Why Can't Modern Tube Manufacturers Make a Proper Tube?

Current tube manufacturers, at least the ones I have tried should be utterly ashamed at their ineptness, apathy, ignorance, or whatever it is that makes them seemingly unable to make a tube properly.

And I never knew what I was missing before I tried reclaimed tubes from the 1950's, an era where people build things instead of ruining things.

The present manufactures are said to have the actual machinery to make tubes for which they have examples in hand and schematics on file, but they just can't do it.

Is this a case of Idiocracy? Are people just stupid today? The world and all creation do follow the 2nd rule of thermodynamics so I guess this is the case.

Listening to Black Plate RCA’s and Mullards in my system, even for a short time made it glaringly obvious that modern manufactures are embarrassingly inadequate. There is absolutely no comparison.

Why can't modern tube manufacturers make a proper tube?

1. lack of IQ?

2. Apathy? 

3. Lack of Materials?

4. Lost knowledge? 



Not too many years passed, I was in a conversation with a individual I met at a Forum get together where Valves are pretty much the thing and some very unfinished looking builds have Mercury Spill Kits on standby.

In a brief conversation, I was discussing Valves and the differences of impression tube rolling can create. The individual was a few streets in front of myself, they were making it known they were quite happy to detach the Manufacturers Base Pins and attach Pins of their own designs.

It was something being intimated that I should attempt to carry out.

As most of my interest in audio equipment over the past 5+years has been extending my investigations of all interfaces withing the signal path, the idea, of looking into discovering where a improvement can be found at the Valve/Valve Base Interface, should not be too far off limits.

My earliest investigations took me to a Valve Base used on my Phon', that locks onto the Valve Base Pins so tightly the removal of the Valve is quite a task, especially when assessed in comparison to a typical Valve Base Pin tightness as a connection.  

When I tube rolled this Phon' it was agreed the Valve Guards were removed for the exercise.

Using a Valve Base like the one mentioned, certainly begs the question about the quality of the solder connection of the Sleeve that covers the some of the Wire Valves  Base Pins on certain designs for a Valve.

I remember going into your local drug store and there you would find a RCA tube tester and underneath it would be where they held the RCA tubes.I worked for HL Dalis back in 1970.They sold electronics equipment and parts to every tv -stereo tepair shops from NYC to NJ,Conn and all of Long Island.We sold all types of tubes and TV screen tubes and some of them were big and heavy.I was and inventory ckerk making 0ne dollar and hour ,$40 a week,lol.I was 18,lol.


Here are the substantial and probable reasons why they were better constructed.

1. Maybe they weren't. Let's not create a historical story based on conjecture. We don't know the mfg and distribution processes well enough to compare accurately.

2. Tubes in pre 70s mfg were produced in greater quantities and were tested, when needed, more thoroughly before distribution.

3. The testing process wasn't exhaustive, but it was done.

4. Cost of materials to mfr tubes like those of the past, for the reasons previously noted in this thread, may be cost prohibitive.

5. The only reason why they MIGHT have been better quality...


No one is dying today if their audio components fail to work or sound bad. Well, maybe some neurotic audiophile. If a rocket, battleship, airplane, or medical equipment fails, people die. Period.

That's it.

Excellent tube ar being made in China - I recently picked up a set of KT88s and auditioned them against a set of Gold Lions a couple of years old,and some NOS unused Gold Lions.  The new Chinese tubes sounded better....

Of course a lot of crap gets exported too.


""Perhaps you should not obsess over your tubes quite so much and get out and meet some younger folk?"""


🤣 I don't think I obsess over anything. That's funny...a bit peculiar, but funny. Thanks for the advice. I'm going to do that right now. 🙂

I imagine myself sitting in a dark machine shop stroking my tubes never stepping outside but to take parcels from the youngerish mailman then sleeking back into the shop.

Anyone else here old enough to remember the TV repair guy coming a couple times each year to  replace tubes in the TV?     And I have yet to have a tube go out in my amp with new tubes.    Hmmmmm.....

A bit judgmental aren't we? Face it, audio afficionados are a small part of the consumer market and tube addicts are a minority of audio nuts. As several have noted, in the 50's and 60's, tubes were mass-produced on the latest equipment with many materials we can't use today. Current tube makers have a minuscule market and often, must do with outdated equipment and replacement materials. Also, at my last job, I was the oldest employee by several years; I worked with mostly 20- and 30-somethings. And I can tell you, they were smart, diligent and creative as all get out. Perhaps you should not obsess over your tubes quite so much and get out and meet some younger folk?

