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Trout 19th December 2004 06:28 PM

WE 300B Vs &&&&
Recently on Ebay,
Ive seen Several Listings for Western Elec. At extremely high prices. WE On Ebay

My Question is simply " WHY?? "

Do these tubes actually out-perform Other Brands?

Ive seen other brands also lately Both Import and Even Located a USA source manufactured and distributed within 15 miles of my home.

Heres the Specs Sheet on theirs 300B for UNDER $300 each.

What makes any of these That Expensive??
Im Clearly missing something lol.

Bas Horneman 19th December 2004 07:41 PM


Do these tubes actually out-perform Other Brands?
In terms of longevity, the answer is yes. Or so I've been told.

No current production 300B's last as long...not even current production WE 300B....Or so I've read...

The urban legend goes as follows.. Many WE 300B's provided faithful service in movie theatres for decades...and where then bought up by the Japanese who then continued to use them happily for years and years in their own amps.

Many also prefer the sound of the NOS WE to current production WE.

nanana 19th December 2004 08:36 PM

man, what a tricky question... i will try to answer some of this but it would take several books on economics and consumer psych to really clear up! but let me deal with some of the background first, before i even try to do this.

the ONLY reason there are ANY commercial vacuum tubes (i am not talking about ceramic oil cooled tetrodes, klystrons or magnetrons for the military...) still in production and available is because of two things: rock and roll, and cheap overseas labor (russia, china, slovak republic, serb republic). i work in the business so i am in a position to say something about this. for every tube an audiophile manufacturer or consumer buys, the rock and roll hardware business buys about 200 (depends on the tube type, the above is accurate for 12AX7, 6L6, EL-34 and 5U4). the only profit in this business is in efficient economy of scale (lots of sales) and good ole fashion buy low sell high: the basis of most capitalism. there is not generally alot of profit in one tube sale. please remember this as i go on.

as the cost of living/standard of living improves in those tube producing countries, there will eventually come a point where the cost of making a tube and the price manufacturers are willing to spend on it will no longer match. that time is a few years away (war has helped suppress the economies of the world... and bought us a little more time) but it is approaching. the tube era will really fade after that. still, providing that fender, marshall (korg), mesa, peavey, korg, and the pro corp's and boutiques together as a block still buy tubes (roughly 85% of the world market), there is enough money to be made to maintain an interest for those making or selling them. the hifi business is a marginal but still important part of this whole (the big players are macintosh and audio research, about 30% of the hifi segment). 300B sales are a tiny tiny miniscule fraction of this business. they sell for more than other tubes so it can still be sensible to make them.

how much does it cost to make a tube?
this is a really good question and the answer is complicated because it completely depends upon WHERE it is made. the materials for making tubes cost roughly the same everywhere because these are commodities or simple added-value products: borosilicate (leaded or not) for glass or just glass tubing; fine nickel wire (fine means very pure), rolled nickel, nickel tubing/sleeves and laminated nickel (with aluminum or steel) for making cathodes, grids, plates (all of these things are special to tube manufacture); magnesium or tantalum for getters; the various carbonates (calcium, barium, strontium)and binding chemicals and gums; phosphor-bronze wire stock; mica; various ceramics; lead solder; etc... after you find reliable vendors for the stuff, then you have to purchase tooling, pay rent on a space, and pay someone to make them: engineers, skilled laborers, basic laborers (where do you get them if they're not already in the factory?). at this time, it costs least to make them in china but china is getting increasingly efficient and skilled at making anything and they are just getting back into scale tube manufacturing (they were out of it for a while). if they suceed in getting their foot back in the door, its bad for the rest of us. (the boutique tube guys like full tube or all tube vaic or whatever don't even register as a blip on this radar...) it still does not cost that much more to have them made in russia, serbia or slovak republic and the quality is much closer to or simply superior to what we took for granted in the USA back in the 60's and 70's. the average monthly wage in russia is still under $100 in saratov, for example, but that is up from the roughly $50 a month from 5 years ago. as of today, if you have a factory, it costs between $50K and $100K to tool up a new power tube with all new parts (small signal tubes are less). savings can be had if parts can be used from other production. minimum quantities will need to be in the 20K/year and up range to make it profitable for the factory (this is all in terms of russia). most factories can spread a run over a time period to save money. all the same, someone has to shell out a bunch of cash and wait to get it back... this says nothing about the infrastructure needed to distribute and sell the tubes. no one is getting rich making and selling tubes. there are a handfull of people in the business and they do OK. competition is still tough. microprocessor chips make real money. RF mosfets for cell phones make money. RAM makes great money. tubes do not. otherwise, you would see some real players in the business.

