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 Post subject: Who Do You Think Made The Best Tubes?
PostPosted: Dec Mon 15, 2008 5:30 pm 
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The topic is the question. When I was growing up, my uninformed desire always went to RCA. However, I am not sure that was very objective. Actually, rather subjective.

Did one manufacturer stand out as good, or not-so-good? I know that many manufacturers bought from each other. We all have seen RCA tubes that were obviously made by GE. Take for example, the 7591 was designed and manufactured by Westinghouse. Sylvania also made them I believe. RCA sold them but they did not have the traditional "Stop Sign" tube number on it. By looking at the markings on RCA 7591 tubes, I think that they bought from both Westinghouse and Sylvania.

Did Zenith make tubes or buy them. I hope that you have some good opinions here. I would love to hear the reason for your preference too. It would be nice if you could rate USA manufacturers. But that is not meant to exclude Telefunken or Mullard. (I have never tested a bad Telefunken ECC83 but have had some very weak EL84 tubes!)


Thanks in advance,

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Mon 15, 2008 5:57 pm 
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Well i dont know anything about which one made them the best. But for some reason i go for RCA it seems to me they were the most trusted ones.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Mon 15, 2008 6:11 pm 
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Hytron, Taylor and United Electronics made some very good ones. Not as popular or widely distributed as RCA or Westinghouse, but certainly quality tubes.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Mon 15, 2008 6:28 pm 
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This is a thread that should go on for a long time. I believe that all of the majors did a pretty good job but all probably had their mistakes too. One that I know about was RCA's 6CG7 as used as the horz. osc which caused considerable trouble. Soon replaced by the 6FQ7. Not my opinion but confirmed by a chief eng. for a manufacturer that I knew. And certainly not sour grapes as RCA was a major OEM fpr them and the only complaint I ever heard was on the 6CG7. I am sure others can report on other weak designs.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Mon 15, 2008 7:03 pm 
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It would vary by tube type. As noted, all the makers traded with each other. The ones who made the largest numbers would probably get pretty good at it.

The only type I have hard data for, is the 0Z4 which was made primarily by Raytheon, and second-sourced by GE. No one else ever made them. This is from Norm Krim who ran the Raytheon tube operation.

Zenith never made any receiving tubes, only CRTs at the Rauland subsidiary plant.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Mon 15, 2008 7:47 pm 
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I started my working career at Westinghouse in the late 60s. Zenith was one of my customers and we did sell receiving tubes to them. Rauland built most of Zenith's CRTs, though occasionally they bought from us or Sylvania.

Especially toward the end of the vacuum tube era, manufacturers bought from each other. There wasn't very much OEM business and you had to carry a full line of replacements for your distributors. Wasn't always economical to make a full run of tubes, so we bought from each other to fill out the line. Westinghouse moved its remaining tube lines to Canada in the late 60s, but kept making RF power tubes, rectifiers, ignitrons, and thyratrons in Elmira (Horseheads), NY. Horseheads later made vacuum interrupters for HV power lines and also nuclear "penetrations." These were glass-to-metal sealed electrodes that were used to conduct electricity in and out of evacuated spaces in reactors. I believe Cutler-Hammer still makes vacuum switches at that plant.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Mon 15, 2008 10:26 pm 
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FWIW-EH Scott claimed in their ads they tested all the tube companies and only used 1 brand, which he stated were the best.

The brand ? Sylvania, as I got a box of them as spare NOS tubes with one of my Scott radios I bought from the original owner's family.

I have to wonder if that was true or there was some link like a sister's husband's cousin worked there, etc etc.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Mon 15, 2008 10:53 pm 
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After the infamous Clause 5 which required OEMs to use RCA tubes was struck down, the OEMs were free to use whatever tubes they wished. Zenith and Philco went with Sylvania because they refused to use metal tubes. Sylvania was willing to supply glass versions with their brands on them.

Crosley used Arcturus early on, then switched to Ken-Rad who was across the river from them in Kentucky.

