Tube Depot is where I buy my tubes!
Brent Jessee is very dependable, has a large inventory and offers very good advise.
Andy at Vintage Tube Services has the highest quality tubes and very high standards when selecting tubes. But you can only reach him by phone.
Upscale Audio is has very high quality tubes, and as a result, sometimes less of a selection.
* Brent Jessee now has a satisfaction guaranteed return policy; if you don't like the tubes, he will exchange them.
+1 Vintage Tube Services. I consistently get better sounding tubes from Andy than anywhere else. He meticulously tests, matches and cleans the tubes he sells. His knowledge of tubes, vintage equipment and practically anything audio is very impressive. As lowrider mentioned you must call him to place your order but that's always a pleasant and educational experience so I don't mind at all.
I’ve used Brendan Bievers at TubeWorld for many years, though I got some NIB GEC driver tubes for my old Quad II amps from Tubemonger.
Brent Jesse’s web site gives me a headache. Heard good things about Andy.
I’m usually replacing ’small tubes,’ like the 12AX7 (used to roll the 6dj8 equivalents) with NOS Telefunkens, but got a matched quad of GEC KT-66s recently from Brendan; I have old stock Reflecktor D H 30s in my Veloce line stage. I’ve gotten back up sets of my phono stage tubes directly through Allnic, except for the rectifiers- which I’ve gotten from a variety of sources (currently using a GEC U52). The amp tubes, other than the 12ax7, come from Vlad Lamm.
I knew of Kevin Deal from an exotic car site I used to participate in but have not purchased anything from him.
I don't normally use tube equipment in my home, but I work on that and I purchase it to restore and sell. Mainly I choose to work on vintage tube units such as Fisher 500, Scott 299 or Mac 225. I get my tubes at thrift stores, antique malls and dumpsters. Then I test them with tube tester and than sell or use them in my units I work on.
I pay in average $1...3 per preamp or amp tubes. Recently I purchased 200 radio tubes for $20 with 6CA7, 12AX, 12AU, other 12's, 6H30, EL84...mmmm.... all at flea market. At least half of them test STRONG and ready for next unit. Seen folks there pay $20...300 per single tube so one taketh another giveth.
While I'm sure the recommendations here are all fine, I can't say enough good things about Andy at Vintage Tube Services. If you are going for vintage tubes, he is meticulous about testing them and a fountain of knowledge when it comes to getting you the sound you're looking for from your particular equipment. I have used him for many, many years and have always been happy in my dealings with him.
So true rcprince,
I failed to mention in my initial post how talking to Andy has led me to tube options I didn't know existed yet worked better in the application I was using them in than what I called to order. His testing and cleaning of his tubes are second to none but it's his vast knowledge not just about how tubes work in circuitry but how they will sonically perform that I find most valuable.
Anecdotally, Andy at Vintage Tube Services seems to have a very loyal following and I have no reason to doubt the faith people have in his expertise. So far, the good news is, there are several fine options for sourcing tubes. In addition to Cryoset, I am using a very fine pair of 5687 Tung Sols from Tube Depot at the moment and have purchased once from "Old Radiola Guy" on ebay.
For anyone considering a move to tube gear, this should be very encouraging and I would encourage you to make the leap. Tons of great tube gear in the marketplace!
Jim McShane has been a very reliable source for me. His customer service is impeccable. I've also purchased tubes from Andy and Brent. They both have high quality tubes and great customer service as well.
I've learned that paying a bit more instead of gambling on eBay is usually well-worth it.
Once you go tubes, you'll likely not look back. :) . Have fun!
Received new (old stock) RCAs for the phono preamp from Andy at Vintage Tube Services, and couldn’t be more pleased with the service, responsiveness and (best of all) the sound. My non-audiophile spouse said, "Did you do something to this system? It sounds so much clearer."
Indeed. That’s when you know there’s a real difference. Now can’t wait to do the VTL integrated.