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Old 11-26-2006, 12:19 AM   #1
Roc8995
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Everything you ever wanted to know about TUBES! (For gear thread maybe?)

As requested, here's a list of various tubes and their various characteristics. I'll stick with what I know, and others can chime in as they feel necessary. I'll add the comments to this master list if they're worthy. If popular consensus goes against my experience, I'll change mine in favor of the masses.


*Keep in mind that these are my opinions and should only serve as a very general guide. Tubes are an art, not a science, and a tube I hate may be something you love. Your results may vary.*

Current Production Tubes:

Preamp Tubes:

12AX7/12AX7A/7025/ECC83/CV4004 (Different names, same tube):

JJECC83-S:
A good preamp tube, a bit dark. They're well made. They are higher gain than most 12AX7s.

Tung-Sol 12AX7:
These are excellent tubes. They sound very balanced and open. They are especially good in the microphonics department. DO NOT use them in a cathode follower stage! They will die. If you don't know if your amp has a cathode follower stage, ask before you put a tung-sol in.

E-H 12AX7:
These are decent tubes that seem to last a while. They're a little smoother than the Tung-sol. They will exhibit a small treble spike in some amps.

Sovtek 12AX7-LPS:
These tubes sound "just ok." They're cheap and durable and are perfect for reverb drivers and phase inverters in high-gain amps. Like the Tung-sols, they should not be used in cathode followers.

5751:
Sovtek: Finally, Sovtek makes a good tube. It's a bit bright, but not harsh. A good choice for taming Fender amps that are too aggressive higher up on the volume control.


12AT7/ECC81:

E-H:
A solid tube, good if you want to get rid of some hiss from your amp or lower the gain by replacing a 12AX7. Very quiet and even. I like these.

JJ:
Suffers from the JJ preamp disease: It's too dark. Construction's ok, but nothing to write home about. Just an all right tube.

Production Power Tubes:

EL-34:

JJ: Far and away the best EL-34 you can get without paying an arm and a leg. Higher gain than most, and a tad dark, but very articulate. Sweet.

Sovtek:
Not a bad tube. They sound weaker than a JJ, and bright. Not a good choice for Marshalls.

E-H:
Very close to the JJ in durability and microphonics, and a good balanced tube as far as tone. Great if a JJ is too dark for you.

Groove Tubes (GT rebrands its preamp tubes but makes its own power tubes):
"very nice tube, long lasting but have a alightly harsh tone to them. great headroom, and add an overdrive..incredible crunch. compared to jj's el34L, they had a tab less headroom, and i prefer the jj's distorted tone better, its more agressive and tones down better." Thanks to godofshred for that review.


6L6:


Tung-Sol: Bright, round and smooth, they get the thumbs-up for bassman style amps.

JJ: Darker than the Tung-sol, these are also very nice tubes with a warmer OD. Twin Reverb and Hot Rod deluxe people like these.

Sovtek:
There are two versions, can't remember which one I tested. They're dead quiet, but the tone suffers badly from it. They sound pretty lifeless.

E-H:
Not as quiet as a Sovtek but the tone is much better. Sounded a tad dark, which is good as they mostly are used in over-bright Fender amps.

6V6:
Tung-Sol:
An excellent tube. Very smooth and buttery. Sounds great in Deluxe reverb-type amps. No problems with microphonics.

JJ:
Both this and the Tung-Sol are great choices for a 6v6. A bit darker and more aggressive than the Tung-Sol. Again, no worries with noise.

E-H:
Not a bad tube, but painfully mediocre in comparison to the JJ and Tung-Sol.

EL84:

JJ:
Sparkly, aggessive, chimy, and awesome. Everything an EL-84 should be. Seems to be better than others as far as hiss goes, but almost all EL-84 amps have some small white noise going on. Very well constructed. Treat your AC30 to four of these!

EH:
They sound decent, but don't have the harmonic content or definition of the JJs. Generally good as far as durability.

Sovtek:
Uninspiring and generally noisy. This is probably what came with your amp. Throw them away.


NOS Tubes:

I have not tried enough NOS Power tubes to give a good comparison. These NOS Preamp tubes range a lot in price, but none of them are cheap. However, expect them to last much, much longer than any current-production preamp tube. They should be good for at least 10 years. They all sound amazing as well.

12AX7:
Telefunken: These tubes will last you 30 years. For real. They sound very hi-fi and are perfect for your clean channel. Great in Voxy amps. They aren't for everyone though. I would not put these in a Fender twin. They will make any amp incredibly articulate, so all you high-gainers take note!

RFT:
Dark and smooth. Perfect for Marshalls that are a touch too trebly. Not a good choice for darker-voiced amps, as they will get muddy.

Mullard: "Agressive but quiet, really livens up the amp. Adds sizzle and 'oomph.'" - Thanks to godofshred for that one.

RCA:
Balanced and warm. No microphonics. All-around good tube. Worth the price.

12AT7:
RCA: Same as their 12AX7, with a bit less gain.

Mullard: Very cool, a 3-D sounding tube that's not real expensive and will last forever. Very warm, tight bass.

Here are some more reviews courtesy of darkarbiter:
Sovtek KT66:
Bright and chimey when clean, but has a weak low end and overdrives harshly.

