Retubing used tube amp purchases

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by lhrocker, Mar 31, 2020.

  1. lhrocker

    lhrocker Member

    Oct 22, 2007
    I picked up a few used tube amps over the past year including Blackstar Club 40 and Mesa DC-3. I got them for a bit less than the going price, so that's cool, but the Blackstar started getting microphonic. When buying used tube amps, do you normally go in with the thinking that you may or will retube once you get it? If doing a full retube, you're great deal may no longer be so good. Any thoughts?
  2. Teleplayer

    Teleplayer Moder8er Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2004
    I rarely buy used tube amps, but when I do/did, I always went in with the notion I would re-tube with tubes of my own liking. I never let a re-tube alter my decision to buy (or not buy) an amp.

    I even re-tube new amps I buy, usually with old (NOS/ANOS) glass.
    ProfRhino, Kelly, Zonk and 3 others like this.
  3. Blinkon

    Blinkon Member

    Feb 27, 2018
    Unless I know the seller well, I go into any used tube amp purchase that way. Just like a used car purchase, I’d be inspecting it and planning for some repairs.
    HotBluePlates likes this.
  4. Zonk

    Zonk Member

    Mar 15, 2015
    Ring bell for service
    It's a nice surprise when you buy an amp online and it arrives with better tubes than you expected. That's not always the case though.
    ProfRhino and HeavyCream like this.
  5. teofilrocks

    teofilrocks Supporting Member

    Oct 21, 2012
    If it’s a relatively new amp, I don’t specifically plan on replacing the power tubes right away. If it’s an older amp, I typically plan on it. I don’t generally roll preamp tubes though.

    But tubes are just part of the regular maintenance to me, especially since I’m able to turn my amps up. So I expect to replace them now or replace them later.
  6. straightblues

    straightblues Member

    Jul 8, 2005
    The LBC
    When I was young, whenever I bought an amp used I would put all new tubes in it. That is totally unnecessary. I just change them now when they need to be changed. Power tubes tend to sound dull when worn out, and preamp tubes tend to get microphonic.

    I tend to buy vintage amps. It cost about $200 to get an old amp serviced and replace a couple of tubes. I just assume I am going to have to do this with every amp I buy. If adding $200 makes the amp "too expensive" then I don't buy it.

    Regular maintenance is just part of owning a tube amp.

    With your Blackstar, probably 1 tube has gone microphonic. Just replace that one tube. Take a wooden pencil and tap on your tubes. You will find out which tube is doing it. It will make an odd noise when you tap on it.
  7. bulbasaur_85

    bulbasaur_85 Member

    Nov 14, 2007
    Same here. New or used...NOS tubes go in.
  8. kwicked

    kwicked Silver Supporting Member

    Jan 22, 2010
    Always retube. I like having tubes in that i have confidence in - Power tubes i know are new or lightly used and especially preamp that are likely higher quality. You need spares anyway and when and if you sell the amp, you can pull your good ones and put the same set that came with it back in with no additional wear. I do make sure the tubes work as advertised for the purchase but other than that they are spares/back in when sell.
  9. d'djembe mutombo

    d'djembe mutombo Member

    May 24, 2019
    Glastonbury, CT

    Anything manufactured in the last decade, I don't plan on replacing glass. Most people selling amps <10 yrs-old haven't put many miles on them. Most stuff I've bought that has been produced between 2010 & 2020 has been in near mint condition but at roughly half the going new price.

    Anything manufactured from 2000-2010, I still don't expect to replace glass, but would not be surprised if I had to. I at least ask if/when tubes were replaced. If they haven't been replaced in 10 years, then I'm asking well below going rate of the amp.

    I usually don't buy anything pre 2000's anymore unless it's a classic. At that point I definitely plan on replacing glass unless seller indicates retubing has happened within the past decade.

