Mesa tubes - typical life span?

Discussion in 'Glowing Bottle Tube Amp Forum' started by Southpole, Jan 23, 2020.

  1. Marc Morfei

    Marc Morfei Tele-Afflicted

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    I thought tubes lasted forever? :)
     
  2. zombiwoof

    zombiwoof Tele-Afflicted

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    I know from GT the GE6L6GC, the Blackplate 6L6, and their Mullard EL34 and 12AX7 copies off the top of my head. For TAD you'd have to read their catalog, they tell you which are their proprietary designs. I remember before GT sold to Fender, GT claimed that Shuguang violated their proprietary contract on one of their tubes, which they supposedly supplied to TAD off the line at Shuguang. I don't think it ever got to a lawsuit stage before the company sold.
    Al
     
  3. EsquireOK

    EsquireOK Friend of Leo's

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    My Express 2:25 Plus tears through EL-84s. I have well under 100 hours of play time on the amp, and it is on its fifth set of power tubes. The reason I have so little play on it, even though I bought it new in 2012, is that I don’t consider it a reliable amp for a gig. Now I am trying NOS Soviet power tubes from the ‘80s, which are rated for much more demanding applications. We will see what happens. So far, so good.
     
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  4. Southpole

    Southpole Tele-Holic

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    ^^^^

    This sounds very familiar to me.

    I have an F50 that I bought in 2004. I really like the sound of this amp including the splashy reverb but the 6L6GCs will last around 6 months with light to moderate use. I use it sparingly. But I rarely need 50w of tube power these days. I keep it ‘just in case’ and because it is not worth much second hand anyway.

    In 2012 I bought two mini heads - a TA15 and a MiniRec 25. Both of these use EL84 power tubes. The MiniRec is the one I use the most although the TA15 has it charms. I was using the OEM EL84s up to 2018! By then they were starting to sound a little flat but still usable. Replaced all the tubes in both as I was about to play a series of gigs.

    I only ever use Mesa tubes in Mesa amps (victim of marketing). I’m about to buy my third set of EL84s for the MiniRec since 2018. I have also noticed that the ‘settle in’ period for new EL84s is longer. I’m not happy.

    The only other tube amp I have is a Vox NT50. It has JJ preamp tubes and EHX EL34 power tubes. They seem alright but haven’t been heavily used.
     
  5. USian Pie

    USian Pie Tele-Meister

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    EL84s in a DC-3 head lasted a few days, in my experience.

    I'm kinda done with Mesa.
     
  6. Guitarteach

    Guitarteach Poster Extraordinaire

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    Whatever they were branding in the 80’s are bombproof. Got half a dozen sets of power tubes I cycle and a couple of full preamp tube sets. I managed to pick up a few 80’s NOS Mesa branded 12ax7s - chinese. Still one of my fave preamp tube.

    i have some more recent Winged =C= 6L6 which are my boogie now. So I am not tied to the brand and will use mesa bias tested tubes from reliable sources.
     
  7. Commodore 64

    Commodore 64 Friend of Leo's

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    Winged C are no longer being made.

    I use matched pairs or quads in a MESA when people have me retube 'em. No different than any other amp. If an amp is burning through power tubes, then I change the operating points. Period.

    I've got Tung Sol, current production 6V6 in a an amp that got gigged regularly (at least weekly) for 3 years. And it's still going in my living room now, same tubes. Same guy is now abusing a pair of 3 year old JJ EL34s in another iteration of amp with similar topology, but obviously different iron.

    Amps should not eat tubes.
     
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  8. Southpole

    Southpole Tele-Holic

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    New tubes purchased. Significant price increase over last year and only a 3 month guarantee. I needed a Guinness to calm me down.

    6BCA9B14-2B79-4CDA-968F-DD6CAAEA5545.jpeg
     
  9. scooteraz

    scooteraz Tele-Afflicted

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    Cheap JJ’s, as opposed to cheap New Sensor/Reflector or Shuguang?

    Or is there some other brand we’ve all missed?

