US-based vacuum tube manufacturer Western Electric has said it is “in the throes of tooling up” to produce popular types of guitar amp tubes, including the 12AX7.
Vacuum tubes have been in increasingly short supply in recent months. Electro-Harmonix founder Mike Matthews warned of supply issues last year but was recently forced to temporarily halt orders from its Russian factories due to sanctions.
EHX has since been able to resume taking tube orders, but players and gear producers have continued debating the viability of domestic production of vacuum tubes.
Enter US-based manufacturer Western Electric – which already makes tubes for high-end hi-fi equipment – and recently sought feedback from customers regarding its entry into the guitar amp tube market. Unsurprisingly, the firm received a warm reception and is now proceeding with plans to produce guitar amp tubes in the US.
“After the overwhelming response from our little announcement, we know for a fact that the guitar amp crowd is massive,” a spokesperson told Guitar.com (opens in new tab).
“People are ready for higher quality, American-made tubes. We’re ready to meet that demand and increase production capacity accordingly. We have the infrastructure in place to do so.”
In addition to just helping to meet demand, the Western Electric spokesperson was clear that the company sees an opportunity to improve on current components.
“There is a need for better quality,” they say. “People have grown accustomed to cherry-picking from any given batch of tubes to get the best sound. Along with better reliability, we hope to offer a super low-noise, low-distortion, and consistent product people can trust.”
While Western Electrics hi-fi tubes are very expensive, the firm thinks the costs associated with the production of guitar amp tubes would be much lower, citing the example of a 12AX7 tube as “significantly easier and less labour-intensive” than its current hi-fi offering, the 300B.
“There’s a long list of things we’ve been able to modernise across our current 300B operation,” says Western Electric. “Robotics, automation, and laser-welding, to name a few. We also take advantage of higher purity materials previously unavailable in the heyday of tube manufacturing.
“We’re equipped to do the same with other tubes, all while honouring the old, practised art of Western Electric manufacturing. Our customers will enjoy longer life and higher performance as a result.”
There’s no word on the specific types of tubes that Western Electric will be making, or the price points, but the spokesperson implies we won’t have long to wait.
“We are in the throes of tooling up for various tubes,” they confirm. “Starting with the most urgently-needed, popular types.”
Keep an eye on Western Electric’s site (opens in new tab) for more information.