It is probably correct that Scott used Sylvania. Scott used the Wunderlich detector made only by Sylvania in several models.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Mon 15, 2008 11:53 pm 
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y2k Bruce wrote:
The brand ? Sylvania, as I got a box of them as spare NOS tubes with one of my Scott radios I bought from the original owner's family.

I have to wonder if that was true or there was some link like a sister's husband's cousin worked there, etc etc.


I would not be the one to bet against Scott...

As already stated which was best could have been dependent on how apt a co was at each tube... No way of knowing but possibly RCA made the best 6V6 while Sylvania's 6L6s were better than what RCA mfg'd...

As far as TV sweep tubes, I had better luck with Sylvania than anything else... For awhile, I bought at the GE distributors across the street from my job, but after a short while went back to the Sylvania dealer that was a couple miles away...

Sears replacement tubes were mostly Sylvania when I started in '69(RCA supplied a few types)... In a year or so we started getting more tubes from RCA, and those generally had a much higher failure rate... In fact RCA 40KD6s were so bad(many didn't last two weeks), we started receiving Sylvania's again after just a few months...

Tom


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Tue 16, 2008 12:00 am 
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I am even more convinced that a lot of tube swapping went on between tube manufacturers now that today I received four 6146B tubes from forum member Genoo. Two are GE and two are Amperex. All four of them are made in Holland, which was expected for the Amperex tubes, but the GE tubes had it marked on the glass the same way as the Amperex tubes.

Looking at the internal structure of the tubes, they are all identical, down to the tapered end of the plate structures, which the earlier 6146 and 6146A tubes did not have, as they had rounded off ends of the plate. If you were to do the shell game with them and blocked out the GE logo on the GE ones, I define anybody to guess what is what. I am firmly convinced now that when GE started winding down its tube business, they simply contracted out to Amperex to supply them for replacement purposes and to put the GE logo on them, or private label for GE.

A lot of the early tube controversies such as metal versus glass, Philco never using eye tubes and such really had no technical merits at all. It simply was because the higher-ups in the companies involved could not stand to be seen on the same street corner with their counterparts who were in competition with them.
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Tue 16, 2008 12:17 am 
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Thanks. Keep it coming. I love this kind of information. I have "Tube Lore" by Lud Sibley. I called a number given to me and he answered the phone! What a pleasure. He talked for a few minutes and gave me an address to send the money to. I sent the money, the books came pronto with a personal message on a Post-It note in one of the books.

On a little twist, does anyone know which companies made the 7591 and 7591A? I know that Westinghouse made them first, and I am sure Sylvania did as well. How about GE and RCA? I have seen GE 7591 tubes with the characteristic etched number with a date code in dots below. But the RCA seem to have either the Westinghouse or Sylvania marking. Anyone know?

Thanks again,

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Tue 16, 2008 12:18 am 
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I have used tubes from many different companies in a load of applications. One of the brands that to me stands out as mediocre is Ken-Rad. I have seen weak, gassy, noisy, and "hummy" tubes from them than from any others. I had to re-tube my Capehart 413-N to rid it of nasty Ken-Rad's.
Most other brands have been at least OK in most applications.
I agree with Mr. Hagen on the 6CG7, as I have had to go through a number of them with some Synchro-guide circuits to find "the right one". Another RCA dud is the 6DT6, when used as a quadrature detector in FM circuits. Take 3 or 4 sleeves, and again find the right one.
I think a lot of 6BQ5's,7189's, etc fail because the designers may have tried to get the most power out of a pair, running the P___ out of them. I have a Realistic stereo amp that is rated at 18 watts per channel, and sounds like it is suffering. It is Japanese, and a roadside find.
But I digress...
Thanks for putting up with my rant!
Kevin

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Tue 16, 2008 2:21 am 
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Kevin,

No rant heard. I agree that some guys put 6BQ5 tubes in amplifiers when 7189 should be used. I don't know if the plate dissipation is more with the 7189 but they seem to hold up much better in the more powerful amps.

