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Thread: Tube Tester

  1. #1
    Site Founder And Administrator Ron Resnick's Avatar
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    Tube Tester

    As I wade in the vintage tube waters it seems to me that a lot of uncertainty could be resolved if one has one's own tube tester.

    What tube tester do you use to test your vintage audio tubes, and why is that the best tube tester for you?

    What tube testers are produced today? I see the Amplitrex AT-1000. Is this tube tester easy to use? Does it produce intelligible, definitive test results?

    How about the Vacuum Tube Valley tester?

    What tube tester do you recommend?
    Mono and Stereo - Senior Contributing Reviewer

    turntable: American Sound AS-2000 (ordered) tonearm: SME 3012R (to come); cartridge: ZYX Universe Premium X-SB2 or Koetsu Coralstone (TBD)
    tape: Studer A820 Mk II
    phono stage: Aesthetix Io Eclipse with 2 power supplies; line stage: Aesthetix Callisto Eclipse with 2 power supplies; amplifier: VTL MB-750s
    speakers: Gryphon Pendragons
    cables: MasterBuilt Ultra or Cardas Clear Beyond (TBD); power: Benjamin Electric subpanel; Torus AVR60BAL; JPS in-wall wire; Furutech NCF outlets; room: 20' wide X 25' long X 15' tall; treatment: ASC Tube Traps and Tower Slims; tweaks: Shakti Stones, Shun Mooks (Kedar to place)

  2. #2
    Addicted to Best! DaveyF's Avatar
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    Interesting idea, and one that has been banded around among a'philes for years. Problem is that in some instances, tubes that test well still do not sound good! So while on the face of it, having such a device is valuable, the expected result may in fact be a disappointment. Better, IMHO, and far cheaper, to simply source tubes from a well known entity with a good return policy and just go from there.

  3. #3
    VIP/Donor [VIP/Donor] microstrip's Avatar
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    The first question you may ask is what tubes do you want to test?

    Modern testers, although having much better performance, have a limited number of options. As my equipment only uses KT120, 6H30, 6DJ8 or compatible tubes I have a custom bench where I check gain, bias, distortion and noise of these tubes. Just for general evaluation (trans-conductance) I use a Hicock 600A Dynamic Mutual Conductance universal tube tester.
    Under construction around a pair of Wilson XLF's , the Forsell Air Force One, the ARC Phono 2SE and the DCS Vivaldi 2.0 stack : ARC REF40 + ARC REF250, TA OPUS MM2 +TA XL digital, TA XL gen V power cables and CenterStage feet ...

  4. #4
    Site Founder And Administrator Ron Resnick's Avatar
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    Francisco, I would like to be able to test:

    6DJ8/6922
    6SN7/5692
    12AX7
    12AT7

    Maybe power tubes 6550 and KT120 and KT150
    Mono and Stereo - Senior Contributing Reviewer

    turntable: American Sound AS-2000 (ordered) tonearm: SME 3012R (to come); cartridge: ZYX Universe Premium X-SB2 or Koetsu Coralstone (TBD)
    tape: Studer A820 Mk II
    phono stage: Aesthetix Io Eclipse with 2 power supplies; line stage: Aesthetix Callisto Eclipse with 2 power supplies; amplifier: VTL MB-750s
    speakers: Gryphon Pendragons
    cables: MasterBuilt Ultra or Cardas Clear Beyond (TBD); power: Benjamin Electric subpanel; Torus AVR60BAL; JPS in-wall wire; Furutech NCF outlets; room: 20' wide X 25' long X 15' tall; treatment: ASC Tube Traps and Tower Slims; tweaks: Shakti Stones, Shun Mooks (Kedar to place)

  5. #5
    Member Sponsor Addicted to Best! Hi-FiGuy's Avatar
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    Totally off topic and my apologies but this brings back memories of my dad handing me a bag of tubes and sending me down to Sav-on drug store and testing tubes.
    Back to your regularly scheduled programming!

  6. #6
    Member Kcin's Avatar
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    There are a few modern options listed below with varying cost and complexity.

    The Amplitrex might be the most costly - it does not necessarily match tubes though. There were early reports of software problems and other issues I don't know if these have been addressed. I use a combination of vintage and the VTV tester which I found is very good for small signal tubes designed by Eric Barbour. The George Kaye tester was first at this but is extremely rare and neither of these is in production anymore.

    Vintage testers may not do what you want either as most do not test for noise and suffer from years of neglect. None of the vintage American testers will place the tube in its proper operating conditions for a real test.

