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Tube testers

Seal

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
597
Thinking of picking up a tube tester, likely off ebay, as I don't see any new one's being made.

Any suggestions on what to look for? This be for the usual amp tubes (pre and power).
 

Dan40

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,268
Most tube testers on Ebay will likely be in need of reconditioning and calibrating to give accurate results of any kind. Also keep in mind that most of these do not test at a high enough voltage to give accurate results on power tubes. They also won't allow you to properly check for current draw on power tubes for matching purposes. Once reconditioned and calibrated they can be good for looking at the general health of a tube and determining if a tube is actually working or defective. Some of these older testers are simply emission testers while others will do a transconductance test. If you are simply looking for a pass/fail test of your tubes, the emission tester will suffice. If you are looking to test your tubes in a bit more detail, you will likely want a transconductance tester. Also make sure that the ones you are looking at are new enough (relatively speaking) that they actually have the capability to test the types of tubes used in guitar amps. Many old testers do not cover these types of tubes. I purchased and calibrated a Hickok 800a several years back that I use to check used tubes that I come across from time to time.
 

Coolidge

Vendor
Messages
2,175
I ordered an Amplitrex AT1000 earlier today. Vintage testers for sale are either iffy condition, sellers saying they test weak, as-is no returns, I'm thinking basket case money pits. Price on the 2-3 vintage testers (Triplett 3444 / Hickok 539) that had been reconditioned/calibrated the prices are sky high.
 

zenas

Member
Messages
8,482
I fall into the, "I just want to know if an unknown is completely dead" category. Say you get a bunch of loose tubes in a box and want to sort out the shorted ones so you don't pop a fuse. Or you get an old dead radio or whatever. I just used a cheap little tester like a TV repairman took on house calls. An emissions and short tester with a pretty worthless Good/Bad meter with some numbers that didn't mean a thing. After that put the tube in an amp and listen. Good tubes sound an awful lot like good tubes, it ain't rocket science.
Power tubes are a bit more complicated because you have to check um for sound and current draw. But good power tubes again, sound like good power tubes. If you don't know what good tubes sound like, try your good spares.
Now if you want to sell tubes that's a whole different ball game and you're going to spend some serious money on some serious equipment. Otherwise you'll look like those idiots on EBay with cheap testers showing pictures of tubes registering in the GOOD range on the meter.
They also don't make testers with NOS gauges. :)

Of course there's the possibility you just want a really good tester as part of the hobby.
I totally get that! Test equipment is pretty cool after all.
 

pdf64

Member
Messages
7,056
Unless in the tube business, all that matters is ‘is the tube bad?’ and ‘how well does it function in my amp?’.
Assuming that the competence and resource to assess the suitability of power tube bias, a light bulb limiter and amp are all that’s really necessary to answer those.
 

feet

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,646
i have one of the orange ones. long story short: it's a complete waste of money, until it isn't. :) i've shared my thoughts on in several times in the amp forum if you need more details. i'm just a civilian who catalogued a few tubes, not a pro.
 

Robal

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,209
What do you want to accomplish with a tube tester? For example, Maximatcher makes power tube and preamp testers, but they are fairly expensive. Most vintage tube testers on ebay don't test power tubes at the higher voltages used in guitar amps. The cheaper testers sold on ebay (if working properly) mainly tests for shorts, and do not test for more important specific performance parameters; they can be used to weed out really bad tubes before you put them in your amp. Frankly, it can be a rabbit hole if you are looking for high precision and consistency in testing. Does the tube sound good and will it function properly in my amp? For me, those are the benchmark questions.
 
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Messages
2,693
The Orange VT1000 is the one my tech uses; he is really satisfied with what it delivers. I have a Jackson 648A which works great for the tube-health testing I need for guitar and for audio. It does just about everything except for power tube matching. Old units all need calibration after a while; components drift, etc. The VT1000 is digital which is a big plus.
 

HotBluePlates

Member
Messages
9,989
Thinking of picking up a tube tester ... Any suggestions on what to look for? ...
I want to buy a vehicle; which one should I buy?

The question is unanswerable without defining some requirements. Tube testers vary from "Tests Quickly, Provides Little Info" to "Tells Everything That Can Be Known, Tests Take Lots of Time." Cost varies enormously.

