Other Amps

How to choose tubes

1

My long-term amp build is coming along. I recently picked up a used super reverb cab to house my '68 bandmaster reverb and weber California 15" speaker.

I'm going to get the amp serviced and blackfaced and won't be surprised if it needs new tubes. As I've started looking around, the choices are overwhelming!

My only experience is buying a full set of tubes from the tube doctor about 15 years ago for my 72 super reverb. It seems like there are a lot more options today, though.

In particular i see TAD tubes around a bit. Without going over the top on expensive NOS tubes, any recommendations on how to tube this beast?

2

Tubes are either ok or they are not.

Don't let anyone steal your tubes.

3

There is so much snake oil and hearsay in the tube world, it can be discouraging. I just pick the tubes with the right specifications for the project and move on with my life. I don't have the money or energy to spend chasing NOS tubes and listening to them with my pinky out.

For what it's worth, I have had no problems with the TAD 6L6WGC and I'm very fond of the JJ 6V6S. I've not had any new (JJ, EH) preamp tubes succumb to microphonics, but I've had A LOT of NOS 12AX7 (GE, RCA, JAN Philips, Raytheon, Silvertone) fail this way.

I have no experience with tube rectifiers, so I can't help you there.

4

Tubes are either ok or they are not.

Don't let anyone steal your tubes.

– hammerhands

Good advice.

I've done a lot of experimentation with pretty much all the new stuff. For hand wired Fenders I recommend Sovtek LPS preamp tubes for everything except the AT7 sockets. (EH are good here). IMO, these are most like the RCAs of old, both in tone and gain. For 6L6s I use and highly recommend the GT 6L6 GE type. Again, most like the original GE.

6

Rectifier tubes either work or they don't. You can't hear any difference.

I still have some NOS tubes, tho not for my VOX. I may need to buy some someday. So far, so good.

I'm somewhat surprised that tubes are still being made. They're more than a century old technology. What else from that long ago is still being mass produced?

7

FWIW I generally steer clear of anything Chinese, even though some folks like some Chinese tubes. Not me!

I love NOS for preamp tubes but the fun is wearing off because of (a) the ridiculous cost, and (b) the high failure rate. I suspect a lot of "NOS" is just any old tube someone can find. It's probably unused for a good reason. But when you get a good one it can last for ages and sound very good too.

I tend to stick with JJ these days. Not the most exciting 12ax7s but for me they have been more reliable than the Russian tubes and slightly sweeter too. You don't need anything cryogenic, don't need gold plated pins, and don't need anything which has an old, respected name like Mullard or Tungsol but which is just another re-branded Sovtek.

Groovetubes, TAD and the like are simply Sovteks or Chinese rebranded. I don't know how they select them but have a healthy scepticism. I avoid New Sensor tubes because the guy who owns New Sensor stole the name Svetlana from a very old, original tube maker in St Petersburg who made one of the best modern EL34s and eventually drove them out of business. Svetlanas with the "S" logo are just Sovteks. Svetlanas with the "C" logo ( the original Svetlana) are much better tubes but no longer made.

So I stick to JJ. I don't use 6L6s so can't speak for the JJ 6L6s, but their EL34s and 6V6s are excellent. I like to use their KT77s in EL34 amps, and have had really good results. They have a decent range of preamp tubes and for me they have been very good - low on noise and long on life.

8

JJ's have the highest failure rate of any tube ever made anywhere.

9

Just listen to the amp, let your ears guide you. The tech that is blackfacing your amp likely has a stash of tubes. Listen to the amp with Chinese, Russian and NOS USA tubes in it. You're gonna hear something you like.

10

TAD tubes are probably more expensive in the US than over here in Europe, but my experience with their tubes is good, great even. They work, and they last long.

11

JJ's have the highest failure rate of any tube ever made anywhere.

– Billy Zoom

I'd argue those black glass 90's "6V6" tubes failed more often. But that doesn't make the JJs a reliable tube.

12

timely thread for me

I wanted to put new/old tubes in my 59 champ as well as my 58 Deluxe

I have done nothing but read a lot about tubes this past month.

Old RCAs, New Sovteks etc etc. man o man everything under the sun.

The deluxe is needing some love as its been over 10 years without any tune up.Its seen had a lot of action

the Champ could use a bit of spark.

Like reading the comments. If/when I pull the trigger I'll be happy to update.

13

Sounds like sovteks are the way to go. When I bought my 72 super reverb 15 years ago it had less than 30 hours' use. I immediately pulled the tubes, so I have a full set of nos tubes for a special occasion. I'm more interested in good value this time around... especially as I've only spent $600 cdn ($450) on the amp, cab and speaker.

14

I am interested to know where you might find information like that.

Back in the '60s I was an army tech and we used thousands of tubes all measured and changed regularly on performance specs. By far the tubes with the greatest failure rate were JAN Phillips.

17

I'd argue those black glass 90's "6V6" tubes failed more often. But that doesn't make the JJs a reliable tube.

– Kap'n

Those were Tesla, which became JJ. They changed the name because the Tesla name had become so toxic. The tubes didn't get any better though.

18

Finding a good tube is like finding a good Clocksmith?

I must be lucky even if with a hiccup... Or two!

19

TAD tubes are probably more expensive in the US than over here in Europe, but my experience with their tubes is good, great even. They work, and they last long.

– WB

Yes,I second that. Been using TAD 6L6's and like them alot. By far the best current made tube I've tried, and I've tried a bunch.

20

Man it is well worth your time and a great wealth of knowledge from and old and wizened Canadian tube amp man. Check him out, at,

http://tone-lizard.com/blog/

– chrisbo

I met this guy at the bar one day. In fact, I had been on his website before I met him, and I didn't realize that it was his website until later.

He's only about 10 or 15 years older than me. Oh, I guess that is old, now.


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