.

    I think just as much as there is a counterfeit movement today, there is a naive buyer proliferation today.
    I suppose that nothing new, but it's gotten extra big with the internet.

    In a way it's just as bad for a user who cannot tell the difference between holy grail and chaff to get a real holy grail they cannot appreciate, as it is for a newcomer to specialty tubes to over pay for a cheap new production tube thinking it's a holy grail.

    Rather than inform the NOS-curious that there are fakes out there, I'd like to see those buyers informed about why they don't need a Telefunken 12ax7 in their PRRI. Or even an RCA black plate 12ax7 in their SFPR.

    If you're really curious, but five UOS GE and Sylvania 12ax7s for around $15 each.
    Then swap and listen for a few months.
    Learn first, ask more questions.
    Educated shoppers spend less and get more.
     
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  16. doctorunderhill

    doctorunderhill Tele-Meister

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    let's face it- we historically represent a "vulnerable" market.
    way, way back in the late 60's and early 70's especially- when CBS had wrought "bean counter" mentality on Fender and CMI/Norlin was working their collective "magic" on Gibson- if you wanted see somebody with a self esteem problem all it took was the observation that as nice as their " " was, that only 8 or 10 years earlier that there had been no such thing as "pre-CBS" and Gibson was Gibson and if you paid any real premium it was for an instrument representing a specialty colors or a custom shop.

    and so the legends were born.

    it didn't help that a general lowering of standards and QC was one of the first casualties in the corporate "rush" for profits. there just seemed to more and more little things- orange peel, fret ends not dressed out properly and the like- that kept "slipping through the cracks" and winding up on the rack at the local shop.

    and in no time the vintage stuff started up. in the beginning though there was one positive thing- it was originally the Players , and not so much "speculators" , snapping up the prime instruments and equipment.
    boy by the end of the 90's right up especially until 2008, but even today that seems less and less the case- the prices are often just outside even a seriously gigging musician's ability to afford. they quit being instruments to a whole lot of people and started being a commodity.

    and therein lies a great deal of the problem
     
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  17. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    As I understand it, before us cool guitar players noticed collectors were pricing golden age rock & pop guitars out of our budgets, all the great hand made Jazz guitars were bought up by Japanese collectors and Jazz guitarists could no longer afford to play those guitars.

    But the regular player started noticing CBS era guitars and amps were not as good as earlier production before any of the collector stuff really happened.

    I agree it as mostly the corporate shift that is at the root, but many collectibles got the status without any corporate bean counting to blame.

    Essentially collecting stuff is nuts, but a popular kind of nuts.
    BTW I admit I’m nuts too and I started collecting stuff when Leo still ran Fender!
     
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  18. doctorunderhill

    doctorunderhill Tele-Meister

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    you are spot on in the observation on collecting & the valuation assigned to some things.

    $30,000 for a guitar?

    as opposed to say $100,000 for a baseball card?

    but, hey I hear bird's nest soup is pretty good too.
     
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