    Some people think tubes need to be replaced every year or so, but I have amp's with tons of miles on them that have had the same glass in them for 15 years. Once I change the tubes, I don't consider a retube unless things start acting funny.
  10. 56Tweed

    56Tweed Sub-Octave Member Silver Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2003
    Cary, NC
    I agree with @Teleplayer, I factor in new tubes unless I think very highly of the seller and their choices for NOS glass. On the one hand, you can think of it like tires, they occasionally need to be replaced. Keep that in mind when considering the total cost of tube amp ownership.
    ProfRhino likes this.
  11. WillLane

    WillLane Member

    May 11, 2015
    Eastern NC
    Generally I go into a new or used amp purchase with the assumption I'll be replacing the tube complement shortly after receiving the amp. Unless for some reason the previous owner actually has good glass in there, but that is a rare case and often they still have the crappy unbranded China stock tubes in there. :crazy
    andyk likes this.
  12. andyk

    andyk Supporting Member

    Jul 9, 2007
    Any tube amp could need new power tubes. A 2 month old amp rode hard and put away wet, a 20 year old Marshall that the seller stuck junky old tubes in. I've never NOT replaced the power tubes in new to me amps.
  13. fiveightandten

    fiveightandten Member

    Nov 2, 2004
    At the rate most guys around here buy and sell amps, I’m surprised to see so many retubing any used amp they buy. That must get expensive for some people!

    For me, if the amp is a keeper and I’ll be gigging with it, I’ll re-tube. If I’m on the fence about it or it’s just a home practice or recording amp, I won’t bother if they don’t need replacement.

    Having a tube tester is very helpful of course.
    HotBluePlates likes this.
  14. jlinde

    jlinde Member

    Mar 1, 2015
    Traverse City, Michigan
    Very first thing I do is check the bias on power tubes. Then most definitely do some preamp tube rolling.
    VaughnC, ProfRhino and Steppin' Wolfe like this.
  15. StummerJoe

    StummerJoe Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 24, 2018
    A lot of people don't know to remove the tubes and wrap them individually. It's not uncommon for tubes to go microphonic after shipping when they are still installed in the amp. Whenever you buy used ask the seller to remove and bubble wrap each tube.
  16. Laurence

    Laurence Silver Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2006
    OK in the CA
    When I buy it's generally a used piece (usually vintage). Regardless of how it's described I expect to do some basic maintenance and replace glass. I'll check what it has, test, listen and decide if I need to replace. I have a large enough spare stash to do that whenever needed.
    HotBluePlates and Steppin' Wolfe like this.
  17. sickboy79

    sickboy79 Member

    Aug 17, 2006
    I usually retube a lot of my amps that I buy used with NOS tubes (pre-amp and power). Not always the case though. It also depends on how old the amp is as well.
  18. tiktok

    tiktok Supporting Member

    Jun 9, 2009
    If the amp sounds good, I don't re-tube it.

    If the amp sounds bad, I don't buy it.
    straightblues likes this.
  19. Pastafarian

    Pastafarian Member

    Jan 3, 2017
    Edgewood NM
    I almost always re-tube every used amp I buy. First I go through the amp with my soldering iron, contact cleaner, and canned air and magnifying glasses then I check for microphonics or obvious visual issues in the tubes then they go into the tube drawers I have as "extras". The only times I do not re-tube is if I immediately love how it sounds and feels and thats pretty rare. Since a lengthy convo I had with Bob Pletka many years ago I have used JJ's almost exclusively so that's the tone and feel I love. Occasionally I will try some of the NOS pre-tubes I have amassed but they mostly sit in little boxes in my tube drawers.

    Oh and I normally will only buy an amp that is a crazy good deal in case I have to flip it. You wouldnt believe what I paid for my Mark V 90w combo..
  20. Steppin' Wolfe

    Steppin' Wolfe Member

    Jul 19, 2007
    Full assessment of every acquisition is mandatory, for me. I never give more than it is worth with the expense of getting the amp in proper operating condition, whether that is a resurrection, a recap/service/retube, or just some tubes. Always I want to know the voltages and the biasing...even if it is a newer amp. I have to have a baseline understanding of it.
    ProfRhino and Laurence like this.

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