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Best tubes for vintage amps

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

  1. Sea Devil

    Sea Devil Friend of Leo's

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    If it only uses one 6V6, that's where I'd try a variety of brands. No need to worry about matching. Singles are usually much easier to find.

    I have a ton of old pre-amp tubes. One that sounds awful as a reverb driver could make a great phase inverter, and vice versa, and it has little to do with the brand. Yes, a good old RCA, Tung-Sol, Raytheon, or Telefunken is a thing of rare beauty, but a stinker is a stinker no matter what's printed on it. Testing usually won't reveal whether a tube is microphonic, so it's a gamble when you buy venerable old brands at astronomically high prices.

    I like Tung-Sol "reissue" 12AX7s a lot. EH are nice-sounding, but I had a few fail quickly. JJ has started making what some users are saying is by far the best AX7-type in many years, the E83CC (not ECC83), so that may be worth checking out; I haven't had the opportunity yet.

    For 12AT7s, NOS are still worth it, and Sylvania JANs, Telefunkens, and Westinghouse blue label (mid-sixties) are my favorites, although GEs are pretty nice too. The 6201 designation is a major plus; it means lower noise and tighter tolerances.

    A NOS 5AY3 won't kill your budget and is definitely worth considering.

    Even if you don't need 'em now, a full complement of tubes is good to have as backup.
     
  2. Hendrixlvr

    Hendrixlvr Tele-Holic

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    Oh Hamilton Ontario is 20 min from my house. I will definitely check them out!
     
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  3. northernguitar

    northernguitar Friend of Leo's

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    I’ve made a few orders from them over the years. Always had excellent service.
     
  4. Jon Snell

    Jon Snell Tele-Holic

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    You may find this page useful. Eastern block manufacturers and logos.
    https://jonsnell.co.uk/page/

    It is some information I have collated over the years.
     
  5. jimgchord

    jimgchord Tele-Afflicted

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    Tung sol. A jj 6v6 will likely bias cold in a vintage circuit.
     
  6. BobbyZ

    BobbyZ Doctor of Teleocity

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    If I had a buck for everytime I've heard, "I think it just needs tubes" in reference to a vintage amp. I'd have a few bucks!
    Can't remember how many old amps I've serviced and never changed a tube in. Especially when you get into the"off brand" amps that nobody gigged with.
    Tubes can sit for years unused and not go bad. Electrolytic capacitors go bad with time.
     
  7. burntfrijoles

    burntfrijoles Poster Extraordinaire

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    I’m far from an expert nor do I even possess basic tech knowledge it seems to be a fool’s errand to go crazy over tube selection. To what purpose?
     
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  8. darkwaters

    darkwaters Friend of Leo's

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    My 59 Supro Super 1606 gets NOS or ANOS tubes exclusively. Actually all my amps get NOS or ANOS tubes if at all possible. They're more robust. My favorites are JAN (Joint Army Navy) vintage tubes. Because they were designed and built for military applications, they're like little tanks. Very reliable.

    The only modern tubes that didn't impress me were Mesa's. Other than that I've stuck with JJs, Sovteks and EHs. I've found them all to be quite good, but the preamp tubes simply don't have the longevity of a good old tube from the 50s/60s.
     
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  9. Hendrixlvr

    Hendrixlvr Tele-Holic

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    I ended up going with Mullards for the most part except the 5Y3 because mullard doesn’t make a 5Y3 LOL. Went with JJ for that one. Almost went with a Sovtek but apparently the new Sovtek 5Y3’s run at a higher voltage and could damage the amp
     
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  10. darkwaters

    darkwaters Friend of Leo's

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    Do you mean the new Mullards or the vintage?

    Either way, let us know what you think.
     
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  11. Hendrixlvr

    Hendrixlvr Tele-Holic

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    New Mullards. So far they’re fine. They took the ambient sitting noise down to almost nothing and there’s no more tube “bottle” noise when I play. I’m dropping it off to an amp tech tomorrow because it still has that weird “crackle” when I turn it up past 50% and it starts to get that wonderful break up
     
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  12. northernguitar

    northernguitar Friend of Leo's

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    My experience is NOS last a heckuva lot longer than modern production. Sonic differences, I admit, are minimal.
     
