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6L6 choice?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by superfly, Dec 1, 2004.

  1. superfly


    Aug 4, 2004
    Which 6L6 tube is known for , or will yield me the most headroom before "breakup" or distortion?

    Groove Tubes 6L6C

    Svetlana 6l6

    jj tesla 6l6

    sovtek 6L6

  2. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    EH has a nice newish 6L6 out that approaches the RCA in quality and sound. The Sovtek is pretty nasty, and the GTs vary wildly (though you might really like the Groove Tubes GT-6L6GE). I haven't used the Svetlana (though I found their EL34 to be bland as could be) or the JJ-Tesla (though I love their EL84s).

    Depending on your amp, you might want to try 6550s instead, which offer a bit more clean headroom and are usually swappable with a rebias (which you should do even if you just use a different brand of 6L6).

    Also look into the EH "big bottle" 6CA7, for a very loud clean sound.
  3. superfly


    Aug 4, 2004
    My amp is a 2 yr old Ampeg V-4BH with 6L6 tubes.
    The back of the amp says 6L6/5881
    Whats the diff between 6L6 tubes and 5881 ? which is preferred?

  4. LarryO


    Apr 4, 2004
    i used Svetlana 6l6s in my 1968 bassman. I used my strat on that amp mostly, but I'd occasionally hook up a 1x15 to it and thump my bass. They sound warm and break up late
  5. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    A 5881 is in the 6L6 "family," in that they are similar designs and are interchangeable (similar current draw, same pinout, etc). In theory, a 5881 is a cleaner 6L6, but many current production 5881s are pretty awful. Especially the Sovtek 5881.
  6. This is not correct. 5881 is the industrial designation for the 6L6GB an earlier version of the current 6L6GC that puts out less power than most common 6L6's. A true 5881 has not been made for over 30 years. The tube Sovtek sells as a "5881" is a Soviet tube used in aircraft and can take extreme voltages that would literally melt most 6L6's. It sounds better with the higher voltage and most 6L6 circuits don't drive the tube adequately and it does not sound its best. It does NOT however, put out any more power than a standard 6L6GC and its emission is comparable to the actual 5881 at roughly 20 watts.
  7. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    Sorry, I was basing my explanation of the 5881 on current production tubes. Obviously there's a bigger difference than I knew between old and new production.

    Happily standing corrected. Thanks for the info.
  8. I like the JJ 6L6s slightly better than the Svets (and by Svets I don't meant the current ones, I mean the ones that are now labeled SED) and much better than the Sovtek "5881s" in my guitar amps. However, I don't know from personal experience how this would translate to bass use (I assume you're asking with regard to bass?), since I have never owned a tube bass amp.

    An English tube seller, Watford Valves, did some testing a while back on verious tubes, and they included a test of 6L6s for bass use. Go to their site

    and click on the test reports. Regarding the 6550 idea, they may also have a test of 6550s for bass use.
  9. BassGreaser


    Aug 22, 2002
    Austin, TX
    I have SED winged C's in my bassman 135, and they sound great with great head room. I think down the road I'm going to switch to 6550's for more headroom and power
  10. Big String

    Big String Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2000
    Northwest Indiana
    I've got 12 Sovtek 5881 I'll sell you, hardly used....
    I tried them in my Mesa 400+ when I had it and I changed them out to a 6L6GC because I wanted clean not break up which the Sovteks do rather nicely. Pm me if you're intersted.

    Half price $6.00 each plus shipping. Lower 48.