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Old 6th August 2006, 11:48 AM   #1
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Default Tube testers which is the best?

Since we here seem to have a love for tubes I'm under the impression that there might be some opinions regarding tube tester performance. Which is best for what we do? Do we absolutely have to own the most expensive brand and model? Is stocking up on various models for future windfall a good idea?

How about a tube tester discussion?
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Old 6th August 2006, 01:14 PM   #2
amperex is offline amperex  United States
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I like Hickok tube testers from the 1950s on up.
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Old 6th August 2006, 01:21 PM   #3
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Default Re: Tube testers which is the best?

First of all, when we say tube “tester” what we really want for DIY is called a tube “analyzer”. The former usually refers to a simple emission tester (go-no go) while “analyzer” refers to a device that measures mutual conductance (now called transconductance or gm) under closer to real operating conditions, as well as measuring many other tube parameters. The former was useful for quickly finding the culprit tube in a broken TV set. The latter is used to more fully characterize a tube’s performance, and can assist in tube matching. That’s what we want for DIY.

Aside from rare and bulky laboratory reference analyzers, what most people seek is a “suitcase” analyzer. Hickok was the dominant brand.

Everyone has his favorite “tester”, probably the one he owns! I have experience with the Hickok 539B/C, the Hickok 752, the Triplett 3444, and the TV-7 military units. I’ve seen the European AVO units, which look retro-cool, but I’ve never played with them. Currently I own a Hickok 752 and a Triplett 3444. I also have a Tektronix 577 for plate curves, but I wouldn’t recommend a curve tracer for most hobbyists until after they’ve got a good suit-case analyzer.

The 539 series is probably the default recommendation in the US. They truly are fine units, and hard to fault as a recommendation. As a result, prices have sky-rocketed. The 752 was the successor to the 539 series, but is not as commonly seen, and is also a good choice. The TV-7 used to be available at hamfests for dirt-cheap prices, but those days are over. I do not recommend it anyway for general DIY use, because it’s not versatile enough. My favorite analyzer is the beautifully designed Triplett 3444 because it measures tubes using a wider range of well-filtered DC plate voltages that give you more real-world testing scenarios. The 3444 also uses a 5 KHz sine wave oscillator as the internal source voltage, rather than relying on half wave 60 Hz derived from the line. It easily performs all the other bells-and-whistles tests, and is a pleasure to use.

Originally posted by burnedfingers
Is stocking up on various models for future windfall a good idea?
That day may be here already. EBay prices for tube analyzers are pretty high for the coveted models. I toy with the idea of selling my 752, not because I don’t like, it, but because I never use it since the 3444 does just about everything equally as well or better.
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Old 6th August 2006, 01:56 PM   #4
bembel is offline bembel  Europe
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Hi, I own an Hickock I-177B from US signal corps and is socket adaptator MX-949 (I fink it was left in europe after WW2, but I'm not sure).
It is a transconductance meter wich, as said Brian, is a better test for us in audio.
I'm very happy with it, it seem very accurate (you need to do a recap-job the beast and verify the balance of rectifier valves (this is an old beast for instance))
Hickock have the reputation to be the tektronix of tube tester and I think you can trust an I-177B on all test (except maybe gas test for small tubes)
There are little problems anyway :
-110V is not convinient nowadays in europe.
-83 mercury rectifier tube is hard to find and needs special care (it's poison), it's a good idea also to let it warm up verticaly as it is not intented for horizontal use (mercury condensation and ZAP)
-tropicalisation smells a lot (maybe you'll get stoned with green spots ;-)
-pinout switching is combination limited (except with MX949 extention)
-It miss post WWII popular tubes like EL34/6CA7 or EL84/6BQ5 ---> data welcome !
-Test for little tubes is performed with Ugk=5V (way too much for me)

Otherwise,to me, the best tube tester for old tubes
I paid it less than €40 with extention (no comment)
Plus je pédale moins vite, moins j'avance plus vite !
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Old 6th August 2006, 02:55 PM   #5
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I use a Hickok 600A and I am very happy with it as it does a good selection of both older and newer tubes. You still need the optional extension panel to do compactrons, nuvistors etc. I also have a I-177 but its not as good for newer tubes. I am just glad I bought the 600A back in the days when they were $20....

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Old 6th August 2006, 03:11 PM   #6
isaacc7 is offline isaacc7  United States
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Has anyone tried this analyzer? It look pretty good and can be as flexible as anyone could need I would think...

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Old 6th August 2006, 04:25 PM   #7
kevinkr is offline kevinkr  United States
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Hi Isaac,
The transcendent Sound tube tester seems like a pretty good possibility.. One of the more interesting features is its ability to test at currents similar to those encountered in the circuits in which they will be used.

I think Hagtech makes or made an interesting tester kit as well.

I would definitely recommend the Hickok 539B/C series testers, and have and regularly use a 539B. I have the last generation charts and was able to get a complete set of manuals for it, although that was so long ago I no longer remember where I got them. I think the 600 series (have I got the model number right??) is also a good bet.
"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead." - Thomas Paine
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Old 6th August 2006, 04:36 PM   #8
isaacc7 is offline isaacc7  United States
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Originally posted by kevinkr
Hi Isaac,
The transcendent Sound tube tester seems like a pretty good possibility.. One of the more interesting features is its ability to test at currents similar to those encountered in the circuits in which they will be used.

Yeah, that's what caught my eye too. Has anyone ever built the RAT tube tester? The thing that appeals to me is the flexibility. If I ever got the motivation, i could build a tester for all those weird, two top cap tubes, 25 and 16 volt tubes, etc. Oh well, what's one more project on my to do list?:-)

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Old 6th August 2006, 06:17 PM   #9
EC8010 is offline EC8010  United Kingdom
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Here in Blighty, we like the AVO tester, of which the best is the VCM163 because it applies 15kHz to measure mutual conductance. Prices, however, have gone through the roof - I saw one go recently for £2100. I started wondering whether I really needed mine. I'd prefer a curve tracer...
The loudspeaker: The only commercial Hi-Fi item where a disproportionate part of the budget isn't spent on the box. And the one where it would make a difference...
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Old 13th August 2006, 07:12 AM   #10
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Yes I've built the RAT tester as designed by the Steve Bench. I have a collection of testers ( Eico, Heathkit, Mercury, Precision, AVO MKII, AVO CT160, Supreme, Sencore, Taylor and an ancient Confidence tester), the RAT is the easiest to use by far. It does'nt test directly for shorts but if you watch the anode and screen volt meters as you wind up the current, the meters dip if there is some sort of internal short. I had a bunch of meters on hand so instead of calibrated knobs I've added meters for all the readouts. After using it for about 2 yrs I plan to build another incorporating some extra ideas and also things that I should have done first up.
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