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Which tubes are best

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Bassist30, Sep 10, 2005.


  1. Bassist30

    Bassist30

    Mar 19, 2004
    NEW YORK
    Does anyone understand some of the things to look for when buying tubes. Easy question yet.... (Im not talking about power tubes) there are a few companies making them yet many put there name on them. Mostly Russian and Chinese companies make them, at least that is what I heard. I use 12ax7. I tried 5150 and it did not fair well with an eden head or Demeter pre. They were NOS. I looked on the net and many companies put gold tips on and even sell gold coating for the pins. Does that make a difference? What company sells the best brand? Are there high quality tubes that are relative to the 12ax7 and who are the better companies selling them? What are the main things to look for in tubes? :confused:
     
  2. I recently put a NOS RCA 12AX7a in my F-1X and I'm very happy with it. I'm hearing some encouraging things about Tung-Sol. The name and trademark have been acquired by the New Sensor Corporation (an American company) and the quality is said to have come up considerably.

    I don't put much stock in gold plated connections. Gold isn't the best conductor, its only advantage is that it doesn't corrode. I come from a pre-transistor age and I can tell you for a fact that a buhzillion TV's, radios, stereos and guitar amps worked perfectly without gold plated connectors on the tubes. It's just not necessary.
     
  3. lo-freq

    lo-freq aka UFO

    Jan 19, 2003
    The Republic of Texas
    What kind of tone are you looking for (or what kind of music are you doing)?
     
  4. Bassist30

    Bassist30

    Mar 19, 2004
    NEW YORK
    I love a warm tone without forgiving the high end frequencies.
    I mostly use an eden or a demeter pre with a crest CA6.
     
  5. That sums up the NOS RCA pretty well. I had a sovtek in my F-1X and the highs were harsh and brittle and it was making my teeth wiggle. The RCA warmed things up beautifully and I can dial in as much treble as I want without it sounding like fingernails across a blackboard. Your mileage may vary with a Demeter or Eden of course.
     
  6. Bassist30

    Bassist30

    Mar 19, 2004
    NEW YORK
    I think you are right and it makes sense. You use nos. Prices seem to be going up on them as they are getting less and less. I will look into the Tung-Sol. Thanks. I also know about the treble on the alembic's. I have a f2b that needs repair and I will also put in a pair as you suggested to see how it warms it up. I love the pre but i always felt the same about its treble. The low end is one of the best.
     
  7. Matt H

    Matt H

    Jul 30, 2005
    Ithaca, NY
    looks like you're a little confused... a 5150 is a guitar amp that peavey made, an EVH signature amp, after the van halen album of the same name...


    did you try a 5751 or a 7025? those are both variants of the 12ax7.

    anyway- I've got some NOS USA tubes i've used, htough not for bass... and they're great, but you'll pay more.

    if you're looking for modern production tubes (which is really what I try to do), my vote goes to JJ. people sometimes prefer other tones, but they've got THE most reliable tubes if bought from a good dealer. (i recommend bob at www.eurotubes.com )

    the 9th generation chinese 12ax7 is reported ot be very good, but I haven't used it myself.

    I've had mixed feelings and results from a variety of soviet preamp tubes... i can't quite "recommend" them.

    Avoid Ei tubes (the ones with gold pins, most likely) for their preamp stuff. Why? They WILL GO MICROPHONIC. It may take a minute, a day, or a month. But be assured, it will turn VERY microphonic. They sound great up until they do that though.

    The 5751 that is being sold by new sensor (under the EH label, i believe) is actually an Ei 12ax7.

    The 7025s that are being sold through new sensor (again, i believe using the EH label, but i'm not sure) are just a relabelled "sovtek" tube. (sovtek is another name brand owned by new sensor, but tends to be lesser quality tubes than their EH label)

    The EH tubes aren't bad, some are even very reliable (again- find a good dealer who screens and burns in tubes first).

