It’s Time For A New Tube

Aphex Channel replacement tube Telefunken ECC801S


Houston…we need a new Aphex Channel Tube

After recording a couple shows everything worked perfectly. Then out of the blue something odd happened. In the middle of a show I decided to take a break and get something to eat. I took about a 30 minute to rest and left the equipment on with the recording paused. When I returned, I clicked the un-pause button and began speaking into the mic. Something was clearly wrong. I didn’t hear my voice in my headphones and noticed I had no sound levels. Nothing. I toyed with settings and couldn’t find a solution to the problem and decided to restart the Aphex as a last resort. After restarting the Aphex everything worked but I knew there was a problem.

The symptoms…

Anytime I took a break for an extended period the Aphex would go into a sleep mode. If I recorded continuously there were no problems whatsoever.

I called Aphex and got one of they techs on the line. Aphex advised that I should open up the unit to see if there were any melted wires inside the device. They told me to focus on the power source and go from there. If there was no visible problems (i.e. melted wires) then more than likely the tube needs to be replaced. Aphex told me that 5 years is “about the average” life expectancy for a tube. If the unit is on all the time and pushed hard it could be less. The techs assured me a tube replacement is fairly straightforward and requires no special tools. I guess I was about to find out for myself.

I opened up the unit and to my relief nothing was melted or on fire. That’s a good sign. While the tube appeared to be in decent condition, I figured it had to be the source of the problem. There were no other signs of wear inside the unit.

The best tubes are German made and 60 years old

The Aphex replacement tube is a 12AT7 or ECC801. The ECC801 is the European number for the same tube. After doing some research online, I came to realize that most audiophiles agree the Telefunken ECC801 Diamond Bottom is the tube of choice. While there are many tubes manufactures for this particular tube, the hands down favorite for voice production is the Telefunken. Since I’m already a big fan of German engineering this wasn’t a hard sale for me. What I found to be crazy is this Telefunken tube was last manufactured in the late ‘50’s early 60’s. Were talking vintage stuff here.

Apparently sound engineers and audio snobs have been hoarding these bad boys for quite some time. As you can image, because it’s considered a top of the line tube and no longer in production the price is considerably higher. To give you an idea, a typical replacement tube ranges from $12 to $29 dollars. The $12 dollar tubes are made in China, don’t sound as good, nor do they last very long but… their cheap. The German tubes on the other hand start at $75 dollars and go up from there. The ECC801S is the creme dela creme and starts at about $150.00

After some shopping I was able to locate a ECC801 tube from a audio supply house in Greece. Total price including shipping was $47 dollars.

Fast forward two weeks and the tube is still sitting in customs in NYC. Damn those folks are slow. Anyway it’s finally here stateside and I’ll put up another post to let you know how the installation goes.

If you need to buy an Aphex Channel replacement tube click here

UPDATE:  If your buying overseas read this first!

So I managed to locate a Telefunken ECC801 replacement tube on Ebay and promptly placed an order. Although the seller was located in Greece, the transaction was completed and successfully shipped.

The delays started as soon as the tube reached US Customs in New York. I don’t buy stuff overseas, so I had no idea this would be such a lengthy process. Initially I figured the whole endeavor would last no longer than a couple extra days. Little did I know.

Eleven days later, the Telefunken tube was finally released from Customs and headed to my studio. Total transit time was about twenty five days. Lesson learned. If you’re in a hurry to get a replacement tube don’t buy abroad.

If you need to buy an Aphex Channel replacement tube click here



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