On the one hand, the materials as well as the techniques of this ancient method of production have changed with the progress of the times,
and secondly The market for vintage tubes is relatively niche and can be driven by audiophiles seeking a specific sound profile. As a result, there might be less pressure on vintage tube manufacturers to adhere to the same manufacturing standards as large-scale modern tube manufacturers.

@glennewdick ”I’m willing to bet there were far more failed tubes in the early years then most here would like to admit. just the sheer amount made would dictate to a much larger failure rate then we see today. there”

Many years ago, as I was running with a friend in a forest outside of Augsburg, Germany, I remarked on the number of “holes” around us. Gunther explained these were from bombs from WW2 and we were running on land that was once a Messerschmidt (or BMW) aircraft factory and airfield and not to go off the trails as there were many UEO (UnExploded Ordnance) remaining.

Okay… so how many bombs never went off?

I’ve seen estimates in some places as high as 25% of some production runs - and this is on both sides - Axis and Allies. Low estimates of 10% are out there, out of the literally tens of MILLIONS of bombs manufactured.

Google “bomb failure rate in ww2” or similar.


How does this relate to tubes?

Well, think about it. Even at the much-vaunted “10,000 hour” lifespan of MILSPEC tubes from the era, the market isn’t exactly flooded with those tubes. I recall Army service techs in the 70’s (older NCO’s who worked on tube gear in the 50s-phase out as SS was being fielded) telling me tubes were failing right out of the box and I’ve seen that myself working in a music store in high school with a brand stinking new set of pricey tubes in Marshall and HiWatt amps - poof!

Except if it’s a bomb - no tubes, yes, but “technology” - and it fails, someone’s vacation on the Rhein, or a backyard gardener in suburban Dortmund or London has their weekend plans ruined while the EOD guys extricate a 200 pounder which is still a common occurrence.

It’s somewhat of a miracle that so MANY 75+ year-old tubes are still working at all, given the marketplace competition for the survivors the pricing is understandable.

Sturgeon’s law comes to mind, “90 per cent of everything is crap.”



@ghdprentice My post was relating to the title of the thread and there is certainly only one place for the tube in relation to the Global Electronics Industry, the Thermionic Vacuum Tube is a Superseded Technology, as is the other Superseded Technology referred to, the Vinyl LP as a medium for embedding recorded data.

I use both Valves and Vinyl, I dropped the Transistor in Power Amplification more than 30 Years ago and have over the years adopted more Valve devices, Phono Pre - Pre-Amp and DAC. 

I have used Vinyl for approx' 40 Years and have only recently added a CD Source to my system.

I get the whole attraction to maintaining the use of Superseded Technology, my Stacked Speakers are a design conceived approx' 68-70 years passed and has been first marketed 65 years passed.

The World has changed, and more, much more is known about human activities, especially their pursuit of pleasure, entertainment and self indulgence and how the combined effect of the collective are very destructive to a fragile eco system. 

In a nutshell, I can easily drive a TT with a Battery. I can easily find a Battery that can be re-charged by Solar Technology.

The Tonearm and Cartridge are Passive, and only come with a manufacturing impact, The TA can be a keeper and only required as a one off purchase, or used TA's can be considered, if exchange arms are desired, again keeping the manufacture impact minimal. The Cart' is sacrificial, which will mean at some point it will need a replacement, for the past eight years, I have been buying in used Cart's and having them rebuilt, again a method to reduce the impact of manufacture.

The Vinyl LP's in use have Albums that are belonging to a collection that commenced over 40 year ago. My most recent purchase has been a New Album.  

The CD Source can be Powered by a very similar methodology that can be adopted for the Power Supply, 99% of my owned CD Collection are bought as used items, again a method that reduces the impact resulting from manufacture.

Friends have already adopted Battery Power for their Pre-Amp's and one has adopted Battery Power for their TT.

I will be pursuing Battery Power myself.

My Speakers which rely on a Power Supply are used in Conjunction with other Speaker Designs, one of which is a used purchase passive cabinet speaker, this speaker although not as good a performer as the ESL Speaker, is a attractive experience. The impression the cabinet speaker has made has spurred myself on to discover a Speaker to Supersede the use of the owned speakers at present.

A Speaker Design is being put together using a selection of owned high quality drivers, to be built using already owned salvaged materials to produce the structure.

Valves are Power Hungry and not really wanted in today's world, alternative methods are the better option in relation to Power consumption and the supporting infrastructure required to optimise the Valves performance, there is a lot of stuff required, a Power Amp's Copper used in a Tranx, can be substantial and if used for a different audio Power Amp design, might have enough Copper to produce 100+ Circuits.

