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Places to buy NOS tubes (Read 394 times)
fred
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Places to buy NOS tubes
09/06/17 at 00:09:20
 
Guys,

i was just wondering what are the better places to buy NOS tubes from. I have found the below places, but do not have any expense with them, any insight will be appreciated

https://www.tubeworld.com/
https://tubedepot.com/
http://www.nosvacuumtubes.net/
https://www.kcanostubes.com


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busterfree
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Re: Places to buy NOS tubes
Reply #1 - 09/06/17 at 00:43:31
 
I bought tubes from Tube Depot before but not NOS. Same for the tube store dot com.

I often look at the NOS inventory at tubeworldexpress dot com, but I have never pulled the trigger on an order. They can be expensive.

I have bought NOS from Upscale Audio, but they can be expensive.

I use cryoset dot com most often, and I use eBay for tubes that cryoset don't carry. With eBay, I stick with vendors who have a great ratings and lots of listings. Just my $0.02.
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donovan
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Re: Places to buy NOS tubes
Reply #2 - 09/06/17 at 03:44:14
 
For NOS Soviet, Ebay is the way to go. For other tubes, I've bought from Kevin at Upscale. Very pleased with his stuff.
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Steve Deckert
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Re: Places to buy NOS tubes
Reply #3 - 09/06/17 at 05:09:54
 
As someone who has purchased over 30,000 Russian tubes and unpacked and test each one over the past 20 years, I have found them to have the following traits:

A) they are the most robust option in todays tube market.

B) they are all consistently warmer sounding than most equivalent tubes

C) they have the widely varying current draws.  The same tubes can vary by as much as 50%

Due to C, you must always purchase 3 or 4 times minimum more tubes than you need and test each to find acceptable matches.

For example, the beloved 6P15P-EV aka SV83 will test at 325 Volts on the plate and -14 Volts bias on the grid anywhere between 3 and 30 milliamps.

We discard anything lower than 6 and higher than 20 even though they work perfectly fine they will bias higher or lower than we want and that will cause either a change in the signature of the amplifier or a change in the amplifiers rated power.

In today's production they are the overall best tubes on the market from a price / performance standpoint and they are the most reliable tubes ever.  We have found zero difference between NOS Russian tubes from the 70's and 80's and todays production.

Exotic tubes from China have more detail and are faster, but have the caveat of needing to buy 2 to 3 times more than you need just to end up with a good working set.  Considering the prices in some cases are 10 times that of the Russian tubes, this is a rather poor ratio.

If America ever started making tubes again, even they would not be as good as they were in the 1950's when national security depended upon it.  

Steve

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alper_yilmaz
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Re: Places to buy NOS tubes
Reply #4 - 09/06/17 at 19:23:29
 
In the past, I have bought tubes from Tube Depot, Tube World and Upscale Audio which are all good.  Actually when I bought some NOS GZ32 from Upscale Audio, the owner, Kevin, called me himself to assure that I would use these tubes for Hi-Fi and on a suitable amp.  At the time, he was not familiar with Decware, so I had to refer him to the website to convince him that the tubes would not be wasted.

Of course, he also wanted to make sure, for warranty purposes, that I know what I was doing.

Recently, I bought some NOS rectifier tubes (RCA 5Y3GT's) from:

http://www.dougstubes.com

That particular tube has been been my favorite lately, and I have been happy with what they sent to me...

Best,

Alper
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« Last Edit: 09/06/17 at 19:26:10 by alper_yilmaz »  
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fred
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Re: Places to buy NOS tubes
Reply #5 - 09/06/17 at 22:12:28
 
Thank you guys for your replies.
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will
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Re: Places to buy NOS tubes
Reply #6 - 09/07/17 at 20:58:37
 
If you need advice on tubes, Ebay may not be a good route. At the same time buying from reliable sellers that test carefully, can talk about the tube sound, have retail outlets, websites, etc, this costs money. For example, I have a lot of tubes as good as those sold by Upscale that were way, way cheaper. But, if you need the support, they, and tube sellers who are careful about their testing and listening impressions, can be valid resources for sure.

Similarly, Decware prices tend to be higher than ebay, but talking with Steve, higher cost comes in part from all the tubes in batches, new and NOS, thrown out, not fitting his standards.

