I'm new a little to this so I hope that no one gets angry for me asking this question this way. By starting a thread. I'm thinking very seriously about getting a Woo amp. Either WA6 or WA6SE. I'm still researching while waiting for money. My question is about tube testing en general. How important is it? I have looked into tube testers for tube rolling and such and they are expensive. Some as much and more than the amps I'm looking at. I have searched for days trying to see if it might be answered when people are talking about tubes and rolling but have not read it anywhere. Or,maybe I'm missing something which I will apologize for ahead of time. If it is important to the degradation of the amp then I may have to rethink my options. Thank you.
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If you buy from reputable tube dealers, you can always get tubes tested and matched. So, you can live without a tube tester for quite awhile. Testing tubes is a no-brainer: a shorted tube may blow up an amp. Matching is important, too. While many amps have adjustable biasing or auto-biasing circuits that "center" the channels, a stronger tube will always respond more loudly to musical transients and peaks.
Tube testers are not as hard to acquire as you might think, however. Yes, ebay is the place and will probably remain that way. So, the usual caveats about buyer-beware apply. This guy's website can teach you a lot about testers, which ones are the best, most economical, etc.:
Unfortunately, it looks like there's a problem with his web hosting at the moment. Hopefully that won't last long. Here's a wayback machine archive of the site:
I got my first tube tester on the advice from a friend (n_maher): a Jackson 648S. It will do everything you need to do with headphone amplifiers. Expect to pay between $100-$200 for one in decent shape, maybe $200-$300 if there's one that's absolutely immaculate. There's nothing on ebay right now for a 648S, but they pop up all the time. You do have to be patient, but there's no reason you can't get one in a few months. They're probably the most common - but good - tube tester available. Jim Cross at vacuumtubesinc.com has even written a completely new manual for it, incorporating all the different variants and complete tube testing data. (The "S" version is perhaps the latest/greatest when they made them.) He sells it both on his store website and on ebay. IOW, the Jackson 648S is fully supported throughout the the vintage tube community.
I bought other testers along the way - a Jackson 658, which was the best that Jackson ever made, and a B&K 747, which is now my "go-to" tester. You may find, however, that some testers won't test certain tubes - the two Jacksons mentioned probably test more different tube types than many other testers. I stay away from Hickoks, though. If you delve into this very deeply, you'll find "Tube Tester Jockeys" just like "scope jockeys" or other metrology fanatics that worship at the altar of the instrument. They will try to tell you that any other tester is junk if it's not the finest Hickok made and costs upward of $1000 or more. Don't listen to them. Either you're in this hobby for the amplifiers/headphones or you're a tube tester for testing's sake. The Jackson is a fine instrument - so are the B&K 747's and 707's (although that one's quite big). There are many other fine ones, too - study that Tone-Lizard link for more info.
Edited by tomb - 12/28/13 at 8:11am
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Thanks for the information. I was almost ready to get a solid state instead of a tube amp. I'll watch for a tester after I get the amp. So I guess places like the Tube Store and Tube Depot are the places to look and buy from. Already been there and got some bookmarked. I'm thinking about getting the WA6 and the 6SN7 tubes and adapters. From what I have seen there are a lot of new ones. I have also been to the Emission Labs web site and looked at the 274B and 5U4G they have. I have to admit they are some really nice looking tubes. With tubes lasting around 5000 hours, from what I have read, I don't need to go and buy a lot of tubes all at once. I appreciate the advice and I will be looking out for the tester. I'll go to that site and look for others and bookmark them.