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Best tubes for vintage amps

Discussion in 'Amp Tech Center' started by Hendrixlvr, Mar 4, 2021.

  1. Hendrixlvr

    Hendrixlvr Tele-Holic

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    Just like the title says....I just bought a vintage Supro amp and I think it needs new tubes. I haven’t had a tube amp in quite some time so I’m wondering what are some good tube brands now? Last time I had a tube amp Sovtek tubes were all the rage.

    thnx
     
  2. northernguitar

    northernguitar Friend of Leo's

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    What tube compliment? FWIW, The Tube Store in Hamilton is an excellent source for whatever you settle on.
     
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  3. DavidP

    DavidP Friend of Leo's

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    You talking about preamp or power tubes? For preamp, I'd splurge for a well-tested NOS RCA or GE for V1, and a Mullard or JAN Philips 12AT7 to drive the spring reverb if there. I'm a big fan of 5751s in V1 as well, again NOS is your best bet there. For the rest of the tubes I'd go with current production TungSol or Electro Harmonix. If its 6V6 powered, I'd go with JJs. 6L6 is a different story but I've been pretty happy with current production Tung Sol 6L6GC STR.
     
  4. scooteraz

    scooteraz Friend of Leo's

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    For new tubes there are actually three manufacturers in the world
    China - Shaugang
    Slovak Republic - JJ Tubes
    Russia - Reflektor Corp.

    So far as I know, any tube with a brand (like Mesa, or Sovtek) are one of these three. The Sovteks are actually built by Reflektor.

    I’ve had good luck with JJ, but others cuss them....OTOH, I’ve had pretty good luck with any number of the sub brands.

    New Old Stock (NOS), talk to Antique Electronic Supply in Tempe, AZ https://www.tubesandmore.com/ or The Tube Store (as mentioned above, in Hamilton, ON) https://www.thetubestore.com/ and see what they have to say about available product and price/performance requirements for your amp.

    Lots of folks will try to tell you one or another manufacturer (or NOS tube) is the best thing since peanut butter, but those two places have helped me with reasonable information in the past.
     
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  5. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity

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    You dont say what amp.
    I have gone to modern tubes for some numbers... and certain brands because I want to play music not fiddle with tubes.
    12AX7- Only Mullard Reissue
    6V6- JJ because most my Fender amps run way high in voltage.
    6L6GC- I like vintage Sylvania's best probably but GE etc are good. TAD in modern tubes.
    5881- Old stock Sylvania 6L6WGB.
    EL84- JJ seem fine, GT work
    12AT7- I still have mil spec old ones available and they seem fine.
    Rectifiers- Old stock are reliable and not much money except 5AR4. I use 5V4 in place of those if I need to.
     
  6. Cali Dude

    Cali Dude Tele-Afflicted

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    For a vintage amp, I would try to keep the tubes anos if you can swing it. If not, I have had great results with the Genalex Gold Lion tubes. I really like their 12ax7s and also their 6v6 tubes.
     
  7. slauson slim

    slauson slim Friend of Leo's Platinum Supporter

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    EH or JJs. Will work fine. Lots of flapdoodle, hand wringing, cork sniffing about tubes. Once you turn up and the band kicks in nuances go out the window.
     
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  8. northernguitar

    northernguitar Friend of Leo's

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    For sound response, I tend to agree. Where NOS tubes often shine is how robust they are. I have a pair of Philips i65 12AX7s and a pair of Soviet 6P14P-EV tubes with hundreds of hours on them that still test as new.
     
  9. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Vintage tubes auction pretty cheap on eBay, I usually pay less than new retail prices and sometimes get legit NOS.

    Key is to skip silly holy grail vintage and buy plain Jane GE or Sylvania.

    What tubes you need though is a factor, and not all will be bad just because they’re old.
     
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  10. loopfinding

    loopfinding Friend of Leo's

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    I usually just buy whatever is the cheapest Eastern Euro brand and use the extra cash to have them screened for low noise/microphonics, and power tubes matched by the seller and not the factory. Good s/n ratio and optimal functioning is more important to me than whatever imperceptible mojo is supposed to be there.
     
