Best EL34 tubes

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Brian Gupton, Feb 5, 2015.

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  1. Brian Gupton

    Brian Gupton Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I've run the KT120 and now the KT150 tubes in my PrimaLuna. As good as the 150's are, I've noticed that I can't really listen to music in Ultralinear mode since I added them unless the volume is kept pretty low.

    I'm thinking about trying out the EL34's since my Shindo amp is still a few months out. I'm never selling the PrimaLuna anyway, so the EL34's will find some regular use even if the PrimaLuna gets relegated to the bedroom.

    What are the best NOS EL34's to try?
     
  2. indy mike

    indy mike Forum Pest

    Mullard from Great Britain and Phillips Holland if you want something that the originators of the tube made (slender glass envelope, almost every variant made by the Philips family has a hole in the guidepin and etched factory and datecodes), RFT East German EL34 is a great sub if you want a soundalike Mullard, but don't have $400+ for a truly matched quad. GE and Sylvania made 6CA7s later in the game - different internals (pair of angled getters up top, "fat boy" glass) is also a choice still out there.

    Try here to get a sampling of many various types of EL34 6CA7s that were made:

    https://www.tubeworld.com/6ca7.htm
     
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  3. deadcoldfish

    deadcoldfish Forum Resident

    Location:
    Santa Rosa, CA
    Seconded on the RFT East German EL34, I'm running them currently in a Prima Luna Integrated.
     
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  4. indy mike

    indy mike Forum Pest

    The RFT's are what I use in my Dynakit MK IVs - they sound great. I got a few quads when they were around $140; theses days, you're looking at araound $225 and up. :sigh:
     
  5. kfringe

    kfringe Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Oregon Coast
    I had some Prima Luna gear here for a while, and I'd save the money and hassle for different amps. Stick to the Mullard reissues or the Gold Lion KT77 if you're feeling cheap. Spring for the Psvane or Treasure tubes if you're feeling flush. Get the EH 6ca7 if you miss solid state.
     
  6. Nothing wrong with winged "c" Russian. They were built well.
    [​IMG]
     
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  7. kfringe

    kfringe Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Oregon Coast
    Finding a good quad these days is an exercise in aggravation.
     
  8. Larry I

    Larry I Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, D.C.
    In recent years, I've only used EL34s in my headphone amp, so I cannot say how they would sound in your Prima Luna amp. A good friend of mine with a quite large collection of tubes brought over quads of 1950's and 1960 El 34s, 6CA7s, including some quite highly prized types. I could keep any quad I liked. I ended up keeping a quad of Telefunken EL 34s. But, all of the quads sounded considerably better than the modern tubes that came with the amp.

    I generally prefer EL 34's to other similar tube types, such as KT 88s, 6550, and the KT 120's I have heard. These tubes tend to have a midrange "glare" and hardness that I don't like, particularly as volume level goes up. The EL 34 is kinder and gentler in this respect. I also like 6L6's.
     
  9. Brian Gupton

    Brian Gupton Forum Resident Thread Starter

    yeah, agree on the glare as volume goes up with my KT150's. I think the Shindo speakers will prefer the EL34's at the volumes I like.
     
  10. Ortofun

    Ortofun Well-Known Member

    Location:
    nowhere
    That's what I run in my amp, mine are from before New Sensor took the Svetlana name. While still in production they were thought by many to be the best new production EL34. They are very even handed across the frequency range.

    An they are harder to get these days as SED folded two or three years ago, and I have heard that since this there are like b grade floating around. I did try some that came in plain white boxes with no emblem on the envelope, and they didn't last too long.

    Not sure what I'll do when it comes time to replace the ones I have in my amp now :(
     
  11. Ortofun

    Ortofun Well-Known Member

    Location:
    nowhere
    Triode strapped sounds better anyway ;)

    Just joking, Brian, that is purely my preference and not a fact :)
     
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  12. Brian Gupton

    Brian Gupton Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I agree now, but ultra linear was preferred when I was running the 120's.
     
