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Employee Review

Years at Rainbow: 15
Weekly work schedule: Tuesday-Saturday

What's the story on Tube Ratings?

There once was a time when “tubes were tubes”. When the early Fenders, Marshalls and other amps were produced, the manufacturers stuck in a set of tubes, biased the amp, and shipped them out. Then, more recently, some smart techs figured out that if you used tubes that were closely matched to each other in their specs, you could squeeze a little more power and tone out of the amp. That is a GOOD thing. Then it got out of hand. Companies started rating matched sets from 1-10 or with color codes. Low numbers were “easily distorted at low volume” and high numbers were “cleaner”. But “cleaner” also means more volume, headroom and power at high volume, while the “easily distorting” tubes tend to wimp out if ever need to play louder than you bought them for plus, in most cases, they will need replacing sooner. These companies make a lot of money selling rated tubes to “fit your needs." The fact is, tubes that distort too easily are not made as perfectly as the tubes of the same brand that don't. The workers that make power tubes in the factories in Russia and ex-Soviet countries do not make them to “distort earlier” or “distort later.” In fact there probably isn’t a guitar player among them! In my humble opinion, you should look for the highest specs and highest “rating” when buying power tubes. Here at Rainbow Guitars we sell matched sets of the highest quality brands of output tubes. They do make a difference! You can attain great tone just by selecting the right matched power tubes and the best preamp tubes. You would do better to buy another amp if you can’t get the tone and overdrive out of your present one, rather than tossing money at low rating tubes that will wear out faster and sound like mush at higher volumes.