good vs. bad tubes

Discussion in 'The Squawk Box' started by sk8rat, Jan 1, 2018.

  1. sk8rat

    sk8rat Senior Member

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    I dont mean bad tubes as in tubes that have gone bad. I often see people say things like "the amp sounds great and I haven't even put in good tubes yet" or "it sounds better with ____ tubes", ect...

    what are peoples opinions on the subject? perhaps either cheap tubes or tubes that just dont sound good with a certain amp vs. more expensive or different options?

    I'm not totally happy with my amp and am curious how much a tube change will noticeably affect the tone or if it is worth trying.

    my amp has 2 EL84s and 3 12AX7s
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
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  2. mdubya

    mdubya Senior Member

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    I have been watching a lot of Tone Talk on youtube with Dave Friedman. He is always critical of modern tubes. Says he is lucky to find a batch that works consistently, muchless sound good.

    It makes me wish I had kept all of those old tubes I went through back in the 90's.

    And supply of decent tubes, more than anything, makes me wonder about the future of tube amps.

    That said, we never know which way things are going to go. Demand can make anything possible.
     
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  3. Leña_Costoso

    Leña_Costoso Senior Member

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    Rumor has it that Leo Fender avoided thermionic valves that had slick'd hair, wore black leather jackets and probably carried a switchblade. Of course that was the 50's and bad tubes were much different then, almost idolized now.
     
  4. RAG7890

    RAG7890 Premium Member

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    I have a new Quad of 6CA7 Shuguang Treasures.

    In a Bad Cat Hot Cat (Class A), 2 of these Tubes sound awesome.

    In a BE 100 the Quad does not sound as good as the standard Shuguangs EL34's...........the Treasures sound too Hi Fi.

    So my point is, that like many things you often have to find the right Tube for a particular Amp / Tone etc.

    :cheers2:
     
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  5. RAG7890

    RAG7890 Premium Member

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    Don't worry Michael there is a bucket load of NOS Tubes around. Prices are not that high if you know where to go.

    Most sellers are a bunch of wankers telling you how rare their NOS Tubes are............which is why they have trouble selling them.

    I won't tell you what I had access to back in the mid 1980's & like a @ickhead did not take them all...........they ended up dumping them.

    I even gave away my NOS GEC Osram KT88 Quad for free..............didn't really understand what I was doing back then.

    Cheers, Rudi
     
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  6. RAG7890

    RAG7890 Premium Member

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    Think V1 as a good starting point, assuming your Amp is functioning as it should be. A good Amp tech is priceless IMHO. :)

    Good luck.

    :cheers2:
     
  7. northernguitarguy

    northernguitarguy SWeAT hOg

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    No tube will 'change' an amp.

    #psychoacoustics
     
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  8. RAG7890

    RAG7890 Premium Member

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    Wrong, the more I pay the better it sounds. LMAO. :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

    Seriously though, there are a few applications where the NOS Power Tubes make sense due to their ability to withstand a hammering.

    NOS Preamp Tubes can offer super long life & some great tones too.

    :cheers2:
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
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  9. JohnnyN

    JohnnyN Old School Premium Member

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    A good tube is tested and sorted by the supplier. Some companies - like TAD - have tubes made to their specs.
    But like Rudi said the V1 is a good place to roll some tubes, and you don't need to BIAS. For EL84 I'm very happy with TAD EL84-STR in my Laney VC15.
    Most EL84 are self biasing, but check with the manufacturer!
    There are only 3 factories left making tubes, but it is still possible to get some NOS tubes. The quality of the tubes, whether from new or old production, depends on the supplier.
     
  10. rockinlespaul

    rockinlespaul Oxblood Addict V.I.P. Member

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    I completely agree with Rudi. You just have to try different tubes and find what works best for you and that particular amp.

    I know when I put some nos vintage Mullard pre's in my 1974X, it sounded too good...hi-fi like to me so I ended up using something different.

    In my Blockhead, the same Mullard sound spectacular.

    Just try doing some swapping with different brands until your happy with what you hear.
     
  11. rockinlespaul

    rockinlespaul Oxblood Addict V.I.P. Member

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    Also, I found different tubes will change the volume of the amp as well. When I used modern EH pre amp tubes, they were much louder than the vintage Mullards.
     
