deal with the first myth: "Valves are making a comeback"
- They never really went away!
it's true that almost every type of electronics that once used valves
is now Solid State, valves have never really disappeared from audio
and hopefully, never will. The high-end of audio is very much dominated
by valves and that's never really changed.
days, all of the popular audio valves are in full production...
brand new, shiny, top quality valves for almost every thermionic
audio component I can think of whether it's old or new.
there's still untold numbers of old valves left over in the world
because before the Solid State era, everything I mean
everything electronic, depended on valves and massive quantities
were produced for radios, TVs and even computers. God only knows
how many valves were stockpiled by the military in World War II.
these days, we can often choose to buy new or 'new old stock' (NOS)
let's deal with the next myth: "NOS is better than new stock"
not entirely wrong just mostly wrong!
of the valves made in the '50's and '60's (and even earlier) were
simply legendary for their quality and sound but for every
'magic old valve' that's still floating around out there, there's
at least a thousand dirty old tubes that really should have been
binned a long time ago.
nothing inside an electron valve that gets better for sitting on
a shelf for 50 years (it ain't a bottle of Scotch) so a lot of valves
that were great half a century ago may not be so good today.
speaking, I will recommend only new valves for a couple of reasons:-
(if you break one, you can get another just like it),
sourced choice of vendor, choice of brands,
readily available in singles or matched sets,
meet their specification,
a repairer's point of view, that's a tick in every box!
let's compare NOS:-
(if you break one, too bad!)
choice of vendors and brands,
rarely available in matched sets,
may or may not meet their specification,
may or may not sound good,
now, you'd think I'm anti-NOS. In fact, I occasionally buy and use
NOS valves myself but - I know what I'm looking for, I know what
I'm doing and I can tell the difference between trash and treasure.
are some truly excellent old valves still out there, but it's a
bit of a lottery and unless you're a total tube geek (like me),
you're much more likely to get a happy result from some new glassware.
Choose unwisely and you could waste a lot of money on garbage and
blow up your amplifier too!
be fair, there are a few reputable vendors who sell verified NOS
but you will pay handsomely for their excellent service... and there's
also a lot of ratbags my colleagues and I often have a chuckle
when we see some wood-duck on eBay bidding for dirty old valves
that we wouldn't hesitate to bin!
you're into tube-rolling and wish to quest for the Holy Grail of
old valves, that's cool if you're OK with the time, the money and
the risk involved, but if you just want to listen to some nice music
with a minimum of mucking about, stick with new valves.
should really go without saying but if you're looking to buy a valve
audio unit, you'll have a much easier ride if you pick one that
uses current production valves. Yes, there are new products out
there that can only use rare, obsolete valves! Unless you're into
exotica and prepared to pay a premium for scarce, antique tubes,
I'd suggest you look at something a bit more mainstream. Check the
valve numbers and see if they're still in the catalogues (or in
for me, the best reason to buy new valves is this:-
like valves and I want to see valve audio technology continue to
flourish and to evolve. The best way to ensure that this occurs
is to support the people who are alive and making valves today instead
of spending money on valves made by dead guys!