Power tube life .. a true story

Talk about tubes and their effect on your tone

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donniecrump
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Power tube life .. a true story

Post by donniecrump » Thu Mar 22, 2012 10:09 pm

I just bought a MarkIV so I have been reading up on tubes and have found a ton of posts about people changing their tubes on a regular basis. So I decided to share .. and question.

In the early/mid 90's I bought a Dual Rec, new, since my band was getting serious. FYI, high gain, loud, punk metal. I played hours a day, practiced several times a week, and had a gig at least once a week. Once we played 2 shows in one day. This lasted around 10 years. By the time I sold my DR it was so road worn that the transformer had started to rust from beer and humidity. I never did change the stock tubes. The amp never did quit, sound bad, fluctuate, or fail.

Story 2. A really, really old school local punk band, who have been around 25+ years, played recently and I had a chat with the guitarist. He plays a Fender combo of some kind he bought in the early 80's. He plays it constantly. He says he has changed the tubes once. Around 8 years ago. He thinks. Again it has never failed.

So the question I have is .. have tubes gotten really cheaply made? Did me and the other guy get lucky? Are people perceiving tubes getting "broken in" as tubes needing to be replaced? Or do amp companies who sell replacement tubes do ton a QA on tubes the others don't? Or another reason?

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J.J
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Re: Power tube life .. a true story

Post by J.J » Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:45 pm

The amp design and usage have a major bearing on how long the tubes will last. Some amp have reputations for eating power the tubes for breakfast.

It is no secret that the more recent tubes don't last like the old ones. Personally I think tubes are fairly cheap cost wise for what you get. The manufacturing process is complicated and the manufacturers are competing for a relatively small market. There is little incentive to make high quality long lasting tubes.

We know good power tubes (from the '60s era) are deisgned for and can last 10,000 hours, but these days the expectation for new production is about 1000 hours.

In my own experience, I have not yet had a total tube failure. The tubes I have changed were due noise which is most likely the start of mechanical problems within. These tubes were all between 1000 and 2000 hours.
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stokes
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Re: Power tube life .. a true story

Post by stokes » Fri Mar 23, 2012 6:42 pm

Mesa amps are not particularly hard on power tubes,as they are biased very cold and rely on the preamp for overdrive and distortion.But in my opinion,you got lucky.Tubes today are made less durable than in the old days because the market today is so small compared to back when tubes were used in everything.The biggest consumers in the old days was the military.They bought tubes by the millions.It was very cost effective to make quality tubes.And your not just looking at the USA's military,it was world wide.Tubes had to be rugged or you wouldnt get the military contracts.They also changed tubes very often,used old stock military tubes would be very usable in an amp today,if you could find them,they didnt wait for them to die or get old.Today the market is so small,if they made tubes that lasted like they did in those days,they would go out of business quite fast.They couldnt sell enough to be profitable,so they have to wear out faster to cover the cost of production.Ten years for a set of current production power tubes is quite rare.And tone being subjective as it is,the tubes you had there for ten years most likely wouldnt sound good to everybody.Not saying you have bad taste in tone or anything like that,it is just a subjective thing.Playing loud also lets you get away with a "rougher" tone as opposed to someone who plays clean,jazz like music.If you were to put those tubes in a lower gain amp,they might well be considered done.

donniecrump
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Re: Power tube life .. a true story

Post by donniecrump » Sat Mar 24, 2012 6:28 am

Thanks for the feedback. Looks like I did get lucky. We shall see with these Rubys in my MarkIV. Although I may change them out for some vintage premium ones.

Thanks again,
Donnie

stokes
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Re: Power tube life .. a true story

Post by stokes » Sat Mar 24, 2012 1:37 pm

If your going to use NOS vintage tubes,be aware that you will likely have to adjust the bias,or at least check the current draw to be sure they are whithin a safe range.

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Jackie
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Re: Power tube life .. a true story

Post by Jackie » Thu Mar 29, 2012 4:04 pm

I think that while they don't make 'em like they used to, some tubes like =C='s are up there in terms of durability. I've had my EL34s in my Marshall for 4 years now, still like new - I also know of a user who has abused his amp pretty much like you for 5 years straight and his tubes are still alive and kicking.

