Hi everyone

Well, a while back I got a Carvin V3. I had played one before and loved it. Only thing is, I got it used and the tubes are somewhat lackluster. I played around with some spares I had lying around and it is quite responsive to new tubes, but what the ones I currently have don't seem to do the trick.

I've been putting off buying the new tubes while I save up some money. Christmas has come and past, so I am in a better position to make sure I get tubes that are quality.

What it came with (all new production):

V1- Sovtek 12ax7WA
V2- Unlabeled (I assume it's Shuguang/China, I looked up pictures and they look like the same construction) (Channel 1/2 gain)
V3- Sovtek 12ax7WA (Channel 3 (clean) gain)
V4 Unlabeled (see above) (Master EQ)
V5- Sovtek 12ax7WA (PI)

Power tubes - Electro Harmonix EL34EH

What I'm looking to do:

I'd really like to get more mid punch and bigger bass. The power tubes should be particularly smooth in the upper register. I'm getting some hiss from the amp right now and the general consensus all over the internet is that quality power tubes + a proper bias fixes that. More clarity would be nice, too.

If the suggestions also had tight bass along with these other characteristics, that would be great. But, the other characteristics I'm looking for should come first. I have an MXR 10-band EQ that I have gotten good at using to tighten up my sound without diminishing the size of the bass.

What I can spend/what I've already done:

The spares I have are new production Tung Sol 12ax7. By putting it in different positions, I was able to get a feel for how each spot reacted to a new tube. But, I didn't like this tube in any of the spots. It seemed a little thin in some spots and lacking bass in others. That said, it did wonders in my old ValveKing which is why I have them around.

I picked up a made in Holland Amperex 12ax7 (I65 code/designated for medical use) and a 70's EI 12ax7 on eBay. I just got to play with them a bit tonight and they sound pretty awesome. Currently I have the EI in V1 and the Amperex in V2 (channel 1/2 gain stage). The EI seems to have added a lot more gain and a bit of clarity (good thing for me) and the Amperex gave the mids a nice bump (again, good thing).

I'll do some more tinkering with them tomorrow as I want to see how they affect the sound in V4 (the master controls). When I was subbing in my spares that position seemed to have a very big affect on the sound.

I currently have ~$65 to spend on preamp tubes. I may have more later, so if I don't replace them all with that, it's fine. I am open to new production or old stock tubes, whichever will get me the tone I want best. I will likely buy the old stock ones used since I'm kind of new to that area and to save money.

The power amp tubes, I currently don't have any money allocated for, but thought I would ask now since I'm making this thread. I am going to be selling some old equipment that I no longer use and should be able to spend up to ~$200 for a matched quad.

Current thoughts:

Based on what I have read, I think possibly a couple RFT ECC83's would be good for V3 and V4 for me to really give more/bigger bass. I wanted to get some second opinions before buying them though. Opinions seemed to be varied when I just googled them. I like to keep the clean channel very close to/just past breakup so I don't mind lower headroom there.

I really have no thoughts on what to put in V5 (PI spot). Probably something that will give me clarity, but beyond that I don't know. I like really crunchy sounds if that helps.

For power tubes, I would like to stick with the EL34 family since I like the pronounced mids that I get. I was thinking about getting some of the new production Gold Lion KT77's based on some reviews I've seen. But, those are expensive, so if I can get something better suited in a similar or cheaper price bracket that would be nice, as well. I keep the Master Volume around 5-6, so I can get the power tubes working (hooray for well insulated walls and a loving wife )

Thanks for reading and offering any suggestions.
The Sovtek WA's were pretty terrible IIRC.

I thought the RFT's were extremely dark, But this was from users feedback, I have never used one personally. The rest of what I typed here is have tried myself.

JJ's take a little top end fizz of an amp. Have you tied an 803? Just one in V1 and ditch the WA's in any position.

Tung Sols- you don't want to run more than 1 typically as you found. It can get too thin.

EH were pretty bright.

Have you tried an EQ pedal?
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Last edited by R45VT at Dec 30, 2013,
Yeah, the Sovteks are pretty bad. I flipped one into V2 and put the Chinese in V1 and that was a good improvement. Not a huge one, but enough to notice.

I've never tried an 803, though I've heard good things about them. I should probably give one of those a shot. This amp can get very bright if you eq it right, so I think I want to stay away from overly bright tubes.

I have an eq pedal, but I hadn't thought about using that to help out. I've been mostly just using it to tighten up and boost my input signal.
those sovteks are pure garbage.

if i owned the amp, i would leave the power tubles alone, and go with a V1 if your choice. if you want smooth perhaps a mullard. JJs in the rest, and the last preamp i prefer a 12at7. generally a JAN phillips.

that amp had a TON of gain on tap, it may give you better clarity to run a good 5751 in V1.
Carvin CT624
Walden G630ce Acoustic
Carvin V3M, Avatar 2x12 WGS Reaper, vet 30
(crybaby, Fairfield circuitry Comp, GFS tuner, Vick Audio 73 Ram's Head, Xotic AC booster, lovepedal trem, TC Flashback, PGS Trinity Reverb, Walrus Audio Aetos power)
Well, what I found from moving the EI around is that I really like what it does in V1 and V4. It seems to give it lots of thump and clarity with some super nice drive. I think I'm going to pick up a couple more of those and see where that gets me. I definitely want to get the Sovteks out as quickly as possible.

The biggest improvements I'm finding are replacing the Sovtek with ANYTHING else, but the EI so far is my favorite.

I've also heard it's fairly common to throw a 5751 in the PI. Would that be a good idea for what I'm going for? And if so, which ones should I look into?

Power tubes are definitely going to be the last thing I do once I get the pre-amp tubes as I want them.
yeah the sovteks aer a fizzy fuzzy mess, and fizzy gain is the main gripe about that amp.

i have never owned it, but i my egnater had fizzy gain as well. i fixed it by a tungsol v1, jj v2, 12at7 in PI. my alternative would be a 5751 in v1.

5751s in v1 go well because they wil drop the gain about 30%. what this meant to me in real life, is that there was very little gain change at all, but the gain was cleaner, less fizzy, and that i could use more of the settings, with a wider sweep. so if it was getting fizzy at 5-6 on the gain, i could now go to 7-8 easy and at 9 or so it would get fizzy. but i never went that high. so really, my gain tone just got better.

i like 2at7s in the PI because its probably a placebo effect that it adds clarity. perhaps i am making that entirely up.

a 12at7 has about 60-70% the gain of a 12ax7, but the current it operates at is like 2x or something. i dont know how to explain this properly, but many believe that hgh current, not high voltage or gain, is better for the PI spot. others hate a 12at7 in this spot.
Carvin CT624
Walden G630ce Acoustic
Carvin V3M, Avatar 2x12 WGS Reaper, vet 30
(crybaby, Fairfield circuitry Comp, GFS tuner, Vick Audio 73 Ram's Head, Xotic AC booster, lovepedal trem, TC Flashback, PGS Trinity Reverb, Walrus Audio Aetos power)