August 2010
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Western Electric 212E vacuum tube

The company I work for is in the midst of cleaning out a studio location.  Most radio engineers are some form of pack rat.  I know I have been guilty of this myself, not wanting to throw something away because tomorrow, it might be needed.  That was carried out to the extreme at this location.  One of the things that I found in my clean out was a Western Electric 212E vacuum tube.

Western Electric 212E vacuum tube

Western Electric 212E vacuum tube

It is an impressive thing, measures about 12 1/2 inches tall, including the pins.  I am thinking this is pretty old, it probably came from a pre-WWII Western Electric AM transmitter.  This would make the most sense, as the station signed on in 1926 with 250 watts.  Back in the day,  Western Electric was the patent holder for AM technology.   In fact, there was some talk of suing General Electric for patent infringement after the airing of the world series by WJZ and WGY in 1922.  Parent company AT&T was working on radio modulation techniques to implement with their telephone system.

These tubes were used for audio amplification, according to the spec sheet, the plate could dissipate 275 watts.  Filament voltages is 14 volts at 6.2 amps, the plate voltage was 3,000 volts, maximum.  It is a tetrode.  The RF counterpart to this tube is the WE 308A.

From what I am to understand, these have not been made since 1960 or so.   I also understand there there is quite a cult following for this tube amongst Asian audiophiles.  There are several examples of extremely low distortion class A and AB amplifiers using this tube type.  Some prices on Ebay are in the $1,500 to $2,000 per tube range.  Unfortunately, I don’t think this one works anymore as there is a loose screw and little bits of what looks like control grid wire in the bottom of it.  It does light up with 12 volts on the filament, however.

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21 comments to Western Electric 212E vacuum tube

  • J. Aegerter

    The 212E was introduced in 1937 and was used in WE transmitters 5C, 6B, 7A, 12B, 301B, 302B, 303B, 304B, 306A, and the D-156000 trans-oceanic “Long Lines” rigs. The Western Electric tube plant in Kansas City made some of the finest tubes in their day. Probably the most renowned is the 300B which is a triode used in Class A amplifiers. It is similar to the 2A3, but better. Another one is the 350B which was very popular and used in a Western Electric 250 Watt transmitter that went on the air in 1946 locally. And of course, Jim Weldon’s (Continental) 500 kW “Border Blaster” which used the huge Western Electric type 320A with sapphire guides for filament expansion. Bernie Magers ran the Kansas City plant and has published an excellent book on the tubes they built. He also was the one who had the regrettable duty of closing this plant in 1988. The last tube to be built there was the highly sought after 300B.

  • admin

    The book you mention is:
    Magers, Bernard: 75 Years of Western Electric Tube Manufacturing 2nd Ed. Tempe, AZ: Antique Electronic Supply, 1994

  • rich

    There is a vignette about the 212 tube in the first chapter of the book titled, “Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman!” which is available from a number of *.edu sites without charge. To find a copy google “surely you’re joking mr. feynman pdf” . Richard Feynmann was a US Physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project and later won a Nobel Prize for his work on Quantum Electrodynamics (QED).

  • Bob D.

    People are crazy for anything Western Electric. Do a Ebay search for Wester Electric wire. You’ll find useless 10 foot lengths of cloth covered wire for $400. I don’t get it. Makes a search of the junk pile a treasure hunt.

  • Allan Sacharow

    I have a 212e tube for sale

  • Allan Sacharow

    I am simply an individual with out a website.

  • Paul Thurst

    Okay Allan. If anyone shows interest, I will email you

  • Santy

    Alan Sacharow, Do you still have those 212 tubes? I am interested.


  • Chuck Gennaro

    Western Electric was resurrected a while back, making a limited number of tubes in the USA using the old jigs.

  • David Holderness

    I have found a Western Electric JAN 212E vacuum tube. If you are interested please email me. Dave

  • claudia

    Do you know how much you want for it?

  • Napat

    Please E-mail me if you have WE 212E.

  • KAY Dorrough

    I have just come across a WE 212-E. The flash is very good and the glass is clear. I am interested
    in selling it.

    Please contact me if you are interested.

  • David Holderness

    I still have a Western Electric Jan 212E. If anyone is interested in this thing please email me. I entered a similar message almost a year ago and got no response. Thank you

  • Paul Thurst

    This really isn’t a buying and selling site, although I don’t mind if people try that here. You might want to post on some of the audio forums. I know the WE212-E is very popular with audio enthusiasts, who like to take them and make class A audio amplifiers out of them. To each his own, I suppose…

  • HoNgo

    Hello,I am looking to buy WE212 for my amp. If you have for sale please email me. Thankyou.

  • Tom

    I am interested in 212D/E, Pls email me if you want to sell,Thank you guys.

  • Sid Rose

    I have a 212E tube and would like to display it with the filament lit up. How do you hook up 12 volt DC to do this. How are the pins hooked up. Pic would help. Thanks

  • Irvine

    If anyone has a dead 212, I may be interested in buying it for display only. So reasonably clean/good condition. I’m NOT an audiophile who wants one at any cost, I’m retired but willing to pay s reasonable price including shipping. Cheers

  • I have one in excellent condition, impedance classification #3, filament tested good,getter structure spot welds are all intact and good,lettering is good and clear, the glass is very clear.

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