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  13. Ortofun

    Ortofun Well-Known Member

    Location:
    nowhere
    Ooo...I wasn't expecting that :D

    But on that, I have a preference for acoustic and the like and that always does sound better to at least myself that way, interesting that you liked UL with the 120's but don't with the 150's.
     
  14. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    In my experience still the best are xF1 and xF2 Blackburn Mullards, especially if you want that characteristic rich EL34 sound and tubes that can dissipate as much heat as you'll ever ask 'em to (which is where a lot of new production EL34s really fall to the ground). If you can even find a true NOS match quad it'll probably cost you close to a grand these days I suspect. The '70s Teslas I thought were very similar sounding, and tubes you're more likely to find, and will cost you half as much or less. The Winged C's were good, but now out of production and hard to find good ones and couldn't take the kind of abuse the Mullards could, but I doubt the PrimaLuna is pushing them as hard as some of the old amp designs did. I haven't heard any new current production EL34s I've loved, but for kinkless tetrodes that will swap in the New Sensor Gold Lion KT77 seem to be really good (if you don't push 'em too hard), albeit with a much less rich (but on the plus side more detailed and very low self-noise) presentation.
     
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  15. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Residue

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    x2 on KT77s
     
  16. Gosh, yes, it seems like the winged C has moved into the world of NOS chic. Well I might just look at Upscale. The prices are not bad and they are a PrimaLuna dealer. https://www.upscaleaudio.com/EL34/
     
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  17. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    Wait, EL34? Indy Mike, what are those great but not expensive German tubes we like so much? Can't think right now. I use them in my Marantz 8B and they are amazing. From the 1980's or so, little nipple on top, blue and orange boxes. Name isn't coming to me right now, brain cloud...

    I got mine from RAM in Santa Barbara for 15 each..

    Wait, Siemens, right? East German made? Lasted 10 years in my 8B. Watch out for BOOTLEG VERSIONS of this tube out now. Real ones have a nipple on top (or was it an "innie"? Forgot!)
     
  18. That was in the fabulous 90's when the Amerika-jin harangued Nobu Shishido for doing SET's and we drove uphill both ways on the 405 to work without cellphones.
     
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  19. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    Yup.
     
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  20. Ortofun

    Ortofun Well-Known Member

    Location:
    nowhere
    And just when i thought i was getting a handle on the American accent o_O
     
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  21. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    Can't get 'em for $15 anymore that's for sure, more like 5X that. Good EL34s even from the '70s and '80s, maybe in part because they're popular tubes in Marshalls and maybe because there's not much in the way of great sounding new production, have become much harder to find and much more expensive.
     
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  22. crooner

    crooner Tube Marantzed

    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    The RFT's are excellent. The older (pre 2000) Svetlana/Winged C is great sounding as well. They have a softer vacuum that mimics the original Mullard XF2 well.
    Speaking of Mullards, I have just ordered an octet of NOS 1967 Vintage XF2's to stash up for my pair of Marantz 9's. Expensive as heck. But I had to jump at the chance of getting eight identical, matched tubes with the same date codes. A rarity these days...
     
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  23. Mr Bass

    Mr Bass Chevelle Ma Belle

    Location:
    Mid Atlantic
    Well it's obvious that our ears hear things the same way, here at least. I feel that ultralinear often sounds close to solidstate. Unfortunately that includes the EL 34 tube as well which is the power tube type I much prefer in the moderate cost range. In triode mode they sound fine. So you have to find sensitive enough speakers or play them at low volume or get a powered woofer/sub and just use them for the mids and treble. The EL 34s I use are the now out of production Russian Sed Cs. There are some NOS still around but there are also bad B stock tubes being sold since this was a highly regarded item. You might have to go with NOS of other EL 34s such as GE or RCA if you can spare the moolah. They run around $100 a tube. Just my thoughts. YMMV but apparently doesn't.
     
  24. inperson

    inperson Forum Resident

    Location:
    Ohio
  25. wcarroll

    wcarroll Forum Resident

    Location:
    Baton Rouge, LA
    They have an "innie" on top. Looks like a dimple. I have a set that are branded as Westinghouse, so maybe other brands are out there?
     
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