Improvement in new tubes

Discussion in 'Glowing Bottle Tube Amp Forum' started by golfnut, May 13, 2021.

  1. golfnut

    golfnut Friend of Leo's

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    I have a question concerning new production tubes. I quite using NOS a while back as it started to be a real gamble with some failures. I paid a lot of money for NOS Mullard rectifiers and some power tubes that I got only weeks to months out of. So far I've had fairly good luck although out of my last order I got a bad rectifier and a bad 6L6 from the tubestores preferred series. But with their great service that was easily "rectified".
    However it brought me to wondering, with all the years now that the China and Russian tube factories have been manufacturing tubes have they gotten much better at quality? I remember back in the 80's you bought a Hyundai car and it was a piece of crap. Nowadays I like my Sonata better than my Honda. So they improved.
    So has China and Russia gotten better at quality control? Surely they would be sick of the high rate of returns which would cost them money. Or is there some other factor that makes it impossible to produce a reliable tube for audio applications? Or is it better to to make a product that fails around the 2 year mark. Keep manufacturing humming along, etc?
    Just trying to understand if we could ever expect a high quality tube for our amps?
     
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  2. northernguitar

    northernguitar Friend of Leo's

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    IMO, I don't think so. However, I have been using mostly NOS tubes lately. The power section is (to me) where it counts. Both of my amps take EL84 tubes. For my money, NOTHING beats NOS Soviet 6P14P-EVs, an equivalent. I have a pair in my Orange right now that must have in excess of a thousand hours on them. They are spec'ed for >5000 hours. They have been much more reliable than JJs or Sovteks (IME, the latter have had the highest failure rate).
     
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  3. Jerry J

    Jerry J Friend of Leo's

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    Tubes are such old technology I don't think USSR or PCA CCP manufacturers are too keen on improvements. Seems to me the best Russian tubes are their NOS ones.
     
  4. Cosmic Cowboy

    Cosmic Cowboy Tele-Holic

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    Good question. One thing I know is that China has come leaps and bounds with automation technology.

    Granted, tubes are early 20th century technology, but in that time you would think that manufacturing advances would play some role.

    I have had plenty of tubes fail on me, but any new tube out of the box I have installed has lasted for my entire ownership experience. In 2 cases, that is over 9 years. One of which was played constantly for 5 of those years.

    I don't know how that stacks up against the old stuff. I have seen many pre-cbs Fender amps with original looking tubes that still functioned well though.
     
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  5. Fearnot

    Fearnot Poster Extraordinaire

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    My impression is that most of these factories build to a pricepoint. They know what the popular prices are, and they make tubes they can sell for that.

    FWIW, if you came across a Russian or Chinese tube that claimed to be 'NOS-quality', would you pay $50-$100 for it? You'd be right to be skeptical...
     
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  6. VintageSG

    VintageSG Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    The Sino valves can be of extremely high quality. Mainly made for the Hi-Fi market. The PSVane and Golden Treasure series especially, but they're now reproducing Cossor ( and others ) too. They have innovated with some series, but they're not applicable to guitar amps.
    I've toyed with the idea of getting some PSVane examples to try. In Hi-Fi applications, they are very well reviewed. Inertia, added to the drawers of Soviet and British glass I have already, keeps me from it.

    Try searching Aliexpress for 300b, 245, 845 and 211 examples.

    https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32916868159.html

    Go from there. There's everything from what are essentially OEM placeholder valves for pennies up to 'how much' for each family.
     
  7. hepular

    hepular Tele-Afflicted

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    Surely no 'pay-to-play" or other factors affecting the quality of the review . . .
     
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  8. hamerfan

    hamerfan Tele-Meister

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    All preamp tubes are UOS (used old stock), power tubes are both, old and new. But I'm still on the fence with rectifiers: new or old? The new ones give funny specs, eg russian 5Y3.
     
  9. VintageSG

    VintageSG Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    There doesn't seem to be. Doesn't mean there isn't though.
     
  10. Paul G.

    Paul G. Friend of Leo's

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    After rolling through the entire stock of used and NOS tubes in my stash, a new set of EH 7025, a TAD 12AT7 and TungSol 6L6GC has lowered the noise floor of my AB165 dramatically. That's good enough for me.
     
