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FAQ - Common Problems and Known Issues

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Old 6th January 2006, 07:48 PM
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Default Blue Glow - are my valves bad?

If your valves are glowing blue then do not worry it maybe perfectly normal. Below is text taken from the excellent Svetlana web site: There is lots of other information on the site related to valves........

"Blue Glow -- what causes it?
Glass tubes have visible glow inside them. Most audio types use oxide-coated cathodes, which glow a cheery warm orange color. And thoriated-filament tubes, such as the SV811 and SV572 triodes, show both a white-hot glow from their filaments and (in some amplifiers) a slight orange glow from their plates. All of these are normal effects. Some newcomers to the tube-audio world have also noticed that some of their tubes emit a bluish-colored glow. There are TWO causes for this glow in audio power tubes; one of them is normal and harmless, the other occurs only in a bad audio tube.

1) Most Svetlana glass power tubes show FLUORESCENCE GLOW. This is a very deep blue color. It can appear wherever the electrons from the cathode can strike a solid object. It is caused by minor impurities, such as cobalt, in the object. The fast-moving electrons strike the impurity molecules, excite them, and produce photons of light of a characteristic color. This is usually observed on the interior of the plate, on the surface of the mica spacers, or on the inside of the glass envelope. THIS GLOW IS HARMLESS. It is normal and does not indicate a tube failure. Enjoy it. Many people feel it improves the appearance of the tube while in operation.

2) Occasionally a tube will develop a small leak. When air gets into the tube, AND when the high plate voltage is applied, the air molecules can ionize. The glow of ionized air is quite different from the fluorescence glow above--ionized air is a strong purple color, almost pink. This color usually appears INSIDE the plate of the tube (though not always). It does not cling to surfaces, like fluorescence, but appears in the spaces BETWEEN elements. A tube showing this glow should be replaced right away, since the gas can cause the plate current to run away and (possibly) damage the amplifier.

PLEASE NOTE: some older hi-fi and guitar amplifiers, and a very few modern amplifiers, use special tubes that DEPEND on ionized gas for their normal operation.
-Some amps use mercury vapor rectifiers, such as types 83, 816, 866 or 872. These tubes glow a strong blue-purple color in normal use. They turn AC power into DC to run the other tubes.
-And occasionally, vintage and modern amplifiers use gas-discharge regulator tubes, such as types 0A2, 0B2, 0C2, 0A3, 0B3, 0C3 or 0D3.
These tubes rely on ionized gas to control a voltage tightly, and normally glow either blue-purple or pink when in normal operation. If you are unsure if these special tubes are used in your amplifier, consult with an experienced technican before replacing them.

ALSO NOTE: these light sources cannot be seen in metal-ceramic tubes, because their parts are opaque. As we said above, it is difficult to tell if a ceramic tube has become gassy. Usually, in a large radio transmitter, a gassy tube will arc over internally. (This does not damage the transmitter. It has protective circuits.) The equipment operating manual should give more information on this.

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