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 Post subject: What is a good starter tube tester for a new-ish restorer?
PostPosted: Aug Fri 10, 2018 3:14 am 
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Location: Monroe TWP, NJ 08831
Good evening fellow ARF-ers.

I am looking to add a tube tester to my test equipment suite and am looking for your advice. I restore both 4 and 5 tube AM radios (Trav-Ler, Emerson, etc.) and SWL receivers (Hallicrafters, National, etc.) and am looking for a tube tester that would be useful for testing the tubes that would be found in these receivers.

I don't have any experience at all with tube testers so I am turning to this group. I would also like to assist other radio restorers in my area by testing their tubes for them.

So what is a good tube tester for me, why and generally how much should I expect to pay for it?

Thank you for your thoughtful responses.

Best regards,

Mark

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 Post subject: Re: What is a good starter tube tester for a new-ish restore
PostPosted: Aug Fri 10, 2018 5:06 am 
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An emission tester would be a good choice. The best tester is the equipment the tube is used in.
An important consideration is the age (vintage) of the equipment. Very early tubes used 4, 5 or 6 pin tubes so a tester would have to have these sockets. The latest tubes that were designed had 7, 9 , 12 pins and nuvistor sockets, a latter model tester would have those socket and maybe not the earlier.
I've bought vintage tube testers in the $ 30 -50 range. You can certainly spend more than $ 200 for some. Anything earlier than about 1975 or so should have capacitors replaced, etc.
Here is a good link.
http://tone-lizard.com/tube-testers/

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 Post subject: Re: What is a good starter tube tester for a new-ish restore
PostPosted: Aug Fri 10, 2018 8:37 am 
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I have two testers, which I'll explain why as I go along here. But, there are two types of tube testers. One is an emissions tester, the other is mutual conductance. Here is a link to an article that will explain the difference. But long story short, a mutual conductance tester is more thorough for lack of a better term. https://www.radiolaguy.com/info/Mutual-Emission.htm

I started with a Mercury 2000. It had belonged to my electronics instructor in high school and my parents gave me the money to buy it from him as my graduation present. That one is a mutual conductance tester. You can find those on eBay as well as the Mercury 1000. The difference is the 2000 can test transistors as well, however testing transistors will end up being a useless function to you on the tube tester. The 1000 doesn't do transistors. These testers are gong to run closer to the $100-$300 range. The problem is they don't have the sockets to test a 4,5, or 6 pin tube. By the time is came along, nobody was really making anything with 4,5, or 6 pin tubes.

My other tester is a Precision 612. It's an emissions tester, so the more basic of the two types. It can test the 4,5, and 6 pin tubes, which is why I bought it, as well as 7,8 and 9 pin. But it's from 1945, whereas the Mercury is from 1967 (the years each was actually made, not maybe the actual year they came out.) I have run into a few tubes that the Precision won't test because i don't have a listing for it in the chart. You can also find the model 10-12 on ebay. Both are about $50-$100-ish.

Other's will chime in I'm sure with the brand and models they use, and you can kind of decide from there.

But, one thing that was touched on was using the circuit the tube came from as your tester, so to speak. Many of us here have run into the case at one time or another that a tube will show great in the tester, but not work worth a crap in the radio (or whatever you're working on) and tubes that will show bad on the tester, but work great in the radio. But a tube tester is still not a bad investment.

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 Post subject: Re: What is a good starter tube tester for a new-ish restore
PostPosted: Aug Fri 10, 2018 8:39 am 
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As noted, it depends on what you want to test. If you are testing tubes for others, or going into the tube business, you'll need to spend somewhat more and spring for a mutual conductance tester. Those can go from $150 to thousands. If you want the very oldest tubes, you will not want one of the newer (comparatively) testers. If you want to test all, there are a few that can, but you might be better off with two different ones. As you can see, it gets complicated fast.

My advice before you buy is do a ton of reasearch. A few places to start in addition to the link posted: I should not really make any suggestions since I collect them and have about 50 at my fingertips :) But my "go to" testers are a Heathkit TT-1 and Hickok 539B. I will be adding a Hickok TV7 shortly. A Hickok I-177 might be something for you to look into, but as I noted, research very thoroughly first. And you do not need to spring for the 539B, at least not initially. The TT-1, although lampooned by some, is loved my most. (or at least, me). It's a mutual conductance one, simple to set up, fix, calibrate, and all information is readily available.

SO:
Roger Kennedy's website http://www.alltubetesters.com is a good resource for how they work, what it takes to fix them, and differences between models particularly Hickok. Here's the direct link to the "which should I get" page: http://www.alltubetesters.com/articles/tester_guide.htm

Alan Douglas' book "Tube Testers and Classic Electronic Test Gear is very thorough

Jacmusic: http://www.jacmusic.com/Tube-testers/ Not for the beginner, but also a good research resource.

