Why no tube loaner/testdrives--It's hard being an audiophile


I just wanted to vent for a moment. I'm going to quote my wife and file this under "It's hard being an audiophile" as there is some absurdity to the fact that I view this issue as a real life problem.

The issue: 

My Primaluna integrated amp has 6 premp tubes and 8 power tubes.  While the unit makes tube rolling a snap, it's (a) difficult to find or at reasonable prices NOS tubes in larger batches; (b) reissue or new tubes cost a bunch to experiment with. 

For example, if I want to swap in a set of Gold Lion KT77 power tubes (I've already tried the stock EL34s and Mullard re-issues), it's a small fortune to do so.  I think the GL KT77 may be the ticket, yet making another expenditure to find out seems pricey.  I wish I could borrow a set and pay a tryout fee, as opposed to spending $400 on a set. 
jbhiller
If you were a real audiophile you'd have at least four sets of tubes and their total value would exceed the value of the amp.  There's the stock set, the NOS stock set (used only for special occasions), the current production repro of NOS tubes for everyday use and at least one or two sets of ultra rare NOS tubes that you purchased more as investments.  Hey, let's talk about refurbished tube testers...
 Tubes are easy on me. I speaker roll. Talk about a backbreaker. 
Ah yes, tube rolling is so expensive.  But it'll get worse.  You will soon realize you can actually buy 12au7 to 6SN7 tube adapters and once you start down that path, you will realize the inferiority of 12au7 tubes, change amps and want the super expensive 6sn7 like the Tungsol round plates.  Achieve tube nirvana you will.  
Ok, that's what happened to me but it can happen to you too:)
Keep these coming.  Great laughs and reality check!,

To get serious for just a minute, you probably don’t need the best preamp tubes in all 6 positions on your Primaluna. Someone can tell you which positions make the biggest difference in the sound.

For example, my Aesthetix Calypso has a voltage amplifier tube and an output tube (I think also called a driver tube) in each channel. The voltage amplifier tube has the biggest impact on the sound and Jim White (owner of Aesthetix) has told me to get the best voltage amplifier tubes I can. The output tubes can be of lesser quality.

Back to the spirit of the thread, maybe we can convince The Cable Company to put together a tube library for us.

And just be glad you didn't buy an Einstein preamp.  It's got 19 tubes in it.

You need more Audiophile friends! So you can each trade tubes and spread the costs around!  But for me, I don't know a soul who is interested in stereo. Oh I've got friends who come around to listen to my system, but no one else has a good system. So I feel ya. Now your wife knows what to get you for Christmas for the next 5 years! New tube sets. It takes a long time, but in just 5 years you'll have a heck of a tube collection! 

It's pretty sad when the tubes cost more than the amp . Tubes costs nickels when used for other electrical devices . Stick with new production and block out nos from your mind . You might stay sane that way .
I purchased my tube preamp (only 1 tube per channel, 1 rectifier tube) and power amps (monoblocks with only 2 power tubes, 1 input tube, 1 driver tube each) based not only on sound quality but also on minimal number of tubes to minimize the expense of retubing. It is possible to find excellent sounding gear which employ a minimal number of tubes. Not only does my preamp have only 1 tube per channel, but it also has a switch which allows either 6SN7 (usually expensive) or 12SN7 (usually less expensive) tubes. So I can be even more prudent when selecting tubes for it if I wish. For it, I ended up with a pair of inexpensive NOS 12SN7 tubes which sounded just as good as a pair of expensive 6SN7s.
Tequila-loving cartridge rollers have it far worse. Cheers,
Spencer
 it's (a) difficult to find or at reasonable prices NOS tubes in larger batches; (b) reissue or new tubes cost a bunch to experiment with.


you should have thought / researched the price of re-tubing this before you purchased it.                  I have passed on a number of preamps or amps that use a lot of tubes , just for that very reason.


@riley804 , You sound smarter than me with such foresight.  Glad you took the time to tell me this. 
@jbhiller .........not smarter, I just know what I can and cant afford in this so called " hobby " and spending a large amount on tubes is not one of them.


Nothing to add here other than I got a good laugh at many posts cuz I can relate. Thanks guys.
I'd say the reason there are no "tube loaners" is that tubes don't have serial numbers so someone could borrow a new set and return a spent set.
Cables don't have serial numbers either, but they aren't consumed with use.
Any hobby worth its participation will cost a fee. $400 for a set of tubes is nothing.  Happy Listening!
I narrowly avoided buying an Audio Research SP-10 preamp once.  I came to my senses thinking about the time it would take to track down which of the 15 tubes had gone out if something happened.

Currently running a CJ Premier preamp with 4 tubes, all the same type, and easy to diagnose given a spare tube or two.

Hats off to the guys running power amps with ranks of 300B tubes....
@jafant ,

I agree.  I'm only complaining--tongue in cheek.  Can I imagine what the cost of stuff would be if golf were my hobby? You're right...this is reasonable.  It's just tough to try tubes and think they are ok, but be stuck with them after the outlay of cash. 
Sounds like you have the PL premium HP, which is the same one I have. The two middle input tubes are the important ones. I put Cifte tubes in mine and it was a big improvement. Better highs, smoother overall sound, and tighter bass. I would suggest starting there and the cost isn't so tough to swallow. 

 I'm using KT120 power tubes and they have much better bass than the stock EL34 set that came with it. Plus, they are more linear overall. I would like to try a set of KT150 power tubes.  A set is $700, which is a lot, but I think the improvement would be substantial. 

What have you thought of the sound with the reissues and KT77 swaps compared to the EL34s?
Wow, I have a lot of tubes laying around. My last amp used KT66 and 6922. Now my new preamp and amp. Use EL34's, 12AX7, 12AT7, 6SN7 and 12AU7's. Oh well just have to but more tubes. Like another here my new preamp can use either 6SN7 or 12SN7 tubes. There are more cheaper tubes available in the 12SN7 variety so this feature is an advantage.

I would say Brent Jessie would be the closest you could come to a tube loaner. 

 You have to buy the tubes , but he allows a 30 day trial period of the tubes. If you order a set of EL34 tubes , but feel that you would prefer the GL KT77 , you can return the EL34 tubes. The original purchase credit would apply to the new GL KT77. You would just pay the difference plus shipping.

Tube Loaner…that sounds like an audiophile Marvel Comics character (Although "loner" would be more apt).  Expecting somebody to "loan" a fragile glass object seems naive (Evian spelled backwards), but I think many tube sellers would exchange tubes for something else if you made a reasonable case ( like "these things suck")…"thetubestore.com" is a place I've bought stuff and I imagine they'd respond in kind, although I don't actually know for sure.
Brent Jesse is an excellent resource. He is knowlegeable and provides good customer service. I've purchased 2 quads of NOS Mullard EL34's from him in the past and they were excellent.