Six Ways To Keep Vacuum Tube Gear Happy

Six Ways To Keep Vacuum Tube Gear Happy

Want to keep your tube guitar amps maintained and other tube gear tuned up & operating ?

Follow these 6 steps below.

My endearment to the vacuum tube began in 1969 when I plugged in my ’66 Gibson SG Special into a newly acquired Silvertone model #1484 guitar amp. That Silvertone had reverb, tremolo, and the head fit right into back of the cabinet. After the first few warm, smooth tones that emanated from those twin 12″ Jensens, I was hooked for life on tube powered guitar amplifiers.

My affair with tube amps continued with Super Reverbs, Bandmasters, Tremoluxes, Twins, Supros, Valcos, Ampegs, Marshalls, Gretches, & Voxes. Many of these amps are still in regular service at at Pie In The Sky today.

Over the years I’ve picked up six key procedures that can help keep your tube gear providing hours of trouble free operation.

Six Ways To Keep Vacuum Tube Gear Happy

1. Proper Ventilation: Orient tube gear in a manner that promotes airflow. The fan rig on my vintage Marshall Super Bass 100w is set to pull air across the EL-34 power tubes. These tubes last much longer as a result. 

Six Ways To Keep Vacuum Tube Gear Happy2. Keep Tube Amps Clean: Tubes perform best when they are free of dust etc. Try not to touch tubes with your hands if possible. Wipe them with a soft damp cloth instead. Fans add to the dust problem, so devise a air filter arrangement or clean them out periodically.

Six Ways To Keep Vacuum Tube Gear Happy

3. Test Or Replace Power Tubes Regularly: If your gear gets regular use it’s cheaper to replace power tubes in pairs than expensive transformers, which could go south when the power tubes fail. You might find a decent tube tester on ebay. Or, you can do basic tests with your multi-meter. Also, check out this page for tube checking basics. If you can’t find a tester, change power tubes and save the old ones for spares until you locate a tester. Pre-amp tubes (12AX7 etc..) generally last quite a long time so don’t worry about these unless a specific problem arises.

Six Ways To Keep Vacuum Tube Gear Happy4. Contact Clean Tube Pins And Sockets With Caig Dexoit D5 & S5: Do this once a year. You won’t believe the difference! Follow Caig’s instructions carefully and use it sparingly

Six Ways To Keep Vacuum Tube Gear Happy

5. Bias Your Tubes & Allow Burn-In: You need an easy method to adjust your power tube bias. Six Ways To Keep Vacuum Tube Gear HappyI recommend the cathode resistor method outlined here. This involves installing a larger 1 ohm resistor between each power tube ‘s ground connection and the amp’s chassis. You can also tell if your power tubes are matching well with this method. Once bias is set, let your amp idle for at least two hours before you “get on it” . This will result in longer tube life.

6. Replace Faulty Tube Sockets: Check for cracked and loose sockets. Also check hold down tangs that keep tubes snug in their sockets under vibration or in upside-down installations.

For tubes, sockets, and other supplies contact Antique Electronic Supply.

Six Ways To Keep Vacuum Tube Gear Happy

More from Mike Konopka’s Ttone Audio Blog 

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