The idea of supplying a Battery Power Supply becomes a investigation into what might be the required Solar Array > Battery Bank, or a device used to power a off grid RV or similar. Such a Power Supply type will require substantial monetary outlays.

Valves are a very difficult choice, if one is to do their bit to cut back on creating unnecessary emissions of harmful pollution. 

Manufacture releases all sorts of Toxicity into Water Ways and the Atmosphere.

Consumers using their purchased goods for entertainment purposes only, as a collective do quite a bit to impact on creating harmful gasses being released into the Atmosphere.

Consumers who are the type that are buying new regularly, exchanging earlier models for the latest models, are fuel for the Toxic Water and Atmosphere that the world is no experiencing.

Note: There are billions of life forms living with humans on this Planet that are deeply impacted on by Human Activity only.   

Have my own efforts been enough to justify my usage of Valves, who knows, I don't do the Math.

For those that do do the Math, I drive approx' 100 miles per week in a 1000cc Car, I use a Train for all other travel, I can't recall the time I last took a flight to travel, maybe eight - 10 years ago.

My TV was purchased in 2004 and is watched for approx' 10 hours per week by myself.

I am not a gamer and my last phone was purchased in 2018.

My music system has very few devices that are from a Typical Manufacture Background and those that are are used purchase items, but can be bespoke modified when put to use.

I listen to music on my own system on average for about 100 hours per year, but do share time with others and their systems, of which some are Valve Orientated with ESL Speakers. This could be construed as my being instrumental in encouraging the use of other Power Hungry Set Ups.

Am I doing enough to off set my usage of a Obsolete and Power Hungry Technology, let the math decide??

I like to think my doing something and intending to do more about putting a off set in place is plenty.    


Actually New “Tung Sol” efforts have been great …their el34b was my very favorite power tube.




In my case, I'm not talking about "issues" I'm talking about how I never tried NOS until very recently. I've never had and issues w/ Gold Lion, but the sound difference was remarkable when I used some RCA pre tubes and some Mullard input tubes. I am still running Gold Lion Power tubes and really dont see myself changing. Four KT77's cost me under $400 and will last me 2-3 years. I dont see myself spending 3 times that amount for the same time. Thats just me.


But, its not about issues, its about much better sound.

My question in the beginning was, why the difference in sound quality and I think we've had some fine explanations from the gallery.

We all like tubes and they do a better job than solid state.

 does anyone here have an understanding of what atube does within in an amplifier? Why are so many used in the more powerful amplifiers.

So the current flows through A vacuum tube versus a solid state circuit. ok, that's good info. What is being achieved with all these tubes? Current flows in and causes a filament to glow and then current flows out. So what's being accomplished?

Uh, they can and they do. I've had no issues with many KT150's I've bought for my ARC amps, same with Electroharmonix and others- in fact, I've had no issues with any tubes I've bought.


I must disagree that tubes have had their day in high end audio. Certainly from an overall perspective… consumer goods… etc. But in high end audio a number of companies attempted adoption and backed off because they could not reproduce with solid state designs the realism and musicality. Audio Research for instance, tried to us solid state and ultimately gave up. It is more like the advent of CDs and the renaissance of vinyl. I believe the vinyl renaissance is coming to an end, but not the tube.


At some point solid state will surpass tubes in the high end. But it is likely to be two or three decades away. I am living in the moment and want the best sound possible today… for me tubes provide that. It is also true for an awe full lot of folks with deep experience in high end audio.

Tube Technology like all technology is a dog that had its day, but more importantly from the Hey Day the Tech' was all about the people involved in the production.

It is safe to say the Tube was replaced by the much less power hungry Transistor and the Transistor by its function is quite Tube like when used in a audio circuit, as in its earliest guise it is a not too complex simi conductor, it has limited functions to which it is dedicated.

The Transistor was already mainstream in the 1950's, so the idea of Valve Production Plant's trying to compete was most likely a commercial suicide, the writing was on the Wall.  n 

Where the real changes are most likely to have occurred, is a result of War in Mainland Europe the Factories that had brought on the skill sets to be creative and innovative were losing their employees at a fast rate to the War Effort and as a story of tragedy, not many were to return, and plenty that did return, may not have been able to fall into life as it was once known.

Factories were pretty much set back and as they were trying to get back to their pre-war status, the Transistor was fast coming through as the more attractive option.

The Wars of the Twentieth Century, in conjunction with the follow up Arms Races are most likely why there is such a history over the past 40 Years of NOS, as most Tubes are from a substantial intinary of a Military Surplus released into the mainstream.

It would have been wonderful to have been blessed with the all seeing eye and have bought a Batch of Mullard ECC32's in the 90's, when they were a few £'ss each. 

