Tubes

I purchased my Mesa Boogie Lone Star Special 1×12 combo amp back in 2005. Wonderful sounding tube amp. A few weeks ago, one or more of the tubes became microphonic. I was able to trace the noise back to one set of power tubes — they operate in pairs — although it looks like I need to retube the whole amp. It has been four years after all.

Although I do pay some attention to the tone wars on tubes, I’m not sure that I have the time or money to audition dozens of them. I ordered a full set of tubes from thetubestore.com, a Canadian source for such products. I purchased 4 JJ EL84s, 5 JAN-Philips 12AX7s and 1 Sovtek 5Y3GT.

I still used the amp over the past two week-ends and it held up fairly well although I did have to put it to standby when I was not playing.

Some players believe that retubing opens up the sound of an amp. That even after six months or so, the tubes can become “tired” with frequent play and the sound does not bloom as it should.

Not sure I believe that but I do know that when tubes start to go microphonic, it is time to replace them. Funny, the tubes on my 1984 Fender Super Champ were replaced only once after 20 years. I replaced the tubes with some highly recommended NOS tubes. I did not notice a major change in sound. Did the amp sound different or better than before? I guess spending a couple of hundred dollars on tubes might influence the answer to that question.

5 replies
  1. Matt S
    Matt S says:

    4 years? Not bad!

    I am astonished that the Super Champ tubes lasted 20 years — but they don’t make ’em like they used to. 🙂

    My Koch Powertone II is holding up well. As it’s a high powered head, I’ve been running the speaker cabinet (2×12″) in a separate room of the church with a long speaker cable. It’s been working really well, and no complaints about volume yet!

    Although today the group that leads the 3rd service at our church was practicing in the room behind the auditorium — where my speaker cab was placed. My amp was extremely loud — so they saw no reason it should stay plugged in. I had to run back stage and plug in my speaker cab in the middle of a song! LOL. They were a much older group, I can’t blame them. At least my amp didn’t short out!

    They sang with some incredible voice leading, though! I suspect they were very well trained in their former years.

    Reply
  2. Richard Cleaver
    Richard Cleaver says:

    I keep the combo on stage. I have a stand that keeps the amp up and angled towards my ear and I have a mic that I use for the FOH. I have found an appropriate level for breaking up the sound without hurting the ears of those listening. But I do imagine that there are a few folks who would love to unplug the amp because it is too loud.

    🙂

    Reply
  3. Rob
    Rob says:

    Funny you mention the Super Champ – I just re-tubed mine as well – all tubes, NOS – the first time in almost 25 or 26 years; I was lucky to find them as I understand they are quite rare. I found them by way of a private amp repair guy who used to work for a Peavey, a major amp manufacturer. Local Mississauga guy, reliable and fast turnaround.

    I understand one of the tubes is quite rare and hard to find, but can’t remember if it is the 6C10, 12AT7 (not likely, these are common), 6V6GTA (again, not likely) or perhaps it is the 7025/12AX7A tube. I had to take mine into the shop as I was experiencing reverb issues and found out it is one of the pre-amp tubes which drives the reverb unit. Runs beautifully now, just like new and man does this amp sound good.

    Reply
  4. Richard Cleaver
    Richard Cleaver says:

    Interesting. I know when I retubed the Super Champ that I did a lot of research on the tubes. I’ll have to go back in my notes but I suspect that I still have the order on file somewhere in my archives. And you are right, the tubes were hard to source. I wound up using an operation out of the States to source a couple of the tubes.

    Admittedly, I do not spend much time playing through the Super Champ and the amp never had any road work. It was always indoors and rarely moved. Maybe that is why the tubes lasted so long.

    Reply
  5. Rob
    Rob says:

    My Champ has lead the same life – typically residing in the studio, but sometimes I take it upstairs to play quietly while watching the tube. Never been on the road. At nominal levels, though the tonal range is quite good indeed. It knows not to mess with my Boogies….!

    Reply

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