• TGP is giving away a Strat, Tele, and Jazzmaster. Click Here for full details.
    Click Here to upgrade your account and enter today!
  • If you are seeing this, you are on the new TGP servers. Bear with us as we work out any issues related to the move. The end result should be a far better snappier experience on TGP. *Notice: You can close this notice by clicking on the "X" in the upper right corner.

NOS tube longevity......NONSENSE!!


Ok so I lost another NOS pre tube today (I'm strictly referring to pre tubes in my rant here). That makes a total of 12 tubes that have died in my 4 amps within the last two years. None of the 12 lasted any longer than 204 hours. Please say that again....None of the 12 lasted any longer than 204 hours. That one being today's victim.
Yes, I keep track and log everything so I know exactly what I'm getting from my amps / tubes. I have issues.
All 12 dead tubes where bought from "reputable dealers" so let's get that cleared up. This is in no way intended to throw stones at those dealers or anyone - not at all. But I know that's the first response when it comes to bad tubes.
And please don't give me the warranty business either. Here's my quick warranty story. Bought 5 tubes, 2 died within two weeks (less than 80 hrs each). They were replaced under warranty no questions and the service was great. Things happen I understand. Day 32 (really) one of the original 5 dies. I got the "it's out of warranty" answer. Seriously. I hung up the phone. Ok technically you're correct but technically you'll also never get any more money from me. Common sense says don't buy something that "lasts 5 times longer" "1000hrs easy" and comes with a 30 day warranty. Of course I have none of that.

But I LOVE NOS tubes. I'm addicted to them. The tone I should say. To me there's no comparison. Nothing comes close. I have a nice stash and spent a good amount of dough on my collection. Amperexs and Rfts - love them. But I'm totally afraid to use them because of the reliability which is the exact opposite of good. I've been using frikkin JJ's for the majority the last year or so. Sound like ass but zero failures after hundreds of hours. Zero.
This blows. I'm so aggravated I want to go buy a puppy just so I can kick it (not really)

Am I the only one who has had horrendous luck with NOS TUBES?

Does anyone actually sell RFT's that last more than 100 hours? Arghhh


I think you need to see what's wrong with your amp. There are BF/SF Fenders around with their original Pre tubes in them working fine. I've maybe had a pre tube or two completely fail like a power tube in decades.. lost vacuum and turned white in the process, of course have had plenty of hissy, or noisy or microphonic ones.


I've had all my amps checked over and the most glaring thing to me is zero issues using jj's. And four different amps too.

Peters Polaris - lost two rft's, one Mullard and one amperex in v1.
Peter's Wolverine - lost two rft's in v1
Zwengel Banshee- two rft's in v1, one in v2, one in v3
JCM 2204 - two amperex in v1

How's that for useless information? Ha

RussB - that might be your old wolverine. It's been a while but I think that was you.


All I can say is that they were all sold as NOS.

The RFT's I got from two different people - 5 from each all within the last two years. I have two left. The 8th one died this morning and is why I'm ranting.

Such a love hate thing. I tried to explain it to my drummer friend who thinks I'm insane. I put it like this....NOS tubes are like that super hot woman who is just saturated in hotness but is also bat S crazy and high maintenance. But oh man....Nothing like it.
CP tubes are like a solid low maintanance 6. She's ok nice and all that but kinda bland. Has issues of her own too. And every time youre with her you think of that crazy hot 10 but it's just simply awesome. He seemed to understand that.


You may want to consider that these tubes are freeking OLD, and they take a real beating in a guitar amp. :) I've lost NOS tubes before what I considered "their time". I've also lost a LOT of new production tubes the same way. Tubes are delicate little things, and as such, should be cherished like babies. I remove my tubes after every gig, wipe them down with a cloth made of virgin lamb's wool, and gently place them in a padded and velvet-lined titanium box for transport back home. Once home, I keep them in the vegetable crisper so that they stay fresh for the next gig. ;) Stuff happens. If it bothers you thatyour NOS tubes die early, then don't use them. When I'm in the audience, I can't tell if the guitarist is using new or NOS...