The 32's are quite cheap in comparison to some other Brands, that not too many years past were very cheap finds.     

Several here stated having true success with new production tubes, and compared to their vintage tubes. Inventory is starting to pick up again for the new big bottles.

It’s worth noting where Sophia Electric and some of these tubes are actually OEM manufactured and labeled. That info is usually found on other forums.

As long as there is some performance guarantee, and we deal with reputable tube resellers, it should keep tube amp fans going for a while longer. Happy Listening!

I have been running 8 A-matched Sophia Electric EI-34’s in my Primaluna and have been very pleased with them. Not cheap though.

I've got contemporary WE 300B's made in Georgia (the state, not the country) - those are awesome tubes that made my amp sound like an upgraded model, if there's been one. Expensive indeed, but worth it if it's what you like. 

@decooney I run Harbeth 40.3 XDs with a Rogers High Fidelity EHF 200 MK2. Sounds really good, drives them with ease.

As many of us have learned through experience, buying new tubes from a trusted seller who actually tests and ranks their tubes matters too.

It does, (goes for new and NOS) and if you are running tubes like KT150’s new Tungsol’s are the only option. However Roger said the reject rate is pretty low on the 150’s, but not definitely not 0%.


Many Modern tubes are pretty good, if you buy from sellers who thoroughly test and match them.  They identify a lit of rejects that way, and guess what? Somebody else sells those rejects.   If you’re looking for a “good price”, guess which tubes you get. 

@jtcf decooney I am thinking the same about how many people have actually tried several new production tubes before dismissing them as sounding horrible...

Yep. I’ve not let go of my best Mullard, Sylvania, RCA, Tungsram vintage tubes yet (keeping them hoarded away for no good reason), my preamp and mono tube amps now run all current new-production tubes. Tubes from Psvane, TJ Full Music, and Tung Sol too. With patience, i’ve found some (not all) new production tubes can benefit from letting them burn in for 100+hrs. It can make a nice difference. True for my 6SN7s, 12Au7s, 12At7s input/driver tubes, and, KT120, KT150 output tubes. As many of us have learned through experience, buying new tubes from a trusted seller who actually tests and ranks their tubes matters too.

@macg19 AG is nothing compared to the Harbeth user group. Try posting anything about a tube amp there. They’ll rip your head off and stake it.


The proud new owner of my former modded Cary V12R tube amp, and his Conrad Johnson mono tube amps - runs his Harbeth 40.2s amazingly well. I also heard his 40.2s with his very best CJ Mosfet solid state amp too. Nice, but the more special tube amps performed at an entirely different level of sound and engagement in his particular setup. 

Some tube amps are more capable than others. Not every tube or amp works well with some speakers. When you find a great match, results can be truly rewarding.



@facten I know someone who has a quad of barely used NOS Shuguang Military 6L6GC (pre-1970, not blue box)  available if you are interested.

@mulveling  It’s a wonder young folks aren’t flocking to this hobby lol.

AG is nothing compared to the Harbeth user group. Try posting anything about a tube amp there. They'll rip your head off and stake it. 


I replaced modern GL AT7s and AXs with old RCA and MULLARD and the difference was night and day.

I currently am using modern GL KT77s and I have no idea what original tubes will sound like.

I'm testing out the durability of the Linlai 6sn7 tubes compared to my kenrad's, the kenrad's don't sound quite as good as the Linlai, but I'm still on the durability stage, the Linlai have only been on a year on 24/7 , the kenrad's were on 24/7 for 3 years and still sounded good. Only time will tell now.

Tony, I believe your thesis is incorrect in regards to my situation. It may be true in regards to others.  I recently (3 years ago) replaced 18 year old Gold Lion KT-88s and ax-7s with the same. Flawless replacements.  I'm positive they were not NOS. I could not be happier. I am not arguing that different tubes may produce a better sound. I am saying these Russian replacements arrived as advertised. 

@decooney I am thinking the same about how many people have actually tried several new production tubes before dismissing them as sounding horrible. After some experimentation over the years with both NOS and new, my amp sounds the best it ever has using all new production -Linlia, Psvane, and TungSol.My preamp still uses NOS RCAs which I like very much so I keep some extras stored.But I plan going forward to give some new productions  a chance.


If mastering social media controls was a sign of intelligence, JJ tubes would sound amazing and the world wouldn’t be a toilet of moronitude.


This place is more of a web 1.0 forum / BB than it is social media. And just to be clear - you’re good with "meh, good enough" in online communication style, but not with tube manufacturing, right?

