Best sounding vintage tubes for audio..

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Steve Hoffman, Dec 19, 2005.

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  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

  2. PakProtector

    PakProtector New Member

    Location:
    Dearborn, MI
    Hey-Hey!!!,
    I'd have to say that none of the types he mentioned qualify for 'Best' status. Where ever a 12AX7 is required, a 6SU7GTY is better. I would build my own pentode/triode pair and leave the 7199 to the folks who don't want to modify an existing amp. This guy didn't even mention a single directly heated triode. Let alone a DH pentode...

    And to top off the credibility removing things, he speaks of the 12AU7. I can't make up my mind which is worse, mentioning the 12AU7 on a 'Best' list, or *NOT* mentioning the 6SN7.
    cheers,
    Douglas
     
  3. Balanced life

    Balanced life New Member

    Location:
    Canada
    What a terrible. misleading article! I have to say, I've always found TNT to be hugely amateurish.

    To say "Mullard is best" is just hugely misleading and wrong! Which Mullard? Mullard made at least 6 different versions of the 12AX7 and 12AU7 - and then different vintages of some versions sound distinctly different, such as the box plate 12AU7 which later versions of are rather poor sounding. Actually, the early long plate Mullard is better sounding than even the best box plate Mullard.

    This guy obviously hasn't done much of a survey to come to his 'best' conclusions either. He doesn't mention any of the finest 12AU7's - the Raytheon D-getter, the CBS-Hytron 5814A, the Valvo Hamburg foil getter, the Amperex D-getter, the Siemens silver plate, and many, many others. If you're gonna play journalist and make like you're an expert with the big opinions, at least do a reasonably cursory survey of the better tubes. Having a few of the more common NOS types doesn't make anyone an expert.

    The comedy continues with his declaration that Tele 12AX7's are the best and have "maybe" 100,000 hour life - absurd, under what operating conditions? And which Tele? Maybe a very lightly driven ECC803S, but this tube is exceedingly rare and hugely expensive. Otherwise, a common Tele has no greater life in a given circuit than a Siemens or Amperex, etc.

    He might be right on the EL34 and at least here he gets it right - pointing out Mullard made 4 different versions. But he probably never heard a real Tele EL34 or a Holland made Amperex.

    The 5AR4 comments are a joke. Early fat brown base Mullards are very good, later Mullards are ok but not special, and his description of being able to identify the better Mullards is just flat out wrong - it's not just the logo, it's actually the construction and etched date codes. The very best 5AR4 ever made is generally considered to be the Amperex Holland made metal base from the 50's - again, here, there are different constructions and even some Japanese sourced.

    A terrible article. Better info on any of these tubes can be found on any of the popular tube audio boards.

    And I'm with Douglas - neither the 12AU7 or the 12AX7 are terribly good tubes to begin with. Kind of like publishing an article claiming that Hyundai's are the best cars, then identifying the best of the Hyundai's. Maybe there is a 'best' Hyundai. But obviously it's still a Hyundai, and making such a claim while ignoring Mercedes, Porcshe, Volvo, BMW, Saab, etc. - just a joke!
     
  4. fjhuerta

    fjhuerta New Member

    Location:
    México City
    So... is there a big difference between, say, a JJ ECC82 and a Tele 12AX7? I think I read somewhere they were very similar.

    Maybe the real question is - if I use new tubes instead of NOS, am I really missing too much?
     
  5. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Can a Gort retitle this thread to something like:

    Best sounding vintage tubes for old audio gear that don't cost 500 dollars each.

    Or:

    Common and fairly inexpensive wonderful sounding vintage audio tubes for your unmodified McIntosh, Dynaco, Marantz, Fisher, Scott, etc. gear.

    Or:

    When you want to put classic vintage tubes in your collectible audio gear and not spend a fortune, these are the ones.

    Or....

    These are the best sounding vintage tubes of these tube types that one can still buy in the real world and stop crapping on my thread. :laugh:
     
  6. Balanced life

    Balanced life New Member

    Location:
    Canada
    I searched some of the more common tube dealers for a few minutes just looking at 12AU7's -

    easy to find:

    Amperex 7316 $200/pair
    Tungsol 50's 12AU7 - $75/pair ( amazing!)
    RCA black plate 50's - $75/pair
    CBS-Hytron 5814A - $75/pair (killer tube!)
    Brimar 60's long plates $120/pair
    Siemens E82CC 60's - $60/pair (sweet!)

    that's just a few that will be much, much better sounding than the box plate CV Mullard. All real world priced.

    Just posting it as I see it and hoping people won't take such stuff as gospel and not seek out the really good stuff! When a writer claims "best", I expect he will have actually done a slight survey of the usual types. Actually, even though there are major issues with them overall, the Vacuum Tube Valley 12AU7 shootout is a much more comprehensive, and generally quite accurate, survey and evaluation of 12AU7's than the TNT piece.

    By the way, the guy who wrote that article on TNT was, at the time, a tube dealer on Ebay, and was also - maybe still is - offering a rather exhorbitant 'tube appraisal' service. He had a large stash of late vintage Mullards he was selling.
     
