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Vintage Tubes and Tube Sockets

Anyone working with classic electric guitar equipment or vintage radio receivers can use a few extra vacuum tubes. They are great for restoring a vintage shortwave set or cranking out some classic heavy metal tracks. While it might be surprising that classic Ibanez and Behringer parts use the same tubes that surplus electronics do, this unusual situation means that there are plenty of parts out there for those interested in collecting them.

What are some of the benefits of valve amplifier sets?

Since vintage tube technology is inherently able to handle a great deal of voltage, these amplifiers can take on a hefty amount of overload. Many punk and metal bassists use them in studio work. You shouldn't notice any drop in audio quality when you connect your instrument to a classic amplifier circuit. If you're a retro bass guitar player, you may notice that the amount of distortion coming out of vintage tube equipment remains even over the entire sound curve.

What are Nixie tubes?

While they might resemble traditional valves, Nixie tubes are actually a form of vintage electronic display. Nixies always come in a glass envelope that contains a number of cathodes in the shape of numerals or other glyphs. These cathodes are attached to a wire-mesh anode. Instead of using thermionic electron emission technology, Nixie tubes light up as the result of cold-cathode excitation. This means they never get too hot. You can make them display different numbers by applying voltage to them in a preset pattern. Some collectors use them to tell time.

What types of vintage radio equipment require tubes?

In their day, almost all vintage radios called for some sort of valves. Finding the original parts for them can be difficult, so collectors have broken vintage radio receivers into a few specific categories. The main classifications that collectors and restoration experts concern themselves with include the following:

  • Superheterodyne receivers
  • Tuned-frequency sets
  • Farm radios
  • Reaction sets
  • Super-regenerative receivers
How do you read part numbers on vintage equipment?

Most valves feature a number printed directly on them. This is the original manufacturer's part number, which is what you need if you're going to replace it. If the number is worn off, check the part of the chassis the clip plugs into. Socket numbers can usually help you find the vacuum parts you're looking for. This is also a good way to find the part numbers for an older capacitor or switch. Since it's easier to look at these parts under natural light, you might want to do this during the day.

How long does it take for circuits to warm up?

As long as you have the clips attached to the chassis correctly, valve-based circuitry should come on extremely quickly. If you have dull or indirect emitters installed in a rig, you'll only have to wait around 10 seconds to hear audio output coming out of the speakers at full volume. Bright emitters from the early 1920s come on almost instantly.

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