Recommend me some tubes!

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losthighway
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Recommend me some tubes!

Post by losthighway » Thu Apr 05, 2012 12:23 pm

My old Marshall head needs new preamp tubes.

Probably something in the order of a 12ax7, maybe 12at7. The problem is, I'm not sure which manufacturer is well regarded at this point.

While I'm at it I need a new tube for my Groove Tubes Md1a.

Groovetubes, Mesa, Sovtek.... some other thing?

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Post by creaturesleeper » Thu Apr 05, 2012 2:28 pm

JJ tubes are pretty decent and they are knowledgable nice folk with a wide selection.

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Post by creaturesleeper » Thu Apr 05, 2012 2:28 pm

JJ tubes are pretty decent and they are knowledgable nice folk with a wide selection.

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Post by 0xeneye » Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:33 am

Mullards, Philips, and the like
0x

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davepinkham
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Post by davepinkham » Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:00 am

i put the new tung sol tubes in my fender bassman with great results. mullards might be more your thing to get the "british" sound though.

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Post by hogfish » Tue Apr 10, 2012 4:40 am

Mullards are made by Sovtek. Tung Sols are similarly Russian or Chinese or Eastern European. The point is that everything you buy is just the brand name. Not necessarily a bad thing, there are good sounding tubes of all brands. If you have a NOS jones theres plenty of those around too, at ridiculously exorbitant prices. I have had excellent results with JJ, TAD, and EH. Great results also with NOS RCA, Tung Sol, and Telefunken. Thing is the difference between NOS and new is very small, and sometimes not worth the difference in price......

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Post by blungo2 » Tue Apr 10, 2012 8:06 am

as the previous poster said nos ax7s have gone through the roof, i just can't justify paying those crazy prices. Is it just me or has the quality of new tubes increased in recent years? My hi-fi amp came with russian tung-sol 12ax7 and el84 and they sound great.

nos mic tubes can still be had for decent prices, valvos and such.

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Post by davepinkham » Tue Apr 10, 2012 9:35 am

hogfish wrote:Mullards are made by Sovtek. Tung Sols are similarly Russian or Chinese or Eastern European. The point is that everything you buy is just the brand name.
New Sensor now owns and manufactures Mullards, Tung Sol, Sovtek, Electro-Harmonix, I'm sure other stuff as well.

"The Tung-Sol name and trademark have been acquired by the New Sensor Corporation. This new production Tungsol tube is manufactured at their Xpo-Pul factory (also known as Reflektor) in Saratov, Russia. New Sensor is an American corporation and since taking ownership of this factory has been steadily improving the quality of current production tubes."
Quoted from here: http://thetubestore.com/tungsol5881.html

Just to be clear, the reissues are not just rebranded Sovteks, they're copied from the old companies' original specifications.
I found that going from Sovtek to Tung Sol made my Blackface Bassman sound like it was 1964 again.

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calaverasgrandes
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Post by calaverasgrandes » Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:26 pm

pretty much all the tubes out there can be divided into
Chinese tubes-most Mesa, Groove Tubes, Ruby etc
Slovak Tubes-JJ/Tesla (their 12ax7a are very unique sounding)
SED-Winged C (great power tubes, but overpriced).
new sensor-all the rest

For 12ax7a I prefer older RCA ($$$$$) or some NOS Sylvania ($$). No new manufacture 12ax7a can touch what a vintage blackplate RCA does.
For power the various New Sensor brands sound good, but I find they burn out faster than any other brand I have ever tried. They also seem noisier than other brands.
SED "winged C" are the goods, might not be too dear if you only have 2 power tubes. A matched sextet for my mesa was about $300 last time I retubed.
??????? wrote: "everything sounds best right before it blows up."

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Post by themagicmanmdt » Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:35 pm

my thoughts:


groove tubes = overpriced various rebranded.

sovtek = ballsy, dark, last a long while, treble roll-off

electro-harmonix = dark, round, 'ok' average

tung-sol = dark-ish russian tube, slightly dark, good upper harmonics when pushed! - slightly 'scooped' in mids

mullard = thick and dark but with detailed, yet not exaggerated, treble, 'large' sounding

jj = shorter lifespan, but sometimes cleaner and nice harmonics; 'czech' sound, some models are dark, some are bright - their AX/AT tubes have good mids and gainy treble.

TAD tubes = shorter lifespan, 'hairy' distortion yet detailed.


for a marshall, i'd say mullard or tung sol - not because of the name, but for what they'd bring for the amp - JJ/TAD's don't last long as roarin' gain stages... better for fenders and lower plate voltages for light stress and the desire for treble...
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Post by tubetapexfmr » Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:38 pm

So much is misunderstood about the nature of tubes and tone. Let me tell you what you need to know for tubing guitar amps in general and maybe you won't waste as much money as I see others waste chasing THAT sound.