  12. cybermgk

    cybermgk Singin' the body lectric Premium Member V.I.P. Member

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    Although, I do think psychoacoustics comes into play to some degree in most cases. It's physically incorrect to say different tubes don't change tone. No tubes from any manufacturer, past or present are consistant in build. Tube, is basically a big amplifier. However what passes through the grid is dependent on the circuitry around that tube and the signal, and yes, how well the tube is constructed.

    So, they can effect what frequencies are amplified, different tubes. This is why old tubes start sounding bad, flat and muffled.

    To the OP, Not all current production tubes are 'bad', and not all NOS, or old, pulled, viable tubes, are good. LOT of amp makers put in stock, the cheapest of current production tubes. Wide variance of meeting specs.

    IMHO, because of how they construct their tubes, certain new production 'brands' (cause there are really only 3 places tubes are currently made, and each location, except one makes multiple 'brands') have general tonal qualities in amps. That said, some amps preferred, to my ears, certain brands generally, where others may not like that. Within a brand, there can be variance between tubes as well.

    A rule of thumb I used for current production pre-amp.

    Tung Sol - use if your amp seems muddy sounding AND less dynamic.
    JJ - For a little more gain than many, and less smooth preamp distortion.
    Mullard RI - If you want more gain out of your preamp, will lose some high end, smoother preamp distortion.
    Electro Harmonix - Never really got them to work/sound well in any amp.

    One of a myriad of reasons, I went digital.
     
  13. Dick Banks

    Dick Banks Senior Member

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    I use a tube amp (Mesa Boogie Mark IV) to tweak the sound of my Line 6 Helix. The amp never leaves my house. It's just there for a "sound reference."
     
  14. Mike_LA

    Mike_LA Silver Supporter

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    Tubes have a much less pronounced effect V.S. a speaker swap.

    I changed all the preamp valves in my Marshal 6101 (7 - 12AX7s) to a set recommended by one of the gurus on a marshall forum and the change was there, but very subtel.

    In my Vox AC4 which has only a preamp 12AX7 and an EL34 power valve, I was able to notice more headroom on some 12AX7s over others, then went to a 12AT7 which is 60% less gain than a 12AX7.

    Much more usable for me now.

    Best of luck
     
  15. Big John

    Big John banned, mentally V.I.P. Member

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    There's some great military NOS substitutes for both of these tube types that have come to light in the last couple of years: EL84: Russian 6P14P, 12AX7: Chinese 6N4. These tubes last, are quiet, sound great, and are priced similar to new tubes if you look around.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
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  16. ehb

    ehb Chief Discombobulator Premium Member

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    In my Blackstar, it sounded damn good on single coils but too dark on my Lesters for me...

    I put JJ fronts in it and bought Groove Gold Series 34 Winged Mediums in the backs...

    Great sounding amp now.... Far more expressive than with stock tubes....
     
  17. pnuggett

    pnuggett Senior Member

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    Had to throw that in huh?
     
  18. cybermgk

    cybermgk Singin' the body lectric Premium Member V.I.P. Member

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    Wasn't just a throw in. I legitimately spent a lot of time rolling tubes, finding sources for good sounding tubes, testing and discarding less than good new production tubes. It wasn't a small thing for me, but a major annoyance and taker of time away from playing , and thus WAS a major factor in the decision.
     
  19. LtDave32

    LtDave32 Sua Sponte Super Mod Premium Member

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    *Mod Note*


    If I have a yet another F_KING tube/digital squabble, how do you think I'm going to react?

    What do you know about me in these situations?

    What's the track record, when I've had it up to my F_KING EYEBALLS to the point where even a SNEEZE of tube/digital BS is detected?

    Now I'll tell you to post accordingly. You know what happens. And it ain't good.

    Don't argue with me about it. Just carry on with the discussion and don't step on the hot pink and purple pulsating neon-sign-lit LAND MINE that you'd be a total dumb-ass to miss.
     
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  20. dissaffected

    dissaffected Senior Member

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    Interesting conversation between Fryette and Friedman on tubes.


    Go to 2:36:00 thru 2:55:00

    Edit- looks like vid has been disabled for the forum.
     
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