Those should get you started. Read a lot, buy once :) Good luck with that one lol.

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 Post subject: Re: What is a good starter tube tester for a new-ish restore
PostPosted: Aug Fri 10, 2018 11:13 am 
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Barry H Bennett wrote:

SO:
Roger Kennedy's website http://www.alltubetesters.com is a good resource for how they work, what it takes to fix them, and differences between models particularly Hickok. Here's the direct link to the "which should I get" page: http://www.alltubetesters.com/articles/tester_guide.htm

Alan Douglas' book "Tube Testers and Classic Electronic Test Gear is very thorough

Jacmusic: http://www.jacmusic.com/Tube-testers/ Not for the beginner, but also a good research resource.

Those should get you started. Read a lot, buy once :) Good luck with that one lol.


Lots of good reading material here and interesting too! Thank you Barry and everyone else for your contribution to the discussion.

Mark

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 Post subject: Re: What is a good starter tube tester for a new-ish restore
PostPosted: Aug Fri 10, 2018 5:35 pm 
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I'd like to add a few points. You said you are interested in restoring radios.
One of the things to be aware of is some testers you will come across will have more wear on the sockets than others. A few types of replacement sockets are very hard to find. The meter is delicate and specialized, so make sure it works.
If you are in New Jersey you may be in better shape finding equipment than those in other parts of the country. Try estate sales, local auctions, flea markets, Craig's List, etc., places that you can inspect the unit. As far as ebay goes it is the last place I would buy used equipment unless I knew the condition of the equipment or I couldn't get an item anywhere else. I wouldn't get your heart set on one particular model, condition is more important.
As far as the alltubetesters website, notice that the person has a tester business. He would be happy to recommend testers that would require someone like him to repair and calibrate them for a fee.
There are many testers that you can check and calibrate using only some resistors and a DVM. As long as you don't need to brag about the size of you gm, you don't need the more expensive testers.

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 Post subject: Re: What is a good starter tube tester for a new-ish restore
PostPosted: Aug Fri 10, 2018 5:58 pm 
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The most important test for any tube is the SHORTS test.

Any tube that tests shorted should be discarded immediately, with no further testing.
Testing it further could damage the tube tester.

Testing for quality is really not done by any service-grade instrument. You need laboratory equipment to do that. Basic emissions tests are adequate to weed out weak tubes.

I never discard weak tubes, although I do usually replace them in the radio being serviced.
You may find a tube that tests weak yet works adequately in some situations / circuits.

- Leigh

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 Post subject: Re: What is a good starter tube tester for a new-ish restore
PostPosted: Aug Fri 10, 2018 7:09 pm 
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Notimetolooz wrote:
I'd like to add a few points. You said you are interested in restoring radios.
One of the things to be aware of is some testers you will come across will have more wear on the sockets than others. A few types of replacement sockets are very hard to find. The meter is delicate and specialized, so make sure it works.
If you are in New Jersey you may be in better shape finding equipment than those in other parts of the country. Try estate sales, local auctions, flea markets, Craig's List, etc., places that you can inspect the unit. As far as ebay goes it is the last place I would buy used equipment unless I knew the condition of the equipment or I couldn't get an item anywhere else. I wouldn't get your heart set on one particular model, condition is more important.
As far as the alltubetesters website, notice that the person has a tester business. He would be happy to recommend testers that would require someone like him to repair and calibrate them for a fee.
There are many testers that you can check and calibrate using only some resistors and a DVM. As long as you don't need to brag about the size of you gm, you don't need the more expensive testers.


Tim,

Thank you for your insight and tips - the ability to be 'hands-on' before purchasing is sage advice.

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 Post subject: Re: What is a good starter tube tester for a new-ish restore
PostPosted: Aug Fri 10, 2018 7:19 pm 
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An IT-21 just came up for sale near me in NJ:

https://forums.qrz.com/index.php?thread ... 21.623624/

I have not done enough research yet to know if that is a good deal and will work for me! LOL

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 Post subject: Re: What is a good starter tube tester for a new-ish restore
PostPosted: Aug Fri 10, 2018 8:11 pm 
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Regarding the alltubetesters.com website.... While it is certainly true that they specialize in repair and restoration, their TECHNICAL articles are nonpartisan .... meaning, they are informational and technical, not sales pieces. Such as the one that I linked here. There are other papers, and I DID mention 3 resources, not just one. Caveat Emptor.... know what you are buying before you buy. Hence my suggestion towards RESEARCH:!!!!

