Best tube tester to get and where?

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Best tube tester to get and where?

Postby bjm007 on Sat Mar 11, 2006 9:39 pm

What is the best tube tester to get for testing 12AX7's, EL34's, EL84's, 6CA7's, 6L6's, and other types of tubes for guitar amps?

I've seen a lot of people with the Hickok 600 model, but I thought I'd check with you all to see what make and model you would recommend.

Ebay seems to have a lot of them up for sale... What am I looking for here guys?

Any advice would be much appreciated...
So much gear, so little time.......
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Re: Best tube tester to get and where?

Postby voxmarfen on Sat Mar 11, 2006 9:45 pm

bjm007 wrote:What is the best tube tester to get for testing 12AX7's, EL34's, EL84's, 6CA7's, 6L6's, and other types of tubes for guitar amps?

I've seen a lot of people with the Hickok 600 model, but I thought I'd check with you all to see what make and model you would recommend.

Ebay seems to have a lot of them up for sale... What am I looking for here guys?

Any advice would be much appreciated...

Duncanamps Usa says :
http://www.duncanamps.com/technical/avotesters.html
"In my opinion, the best valve testers ever made in the world, were made by Avo. "

But there are other good ones , for pentodes like EL34,modern Maxi Matcher ,
althow it does not do the little 12AX7 s etc.

Vintage testers Hickock , Funke , and lots more.

http://tone-lizard.com/Tube_Testers.html
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Postby TubeGetter on Sat Mar 11, 2006 10:13 pm

AVO's are good, such as the VCM-163, but one went for $3,300 the other day on Ebay. They're not THAT good. Some higher end Hickok's are good, etc.

The problem with all of these old testers is that they don't put enough juice on the plates....like your amp will. So you can test a power tube at lower voltage, and it will test fine, but when you put it in your amp it could meltdown if it's bad. Also if you try to match them at lower voltages, it might not be matched higher up.

So that's why the Maxi-Matcher is so good for power tubes and for matching them. You can really weed out the wimpy tubes that can't cut it at 400V......compared to 150V or 250V in a regular tester. I think the AVO's like the 163 are 250V max. It might be slightly higher, but still too low.

So if you really want a good tester for power tubes, it's much cheaper in so many ways to just buy the Maxi and be done with it.

Regarding preamp tubes, a lot of the traditional old testers are OK, some pretty good. But since good old tester are expensive to buy and to keep running and calibrated, I think it's cheaper in the long run to buy the Vaccum Tube Valley Characterizer preamp tube tester. It's about as good as it gets, just great.

For rectifiers, a lot of the cheap testers are fine for those. I use an Eico 666 for rectifiers. It's cheap and easy to use.

So if you buy all three of those, it will set you back about $1400, but try buying a Hickok 539C or a good AVO......you're talking as much or more. So for reliablity in the long run, I'd get the 3.

You could even start out with just the Maxi and a tester like an Eico (use for preamp tubes and rectifiers) until you could get an VTV preamp tester, and you'd only have to spend around $600.

For the billions of tubes out there for TV's, etc. the traditional testers are fine. But power tubes are unique and require special testing, so that's why the Maxi is so popular.
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Postby dtw576 on Sun Mar 12, 2006 2:15 am

I use a Hickok 600A for testing preamp, rectifier, and power tubes but it certainly has its limitations. I only use it for mutual transconductance (this isn't matching for power tubes and micromho matched triodes in preamp tubes really doesn't mean much either), checking for shorts, and checking for gas. That is all nice info to have but really doesn't tell you squat as far as a power tube for the high voltages we use.

For matching power tubes, I do it the low brow way by using my Weber BiasRite and one of my Marshalls. For KT66's, I just put them in my JTM45 running at 450 volts and match up pairs that way. For EL34's, I put them in my '71 1987 at 410 volts for pairs and my '73 SL at 510 volts for quads. This is only a single point match but it is matching at the higher voltages our amps see. I could match EL34's in both my SL and 1987 and effectively have a double point match. :wink: Of course if you get a quad of mine that was matched at 510 volts and your amp only runs at 400 volts, the match may be off somewhat, or even more than somewhat. But TT and others will confirm that perfectly matched power tubes can sound pretty sterile in a guitar amp. You still want them to be somewhat close though which is the whole point of matching power tubes.

The Hickok only cost me about $400 and the Weber BiasRite was around $130 IIRC so I don't have alot tied up in this. I certainly don't get info to the level of a Hickok 539B ($1200+ last time I looked which was awhile ago), or a Maxi-Matcher ($500+ IIRC), or any of the other high quality/$$$$ testers, but I needed the BiasRite anyway and the Hickok just plain comes in handy to check for shorts and dead power and preamp tubes.

