Amid a supply shortage caused partially by Russia's recent invasion of Ukraine – and the wave of retaliatory commerce-related sanctions against Russia that followed it – Western Electric has announced that it's gearing up to expand into guitar amp tube manufacturing.
Effects giant Electro-Harmonix is the chief tube supplier for many American manufacturers, but many of its tubes – manufactured under the company's own name and a number of umbrella brands – are manufactured in Russia.
Recently, the company announced after some uncertainty that it would continue to accept orders for tubes, but at a marked-up price. Furthermore, EHX added that customers should be aware of "a tremendous shortage of tubes."
With that in mind, Western Electric – a Georgia-based company that specializes in top-of-the-line, meticulously-crafted hi-fi equipment – has announced that it's ready to help fill in the gap by manufacturing various popular guitar tube types in America.
The company – which already manufactures a (very expensive) vacuum tube, the 300B – recently asked interested visitors to fill out a form that asks which tubes they'd like to see the company produce, and if quality, delivery speed, or price would be most important to them.
According to the company, the results of the survey were more than conclusive.
“After the overwhelming response from our little announcement, we know for a fact that the guitar amp crowd is massive,” a spokesperson for Western Electric told Guitar.com.
“People are ready for higher quality, American-made tubes. We’re ready to meet that demand and increase production capacity accordingly. We have the infrastructure in place to do so.”
Those wondering about the potential cost of Western Electric tubes (a single 300B costs $699, while a matched pair will set you back $1,499) need not worry, the company added. A 12AX7 tube, Western Electric pointed out, is “significantly easier and less labor-intensive” to make than the 300B.
It's unknown as of now which tubes Western Electric will be manufacturing, but the form on its website gave customers a choice of the 12AX7, EL34, 6L6, 6V6, EL84, 6H30, KT88, and 274B. In any case, we apparently won't have to wait long to find out.
“We are in the throes of tooling up for various tubes,” the company said. “Starting with the most urgently-needed, popular types.”
For now, keep an eye on westernelectric.com for updates.
Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.
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