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Vacuum Tubes
Vacuum rwiki.org tubes are the heart of most Matchs du Football guitar rigs. It doesn't matter Joueurs du Football if it's a combo, head, or Images du Football rack gear, most amps Vidéos du Football use them. I'm not gonna slam solid state stuff. It's come a long way over the last several years, but Histoire du football for me I love tubes.  

Before we get started I want to cover something. There's a term that's overused in the tube world, that term is NOS. (New Old Stock) It refers to an old tube that tests like a new tube would. I use the term simply to refer to older production models. Sadly lots of people are throwing the term around in an attempt to place false value on older used tubes that they're selling. Buyer beware here; if you're buying old tubes without a way of testing them you could get burned. The good news is a tube doesn't have to test 'brand new' to perform well, but I wouldn't buy a tube from anyone without a guarantee of some sort. So off we go.  

I'm constantly searching for old 12ax7 preamp tubes. My favorites were manufactured by Mullard, Philips Miniwatt, Telefunken, and RCA. Almost everything I have has at least one Mullard in it. The Mullard tone is simply luscious! They have a very smooth distortion with a warmth that has not been duplicated since the Blackburn plant stopped production. The Philips and RCA tubes have a very nice character and warmth that to my ears sounds a bit brighter than the Mullard. Not harsh at all, just a bit more detail in the upper tones. The Telefunken is without a doubt the purest sounding tube I've ever heard. Very evenly balanced and smooth. I use it as the last tube in my sound chain to add definition and focus to my sound.

The one thing I've learned about 'tube rolling' is you can never pre-determine where you think a tube will sound best. I still pick up tubes from time to time and experiment with them. Each time I 'decide' where a tube should be it surprises me when it ends up in a different location in the rig. Let your ears decide what's best. Here's a secret; not all NOS tubes will sound good, and not all new production tubes are crap.

Modern times have left the vacuum tube behind. The reason that old valves are in such demand is that they literally aren't making them anymore. Tubes made from the 70's and back are far superior to tubes being produced today simply because those tubes were the 'microchip' of the day. They were being used by the military, in hospitals, for broadcasting, and in early computers. For instance Colossus, one of the earliest computing prototypes, was designed to break the German Lorenz code during the second world war. It was built using 1500 vacuum tubes. Then there's the ENIAC which was the first computer that could be reprogrammed to solve a full range of computing problems. It's roughly 18,000 tubes were first used in calculations for the hydrogen bomb. It was the fore-runner of modern computers. Nearly all of these applications now rely on solid state technology. Simply put; If you're life no longer depends on it the manufacturing quality slips. 

It goes without saying that if we can build a microprocessor, we can build an equal to or better tube than they did in the 60's. The problem is supply and demand. With a limited demand for tubes, mainly musicians and audiophiles, the level of acceptable quality has suffered. The problem is the materials used inside the tubes themselves and the tolerances needed to build them aren't as closely monitored as they were back then. Add to that the fact that amp manufacturers, even most boutique builders, need to keep costs down. That creates a price driven marketplace. The good news is a couple of current manufacturers are working hard to build a better product. I'm just now starting to 'roll' some of these myself. I'll let you know my opinion of them later. 

So the million dollar question is how do you know what tubes to buy? The best answer I can give you is let the experts help you decide. There are companies that test and rate tubes. Now they can't tell you what will sound good in your rig but they do provide reference charts to help you decide. So if you want a warm sound or a less distorted sound at least you have a clue where to start. They also test every tube which greatly reduces the likelihood of you getting a bad one. One last thing. Don't expect to buy just one set of tubes. You may get lucky and be happy with your first try, but I suggest setting a cap on what you are willing to spend and staying with it. It's addicting. My main rig has eleven 12ax7 tubes in it. I could spend a small fortune buying and rolling tubes.   
 

One last thing. As always let your ears be your guide, but be honest with yourself. When you've found a tube setup that works for you enjoy it. Don't feel you have to use expensive tubes, each rig is it's own creature. Rolling tubes is half the fun.

Hope this helps you. I'll keep updating this and all my pages... 


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