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Art & Inspiration Vacuum tube instruments

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by squirrel, Aug 21, 2021.

  1. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 49,827


    Something my brother's been working on for a while...finally got the prototype sitting in his 63 Corvair, and mostly working.

    Nixie display tubes were used from the 1950s through 1974 in electronic instruments, when other display methods became more affordable. They were expensive, and the electronics used to run them were big and used a lot of power, so they never seem to have made it into car dashboards, not even in expensive cars. But with modern technology, and NOS tubes, you can do neat things.

    I don't know if he'll go into production on these, like he has with wrist watches...I expect the market is quite limited, and it would take a lot of design work to make it for a different car.

    David Gersic, Truck64, G-son and 2 others like this.
  2. A Nixie tube dashboard! Neat-o! I had a heap of these tubes in my collection, and sold and sent them all over the world. There was a Ford made here in Australia which had a Nixie tube dashboard, but it was one big flat tube with all the segments in there, and it was blue. There is a big following of these tubes, people building clocks, etc.
  3. Vacuum tubes still have a following in the guitar amp world, and you run across NOS american made tubes once in a while. I have heard of Nixie tubes, but I don't think I have ever seen one. Nowadays I have to use tubes made in eastern Europe for amp builds.
    Blues4U likes this.
  4. Dave G in Gansevoort
    Joined: Mar 28, 2019
    Posts: 800

    Dave G in Gansevoort
    from Upstate NY

    A steampunk dashboard! Now that's something.
    Beanscoot likes this.

  5. junkyardjeff
    Joined: Jul 23, 2005
    Posts: 8,067


    Those old radios that had tubes sire sound better then modern radios.
    cfmvw likes this.
  6. flatheadpete
    Joined: Oct 29, 2003
    Posts: 10,211

    from Burton, MI

    My tube Fender amp blows away any solid state amp I've ever had....and it's only 30 watts. They just sound so much better.
  7. Blues4U
    Joined: Oct 1, 2015
    Posts: 5,943

    from So Cal

    Fellow amp builder here (and service/repair tech). Tubes are also very popular in the high end audiophile scene. The most expensive, highly regarded audio amps are all vacuum tube. Ton's of kits, schematics, chassis and parts available for those guys out there.
  8. cfmvw
    Joined: Aug 24, 2015
    Posts: 749


    Tube radios from way back when have a rich, warm sound that is lost with today's electronics. I think the wood cathedral-style radios lend to the sound quality as well.
  9. Truck64
    Joined: Oct 18, 2015
    Posts: 5,095

    from Ioway

    Lots of "emulators" over the years or designs to make a solid state amp mimic or more closely sound like a tube amp, though not the other way around.

    With guitar amps, it has to do with the way a waveform reaches clipping, when the output limits are exceeded. "My amp goes to 11". Solid state outputs sound like ass due to "square waves", and also, speaker voice coils don't much care for it either. Great way to roast speakers. Tube amps have an output transformer in the way.

    One summer I detassled corn as a kid for weeks, saving up money to buy a new stereo amplifier. A 40 watt amp to replace the old 20 watt amplifier. Oh Boy! Twice as much power!! Twice as loud, right?

    Yeah, no it doesn't work like that. Need 10 times as much power to reach a perceived doubling in loudness. Solid state amplifiers offered much greater power output capability at less cost and it isn't even close, but 20 to 30 tubed watts will sound fine and distort without bending your ears.

    Nixies have a following, they have gotten a little spendy in recent years or a bit harder to find.
    G-son likes this.
  10. Elcohaulic
    Joined: Dec 27, 2017
    Posts: 2,466


    I had a Reverb with a light bar in my 64 Grand Prix. It was so nice when it was all on and you were cruising the city on a beautiful warm summer night with all the windows down and some old fifties and early sixty's music on.. My girl liked the Four Seasons..
    Truck64 and modagger like this.
  11. Gofannon
    Joined: Feb 8, 2007
    Posts: 713


    I have a couple of Magic Eye tubes kicking around that I need to find a use for. I was playing around with an old GEC amp I was given when my son started learning guitar. I managed to get it working, but not after exploding some huge caps. My son used it for the vocalist when his band came over to practice until something popped again. I have given up on it for two reasons. New tube amps are cheap enough and way better, and the extremely high voltages scare the crap out of me. I'll stick to what I know. Always keep one hand in your pocket when playing with this stuff! Check out Uncle Doug - YouTube He rebuilds amps and is a Hot Rodder to boot.
  12. SlamIam
    Joined: Oct 8, 2007
    Posts: 450


    Nixies look pretty cool, especially in a dim environment. Never thought of seeing them in a car. Being an old time Ham Radio operator and antique Radio restorer I have more than 5,000 vacuum tubes on hand to service my 1920s-70s Radios - when I started engineering work 50 years ago I used Nixie-based test equipment - it was an improvement over early digital readouts with vertical stacks of 10 individual filament-type bulbs behind numbered windows - its hard now to remember just how delighted we were when LED and LCD technologies came along.
    TrailerTrashToo and Blues4U like this.

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