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 Post subject: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Sat 10, 2018 9:42 pm 
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Greetings,

I would like to acquire a tube tester, but have no past experience using one.

What would be the top few details that one would have to look for when deciding which one to buy? I'm asking about features and options that various models might have or lack. So, at this point, I'm not asking so much about the repairs I might have to do.

Thanks...


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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Sat 10, 2018 9:51 pm 
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Look what sockets it supports, an old one will not support the more modern types (7, 9,loctal or compactron) and a newer one may not support the old 4. 5 and 6-pin sockets.
If it is an uncommon one, see if you can find the charts for it and service info.

A better tube tester will measure transconductance. A simple one will just test emissions. Either will work for go/no go tests, but a TC measurement is better for matching tube pairs.

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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Sat 10, 2018 10:52 pm 
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OK, after some looking around I see that the Superior TV-11 and TW-11 support more tube sockets than the Superior TC-55. I also see that the TV-11 seems to be quite common.

Would a TV-11 be a good choice?

Or perhaps you could recommend some other models that are in the same price range.

Thanks...


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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Sat 10, 2018 10:56 pm 
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What kind of tubes do you want to test, how much do you want to spend on tester?
Are you matching tubes, or just checking individual tubes for basics tests like shorts, emissions, diodes (rectifier tubes)

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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Sat 10, 2018 11:05 pm 
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One opinion only:

I use my tester mostly for "pre-screening" before starting up a newly-restored set. It is a basic emission tester (Precision 10-12). Good documentation, and I've never had trouble finding settings.

The only downside so far is that it does not check for grid leakage. After some recent cases, I've been using a "kludge" to check for this parameter in cases where it might be an issue (eg a high-gain stage with high grid circuit impedance) I did have to replace the line adjust pot and more recently, the power transformer. The latter was not exactly a picnic but I survived.....

I've never had a situation where I needed transconductance. My bias is that this is more useful when doing circuit design or tube matching but---for the serious stuff--I'd be leaning towards a curve tracer.

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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Sat 10, 2018 11:19 pm 
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Not surprisingly, I see this can be a lot more involved than I'm expecting. But to answer the questions...

My budget is around $100.

The tubes I want to test at this point are:

ECC85 ECH81 EF89 EABC80 EM85 EL84 EZ80
ECC81 EM80 AZ11 EBC91
6BJ6 12BA6 12BA6 12AU6 12AT7 35C5 19T8

I am currently doing my first recap project on 4 radios that I own and just want to learn about the whole process. I think at this point I would only have the knowledge how to test the health of the tubes, so that I know if I have to order replacement tubes.

At this point I don't really have enough knowledge to even imagine what else I could do in terms of testing tubes.

Hope my answer makes sense.

Thanks...


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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Sun 11, 2018 12:45 am 
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it does makes sense, and for $100 you can expect to get a basic tester that will check shorts and emissions.
$300 and up would get you into the gm/mho testers like a Hickok 600a, which would be a good model for you
but over budget.
like a 12au7, a basic tester can check both sides for shorts but not the amp factor, you'd need a mho type for that, ie Hickok
or others do mutual conductance. Many testers use different words and methods as some were patented.
Your best bang for the buck is to watch craigslist, swap meets (best deals). avoid eBay with that budget.
There are some digital curve tracers on ebay you can build, work well,

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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Sun 11, 2018 12:51 am 
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Here's GREAT info:
"An idiots guide to tube testers" ... and other tube tester info.
http://tone-lizard.com/tube-testers/

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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Sun 11, 2018 1:00 am 
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From the ToneLizzard site on tube testers:

Image

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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Sun 11, 2018 1:51 am 
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For that budget, I think you could find a very nice Heathkit IT-17/21/3117 tube tester with the manuals. It's a basic emission tester of proven design; the circuit is not much changed from the original Heath TC-1 of 1947. The main differences between the three models are in the styling; the IT-21 has the classic 1960s gray with silver and orange details and white markings while the IT-17 has the more modern beige with black lettering--actually a lot easier to read under many kinds of lighting conditions. The blue and white IT-3117 was made between 1977 and 1981, the last hurrah for Heathkit's test equipment line, and it was the first one with a silicon diode for the meter circuit rather than a metallic rectifier. These testers will test just about any receiving tube out there from the mid 1930s on (plus many earlier tubes) and a lot of supplements and user data has been compiled for them. There's very little that can go wrong or out of calibration, and the manuals give all the detail one could ask for about how it is put together.

The thing to understand is that no tube tester is capable of telling you when a tube is good. They do not put tubes in real-life circuits, operate them at normal frequencies or voltages, or apply RF frequencies. The point of a tube tester is to tell you when a tube is bad or getting there. The way to tell if a tube is good is to use an appropriate type of meter (a VTVM usually) and measure the voltages on the tube pins with the tube in the set and operating normally. If the voltages are correct per the schematic or service literature, the tube is working fine.

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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Sun 11, 2018 3:09 am 
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Pbpix wrote:
Here's GREAT info:
"An idiots guide to tube testers" ... and other tube tester info.
http://tone-lizard.com/tube-testers/

I'm reading through that entire site and find the information very interesting and useful.

One thing for sure, if I buy in a hurry I will most likely make a mistake.

I am going to research the Heathkit models, as recommended. Right now the budget is only around $100 so even if I end up needing a more high end tester in the future, it seems that this would be a good backup to have.

Thanks...


