Buy tubes from Audio Research or not

I need to retube my ARC amp and I'm wondering if there is an advantage buying tubes from ARC vs and Independant tube dealer.
As long as you know what you want for tubes,buy from independent tube supplier,,.Why pay the extra $$ for ARC tubes..
ARC like some other equipment makers purchases lots of tubes for their equipment. They will tell you that the tubes they use and sell are only the finest and have been tested for everything under the sun, then they will charge you 3 times as much as if you purchase from an independent tube dealer. Let me recommend Kevin Deal of Upscale Audio to you. He is very knowledgable about tubes and has a fine reputation. He also prides himself on selling only high quality tubes. He also sells audio equipment. Go to his web site:
Yes. The manufacturer will be aware of whether or not the tubes need to be matched and they test for certain tolerances. They generally source hand picked and tested supply whereas an independent is just that-- the quality, credibility and intent to insure top quality can vary wildly depending on who you deal with.

ARC has their reputation and products to protect and service. If you are into tube rolling and esoteric hard to find tube types then roll the dice and see what comes up. If you want to insure consistent tube quality and reliable performance then I would stick with the manufacturer selected and tested lot. They may be a little more expensive because they are tested and matched more thoroughly than most NOS. I used to re-tube my CAT pre-amps through different independents and learned a lesson or two.
I think Samuel makes a very valid statement, but their are some things that I would like to point out. First, their are independent tube sellers such as Upscale Audio, that perform the same tests as ARC and others. Second, you have to consider the cost of retubing. I have a CJ amp that requires 12 6550's, 4 6CG7's and 2 5751 tubes. CJ wants $700 for the tube package, and that's insane! I guess if I only needed a few tubes, I might consider purchasing from the equipment maker. The third premise is that ARC will only warranty their tubes for 90 days, same as a great many Independent tube dealers. I purchased my tube set from reliable and trustworthy tubesellers for less than half of what it cost to buy from CJ. The tubes are now over 2 years old with approximately 2500 hours on them and I have had to replace 2 6550's just last month.
I would also like to recommend Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio. I have bought MANY tubes from him over the years and he has never steered me wrong. He has one of the most elaborate tube testing systems around. Well worth a call or e-mail to him.
Taters, you've got the Audio Research VT-100 mkIII right?

ARC wants $720 for 4 matched pairs of 6550C's, but you can get the same quality of tubes with the same level of consistency and reliability from Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio at anywhere from $240-350 depending on which brand you prefer.

Upscale burns in their tubes for 72 hours before testing, compared with ARC's 48 hour burn-in. Upscale offers the same 90 day warranty on tubes that ARC does - and they stand behind it 100%.

On top of that, Upscale supplies clients with individual tube testing measurements. Meaning that if, for some reason, you need to replace just one tube in the future, matching it's precise characteristics is easy.

I know this sounds like an add for Upscale, but I have bought from them before and received top-notch tubes and service. Perfectly packed and two day delivery. You really cannot go wrong with them.

Word of advice, though. Upscale can get very busy at times, so it is best to know what you want before calling. If you need to ask in-depth questions, I found Kevin to be great at calling back later that night to discuss things more.
I went to Upscale Audio website and they say they don't retube ARC vt-100's. That seems very strange to me.
I just talked to Kevin at Upscale Audio. He said they don't retube Vt-100's period. He was also very rude.

Wow, didn't know I was walking into a Deal-a-thon! :o)

I have had good experiences with Kevin as well. Also a gent in Michigan some years back named Ken Bowman of Top Hat fame had good tubes, test equipment and ran an honest shop. Mine was only a cautionary buyer beware tale, not a slight against Kevin or the one or two other worthy tube sources.
The ARC VT100 uses (4) matched pairs of 6550. Here is the link to Upscale Audio's 6550 tubes.
Buy from ARC, tubes from others may be matched, but they aren't matched at the exact current draw the amp expects to see. You could have a matched set from another source that isn't with-in the range the bias can be adjusted on the amp. Unfortunately ARC isn't divulging what parameters they are looking for in testing/matching tubes, so you don't know what current draw specification you want all the tubes to match. I've bought several matched tube sets from other vendors & had quality control issues. Output tubes you might get by with from other sources, but input/driver tubes need to be exactly what the amps looking for, or you'll never get the input/driver stage voltages in balance with-in specified parameters. My understanding is Kevin Deal doesn't sell tubes for audio research power amps (too many come back as returns)I, from personal experience, don't trust him & you won't find any negative feedback on this site because A-gon wants his advertising dollars.I've personally had my negative feedback for upscale not published on A-gon, without explaination or reply from "management". I'd definately recommend ARC tubes sets in arc power amps.I've retubed various VT100 series amps 3 or 4 times & wouldn't even attempt a complete retube with tubes sourced elsewhere. Getting the input/driver circuit with-in specs is a major, frustrating effort, because changes to one adjustment point affects the other adjustment point & visa-versa, a constant moving target!
I wasn't being rude. I was being direct. I guess that can come off as rude to someone that won't take no for an answer. You asked my assistant 3 times to sell you tubes. He told you 3 times we do not re-tube the VT100 anymore. It's been that way for over a year and is clearly stated on our website. He was not being rude or mean, he was simply informing you of our policy regarding that amp, and you were being difficult. So I jumped on the phone to end it.

