The Radio Electronics Television Manufacturers' Association was formed in 1953, as a result of mergers with other trade standards organisations, such as the RMA. It was principally responsible for the standardised nomenclature for American vacuum tubes - however the standard itself had already been in use for a long time before 1953; for example, the 6L6 was introduced in July 1936.

American-made tubes bear a RETMA designation to allow for easy cross-referencing. The RETMA tube designation does not incorporate the purpose of each tube in the designation. The Anglo-European Mullard–Philips tube designation does include tube use information in the designation.

  • L as a first letter often indicates a lock-in (Loktal) tube.
  • P as a second letter from the end indicates a CRT.
  • S as a first letter indicates single-ended tubes, related to grid-cap tubes.
  • S as a second letter indicates single-ended tubes.
  • Letters U, V, W, X, Y and Z are commonly used for rectifiers
Occasionally the same letter groups were used for differing tubes but only where the last number would be different making the designation unique. For example there is a 12AV5 (beam tetrode), 12AV6 (double diode, triode) and a 12AV7 (double triode).
In the case of a CRT, the second figure group indicates the type of phosphor the tube face was coated with.
  • A, B, C Improved backward compatible versions
  • E Export version
  • G Glass bulb, Shouldered Tube ST-12 to ST-16 size
  • GT Glass bulb, T-9 size (actually 'Glass Tubular')
  • GT/G Glass bulb, T-9 size interchangeable with G and GT types
  • L Loktal
  • LM Loktal-metal
  • LT Locking base
  • M Metal envelope
  • MG Metal-glass
  • ML Metal-Loktal
  • S Spray shielded
  • W Ruggedised, or military grade
  • WA, WB Improved, backward compatible military/industrial variants
  • X low loss ceramic base for RF use
  • Y low loss mica-filled phenolic resin ("Micanol")[2] base for RF use


See also