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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Sun 11, 2018 6:53 am 
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Chris108 wrote:
The way to tell if a tube is good is to use an appropriate type of meter (a VTVM usually) and measure the voltages on the tube pins with the tube in the set and operating normally. If the voltages are correct per the schematic or service literature, the tube is working fine.


I Googled VTVM and found this page http://tone-lizard.com/vtvms/

If I understand correctly, for testing any tubes a VTVM would actually be a better choice than any tube tester, correct?

One would just have to test them in circuit, as opposed to doing what appears to be a more "straightforward" test of plugging tubes into a tube tester.


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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Sun 11, 2018 7:21 am 
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take a 2 channel amp, install some monitoring jacks and a meter and have an audio tube tester

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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Sun 11, 2018 7:35 am 
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Adinol wrote:
I am going to research the Heathkit models, as recommended. Right now the budget is only around $100 so even if I end up needing a more high end tester in the future, it seems that this would be a good backup to have.Thanks...

My Heathkit IT-21 is on the bench, the Hickoks are under the bench or in the closet.

Dave


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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Sun 11, 2018 11:03 am 
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For the list of tubes you provided the Heath TC series would do fine. Learn
the equivalents.

For any tube tester you buy, make sure the meter works. Do so in a way
that compels the seller to refund.

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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Sun 11, 2018 4:42 pm 
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I'm trying to decide what makes best sense for me.

I joined this forum recently because I own 4 tube radios that I just want to service for my own collection and I also just bought a 5th one (a model I always wanted). I do not have any plans to do radio repair work professionally, but since I have the compulsive personality to fix old stuff it is very likely I'll fix some radios in the future.

I also want to learn about building guitar amps - but not only tube amps.

When I introduced myself to this forum some members mentioned that I should be able to find a decent tube tester for as little as $20 or $30. I never thought of getting one, but since I read that post I started looking into it.

I see that eBay prices are higher than that and now that I've read the info on the Tone Lizard site I understand why. For my needs, $100 is already a stretch, but I guess I could justify spending as much for the joy of learning and fixing my radios.

Now that I have a better understanding of what tube testers do and I've learned that those in the lower price range are just filament and emission testers, I have a dilemma. I can easily test the filament with an ohm meter and I guess I could easily breadboard all the tubes to test emission. So, I don't see any value spending more than $40 on an emission tester. This puts me in a $150 + S&H range to get a Heathkit IT-21 (or similar) off eBay. I don't really think I want to wait too long in hopes to find one at a flea market, Craig's List, etc... I just want to service my radios soon-ish and be done with it.

Through this thread I found out about VTVM's and also read on the Valve Lizard that those are priced much more reasonably, that very little can go wrong with them, that every tube wizard should use one and (if I understand correctly) that they can provide much more conclusive test results than any tube testers can.

I can see there's a bunch of them on eBay in the $30 range.

Now my dilemma is this... for my needs, as I've just explained, would it just make more sense to get a VTVM instead, use it to identify if any tubes need replacing and be done with it until the time comes for a next project?

What do you guys think?

Thanks...


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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Sun 11, 2018 5:23 pm 
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Adinol wrote:

If I understand correctly, for testing any tubes a VTVM would actually be a better choice than any tube tester, correct?
No. To test a tube, you have to set up a set of conditions and then make one or more measurements. "Test with a VTVM" means that you need to make some kind of setup for each tube that you test.

Quote:
One would just have to test them in circuit, as opposed to doing what appears to be a more "straightforward" test of plugging tubes into a tube tester.
You can get clues from how tube operates in-circuit. When voltages are not right---in a way that suggest a tube problem---then you can either sub another tube, or test the existing one. (see my earlier comment on grid leakage)

You could certainly build a test setup that allows you to vary parameters and make measurements on tubes. This will take quite a bit of time---so, unless you put a low price on your time---it's better to buy a tube tester. The other option is a very large stock of tubes---which makes sense only if you are planning on rebuilding MANY sets.

I would not buy a tester on E-Bay---if nothing else, the shipping cost will be high compared to the base cost. The best source is a hamfest, radio show, club auction. etc. My Precision 10-12 was $40 at Kutztown, and only needed a few caps and one new pot to get it going.

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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Mon 12, 2018 12:28 am 
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Here is a Hickok 533 /free shipping starting at $75.
Not much in these to go wrong if the transformer is good, and even then spares can be had.
Its not the most desirable model, but capable of all you want and more.
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Hickok-Model-5 ... SwqxpagHJm

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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Mon 12, 2018 8:32 am 
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glue_ru wrote:
Here is a Hickok 533 /free shipping starting at $75.
Not much in these to go wrong if the transformer is good, and even then spares can be had.
Its not the most desirable model, but capable of all you want and more.
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Hickok-Model-5 ... SwqxpagHJm

Thanks for pointing it out. I just think the price is likely to go up, as eBay history shows they sell for a lot more.

I found a Seco 107 for $120 as a BUY NOW.

It says it's a mutual conductance and emission tester, but I'm not sure. I also see that Seco made a Grid Leak Checker Model GCT-5 and this Seco 107 seems to be a combo tube tester and grid leak checker.

The Seco 107 is only briefly mentioned on the Tone Lizard site.

I can't tell if it's any good and/or worth $120.

Thanks...


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 Post subject: Re: What to look for in a tube tester?
PostPosted: Feb Mon 12, 2018 12:25 pm 
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Location: Powell River BC Canada
A grid leak checker will tell you a lot, if it still works, and you work
exclusively on high end test gear made before transistors.

Oh, :D , also on TVs Munced to drain the ultimate lack of components,
for city use, and depending on top percentile of tubes used for sync. (mini-rant)

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