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This article was originally published in issue #16
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Since the inception of the vacuum tube there has been a need for a valve testing device. They've been around as long as valves/tubes have been in use and whilst you may have never used one yourself, they are extremely useful devices for those that work with tubes on a regular basis. The reason the regular consumer has never adopted them is because all of the existing testing products require a high level of technical knowledge or a masters in physics to operate. They're not meant to be used by the layman and definitely not by the average technophobe guitarist, yet we've all been in that scenario where we know we have a problem with one or more of the tubes in our amp but have no idea which one is the culprit so end up replacing the whole lot. Tubes are expensive and delicate objects so the ability to easily diagnose problem tubes and replace them with ease sounds like a very attractive proposition indeed.
Here's where Orange steps in with the revolutionary DIVO VT1000 Tube Tester, a compact, automatic, digital testing device that allows anyone to test tubes with the minimum of fuss. Orange is so confident of the VT1000's ease of use that it didn't even send us a manual, saying that we'd be able to operate the unit simply by turning it on and figuring it out ourselves! Well, the good news is that Orange was absolutely right. I'd go as far as saying it's actually harder to use this unit incorrectly and for a device that performs such a complex task, the user interface is pretty much foolproof.
The VT1000 performs a vast number of critical tests on both pre and power-amp tubes, giving you a complete health check and estimated remaining lifetime for each tube tested. The number of tests will make even the most tech-savvy users reel away in jargon horror but, take it from me, the VT1000 performs every test required to give you absolute confidence that your tubes are either good or bad.
The unit is housed in a solid metal chassis with three tube sockets that will accept pretty much every type of pre and power tube on the market. Operation is simplicity itself, requiring the user to insert a tube into the relevant socket and use the left and right buttons to select the tube type from the onboard list. Once selected, a simple press of the 'start' button will run all the required tests and give you a 'Good', 'Worn' or 'Bad' result and a rating that allows you to match tubes together and reveals the estimated life left in that tube. The tests take between two and three minutes to complete and, considering how complex the procedure under the hood is, this is a remarkable achievement from Orange. We tested a number of pre and power tubes and the results were quick, consistent and very easy to interpret. Good valves can be kept in operation and the numbered rating allows you to create pairs and quads of matched power tubes. 'Worn' tubes can be kept in operation but should be replaced as soon as possible and 'Bad' tubes should be discarded and replaced immediately. This system is so easy to understand that a child could operate it - let alone a technophobe guitarist!
I can really see the VT1000 becoming an essential product. In terms of value for money it represents a huge potential saving in tubes and with the average amplifier using at least two or three preamp tubes and a couple of power tubes, a full replacement set can cost a lot of money. Being able to diagnose each tube independently and quickly would mean that the VT1000 would pay for itself in a fairly short period of time making it a very worthwhile investment indeed. For a guitar tech, or music shop, it's going to be absolutely indispensable! I for one will be getting hold of the VT1000 upon release and have a feeling that other companies will be looking with envy at Orange's ground-breaking technology.