Lots of guys here like to shake their fist at the clouds. It’s a wonder young folks aren’t flocking to this hobby lol.

If mastering social media controls was a sign of intelligence, JJ tubes would sound amazing and the world wouldn't be a toilet of moronitude.

True .. and in a way, profound.





If mastering social media controls was a sign of intelligence, JJ tubes would sound amazing and the world wouldn't be a toilet of moronitude.



How about Idiocrates as well for a patron?


@tonydennison If you’re going to question the IQ of modern tube makers, and decry the "meh, good enough" work ethic, it might be a better look to spend a few minutes mastering the use of block-quote formatting. You can also combine multiple quotes and responses into one comment ;)


""Sophia Electric makes the best production tubes.""


Yeah, they look beautiful. I would love to hear those without throwing down $700.

I’m willing to bet there were far more failed tubes in the early years then most here would like to admit. just the sheer amount made would dictate to a much larger failure rate then we see today. there was also budget cheep tubes made back then so its all relevant. The good tubes made in the past are now stupid money.

new production tube have also come a long way in the past decade to the point i think they are on par with or close to the average NOS stuff. lets face it the really good NOS tubes are getting long in the tooth for availability so there are only the mediocre NOS tube really available in any quantity.

I’m just happy someone is trying to make new tubes still and good quality ones at that.

"I looked at the Tak’s and they were over $1K a piece....No way I’m doing that."

Me neither. That’s one reason I have jumped off the tube bandwagon, along with convenience, the uncertainty regarding actual quality of what you buy unless from select sources, and being a fan of technical innovation and advances in general that cut into the value of an old time technology like vacuum tubes increasingly over time.

As time goes on, like most anything of quality that is vintage and still desirable (much is not), the "best" tubes will only cost even more. How long can people make that work?

I also like wine well enough but the best is not even something that I aspire to there.


"In classical rhetoric and logic begging the question or assuming the conclusion is an informal fallacy that occurs when an argument’s premises assume the truth of the conclusion. A question-begging inference is valid, in the sense that the conclusion is as true as the premise, but it is not a valid argument."

@tonydennison  - regarding WE tubes they presently are only manufacturing their 300B, but as noted elsewhere in the thread their intention is to produce some other tube variants at their Rossville Works facility. https://www.westernelectric.com/rossville-works

Here's WE's links for getting on their mailing list for product annaouncements, and direct contact page.



Goggle is your friend



There was a UK company originally making medical tubes that came out with updated things like 12 series with considerable improvements  a number of years back. Never heard of them since. 

Basically, the market is tiny and the cost is high if I were to venture a guess.  One can emulate the distortion products in a transistor circuit and using various FETs, do a pretty good job of the transductance curves. I don't think we understand the "musicality" well enough to emulate in DSP but I bet some are working on it.   


I have a few observations that may help explain the nearly universal declining quality:

1) Finite Element Analysis.  The quest to do as much as possible with as little as possible. Sounds like utopia but in reality "over-engineering" as we used to call it was making a thing to function/perform using at 80% or less of it's capacity. 

2) The idea that most consumers don' t care as much about quality as they do about price. This is why "built to last" was shelved and "great value" (cough, cough) replaced it.

3) Planned obsolescence. Making a rapidly depleting product that requires the consumer to re-buy it often. This is often accompanied by "laws" that protect the connected at the peril of the customer./consumer.

4) Rising incompetence. This  is almost universal in the USA and is a direct product of moral relativism. The patron saint of todays young adults is Mediocratese. His motto is "Meh. good enough."


Small market for vacuum tubes I guess and not a current technology like it was back in the day. Relegated to a small niche, retro, antiquated, and vintage applications..sad but there are companies like Western Electric who see some market potential and are at least trying to produce popular tubes for audiophiles. Cudos to them! 

Looking back at the 1950's and 1960's, remember, everything was made with tubes, except for mainframe computers and exotic aerospace applications. And they weren't all that cheap ... multiply the prices by ten to get a better idea of the real cost.

Tubes are a very small niche market today, orders of magnitude smaller, and if it wasn't for demand from guitarists, there would probably be no tube factories anywhere in the world. As it is, audiophiles piggyback on to the guitar-amp market, and are at least ten times smaller, or maybe twenty times smaller. Fortunately, the middle-class Chinese audio fans are mad about tubes, so there is significant domestic demand in China.

The small demand makes robot automated assembly un-economic, and the R&D budget, compared to the 1950's, just isn't there. It's one thing to have the Department of Defense pay for reliability research, and throw hundreds of top engineers at the problem, and where we sit now, with a only a handful of design engineers worldwide, and none of them with DOD-sized budget.