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 Post subject: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Jul Thu 05, 2018 5:02 pm 
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Can anyone recommend a tube tester make/model to use on antique radios. Most of the ones I have seen from the 1960s do not support the older tubes of the older radios from the 1920s and 1930s, etc. Looking for an all around tester. Thanks


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 Post subject: Re: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Jul Thu 05, 2018 5:15 pm 
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Location: Portland Oregon
Hi,

It depends upon what you want to learn from a tube tester. I would recommend either the Eico666 or the Knight 600 B or C tube testers for a simple tester that give reasonable results. Both of these testers have the 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 pin sockets. I am thinking that the more expensive Hickok testers are harder to calibrate and repair. I am not too sure how much more you can learn from a tube tester than emission and shorts. The radio is the best tube tester for it runs the tube in a real workload. I know that some of the more expensive testers give transconductance values for one point, but I"m not too sure how that will help you with your radios.

I have both the Knight and the Eico667. The Eico has the smaller sockets and the Knight has the larger sockets. They actually complement each other (IMHO) and I bought both for around $100. The build quality is pretty reasonable for both testers. I had to replace some resistors and all capacitors in both testers as well as do some other simple repairs. The Hickok 539 and 750 often sell for over $300 for a tester that needs repair (and I think that they are non trivial to repair) and I've seen people buy these things for over $1000.

I recommend that you look at a less expensive tube tester but then pair it with a curve tracer like the one sold by a hobbiest:

http://dos4ever.com/uTracer3/uTracer3_pag0.html

I think that this combination is a much more rich set of data than one get's from the more expensive tube testers.

Dave


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 Post subject: Re: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Jul Thu 05, 2018 5:22 pm 
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I've had good service from my Precision Apparatus Model 10-12, probably manufactured in the 1950s.
PA was a subsidiary of Crosley. It accommodates octal, 4-5-6-pin "pillar style", miniature, and vertical-radial-contact type tubes. These were relatively popular portable testers with techs who made "house calls" so there are still quite a few in circulation and they can be purchased in good shape for $100 or less. It's not a "final inspection" type tester but is adequate for evaluating most tubes made in USA-built sets from the late 1920s through the early 1960s.


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 Post subject: Re: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Jul Thu 05, 2018 7:20 pm 
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Personally, I love the Jackson 648 series.

All test the older 4-5-6-7 pin antique tubes except the last of the series made in the 1970s or perhaps late 60s.

Documentaion is readily available if you want to add sockets or figure out tubes which are not on the chart. (There aren't many)

Also, the shorts/leakage test on the 648 is very good. Most have adjustable sensitivity, and if it doesn't have the feature, it can be added.

http://tone-lizard.com/jackson-648/

Great documantation!

https://vacuumtubesinc.com/index.php/bo ... anual.html

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 Post subject: Re: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Jul Thu 05, 2018 8:21 pm 
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If I may suggest...

By far the most important test is the SHORTS test.
Any tube that tests shorted should be discarded immediately.
Testing it further can damage the tester.
All tubes should be tested for shorts before being powered up in a set.

Shorts and open filaments are the two absolute discard conditions.

The performance of a tube is best tested by using it in a radio.
You'll find some tubes that work fine at audio, but poorly at RF.
I never discard a tube that tests BAD on a tester unless it's really really low.

- Leigh

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 Post subject: Re: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Jul Thu 05, 2018 8:26 pm 
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I think the Hickok 600a is the best all around tester, and fairly affordable.

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 Post subject: Re: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Jul Fri 06, 2018 10:30 am 
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I've used hicock 533s since the 60s and they"ve served me well. Don't know the specific cdifferences but the same chart is used for the 600s.

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 Post subject: Re: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Jul Fri 06, 2018 3:42 pm 
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There are some tube testers that can test the overwhelming majority of receiving tubes out there; the large Hickocks, Heathkit TT-1, Triplett 3344 are examples. These suitcase-sized testers tend to go for a lot of money and they're not altogether necessary if you're focusing on antique radio repair and don't need to test every tube ever made to the n-th degree of precision.

What is harder is finding a good tube tester that tests the early types of tubes through the later ones. Older testers often don't have the sockets or the settings for later tubes and newer testers don't have the sockets, settings, or even the power transformer windings for earlier tubes. For that reason most of us end up with two, three, or more tube testers; one tester just can't do it all.

If you are really focused on radios of the 1920s and '30s, an older Hickok like a model 530 or 531 could be a good choice. They were made in the early 1940s so they handle most prewar radio tubes, but they are not highly valued because they aren't of much use for post-war audio tubes.

If you want a better mix of old vs. new tubes, the Heathkit TC-1 through TC-3, Eico 625, or Knight 600 come to mind. They are all basically the same, and test data can be shared between them with certain caveats. They are emission testers that were extremely popular and there is a lot of updated information available for them. For fixing radios it is more important to know that tubes are not shorted and their cathodes have good emission, than it is to know what their specific transconductance is.