  11. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I fear import rectifiers. Old /used USA rectifiers are good though, except you cant get 5AR4's. I still have 3 vintage ones and they are still strong after 40-60 years. I cant remember ever having a USA or Great Britain rectifier fail. I've had two import; one Chinese and one Soviet fail almost immediately when new.

    I dont think JJ 6V6's can be improved much, they are great.
    I dont think Mullard RI 12AX7's can be improved much, they are great also.

    Sold 90% of my vintage pre tubes last year.
     
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  12. DrPepper

    DrPepper Friend of Leo's

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    The days when you could buy a case and roll the best out of it are gone the remaining tubes on the market are the rejects from yesteryear or old pulls... That's my story and if anyone says otherwise, they have tubes for sale... You can still run across a good tube, but duds are more common.
     
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  13. Askwhy

    Askwhy Tele-Meister

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    ^Nonsense. There are plenty of good NOS tubes out there, but you certainly do have to trust the vendor and make sure they screen for noise as well as specs. The duds didn't make it out of the factory in those days, unlike now. They may be more expensive than you would like but that is a simple supply/demand conversation.
    Having said that, i definitely think the current tubes are better than the ones from 10-15 years ago. Vendor still matters though, maybe even more so, you always want a good example from whatever manufacturer/batch.
     
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  14. MuddyWolf

    MuddyWolf Tele-Meister

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    It's not going to get better. It's going to get worse. Find a few pairs of tubes you can live with and stash em.
     
  15. Collin D Plonker

    Collin D Plonker Tele-Afflicted

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    Honestly, I don't worry much about the perfect tube. I have JJ power tubes and Mullard preamp tubes. The only reason I spent the extra for the Mullards is the lower headroom. With JJ pres, my amp doesn't break up until it's cranked. I kept the Chinese original tubes because they are okay.
     
  16. corliss1

    corliss1 Friend of Leo's Platinum Supporter

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    It's never going to be like the golden age, but now stuff is better than 80s-90s stuff.
     
  17. Milspec

    Milspec Poster Extraordinaire

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    It isn't the assembly skill that is the factor, it is the materials that prevent the modern tubes from improving. There are just some things that are no longer used in production of things like vacuum tubes.

    That said, I stopped buying NOS tubes except for amplifiers that date back to the '40's (they really need the originals) due to it being a crap shoot. The existing stocks of tubes has been picked through so much by now that getting a really good tube is a rare thing. Out of the last 20 NOS tubes I purchased from very reputable shops, only 12 were useable. The rest either failed quickly or were microphonic. That is not a good percentage for the costs involved.

    I do recommend the military 12AT7 NOS tubes. I have yet to run into a bad one and they are still very reasonably priced. To my ears, they do provide a noticeable improvement.
     
  18. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

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    I have a stash of old tubes I keep for old amps. For new amps I use new tubes.

    I have two year old OTK 6npn tubes in my Superchamp which I regard as marginally inferior in sound to the greyplate RCAs that came in it and I still have. I have a pair of new Shuguang 6V6GTs to try in it next.

    One of the guys in Aussie Gear Heads ran these in a 6L6 100w after doing the same with JJs and found they put out marginally more power and after 30 hours of operation were completely stable. No sign of arcing, no audible distress.

    A lot of high end modern tubes are Shuguang - probably selected and tested. Marshall branded tubes are. If you spec higher quality tubes the vendor will supply them. At a cost, of course.
     
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  19. ThermionicScott

    ThermionicScott Poster Extraordinaire

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    Were you using a standby switch at the time? Seems to me that leaving the switch (if present) "on" as the amp warms up and cools off would be easier on these tubes. Even better would be to unhook the switch and wire the B+ to be permanently "on."
     
  20. radiocaster

    radiocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    I've never had problems with new tubes because I buy them from reputable dealers.

    I have had problems with old Soviet stock. I buy them from local sellers, and some are obviously not NOS. I only go for cheaper ones, because the ones that sell for higher prices are not any better. Does not make any difference if they claim they are tested.
     
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