I've had quite a few actually go bad. Mullards, bugle boy, more Mullards but never a Rft yet, I've had luck with them so far in my marshall. To be honest, not all but most of them seem to go bad from slight cracks in the glass near the pins. No not right after installation but days, weeks, months after installation. Weird
Good news is the new production tubes seem to be getting better all the time


Platinum Supporting Member
I run nothing but old stock tubes. Many are pulls and some purchased as ANOS. The availability of true NOS tubes is pretty minimal these days. Down to stems and seeds as they say. There is no way to test or determine how much life is left in an ANOS tube or a pull from old gear.

I have one die on very rare occasions. I have them go microphonic as well, but there are places to use those. If your tubes were long plates, they are more frail. If you are playing through combos... Another cause of failure. Frankly, it sounds like you have had a run of bad luck. And that certainly sucks.

Old stock sounds a lot better in my shop. In the band mix, not sure I could tell. And in theory they should last longer. But if your RCA short plate spent a dozen years in a juke box, obviously all bets are off.


low rent hobbyist
RussB - that might be your old wolverine. It's been a while but I think that was you.

Nope, not me.

I've had great results with RFT ECC83's, even the few used ones I bought. I dig the Tungsrams as well. You've had some bad luck!


FWIW, I've NEVER had an RFT fail on me.

I've got one that I've moved from amp to amp over the last 10 years and it's still going strong, has maybe 300+ gigs and many many more rehearsals on top. Not to mention being bumped around in my car/tour van for thousands of miles.

You've obviously been very unlucky with your supply...sorry to hear that

Laurent Brondel

Silver Supporting Member
I've lost a handful of RFT's as well, I think there were some issues with those tubes. A couple lost vacuum because the glass fractured at the base, and a couple of others just stopped working. Manufacturing issues I would think. I only have one left and don't even like the way they sound in most amps anyway.
Otherwise other tubes sold for NOS die because they're already old and have been used to death, literally…


Cantankerous Luddite
Gold Supporting Member
Seems to me that all 12AX7s in guitar amps are like little audio hand grenades. I've had new and old go bad. They're a pain in the ass when they act up.

When I think of the longevity of old USA or European tubes, I'm not thinking about 12AX7s. I'm usually thinking about 6L6s, 5881s, EL34s, etc. I think the durability of those is legendary and is no myth.


Real world-wise, I don't know if I would hear a big difference with NOS tubes in a band setting. I have tried int he past and it wasn't easy to hear a difference. I've also had some NOS tubes just up and die on me, something i have only had once with new tubes.

Lets also face that a lot of us are here and rolling tube choices, modding and building amps because we are OCD to an extent and hear something wrong (or notice something missing) from stock gear we use. I have a couple guys I have jammed with who will plug into pretty much anything, and find a tone they can use with an overdrive pedal. I hear a difference because of my obsessive nature, but in a jam setting, nobody who heard us said "That guy is obviously playing a crappy solid state amp" it just sounded like a guitar. I played a PRS SInglecut intomy handmade all analog tube monster amp, through a Zbest 2x12 and a few custom pedals and he played a mexi strat with a humbucker into a little fender modeler amp.... and nobody thought he sounded bad at all.

It's all subjective, and despite any warranty, or promise of testing, rigorous or otherwise, vintage tubes aren't going to last as long 99% of the time. THey might not self destruct, but even without use, they have been sitting for decades.

Dog Boy

I've had plenty of so-called NOS pre tubes go bad very shortly after installation. Yeah they sound great but f that 50 dollars a pop noise. The only tube I haven't had issues with is a Tektronix branded GE 5751 and it has lasted years if not decades now.

I just gave up and dealt with the withdrawal.

I did buy some Sylvania STR 6L6s from Mesa and they have also run for decades and sound killer.

I'm done with NOS...honestly I don't think there is any such thing anymore.


I have NOS GE and Sylvanias still going strong after 10 years of regular playing, gigging, and rehearsing. I have had new production Mullards and others fail within a year or two. I still swear by NOS personally

J M Fahey

FWIW leaking air in/fracturing at the base/losing glass to metal seal at a pin is NOT a manufacturing defect nor indicates poor build quality if it happens DECADES after the tube was made, for God's sake!!!!
Just think 5 minutes about it!!!!!!

