Tube Amp Upkeep Cost

hmcmusicstudio

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So With Tax returns coming in the next few months with the start of the new year,I may finally get around to getting a tube amp.

My question is, what do the upkeep costs look like for it?
I have heard the output tubes must be changed at least yearly if not more often, and when tubes are changed, you have to get the amp rebiased...which also sounds very expensive for a local music shop to do.

so my question is, If I got an amp that was either 4 EL34, 4 6L6, or one of the lunch box amps with the 2 EL84s, in your experience what could that cost me per year?
 

rokket2005

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It really depends on how much you play and how hard you push the tubes when you're playing. If you're practing at band levels ~10-15 hours a week and gigging weekly, maybe once a year for the power tubes, which depending on the tubes is around $80 or so. I have 7 tube amps, and in the past two years I've had to replace a tube fuse, a mains fuse, and one preamp tube. Total cost of about ~22 dollars. Granted I mostly play the same 3-4 amps most of the time, shuffling different ones in when I want a different tone, and I use them strictly for recording with a Torpedo Live, so I am upping the masters pretty high, but not usually for more than an hour and a half at a time. Again it depends on the amp, the type of tube, play time, how hot the tubes are biased, etc. In my experience the monetary cost of upkeep on tubes amps is vastly overstated by people who don't have tube amps.
 

Bearitone

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When I owned my 6505 I probably paid about $150 annually for one set of new power tubes. You don't HAVE to change them that often but I preferred to. Old VS New power tubes aren't going to make or break your sound at a gig, but new ones will definitely add a little bit more life to your sound.

However, I recently switched to solidstate because I got sick of tube maintenance. Don't regret switching at all. My P2 preamp sounds almost exactly like my old 6505's preamp and my SS power amp sounds just as nice as the 6505 power amp except it never needs to "warm up". Just one click and it's on.
 

pearl_07

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There are a lot of factors to take into play when you should replace power tubes. I've gone a little over 4 years without replacing power tubes, but that's because I only played that amp once or twice ever few months. How often do you play, for how long, and how loud? Rebiasing an amp can go anywhere from $25-80, and some shops will give you a free or discounted bias when you buy tubes from them.

All that being said, I'd say $75-130 for the quartet of 6L6's or EL34's and $25-60 for a duet of EL84's plus that specific shop's biasing price.
 

op1e

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My guitarist practices once a week for 3-4 hours and hasn't retubed for 2.5 years with his Diavlo. I've rolled different one thru for flavor but have a set of Sovteks that are still good after 10+ years. Cold fixed bias amps like Peavey can go forever sometimes on a set of valves. Here's a tip. I never wanna be dependent on an amp tech. Buy an Egnater or Randall that was test points and adjustable bias points on the back of the amp. A $10 multi meter and half a brain and you're golden.
 

KailM

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As stated above, it depends on several factors. If it's your only amp and you play a lot at pretty high volumes, I'd plan on buying new power tubes every year.

I've had a 6505+ 112 converted into a head for about 6 years now. I recently blew it up, lol. The reason being, I kept running an old set of power tubes until one of them failed. You don't want to do that.

But before that, I was replacing the power tubes once every 18 months approximately. It only had two 6L6s, being a 60 watt amp. It wasn't that bad to afford though -- about $45 shipped (you'd pay about $90 for a matched quad if you ran a 100 watt amp). For the most part, I replaced my power tubes before they showed any signs of going bad -- but I always heard a very noticeable improvement with new tubes. Even on an amp that gets its tone from the preamp, new power tubes still make a huge difference over tired ones.

Preamp tubes don't need changing near as often. I've had the same set of 12AX7s in my preamp for 4+ years. They still sound great.

In my opinion, the tone you get out of a tube amp is worth anything you have to pay for it. It really isn't that bad, maintenance-wise.
 

vick1000

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Cold biased amp like Peaveys and Mesas are very easy on tubes. Put a good set in and forget about them for at least a year.
 

budda

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so my question is, If I got an amp that was either 4 EL34, 4 6L6, or one of the lunch box amps with the 2 EL84s, in your experience what could that cost me per year?

Expect to retube once every 2-4 years. It also depends on when you buy tubes. I just retubed my JCM800 during a 40% off sale at the tube store, so I saved a fair amount while getting quality tubes.
 

Alex79

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So With Tax returns coming in the next few months with the start of the new year,I may finally get around to getting a tube amp.

My question is, what do the upkeep costs look like for it?
I have heard the output tubes must be changed at least yearly if not more often, and when tubes are changed, you have to get the amp rebiased...which also sounds very expensive for a local music shop to do.

so my question is, If I got an amp that was either 4 EL34, 4 6L6, or one of the lunch box amps with the 2 EL84s, in your experience what could that cost me per year?