    EH or JJ. I give JJ the nod because of bbb at eurotubes- really nice guy, great service, good prices... hard to argue with that for new production.

    if you're shopping NOS tubes, there are a variety of really dependable and respectable dealers. Mike at KCA NOS tubes comes to mind... david foster tends to have good prices on some pricier NOS options.

    Ned at triode electronics has been known to have good NOS nd new production tubes. good service from there too.
     
  8. Bongolation

    Bongolation

    Nov 9, 2001
    California
    No Bogus Endorsements
    The biggest single factor limiting your choice of preamp tube is the working environment in which it has to function.

    Bass combos, for example, are hell on tubes. The SWR Basic Black for example, actually has the tube inside the speaker cabinet. From an engineering standpoint, that's ridiculous.

    You have to sacrifice sound for ruggedness in that case, which usually translates to the shortest shortplate you can get, as shortplates are less prone to vibrational damage and microphonics. A Sovtek 12AX7WA or the newer Sovtek 12AX7WB are probably the ruggedest 12AX7* made currently (which is why they are almost universally used as OEM tubes), though not terribly distinguished tonally. :meh:

    A lot of people compromise on this by using the JJ ECC83S, which is a good sounding tube that's still pretty rugged.

    Probably the best current bass preamp tube of all, purely from a tonal standpoint, is the Sovtek 12AX7LPS, but it is an extreme longplate design that does not handle vibration and abuse well. For a detached and well-isolated head, these are great. They are the current-production tube of choice for tube-stereo buffs for their creamy lows and low-mids.
     
  9. lo-freq

    lo-freq aka UFO

    Jan 19, 2003
    The Republic of Texas
    The EH are pretty good for rock, but in the Dem preamps the treble can get a bit harsh (IMO).

    For new stock, probably the JJ's are your best bet.

    As far as NOS or used tubes, I really like the Jan Philips 12AX7WA or Sylvania 7025 (basically the same tube) in my 201S.
    Pretty good balanced tone with good solid bass, clear mids, and smooth treble.

    Heard very good things about the ECC83 Telefunken and (I really would like to try a) CV4004 Mullard.
     
  10. Bassist30

    Bassist30

    Mar 19, 2004
    NEW YORK
    This is extremely educating. Sorry about the 5150 instead of the 5750. Thanks for all the great info you guys are giving me. I can't believe how little i know about tubes. And how much knowledge you need to get a correct tube.. Thanks.
     
  11. Bongolation

    Bongolation

    Nov 9, 2001
    California
    No Bogus Endorsements
    Probably, as a compromise, yes. Avoid the ECC83 in favor of the ECC83S or later tube.

    If there's any necessity for a reliable amp, however, go for the ruggedest tube you can get. A guy I know in NYC does amp road prep for the big acts. He was telling me about the setup he does for Dylan and his road band, and what does he use? The lowly Sovtek 12AX7WA. Why? They're bulletproof and nobody in the audience is going to hear the slightest difference, particularly from the bass.

    They will hear tube failure, however!

    There's a lot to be said for that approach, which is why almost everyone uses these tubes (heavily screened for defective ones!) as OEM gear. The idea is to get the amp through initial shipping and subsequent gigging and still have it work through the warranty period. That's hard to do with most "good" preamp tubes that you have to baby.

    I see that the JJs are starting to be used as OEM tubes, which is a very strong endorsement indeed. People think, erroneously, that OEM tubes are chosen for cost. They aren't. They're chosen totally on the basis of reliability in most cases, with tube cost being unimportant -- the savings of one tube over the other evaporating compared to the cost of bench time on a warranty fix.

    I'm seeing newer unmarked Chinese tubes in SWR gear, and I'm informed that whatever they are, they're reliable and sound pretty good. Chinese power and preamp tubes are improving very fast and tube mavens who used to hate the awful '90s Chinese tubes are now becoming quite impressed.

    The Telefunkens are longplate, which make them pretty unsuitable for rough use. I don't recall EVER seing them used in a gigging amp, though they are the pricey choice for audiophile tube stereo. The Sovtek 12AX7LPS is a very similar design.
     
