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Preamp tubes? Tried a few--still lost

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by isher1992, Mar 20, 2014.

  1. So, I've tried quite a few older 12AX7/12AU7 and still haven't found the sound I'm after. I really like the sort of shining brightness (I guess more bite than anything, similar to Doug Pinnick's Traynor Bassmaster amp) but I can't seem to find a tube that can do it (or at least get close). I'm using an ART Tube Pro MPA II (using it at high plate voltage) for a preamp, and a SS power amp with Avatar cabinets.

    I've tried:

    - 50's GE 12AX7 (Weren't bad sounding tubes, just weren't very bright)
    - 60's GE 12AU7A (Like the 12AX7, good sounding, just not bright)
    - Unknown Sylvania
    - Unknown RCA
    - JJ's ECC83S (Was horribly unimpressed with these...they sound more bland than the GE's)

    I've thought about using the Shuguang/Groove Tubes/Ruby/Sino's, and I've thought about Sovtek 12AX7-LPS.

    Any recommendations? I know tube suggestions are more or less like throwing darts blindfolded, but every bit helps.
  2. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    I don't know about that ART specifically, but many preamps are designed to have a wide tolerance for different performance characteristics of the tubes, such that you get identical (or very similar) results no matter what replacement tube you put in there.
  3. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2008
    Some EQ after the preamp can make a world of difference. Not necessarily this one but you'll see what can be done.

    Tube rolling is going to change the tone a bit but its not going to produce the dramatic change that you may be looking for.
  4. I thought about that...

    Maybe I should just put an EQ before or after the preamp.

    And bongo, that would make sense, considering it's a mic-pre.
  5. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    Yeah, the design of the preamp is more to do with what you're hearing or not hearing. Tubes only do so much.
  6. The circuit definitely has more impact on the tone and amount of brightness than the tubes themselves. Any 12a*7 tube is capable of flat response well past the high frequency capability of the human ear. I would look into eq settings or a different preamp.
  7. DavC

    DavC Supporting Member

    May 17, 2005
    Trinity, FL
    I liked the JJ ECC803S ... the long plate version ...

    seemed a bit tighter ...

    I would agree with an EQ ...

    for quite a while I was using a PreSonus Studio Channel preamp .. with a variety of old/new tubes ...

    ART makes a Tube EQ ... and also more of a Channel strip type unit ... which would give you more tools to work with all within one unit ... pre / EQ / Comp / gate ...

    I have an ART Dual Tube EQ ...w/older JAN12AX7 tubes from the early 80's ... long plates .... sounds good/fine ..!

    from what I've read , the longer plates help tighten up the low end and help prevent microphonics issues .. !?
    but as with everything , it's all subjective ... and there are many variables in every situation ... making it hard to pinpoint just one item in the chain ..! from simple things like strings or pickup height adjustment , tone caps , pots , pickups , etc . etc ..... plus the fact that the Real tube sounds/edge tend to come from a string of tubes ... preamp - power amp tubes ... gain stages , a little SID ( slew induced distortion ) and the harmonics all that produces ...

    keep experimenting ... it is fun ..! buying USED stuff helps make the process more affordable ..!
  8. All good suggestions, thank you guys.

    I'll probably just go back to using my GE's then, since they're so cheap and plentiful and consistent. I might look into one of those ART EQ's.
  9. Jim C

    Jim C Spector#496:More curves than Sophia + better sound Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Some amps/pres respond well to tube changes, others don't
    Mt top three tubes all used, old, and test good: rebranded Telefunkens, Mullards, Amperex
    They never sound bad no matter what the application
  10. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    You need either some Telefunken ECC83's,NOS RCA Black Plates or one of my favorites some NOS Amperex Bugle Boys.
  11. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2008
    I like telefunken, amperex bugle boy, and RCA tubes. You can't go wrong with them. They have an interesting NOS selection here. Some sellers have tested used tubes that are available for a lot less. Nice if you want to try a brand without going whole hog in terms of price.

    If you want to find good tubes at affordable prices, look for a local hamfest.
  12. Maybe the type of tube isn't as important as how you're using it. If you're after tone similar to Pinnick's, you'll need to split your signal into highs and lows, and add some grind to the highs. There's a thread about it already somewhere on TB... Put your lows through a bass amp and highs through a guitar amp – that sort of thing.

    The Ox
    Billy Sheehan
    Dug Pinnick
  13. catgut


    Jan 15, 2014
    Seattle, WA
    Throwing darts blindfolded is about all you can do unless someone has your model and also thrown darts and hit the mark. But that would be their mark. I bought all sorts of nicer NOS tubes for my Mesa and ended up liking the lesser russian and chinese ones better. It all depends. Fender amps of certain ages have loads of fans with nice old tubes but as others have mentioned sometimes the circuitry just does not allow for fancy tubes to do anything great and you just throw your money away. The russian Tung-Sol reissue is great for bass pre's. Or mine at least.
  14. bThumper38

    bThumper38 brian ebert

    Find an old Kern tube preamp. Done!
  15. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
  16. Actually, I use my power amp in stereo... one signal to each cabinet (previous owner of these cabinets took out the ability to daisy-chain them), but my power amp won't accept a dual-mono unless the signal is split into two mono channels before hand.

    I'll probably look into one of those ART Dual Tube EQ's, or just invest in a nice signal channel graphic EQ.
  17. Foz


    Jul 26, 2008
    Jax FL USA
    Maybe you should get a Traynor Bassmaster amp.

    Just saying....
  18. The Ruby re-branded Chinese tubes as stock in the Genz shuttles are bright (I agree the pre design has more to do with the sound than the tube).
    Also the latest re-issue Mullard 12AX7's are pretty tasty...
  19. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY

    Certainly a great preamp, but I don't think it does what the OP is really looking for.
  20. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    Never going to work. Tube swaps are like switching from vanilla to rocky road- there's a difference, but it still tastes like ice cream.

    IIRC, that Bassmaster has Pete Traynor's variation on a Fender style tone stack. Flattest response is with the mids literally dimed, and the bass and treble turned way down. Way different from any mic preamp.

    You've got to add EQ, or simply switch to a more "Fendery" preamp, like an Alembic.