Philips 5751:
Smooth highs, and solid lows. Good for smoothing out an amp with a harsher top end, and to get less gain from the preamp section.

RCA 12AU7:
Smooth and warm with low noise and microphonics.

Groove Tube 12AX7:
Kind of harsh and brittle, not very musical. Works good as a tremolo tube to get a choppier, more agressive tremolo effect, though. Roc edit: groove tube 12AX7s are usually rebranded Sovteks, so this review is consistent with my previous estimation of that tube.

Groove Tube 12AU7:
Same goes for the 12AX7, but sounds decent as a phase inverter when you want low gain.

THUS ENDS PART ONE. Scroll down for part 2.
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Old 11-26-2006, 12:21 AM   #2
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'scuse me, but what does "microphonic" exactly mean?

And I nominate a sticky for this thread. Or atleast a merge into one of those other stickies.
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Old 11-26-2006, 12:23 AM   #3
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'Microphonic' means that a tube, usually a preamp tube, starts to pick up noise from outside. All tubes are microphonic to a degree, but too much is a bad thing and will make your amp very noisy and unpleasant.

Part II-

(under construction)

So that's it!
For more information, you can go to any of these sites:
www.kcanostubes.com <Check out the 'Reference' Section, tons of stuff in there.
www.thetubestore.com
www.tubedepot.com


FOR INFORMATION ABOUT BIASING, TUBE COMPATABILITY, AND SUCH, VISIT A SITE ABOVE.
There are so many different types of amps and tubes that it would be impossible to cover all of that here. Plus, it's been done already on those sites.
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Old 11-26-2006, 12:31 AM   #4
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nice post. worth adding to the amp sticky.
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Old 11-26-2006, 12:35 AM   #5
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that must have taken a while to do, but its too cut and dry. I think a lot of people will take that information as "written in concrete" and assume anything else is blasphemous. Many things dealing with tubes are subjective
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Old 11-26-2006, 12:37 AM   #6
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I'll add a disclaimer. Thanks for the input.
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Old 11-26-2006, 12:41 AM   #7
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Ruby ?? Svetlana ?? MEsa ??
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Old 11-26-2006, 12:47 AM   #8
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Cool post. I haven't had the same experience with JJ preamp tubes though. Microphonic to me is a bad tube. I actually thought the EH were a little noisier preamp tubes, at least the sets I've owned.
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Old 11-26-2006, 12:47 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluespunkmetal
Ruby ?? Svetlana ?? MEsa ??


Ruby and Mesa are just rebranded tubes, so I didn't list them here because they don't make their own tubes and it would be reduntant.

I have not had much experience with Svets, other than their EF86, which is a great tube, but so few amps use it I didn't think it would be worth putting up. I have heard their 12AX7 is incredible but haven't got my hands on one yet.
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Old 11-26-2006, 12:48 AM   #10
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Sticky!!

good work Roc!!
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Old 11-26-2006, 12:50 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erock503
Cool post. I haven't had the same experience with JJ preamp tubes though. Microphonic to me is a bad tube. I actually thought the EH were a little noisier preamp tubes, at least the sets I've owned.


There are two kinds of noise that come from tubes, microphonics and 'mechanical' noise. I didn't do a good job of discerning between the two. The EHs have a bit more mechanical noise (noisier in general), while the JJs go microphonic- that is, they are pretty quiet until they go bad. What I should have said is that the JJs are quiet mechanically but fail every once in a while.
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Old 11-26-2006, 12:56 AM   #12
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Nice... Thanks for the response....
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Old 11-26-2006, 01:11 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roc8995
There are two kinds of noise that come from tubes, microphonics and 'mechanical' noise. I didn't do a good job of discerning between the two. The EHs have a bit more mechanical noise (noisier in general), while the JJs go microphonic- that is, they are pretty quiet until they go bad. What I should have said is that the JJs are quiet mechanically but fail every once in a while.

IC, I'll have to keep that in mind, I didn't realize they were known to have a higher failure rate than other preamp tubes. That's not good, because I actually like their tone lot in my amp. I've been lucky with mine so far I guess, the only ones I've had actually fail on me are Mesa's and GT, however both were already in amps when I got them so they weren't new. I've only been using JJ preamp tubes for about 8 months though.
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Old 11-26-2006, 01:33 AM   #14
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This should definitely be stickied.
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Old 11-26-2006, 01:35 AM   #15
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This is exactly the kind of information I've been looking for. You rule, Roc.
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Old 11-26-2006, 01:48 AM   #16
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Wait, what about Groove tubes?
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Old 11-26-2006, 02:31 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aznrockerdude
Wait, what about Groove tubes?


Groove tubes are just rebranded tubes. The problem is, they rebrand every kind of tube (JJ, Sovtek, Chinese crap, etc) so there's no way of knowing what you're going to get.
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Old 11-26-2006, 03:49 AM   #18
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Wait......... how do they rebrand a tube ??

Just peel the paint off ??
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Old 11-26-2006, 10:39 AM   #19
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Very nice Thread, very usefull!
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Old 11-26-2006, 11:25 AM   #20
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nice post. I have no idea on the accuracy of it, lol, but assuming everyone else thinks it's good, i'd definitely second it for a merging into the stickies.
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