We have this certain transmitter which has been on the same tube since June 6, 2001. Come to think of it, the transmitter itself has been on the air for the same amount of time without failure. A testament to its designer…
According to my calculations, that is 151,691 hours or 17 years 3 months and 22 days. The tube is the original EMIAC 4CX15000A that came with the transmitter.
I am a little nervous about turning it off to clean the cabinet.
We have a spare on the shelf for the eventual replacement of this tube, but I really want to see how long this thing will last. This is also one of the last tube transmitters we have in main service. There are several backup tube transmitters still around.
We may be going for a record here; this Broadcast Electronics FM20T was placed in service on June 6, 2001:
The original 4CX15000A tube is still in use. I wrote about this a few years ago in this post: Longevity.
I thought by now, we would have changed out that tube. A few quick calculations shows that the tube has been in use for 118,289 hours or 4,929 days or 13 years 6 months and 3 days. Anyway you look at it, that is a long time for one tube in nearly continuous use. I noticed the hour meter is lagging a bit:
Reads 113051.24, which is 5,238 hours different than what I calculated from the maintenance log. I noticed a slight discrepancy in hours two years ago and attributed it to various off air periods. However, between then and now, this transmitter has not been off at all. Thus, the hour meter is wearing out before the tube. I would say that this is because of excellent filament voltage management, but I think we simply have a really good tube.
Has anyone else had a tube that lasted this long or longer?
As this is an older design than either the Gates Sta level or the Collins 26U, it may not be as useful to tube audio enthusiasts.
The main issue with the Gates and Collins unit is the GE 6386 remote cutoff triode used, which were great tubes, but very difficult to come by these days. This design calls for a 1612 or 6L7, which is a pentagrid amplifier. Feedback is provided by the screen of the following stage, a 6SJ7GT. Anyway, perhaps it will give somebody some idea on how to make a good tube compressor limiter.
One of the stations that we do contract work for installed a Broadcast Electronics FM20T transmitter on June 6, 2001. It is still running on the original tube, a 4CX15,000A. By my calculations, that is 11 years, 7 months and 9 days, or 101,712 hours.
The hour meter shows 101,168 hours, which accounts for some maintenance, and other anomalies. Overall, the transmitter has a 99.5% up time. I do not think the transmitter suffered any failures, rather, things like the generator and the STL failed instead.
Almost twelve years on one tube is pretty impressive. I know that other Broadcast Electronics T model FM transmitters have similar tube life expectancies. I wonder what the Broadcast Electronics secret is.