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12AE10 Compactron tube (a dual pentode), made by GE 12AE10CompactronTube.jpg
12AE10 Compactron tube (a dual pentode), made by GE

Compactrons are a type of thermionic valve, or vacuum tube, which contain multiple electrode structures packed into a single enclosure. They were designed to compete with early transistor electronics and were used in televisions, radios, and similar roles.

Vacuum tube Device that controls electric current between electrodes in an evacuated container

In electronics, a vacuum tube, an electron tube, or valve or, colloquially, a tube, is a device that controls electric current flow in a high vacuum between electrodes to which an electric potential difference has been applied.

Television Telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images

Television (TV), sometimes shortened to tele or telly, is a telecommunication medium used for transmitting moving images in monochrome, or in colour, and in two or three dimensions and sound. The term can refer to a television set, a television program, or the medium of television transmission. Television is a mass medium for advertising, entertainment and news.

Radio technology of using radio waves to carry information

Radio is the technology of using radio waves to carry information, such as sound and images, by systematically modulating properties of electromagnetic energy waves transmitted through space, such as their amplitude, frequency, phase, or pulse width. When radio waves strike an electrical conductor, the oscillating fields induce an alternating current in the conductor. The information in the waves can be extracted and transformed back into its original form.



The Compactron was a trade name applied to multi-electrode structure tubes specifically constructed on a 12-pin Duodecar base. This vacuum tube family was introduced in 1961 by General Electric in Owensboro, Kentucky [1] to compete with transistorized electronics during the solid state transition. [2] Television sets were a primary application. The idea of multi-electrode tubes itself was far from new and indeed the Loewe company of Germany was producing multi-electrode tubes as far back as 1926, and they even included all of the required passive components as well. [3]

General Electric American multinational conglomerate corporation

General Electric Company (GE) is an American multinational conglomerate incorporated in New York and headquartered in Boston. As of 2018, the company operates through the following segments: aviation, healthcare, power, renewable energy, digital industry, additive manufacturing, venture capital and finance, lighting, and oil and gas.

Owensboro, Kentucky City in Kentucky, United States

Owensboro is a home rule-class city in and the county seat of Daviess County, Kentucky, United States. It is the fourth-largest city in the state by population. Owensboro is located on U.S. Route 60 about 107 miles (172 km) southwest of Louisville, and is the principal city of the Owensboro metropolitan area. The 2015 population was 59,042. The metropolitan population was estimated at 116,506.

Use was prevalent in televisions because transistors were slow to achieve the high power and frequency capabilities needed particularly in color television sets. The first portable color television, the General Electric Porta-Color, was designed using 13 tubes, 10 of which were Compactrons. Even before the compactron design was unveiled, nearly all tube based electronic equipment used multi-electrode tubes of one type or another. Virtually every AM/FM radio receiver of the 1950s and 60's used a 6AK8 (EABC80) tube (or equivalent) consisting of three diodes and a triode which was designed in 1954. [4]


General Electric's Porta-Color was the first "portable" color television introduced in the United States in 1966.

Compactron's integrated valve design helped lower power consumption and heat generation (they were to tubes what integrated circuits were to transistors). Compactrons were also used in a few high end Hi-Fi stereos. [2] They were also used by the Ampeg guitar amplifier company in some of their guitar amps. No modern tube based Hi-Fi systems are known to use this tube type, as simpler and more readily available tubes have again filled this niche.

Notable features

The evacuation tip is in the center of the circular pin pattern. Duodekar.JPG
The evacuation tip is in the center of the circular pin pattern.

A distinguishing feature of most Compactrons is the placement of the evacuation tip on the bottom end, rather than the top end as was customary with "miniature" tubes, and a characteristic 3/4" diameter circle pin pattern.

Evacuation tip

The evacuation tip is a port on any glass envelope or vessel inside of which specific gasses or a vacuum must be held. They are very often seen on nixies or vacuum tubes. It used to evacuate gases from the tube, and in the case of nixies, add the proper mix of gases before being sealed. It provides a convenient port for the amateur glasshacker to introduce gases to alter the performance of the tube. It is also known as the "tubulation" or "pip".

OSRAM Sylvania Inc. is the North American operation of lighting manufacturer OSRAM. It was established in January 1993, with the acquisition of GTE’s Sylvania lighting division by OSRAM GmbH. In 2016, OSRAM spun off its general lighting business to LEDVANCE which received a license to sell lighting products under the OSRAM and Sylvania names.