But I'm just a player that likes to bias my own amps, match up my own personal stash of power tubes, and check my preamp/power tubes when I buy them. If I had the sizable stash of TG or the business of TT, I'd consider my stuff very limited and not up to snuff. But for a player/tinkerer, it works fine. Plus this is fun stuff to mess around with on a cold rainy day. :lol:
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http://www.autobias.com/index.html

Postby Axe Grinder on Sun Mar 12, 2006 4:29 am

This is the one I'd get.. 8)

http://www.autobias.com/index.html

The Maxi-matcher is good for Power tubes..The VTV is good for Pre's, but a bit too expensive for me to justify it's purchase. If I sold or bought a lot of tubes, I'd get the Maxi & the VTV.
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Re: http://www.autobias.com/index.html

Postby TubeGetter on Sun Mar 12, 2006 5:08 am

Axe Grinder wrote:This is the one I'd get.. 8)

http://www.autobias.com/index.html

The Maxi-matcher is good for Power tubes..The VTV is good for Pre's, but a bit too expensive for me to justify it's purchase. If I sold or bought a lot of tubes, I'd get the Maxi & the VTV.


Oh wow, it looks like they fixed it!! Cool. I saw this one a while ago, but I remember that the voltage wasn't that high. But now it's up to 500V. That's awesome. I'll check it out again. It could be the best tester available now. Expensive though.
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Postby voxmarfen on Sun Mar 12, 2006 10:38 am

Tube factorys like JJ test for Cathode - Current and match on that.

This is platecurrent Ia (plates) + Ig2 (screen) = I cathode (total).

I do not know which vintage testers test this , but the factory JJ says that a good tester ought to be able to test this .

Avo testers do have 400 volts solid, they (Avo) recommend that you test on 250 volts, 250 volts thats what the major company s (Mullard - Philips - Telefunken - JJ - GEC etc ) advice you to do , its on the spec sheets from these tube factorys (see modern JJ site specs) (at least for EL34.. , other tubes may have higher -up to 400 volt - recommendations) .

But you can switch the darn things (Avo and Funke) to 400 volts (you d need to adjust the outcome table also obviously) .

Since the Avo sold for $3350 :shock: and a Maxi is just $550 :shock: ,
i d buy a Maxi , because off the money and the Maxi fresh and modern.

However when your a professional tube dealer , i would prolly buy both Avo , Maxi , VTV s (Eric Barbour) ,Hickock and even a Sofia tester and also that new tester with the digital LCD readout ,print out also ! and PC link ... very promissing , after all when you are able to sell $500 tubes like hotdogs ,the price off any off these testers or all off them soon will be earned back .

When you start building amps and dont want to spend the $$ on expensive testers , i d use a simple $20? multimeter and a second hand voltage feeder , which outcome gives highly accurate reed outs at any voltage.
When you r willing to spend 200-700 dollar the Maxi seems good + a vintage one for the little 12AX7 etc tubes.


Anyone ever asked Victor Mason what he uses for the tubes in his Mojave Amplification line ?
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Sofia 490v

Postby Axe Grinder on Mon Mar 13, 2006 12:45 am

I'd like to find a Sofia Curve Tracer also..do not know about the Calibration though..The George Kaye..which I never see Anywhere...Is purported to be a very good Preamp Tester.
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Re: Best tube tester to get and where?

Postby lordraptor1 on Mon Oct 31, 2016 2:08 am

best tester for testing and matching hands down IMHO is the hickok 539B. i know people have comments and opinions in regards to amps pushing more power than a tube tester but lets just be honest here that is water under the bridge, because back in the day do you think service tech were matching the power/output tubes when they put them in the amp? hell no they just grabbed one off of the shelf and that is what manufactures continue to do to this day. it would take to much time and be chost prohibitive to test/match and install "matched" tubes into an amp at the factory. is there a benefit to matched tubes? yes, but to say matching at lower voltages wouldnt be accurate would be a inaccurate. from what i have found most reputable sellers of matched tube are using hickok 539b and 539c testers whereas your back yard, do it yourself type will usually buy a 500, 600, 6000, I-177, or TV-7 hickok. i myself have an old heathkit TC-2 that i use to see if a tube is good, and i just picked up a hickok 539B ( have to do some refurb before i can use it though LOL). i was goign to sell the heathkit but i might just keep it to "pretest" the tube on before i put it on the hickok, i mean persoanlly i would rather blow the heathkit worth $200 rather than the hickok worth $1600 LOL
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