Planning on a fresh set of tubes for your beloved amp? You've happened into a very interesting place to find them.... that is our little known, specialty parts shoppe. We can recommend some of the best period-correct tube selections for your amp. Whether you play an early 70s Crate, 1960s Vox or an 2005 Fender ... we can recommend some of the finest sound tubes from the USA & Europe's distant past! They are not always in stock as you'll see ... the supply is limited to rate of discovery, and they sell incredibly quickly.
If you have a specific question, or are looking for an odd model number, feel free to email through our contact form, or call (434) 645-2007 (USA, hours 11AM-11PM EST)
Generations ago, there was that silly and dismissive saying: "don't trust anyone over 30". ---
Well, I hat to say it .... but ... Flip that rule on it's head for tubes!
The best advice I can every give anyone, just passing the novice stage in tube audio, would be: "don't trust a tube under 30 years of age" !
If you're the owner of a tube powered musical instrument amp (new or old) or mic pre / recording pre ... good sounding tubes are a crucial link in the chain. Far too often, for the perceived sake of reliability, consistency and availability -- players purchase modern tubes. Matching or screening services may help, but ultimately you can't "make a silk purse out of a sow's ear".
Sadly, there isn't a worse thing you could do for the sound. Modern (ie post 1980s production) tubes come from only a few specific places now, and most (not all) sound ... not so good. Many sound pretty blah, while others downright miserable. Shoppers beware of the confusion caused by reintroduced cross-brands by New Sensor. They're naturally capitalizing on the glorious & defunct heritage names it has acquired: notably Tung Sol, Mullard and Gold Lion. They're flooding the markets with new production tubes that are at best, so-so. They're pretty to look at .. at least. Back in the 1980's Groove Tubes made a name for themselves by matching and rebranding old stock 60's production General Electric tubes. Now, they're owned by Fender -- and simply re-test Eastern-Bloc, Russian or Chinese production products. It's a necessary evil in modern times. The factory can't rely on the dusty shelves of yesteryear. Fortuately you can make things better. Tubes are meant to be changeable, and you can right what's wrong in your amp ... find the original tubes ! !
Q: So, I know tubes of the 1980s were bad, but haven't they fixed the problems?
About every decade or so, you hear optimistic reports of "how much better" the new incarnation, of old (communism era) Ru-Eu-Asian tubes are... This compared to the poorer quality "last" incarnation. And, you'll hear comments related to how they just need to be better matched or "burnt-in" (this helps, but not a enough). Or, how they have finally "gotten it down pat". This faint praise should be taken with a hefty grain of salt! Economic needs necessitate that new tubes made speedily, with consequently questionable Quality Control. And, with ever more limited materials. Then, they're brought to market as quickly as possible. This leaves the ultimate quality control of modern vacuum tubes to the aftermarket. The large field of dealers, re-branders and tweakers. A flurry of up-selling activity ensues, adding to the mark up. And adding to the final cost of your already rapidly depreciating modern, newly produced tubes.
Original, vintage tubes go unnoticed by the uninitiated. The dwindling supply of high quality tubes can't put up much of a fight. And dealers ultimately begin to carry newly made products -- if they don't have tubes in stock , they can't make money....
These 1950's & 60's brands, in their original guise; largely forgotten by those who could benefit the most...dedicated musicians!
Well known NEW mfr brands like Ruby (China), JJ (Slovokia, Yugo), and of course Sovetek (Russia) are among the last who actually manufacture anew. Ceasless production of obsolete tube technology is of course admirable. That part of the world never really stopped producing tubes, and low quality equivalents always been been too numerous. Right out of the box, most of these tubes sound harsh, thin, brittle and lack the sweet tone and detail that most tubes of the old days (see Exhibit A) had. The best tubes were produced back in the 1920s,30s,40s,50s and a few odd products in the 1970s ... manufacturers like GE, RCA, Tung Sol, and Sylvania had incredible R&D resources and huge factories the size of small towns. These then global companies vied for the ultimate life span, performance and sound of their tubes. They used rarified metallurgy techniques and costly metal oxides to constantly cook up better sound & performance. Cost was surprisingly a bit of a non-object with American built tubes. The quality lasted well into the 1970s actually, as some of the best & last 6550 pentodes rolled out of GE's Kentucky factory. A fabulous tube, you're apt find is the last GE 6550s, relabled as Mesa-Boogie or Groove Tube.