Examples of Compactrons type types include:

Due to their specific applications in television circuits, many different Compactron types were produced. Almost all were assigned using standard US tube numbers.

Technological obsolescence

Integrated circuits (of the analogue and digital type) gradually took over all of the functions that the Compactron was designed for. "Hybrid" television sets produced in the early to mid-1970s made use of a combination of tubes (typically Compactrons), transistors, and integrated circuits in the same set. By the mid-1980s this type of tube was functionally obsolete. Compactrons simply don't exist in any TV sets designed after 1986. Other specialist uses of the tube declined in parallel with the television set manufacture. Manufacture of Compactrons ceased in the early 1990s. New old stock replacements for almost all Compactron types produced are easily found for sale on the Internet.

Related Research Articles

Amplifier electronic device that can increase the power of a signal

An amplifier, electronic amplifier or (informally) amp is an electronic device that can increase the power of a signal. It is a two-port electronic circuit that uses electric power from a power supply to increase the amplitude of a signal applied to its input terminals, producing a proportionally greater amplitude signal at its output. The amount of amplification provided by an amplifier is measured by its gain: the ratio of output voltage, current, or power to input. An amplifier is a circuit that has a power gain greater than one.

Triode electronic device having three active electrodes; the term most commonly applies to a single-grid amplifying vacuum tube

A triode is an electronic amplifying vacuum tube consisting of three electrodes inside an evacuated glass envelope: a heated filament or cathode, a grid, and a plate (anode). Developed from Lee De Forest's 1906 Audion, a partial vacuum tube that added a grid electrode to the thermionic diode, the triode was the first practical electronic amplifier and the ancestor of other types of vacuum tubes such as the tetrode and pentode. Its invention founded the electronics age, making possible amplified radio technology and long-distance telephony. Triodes were widely used in consumer electronics devices such as radios and televisions until the 1970s, when transistors replaced them. Today, their main remaining use is in high-power RF amplifiers in radio transmitters and industrial RF heating devices. In recent years there has been a resurgence in demand for low power triodes due to renewed interest in tube-type audio systems by audiophiles who prefer the sound of tube-based electronics.

Semiconductor devices are electronic components that exploit the electronic properties of semiconductor material, principally silicon, germanium, and gallium arsenide, as well as organic semiconductors. Semiconductor devices have replaced thermionic devices in most applications. They use electronic conduction in the solid state as opposed to the gaseous state or thermionic emission in a high vacuum.

A tetrode is a vacuum tube having four active electrodes. The four electrodes in order from the centre are: a thermionic cathode, first and second grids and a plate. There are several varieties of tetrodes, the most common being the screen-grid tube and the beam tetrode. In screen-grid tubes and beam tetrodes, the first grid is the control grid and the second grid is the screen grid. In other tetrodes one of the grids is a control grid, while the other may have a variety of functions.

Valve amplifier type of electronic amplifier

A valve amplifier or tube amplifier is a type of electronic amplifier that uses vacuum tubes to increase the amplitude or power of a signal. Low to medium power valve amplifiers for frequencies below the microwaves were largely replaced by solid state amplifiers during the 1960s and 1970s. Valve amplifiers are used for applications such as guitar amplifiers, satellite transponders such as DirecTV and GPS, audiophile stereo amplifiers, military applications and very high power radio and UHF television transmitters.

Pro Electron or EECA is the European type designation and registration system for active components.

Pentagrid converter vacuum tube with seven electrodes – cathode, anode, and five grids

The pentagrid converter is a type of radio receiving valve with five grids used as the frequency mixer stage of a superheterodyne radio receiver.

Control grid vacuum tube electrode

The control grid is an electrode used in amplifying thermionic valves such as the triode, tetrode and pentode, used to control the flow of electrons from the cathode to the anode (plate) electrode. The control grid usually consists of a cylindrical screen or helix of fine wire surrounding the cathode, and is surrounded in turn by the anode. The control grid was invented by Lee De Forest, who in 1906 added a grid to the Fleming valve to create the first amplifying vacuum tube, the Audion (triode).

