We added Marshall Amp Tube Set to our site some time ago. We are offering TungSol tubes (except for JJ EL84) for tube sets.
Why TungSol? Well, we have been shipping TungSol tubes for many years. And TungSol tubes have not only sounded great, but have been solid and reliable. If you are looking for tube sets for your Marshall Amps, you should definitely check them out.
Now, you may have noticed that all the photos on our site are unique to us. That's because we take all the photos ourselves. It took us many years to get the tube photos right. Glass is hard to photograph especially if you want to overexpose the background. If you are trying to take photos of tubes and not having luck, we'd be happy to let you know how we do it.
For tube sets, we are photographing our own amps as well. For the Marshall Tube Set, we asked our very own glamorous classic JMP to be our photo model.
Now between you and me, JMP was actually very difficult to shoot. We wanted to feature her lines and show off her gorgeous dark surfaces. But the black British Tolex bounces off a lot more light than you might expect. This made her surface look like they are covered with tanning oil.
In the end, it took a lot of adjusting the lights, and liberal use of polarizing filter to see through her glow. We're happy how she came out in the photo.
Let's talk a little bit about octal base. On octal tubes, the base serves important functions.
Octal tubes like EL34 actually have wire leads coming out from the glass. The leads are soldered inside the octal base pins. These pins are what makes contact with the socket receptacles.
This pin soldering is tricky to do well. Quality of this soldering work tells a lot about the quality of the manufacturing.
The octal base has to meet a lot of demands. Octal base insulates high voltages between the pins. Octal base is cemented to the bottom of the glass tube. The octal base also needs to conduct heat away. Octal base must be flexible enough to accommodate thermal expansion of glass tubes. And octal base has to be cost effective.
For these reasons, tube manufacturers use plastic in octal bases. Even the metal bases use plastic, as seen on this Svetlana KT88.
Being made out of plastic makes an octal base more prone to blemishing and, of course, guide pin breaking off.
Octal base itself does not affect the sound of the tube at all. But you want to exercise some caution when installing/removing the tube from the socket. Guide pin on the octal base happens to be the most fragile part of the tube.
So, we didn't update the blog for almost a year....! Our apologies, our old site at BOI AudioWorks is attracting quite a bit of traffic still, so we have been quite busy serving both.
Now with that out of the way, we thought we'd share our reflection of our first year.
TFA is 1 year old
We'd like to take this opportunity to thank all those who ordered from us, we hope you are enjoying the glow and sonic warmth of your tube gear.
Those of you who reached out to us, you know how we enjoy hearing from fellow tube gear users.
Mobile is Awesome
This site has been doing quite well. It is serving traffic from all over the world, and has stayed up for months at a time with no unplanned downtime.
As we continue to make improvements to cater to users who visit this online store, there is one thing we noticed. There is a definite continuing shift to mobile devices.
It's fascinating to think that we are using a handheld device to browse and purchase vacuum tubes of all things...!
This is amazingly futuristic, modern and retro at the same time.
When we started selling vacuum tubes online back in 2003, we never would have imagined our customers would be reading our sites and purchasing vacuum tubes using phones and tablets. We have come a long, long way.
On the other hand, as technology keeps changing, here we are using that very technology to more easily access things that enriches our lives.
Things like vacuum tubes that have provided the same enjoyment to us all since decades ago.
And we think that's about the most fabulous thing.
www.tubesforamps.com site is a custom built eCommerce site running on the latest cloud technology. That sounds fancy, but this technology is closer to us than we might think. This technology is what companies like Amazon and Netflix uses.
We get the same performance, capacity and security as these familiar companies do. This means that we are able to keep IT cost (and hassle) to minimum. All in all, pass on the savings to our customers.
Twitter is Awesome
Although we aren't promoting it much yet, we created a twitter account and started to tweet. Yes yes I know, merchant twitter accounts are boring. That's not what we wanted to do.
We have always been interested in connecting with musicians. Not only that, we also have been interested in connecting with craftsmen/women who build music instruments and components.
And in just one month, we found a number of people on twitter who build beautiful guitars and hand wind pickups. We can only hope to connect with more greta people so we can see all the wonderful work they produce.
It's been a bit over a week since we opened Tubes For Amps. It's been a whole lot of work, and things continue to move forward.
Week in Review
We are getting trickle of a traffic at this point. Great thing is, we are getting sales which makes for stellar conversion rate.
The orders are easier to process on the new site, and shipping costs less for the customers on the new site. So the new site is even a win-win.
We added Fender Tube Set containing tube sets for over 100 different Fender Amps to the catalog. The data was added programmatically, and the tube set photos were generated programmatically. This was a lot of work but was a lot of fun.
We also switched AdWords campaigns from old site to new site. The campaigns are ramping up, and it's still settling down, but we are getting really good CTRs.
We transferred some contents from the old site, and made the old URL redirect to the new site. This moves some of the SEO mojo from old to new. Search engines are usually pretty slow to respond, so we needed to do this as early as possible.
We still got a lot of things to do.
There are still a few more features we'd like to add to the site. We also need to add more information to the site - for example, we offer free shipping anywhere in California, but we also offer free domestic shipping for orders over $100.
We still need to keep transferring content from the old site to new, and add even more content.
Oh, and we are going to add a lot more products, not just tubes. This will be coming in a week or so.
So much to do, so little time. We already had feedback form a couple of customers on the new site. It's always great hearing from our customers (who are all over the world), and it's even better getting positive feedback!
Well, we have been running around trying to get everything ready.
Software wise, we found a couple of bugs in the order processing workflow. And there's the layout and design. I am never happy with the design, and I keep twiddling little things here and there.
I can keep going on just tweaking the design.
If you are programmer, I have to tell you a secret. None of that really matters. If you are semi-decent programmer, you did at least a semi-decent job and bugs we find at this stage are small, and easy to fix.
What matters now is the people who will be using it. The customers who visit the site, and the people who run the operation.
To speak to the latter, Mari who runs the store, got a walk through of the system. It was like a final inspection, an acceptance test, so to speak.
And I'm happy to report it went over fairly well. Well, to be honest, response was lukewarm. But this is understandable. Change is never embraced openly in these situations, so lukewarm is the equivalent of a reception full of confetti and cheerleaders. At least that's how I am going to treat it.
And Here It Is
So after several walk throughs, some heated discussion, and further tweaking of little pieces, we decided to go live. We are lifting the announcement page, and going full steam ahead.
All the features we want to launch with are coded, tested and deployed behind the maintenance page.
The site shows coming soon page to the public, but we have full access to the site. That's how I'm writing this blog. Lots of construction work going on behind that Turquoise maintenance page.
Of course, there are lots of small things that can be fixed, but we are getting very anxious to launch.
One last hurdle is the content of the site. An ecommerce software by itself is just a container. You need the content to make it come to life.
For that, we are bringing over core catalog data from our old site. Now, this is not at all a straight transfer. In fact, it's more like using the old data to come up with a completely new set of catalog data.
Being a programmer that I am, I am writing a program that does this. It's purpose is to run just once, creating this new data.
The reason I'm doing it this way is because the volume of the data. Although we are bringing over just a subset of our catalog data, it's still well over 500 SKU's.
So this is a very tedious task of writing and debugging a complicated logic, but once we get this done, the site is going to be almost live.