I appreciate the shouts from others, and if it were any other amp the story would be quite different. I just don't want to retube that amp anymore.
The last set of tubes I bought for my little ARC VT50 I bought from Upscale Audio. When it comes time to re-tube the Amp I will do the same, buy them from Upscale Audio.

In case you haven't re-tubed your Amp in the past, you might want to check this out.
Abe Collins, ARC VT 100

Might explain a little better why Upscale Audio does not sales tubes for the VT 100 Amp.
Yes, You were rude when you said never call back here. I know you from F-chat and you were a jerk there as well.
Might explain a little better why Upscale Audio does not sell tubes for the VT 100 Amp.

Sorry about that.....
Audio Research certainly isn't making a killing selling tubes. It's simply a service the company provides because it sells tube products. If you've invested in ARC equipment, I would think you would want it to perform at its best, and you can be assured of that if you buy tubes that ARC has tested.

I found Upscale Audio to be rude, too, and this was after I had bought a set of power tubes for my ARC VT100MKIII a few years ago. Maybe Kevin or whoever I spoke to was just having a bad day, but there are several better options if you don't want to buy from ARC. Or go ahead and roll the dice.
Glad I don't own this amp! I wouldn't want to be bothered with all of this no matter how good it might sound.
I would avoid Upscaleaudio..... period. Go through ARC. I tried to upgrade tubes in my VAC integrated amp, and Upscaleaudio basically told me to take a hike, Kevin said he would not sell me his precious tubes.....they were too good for my VAC. There are enough reputable tube sellers out there that I do not feel I have to kneel at the altar of Upscaleaudio just to buy some's too short to deal with dweebs.

I would by from ARC if I could handle the cost for a lot of reason already mentioned. Now, of Roger Modjeski at RAM Labs has the specs on the ARC gear I would also trust him to provide extremely well matched tubes. I would ask him, he should be a bit less expensive than buying direct from ARC - he is a master of tube matching and testing and very honest as most anyone who has dealt with him will attest.
Just want to second Pubul57's recommendation of Roger Modjeski of RAM Labs -- I've been a customer of Roger's for 20 years and have never had a problem. (Kevin Deal's ads speak volumes about the proprietor.)
I think people should stop piling on Kevin. I have always found him to be helpful and honest. His knowledge of tubes is way beyond most of the jokers on this forum. What is amazing is that after reading the posts in this thread,I still have not learned why this amp is so difficult to retube!
I still have not learned why this amp is so difficult to retube!
03-04-09: Thsalmon
Did you read my earlier post? It takes a certain amount of skill to re-tube the ARC VT 100. If you do not know what you are doing you can damage the new tubes or the Amp.
This guy was successful
I own the LS26 and the VS115. Would I be ok purchasing a matched pair of 6H30-DR's from a tube supplier for the LS26 and the VS115 (Vs115 takes 2 matched pairs). The VS115 also takes 4 matched pairs of 6550C's and are very $$ from ARC. Thanks.
Not to pile on, but when I tried to retube a VT100 mk2 through Upscale they were rude to me also, but more importantly they were rude to my amp! LOL. Anyway, when I retubed a VT200 a couple of years later I remembered Kevin's, um, "direct"ness and ordered tubes from a Canadian seller. The tubes were supposedly Svetlana SED 6550C's like ARC uses, but the pins were slightly thinner... Anyway, one of the tubes flared, damaging the amp. So while the tube seller was happy to replace the tube, I had to send the amp to ARC for repairs which cost me about $700, mostly for shipping. So, I now have a Ref 3 and Ref 110, and I will absolutely buy my tubes from ARC.
It's funny, I just talked to another tube supplier and I mentioned the experience I had with Kevin Deal. He says he here's that story all the time. He said he wonders how the guy stays in business.
Just to straighten out some misconceptions, retubing the VT100MKIII is a straightforward process that requires no special skills. Retubing the first two models merely requires that you follow some instructions -- or have someone with a little skill do the task for you. It's not a big deal, and it's certainly not a reason to avoid these fine amplifiers. Plus it's not as if you need to retube them all that often.
My story with Kevin at Upscale Audio is that I was looking for some primo 12AX7's for my VAC integrated amp. I placed a order on-line for a 'Platinum' pair of Pope's at $250 each. So he calls me the next day and says my VAC is a tube burner, and not good enough for his special Pope tubes. Funny thing is I've had this VAC for 6 months now, and it has not burned through any precious NOS tube I've put in it. I've currently had Telefunken's running for 4 months and issues. He was not rude, but basically told me that he was saving his precious Pope's for customers that bought gear from him. My question is then why advertise them to the whole public on your website? If they're not for sale, they're not for sale....if they are for sale, they are for sale. There should be none of this "you can order them, but you cannot have them" attitude.