  12. Bassist30

    Bassist30

    Mar 19, 2004
    NEW YORK
    [The Telefunkens are longplate, which make them pretty unsuitable for rough use. I don't recall EVER seing them used in a gigging amp, though they are the pricey choice for audiophile tube stereo. The Sovtek 12AX7LPS is a very similar design.[/QUOTE]

    Were there any longplate tubes in the nos type brands and overall which would be a good compromise and still give a rich warm yet transparent sound? The lowly Sovtek 12AX7WA?Also it seems the longplate may sound the best how sensitive are they. I mean like in everyday use and not having a roadie throw it around and not flying on planes. Therefore would the The Sovtek 12AX7LPS be a better sounding choice?
    I always carry an extra pair of strings and tools and straps. Now I think its a good idea to start carrying extra tubes. I mean im not trying to be funny. It just seems that way.
     
  13. Mo' bass

    Mo' bass

    May 4, 2000
    Netherlands
    How are the JJ ECC803S compared to the JJ ECC83S for use in an SWR preamp? I like a warm and clear sound.
     
  14. There's a LOT more to microphony than just plate length. Telefunkens have FAR superior internal bracing and construction than ANYTHING made today, and they don't have to be "babied" just because they have long plates. I use them in MANY of my gigging amps.
     
  15. DEVILMAN

    DEVILMAN

    Nov 24, 2001
    New York,NY
    +1...along with my RCA Long Plates...

    ~S~

    PS: I don't slam or drop any of my gear. "I" always handle the critical equipment I own...
     
  16. lo-freq

    lo-freq aka UFO

    Jan 19, 2003
    The Republic of Texas
    Thanks again, PBG for the advice on the Jan Philips tubes.
    They really sound great in my Demeter preamp.

    I wish you could hear my system; it's one punchy mutha!
     
  17. Bongolation

    Bongolation

    Nov 9, 2001
    California
    No Bogus Endorsements
    No. Longplate tubes are inherently unsuitable for high-vibration applications.
    It's an extreme shortplate design, which is why it's so hard to destroy.
    As I said, for separate, well-isolated head not subject to abuse and not in a critical situation where a failure is going to disrupt a performance, you can use a longplate.
    The problem is getting to the tubes. They are not regarded as "user-serviceable" in a lot of amps these days that use preamp tubes only. It's an immense hassle to change the tube in a rackmounted SWR 750X, I can assure you. You're not going to do it on a dark stage.

    Nobody in the audience is going to hear the difference between a Sovtek 12AX7WA and a vintage Telefunken unless one of them fails.

    THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD SELECT YOUR GIG RIG'S TUBES FOR RELIABILITY AS THE FIRST PRIORITY.

    Forget tube snobbery and use something that won't break. It's what the big acts do.
     
  18. Bongolation

    Bongolation

    Nov 9, 2001
    California
    No Bogus Endorsements
    I realize that, but long plate length is an additional obstacle to be overcome in the design of a unit not prone to failure, noise and microphony.

    You're the only person I have ever heard of who does.

    You're certainly the only person I've heard of who thinks they're worth the price in this application. Putting hundred-dollar, NOS Telefunken tubes in a gigging bass amp is a total waste, a classic case of "pearls before swine."

    The fact remains that of all the currently produced longplates, none are adequately vibration- and shock-resistant to be used in combos or gigging amps without risking early failure.
     
  19. Warwick player

    Warwick player

    Dec 31, 2002
    Bucks, UK
    I'm sorry but the second half of your post isn't true. Gold is one of the best conductors, its just that for its good conductive properties to be made advantage of both connectors have to be gold.
     
  20. Bongolation

    Bongolation

    Nov 9, 2001
    California
    No Bogus Endorsements
    OK, so then do we all agree that it's 99% marketing gimmick in aftermarket music gear?

    Good. Consensus is nice. :p