Western Electric considering adding more tubes to their current USA production

middy

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Money can buy stuff, artefacts, maybe even peoples’ hearts and minds, but not history :)




Comparing my Mullard EL34 and GE 6CA7, the EL34 looks to have a suppressor grid whereas the 6CA7 a beam forming plate.
I suspect that’s fundamental, with all other differences following from it.
To be fair, the only history that counts besides the equipment and the IP would be the people, who are all dead or long retired.
 

Pete Farrington

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To be fair, the only history that counts besides the equipment and the IP would be the people, who are all dead or long retired.
Valve manufacturing processes looked to include a fair amount of skilled work, done by hand. That kind of stuff is difficult to document adequately, it requires continuity of production, in order for the required skills to be passed on.
But is that continuity there with WE?
The absence of tolerances on the product spec info seems notable. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5f0983034219c6086e8100ac/t/5f6a5fd0e0355b5bbe62f5d6/1600806867495/©+Western+Electric+300B+-+Full+Letter+-+Specs+Brochure_3.pdf Despite their much vaunted improvements to the valve manufacturing process, the tolerance on the performance characteristics must be pretty wide, as they are charging a massive premium for matched pairs and quads.
Maybe it’s just me, but if Whitener was a bit less boastful about points that seems tenuous at best, I’d be more hopeful.
As yet, all they make is a directly heated output triode. The differing technology required for an indirectly heated cathode and pentode structures seem significant to me, and they don’t have the headstart of owning any IP in those regards. So that’s a massive amount of reverse engineering.
 
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BRMarshall

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I don’t know how to actually make tubes, but perhaps some steps could be automated today in the 21st century. This might keep costs down some and improve consistency.
 
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Metroman

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I don’t know how to actually make tubes, but perhaps some steps could be automated today in the 21st century. This might keep costs down some and improve consistency.


I dont know how to make tubes either.

Western Electric has said that some of the manufacturing prosesses wil use Robotics, Computers, and Lasers. They didnt have those processes decades ago, and I also agree this should make the tubes more consistent, with less rejects. It also may keep costs lower, but all that equipment isnt cheap, and probably isnt cheap to maintain.
 

Pete Farrington

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They’ve been making 300B for 25years, so plenty of opportunity to get variance all 6 sigma’d out, and so should have by now realised the consistency improvements (over vintage production) that are being boasted about. But the product info shows characteristics are untoleranced.
If they were more consistent, matching wouldn’t even be needed, nevermind the massive surcharge they require.
 
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Matthews Guitars

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I think you just can't affordably engineer out the variances between tubes in manufacture, because they are a type of product where physical parameters determine electronic performance. Alignment and spacing of grid wires may vary by microns resulting in notably different tube parameters. Or any other components within the tube's structure from the inner heated cathode to the outer plates. Your typical beam power pentode has a filament, a cathode, three grids, beam forming electrode, and plate...they're all concentric and the alignment must be as precise as they can be made.

Yet they're assembled by hand. Each piece stuck into its holes in the mica spacers by hand by someone with varying degrees of skill and finesse. I'm sure this leads to slight variances in alignment and some parts may get slightly bent/warped by handling.

If the manufacture process was truly consistent to the tolerance of the mica spacer holes, then tubes would probably be very consistent.

Yet, just a couple weeks ago I got a Mullard reissue 12AX7 in a lot of tubes I bought from Tube Depot that would qualify as defective by any reasonable assessment.

One of its two triodes has so much gain it's unusable. Installed in a reissue '65 Fender Twin Reverb, when you turned the volume control you'd get static out of the speaker at close to full volume. I thought it WAS bad volume controls, but decided to check the tubes as a precaution and found that this tube was just crazy sensitive.

I checked it on my 707 and where a good tube is 20 or better, a high gain tube is 35, and 45 is as high sensitivity/gain/transconductance (call it what you will) as I ever see, this one clocked in at a solid 62. If it were a pinball machine it'd be flashing TILT.

Simply switching my guitar to the bridge pickup...on a clean Fender amp, mind you...caused uncontrollable squealing at any volume level.

By visual inspection under a magnifier it looks exactly any other Mullard reissue 12AX7.

But something in that triode section is misaligned in such a way as to increase transconductance way beyond usable limits.

For fun I stuck that tube in my Superlead to see what it would do. It did not give me a rich saturated overdrive. But it did turn the guitar into a microphone. Every little movement of the guitar rubbing against my body, every time I touched the neck or moved my hand, even stepping on the cable, was heard loud and clear.
 