Most folks (myself included) probably change their tubes as routine maintenance and/or for peace of mind. I bet the original effed up looking 6L6s that were still in my 18 year old 2:90 were probably just fine, I swapped them anyway.
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mesaboogie6L6
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Re: Power tube life .. a true story

Post by mesaboogie6L6 » Mon Apr 02, 2012 8:20 pm

Do you wait to change strings on your guitar until they break and sound crusty? Same goes for tubes, they gradually lose tone, loss of highs and lows and mids, power fades up and down........You didn't know your tubes were worn, because you can't tell until you change them, just like strings. Mesa tubes (chinese) don't last at all, that's why I don't use Mesa tubes, unreliable and overpriced...........winged -C-'s are my choice, with NOS pre's
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mesaboogie6L6
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Re: Power tube life .. a true story

Post by mesaboogie6L6 » Mon Apr 02, 2012 8:26 pm

To just change tubes because of maintenance is wasteful, listen to your amps tone, it will let you know when it's time, 10 years? You must be a gambling man...........Just because your tubes light up and still work, doesn't mean they are stiil good, leave your strings on your guitar for 10 years and see what happens.......
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yeti
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Re: Power tube life .. a true story

Post by yeti » Thu Apr 26, 2012 3:45 pm

after getting in really deep to the whole tube thing over the past 3 years....i can put it to you this way.

they're tools, not toys. just like fishing lures, a lot of manufacturers aren't making them to actually perform well and do the job (ie, catch fish) they're looking to catch fishermen....same thing with current production tubes.they're looking to catch the consumer with pretty descriptions, mystique, use of colorful adjectives that describe tone, and more enigma. NOS and VOS tubes were described perfectly above....a lot were made, and were used in everything worldwide at one time...therefore, very competitive and quality based. now, not we're a niche crowd. the manufacturers know this, they actually bank on this.

i bet those 18 year old tubes, if they were of the more coveted variety.....some guys would pay you 300$ for the quad of them....while some others tell you they sound like sh!t, regardless of what they'd test on a quality tester.

use your ears. do some homework, and use your better judgement. yes, there's an audible difference between all tubes, types, and even tubes of the same lot from the same vendor...etc. find what you like and smile when you hear it!

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thunda1216
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Re: Power tube life .. a true story

Post by thunda1216 » Thu Apr 26, 2012 6:09 pm

yeti wrote:after getting in really deep to the whole tube thing over the past 3 years....i can put it to you this way.

they're tools, not toys. just like fishing lures, a lot of manufacturers aren't making them to actually perform well and do the job (ie, catch fish) they're looking to catch fishermen....same thing with current production tubes.they're looking to catch the consumer with pretty descriptions, mystique, use of colorful adjectives that describe tone, and more enigma. NOS and VOS tubes were described perfectly above....a lot were made, and were used in everything worldwide at one time...therefore, very competitive and quality based. now, not we're a niche crowd. the manufacturers know this, they actually bank on this.

i bet those 18 year old tubes, if they were of the more coveted variety.....some guys would pay you 300$ for the quad of them....while some others tell you they sound like sh!t, regardless of what they'd test on a quality tester.

use your ears. do some homework, and use your better judgement. yes, there's an audible difference between all tubes, types, and even tubes of the same lot from the same vendor...etc. find what you like and smile when you hear it!

:D +1! I've got a pair of Winged C's purchased in 2004 with a LOT of hours on them and they still sound/perform well. They were a quad that finally had one tube go microphonic/hum after 6 years. I replace that quad with a new set and put two of the still good tubes in another amp, still going strong!
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94Tremoverb
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Re: Power tube life .. a true story

Post by 94Tremoverb » Sat Apr 28, 2012 6:57 am

Supposedly Tom Morello has never once changed the tubes in his Marshall 2205 that he's had since the 1980s, or done any other maintenance to it.

Change them when they stop sounding how you want them to, or fail.

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Triaxstasy
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Re: Power tube life .. a true story

Post by Triaxstasy » Sat Apr 28, 2012 10:52 am

yeti wrote: ......

use your ears. do some homework, and use your better judgement. yes, there's an audible difference between all tubes, types, and even tubes of the same lot from the same vendor...etc. find what you like and smile when you hear it!
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