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Amid supply crunch, Western Electric publicly floats expansion into guitar tube manufacturing

The internal electronics and vacuum tubes of a Hayden Classic Lead 80 electric guitar amplifier head unit
(Image credit: Philip Sowels/Future)

Aside from being a major player in the guitar effects industry, Electro-Harmonix is a hugely significant part of the vacuum tube industry. 

Under its own name and a number of umbrella brands, EHX has manufactured vacuum tubes for use in guitar amps for decades, and is the chief tube supplier for many American manufacturers. 

Unfortunately though, many of EHX's tubes are manufactured in Russia. Last week, the New York-based company announced that – after uncertainty following Russia's recent invasion of Ukraine, and the huge wave of commerce-related sanctions against Russia that followed it – it would still accept orders for new Russian-made tubes, but at an increased price.

However, EHX warned, "there is a tremendous shortage of tubes."

Now, Western Electric – a company legendary for its ultra-premium hi-fi equipment – has publicly announced that it's considering getting into the guitar tube industry as a means of lessening the supply-and-demand crunch.

Given that it already manufactures a vacuum tube, the 300B, the Georgia-based company seems well-placed to fill this gap. In that spirit, Western Electric has asked interested customers to fill out a form that asks which tubes (choices include the 12AX7, EL34, 6L6, 6V6, EL84, 6H30, KT88 and 274B) they'd like to see the company produce, and if quality, delivery speed or price would be most important to them.

Western Electric's 300B tube

Western Electric's 300B vacuum tube (Image credit: Western Electric)

Now, it's worth pointing out that the already-existing Western Electric 300B tube is a boutique, high-grade part of the highest degree. A single 300B will set you back $699, while a matched pair rings up at an eye-watering $1,499. A four-pack of the tubes, meanwhile, goes for $3,099.

Along those lines, the company's top-of-the-line 91E amp – powered by a pair of 300Bs – is priced at $13,499.

Given that Western Electric is going to the trouble of asking customers if price is a top priority, however, it can be inferred that if customers ask for cheaper, more plentiful tubes, the company may very well make them, potentially lessening the shortage EHX warned customers about.

For more on Western Electric and its products in the meantime – and to fill out the company's tube questionnaire – visit its website.

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Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.