Life is short, and I don't care to be jerked around. As someone who has over 30 years in this hobby, I have no time for clowns like Kevin Deal. Sorry Thsalmon, but one reaps what one sows.

In your conversations with Upscale Audio, with regards to the tubes, at any time did anyone at Upscale Audio badmouth ARC or the ARC VT100 power amp?
I've been in this hobby for 30 years and Mr. Deal is the worst in the business. Audiophiles (at least some) like to be talked down to. That's why the a**hole has stayed in business. Call Andy at Vintage tube services or do the ARC route. Mr. Deal used to wouldn't even sell tubes to people unless they had bought gear from him. I guess he didn't want to deal with people who had some sense. He probably figured that if they had bought from him before that he had a chance of sticking it to them over and over again and again. I used to couldn't understand why people(audiophiles) would buy from such chacters like Mr. Deal or Mr.Welborne. As you can see most people have caught on to the likes of Mr. Welborne. Maybe the economy will weed out people like Mr. Deal.Let's hope so.

Kevin Deal said that he has had nothing but problems selling tubes to people that owned the ARC VT-100. He then told me never to call back and then hung up on me.
just remember what goes around comes around...I for one have bought tubes once from mr. d...after continuing to read these forums, never again.
Funny, I've bought from him a few times and have had nothing but great service.

The first time I called, I wasn't clear on what I wanted. Kevin was short because they were too busy at the time for the questions I had. Some may take that as rude, I didn't. He said he'd give me a call later in the day when, and if, things slowed down.

At 7:30pm that night, my phone rang - it was Kevin. We had a great conversation , he gave me great advice on tubes, 2 days later the 60's Mullard CV378 rectifiers showed up professionally boxed against damage and worked fabulously ever since.

How does he stay in business?

Simple, there are a lot of us who have had great service from Upscale and know they stand behind their products. If they say a tube is from a particular decade and manufacturer, you don't have to worry about getting a fake or fluke. And for some of us, that means a lot.

If Upscale is not to your liking, try The Tube Man, I've gotten pretty good service from him, too. And he sells 6550C's
I'm sure you are working on getting this thread deleted but I also experienced rudeness "due to" ARC tube upgrades. Please, are you serious? Attitude in this nerd hobby is really really funny. I've been listening to tubes since you were in diapers.
Check out Andy at Vintage Tube Services.He is very knowledgeable and a gentleman.His phone number is 616-454-3467.
Quote from Link below:

Here's your answer - Kevin Deal 11:44:46 05/16/08 (0)

In Reply to: RE: Upscale Audio no longer retubing ARC VT 100??? posted by cruzmsl on May 15, 2008 at 20:31:36

Bambi & Cruz.....the "Don't ask for an explanation" was not something I employee did and I had it taken down as soon as I saw it...but then again I don't have time to answer daily phone calls and e-mails on the subject. So those words are really not my intention.... I apologize for being rude and surly :-)

Selling tubes the RIGHT way with real test gear is something we do to support our customers that bought their gear here. Given our pricing compared to the pricing at ARC turned us into a bit of a "magnet" for ARC amp owners. The problem was that many guys did not have biasing instructions, and that amp is not as easy to bias as some (this is only my opinion). In this day everything should be done so the customer doesn't have to work hard to re-tube.

I am not speaking of Audio Research, but of the industry in general in this sentence: There is way too much gear on the market that is "no muss, no fuss" to be worrying about gear that is difficult.

Matching standards that are designed to have the customer buy tubes from the vendor at very high prices is not the way I would run my business. Hence the products we have a hand in distributing don't even require matching or adjustments.

