Finding and Collecting Vintage Vacuum Tubes for TV and Radios

Whether you are collecting vacuum tubes as examples of a vintage technology or as parts for use in your vintage Hi-Fi radio or amplifier, there are a lot of options available. Opening in the 1920's, Amperex was a long-time manufacturer of tubes in the United States until the Holland-based electronics firm Phillips acquired them in 1955. While the company stopped making vacuum tubes some time ago, there is a lot of new old stock available that never previously sold at retail. 

What Are Some of the Main Models of Vintage Vacuum Tubes Available?

After acquisition, the Dutch-Made miniature tubes marketed under the Amperex name. Often, the tube designation served multiple companies, since these were the standardized nomenclature for certain types of tubes. There was a booming Hi-Fi market in the US at that time, so there was a high amount of demand for tubes for use in audio electric equipment including the following models.

  • 12AX7 - Also known as ECC83, this is a miniature dual triode amplifier tube that is popular among amplifier enthusiasts. 
  • 12AU7 - Also known as ECC82, was a miniature nine-pin medium-gain dual triode vacuum tube that was popular in hi-fi vacuum tube audio and as a low-noise line amplifier and as a phase-inverter in push-pull amplifier circuits.
  • 12AT7 - Also known as ECC81, this is another miniature nine-pin medium-gain dual triode vacuum tube, and it is popular in guitar amplifiers. It has a lower voltage gain than the 12AX7 with a high transconductance and plate current, which makes it a good tube for high frequency applications. 

What Are Some of the Collectible Tubes Available?

For the collector or audio enthusiast, there are a few good options available form this brand on the vintage market. Since a lot of the stock never got out for retail, you can often find it in the original box.

  • Bugle Boy - This was one of the most popular tube lines that they made. It was able to filter out background noise. The bugle boy came in all the models listed above. The sounds from Bugle Boys are widely considered to be of the same good quality as Mullard vacuum tubes among audio enthusiasts. 
  • Other Tube Products - In additional to amplifier parts, this company also manufactured electron tubes, semiconductors, miniature receiving tubes, magnetrons, X-ray tubes, large transmitting tubes. television tubes, and computer components using the same kinds of electron-based technologies. 

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