Here is a letter from the Technical Service department of CBS Hytron tube company, dated June 1954, that discusses a common problem with tube testers.
In this letter [ PDF ], which I scanned and restored via Photoshop for better readability, a person from the Max Fischman Co of Pittsburgh wrote to CBS Hytron Co. asking them why so many CBS Hytron 12BH7 tubes were testing weak on their Hickok 533A tube tester.
CBS Hytron investigated the matter by testing 50 CBS Hytron 12BH7 that were known to be top quality and passed factory testing. They also tested 12BH7 from other manufacturers. Their analysis revealed that the test configuration — the operating point — for 12BH7 as provided by Hickok was incorrect to target the listed micromhos value of 2380 µmhos.
Learning points from this letter:
- Again, as I have tried to instruct in previous articles, there is no such thing as a “correct” (or single) mutual conductance score. Mutual conductance is a result of the operating point of the tube (plate voltage, signal voltage, grid bias, etc.).
- Factory setup data OFTEN provides a substandard operating point for the tube in question. This is sometimes because of mistake or carelessness in creating the setup data, and sometimes due to design limitations of the test circuit (one fixed signal voltage that is substandard for a particular tube, or a fixed plate/screen voltage that is substandard for that tube).
- Learning to KNOW YOUR TUBE TESTER is of utmost importance, not blindly relying on the results that you see on the meter. A seasoned tech who worked with 12BH7 tubes on a regular basis would have discovered this issue and learned to work around this problem — either by creating a new Bias setting that more appropriately would target 2380 for a typical new 12BH7, or he would have noted what Gm score was more accurate at the bias point given in the setup chart.
NOTES: (1) the letter refers to mutual conductance readings as “Sm”, which I am not aware of that abbreviation. I believe that “Gm” is the standard abbreviation. (2) the secretary who typed the letter misspelled Hickok as “Hickock”.