There are other amps from other companies we turn down tube sales on because they run the tubes at the ragged edge of their dissipation. In these situations selling tubes becomes a liability... I am still in this biz because it's fun! When selling product becomes a liability I don't have fun...

I want my customers to come home to Mayberry and have Aunt Bee bring them a piece of apple pie. And I need that myself. Take a break, man. You deserve it.

I believe I have spent more money on my test gear than anyone, and we even show them off. I have paid the best Electrical Engineers mucho dinero to that end because I want folks to have the least amount of headache when it comes to their tubes.

Audio Research is a fine company with great guys. Chris and Leonard are super. But... I took that one model and said "no more." One of the series of VT-100 amps requires great skill to just change the front end tubes. That was ARC's design decision....but I don't have an hour to teach a guy this stuff because I sold him some tubes....guys....I wish I did. That's why some tube dealers just let you order....they don't make their phone number too easy to find.
"In Reply to: RE: Upscale Audio no longer retubing ARC VT 100??? posted by cruzmsl on May 15, 2008 at 20:31:36"

Note the date! Then why such a bad attitude towards Taters a year later? Mr. Deal sure doesn't come across like this on the phone. My personal expierence with Mr.D is that he is very rude on the phone. Mr.Deal should send Taters an apology as well. Tater please let us know if you recieve an apology.
At this point I would imagine Cyclonicman and Mofimadness wishes they would have never recommended Upscale Audio to Taters. Not because Upscale Audio screws the buying public but rather the bad experience Taters had with them.

Lets keep in mind on Upscale Audio's Web Site it clearly states they do not sell tubes for ARC VT100 amps.
Do they give a good reason why? No.... But what would you want them to say? Should Mr Deal say it is ARC fault for building an Amp that is not service friendly to the general public?

I am sure Taters feels he was treated unfairly by Upscale audio. He may have a legitimate reason to be pissed....
LOL, but who knows how many calls Upscale audio gets from people asking questions about re-tubing their ARC VT 100 amp. It says right on their Web Page, we don't do it....
Also we are not privy to both sides of the conversions that took place between Taters and the staff at Upscale Audio. Did Taters become argumentative? We don't know...
When Mr Deal got on the phone was he rude and tell Taters to never call again? Yes more than likely.... The archives on AA are full of such posts about Mr Deals temperament. Hey, different strokes for different folks. Does it cost Upscale Audio lost revenues? I am sure it does.

I once read a post of Kevin Deal's, on AA, where he said on average Upscale audio gets 200 to 300 phone calls a day.

Maybe the answer is to go to a recorded message answering service. Upscale Audio could then screen all calls and only answers those who they want to.
One thing for sure there would not be any more rude responses from Mr Deal.

Jea48, I do feel badly about those folks that have had a bad experience with Kevin. I guess the hassles he has with some amps is not worth it for him. I have no affiliation with Kevin except as a purchaser of tubes. I have to say I don't understand his logic because most business people do not refuse a sale, especially when it can be quite substantial. I would say that this shows that Kevin does have integrity even if it comes across as somewhat distorted.
Jea48, I agree with your last post. Taters could have gotten a little nasty as well but, for K.Deal to hang up on him.

I wasn't aware of K. Deal's statement on his website about ARC retubing until you pointed it out. That makes me feel a little better but still no excuse for being rude to a potential life long customer.

I'm in business myself and the customer is 99 & 3/4% always right. We sell maintience supplies to industry and with the economy like it is we're feeling the crunch. We can't afford to be pissing off customers. In our business, the customers buy from us every month. We're practically married to our customers. Does it get annoying? Yes, but we bite our tongues and keep counting those sales!

As far as 200-300 phone calls a day! Come on. I would be willing to bet a month's salary against that. We have 25 salespeople covering the state of NC with monthly sales in the 750,000 to 1,000,000 range and we don't have that kind of phone calls. LOL! If Mr. Deal is that busy then no wander the rest of the high end business is slow. Mr. Deal has it all wrapped up LOL!
Jea48, Nice posts - they should put some of this into prospective.

FWIW, I've got nothing against Taters, but do you note that he has NOT contested Kevin Deal's version of what occurred in the contact he made with Upscale which led to KD's rude hang up.

I think a lot of folks like to call KD for tube advise and exploration of possibilities that don't result in sales or could/would result in mis-matching and subsequent warranty issues for him. And it is advise that you often won't get from other dealers.