SO, the most important tubes are the first preamp tubes. They will do more for your tone than any others. If your position 1 preamp tube is a 12AX7, do NOT replace it with a 12AT7. They make terrible preamp tubes in this position! If you want slightly less gain replace it with a 5751. If you want even less gain replace it with a 12AY7. If you want a LOT less gain, but more clean headroom try a 12AU7. For position 2, if it is a cathode follower type preamp in front of the tone stack, keep the 12AX7, though you can experiment with a 12AU7 or 12DW7 (this one is a mismatched dual triode with 1/2 12AX7 and 1/2 12AU7 and were used in a lot of Ampeg amps) For position 3, the phase inverter / power amp driver, THIS is where you want to try a 12AT7 if you want to take some bark out of the sound and make it less metal, though the original 12AX7 is fine for most needs. For any FX loop tubes keep whatever type it came with, these sections are not good places to experiment with other types.

As for brands to look for, I think there are precious few new manufacture tubes that can hold a candle to even ordinary American made 60's era tubes. RCA, Sylvania, GE, CBS: these are all fantastic sounding brands and used, high testing tubes will blow away even the fanciest new tube. This has a lot to do with manufacturing tolerances and metalurgy. They simply CAN'T make tubes like they used to, no matter how hard they try. My favorite ebay seller is a nice fellow that always sends me fantastic sounding tubes at about the same price as new stuff, sometimes cheaper. His seller name is "gilpin_1893". He has buy it now prices with best offer on all his auctions. If you want a deal, offer him about 75-80% of his asking price and he generally will sell at the discounted price.

Good luck!

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calaverasgrandes
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Post by calaverasgrandes » Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:55 pm

I'm not sure how a 12ax7 can have a short life. I have worn out some power tubes, but I don't think I have ever worn out a preamp tube, and I play active basses with the gain dimed on my Mesa Bass 400.
I suppose it is possible as I have one RCA shortplate 12ax7a that is much hotter on one side than the other. Luckily its the right side for my Mesa's channel 2 input!
Last edited by calaverasgrandes on Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
??????? wrote: "everything sounds best right before it blows up."

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losthighway
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Post by losthighway » Tue Apr 10, 2012 4:07 pm

All very interesting. You guys are not unanimous, which is good.... a lot of info to soak up. One thing that has come of this is I might actually try a 12au7 since I have hot pickups, I like to use overdrive and boost pedals for dynamics, and I'm always running out of headroom.

One thing that is tricky about the idea of plunking down a ton of money on some mullards, is the fact that tubes are a consumable good. I'm not buying something I will have forever. It would seem more worthwhile to put that kind of investment into the tubes in my compressor, where at least I might be printing compression on a track that everyone will hear for years after.

Hmmm.... food for thought. I welcome more opinions. Thanks everybody who's tossed in their $0.02 so far.

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tubetapexfmr
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Post by tubetapexfmr » Tue Apr 10, 2012 4:57 pm

Part of what makes buying used vintage tubes (as long as they test high of course) is that not only do they have superior tone, but they also have a much longer lifespan than any new tube. For instance that $100 Telefunken might seem expensive until you think about it lasting for 10,000 to 25,000 hours of usage. Compare that with about 10% the lifespan with a modern tube and you can have 10 crappy tubes or 1 great tube over the same lifespan for the same price. MY solution is to forget the pricey NOS stuff and stick to the good old used American tubes for the SAME price as new junk. Then you get superior tone and superior lifespan without spending any extra= win, win, win. The choice is yours.

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davepinkham
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Post by davepinkham » Wed Apr 11, 2012 12:47 pm

tubetapexfmr wrote: They simply CAN'T make tubes like they used to, no matter how hard they try.
tubetapexfmr wrote: Part of what makes buying used vintage tubes (as long as they test high of course) is that not only do they have superior tone, but they also have a much longer lifespan than any new tube. For instance that $100 Telefunken might seem expensive until you think about it lasting for 10,000 to 25,000 hours of usage. Compare that with about 10% the lifespan with a modern tube and you can have 10 crappy tubes or 1 great tube over the same lifespan for the same price.
Not trying to start a battle here, but can you offer any explanation for these claims? I agree that the quality of tube production suffered for a long time, I'm sure because of lack of market. As of late, there has been a resurgence in the popularity, increased demand, and in my opinion an increase in quality of production, at least by some manufacturers.

To say that a new product CANNOT be manufactured to the same level of quality that something made 40-60 years ago seems a little unreasonable to me. If the materials and specifications are the same, then the product is essentially the same.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of vintage music gear! But unless RCA et al. were specializing in some kind of wizardry in addition to making vacuum tubes, I can't see how your claims can be justified.

If there's a piece of the equation I'm missing here, I'd love to know!

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