If you want to "branch out" though, perhaps having experience with tube types, companies and vintages....and/or you know what you are looking for, having liked reports from reliable opinions about specific tubes, Ebay to me is a great place to get tubes. I have bought almost all my NOS tubes from Ebay Sellers, sellers from all over the world. But I am pretty considered about it.

First, Ebay needs good sellers for Ebay to be trusted, and gets rid of bad ones. To this end, they will also help resolve issues with sellers if they come up, including refunds and mailing if needed.

But it really helps to know what you are looking for, and at. There are tubes up for sale where the seller knows little or nothing about them.

If you are unfamiliar with looking at tubes here are some pointers:

1) do an Ebay search for the tube. Then check out the ones that look straight and clean, have good descriptions, and look like decent values. I open each interesting tube in its own browser tab making comparison easier.

2) check out the seller ratings...If there are problems there move on. But if there are a fair number of ratings that are mostly, or all positive, probably a good seller.

3) How are the test scores compared to NOS? If not stated, or you can't discern from the scores, ask the seller?

4) If you need matched pairs or quads, you can add those words to the search if you want, or just scroll through the broader tube type search...sometimes you will find pairs or quads that do not show up in searches using those words.

Is there test info? Are they relatively closely matched? If you can't tell, or they say matched with no scores, ask the seller...how well they match? How do the scores compare to new?

Also....sometimes the seller does not have a tester and is a big tube enthusiast themselves, wanting to sell part of their collection...Often they know that the tubes tested good before they bought them, and the approximate hours they used the tubes...Low-use tubes from this type of seller, in my experience, can be really good buys. Do they have good seller ratings? Does what they say feel real, and does the price reflect lack of testing assurance? Near-NOS tubes, like good testing "pulls," can be nearly as long-lived as NOS; they have worked in test equipment (or someone else's amp in this case); and are usually notably cheaper than true NOS. I like this.

Also, at times the seller is not a tube person...selling dad's tubes, or from estate sales.... These can be great buys, but riskier...However, if they look brand new, they might be worth checking out further if the price is right, especially for single tubes where a match does not matter. And check with the seller, will they refund tube cost and shipping if the tube is not good? I recently got a new looking Mullard made GZ32 this way for about 1/3 of the less expensive side of market price.

Also, maybe just lucky, but I have found that five packs of brand new input tubes from the big European NOS tube makers (Phillips, Mullard, Brimar, Amperex, Siemens) tend to match scores pretty well. Maybe I have just been lucky, but this has been the case for me several times, and these packs of tubes are often quite inexpensive.

5) If looking at pairs or quads, I look carefully at the construction, making sure they match in construction.... This can be fun with some practice.

Though not always critical, if the dates, construction, and scores are matching, the quality and sound is likely matching.

Branching out from pretty complete matching a little can be rewarding, but is more tricky. Or you can get lucky. A really good buy, I ordered a "matched pair" of Mullard E88CC gold pins from a big audio parts seller a few years ago. Great score match, and many things were the same, but others different. The getters were the same "parasol" type, but one on a taller riser, and one short (also making the getter flash of one higher in the glass). And the micas were different, one tube having squarish micas, and the other round with regular points going out to the glass...the tubes were different productions yet called a "matched pair."

I got ready to complain and send them back, but decided to give them a listen first. At first they were a little rigid and thick sounding being truly new, but they showed all the signs of being beautiful sounding tubes. And switching channels, they sounded very close to balanced both ways. This is very unusual for me to buy or accept this poor construction match, but I have been using these tubes most of the time in the power position in the CSP3 for a few years. And I have many relatively perfectly matching tubes I could use.

Still, I prefer the security of known matches in score and construction when buying tubes.


I look at the glass and base...shapes and colors....mold ridges on the glass tops on tubes with the little nipple....silver getter flash in the glass...Is the flash in the same area of the tube and about the same height, diameter, density etc...

...the plates shape, color, and hole pattern (or lack of).

The mica shape and placement with the plates...between mica and plates setup...same?....the vertical proximity of the micas in the glass...the mica thickness and opacity...the edge shapes going out to the glass....holes or cutouts in the micas ...

The wire colors and arrangements and other parts between pins and the bottom mica or plates (some tubes have no bottom mica, instead having a glass "blob" the wires rise out of, the wire going right into the plates)....

The parts used on top of the top micas, colors, arrangements....