If you have a vintage Gibson, Vox, Marshall, Fender etc, etc, -- you couldn't believe how amazing it might have sounded; as it left the store with it's original era receiving tubes! To bring that back you have but one choice...buy the originals.
To the franetic, blossuming consumer electronics field of the western world; circa 1950s; good tubes meant better sounding amps in the store, quieter, stronger preamps and a better picture on the new expensive Televisions of the era! Better vacuum tube technology was big business, and longer lasting, finer sounding tubes were the objective here in the USA -- during the gold era. The consumption of tubes well into the 1970's was insatiable. During the post-war period of the 1940s-80s many quality #s were imported from Great Britain, Holland, Denmark, the Netherlands, and of course Germany (some RFT from the east side as well). Importation continued until the USA's market became weaker, and the high quality overseas mfr's could no longer be compeitive.
Many of these fantastic overseas brands can still be found in cached in the USA, and are carefully held in estates and by dealers. You'll find many of the best ever types here at our store
As the 1970s-80s came to a close, almost all vacuum tube manufacturing in the USA stopped.
Behind the iron curtain, and in the far east... if the tube worked that's all that was required. Large portions of the world were still tube powered.
HiFiTown is a longtime dealer of only original antique tubes! We sell exclusively low volume, which means personalized white glove service for you! From triple checking each tube, to the mandatory, crucial ear test. We maintain a fleet of throughbred tube testers, the much touted Amplitrex AT1000 is here too -- one of the three machines your tubes are verified with, before they make the grade! We also screen each tube for microphonics / noise, and almost test signal & output tubes in circuit! Testers we frequently use are: Amplitrex AT 1000, TV-7, Jackson 648, B&K 747, Hickok USM-118, and the AVO-163.
We don't rush along inspection of old finds. And we only offer the exact product shown in the photos -- usually, each listing is one of-a-kind. Study all of the Exhibits. Exhinit B,C,D is almost always a live test of the tube (or tubes) you'll receive.
It's a bit of a surprise, that we are still able to offer far better tubes for very reasonable prices -- compared to the bigger dealers you'll find online.
We don't like how other sellers do not show exact pictures of tubes and their boxes. Other dealers also frequently fail to match production dates and rush through tests. Buying elsewhere...you may not know for sure what you're getting...
Whenever possible we are sure to provide *many* photos of the exact tubes (you can verify this with the included reports, and the stock # tag in each photo) . And, these real photos include your tubes under live test a calibrated Tube Tester meter (usually exhibit B).
THE BEST PACKING & SHIPPING AND SERVICE -- WORLDWIDE -- GUARANTEED!
After your package has dispatched, you'll receive multiple shipping confirmation emails and often, we will provide pictures of your package before it ships! These photos, if we have uploaded them ,will be labeled your item# with the suffix letter X,Y,Z.
Personal service after the sale continues! Immediately after your payment is received, we will start to process your order. Tubes are shipped double box style, which means one strong inner box with padding, nestled inside an outer box. This quadruples the protection of your tube, to many hundreds of pounds of crush resistance.
Recent orders & shipments ... (very happy customers, see our feedback, eBay ID: Kearnyshop):
I will be specting vintage re-tube kits very soon, for specific (Gibson, Fender, Vox, etc) amplifiers. If you have a specific amps that needs a matched set of gain / reverb-effects / phase split / rectifier / output ... let me know.
I specialize in all vintage brands; especially 1950s / 60s RCA, GE, Sylvania and Tung Sol.
Best Regards, Early mgr. HiFiTown