    My point is NOS tubes are pretty much gone and even crappy ones are priced out of sight. The three brands (and I’ve had tubes from all three of them, some ok others not so much from each brand) noted above are the only ones in town. Guess that only leaves solid state or modelers. Can’t wait until someone is looking for NOS Motorola transistors like those in the Prichard amps...LOL
     
  10. slider313

    slider313 Tele-Afflicted

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    NOS tubes are not pretty much gone. You just need to know what you're buying and if the party from which you're buying has a reasonable return policy. I recently purchased a few matched pair of NOS/NIB GE blackplate 7408's for less than the same amount of Russian Tung Sol 6V6GT's or Chinese TAD 6V6's. Just know your chit.

    Sylvania, Westinghouse, Tung Sol and RCA also made a 7408.

    I picked up a few Sylvania 7408's a few years ago for less than the price of a quad of EH 6V6GT's.



    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2020
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  11. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

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    How are you running it? I had a 5:25 Express and got a year of rehearsals and small bar gigs.

    It's be worth getting the circuit checked to ensure it's not running hot on bias. Given the first Expresses are ten or more years old.
     
  12. EsquireOK

    EsquireOK Friend of Leo's

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    I’ve had it checked out twice by the Mesa shop (I live in L.A.). They left it turned on for a week one time, trying to replicate the problem. They checked every connection in the amp twice, as part of thorough diagnostics. The second time, they did it while on the phone to Mesa headquarters, being guided by their techs, which took them over an hour and a half, supposedly.

    This is within the first six months, mind you (still free tubes under warranty). The first three times, the amp would actually short a tube - poof, in the middle of playing. The pair after that just started crackling badly when I would hit a note.

    The official diagnosis of the Mesa shop manager after all that? “Tubes just aren’t made like they used to be. It’s really hard to get a good EL-84 these days. We used to get them from [I forgot who], but now they’re Sov-Teks. We’ll keep putting tubes in it for you until the six month mark, but I would try a different brand after that.” When I expressed concerns that this would void my warranty, he replied with, “Just keep a set of Mesa power tubes on hand, and put them back in the amp if you need to bring it in for a warranty claim.”

    As for how I play it, do you mean the power mode? Almost always on 25W, and occasionally on 15W. I don’t use much gain, and rarely use the second channel (but I do use the foot switch for solo boost and graphic e.q.). I’m almost always on “clean,” and when on the second channel, I’m on “blues.” (Both are the lower gain modes on their respective channel, as you probably remember.) I do usually run the master from noon to 3 o’ clock. I never change power modes without turning the amp off first.

    I have heard many similar stories online about Mesa EL-84 powered amps. Apparently their amps are rough on power tubes, and whatever the run of the mill EL-84s are out there, they just can’t handle it. I have also been told online (not sure if true or not) that 25W pushes two EL-84s close to their limits.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2020
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  13. trxx

    trxx Tele-Holic

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    Boy howdy, look at that box though. Makes it feel you like you bought a fancy bottle of cologne or something. Hopefully they sound good and hold up.
     
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  14. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

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    Some amps like the DC3 and 50 cal EL84 versions were problematic but not Expresses or later. I had a TA15 and Mk V:25 and neither of them ate tubes.

    The Sov EL84M tubes are the higger spec tougher version.

    Personally, I don't doubt Mesa checked it out but it may pay to have an independent tech do measurements of where the bias point is on your amp. It's possible you have just been unlucky with your tubes. Regardless of power mode it shouldn't eat tubes within minutes.

    I just ran Mesa tubes in mine - I changed the set it came with and the second set was still in it a year later. The used and a new set went with it a spares.

    Mine was on 5-6 gain and 7-8 master on clean and 6-7 gain and 3-4 master on dirty with the channels in pushed/high gain mode. Mine had contour rather than eq and it was set high for a singing lead.
     
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  15. EsquireOK

    EsquireOK Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks for your reply.

