A little more information

The two main activities in my life: Helping the hungry in the late hours of the night and helping guitar players sound better one amp at a time.

I always try to remember that in order to do good one has to take action and actually do something.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I have watched the city and Southern California change for well over half a century.

I can be found on facebook at www.facebook.com/mylesr or on twitter at www.twitter.com/myles111us or on my own Guitar Amplifier Blueprinting website at www.mylesrose.com

Los Angeles Architectural History

Los Angeles Architectural History
1935 Art Deco at some of its finest: No. 168 - Griffith Observatory- (click on the photo for information)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

What I learned from the failure of a single tube

This morning I woke up thinking about my friend Dan Boul.  OK.  That may be a bit misleading.  I love Dan like a brother but ....   

I had a huge dinner which may have contributed to weird dreams.  Could that have contributed?  My Facebook friends are aware of the dinner I had last night as a side note.

The thought was about the day The Whiskey died a few weeks ago.  

Probably got your attention by now?  Possible man crush?  Amp failure?  Click on "Read more" below to continue.

OK.  First off, even with three marriages under my belt I am not ready to convert to the other side even if Dan Boul has hair that is a continual topic of conversation by some of my friends.

Second.  Can we learn anything from the failure of a single tube?

In March of 2002 Groove Tubes was working on a new tube release, their 6L6GE.  I had some of the first of these at Guitar Amplifier Blueprinting  that I was testing for Aspen Pittman at Groove Tubes.  I had not yet become an employee.  My findings and commentary can be seen in the 2002 piece on this page if you scroll down a bit.  http://www.guitaramplifierblueprinting.com/6v6.html

The 6L6GE was released in May of 2002 and was one of the best 6L6 tubes I ever tested or used.  I coined the phrase NVM - New Vintage Manufacture which explains in the piece if you follow the link.

I kept one of the tubes I had running in a fixture I used to test tubes for life.  During my six plus years at GT my test tube continued to run at full output.  24 hours a day, seven days a week, audio signal into a load. 

The operation stopped two times.  Once when I shut down the test fixture to transport it to GT for Aspen to see my rig and when my rig went back home to resume the test.  Aspen wanted me to give him the tube as a keepsake but I refused.  The getter flashes were getting smaller and had rings but the tube still tested to spec and I was not about to quit.  Bottom line, the tube ran for 9,164 hours.  Over one year of continual use at an output that cycled from 40%-125% every six minutes for over a year.  

I learned something from that single tube.

Move forward to 2014.  The scene ... Dan Boul's house getting ready for his weekly show (normally done from a studio) with some cool folks.  Howard Johnson (great fellow, musician) and Frank Falbo who builds some amazing instruments - http://www.falboguitars.com  Frank had brought a speaker cab of his own new design to the interactive webcast to be shown to the audience and participants in the weekly broadcast.

The speaker cabinet needed to be driven by two amps and we had a Producer, London and The Whiskey available.  We grabbed The Whiskey as one of the amps and a vintage small combo from Dan's inventory.

Things sounded good but we were not blown away.  Something was wrong.  Investigation discovered that one of the two output tubes had failed.  

I am not going into the type of brand of tube in this piece.  I will state that The Whiskey is not one of Dan's low voltage / high current designs.  The output section is very vintage plexi Marshall like in design voltages and not the extreme voltage examples that were found in some cases.  Pretty straight ahead voltages.  

What did I learn from the failure of this single output tube?  

Well, unlike the single GT 6L6GE mentioned above earlier that impressed me, the failure of this tube gave me a few things to ponder.

The tube had very little use on it.  Maybe 100 hours at the most.  Probably closer to 50.  The amp had been used in a few gigs so it had a little travel time.  Travel time?  The amp traveled  short distances in the back of a Honda Odyssey that rides smooth.  We're not talking about bouncing amps down the interstate for hundreds of miles, night after night, behind a Kenworth or Peterbilt with a trailer in tow.  We are not talking about Michael Burks (we miss you brother.  RIP) towing a trailer behind a conventional van with his Empire amps and a Hammond B3 and Leslie 300 days a year.

Did the tube fail from vibration?  Life?  Bad parts?  Bad assembly?  No QA or QC?  I don't know and I don't care.  It is not worth the time to find out.  If we did know would the maker even care?

This single tube affirmed that you cannot count on current production tubes.  Players always need to have a spare set of tubes when they gig or travel AND just because they are new in the box it does not mean they are good.  Run them in your amp for at least ten hours before they are to be considered known good spares (even if they will probably be short lived).

This single tube had the potential to teach me something down the road.  Instead it affirmed some of my other beliefs.  

Footnote:  If you want to learn more about The Whiskey or other amps from 65 their link is www.65amps.com  If you would like to view past "Lunch with Dan" shows or participate online in future shows just follow this link:


  1. Good post, Myles!! I guess I better get out that spare pair of EL84s and put them through their paces to make sure they can make Lil' Elvis sound like I expect it to sound!! Stay well!! (Randy Creath)