Matthews Guitars

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Now if someone could find a way to 3D print all the components of a tube in a solid matrix....something like a Nutube only better...that might be something!
 

FutureProf88

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Fractal makes a better unit than Kemper in any event. But to get the most out of it, you'll need to spend time learning it.

As for tube pricing, WE can target a price point above JJ tubes if they have the quality and the guarantee. They'll sell tubes.

If they work quickly, they may be able to start selling new tube types before we see new Sovtek/EH-etc brands coming from Russia.

The thing I don't like about Fractal is the fact that their stuff is floorboard or rackmount stuff, and I just like having a physical amp that I can set up.
 

Matthews Guitars

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True, the Fractal doesn't have the "desktop amplifier form factor", but since I literally never run mine without running Axe-Edit on a 27" iMac, that form factor isn't an issue for me. It's a "desktop computer with mouse" form factor with a separate box that makes the sounds.

I have a foot controller for the Fractal but honestly I rarely use it. If I were a gigging musician I'd soon change and become dependent on it.
 

Matthews Guitars

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I just have to point out that ALL the vintage/classic tubes we'd rather use in our amps if we had a stash of them, be they Mullard CV4004s, RCA Black Plate 6L6GBs, Tung-Sol USA 5881s, GE 6550As, GEC KT66s, Siemens EL34s, or any other "golden age" tube you care to name was built for the audio industry, and NOT specifically for guitar amps. They were designed to amplify cleanly, reliably, and quietly. (Low noise.) So that's exactly what we should want out of any newly made tubes coming from the WE factory. Not tubes designed to distort more than usual. That's not the classic model.

We might agree that the CBS engineers who were installed in the design department at Fender after the CBS takeover had a completely WRONG perspective on what a guitar amplifier should do, as they wanted to get rid of that "nasty distortion", not realizing that the right kind of distortion makes the guitar sound bigger, badder, and better. But their design efforts to clean up the amplifier's distortion did not include asking any tube manufacturer for any cleaner types of tubes. in fact we don't even see private label, Fender branded tubes until well into the 1970s and they are literally just RCA, GE, and Sylvania tubes printed with the Fender name instead of their own manufacturer's name. They are not different from their manufacturer's regular types in any other parameter.

The CBS engineers made the amps cleaner, but not by having new low distortion tubes made for them.

WE should make tubes that mirror the design objectives of the original tubes we want to find a stash of for cheap at a garage sale or in a thrift store. Clean, reliable, quiet amplification, and a very long service life.
 

Gene Ballzz

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I just have to point out that ALL the vintage/classic tubes we'd rather use in our amps if we had a stash of them, be they Mullard CV4004s, RCA Black Plate 6L6GBs, Tung-Sol USA 5881s, GE 6550As, GEC KT66s, Siemens EL34s, or any other "golden age" tube you care to name was built for the audio industry, and NOT specifically for guitar amps. They were designed to amplify cleanly, reliably, and quietly. (Low noise.) So that's exactly what we should want out of any newly made tubes coming from the WE factory. Not tubes designed to distort more than usual. That's not the classic model.

We might agree that the CBS engineers who were installed in the design department at Fender after the CBS takeover had a completely WRONG perspective on what a guitar amplifier should do, as they wanted to get rid of that "nasty distortion", not realizing that the right kind of distortion makes the guitar sound bigger, badder, and better. But their design efforts to clean up the amplifier's distortion did not include asking any tube manufacturer for any cleaner types of tubes. in fact we don't even see private label, Fender branded tubes until well into the 1970s and they are literally just RCA, GE, and Sylvania tubes printed with the Fender name instead of their own manufacturer's name. They are not different from their manufacturer's regular types in any other parameter.

The CBS engineers made the amps cleaner, but not by having new low distortion tubes made for them.

WE should make tubes that mirror the design objectives of the original tubes we want to find a stash of for cheap at a garage sale or in a thrift store. Clean, reliable, quiet amplification, and a very long service life.

That brings to mind interesting and possibly important thoughts and/or questions. How well would the tubes we revere for guitar amps perform in audiophile, Hi-Fi settings? Is it possible that the ones we like best for guitar amps would be abhorred by the Hi-Fi crowd?

Taking that to the next step, do the tubes actually revered by the Hi-Fi folks even sound any good in guitar amps? Or are they too clean and sterile?

These may be important considerations for those endeavoring to start up tube manufacturing processes.