    Buying tubes from a reputable knowledgeable seller might be easier. If I were to do it today. I would get the Amplitrex or a combination of the maxi matcher and a well reconditioned Hickok . I have a Hickok 800 that I have rebuilt. There are far more sophisticated models as well.

    https://orangeamps.com/products/acce.../valve-tester/

    http://www.maximatcher.com/maxipreamp.html

    http://amplitrex.com/

    http://www.thebestamp.com/Testing_Eq...be-Tester3.php

    Be prepared to geek out a bit and if your not especially hands on you may get frustrated. There is a feel and a learning curve in doing this where experience can't be over emphasized. Oh and the best tube tester is the circuit that tube is meant to perform in! Good Luck.
    Last edited by Kcin; 10-12-2017 at 06:19 PM.
    Source: Brinkmann La Grange + RonT, Brinkmann 12.1, Kuzma 4 Point, Koetsu RSP, Lyra Atlas,
    Front-End: Aesthetix Io Signature with Volume Controls + 2 Power Supplies, Marantz 1 Consolettes , 7C
    Amplifier(s): Custom Direct Drive OTL for Beveridge ESL, Wyetech Topaz, Futterman H3, Marantz 2,5,8B++
    Speakers: Beveridge Model 3, Quad ESL , Quad USA Monitors
    Subwoofers: REL S2 x 2
    Room: 18 'x 40' X9'
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    Dedicated Lines x4

  7. #7
    Site Founder And Administrator Ron Resnick's Avatar
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    Thank you for this very comprehensive and very helpful answer!

    Have you used the Maximatcher yourself? Have you used the Easy Tube Tester (4th link) yourself?
    Mono and Stereo - Senior Contributing Reviewer

    turntable: American Sound AS-2000 (ordered) tonearm: SME 3012R (to come); cartridge: ZYX Universe Premium X-SB2 or Koetsu Coralstone (TBD)
    tape: Studer A820 Mk II
    phono stage: Aesthetix Io Eclipse with 2 power supplies; line stage: Aesthetix Callisto Eclipse with 2 power supplies; amplifier: VTL MB-750s
    speakers: Gryphon Pendragons
    cables: MasterBuilt Ultra or Cardas Clear Beyond (TBD); power: Benjamin Electric subpanel; Torus AVR60BAL; JPS in-wall wire; Furutech NCF outlets; room: 20' wide X 25' long X 15' tall; treatment: ASC Tube Traps and Tower Slims; tweaks: Shakti Stones, Shun Mooks (Kedar to place)

  8. #8
    Member Kcin's Avatar
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    Hi Ron,

    I have used a version of the Maximatcher years ago .. easy to use. The Space Tech labs... never. He builds a bunch of various audio items and seems to have a good rep on his amp builds. Can't vouch for that one though.

    Thanks.
    Source: Brinkmann La Grange + RonT, Brinkmann 12.1, Kuzma 4 Point, Koetsu RSP, Lyra Atlas,
    Front-End: Aesthetix Io Signature with Volume Controls + 2 Power Supplies, Marantz 1 Consolettes , 7C
    Amplifier(s): Custom Direct Drive OTL for Beveridge ESL, Wyetech Topaz, Futterman H3, Marantz 2,5,8B++
    Speakers: Beveridge Model 3, Quad ESL , Quad USA Monitors
    Subwoofers: REL S2 x 2
    Room: 18 'x 40' X9'
    Stand(s):Double-wide Finite Elemente Pagode + Custom Steel
    Dedicated Lines x4

  9. #9
    Member Sponsor Addicted to Best! jazdoc's Avatar
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    IME, the best tube tester is the equipment that the tube goes in....
    Trying is the first step to failure. -- H. Simpson

  10. #10
    Member Sponsor Senior Member Barry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kcin View Post

    The Amplitrex might be the most costly - it does not necessarily match tubes though.
    This is not true. If you run the Amplitrex in standalone mode, yes; but in computer mode, you can run pairs of tube curve traces of plate current versus plate voltages. In order to do this, you need to load supplied software onto a laptop and connect the Amplitrex to it. You can set the limits of testing to anything within the range capability of the tube under test. It does take some work to set it up in computer mode and more to learn how to use it if you're not familiar with how tubes work.

    Would agree the unit is expensive. Since it's modern technology calibration issues are not a problem. Software works ok once you figure out how to use it. It does work with Windows 10 even though it was introduced with an earlier version of OS. It really does almost anything you could need for most tubes, you can add tubes that are not in the database, and most important, it test tubes at real life working voltages. The one limitation is frequency of software updates. I've never been notified of any, but then again, I don't need any for what I'm testing.
    Last edited by Barry; 10-12-2017 at 08:26 PM.

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