Best/ Favourite 12 AX7 Pre-Amp Tube

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Captain G, Mar 16, 2004.

  1. I was wondering what people considered to be there Favourite 12-AX7 Pre-Amp Tube type & manufacturer, and Why ?? Should the 12-AX7 LPS, be a consideration ??
  2. KB


    Jan 13, 2000
    Chapel Hill, NC
    Depends on the tone you are looking for.

    My absolute favorite is JAN/Philips 12AX7WA (NOS)...very rich tone..deep lows with sweet highs...slightly aggressive

    Round darker tone: Ei 12AX7

    Thinner aggressive tone (almost grindy mids): EHX 12AX7
  3. How about the 12 AX7 LPS. How do they stack up ??
    Is there much difference between the WA's & WB's ??

  4. I concur.
  5. Finger Blister

    Finger Blister

    Jul 8, 2003
    GT 12AX7-M

    SWR tube preamps respond well with 5751's.

    "As far as today's sensitivity goes, the worst tube out there
    may be the 12AX7LPS, but these may be
    great as phase inverters for some folks or for 2nd gain stage
    It is all personal taste.
    Maybe you want to cover your mistakes?
    The JJ ECC83 is about medium in the sensitivity area, but will
    degrade over a somewhat short period compared to many
    NOS items.
    The current 12AX7EH will degrade even more quickly."

  6. tornadobass

    tornadobass Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Iowa City, Iowa
    Endorsing Artist: Black Diamond & SuperSensitive strings
    I like the JJ/Tesla ECC83 tubes...full sound with just a bit of bite to it.
  7. metron

    metron Fluffy does not agree

    Sep 12, 2003
    Lakewood Colorado
    I dont understand how the character of a tube can be judged without considering the circuit its used in.
  8. Another vote for the NOS JAN/Phillips 12AX7WA's, I have five of them in a vintage ampeg svt (was converted to use 12AX7's instead of 12DW7's) they are a great warm sounding 12AX7 and usually not as over priced as Mullards or Telefunkens. I also like Amperex Bugle Boys that were made in Holland but are rare and tend to be way overpriced.

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    My favorite tube is a JAN Sylvania 5751. Smoother and a little cleaner sounding then most tubes. Next on the list is the Sovtek 12AX7WB. The WB has a nice flat response that is great for bass. Much better than the WA.
  10. tornadobass

    tornadobass Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Iowa City, Iowa
    Endorsing Artist: Black Diamond & SuperSensitive strings
    Yes, context is important for tube use.

    When I had an Eden WT-300, different tubes made little difference. In my SWR Sm-400s, there's a noticeable difference among tube designs. That's where I found the JJ ECC83 to be a good all-around choice.
  11. mgmadian


    Feb 4, 2002
    Austin, TX
    I've also replaced the 12AX7-EHs that come stock in my Kern with Sovtek 5751s. Both sound great, but I prefer the sound of the 5751s... slightly clear-er (is that a word?), slightly warmer.
  12. Rockbobmel

    Rockbobmel Supporting Member

    I just replaced my JJs with Chinese Shuguang 12AX7A. The JJs were great, but darker sounding. When I got the Mesa it had chinese pre tubes in it. I changed them out because all the bad rap about cheap chinese tubes. They look well made and I think they are made on GE tooling. They sound just about as good as my Sylvania 12AX7A. My FAV is a GE 12AX7A, Don't know any more about it. I would like to find more of them though.
  13. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    I did a shootout a while back, and here is what I found:

    "Well, I finally had time over the weekend to run through my batch of preamp tubes in my Walkabout and decide which one worked best. The tubes at my disposal were as follows:

    Mullard 12AT7/CV4024
    JAN Phillips 12AX7
    JAN GE 5751
    Shuguang 12AX7C9
    Telefunken ECC83 (smooth plate)
    JJ ECC83S

    The original Mesa tubes said "Russian 2" on them, but I don't know who made them.

    Virtually all of the tubes mentioned above offered some kind of improvement over the stock tubes. However, most differences were very subtle.

    The Mullard was by far the warmest sounding, and had a good deal of low mids - too much for the already mid-heavy Walkabout. Still, if you are looking to add some meat, the Mullard would certainly do that.

    The JAN Phillips is a great all around tube. Very nicely balanced tonally, with good articulation.

    The JAN GE 5751 also had good tonal balance and was a pleasant sounding tube - not harsh at all. However, with the reduced gain, it didn't overdrive as well as the others, which is something I like to do with the Walkabout.

