Tu-be or not Tu-be
Questions and Answers on New Old Stock Tubes
Part 3 - Where to Find N.O.S. Tubes
So how does one go about finding tubes that have been manufactured twenty, thirty, even forty years ago?
Well, I think you have a couple of choices. You can strike out on your own and go to Hamfests which can certainly be a lot fun. I go - not just to find tubes because, frankly, there are not many available here in the Los Angeles area. But you meet some very interesting people and some people in the industry and it's just kind of a neat crowd. And you can make connections that will eventually get you the tubes, if you try hard enough.
You can go to places like Audiomart or rec.audio.tubes on the Internet and you will find people selling tubes there- maybe from their own collections over the years. You can try TV shops in your area. Sometimes you will find a lot of stuff there. Last year, my wife and I were on our way to the Marriot in Newport Beach for a romantic weekend...it was our anniversary. On the drive down, I saw an old, haggard TV shop that was calling my name. I swear...I can smell tubes. Much to my wifes chagrin, we stopped. Inside, I found a bunch of Western Electric 300As and Bs, vintage Amperex metal-base EL-34s, and an assortment of other tubes that had not been touched, moved, or dusted for decades. I bought all of them. As I loaded this treasure trove of audio tubes into my van, I figured it paid for the weekend several times over. Of course, opportunities like that don't come around all too often, but they do exist...
I think that if you want N.O.S audio tubes without paying premium prices, it's a matter of finding a stash in a cruddy old warehouse- the dustier the better- and hope that they havent been picked over.
What about military surplus tubes? Every now and again rumors seems to crop up that batches of N.O.S. tubes are going to be released for sale to the public.
A lot of that has already gone on and as a result, tubes are generally cheaper now than they were a few years ago. If people don't want to spend the money on Amperex or Telefunken, or if they want American tubes, now is the time to buy.
Most of the military tubes are going to be G.E. or Philips ECG/Sylvania. I don't really deal in that facet of the N.O.S. tube market too much. I can't compete for that business with companies like New Sensor who focus on large volume, American-made, ex-military tubes. My specialty is more the Euro/Exotic-type tubes- I sell 50 Telefunken 12AX7's before I sell one Sylvania
....continued in Part 4 - Tips for Buying N.O.S. Tubes