#1
I know a little about vacuum tubes in general, but almost nothing about the specifics. In thread after thread about guitar gear when the issue of pickups, tuners, caps, or control knobs comes up , it seems everyone has an extremely strong opinion about which kinds are good and which aren't. Disagree, or worse, suggest that different brands of parts aren't really that big a deal, and people get really, really angry. 

But despite the fanatical partisanship over one brand of humbuckers over another, or which tuners are the only tuners worth getting, I don't recall ever seeing a thread about what brand of vacuum tubes are best for a tube amp. Is there a reason for that? Is there no difference between one brand of tube over another? I must have read over 470 different threads (more or less) in different internet music discussion forums about how great tube amps are, and how solid state amps suck and no real guitar player would ever use one. I've read more than a few threads asking for advice about which tube amps to get, but I don't recall anyone ever suggesting looking at the brand of tubes in the amp, or swapping out the tubes for better sound. 

If someone were to buy a new or used tube amp, and wanted to modify it to make it better, what brand of tubes should the get to replace what is already in the amp? Does it make a difference? Is the difference in sound between an amp with one brand of tube compared to another brand of tubes greater than, equal to, or less than the difference how a guitar sounds if you swap out one brand of humbucker for another brand? 

Since I know next to nothing about tube brands, I had to look up a list of brand names of tubes. I found these.  This is where I found the list of tube brands. I found it with a search engine. It was the first site I found with a list of tube brand names. I know next to nothing about tubes, so this is a serious question. I'm hoping the responses will actually increase my knowledge of tubes.

 
Last edited by gerdner at Mar 31, 2017,
#3
Get what your fav bands use.

Experienced guitars have amp farms. Once you have a band with a particular sound choice, then the amp of choice usually stays. If you get famous then one day it might even be your signature model with those tubes. However experienced people who play a range of stuff... have a range of amps with different tubes. Why? Tones that are particular to each style and song. What I am saying is for each song you have ever heard, the 'right' amp tube, is the amp that was used to make it by that band. Sounds expensive if you are into a lot of different songs right? Well this is where modelling amps come in or a good clean channel and FX board. Modelling amps are mostly Solid State, some hybrids and not so many are tubes. If you don't want to spend loads on amp but cover a range of sounds, but take a bit of blow on tone, then modelling amps are the way to go.

A good clean channel on any amp that takes pedals well is another option. So get tubes suitable for cleans. That way you start with a clean slate and use pedals/FX boards to get the sound you want.

I think for many people their first tube amp is probably going to be an amp that most of their fav bands play on. If 4/6 of your top bands you want to play use amp X, then it's a no brainer to find what tubes they use. Usually the ones naturally in amp BTW.

One big difference between solid state and tubes is that a lot of solid state systems are built to cover a wide range of tones and effects, so the amp is engineered for that wide range, meaning it isn't specialized, which tubes amps tend to be, covering a smaller range of sounds, but doing it very well. There are specialized state amps dedicated to specific sounds that sound pretty darn good compared to modelling amps. In fact many of those specific solid states are used by plenty of well known players from BB King to Dimebag Darrell.
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Last edited by Deermonic at Mar 31, 2017,
#4
There are a million answers to this.  Each of these tubes has a different tone to them.  Many people who get into tube swaps, often have a mix of tubes in their amp(s).  Each tube in your amp (in particularly your preamp tubes) is there to perform a function; meaning they're dedicated to a particular circuit or are shared by one.  So someone may like a particular tube for their clean channel, and a completely different one for the first gain stage, and so on.

Personally I like a lot of bright highs, balanced mids and tight bass.  I don't really care about my clean channel.  In the rare event I use it, I can just use pedals to get a "better" tone if I'm not happy with it.  I pretty much put a Sovtek LPS in the P.I. spot, and Tung-Sols for the rest in most of my amps.  I have a bit more of a mix in my 6505+ but you get the idea.  I'm still working on what power tubes I like the best.
#5
Actually had this discussion about tubes with my amp guru once.  Although we were drinking at time so I remember squat,  So I just let him figure it out these days,   Last I checked my main amp has a sextet of Tungsol 6L6 in the power sockets, and a few Sylvania's and Sovtek's in the preamp side, sounds killer though,  
#7
gerdner The information you are asking about is out there. Maybe how you searched for it lead for non-conclusive results. For instance, searching "best brand of tube" will likely lead you no where. But getting a bit more specific with your details, like "best EL84's for a VOX circuit" can get you more conclusive results.