The getter riser and getter shape and size/diameter...round/hallow getter, D shape, parasol...look at the arrangement of the getter...do they look alike?

The writing on the glass ....

Looking carefully at whatever is there to see with comparison in mind....

Or if you feel like you can't quite tell, ask the seller. If they know tubes, they will very likely tell you if construction matches.

5) getting more specific, are the date codes or stated dates of construction close or matching?

Not absolute, but these sorts of investigations have proven good for me as a tube... uh....junky Wink

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« Last Edit: 09/07/17 at 23:03:42 by will »  

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alper_yilmaz
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Re: Places to buy NOS tubes
Reply #7 - 09/07/17 at 22:42:20
 
Will,

This is great writing; thanks!  It is like a perfect algorithm to buy tubes over eBay.

My experience on eBay is very much confined to buying and selling musical instruments and gear, as well as some 1950's kitchenware.  I believe the rating mechanism works really well on eBay, and as long as there is nice, open communication with the seller, I would go for it.

Actually, just recently, I sold some stuff on eBay myself, some guitar/bass effects that I have not used for quite some time.  Unfortunately, before sending the stuff, I did not have time to check them in detail.  But they used to work perfectly fine the last time I tried them.

Two of the units turned out to be faulty; one totally garbage and the other having a slight switch problem, most probably from humidity over the course of years.  As soon as the buyers told me the issues, I immediately paid them back and very genuinely apologized.  I was truly embarrassed.  Both buyers were happy with the correspondence and I feel very good that we sorted things out and they did not end up with lemons that I sold to them!  They even provided me with positive feedback!

Anyway, I will follow your algorithm, Will!  Makes a lot of sense...

Cheers,

Alper

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« Last Edit: 09/07/17 at 22:42:49 by alper_yilmaz »  
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will
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Re: Places to buy NOS tubes
Reply #8 - 09/07/17 at 23:39:45
 
Thanks Alper. Yes eBay is a wild and open setup, but has good safeguards in my experience.

I have had a few problems, but like you, the sellers tend to be interested in communication and resolution. And if not, Ebay will step in with some pressure! I had this happen once, where a tube seller sent a messed up quad of 807s, all different tubes, but matching test scores... I had specifically asked for matched construction....And one did not even work!

In "My eBay," in the window showing the item in my purchase info, clicking "more actions," and "contact seller," I then selected the "I have a question" button knowing this would not open a case. I wanted to give the seller the benefit of the doubt...might have unintentionally sent the wrong quad or something. I explained the problem asking him how he wanted to handle it. He would not respond, so after a couple tries, I went next to "contact seller" and selected the button "I received an item that wasn't as described." Then ebay responded saying if you can't work it out with the seller to let them know, and the pressure is on. Still no response, I asked for help, ebay made it a case, ruled in my favor, and I got a label for return shipping and a refund was set up.

Still a hassle, but this is the only time this has happened to me with many, many tube purchases on ebay.
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« Last Edit: 09/08/17 at 01:31:14 by will »  

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SonicSeeker
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Re: Places to buy NOS tubes
Reply #9 - 09/09/17 at 18:09:22
 
I also use many sources, Cryoset, Tubeman, and others including e-bay and have, so far, had no issues with anyone. I just lucked out and found a 596 rectifier on e-bay that I won for 33.00 bucks, took a chance because it was part of an estate sale and untested but it arrived today and it is like new, score. It looked perfect in the pics so as stated previously use your best judgement and try to deal with people with good feedback.
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Lon
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Re: Places to buy NOS tubes
Reply #10 - 09/09/17 at 19:30:19
 
Will, an amazing post, thanks. I have had great success with ebay, and I use cryoset.com for many tubes. . . need to order some cryo'd KT66 again soon from them, either TAD or Genalex. . . .Great vendor.
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will
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Re: Places to buy NOS tubes
Reply #11 - 09/09/17 at 21:02:59
 
Thanks Lon. With Cryoset, for me, too many times, one of a Quad of power tubes have failed within several hundred hours here...going into distortion and being unusable. This has been different brands and types.

And I really like Ron, and I trust and believe his dedication to buying and selling extra high quality tubes, cryo'd, and at very good prices. I know he tests his tubes very carefully, and understand his putting a lot of store in proper biasing (which I can't do with my amps).

So, naturally, he considers the failed tubes here an amp problem.