Pentode electronic device having five active electrodes; the term most commonly applies to a three-grid amplifying vacuum tube

A pentode is an electronic device having five active electrodes. The term most commonly applies to a three-grid amplifying vacuum tube, which was invented by Gilles Holst and Bernhard D.H. Tellegen in 1926. The pentode consists of an evacuated glass envelope containing five electrodes in this order: a cathode heated by a filament, a control grid, a screen grid, a suppressor grid, and a plate (anode). The pentode was developed from the tetrode tube by the addition of a third grid, the suppressor grid. This served to prevent secondary emission electrons emitted by the plate from reaching the screen grid, which caused instability and parasitic oscillations in the tetrode. The pentode is closely related to the beam tetrode. Pentodes were widely used in industrial and consumer electronic equipment such as radios and televisions until the 1960s, when they were replaced by transistors. Their main use now is in high power industrial applications such as radio transmitters. The obsolete consumer tubes are still used in a few legacy and specialty vacuum tube audio devices.

Single-ended triode A single-ended tube audio amplifier employing a triode in the output stage

A single-ended triode (SET) is a vacuum tube electronic amplifier that uses a single triode to produce an output, in contrast to a push-pull amplifier which uses a pair of devices with antiphase inputs to generate an output with the wanted signals added and the distortion components subtracted. Single-ended amplifiers normally operate in Class A; push-pull amplifiers can also operate in Classes AB or B without excessive net distortion, due to cancellation.

In Europe, the principal method of numbering vacuum tubes was the nomenclature used by the Philips company and its subsidiaries Mullard in the UK, Valvo(de, it) in Germany, Radiotechnique (Miniwatt-Dario brand) in France, and Amperex in the United States, from 1934 on. Adhering manufacturers include AEG (de), CdL (1921, French Mazda brand), CIFTE (fr, Mazda-Belvu brand), EdiSwan (British Mazda brand), Lorenz (de), MBLE(fr, nl), RCA (us), RFT(de, sv) (de), Siemens (de), Telefunken (de), Tesla (cz), Toshiba (ja), Tungsram (hu), and Unitra. This system allocated meaningful codes to tubes based on their function and became the starting point for the Pro Electron naming scheme for active devices.

A valve audio amplifier (UK) or vacuum tube audio amplifier is a valve amplifier used for sound reinforcement, sound recording and reproduction.

A double diode triode is a type of electronic vacuum tube once widely used in radio receivers. The tube has a triode for amplification, along with two diodes, one typically for use as a detector and the other as a rectifier for automatic gain control, in one envelope. In practice the two diodes usually share a common cathode. Multiple tube sections in one envelope minimized the number of tubes required in a radio or other apparatus.

In electronics, cut-off is a state of negligible conduction that is a property of several types of electronic components when a control parameter, is lowered or increased past a value. The transition from normal conduction to cut-off can be more or less sharp, depending on the type of device considered, and also the speed of this transition varies considerably.

Magic eye tube Vacuum tube which gives a visual indication of the amplitude of an electronic signal

A magic eye tube or tuning indicator, in technical literature called an electron-ray indicator tube, is a vacuum tube which gives a visual indication of the amplitude of an electronic signal, such as an audio output, radio-frequency signal strength, or other functions. The magic eye is a specific type of such a tube with a circular display similar to the EM34 illustrated. Its first broad application was as a tuning indicator in radio receivers, to give an indication of the relative strength of the received radio signal, to show when a radio station was properly tuned in.

Tube sound

Tube sound is the characteristic sound associated with a vacuum tube amplifier, a vacuum tube-based audio amplifier. At first, the concept of tube sound did not exist, because practically all electronic amplification of audio signals was done with vacuum tubes and other comparable methods were not known or used. After introduction of solid state amplifiers, tube sound appeared as the logical complement of transistor sound, which had some negative connotations due to crossover distortion in early transistor amplifiers. The audible significance of tube amplification on audio signals is a subject of continuing debate among audio enthusiasts.

A Virtual Valve Amplifier (VVA) is software algorithm designed and sold by Diamond Cut Productions, Inc. for simulating the sound of various valve amplifier designs. It can be found within their DC8 and Forensics8 software programs.

Triple-twin Vacuum tube containing two directly-coupled triodes for audio frequency power amplification

The Triple-twin was a type of double vacuum triode for audio power amplifiers. A triple-twin contained two dissimilar, directly coupled triodes in a common envelope. To maximize power yield, the output triode was intended to be positively biased, and thus required substantial grid current. This current was supplied by the input triode, configured as a cathode follower. The cathode of the input triode was hard-wired to the control grid of the output triode inside the envelope.



  1. "Multi-Function Compactrons Promise Two-Tube Radio". Electronic Design. July 20, 1960. p. 74. Retrieved 2009-11-03.
  2. 1 2 Duntemann, Jeff (2008). "Compactron Tubes: A Junkbox Guide". Copperwood Media LLC. Retrieved 2009-11-03.