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 Post subject: Re: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Jul Fri 06, 2018 4:03 pm 
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lorenz200w wrote:
I've had good service from my Precision Apparatus Model 10-12, probably manufactured in the 1950s.
PA was a subsidiary of Crosley. It accommodates octal, 4-5-6-pin "pillar style", miniature, and vertical-radial-contact type tubes. These were relatively popular portable testers with techs who made "house calls" so there are still quite a few in circulation and they can be purchased in good shape for $100 or less. It's not a "final inspection" type tester but is adequate for evaluating most tubes made in USA-built sets from the late 1920s through the early 1960s.


Agree on the Precisions...

I have Hickok and Weston testers, but my restored Precision 10-54 is my go-to for quick tests. Add a socket adapter and the latest tube charts and they will test almost any receiving tube that was made. And, they are well made and solid testers.

Pete

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 Post subject: Re: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Jul Fri 06, 2018 4:34 pm 
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+1 to Steve's love of the Jackson 648 series. My 648s works well.

Larry


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 Post subject: Re: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Jul Fri 06, 2018 5:53 pm 
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Mikeinkcmo wrote:
I've used hicock 533s since the 60s and they"ve served me well. Don't know the specific cdifferences but the same chart is used for the 600s.


yep, a 533 and 600 are nearly identical electrically, same chart settings and expectations

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 Post subject: Re: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Jul Sat 07, 2018 5:25 pm 
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I'm with Joe, the 600a is the best tester for a reasonable amount of money. You can buy one restored and calibrated for around $450.00 - $500.00.

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 Post subject: Re: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Aug Sat 11, 2018 10:46 pm 
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Thank you all for the recommendations! I'll be heading to the Wisconsin Antique Radio swap meet in September and will go by your posts, thanks again


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 Post subject: Re: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Aug Sun 12, 2018 1:39 am 
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Howdy. In a similar forum topic, I observed that recommending what tube tester one buys is similar to recommending what car one buys. Best advice I can give you before you buy, RESEARCH.

Here's the other recent thread ... read this one first :)
viewtopic.php?f=8&t=344715

happy hunting

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 Post subject: Re: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Aug Wed 15, 2018 2:09 am 
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A Sylvania Electric model 219 or 220 I've found to be the best all purpose/era tester for the least amount of money and/ or repair hassles.

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 Post subject: Re: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Sep Tue 14, 2021 6:46 pm 
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An old post but still relevant to those seeking a tube tester.

I have a Sencore Mighty Might TC162. Simple unit, works ok as an Emission Tester.

I bought a Hickock 6000A Mutual Conductance Tube Tester for $250. Works well, kinda complex if you are merely wanting a quick test for shorts or G0 / No-Go.

I bought a B&K 707 Dyna-Jet Dynamic Mutual Conductance but needed help for repairs and calibration. It was sent to TubeSound and it has been over a week and I still do not know the final outcome of the repairs and calibration. This is a NICE unit but needs specialized know how on repairs and the unit is complex. So now that I see this first hand, perhaps I should have passed on this one.

I am mentoring a young guy in my area on tube amps and he has an interest in picking up a "SIMPLE" emission tester. My recommendations are the (1) Knight 600 B or C, (2) Mercury 1101, or (3) Eico 635. All three are relatively simple circuits and you have YouTube videos where guys are doing repairs - so you will get some help. Of course, for any unit, the key is the Meter Movement. If that is not working properly, it could be hard to repair or find a replacement. I believe some testers are very similar to others so perhaps you can pick and pull from one tester and use the parts in another.

You'd think that with the number of "Tube Guitar Amps" out there, some company would have stepped up to design a new simple to build, simple to use tester.


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 Post subject: Re: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Sep Tue 14, 2021 7:24 pm 
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TomCarlos wrote:
I bought a B&K 707 Dyna-Jet Dynamic Mutual Conductance but needed help for repairs and calibration. It was sent to TubeSound and it has been over a week and I still do not know the final outcome of the repairs and calibration.

A week is nothing. Start worrying if it's two months :)

My recommendations are the (1) Knight 600 B or C, (2) Mercury 1101, or (3) Eico 635.

Also a Heathkit TC-1 or 2. With the Heathkits, you won't need any help. Its all in the manual

you have YouTube videos where guys are doing repairs - so you will get some help. Be afraid!!

Of course, for any unit, the key is the Meter Movement. If that is not working properly, it could be hard to repair or find a replacement. I believe some testers are very similar to others so perhaps you can pick and pull from one tester and use the parts in another.

Probably not, but you can certainly find one that will work

You'd think that with the number of "Tube Guitar Amps" out there, some company would have stepped up to design a new simple to build, simple to use tester

they have, for the higher end testers. The $$ just aren't there for a basic emission tester, and there are PLENTY of older ones available, functioning, and easy enough to fix.

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 Post subject: Re: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Sep Tue 14, 2021 10:24 pm 
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TomCarlos wrote:
You'd think that with the number of "Tube Guitar Amps" out there, some company would have stepped up to design a new simple to build, simple to use tester.


I can say this because I play bass guitar myself. The problem is that the guitar amp crowd are generally people who will pay $25 each for orange drop capacitors and $100 each for NOS paper in oil capacitors. A simple, cheap, easy to build tube tester would have no street cred with them and therefore there is no market for them. Judging by eBay some of them are clueless enough to pay $500 for a Heathkit TC-2!