What do you need the tube tester to do?
How much money are you willing to spend?
How much time do you want testing each tube to take?
How far down the rabbit-hole are you willing to go with tube-testing?
 

oneblackened

Member
Messages
1,137
So we're clear on what HBP means:
"Tests Quickly, Provides Little Info"
Cheap used emission/short testers that TV repair people had (heathkit, many B&Ks, most of the random old brands out there), most of the more common Gm testers e.g. Hickok 752 or TV7, B&K 707 or 747, Eico 667 and 666.
"Tells Everything That Can Be Known, Tests Take Lots of Time."
Lab grade test fixtures - I believe HBP has an old Russian L3-3 (or something from that line). There's older stuff like the RCA WT100A or a Tektronix 576 curve tracer... Then there's the more modern stuff like the Amplitrex AT1000 and RoeTest, or the eTracer.
 

Valves-R-Us

Member
Messages
240
The Orange is the only available reasonably priced tester. They have a place for small/home shops and even pro road use. The Orange is fine for quick go, no-go tests but they are not emission or Gm testers meaning, no 'strong/weak' info. As pointed out, they can't be used for gain matching.

With modern component advancement and mass circuit board production, why just the lonely Orange? You would think somebody would identify this market and have a digital tester in a small platform that is a basic Amplitrex VT minus the 3K price tag? Something may be cost prohibitive to get there but I think the gap is simply ignored. They might think there's no market for it?

Waiting on Orange to improve their tester like adding a matching feature. They apparently see the need and may keep going?

Comment on Ebay vintage specials. The things should be treated like a tube amp of that age. They likely need caps, tubes, calibration, part replacement and a host of love to be semi-reliable. But other than that, they're great.
 

HotBluePlates

Member
Messages
9,989
The Orange is the only available reasonably priced tester. ...
The Orange VT-1000 is not available.

My L3-3 is slower, provides very much more info, and was only 40% ($200) more than the VT-1000. Compared to an emissions tester (maybe $20-50 as long as the buyer doesn't shop eBay only), the VT-1000 is not "reasonably priced."

It's all about requirements, and how heavily each is weighted in the buyer's decision.
 

HotBluePlates

Member
Messages
9,989
New production? Thought those L3's were Soviet era used testers? ...
Mine is from ~1983. So granted, ~40 years old.

However, it was as-new in the military crate, with spare tubes, tools, (Russian) calibration booklet, manuals, and test cards. Was ~$700 shipped from a town outside Moscow.

_____________________________

A key consideration is that the user plugs a tube in the Orange VT-1000, pushes a button, and gets a easy-to-interpret reading of Good/Bad (and presumably something that can be used for basic matching). That's an important convenience.

My L3-3 needs 1/2 hour of warm-up (to stabilize the precision resistors for temperature), then has to be run through a calibration process, then card setup, then testing. A lot of info is provided, and has to be interpreted (though it can be compared against Normal Ranges provided on test cards). Much more can be known in universal, concrete terms, but those probably won't mean much to the average guitarist who just needs to know, "Is this 12AX7 dead?"
 
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Valves-R-Us

Member
Messages
240
They do look industrial and a fresher made box that would be an excellent find. The Epray vintage flavors are often stored for 60 years in dank, garage spaces. When you spot the hardware rusted and pitted, be certain the condition duplicates inside with metal bits. Nope.
 

feet

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,646
The Orange is the only available reasonably priced tester. They have a place for small/home shops and even pro road use. The Orange is fine for quick go, no-go tests but they are not emission or Gm testers meaning, no 'strong/weak' info. As pointed out, they can't be used for gain matching.

With modern component advancement and mass circuit board production, why just the lonely Orange? You would think somebody would identify this market and have a digital tester in a small platform that is a basic Amplitrex VT minus the 3K price tag? Something may be cost prohibitive to get there but I think the gap is simply ignored. They might think there's no market for it?

Waiting on Orange to improve their tester like adding a matching feature. They apparently see the need and may keep going?

Comment on Ebay vintage specials. The things should be treated like a tube amp of that age. They likely need caps, tubes, calibration, part replacement and a host of love to be semi-reliable. But other than that, they're great.
well... you get a relative gain reading, and you can sort of use that to match up tubes. better than nothing, i guess.

the orange's glaring flaws (to my mind) are that it doesn't do rectifier tubes and it doesn't do 5751s. i'd love for that to one day be fixed, but i'm not sure how that would happen. its not like there's firmware that could be updated. maybe that's why they aren't in stores? a new version is coming? then again, i can't imagine demand is that high for tube testers these days, even if they have most of the market to themselves.

i'm just a player. go/no go is enough for me. it's saved me a few times when diagnosing weird noises and such. back in the old days, i would have been ordering and cycling through new power tubes, never realizing the v2 in the preamp is acting up. there's value in that. i wish it was cheaper, i wish it did a little more, but it's a lifesaver. though only when lives need saving, like a smoke alarm.
The Orange VT-1000 is not available.
perhaps mine will increase in value now? nos tube tester :D
 




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