On another note. I applaud your efforts of providing Western Electric some vintage tubes for comparative testing!

Just Thinkin'
Gene
 

StingRay85

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EL34 and ECC83, the two most used types in Marshalls are not your typical HIFI tubes. EL34 lacks a good bass response and is a bit overpresent in the mids, while Mu of ECC83 is very high for this kind of application.
 

Metroman

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Guitar tubes arent the only tubes WE are going to be producing. Coming out this year will be the 6SN7. They sent out preproduction tubes to some people last August for testing, and ststed if the results are positive, they will mass produce the tube sometime in 2022.
The results were were overwhelmingly positive.
I would expect them to have the same process for the guityar tube, so I wouldnt expect them to be in production until at least next year. Its not just like theyre going to start manyfacturing tubes. Theyre going to have to go through R & D, preproduction testing, and then mass production. Its not going to be an overnight process.
 

StingRay85

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Reminds me I still have a RFT 6SN7 with ceramic spacers instead of mica
 

Matthews Guitars

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Some of you have the wrong idea. The tubes we use, ALL of them, have a designed frequency response range that is FAR in excess of the audio range.

Your 6L6 type is designed to function as an amplifier up to 30 Megahertz. If you start looking up complete tube data on all common tube types we use, you will find the same thing over and over.

While the 12AX7 is not suitable for RF usage due to its high Miller capacitance, it's capable of flat response far outside the range of human hearing, if the circuit it's in allows for that.

And that is the issue at hand. Guitar amplifiers DON'T have that kind of circuit.

So, yes, while we do find detectable differences in the sound characteristics of different tubes, it's not due to a frequency response limitation in the tube itself. They're all flat response tubes over the full audio range and then some.

BUT...the circuits they're in are sensitive to the differences in capacitance in the different components of different tubes. Those capacitance differences cause the circuit to have an altered frequency response.


The truth is that we already use tubes intended for high fidelity applications. But we put them in very colored, non-flat circuits for purposes of making the guitar sound much bigger and beefier than the signal coming out of its output jack.

You might want to check out this site:



The frequency response is in the amplifier, not the tube.

Here's his Triode tube evaluation project, too:



Mythbusting: Let me note here, that I’ve always said that tubes have a pretty flat response, and the TET easily proves it. The results I am typically seeing for most triodes I’ve tested are flat within +/-1dB across the 20Hz-20kHz bandwidth. That’s pretty damn flat. It’s way flatter than other things you do to a signal, like the circuit you use it in, the transformers you choose, the cables, the tone controls you are probably addicted to, and most of all, the speakers and room you are using. Relatively speaking, the frequency response of the tube plays almost a full 0% in all of that equation, meaning changing brands of tube is not going to make for “leaner mids”, “offer a more robust bass”, deliver “extra glassy treble articulation” or any other marketing nonsense. It won’t happen. Now… are there systems where you might notice the slight differences in a tube’s harmonic character or noise? Sure! Especially with familiar sound sources and when the entire signal chain is good enough not to mask the very, very subtle differences by their own larger issues (noise, phase, reflections, distortions) that are also present. Most of us don’t get to enjoy that kind of listening equipment and environment, in fact it’s dead-rare. Your speakers and room will probably contribute much larger effects than the tube will, truth be told, but marketing persists. Funny that they never publish any real data. Did you ever notice that?
 
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Pete Farrington

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My take is that different designs of the same valve type sound different in guitar amps because even clean, we use with high signal levels, beyond their linear range of operation.
Up there, the V-I forward biased diode characteristics of the control grid come into play, but those are not a controlled characteristic, never covered in the type info. So it’s quite legitimate for them to differ.
So that’s something WE may wish to consider / analyse / reverse engineer.
 

Timo V

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My take is that different designs of the same valve type sound different in guitar amps because even clean, we use with high signal levels, beyond their linear range of operation.
Up there, the V-I forward biased diode characteristics of the control grid come into play, but those are not a controlled characteristic, never covered in the type info. So it’s quite legitimate for them to differ.
So that’s something WE may wish to consider / analyse / reverse engineer.
Yes. If two tubes are in nominal specs and in a same circuit, differeating factor in sound is grid current.
 

Matthews Guitars

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No, it's capacitance. Particularly on the cathode, but also on the plate. Even a little on the grid(s) can have an effect on the system frequency response.

Actually...it's everything. All factors play their part. No single one accounts for every aspect of the "sound" of a tube.
 


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