  11. Hendrixlvr

    Hendrixlvr Tele-Holic

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    It’s a 1958 Supro “Super” 1606
     
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  12. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Sorry I don’t know that amp, what tubes does it use and how do you know they need to be replaced?
     
  13. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

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    A lot of people think 'my amp.needs new tubes coz its old'. Very often that's not the case. As people have alluded to, I've got 1960s tubes that test new.

    The grey plate 6V6s from my 83 Superchamp still sound great. I've put them aside to save them.

    If it's an old unserviced amp that's hummy it's more likely in need of electrolytic capacitors replaced. Even if it's not humming the bypass caps in the time circuit will be dead and negatively impact tone and volume. You can actually notice atonality in some amps.
     
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  14. VintageSG

    VintageSG Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    Rectifier : NOS Euro/American or USSR equivalent. Check your voltages. Line voltages may have increased in your area, and newer rectifiers, ie, JJ, don't seem to drop as much voltage.
    12AX7 : NOS 'Holy Grail' prices are getting silly. Any Euro/American/Japanese/East European will do the job New stuff?, Sovtek/EHX New Sensor made seem as good as any. JJ are OK. The long plate variants are worth looking into too.
    6V6 : JAN VT107/6V6 examples can be had NOS for less than new production. The JJ 6V6S is robust and generally fine sounding. The Sovtek and Sino ( Shuguang, often rebranded ) are OK. If your amp has a plate voltage of ~350V or lower, the Soviet 6p6s are very good too. Know your voltages.

    Rectifiers can last forever, or so it seems. A 12AX7 that hasn't gone microphonic is probably still good to go. I get old, used ones from old radios etc. Some of these were used daily from the mid 60's until to mid 90's. 30 years of daily use, and they work perfectly. Likewise with power valves. Old doesn't mean worn out. Decades of use doesn't mean worn out. Ears and voltages. To paraphrase, 'Know your stuff, or know you're stuffed'

    What may well need replacing though, are electrolytic caps and power resistors.
     
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  15. hepular

    hepular Tele-Holic

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    12ax7 6v6gt 5y3gt, aka champ
     
  16. Hendrixlvr

    Hendrixlvr Tele-Holic

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    I’m getting new tubes as a start to diagnosing an issue I’m having with it. Before I take it to a tech I want to rule out the simple things.
     
  17. Willie Johnson

    Willie Johnson Tele-Holic

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    I went opposite--I had black plate/grey glass RCA's in my Super Champ X2 and sounded great until they started to get mushy and began losing volume. Replaced them with JJs and jacked up the bias, and it sounds great, but definitely changed its tonal character.
     
  18. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Tubes for a champ type single ended class A are the bomb to buy on ebay, no need for matched pairs and singles are super plentiful and cheap.

    If the amp doesn't work and you want to install known good tubes you need to be more selective.
    Many sellers have "calibrated" tube testers that confirm a tube is "good" or tests "high/ good/ low" etc, and some test them in an amp as well.
    Not all buyers want to mess with old tubes, but IMO if you don't want to mess with old tubes, don't mess with old tube amps either!
     
  19. arlum

    arlum Tele-Holic Platinum Supporter

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    I don't know the exact Supro model you're working with but I own over 100 vintage preamp tubes and slightly less than 60 output tubes that I purchased NOS in their original boxes over the last 25 to 30 years. I realized long ago that out of production meant an ever dwindling stock and ever increasing prices so I started buying them up at every opportunity. Some of the ones I bought for between $40 to $80 in the '90s now sell for 4X to 8X the price I paid at that time. Matched pairs and especially matched quads of NOS output tube sets have gone up quite a bit more. Some are off the charts and probably would have to be ripped off from a Tube Museum. So, out of those I own, I'll just tell you which are my favorites for the different positions in a guitar amplifier. I've sold off all the also rans to acquire the ones I never want to run out of.

    Preamp tube types.