    The Shuguang was a bit of a surprise. Upon first firing it up, I thought that it might be the ticket. Very robust signal and tone, overdrives great. However, then I noticed that it was really bringing out the finger/string noise in a huge and somewhat obnoxious way. I don't know if this means that it was slightly microphonic, but it was not desirable. Too bad, because otherwise this tube has a lot of promise.

    The Telefunken was the most articulate tube of the bunch, with a bit more upper mids than most. Very clean sounding tube with the Gain down and the Master up, and probably sounded the best of the bunch when overdriven. Good balance, too.

    The JJ was very similar to the Tele. Not quite as articulate, but perhaps had sweeter high end. Overdrove quite well, though not as nice as the Tele.

    By comparison, the stock Mesa tubes did not have as much articulation as any of the tubes above (though they were close to the Mullard in that regard), and the tone was not as coherent. They did overdrive quite nicely, though not as convincingly as the Tele or JJ. Granted, there wasn't a huge difference overall, but I would say that you can do better than the stock tubes, and it shouldn't cost you an arm and a leg.

    Ultimately, it came down the JAN Phillips, the Tele, and the JJ. These three were the most similar sounding of the bunch. I ended up choosing the Tele for its articulation and best overdrive tone. The JJ would probably be my second choice, although the JAN Phillips was very, very comparable.

    The Walkabout has a second tube which drives the MOSFETs, and after playing around a bit, I chose the JAN Phillips for that duty. It really is too bad that the Shuguang had that string noise thing going on, because it really kicked in the pre-MOSFET socket - most balls and gain of the bunch.

    There are a lot of good tubes that I didn't get a chance to try, but there you have the results of my own very unscientific preamp tube shootout.

    Hope this helps, Tom.

    I got my tubes from Doug's Tubes, and he was very helpful."

    <!-- / message --><!-- sig -->
  14. So Tom, I take it all that info about not switching from Mesa's "tested & approved" tubes is pure bunk; and there's no need to worry about bias?

    How can you tell which tube does what in the WalkAbout?

    What kind of $$$'s are we talking about for the Telefunken ECC83 (smooth plate) and the JAN Phillips 12AX7?
  15. Preamp tubes do not need to be biased although matched triodes are prefered for phase inverter tubes. Telefunkens can be crazy (stupid) expensive like anywhere between $50 to well over $100 US. But I guess if you only need one...
  16. ebozzz

    ebozzz Supporting Member

    May 17, 2001
    Denver, Colorado
    Whe wrote that? A guitar player? Retort from The Tube Store....

    Also this is interesting.....

    12AX7 comparison at a glance
    Rated 0 - 5 where 0 is Unacceptable and 5 is Excellent

    Manufacturer Model Microphonics Noise(Hiss, Pop, Hum) Musical Detail and Dynamics
    Electro-Harmonix 12AX7 5 5 4
    Sovtek 12AX7WA 5 2 2
    Sovtek 12AX7WB 5 2 2
    Sovtek 12AX7LPS 3 4 5
    Sovtek 5751 2 5 4
    JAN-GE 5751 4 4 3
    JAN-PHILIPS 12AX7WA 3 4 5
    Tesla / JJ 12AX7A / ECC83 3 4 4
    Ei 12AX7 / ECC83 2 and 4 5 5
  17. Rockbobmel

    Rockbobmel Supporting Member

    Are we talking GUITAR---or BASS?. It is never spoken which we mean by sweet, top end etc.
  18. The one that came in my 10 yr old F1-X. (what ever it may be?)
  19. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Hi Captain G, tubes are very subjective, and peoples' opinions (and ears) vary all over the map. And it's definitely true that the same tube can sound completely different in a different circuit. Really, there's no substitute for trial and error. You have to find something that sounds good to YOUR ear, and the only way to do that is to "try 'em all". And, my suggestion would be, ignore any "shootouts" and that kind of thing, those kinds of comparisons are largely meaningless (and a lot of the time they're funded by one manufacturer or another).

    My approach would be, start by considering two major categories of tubes: current production tubes, and "NOS" ("new old stock", which is stuff that isn't made anymore, but for some reason has been sitting on a shelf somewhere for many years, unused). Beware of buying NOS tubes on eBay, most of them are just "used" and there's nothing "new" about them.

    In general, current production 12ax7's are pretty cheap, most of them are 10 bucks or less. You can buy a few different kinds (JJ's, Ei's, Sovtek's, etc), and keep the boxes and wrapping, and whichever ones you don't like, you can sell on eBay and recover most of your investment.

    My approach with NOS tubes would be to buy some used ones, on eBay or somewhere, and check out the sound. The ones you don't like, turn around and sell 'em again. When you find one you like, go to some place like and buy a "new" specimen, it'll certainly be more costly but at that point you'll already be sure that you're getting the sound you want.