And then there are the audiophiles....

There are a lot of decent emissions testers out there for reasonable prices. I did not follow it so I do not know if that TC-2 ever sold for $500. I do know that you can often get them for $50 or so. Many of them have the same circuit as Heathkit so they give the same results and with some translation can use the same tube charts. I like the Heathkits but since I now have some other brands I have gotten a little tired of the lever switch gymnastics that they and similar testers require. I have an IT-3117 which is small, light, and as good as any emissions tester. That particular model tests almost all modern and ancient tubes but lacked an old 7 pin prong base socket so I had to hack mine to put one in.

If there is a top dog in the emissions tester world it is, in my opinion, the Jackson 648. They were on the market for a long time and were upgraded over the years so if you want particular features you either have to make sure the one you are looking at has them or know that you can DIY them in. Mine is an early model but it came to me with the newer filament transformer with more voltages already installed. I decided to put a compactron socket in it and I also put in the variable sensitivity shorts test. I find the "twist this knob" shorts test and the pushbutton tube setup to be far more convenient that the lever switch gymnastics of the Heathkit and similar testers. They also have a slightly different kind of emissions test that may be more useful than the basic test. There is no agreement on that.

I ignored Hickok for a long time. Just too much buck for not all that much more bang. But of course the coveted and therefore more expensive models just ooze the street cred that the audiophiles, guitarists, and tube traders crave. So the most desirable models are very expensive. However the more humble 533(a) and 600(a) are usually reasonably priced as is the military I-177. All of these have the patented transconductance test circuit. They test a wide range of tubes but you may need adapters depending on which modern tubes you want to test. The transconductance test is valuable in that it gives you a different read on the health of a tube. Emissions are often the most critical parameter for power tubes, transconductance is often the most critical for small signal tubes. Having both lets you cover a lot of bases. I have a 533a which is just incredibly satisfying to use with all its knobs, switches, pushbuttons and wide variety of tests. It is HUGE however, and HEAVY. I also have a much smaller I-177 which does do many of the same tests although its simplified two knob tube setup is not as flexible or as satisfying to use. It is generally much quicker to use however. Any of those are good Hickoks to get on a budget. The (a) versions of the 533 and 600 will test the most modern tubes, the non-(a) versions are a little more dated and I-177 is the most dated but it covers most anything up through the 1950's except the 9 pin minis. I now have become a Hickok fan without resigning from the Heathkit or Jackson fan clubs.

And then I have a Seco 107. It is an emissions tester with a magic eye circuit that performs a reasonably well regarded and complete test for shorts, gas, and grid emissions which is good because it is considered so-so for emissions tesing. It has the usual array of tube setup levers but also an array of tube sockets in its lid that are prewired for the most common tube pinouts which can then be rapidly tested without any tube setup work at all, just look up the appropriate socket and plug the tube in. The emissions test for the tubes that have a socket in the lid is a version of the Jackson 648 test but I believe the tubes tested in the sockets on the main unit with lever setup are tested with the traditional emissions test circuit. It is small and fairly light. It is definitely a niche product.

But it has a magic eye!

Seco and Sencore both made testers that just have the magic eye shorts, gas, and grid emissions tests, btw. One of those could be a nice addition to your tester collection but I don't think that any of them test a terribly wide variety of tubes, the Seco 107 is the most capable in that regard.

I have one more tube testing device that is far different from any of those made during the tube era because it requires a modern computer in order to control it. If you really want to know what a tube can do then you need something like the uTracer 3+. Exactly when you would need the data it provides is beyond me but speaking as the gadget geek that I am it is intoxicatingly fun to have!

I only talk about the testers that I have actually owned and I mean no disrespect to the others.


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 Post subject: Re: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Sep Tue 14, 2021 10:42 pm 
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Now what you really *need* is the uTracer 6 :mrgreen:

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 Post subject: Re: Recommend a tube tester please
PostPosted: Sep Wed 15, 2021 1:45 pm 
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Barry H Bennett wrote:
Now what you really *need* is the uTracer 6 :mrgreen:


Don't I know it!

For those of us who are too young to have ever built a Heathkit, the uTracer kits are the closest modern kit that you can get to that experience. In my opinion they surpass it in fact. The kits are produced by a husband and wife team with occasional help from the adult (I believe) kids. He is a certified vacuum tube nut and this whole operation is a labor of love and a celebration of the vacuum tube hobby community. If you deal with them you will end up conversing with them more than you would with most vendors and you will find them to be a charming and cultured couple. I'm not saying everyone needs one or should buy one. If you do, however, you will find the experience to be delightful in many unexpected ways.

If this sort of thing had been available at this price point during the tube era, then every small design lab would have had them. If you wanted to do some kind of study of vacuum tubes you would find a uTracer or one of the other modern equivalents to be indispensable. If you should ever decide to design original vacuum tube equipment then a tool like these would be very valuable. For repairing radios they won't do that much more than a traditional tester would and in fact I would never connect a tube to my uTracer that had not already been tested for shorts with another tester!


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