    The amp didn’t eat tubes in minutes. More like after an estimated average of 10-15 hours of play. The fourth set lasted longer. It’s on the fifth set now.

    6N14N-EB tubes are what I have in it now. We’ll see how it goes.
     
  16. DougM

    DougM Friend of Leo's

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    You're right in my opinion. The Peavey Classic 30 uses 4 EL84s for 30 watts. When I had my first C30, I decided to get a MB EL84 powered combo with a 12" speaker, their combo closest to the Peavey, pushing 25 watts with 2 EL84s. The MB ran super hot and sounded hard compared to the creamy tone of the Peavey. I got rid of the MB and kept the Peavey. MB seems to design all their amps to push the tubes to the limit. Leo tended to do the same, and designed some of his BF amps to run well above the reccomended maximum plate voltage. Tubes made then could deal with it. Some current tubes not so much.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2020
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  17. Southpole

    Southpole Tele-Holic

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    I was just thinking about amps that use a quartet of EL84s. The Mark V 35 gets 35W from 4 EL84s. Sounds more realistic.

    I get all my drive/distortion sounds from pedal board so always use clean channel set for plenty of clean headroom. Never trying to push power stage distortion etc.
     
  18. scooteraz

    scooteraz Tele-Afflicted

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    Interesting. Did a web search for 7408s, and the only ones that I could find that I would actually trust as NOS (as opposed to used old stock) were about 4x the price of current production tubes from Russia, China or Yugoslavia. And even the obviously used tubes being sold as NOS are 2 to 3X the price of current production. Further the other 6V6 types (like JAN and 5871,5992 and your example 7408) produced from that period seem to be in the same ballpark. But if you have a secret source, or if you have a hobby of finding caches at garage sales, good on you. Vice, if you want to share with the rest of us the website of your source for these please do!

    If you can hear that difference in the mix with your amps, then by all means, please have at the NOS or used OS. That constant searching for old tubes is not part of my guitar hobby. And paying 4x for an electronic component made 40-60 years ago that were the Groove Tubes and Mesa rejects back in the day. One other thing, the tube in your picture looks more used than NOS, but again, if it works for you, cool. Too me 3 to 5X for an ever decreasing and sketchy supply of stuff made 40-60 years ago isn't worth it. OTOH, if I walk into someone just getting rid of their old audio and amateur radio stock of tubes that they have had for the last 40 years, at the kinds of pricing you're talking about, I'll be the first to jump for joy (and bragging here...LOL).

    One other thing, I can get a quad of 6v6 today for like $70-80 US. You got a "...few matched pair of NOS/NIB GE blackplate 7408's..." That would imply at least three pair. Three pair of unused NOS and NIB for under $80 US. Great deal, since right now the only true NOS 7048s I could find were $80 a pop (or at least $480 for what you described). Other 6V6 NOS seem to start about $55 a pop. Oh, and see the attached photo of a real NOS tube. See how the glass isn't smokey under the mirror dome? Just sayin'

    Occasionally, I will pop the 4x for a NOS tube (the reverb tank tubes one amp seems to like them best). But most of my amps were designed around the current production tubes, and I love their sounds. Therefore, I'm not seeing the issue, and my amps get played. I'm not giving you a hard time because you like old tubes, assuming the rest of us don't "...know...chit..." was a little OTT.

    In all of this I did see a new acronym that I wasn't able to place. ANOS. Used as "NOS and ANOS tubes". The ANOS were about half the price of the the others. I get the New Old Stock, but what's the A for?

    [​IMG]
     
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  19. zombiwoof

    zombiwoof Tele-Afflicted

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    ANOS is "almost" NOS or "As" NOS, in other words used but testing at NOS values.
    Al
     
  20. scooteraz

    scooteraz Tele-Afflicted

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    LOL, I should have thought of that. Almost, sorta like, not entirely dissimilar to, lightly used-or not so New Old Stock.

    In other words, the tubes Aspen Pittman warned us off of because when he started GT, there were so many unused tubes on the shelf. And tubes were still being produced in the US.


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