So I just got my used YBA200 today thanks to LarryR in LA.
The amp was in glorious condition and I had a whole host of tubes to choose from as he added an entire Traynor retube set from Eurotubes for free!!!
So needless to say I did a solid hour and a half of tube swapping and testing at HIGH volume.
I am a pretty aggressive player going after a pretty aggressive tone - think more like the Ox and Lemmy.
Befor I dive into tube swap central - Allow me to comment on the construction of the amp.
It's not the best I've seen - but it's not the worst either. For a piece of gear that retails for $650 in today's marketplace I was actually surprised. Of course the tubes are all socketed straight into the PCB - which I am NOT a fan of - but doing so saves a good amount of time in construction (think lead dress). Also the jewel light is mounted in a plastic housing - not metal -but once again - a penny here a penny there.
Now one thing I really like about the construction - is the solid feel of the head once everything is set - could it survive a fall from the top of a cabinet? I don't know - but it can definitely survive crazy cab rides and bumpy load outs and ins. The head is VERY light - even with a one hand carry. I can still effectively load in with my cab in one hand and the YBA200 in the other.
The jacks are solid - the DI on the front is going to be a god send - and the dials are easy to turn - perhaps too easy.
All in all this amp sits on par in my opinion with a peavey tube amp construction wise. (which are very much workhorse amps) Not the greatest - but should get the job done. But it's not bulletproof - al though the trannies are located INSIDE the amp - which is awesome!
On to tone.
Right off the bat this amp is BRIGHT - I cannot stress that enough. And the stock sound was HORRIBLE to my ears. Shrill (I had the bright switch off and the treble rolled all the way down while playing a P-bass with month old nickle rounds) and ratty. If I played this in a store - I probably would have never brought it home. And playing the amp with the gain and master dimed produced a sound that I wouldn't call cool - or rock worthy at all.
So I popped in some different tubes.
I tried an AU7, AT7, and an AX7 in V1 and I settled on a 12AX7 - for volume purposes - I did not like the volume drop at all with the JJECC82 in the front or the Mullard 12AT7 though the sound was nice and clean.
I tried the mullard in the PI position - and yes - a preamp tube with higher overall gain - will make the amp sound like it's being overdriven -
BUT those of you searching for a great low volume overdrive sound should pop in a 12AX7 in the PI as it can sound wonderful if you want.
So I decided to keep the stock EH12AU7 in place. BUT I have a JJ 12AU7 you say? so where did I put that?
in V2. WHY? well I tried the AT7 and the AX7 both in V1 and V2, and while one was cleaner at mid volume than the other (the V1-AT7 & V2-AX7 combo) I noticed it still got ratty when I drove the amp full bore. the reverse combo had even less head room.
So I put the JJ12AU7 in V2 and all was well.
now my V1 tube is not just any preamp tube - it's a special one - that I SWEAR by now. The RFT ECC83
it's an NOS 12AX7 that I bought from kcanostubes.com - check them out - they have some great hard to find stuff. The RFT has an earlier breakup than most 12AX7's BUT it's darker so to my ears the break up happens in all the right places. Those of you who might need a bit less gain and more preamp amp headroom should look into a good NOS 5751 for the same idea. The YBA200 is a BRIGHT amp - I'll say it again - but the RFT works wonders for it in taming the high end (and this is with the treble at 0).
So by putting the JJ12AU7 in V2 I was able to get a glorious overdriven amp tone that was VERY tight and thick with the amp wide open - articulate, touch sensitive - you name it - the tone rocked. And with the master and gain at 5 - I got a decent still full sound that I could not get with a lower gain tube in V1.
BUT the real linchpin in this whole equation - are the JJKT88's.
They are far and away better when overdriven in this amp than the Sovtek 6550s or the pair of SED 6550s I mixed in. I have no need for the tung Sols in this amp - which is nice and saves me money. and the JJkt88 are beautifully constructed too. Thicker glass, more solid positioning on the internal component - all around a great tube - I can see why people dig them.
One last comment - it's very hard to get a very deep grind out of this amp - because I do not think it was designed that way.
To me it doesn't sound or handle like an Ampeg (I've played a V4B and a B25B - not an SVT) or like a fender tube amp (I've played a Showman and a Bassman 70 head)
To my ears it sounds more like a Marshall - and that's where the Lemmy tones start dancing around in my head.
Will this be my only head? probably not - I see another B1500 or something in my future when I get the money.
Are there better tube heads out there? Certainly - but they are either three times the price or twice the weight - so this works for me now.
Do I sound like a bass overdriven or like a big guitar? aren't basses just big guitars?
No with the tube compliment I listed above you can get a great sounding - tight and defined - yet still wall rattling (I was knocking things off shelves and paint flakes off the ceiling - hey I was in a basement in Brooklyn
) overdrive tone.
I can't wait to play this amp with the band. Unfortunately we do not have a rehearsal space yet and I don't know if I'm ready to drag this mother in to Smash or Funkadelic yet. But rest assured I'll let you all know if this baby runs out of steam in my rehearsal - which is pretty much gigging volume.
So that's all I have right now. so far I'm mostly pleased - but only after changing 6 of the 7 tubes (Power tubes to KT88s, V1 to the RFT ECC83 and V2 to the JJ ECC82)