However, the question of "best brand of tube" cannot really be answered, because different brands have strong and weak points. One user might suggest Mullard, another JJ, etc. depending upon their own preferences and what they look for in a tube. You have to ask it with a specific amp in mind- "what is the best tube brand for X amp?" Even then, your results may not be so cut and dry as you may think. You have to ask "what position, usage, budget, etc.?" as well.
#8
Quote by gerdner

Mullard, Tungsol, Svetlana, Genalex, Electro-Harmonix and Sovtek are all made in the same factory in Russia. They have different grids which affects the tone but everything else is the same. It is unwise to put these in a cathode follower stage (ie most tone stacks and FX sends).
Ruby can be anything. You have to look up the codes to know who actually made them. Ruby are not a manufacturer.
JJ's are made in Slovakia on old Tesla machines. I like them, particularly in a bright amp. They are darker than other tubes with a big midrange. Perfect for most Marshalls.
Tube Amp Doctor are made in the Shuguang factory in China. Like Ruby, they don't manufacture anything themselves.
Shuguang (who you missed) are made in China. Their tubes vary greatly. You can pick them by the last letter of the code. 12AX7A are rubbish, 12AX7B are passable but still not that great. 12AX7C are the latest ones and are actually quite a decent tube, good in high gain amps.
Phillips are a great NOS tube. If you come across one going cheap, snap it up. Really anything made in the UK, the US, western Europe or Australia are far better than anything made today.
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#9
I just went through several tubes in  my VHT. JJ 's had more of a difference. Mullard, Tung-sol, and EH were pretty close in tone with only minor variation. In the end I went with JJ 12ax7 and EH 6v6. I like that combination.    
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#10
I had a hard time keeping track of who makes what these days.  Most tube manufacturers on the planet have closed, particularly now that the soviet military has finally transitioned to solid state. At this point, tube amps (in manufacturer terms, this is NOT a large market) are about all that's keeping these very few plants open. There are more brands than there are manufacturers. 

I've mostly been using JJ's from Eurotubes (dot com). I think Bob has some of the best testing gear available, and he sends the rejects to some other retailer. 
#11
I just go with JJ's most of the time. cheap and consistent. I will experiment with other tubes in V1 though. I will also experiment with 12AT7's and 5751's in V1 or PI.
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#12
Quote by trashedlostfdup
I just go with JJ's most of the time. cheap and consistent. I will experiment with other tubes in V1 though. I will also experiment with 12AT7's and 5751's in V1 or PI.

With 5751's and au7's I got a noticeable drop in volume.
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#13
Quote by scott58
With 5751's and au7's I got a noticeable drop in volume.


That is the point.

some amps it works great in a certain spot. a 5751 does me well for PI's overall or maybe even a 12AT7.
WTLT 2014 GG&A

Quote by andersondb7
alright "king of the guitar forum"


Quote by trashedlostfdup
nope i am "GOD of the guitar forum" i think that fits me better.


Quote by andersondb7
youre just being a jerk man.



****** NEW NEW NEW!
2017-07-07 2017-07-07 Update and a Chat On Noise Constraints *** NEW FRIDAY 7/7
2017-04-13 RUN AWAY from COMPUTERS!!! TCE? RANT ALERT!!!
2017-03-02 - Guitar Philosophy 1001- Be Prepared For the Situation (Thursday 2017-03-02)
2017-02-21 How to Hot-Rod the Hell of your Stratocaster for $50! (Tuesday 2017-2-21)
Resentments and Rambling from a Guitar Junkie
---> http://trashedengineering.blogspot.com/