National Incoming NOS Tube Stash Day - With A Nice Backstory.

László

Too Many Notes
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Apr 26, 2012
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Gerry, the very talented drummer from my college band, located and contacted me a few years ago, we lost touch in 1971. Afterward we renewed our friendship, and talk to each other often. We wondered what happened to our most excellent bass player, Tom. After much searching, Gerry found him a couple of months ago, and that friendship is also renewed, and we stay in touch.

The other day I got an email from Tom; he was cleaning out his storage room and found a box of NOS, unused, vacuum tubes from the late '60s, and since I'm still into my tube amps, do I want them? He offered to send them no charge. When he told me what was in the stash, I said, "Tom, these are actually pretty valuable, you should sell them on eBay or to a dealer, don't give them away."

He said he didn't want to go to the trouble, and he was sending them to me regardless. I have an NOS Mullard 12AT7 I'm sending him for his Princeton, but he declined my offer of pedals or other gear in trade, and has enough other tubes for that amp.

Tom doesn't know if the tubes still work, but I bet most, if not all of them, do, because unless the vacuum seal is broken somehow, tubes don't actually lose potency.

So, what's on the way, you ask? Some pretty sweet stuff:

Two RCA 7025s, absolutely the best-ever US 12AX7.

One GE 12 AX7.

Two GE 6L6s. The boxes say 6L6, which were all metal tubes and not made by GE in the '60s, but who knows. The glass ones should be GC. I don't yet know what these are; if they aren't GC they're not for modern amps, because the GCs handle higher voltage, but as I said, I have my doubts that they're not GCs. The G means glass envelope.

Two Westinghouse-branded 6550s (I'll check the date codes and see who made them for Westinghouse, there was a variety of suppliers).

Three DuMont-branded EL34s (I'll have to check date codes and figure out the origin of those, too).

Five EF93s (not a guitar amp tube that I'm aware of).

I have a date and manufacturer code/country of origin chart, so finding out who made the Dumont and Westinghouse tubes should be pretty simple. There are also clues like the type of inks used to print the labels on European vs USA tubes, the type of etching of the date and country codes, etc.

All in all, this is a very nice surprise for a tube gear enthusiast like me!
 
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Excellent!

Digging into history with vintage tubes is fun - not to mention plugging them into amps! I’ve certainly enjoyed it.

The nice thing about these is, you know you’re not getting some tube dealer’s “leftovers,” the stuff they still have after they sold their best stock - which is what I worry about now, buying NOS tubes online.

I don’t know it for a fact, but I suspect tubes have almost no degradation over time if they’re well stored. So, those will be some prime tubes for you, at least the ones that are compatible with your amps.
 
The nice thing about these is, you know you’re not getting some tube dealer’s “leftovers,” the stuff they still have after they sold their best stock - which is what I worry about now, buying NOS tubes online.

For the last few years I've bought the majority from Tube Depot, because for an extra couple of bucks they'll test each tube for gain, noise, microphonics, and balanced triodes, and pit the test results on a sticker on the box. I generally only need them to test for noise and microphonics,

I've now fully re-tubed three amps with their tubes; I have yet to get a tube from them that had any issues. The tubes have all been quiet and not susceptible to microphonics. So I've developed a certain level of trust.

Goodness only knows where Tom has kept these tubes for the last 50 years, he didn't even know he had them until he found them, but I think most of them should work!
 
Noice. I'm still on the fence about investing in NOS valves, only because it seems like I have other "more important" gear spending needs.
Here's my thinking re: NOS tubes:

Most amps you pick carefully are going to sound exciting and cool at first. Then maybe you start to notice little annoying things.

Or: Maybe it's not something annoying in the tone, maybe the amp isn't fully scratching the itch for which you bought it, and a vague dissatisfaction creeps into your head.

Either way, that amp could leave the building at any moment, because you begin to think, "I'm not bonding with this amp the way I hoped. Maybe I should look for something else."

Often when NOS tubes are installed, that feeling of vague dissatisfaction - the one you can't put into words - goes away. You find yourself in a better place with your approach to your music. You can't really describe why, but you now think the amp is a keeper.

This is how I feel, anyway. Before going fully NOS, I went through amps like sh!t through a goose. With them I haven't sold an amp in ten years.

Yet if you asked me what the tubes made different, most of the time all I'd say is "I like the amp more with these tubes." But I think that makes NOS tubes a micro, as opposed to macro, solution.

There might indeed be more immediate macro needs you want to tackle before taking on the more subtle stuff. For me, tubes are the icing on the cake. We all seem to value certain links in the gear chain differently, so we're not gonna think alike all the time, and our plans vary.
 
Here's my thinking re: NOS tubes:

Most amps you pick carefully are going to sound exciting and cool at first. Then maybe you start to notice little annoying things.

Or: Maybe it's not something annoying in the tone, maybe the amp isn't fully scratching the itch for which you bought it, and a vague dissatisfaction creeps into your head.

Either way, that amp could leave the building at any moment, because you begin to think, "I'm not bonding with this amp the way I hoped. Maybe I should look for something else."

Often when NOS tubes are installed, that feeling of vague dissatisfaction - the one you can't put into words - goes away. You find yourself in a better place with your approach to your music. You can't really describe why, but you now think the amp is a keeper.

This is how I feel, anyway. Before going fully NOS, I went through amps like sh!t through a goose. With them I haven't sold an amp in ten years.