western electric (the current incarnation) cannot do any of what i just described. the cost of tooling, prodution, etc. is an order of magnitude greater than russia/china/slovakia/balkans simply because they are made in the USA. they are not made in the quantities necessary to bring the price down and the only way they can compete with the rest of the tube making world is by adding value that cannot be added somewhere else: they can say made in USA and made by the guy(s) that did it in the past. they are well made. i have had the 300B's and they worked and sounded great (still do as far as i know). are they that much better than the ones made in russia, china or slovakia? no, i don't think so, but that isn't for me to decide, is it? thats for the consumers who are interested in the added value. and thats business. by the way, i am not one of those people who believe or say that tubes were better in the old days... there was a bigger selection, thats all. there are great tubes made today and the challenge is for us to put them to work so we can keep enjoying them for as long as possible.

Bas Horneman 19th December 2004 08:55 PM

great post jc!

Geek 19th December 2004 10:50 PM

If you *must* try 300B to listen for yourself and there's no listening room nearby, in Vancouver sells them for $144 CAD/matched pair (EH) and $133/matched pair (Sino) :)

Sch3mat1c 19th December 2004 10:52 PM

Re: WE 300B Vs &&&&

Originally posted by Trout

My Question is simply " WHY?? "

Exactly two, and ONLY two reasons.

1. Westen Electric. Don't ask me how a phone company's name is worth millions, it just is.

Old WE germaniums and other tin can transistors go pretty high too. I've seen several auctions with "WE" just thrown in at random, having nothing to do with the auction...

2. 300B. Quintessential power triode, to say otherwise of it is to insult the GOT.

1 + 2 = megabucks.

I imagine the next step will be "Gold-Plated WE L@@K ATKINS-APPROVED!!!!!!!!1111".


fdegrove 19th December 2004 11:38 PM



i am not one of those people who believe or say that tubes were better in the old days... there was a bigger selection, thats all.
Sure enough, there was a bigger selection but all in all tubes were far more expensive than they are now too.

I'm sure that almost any tube lover around the world would agree that the best tubes from the Fifties, Sixties, even Seventies, sounded overal much better and lasted way longer too.

Then again, if we look at how these tubes were made, how they were run in and tested at the factory, this shouldn't come as a big surprise.

The market reflects the situation well: just looking at the silly prices some tubes are sold for tells more about this than anyone could in just a few words.

Cheers, ;)

nanana 19th December 2004 11:57 PM

yes, thats just it... i don't agree with that at all, whatever the majority of audiophiles say. i suppose i am still one of them, too? so that sounds a little strange probably. you are right about the cost of tubes though... most people these days would faint to see what they cost in our money! no, you will not convince me that the "good old days" were much better in terms of "sound of tubes" but we are all entitled to our own opinion. i like working with surplus stuff but am just as happy to be doing it with anything i can get! no! its not the tubes.... its what you do with them.

fdegrove 20th December 2004 12:14 AM


Guess we'll just have to disagree on this:


its not the tubes.... its what you do with them.
Let's just say I have this preamp designed to use a 6DJ8/ECC88.

I'm listening to it with European made ECC88, USA made 6DJ8 and Russian 6N23s.

I'll tell you that all will sound different.
There will even be audible differences from one manufacturer to another but one thing I know for a fact: hardly ever will any of the listeners prefer the sound of the Russian made ECC88.

You may argue that these Russian made tubes aren't really electrical equivalents but even if we adjust for this or redesign using the data supplied with that tube from the manufacturer it will still not win, soundwise.

Just like yourself, I too have been in the tube selling business for many years but being an audiophile as well, I just wish I could find current manufacture tubes that can compete with the better NOS ones....
I tried, still do, but there's just no way.


Wodgy 20th December 2004 12:39 AM

For the guys who spend $2800 on a pair of Nordost Valhalla interconnects, dropping $800 on a pair of WE 300Bs is nothing. And the tubes (being active, somewhat nonlinear devices) probably make a bigger difference in sound.

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