For instance, the KnightKit KM-15 rated about 12-14 watts RMS using 6BQ5 outputs depending on which year catalog you look at. And the HH Scott 222C which uses 7189 outputs giving a full 20 watts RMS per channel. Not the same tube for sure.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Tue 16, 2008 2:23 am 
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It amazes me how the tube quality increased in the late 60s, early 70s. As you know, my interest is audio. Look at a 6V6GT amp. Look at a 7591 amp. Maybe 10-12 watts RMS vs 33 Watts RMS. Same envelope, different tube and power supply of course but that little 7591 really cranked it out in a small size. And, if not abused (read too little bias) they would last quite a long time...

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Tue 16, 2008 4:01 am 
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Kevin:

"Mr." Wow! Thank you. I'm old but not that old. :lol:

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Tue 16, 2008 6:11 am 
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Mullard, Philips, Telefunken?

Don't know if this has been posted here before, but if you have time, check out this half hour video tour of the Mullard factory (actually, factories, plural) in England. Gigantic operation, amazing!

http://www.techtubevalves.com/about_us/film_reels.php


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Tue 16, 2008 6:41 am 
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Rich, I find the Westinghouse stories interesting. I've noticed that a number of companies were using Westinghouse crt's after the company had gotten out of the tv business itself. The last hamfest I attended had a tube vendor with gobs of unused Westinghouse tube boxes, plus some nos Westinghouse tubes which were odd looking.

I have heard stories about bad 6GH8's from RCA, to the point that RCA used tubes made by other companies in the sets but would sell its own tubes to customers over the counter. At least that's the story I got.

Overall I'd say GE did as good as anybody. They certainly had the quantities to get the process down pat. Now, a Ken-Rad and a GE are the same thing, right? (at least later on) Maybe Ken-Rad became a place to unload factory seconds?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Tue 16, 2008 7:05 am 
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I have several old tubes that have Song Bird written on them,, who made them?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Tue 16, 2008 1:37 pm 
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Songbird was the house brand of W.T. Grant stores.

GE bought KenRad around 1945 (I'd have to look it up).


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Dec Tue 16, 2008 3:26 pm 
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Tube quality was all over the place, and varied with time and tube type. RCA made some good tubes, some not so good. Same with GE and Sylvania. Certain types were particularly suspect and technicians usually had their own favorite brand for those tubes. TV sweep tubes, high-power audio output tubes, and a few others were the most critical. Personally I found that Tung-Sol tubes were usually among the best available, however not all distributors carried them and then not in all types.

The previous comments are true about 6GH8's. Always seemed hard to find good ones that would last, many checked very leaky out of the box or would even show shorts on the tube tester if tapped. New tubes shouldn't do that.

RCA did use Sylvania and Tung-Sol manufactured 6GH8's having the EIA number of 312 or 322 on the tube in certain positions in their color TV's, particularly the 3.58 MHz oscillator. It was done because RCA built 6GH8's wouldn't stand up and they had too much in warranty problems. Customers would complain the color would drop out, or the tint would shift in the middle of a scene. Certain RCA color chassis used as many as 7 of the 6GH8's, and one could pretty much count on having to replace all 7 of them on every service call. They got weak very quickly, and also were prone to shorts and leakage.

We used to buy 100 6GH8's at a time, which would last anywhere from a week to a few weeks in the shop depending on how busy we were. Tried RCA, GE, Sylvania, Zenith (which was a gamble who made any batch) Westinghouse, and others. Could never get two purchases of 100 that were of the same quality. In that particular type, the Japanese Raytheon imports were often better than any other for initial quality and reliability.

RCA also did not always use their own tubes in the many of the black and white and smaller color TV sets and some table model radios. Often those were found with complete OEM sets of imported tubes, marked with RCA in white paint, but it did not look like any standard RCA logo in use at the time.

In the 60's extensive swapping among manufacturers became obvious. As mentioned, you could easily tell who made a particular tube by their unique internal construction. It was very common to find less popular types made by one company and branded with their competitors name and logo.

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