    ECC83 / ECC803S / 5751 / 12AX7 / 12AX7A / 7025. These are all versions of the 12AX7 found in most electric guitar preamps.

    For position V1 all of my amps use Mullard tubes built at the Blackburn factory in the U. K. All pre-1970. Period. All of them. They add just a little something that places them a tad higher than RCA for my purposes.

    For all other V positions in the preamp that utilize this tube I use RCA tubes built between 1960 and 1965. Their 12AX7A's from this period are beyond excellent. I use them in my Bruno, Cornford and Star Amplifiers.

    ECC81 / 12AT7 / 12AT7WA.

    The ones I chose to keep are all made by Telefunken or Mullard. I don't know anything else about them. They just beat out all the others.


    Output Tube types.

    Most of my favorite amps use EL84 tubes in the output. I also have amps that use 6L6GC, EL34 and 6V6.

    For those using EL84's I only use Amperex Holland built tubes. Their Bugle Boy stamped tubes are legendary. That said ...... I own a couple of sets of Bugle Boys as well as multiple other sets without the Bugle Boy stamp built at the same Holland factory and I hear no difference at all. Holland made Amperex EL84's are all excellent. If I'd known this going in I wouldn't have paid the higher price for the Bugle Boy's. I think this is a case where legends don't live up to their hype. If you can find a matched quad of Amperex Holland built EL84's at a price you can afford buy them. These are the best of the best. Screw the dick with his bugle.

    Amps requiring EL34s can do no better than '60s production Mullard tubes. That said ...... a tube that is now NOS but only went out of production maybe 5 to 10 years ago, costs a lot less than the vintage NOS '60's Mullards and comes in at second place is the Winged "C" (SED) EL34. NOS are still readily available and these are the tubes I use. I couldn't afford both my EL84 and EL34 favorites so I put the big money toward the EL84's and settled for an excellent second place EL34 tube. *Note. My Star Sirius 30 R'Verb amplifier is a bit of an odd build. It utilizes two EL34s in class A for a total output of between 30 and 34 watts. After purchasing it for more than the price of a Marshall half stack and opening it up and finding two "Chinese" EL34B's I jumped to my only spare NOS Mullard EL34s and was terribly disappointed. At first I thought "What the F*** happened to my Mullards". So ...... I dropped in a pair of Winged "C" (SED) EL34's and again was disappointed. Upon arrival the amp had sounded outstanding for an EL34 based model. They're usually a little to "crunchy" for my use but the Star sounded killer. I just figured I could still improve upon it. Nope. Not happening. I switched back to the original equipment "Chinese" made EL34B's and have never searched further. Sometimes rules don't work. Sometimes what you get is already the best it can be.

    For amps requiring 6L6GC / 7581 / KT66

    My favorites are NOS RCA "black plate" I purchased quite a long time ago. I just don't have many and save them to replace them in amps that already have them. Once again ..... my second favorite are the recently NOS Winged "C" (SED) 6L6GC tubes.

    I can't claim to own any special 6V6 output tubes. This tube type was only added to my list in the last dozen years or so and, upon a lot of research, I didn't come across any NOS that truly stood out above modern production from the JJ company. I'm not saying there aren't NOS 6V6 tubes out there that aren't better. I just haven't found them. The current production JJ 6V6 tubes work quite well in my Cornford Carrera and that's the only amp I use 6V6 output tubes in.

    Rectifier Tubes.

    OK. Up front. All of my tube rectified amps use GZ34 /5AR4 type tubes. I don't have anything to offer on other types. The only rectifier tubes I use a NOS Mullard tubes built at their Blackburn factory in the U.K. Possibly there are better rectifier tubes out there but when it comes to rectifier tubes I'm more concerned about life span than anything else and these Mullard NOS rectifier tubes last forever.
     
  20. PhoenixBill

    PhoenixBill Tele-Meister

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    Don’t change tubes to “diagnose” an amp; as others have said, it’s likely not the tubes. Electrolytic capacitors. Coupling capacitors. Carbon comp resistors. These are known weak points. Instead of spending money on tubes, spend that money to have a qualified tech service the amp.
     
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