I don't know Taters amp, but I've owned ARC amps and they aren't a walk in the park to re-tube. When I had mine my dealer made me send them back to ARC for any servicing including the simple replacement of a resistor in the bias circuit which was burned out by a shorted power tube (ARC uses this resistor as a 'fuse' in most of its amps I believe). He also complained about the difficulty of the re-biasing procedure. Clearly he just didn't want to be involved.

I recall a dealing with a tube vendor, mentioned above, some years ago when I did my first re-tubing of my SP10. I was ignorant about the demands it placed on tubes and the tube types that had a history of success. He gladly sold me an advertised 'set' of tubes that were (as I know now)doomed for failure, and they did shortly after I put them in. You could sub that experience in for some of the experiences that KD was trying to avoid. BTW, I never bought tubes from him again!

In my experience Deal has a 'personality' which many will not appreciate. But if you NEED advise on what tube to use in your equipment, and he has personal experience and the tubes, he is an excellent source. And, his service is excellent. Now if you know what you want to buy and you don't want someone to challenge you, don't call. Others will be very happy to help you and save you a lot of grief. If you just want to bullshit with him, and expect differential treatment, don't be surprised if you don't get it.

Also, consider, how many B&M (or internet) dealers have tubes for sale and know what they are talking about regarding their proposed use. Lots of generic advise, perhaps, as is commonly given here, but not much more. Most equipment dealers I have run accross at least pretend ignorance about 'tube' selection issues. Makes life so much easier for them.

Interesting how this thread started as a question of whether to buy tubes from ARC or an independent dealer, and is seemingly ending as a Kevin Bash Fest.
FWIW, I have always had good experiences dealing with Mr. Deal. He is extremely knowledgeable and offers quality tubes. He may not suffer fools gladly and has chosen to totally avoid the hassel of retubing a particular amp which can be problematic for those inept at it. So be it. One should at least do some preliminary research online anyway before calling any tube dealer. Common sense.

I was never nasty or rude to Mr.Deal. I just wanted to know why they would not sell me tubes. I'm in business myself and I always answer the customers questions. I am never rude to customers and I have never told them never to call back. If I can't help them I will refer them to someone else. That is what Mr.Deal should have done.
"And now.....Back to our regular programming"

Fair enough, Taters, hope you find another dealer to get tubes affordable. I'm sure the VT-100 is a great amp, but yowsa that's stiff bill to just replace the output tubes.

How long do they last?
It should be mentioned in this thread somewhere that the Mk3 VT100 is a piece of cake to retube. You only need to bias the output tubes, not the inputs/drivers as on the mk2. I wonder if the problems in tube arcing in the Mk2 are from the difficulty in biasing the inputs. It is not an issue in mk3's.
Kevin was the first dealer I called when I wanted to try tube rolling. At that time I had a McIntosh 2102 amp that Kevin was very familiar with and an Audio Aero Capitole amp which he had almost no experience.

After a long and very informative discussion we settled on some really good, not to expensive tubes for a novice(me) for the 2102 and after reminding me that he was unsure of the exact fit for the Capitole he sold me some tubes for it.

I was very happy with the phone call, price and service. I continue to recommend Kevin, especially to any newbee.

Oh, these tubes made for the biggest improvement (of course from stock tubes) my equipment ever made. My more subtle adventures since have been fun but never as dramatic as with Kevin's help.
03-06-09: Rgurney
Mr. Deal may not suffer fools gladly and has chosen to totally avoid the hassel of retubing a particular amp which can be problematic for those inept at it.

After over 30 years in this hobby, I do not feel like a 'fool' or 'inept'. Whether Mr. Deal has 'vast' knowledge of tubes is highly depends on who you talk to. IMHO, it is the 'fool's' and/or 'inept' who succomb to Kevin's 'vast' knowledge.

Certainly overwhelming volume could be an excuse for ignorant and/or obnoxious behaviour. Most folks know that the salesman who is the fullest of 'BS' will attrach most of the volume, whatever the field.

'Figures Lie and Liar's Figure', as my Daddy once told me. Hey, if you buy what he's shoveling....enjoy it. I don't buy it, and have talked with others who are immune to his BS as well.

Again, life is too short for me to bother with a dude who says the $250/per 12ax7 tube (not matched pairs mind you) listing fee which is posted on his website, for all to see and buy, is not for the common man like me.
Pardon me....would you pass the Grey Poupon?

Hey, if you buy what he's shoveling....enjoy it. I don't buy it, and have talked with others who are immune to his BS as well.
Well, there's certainly no shortage of arrogance and self-importance in your neck of the woods, is there?