But when only one of a relatively new quad fails, and the rest go right on...and the replacement tube he sends holds up....and this same scenario has happened a number of times over the years.....to me there is a tube problem. With a replacement, why did only one of five fail?

I don't know, but I wonder sometimes if cryo'ing might play into this. I sent Ron a bunch of NOS tubes he graciously offered to cryo, not regularly offering this service. And a few of those failed with relatively short use afterwards...tubes that had proven good in my amps previously. Also, a tube seller I have gotten a lot of NOS inputs from over years, who cryo's everything, sometimes he sends tubes that fail early. He always fixes the problem without argument, but between the two cryo sellers...makes me wonder if cryoing might negatively effect tube connections or parts that might already have a weakness.

So though I really liked working with Ron for the most part, and he always "came around" in the end when one of a quad failed, sending a replacement, I got worn down by the same conflict coming up...the amp or the tube....so quit buying there. I can't imagine how many tubes I did buy there before coming to this. Loads of power tubes, and many very nice NOS inputs he used to carry. We talked in emails a lot about a lot of things audio, and I miss that. Ron is a good guy for sure.

I hope this is all sorted out these days, and it well may be, but I am an 807-head now, so have not bought tubes form Ron in years.

Wink
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« Last Edit: 09/09/17 at 21:12:01 by will »  

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Lon
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Re: Places to buy NOS tubes
Reply #12 - 09/09/17 at 22:34:24
 
I can understand that position if that were my experience too. I've been lucky in that only two sets of tubes have encountered any problems, and they have been the ones that others had problems with before (and I didn't, for a long time)--the JJ 6CA7. I had one go "bad" and I now have one that doesn't "come on" in the lower bias position for a few minutes (but will work right away in the high bias position of the Torii). And these last two quads . . . I bought at a very reduced sales price, probably because he had so many problems with that tube. Which is a big shame as that JJ 6CA7 is in important ways my favorite tube for the Torii!

I've never had a problem with any input tubes I've bought. . . and have used for many many hours. Or the few rectifiers I've bought from there (Valve Art 274B, I asked him to start carrying those and have bought a few pairs but ultimately I don't prefer to use those in the amps and haven't racked too many hours on a pair).

So I'm continuing to support him with sales and can't say that I think cryo processing may be harmful to the tube life. . . not able to dismiss that either, just haven't personal experience along those lines.

I may see if a non-cryo'd quad of output tubes have more longevity, I haven't done a comparison with those types I think so far. . . .
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will
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Re: Places to buy NOS tubes
Reply #13 - 09/10/17 at 00:10:48
 
Yes, JJ 6CA7s were tricky. If I am remembering correctly, I gave up on them after 3 quads with problems (two from Ron), and after all that washed out, did end up with two pretty nice quads with a spare. None-the-less, they were bought in good faith as new tubes that should work for the customer. I think I recall Steve gave up on those tubes due to problems.

Most recently I had one tube go in a quad of Genelex KT66, and finally some Tungsol 6L6Gs, at which point I didn't have the nerve to ask for a replacement. Maybe it is my amps (happened in MKIII and MKIV). But one tube out of four tubes does not make that clear for me. As I said, Ron always came through. It was more the difficulty of sorting things out for me that caused me to lose nerve.

The inputs I had trouble with were not those I bought from Ron...those were all good. It was ones I sent to have cryo'd.

And I agree, I don't know about my cryo theory perhaps effecting weakened tubes (including new ones). Might be totally made up...just conceptually  fits patterns I have seen.

I am glad you are having good experiences with Cryoset! I like Ron and think he really tries hard to get and sell good tubes. And for the most part, things worked out there for me too.

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« Last Edit: 09/10/17 at 01:49:18 by will »  

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Lon
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Re: Places to buy NOS tubes
Reply #14 - 09/10/17 at 00:34:29
 
Yes, Steve abandoned that tube for the same reasons. A shame, it's a very good tube.  As I said, in your shoes I'd probably steer clear of cryoset.com and those tubes. . . I probably won't buy JJ 6CA7s again cryo'd, I'd try a basic version from another vendor. I still have a quad (with one problematic tube) with lots of juice and an untested quad in the closet. . . .

I have a quad of TAD KT66 that have had a remarkable life. . .and still sound very good. I probably should get another quad of those, though I'd like to try the Genelax again with my current setup, which is different now three or so years later!
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