  7. taxman150

    taxman150 Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Its too bad that the author didn't provide his thoughts on the best 7189's. He does mention EL84's, but I believe the 7189 analysis could be different.
     
  8. chuckp

    chuckp New Member

    I have this, full of assorted NOS brands. Got most from Ebay, and dealers met there.

    Spent $500-600US to buy all those, my best Mullard EL-84 were thrown in 5on a deal free, they look horrible but are SWEET.

    The prices have gone up for years, its too bad. Who knows what they're worth now.

    We can all cry together when I finally, if ever, get my copy of Jethro Tull Original Masters DCC for 500, 1000, or whatevah it ends up costing me.

    I use 12AX7/ECC83, 12AT7, 5AR4, 6C10, EL-84, 6V6 in my guitar amps-- some are ClassA, those tubes are incredible in my amps. I prefer Mullard 12AX7 and Tungram EL-84 presently in my BadCat MiniCat. Scary dynamics.

    Got Mullard, Amperex, RCA, Sylvania, Siemens, Mazda, etc.

    I'm amazed that people slam 12AX7, they sound bad in stereos?

    Thanks,
    Chuck
     

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  9. vinyl anachronist

    vinyl anachronist Senior Member

    Location:
    Tigard, Oregon
    I'd like to see someone do a similar survey of 45s, but I'm probably one of about 100 people on the face of the earth who need this information!
     
  10. Plinko

    Plinko Forum Resident

    The Amperex 7316s don't sound as good as the much more common and real world priced Siemens 12AU7s in my amp. The Siemens are bolder, bigger, bigger midrange, and smoother. The Amperex's have tighter bass, slightly better dynamics (hmm, maybe not) and smaller images but better focused. Still, I like the Siemens tone better and dislike the smaller imaging. Varying factors are at play here - different gear, listening room, tube mix etc.... Tube talk is about sharing opinions, not castigating someone for having them. It was noted in the article that these were opinions. I never tire of hearing what people think of various tubes though I know I will never truly know how they will sound unless I throw them in my gear. I think most people realize this. All it takes is a half hour perusing all the contrary comments about tubes to realize that this is the only truth.
     
    SennLife44 likes this.
  11. Balanced life

    Balanced life New Member

    Location:
    Canada
    Well, the survey of 45's is a short one!

    The unequivocal best - 1930's mesh plate Perryman globes. Nothing comes close.

    2nd place - current Emission Labs solid plates (the newest ones look very cool too).

    3rd - Cunningham/RCA 245 Globes

    4th - Raytheon box plate ER-245 globes

    5th - just about any other globes - Sylvania, Tungsol particularly - except the not too great sounding DeForest 445.

    A problem with globes - most NOS ones are gassy. Fact is, tubes - particularly pre-1940 ones - have a finite shelf life and it's been exceeded in the case of 1930's globes. They are gassy and/or can have weak vacuums. A crap shoot at best, too risky for the bucks they bring - particularly with the Emission Labs being available.

    The ST-shaped 45's can be excellent too. National Union are at the top, followed by RCA's. Tungsol made some nice ones, the Boonton is a particularly nice rarity.

    There is also the TJ, which I'm not too fond of, it sounds mushy and indistinct, and there is also the issue of the inverted filament flaw making them un-usable in amps that don't have hum pots. Lastly - there is the EML mesh plate (a true mesh plate, not faux-punched plate like the TJ) - it has been improved in recent years but still has higher hum than I would be able to live with. Hum pots help.

    That's about it. There really isn't a bad sounding 45, so it's hard to go wrong.
     
  12. cowboy

    cowboy New Member

    Location:
    lenapah oklahoma
    I'm starting to feel a little more confident about the input tube deal. I still am a little confused about the output tubes though. My 30's are marked 6L6GC, they came with RCA 1614's. What other tubes would work (or be better?) in those spots. For the time being, I've assumed that the RCA's are working well. With the gains turned all the way up on the 30's (like Steve recomended) I had to turn the output controls on the top of the C28 over half way down and still don't get over 9 o'clock on the volume knob. Is that good, bad, right, or wrong????
     
  13. Balanced life

    Balanced life New Member

    Location:
    Canada
    Again, there is no one, single Amperex 7316. This is like saying Chevrolet Impalas are a great car. Which Impala? a 1970's 350 V8? A 2005 model? There is a world of difference, the only thing in common is the name.

    There are basically 4 main versions of the Amperex 7316 - at least those made in the Holland factory (some Amperex 7316's are Siemens E82CC's and some were made in the very good Philips Belgium factory). Earliest is the foil getter made in the Valvo Hamburg factory - sheer magic, but unobtainable. Next is the D-getter which is findable and extremely good sounding, as is the next version with large O-getter ring which is essentially the same tube. After that there is a small O-getter version which is inferior sounding - not bad, just not in the same league. The more recent the production of the small O-getter version, the more deficient the sound - 1970's orange globe logo production is pretty flat sounding.