Yet if you asked me what the tubes made different, most of the time all I'd say is "I like the amp more with these tubes." But I think that makes NOS tubes a micro, as opposed to macro, solution.

There might indeed be more immediate macro needs you want to tackle before taking on the more subtle stuff. For me, tubes are the icing on the cake. We all seem to value certain links in the gear chain differently, so we're not gonna think alike all the time, and our plans vary.
Yeah, that's all understandable. I even have a list of valves I want for my Fillmore. I dug and narrowed down what I felt would work well with my amp. It's just I always have something else to haemorrhage money on. Please, don't laugh, but I'm changing my pedalboard again ;) Once I do that, I will be back to this idea
 
if you asked me what the tubes made different, most of the time all I'd say is "I like the amp more with these tubes." But I think that makes NOS tubes a micro, as opposed to macro, solution.

There might indeed be more immediate macro needs you want to tackle before taking on the more subtle stuff. For me, tubes are the icing on the cake. We all seem to value certain links in the gear chain differently, so we're not gonna think alike all the time, and our plans vary.
Absolutely agree. Spent the last year getting the gear/signal chain tweaked so it's really good. Now that it's a good level without weak links, it's time to work on tweaking.

NOS is a ways out though, the Archon is still in the honeymoon phase!
 
A few issues I've found with new-production tubes that drive me nuts:

1. Annoying, glassy ringing in the upper registers that can't be dialed out - worse in combo amps than heads, and likely caused by the components in the tube vibrating against the glass envelope due to poor assembly;

2. Playing becomes fatiguing due to upper-mid harshness;

3. A steelier tone that sometimes lacks warmth - worse with some tubes than others;

4. Quality issues, short lifespan, etc.

5. Overdriven tone is grainier, less smooth than NOS.

I've found new-production JJs to be the best sounding of the new stuff, and the least problematic. They seem to have a warmer tone than most, so I carry them as spares, I haven't needed a spare with NOS yet, but that might be down to good luck.

I should mention that when I was a young player in bands back when most of the NOS tubes I buy were made, with amps thrown into band trucks, and gear stored in terrible conditions in the trucks, I never once had a tube go bad!

With new-production tubes, in my studio where nothing happens to them, and temperature and humidity are controlled, I had new-production tubes regularly blowing!

So for the annoyance factor alone, the NOS tubes have been great for me.
 
A few issues I've found with new-production tubes that drive me nuts:

1. Annoying, glassy ringing in the upper registers that can't be dialed out - worse in combo amps than heads, and likely caused by the components in the tube vibrating against the glass envelope due to poor assembly;

2. Playing becomes fatiguing due to upper-mid harshness;

3. A steelier tone that sometimes lacks warmth - worse with some tubes than others;

4. Quality issues, short lifespan, etc.

5. Overdriven tone is grainier, less smooth than NOS.

I've found new-production JJs to be the best sounding of the new stuff, and the least problematic. They seem to have a warmer tone than most, so I carry them as spares, I haven't needed a spare with NOS yet, but that might be down to good luck.

I should mention that when I was a young player in bands back when most of the NOS tubes I buy were made, with amps thrown into band trucks, and gear stored in terrible conditions in the trucks, I never once had a tube go bad!

With new-production tubes, in my studio where nothing happens to them, and temperature and humidity are controlled, I had new-production tubes regularly blowing!

So for the annoyance factor alone, the NOS tubes have been great for me.

I agree. My ear isn’t as good, but especially on point 5, I find newer tubes to just blow the signal gain up so much that there’s a rasp to the breakup that I just can’t stand. It doesn’t fade out gently, either, it kind of ripples unnaturally, and I hate that!

I will say, it correlates at least in part with the gain factor of the tube, in my experience. The ubiquitous JJ ecc803s has a ton of gain, and although people tend to praise high gain tubes, I often dislike them. Most of the GE, RCA, and Mullard tubes I’ve tried and enjoyed don’t seem to have as much gain. Fortunately some of the other more premium JJ tubes are sweet, for new production.

My NOS source is having a fairly generous sale right now, but I went kinda crazy in 2022 building up a NOS stash. I’ve got a nice box of spare 12ax7, 5751, 12ay7, and 12at7 from GE, RCA, and Mullard, in an amount that equals “don’t tell my wife” money.

On the other hand, if she doesn’t know, does it matter?

(please, don’t answer that)
 
I agree. My ear isn’t as good, but especially on point 5, I find newer tubes to just blow the signal gain up so much that there’s a rasp to the breakup that I just can’t stand. It doesn’t fade out gently, either, it kind of ripples unnaturally, and I hate that!

I will say, it correlates at least in part with the gain factor of the tube, in my experience. The ubiquitous JJ ecc803s has a ton of gain, and although people tend to praise high gain tubes, I often dislike them. Most of the GE, RCA, and Mullard tubes I’ve tried and enjoyed don’t seem to have as much gain. Fortunately some of the other more premium JJ tubes are sweet, for new production.

My NOS source is having a fairly generous sale right now, but I went kinda crazy in 2022 building up a NOS stash. I’ve got a nice box of spare 12ax7, 5751, 12ay7, and 12at7 from GE, RCA, and Mullard, in an amount that equals “don’t tell my wife” money.

On the other hand, if she doesn’t know, does it matter?

(please, don’t answer that)
A fellow member of the “don’t tell my wife” club! Glad to meet you sir!
 
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