It has ALL to do with rough handling, period, and I mean while inserting and pulling them in/out sockets or straightening bent pins.
Maybe overdoing the sometimes recommended "gentle twisting while putting them in/out of sockets" .

Metal bends, glass does not, microcracks develop and in tens or hundreds of hours air leak kills them , compared that to hundreds thousand hours since made.

So all die in less than 200 hours?
*Preamp* tubes at that, dissipating low power and subject to normal voltages?
Not power tubes, which pass high current, can redplate, are systematically subject to high plate and screen voltage way beyond Factory specs?

Scumback Speakers

Platinum Supporting Member
From my own personal and professional experience I find new production preamp tubes sound horrible. There are a few exceptions, but generally speaking they don't work in my Marshall, Fender, Vox, and modded Marshall amps. There seems to be a higher failure in the modded Marshalls for the extra gain, fourth preamp tube modded versions (any maker). The 4th preamp tube gain mods put a higher strain on the tube and they typically sound shrill or go microphonic very quickly. It sucks, but it's what I've experienced.

I only use ANOS tubes now. Buying NOS tubes is tricky. You can buy them from a dealer/trusted source and pay big $$ for them, and they can take a dump. I've bought close to 300 ANOS preamp tubes (12AX7/ECC83) and I have a considerable stash of them (Mullard, Telefunken, Amperex Bugle Boy & Orange Glove versions). I've had exactly two go bad in 8 years. They are in all of my demo amps, and these amps go to shows and are used in player demos all the time. My purple 50w Marshall clone (aka Barney) head sat at Tone Merchants for well over two years with I'm sure hundreds, if not thousands of playing hours on it. None of the tubes failed. Since I got it back ONE old Telefunken gave up the ghost about a year ago. That amp was built in 2006, so 8 years on a tube I spent $40-50 on seemed like a pretty decent return on my investment. I replaced it with another Tele from a known eBay seller that tests tubes and gives you a gain/strength report, and that one is still good a year later. As long as you have test results that show anywhere from 90-110% of the standard test spec you should be good to go with an ANOS preamp tube for quite some time. I base this on having 15 Marshall clones and four real Marshall amps, just so you have a reference of how many test amps I have for my experience.

Power tubes: I used to buy NOS power tubes, but after serious side by side testing with identical amps (I have two Barney amps, one is in a black headshell, same exact parts in both) I have concluded that EL34's from Winged C are my favorite new production tube, JJ's are my second favorite. Both are easily found, and don't cost $250 for a pair of Mullard EL34, or the much rarer Telefunken EL34's (I have two sets of those).

Further tests on NOS power vs current production power tubes: I built a 100w clone to match my 71 Super Lead several years back. I debuted this amp at the LA Amp Show in 2013, and used the Metropolis head switcher to use both amps through the same speaker cab for comparisons. The real 71 SL had ANOS preamp tubes in it, and Tesla EL34 NOS power tubes. The clone I built had ANOS preamp tubes and had new production JJ 6CA7 power tubes.

I had several players to side by side comparisons, including TGP members Big Mike, fusionbear, and a number of others. We did several random player tests and switched the amps while they were playing without telling them.

None of them could tell the difference between the real and clone amp, aside from I use a lower voltage PT so my 100w clone was 5w less powerful, with a very, very slight decrease in sound level.

Long story short, I use ANOS preamp tubes and current production power tubes with no ill effects, or tone variances.

I will say that the new production power tubes have come up quite a bit in quality over the last 3-4 years, but they don't last as long as NOS power tubes. But when you put $500 worth of NOS power tubes in an amp, and a set of new production power tubes for $150 in an amp, you just have to do the math on how much you play, and how long the current production tubes will last (with a given replacement for failures) compared to retubing and buying NOS tubes again.

I opted for current production power tubes.

Summary: My experience has been to get ANOS preamp tubes, and current production power tubes unless you have deep pockets for all NOS, but only you can determine how much tube money you can spend for the ultimate tone.

Trending Topics