Lunch box amps should not require rebiasing, I think; they are mostly Class A amplifiers, not that I know what that really means, but it usually implies no need for biasing after a tube change. However, there are also Class A/B amps with a fixed bias (I think it used to be 5150s (not the 5150 II!) and Rectifiers), so they don't need rebiasing, BUT I believe that means that the 5150 is very cold biased (= less than optimal tone) and Mesa expects you to buy premium tubes for the Rectifier (= higher cost of tubes). Also, if you buy a used tube amp, the previous owner might have swapped power tubes at some stage without rebiasing it - who'd know!

IMO people scream "new tubes" far too early. As long as they work and don't sound horrendous, don't worry too much, ESPECIALLY in high gain amps.

Honestly, don't worry about the upkeep costs! Get the amp with the sound you want!!!
 

cwhitey2

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In my eight years of owning tube amps I have spent $180 on maintenance spread over 5 amps.


When it comes to maintenance cost I feel like I have gotten extremely lucky.
 

mongey

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The upkeep cost of tube amps is way overplayed.

As long as they are well made it isn't an issue

I'm fussy and my Mesa cops a pounding and I do power tubes every 18 months to 2 years
 

feraledge

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As with all gear, if I'm being honest, when I spend money it's 100:1 that I wanted to, not that I had to. The amount I've spent on tube amps is nothing compared to the money I put into tubes. I've owned possibly a dozen tube heads and swapped some tubes in three of them, I think. Another one could have used it, but I sold it instead. I've never had to replace every single tube at once.
I also really lucked out with this promotion deal one of my old favorite guitar stores would do, once a year Mesa reps came out and would check out heads, bias and retube anything that needed it for free till they ran out of tubes. I got a Dual Rec retubed (all power, 2 pre amp) for free which was amazing.
 

xero7

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I ve probably owned 20 different tube amps and spent a small fortune rolling tubes only to learn that if they work then use them. Pre amp tubes last forever although some sound good in certain amps and some don't. However if your amp sounds lifeless and lack depth and punch and gain it's probably the power tubes not the pre amp. You should get a year or two out of them regardless depending on hours of use. Right now I m using some super old mesa tubes in a 5150 (sovtek 5881) and they sound better than new Ruby 6l6 STR.ymmv.
 

budda

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If maintenance is the reason you don't' want to buy a tube amp, that's your prerogative. But it's a pretty lame reason.
 

oracles

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Cost is mostly pretty negligible, especially for common tubes like EL34, 6L6 and 12AX7/ECC83. Tubes last considerably longer than most people realise, and more often than not they aren't replaced because its necessary. With moderate to heavy usage, replace your power tubes every 12-18 months if you want to retain the most punch and depth, but bear in mind there's still tube amps older than most people on this forum running the tubes it left the factory with.
 

BuckarooBanzai

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Assuming the tubes are operating in a proper bias range you'll have to replace the power tubes every six months to two years for optimal tone. If the tubes keep working and you like how they sound you can keep them going forever but they do start to sound ratty after a while. If I were you I'd buy the amp, note how often and how hard (re: loud) you play, retube at the year mark, then see how much better it sounds after the retube. If the answer is "a lot" then change more often; if it's "not at all" then you can hold out for longer in the future.

As for biasing... it's not hard to do yourself with $20 worth of tools. Lots of sites (Eurotubes in particular) have good how-to information and instruction on how to do it. When I biased my first Marshall about a decade ago I was sweating bullets and not 6 months ago I did the same exact amp for a friend of mine in the space of 15 minutes. Just don't stick both hands in the amp at the same time or lick a filter cap and you'll be a-OK.
 

chassless

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I've had 3 small tube amps for 2 and a half years and never had to change tubes once. But then again i don't play near as much as some people here, your mileage may vary
 

hmcmusicstudio

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Thanks for all the replies!

You guys have really put me at ease. I was asking because I've heard long time tube owners bitch about it, and I figured if it was going to be super expensive I couldn't afford it.

Its great to know I could bias myself too. I'm all about self sufficiency.
 

budda

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Assuming the tubes are operating in a proper bias range you'll have to replace the power tubes every six months to two years.

The only time I've read about someone replacing tubes within one year (and that's people I haven't actually met) it was a class A amp running hot, or a faulty amp. If you need new tubes in 6 months then start buying better tubes and get your amp checked :yesway:
 

TedEH

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you'll have to replace the power tubes every six months to two years for optimal tone.

I must be doing the tube amp thing all wrong then, cause I've literally never changed power tubes out of necessity. Or pre tubes for that matter. I've never had a tube fail or get microphonic or degrade sonicly. I usually swap v1 to get the feel that I want, but that's about it. I play on a 20 year old amp at jam volume at least once a week, plus shows, plus it came with me on a short tour last summer - and it's still running the tubes that were in it when I bought it used. They could be 10 year old tubes for all I know. But they work. And they sound fine. I swapped in a set of new 6L6s once while troubleshooting a problem in a different amp, but ended up switching them back. The difference was negligible.

Tube amps don't have an upkeep cost any more than any other gear unless you're chasing superficial "optimal" performance all the time. On paper, everything will work it's best when all the components are new and fresh and have zero wear on them, but in practice it's the kind of difference that only the person playing the amp every day would ever notice, IF they even notice it.
 


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