Why Don't Local Audio Dealers Provide Tube Testing Services When They Sell Tube Gear?


For over 40 years I have supported my local audio dealers. I gladly pay more for their expertise and service. Some of my dealers have a store front, and some work out of their home. In either case, I always support them.

I have an "all tube" system, with 19 tubes, including my DAC, Preamp and Amp. Most of my tubes are NOS, and I like to "roll" many tubes. When I need to test a tube, or want ensure that the tubes I've purchased are indeed a "matched pair," I would really love to depend on my local dealer(s) to provide that service. 

For the most part, I have been very fortunate to buy NOS tubes from reputable dealers. Not always though. And when you are buying hard-to-find expensive NOS tubes, you sometimes have to take your chances.

At a minimum, audio equipment dealers should be able to provide "on-site" testing for the tube equipment they sell. Ideally, equipment dealers should be able to do "on site" testing of other tubes as well.

If a local dealer were able to service my audio tube testing requirements, I would seek them out for any new equipment purchases (including non-tube gear). That's part of having a mutually beneficial dealer/customer relationship.
Getting (and maintaining) good testing equipment isn't cheep, but it seems like a good business decision for maintaining and attracting new customers?

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As you acknowledge the fact that such equipment isn’t ’cheep’, let alone the maintenance of said equipment, perhaps you have answered you own question.
Okay, that may sound snarky, but, business is business. And, high end dealers have to make money just like any other business. Offering tube testing would be a money loser, unless they charge a fee for such testing. 

I would just buy tubes from a reputable dealer.
Bob
I never suggested that the tube testing service should be free.
Just a suggestion, with all your tube gear why not buy yourself a (good) tube tester. 
Good luck that will never happen.
Hi Markpao,
Great suggestion. I looked into buying a tester.
As gdnrbob mentioned, they are not cheap to buy and maintain. 

With the various adapters to accommodate 300B, 45 and 9-pin tubes for example, it would cost about $2,000 for a good tester......that also measures shorts and gas leaks.

That may end up being my only option, but I'm still curious to know why dealers can't (don't) provide this service. If they charged $10/tube, they pay for the tester with 200 tubes tested.

In my business, every time I am able to meet a customer, it is an opportunity to sell something. The acquisition cost of gaining a new customer is a lot more than $10.

If a dealer sold me a new $5,000 turntable or cartridge, while I was in their store getting a 300B tested, I guess that would be upside for the dealer.

You know that's a good point you raise there. In 30 years running tube gear I've always had to just order new tubes, because there was no one around to test them and tell me its time to order new tubes. Not to mention the times I've had to research and audition new turntables and other components, because there was no one around with a tube tester to sell me on a $5k impulse purchase. Man talk about a missed opportunity. 
You dont need to spend $ 2K for a good tube tester.

Also I would not assume that an audio dealer that sells tubed electronics knows much about vacuum tubes.


I am lucky my dealer, Deja Vu Audio, has several tube testers and tests tubes for me all the time. If I didn't have that luxury I might seriously invest in a tube tester.
Testing tubes for audiophiles requires much more than simply running them briefly on a tube tester. If it was that simple and people would pay $10 per tube for that it might be a viable business opportunity for existing dealers. Most testers can check for basic functionality of the tubes, but testing and rating them for microphonics, noise levels, and precise matching is much more involved and can require a significant amount of additional gear. That's why the companies that offer such extensive testing are able to and justified in charging a relatively high premium for their most select graded tubes. If you want the best tubes expect to pay for the time and effort that is required to grade, match and select them.
Bill_K, thank you for accurately describing the type of tube testing audiophiles need and the additional equipment needed to perform the various tests.

I wish there were more dealers like Deja Vu Audio that Jond works with.

I'm not seeing any disagreement with the need for good tube testing from local dealers, just road blocks based on cost, time and perhaps lack of demand.

Very sad.
The testing suggested by bill_k would be necessary to sell NOS tubes for big bucks, but I think you're asking for less than that, i.e. to check your used tubes to see if they're still good and reasonably matched.

It would be a nice service and if the dealer is selling tube gear maybe he should offer it.  I think the time involved might be why most dealers don't do it, though.  As you noted the expense for a couple of testers for preamp and power tubes wouldn't be that much compared to monthly rent and equipment to display.

If you can't talk a local dealer into providing the service, I think a tester would be a good accessory for you with the number of tubes you use and your tube rolling habits.
When I was a Cary Audio dealer in the 90's, I did have a very nice Hickok tube tester as I was also a Gold Aero dealer. I would test all new & used tubes that came in and would gladly test them for customers and did for free.
When I was a kid, every neighborhood had a place with a tube testing machine. Ours was at a neighborhood "candy" store. I remember going with my dad - he brought a bunch of tubes from our TV set, tested the tubes one by one, and any that read "bad" he replaced- replacement tubes were in an integrated cabinet that was part of the tube tester.

Seems to me, having a tube tester, rather than a money looser, could lead to tube sales. 
No new tube tester available, relatively speaking.

People who need tubes tested are as rare as collectors of ww1 memorabilia, or thereabouts.

Probably not going to be much in the way of even basic tube testing going on, at most dealers. I’ve got a B&K 707 in minty shape, but I went out of my way to pick it up almost 30 years ago, when they were much easier to come by.

Went and checked on eBay, seems like a lot of good testers still coming up for sale, but with commensurate rarity pricing. They can be sensitive to needing service and service intervals, so some limited tech skills might be needed if one is to keep a unit up and functional.

Most guitar shops sell tubes, but they don’t have tube testers, either.

Note that back in the day, you had to go to a tube testing place or location, as most did not have tube testing hardware, even when tubes where the norm. Now that tubes are relatively as rare as aforementioned WW1 memorabilia, it makes no sense to think that tube testing hardware would be more common then back in the tube heyday.

Moreover, I think that some are kinda cheap-ass, and would come to test their tubes, but buy elsewhere -like from the guy who has no tube tester, as the tubes are cheaper there. And view the tube testing gear in the one guy’s shop...as akin to some sort of public bathroom. They would be drawn to it.

Which leads down the road to abuse of the dealer and the tube testing hardware. Think it through. Humans and lowest common denominators, is what usually happens.
Thank you dill,
Here is some additional info that might be of interest to others:
Which Tube Tester is Right For You:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7qIjYYkHF0
This Space Tech Tester is the One I was Considering:http://www.thebestamp.com/Testing_Equipment/WTT-2.php
Maybe I should buy one of these testers, and offer my services to the local audio dealers and audiophiles? Unbelievable.