    Tube talk IS about sharing opinions, but it's nice to have a grasp on a few of the facts at the same time!
     
    donkaz likes this.
  14. stereoptic

    stereoptic Anaglyphic GORT Staff

    Location:
    NY
    Sounds like a category for "Jeopardy!" :)
     
  15. Balanced life

    Balanced life New Member

    Location:
    Canada
    I don't remember the voltages on the output tubes offhand, but my guess is that it needs a 6L6GC at minimum, and a 1614 is nowhere near rated high enough- won't cause damage, but won't last long either, and won't sound ideal or as good as the amp could sound. Not only that, 1614's aren't great sounding tubes to start with.

    Go for a real 6L6GC or a 7581A, a Tungso, 5881 is under-rated for this amp but will probably work nicely as that tube's ratings I've found to be quite conservative, or for a lower priced tip look for late vintage Philips ECG 6L6WGB, which in theory should be too low rated to work but are actually so well built they can take the pain easily and sound very sweet, and are still relatively cheap.
     
  16. cowboy

    cowboy New Member

    Location:
    lenapah oklahoma
    Thanks for the tip. Did I read somewhere that RCA 1614's were original equipment in the MC 30's or did I dream that?
     
  17. Plinko

    Plinko Forum Resident

    pardon me, I meant my 7316. the 'o'.

    I certainly don't have the income to try all the 7316s in my current amp/tube configuration so one disappointment is enough for me.
     
  18. PakProtector

    PakProtector New Member

    Location:
    Dearborn, MI
    Hey-Hey!!!,
    Since the 12AU7 keeps coming up, why no mention of the CBS 7318? I had a linestage built for 6SN7's and the 7318 was the only one that could approach a good 6SN7.

    Good tubes don't have to be expensive. A pair of 6AY3's will do far better than any 5AR4 I've seen. Metal Amperex and f31 Mullard included. The DH pentode HY1269 goes for less than $6 at AES. 30W plate, Thoriated Tungsten cathode, and 807 basing( roughly ). Beats the 807 in my comparo's. The 3D21WB is another medium sized IDH beam tube. Very nice tube, and quite reasonable even now...

    There's lots of inexpensive and really useful stuff out there, waiting for a 5-pin socket, or anode cap to start singing.

    It would seem there's more than one reason to eschew the old, rebuilt comercial stuff...
    cheers,
    Douglas
     
  19. MisterBritt

    MisterBritt Senior Member

    Location:
    Santa Fe, NM, USA
    "Vacuum Tube Valley" is a magazine, right? I did come across this online 12ax7 "shootout" but it looks guitar-amp oriented:

    http://216.239.51.104/search?q=cach.../vcredarticle.html+tube+valley+shootout&hl=en

    And this article mentions a Western Electric 12ax7 black plate -- didn't know WE made a 12ax7. (Maybe they're just saying WE black plated other tubes but I wouldn't have mentioned WE in an article specific to 12ax7 tubes if WE didn't make them. Hmmm.)

    Probably on the top of your amps. I'm still learning about this stuff, but I thought 1614's and 6L6s (and KT-66 and 350Bs and EL37s were all interchangeable.) Let's see what the experts say.

    Are National Union and Western Electric manufactured to identical specifications? Is it just a different logo but the same tube (like Rolls Royce and Bentley when they were made on the same production line)? Just what is the relationship between these two, please?

    And finally, per another but related thread, someone was saying the late model McIntosh Mc30 (manufactured 1954 - 1962) had a 12at7 in the last position -- rather than the original 12ax7. Did they modify the amp, or just look at it after the fact and think: Gee, we should stamp that last socket position 12at7 and put those in there instead. What's that all about?
     
  20. PakProtector

    PakProtector New Member

    Location:
    Dearborn, MI
     
  21. pdenny

    pdenny 20-Year SHTV Participation Trophy Recipient

    Location:
    Hawthorne CA
    :laugh: Thanks Steve...I for one appreciate the link. I am hoping to find something to replace the Russian so-and-so's that are in my Fisher 800C without breaking the bank. I'd appreciate any specific suggestions for best matching with the Fisher...
     
  22. reb

    reb Money Beats Soul

    Location:
    Long Island
    Siemens 5814A triple mica early 60's is very hard to beat.
     
  23. Plinko

    Plinko Forum Resident


    Thanks. Are these easily found?
     
  24. Tone22

    Tone22 New Member

    Location:
    Tampa, FL
    Tube rolling is like cable rolling. What sounds GREAT in one application may merely be good in another, while really sucking in still another.

    What is useful is when someone describes where one tube differs from another in terms of tone. It would be even better if the descriptions were of the sort that had an objective bent. Rather than saying, for instance, this bass was better or worse, you could say the one tube's bass in this set up was too full in the lower bass to have any definition. One could then, even though this description was negative, still have some useful information, if for instance, your rig was overly defined in the bass with not enough depth to the bottom. What didn't work for the other guy could work perfectly for you!
     
  25. vinyl anachronist

    vinyl anachronist Senior Member

    Location:
    Tigard, Oregon
    Well, I have the second and third place ones, so I think I'll stick with those!
     
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