Buying Tubes Directly From China


The subject of Chinese tubes, and where to buy, seems to attract attention from several members.  I also note that there tends to be a lot of shade thrown at anything Chinese these days.  Some of it may be warranted but I suspect we tend to use that broad brush when discussing all things Chinese?  Anyway, I thought I would relate my personal experience with some recent purchases direct from suppliers in China. 

My most recent was two matched pairs of Linlai Elite 211 tubes.  I dealt with a fellow named Su Qi.  His storefront on Ali Express can be viewed at:

https://www.aliexpress.com/store/1101813211?spm=5261.24233182.0.0.1ef24edfOhNzb5

I bypassed the Ali site and corresponded directly with him by email at liaomei7@qq.com

His command of the English language was excellent, his information was helpful and immediate, and his service was prompt and accurate.  I was able to purchase two matched sets of Linlai E-211 tubes for about 30% below any other vendor I could find.  The tubes arrived at my door 10 days after placing the order.  Delivery was by DHL.  The packaging was perfect the product arrived in pristine condition.  I have zero complaints.  As an aside, I ordered a CD from PS Audio 19 days ago.  It was shipped by 1st Class US Post.  It is still somewhere in the Postal Service but who knows where.  I just know it’s not in my hands.

I have previously purchased a couple pairs of PSvane Acme 845 tubes from the company called China HiFi.  You can google the name for information.  Again, the service was excellent, and the product was pristine on arrival.   

I only throw this information out there for those who are interested in actual firsthand experience in dealing directly with suppliers in China.  I try to buy local whenever I can, but refuse to pay significantly higher prices for the privilege of doing so. 

 

 

 

 

128x128bigtwin

@bigtwin Thanks for giving your impressions about the sound as well as about your amplifier. About 80% of my listening involves either Jazz or Classical, so your impressions are quite helpful. I hope you will post more of your impressions as the tubes break-in. Does your amp drive the 211 tubes into calss-A2, or does it keep them within class-A1? If it drives them into A2, what is the driver tube that you are using?

@atulmajithia its class A regardless of 845 or 211. The power tube is an 845 tube always.  Whenever I think my setup is letting me down, I throw on something like Roy Hargrove's Big Band Emergence, track #2.  You'll shake you head and say yeah, that's what I'm after. Then I know the poor sounding stuff is all about the source material and not the tubes I'm using. 🤣

Buying tubes from anyone is a crap shoot unless you know who you are dealing with, especially tubes bought from China.  Chinese manufacturing operations are not stable (look at the history of Shuguang, Psvane, and now Linlai). Grading and marketing channels of tubes from there is a mystery, and so is reliability, although the best can be very nice sounding and are very worth seeking out.  Consider that unless you have a tube tester, you have no idea what you bought regardless of how nice the box looks or what the seller told you.  If you bought a tube from an American or European supplier, would you be impressed by the fact they spoke English?  You'll need more than luck if you're looking for a good deal on top of all that. When it comes to good tubes, you most always get what you pay for.

Failure rate of tubes I bought from China directly has been worse than from other sources. The test results on the box are meaningless. I have returned tubes I've bought from China - it's a PITA. Now that I think about it, it's probably no worse than buying from unknown eBay sellers, or buying certain SED Winged "C"s from reputable suppliers with date codes of 2010-2011.

I have bought Chinese tubes direct, on eBay, and from Grant Fidelity.  The bottom line is Grant Fidelity is the only way I would buy Chinese tubes. Rachel's had a long term sourcing relationship with Chinese manufacturers, is Chinese, knows the market and re-tests every one manufacturers send her (She has to!).  I have a $4K AT-1000 and every set of tubes I bought from Grant Fidelity is perfectly matched exactly as advertised. 

Oh, I own a few hundred tubes and spent a few hundred hours learning about them and testing them.  I've bought my share of duds, but the tube tester has bailed me out most of the time.

 

@barrysandy 

I agree with many of your comments. Regarding the test results included with a set of tubes from China, they are hot off the printer. Every tube has the same result. 

I learned from the very lengthy Linlai thread that there are decent tube vendors in China, but it's also like the wild west. I know Grant Fidelity tests every tube themselves which is enough of a reason to buy from them. What I don't like is the tubes from China are not matched within 10% and you need to pay a hefty fee for Grant to match them.

Tube testers are better than nothing, but in circuit has way different parameters than a tube tester.