Modern Tube Tester Uses Arduino

There was a time when people like us might own a tube tester and even if you didn’t, you probably knew which drug store had a tube testing machine you could use for free. We aren’t sure that’s a testament to capitalistic ingenuity or an inditement of tube reliability — maybe both. As [Usagi] has been working on some tube-based projects, he decided he needed a tester so he built one. You can see the results in the video, below.

The tester only uses 24V, but for the projects he’s building, that’s close to the operation in the real circuits. He does have a traditional tube tester, but it uses 100s of volts which is a different operating regime.


The bulk of the circuit is creating the voltages required, including a 555 charge pump to generate around -10V. The tube is wired up in a particular configuration and the Arduino makes a few measurements while changing the operating bias conditions. The converter goes through a voltage divider so the maximum 24 volts won’t overload the Arduino.

Grabbing the data into a spreadsheet allowed some curve tracing which looked useful for matching. However, as [Usagi] points out, the tester is very specific to his application. He has plans to maybe make a more general-purpose tube tester.

One of the problems with a truly general-purpose tube tester is connecting to the different pinouts. Punched cards offered one answer. If you don’t remember tube testers in drug stores, you might find that TV repair, at one time, was a big business.


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