Asking "what tube tester should I buy" is somewhat like asking "what car should I buy". All we can do here is give you raw information .... you'll have to decide, and that will take you knowing what it is you really are after, once becoming fully informed of what all the choices are :)

13c. I'm running out of c

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 Post subject: Re: What is a good starter tube tester for a new-ish restore
PostPosted: Aug Fri 10, 2018 8:13 pm 
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kd2nom wrote:
An IT-21 just came up for sale near me in NJ:

https://forums.qrz.com/index.php?thread ... 21.623624/

I have not done enough research yet to know if that is a good deal and will work for me! LOL


The seller has agreed to take a SWR / Wattmeter I have in trade so this one is working out pretty good

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 Post subject: Re: What is a good starter tube tester for a new-ish restore
PostPosted: Aug Fri 10, 2018 8:30 pm 
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Many people think that the purpose of a tube tester is to tell you with infallible accuracy how good a tube is. They are inevitably disappointed when a tube that tested "good" fails to work in some circuit, when tubes that tested "bad" still work fine in other circuits, and when tubes which were perfectly "matched" on a tester produce a lot of distortion in an amplifier circuit. Ultimately, the best test is the circuit you use the tubes in. A tube tester is useful mainly to tell you when a tube is bad, i.e. there is something so seriously wrong with it that further troubleshooting is not warranted until the tube is replaced.

If you want to understand the various types of tube testers that were made, their strengths, and their weaknesses, one of the best discussions available is in "Getting The Most Out of Vacuum Tubes" by Robert "Bud" Tomer. A couple of sites have it available for download and it has been reprinted as a paperback. Although the book is mostly about tube construction and operation for best useful life, Tomer devoted a couple of chapters to tube testers and testing.

Some pointers to be aware of:

"Mutual conductance" and "transconductance" are terms often used interchangeably. However, there is a subtle difference. A mutual conductance tube tester connects all tubes as triodes. Transconductance testers apply appropriate voltages to all the grids and are therefore provide a more definite idea of how well a tube is working--when it comes to tubes with more than three grids. But mutual conductance testing made for simpler, lower cost instruments and many felt the trade-off was worthwhile for service work.

"Dynamic" simply means AC voltages are applied in some fashion to obtain readings. Some very early and very basic tube testers and set analyzers used what was known as the grid shift method (applying a volt or so from a flashlight battery) to the grid and noting the shift in plate current. Dynamic testing was thought to be more representative of real world conditions, since most applications apply AC signal voltages.

Emission tube testers come in two flavors. Basic models simply tie all the grids together and to either the cathode or the plate, and test tubes as diodes. Proportional emission testers (my term for them to avoid confusion with the term 'dynamic') apply proportional voltages to each of the grids, so the reading is a composite result of emission and the transconductance of the tube. Since most of the conduction takes place between the cathode and the first grid when a tube is connected as a diode, it is possible for a basic emission tester to read "good" on tubes with damaged or defective elements. The proportional units don't have this limitation since the meter is in the plate circuit and the grids have to work in order to get a "good" reading. Examples of proportional emission testers are the Sylvania 140, 220, and 620, the Jackson 648 series, the Eico 666 and 667, and the Precision "Electronamic" (10- series) models.

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 Post subject: Re: What is a good starter tube tester for a new-ish restore
PostPosted: Aug Fri 10, 2018 9:18 pm 
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get a Hickok 600a, it will cover all your needs for shorts, emissions and testing.
Prices are 300-400 range

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 Post subject: Re: What is a good starter tube tester for a new-ish restore
PostPosted: Aug Fri 10, 2018 9:33 pm 
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A good comparison of Hickok's, if you decide to go that route

http://www.tubewizard.com/recommended_H ... esters.htm

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 Post subject: Re: What is a good starter tube tester for a new-ish restore
PostPosted: Aug Fri 10, 2018 10:55 pm 
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Thanks to everyone - I hope I made a wise choice to go with the Heathkit IT-21. The prices was right - traded for an swr meter I am no longer using.

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 Post subject: Re: What is a good starter tube tester for a new-ish restore
PostPosted: Aug Fri 10, 2018 11:25 pm 
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it will serve you well, and it is just the first of many :)

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 Post subject: Re: What is a good starter tube tester for a new-ish restore
PostPosted: Aug Sat 11, 2018 2:15 am 
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kd2nom wrote:
Thanks to everyone - I hope I made a wise choice to go with the Heathkit IT-21. The prices was right - traded for an swr meter I am no longer using.

Looks to me it will be a fine one for you. Good range of socket types and doesn't look beat to death.
If you have any problems you know where to ask for advice.

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 Post subject: Re: What is a good starter tube tester for a new-ish restore
PostPosted: Aug Sat 11, 2018 11:37 am 
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Notimetolooz wrote:
kd2nom wrote:
Thanks to everyone - I hope I made a wise choice to go with the Heathkit IT-21. The prices was right - traded for an swr meter I am no longer using.

Looks to me it will be a fine one for you. Good range of socket types and doesn't look beat to death.
If you have any problems you know where to ask for advice.


I do indeed!

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