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  13. Jon Snell

    Jon Snell Tele-Holic

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    My take on NOS vs New.
    A designer firstly uses a data sheet to determine which type of valve to use in their design. All valves of a certain type number must comply with the minimum requirements.
    Different makers use slightly different internal components. For example; Chinesium valves usually have thinner anodes than Russian Sovtec, that means Sovtec can handle slightly more current or power before the anode heats up and reduces its absortion of electrons. Thinner, smaller anodes heat quicker. (Hence compression).
    I have no doubt that the older production valves, last longer and are more rugged.
    I always fit Sovtec, Reflector, Ulynov or at least Eastern Block valves unless the customer requests other not necessarily less expensive makes. Strange how my Chinesium valves are always "out of stock", not saying there is anything wrong with them, I don't like to see the same amplifier again with burnt out valves unless a number of years have lapsed.
     
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  14. BobbyZ

    BobbyZ Doctor of Teleocity

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    Seriously think swapping tubes in an old amp without any apparent knowledge of what's inside is a bad idea.
    Unless I missed the part where it's been to a tech?
    If you must, at least pull the fuse and make sure it's the right one, they're often "uprated".
    If you're lucky that might save the power transformer.

    As far as tubes go I don't get too hog wild over new vs good old tubes. Sure if I had my way I'd only use old glass, but that's expensive and honestly I don't hear all the differences some people think they do. Spending a lot has a major influence on one's ears I've noticed.

    Rectifier tubes I do prefer the old stuff and as stated outside of GZ34s the rest can be had pretty cheap in NOS. That's a reliability thing more than a tone thing.
     
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  15. northernguitar

    northernguitar Friend of Leo's

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    Psychoacoustics. I’m most amused reading threads where tubes ‘transformed’ an ‘unplayable’ amp into the ‘best sounding amp I’ve played.’
     
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  16. BobbyZ

    BobbyZ Doctor of Teleocity

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    Yeah that's my take. Noticed differences between good working tubes. But I never went from an amp I couldn't stand to one I loved with just a tube swap. Pretty much just put in good tubes and run with it now.
    Used to swap um like crazy. Lol
     
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  17. dannyh

    dannyh Tele-Afflicted

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    In the majority of the vintage amps I've had, the tubes were still good, no need to change them.

    If I do need to buy tubes, I'll usually go with JJs. They've always worked out fine for me.
     
  18. sswoverl

    sswoverl TDPRI Member

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    I think I saw your post on the FB Supro group. I have that same amp, but maybe two years newer. It is a great one. I'd heard about these amps from Dean DeLeo (STP). He swore by them for his recordings.

    I bought it to have a low powered amp around for the living room. I started using it mic'd up for band rehearsal. Then I gigged it with a mic. It served me well in both of those applications. Served my back even better carrying it around.

    The kid that comes over to play in my son's band was using it over the weekend and got some great tones while I listened in.
     
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  19. AlbertaGriff

    AlbertaGriff Tele-Afflicted

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    My favourite tubes are ones that work. I would pay more for ones that seemingly last forever. I think that alone would be the reason to consider old tubes, but as far as audio characteristics I think if you're using the right tube for the circuit, that's as good as it needs to get.
     
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  20. northernguitar

    northernguitar Friend of Leo's

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    I’ve noticed some differences, but mainly with preamp tubes. My take with it was some had later breakup or expanded one section of the eq...all of which I ended up (slightly) tweaking to get the same sound I always seek.
    However, I have been impressed with the current tubes I have in my Orange Rocker 15 Terror. The preamps are Rogers branded Philips i63 tubes and the power tubes are Soviet 6P14P-EVs. This set was previously used in a VOX Night Train, which was my main amp before the Orange. I can’t say how many 100s of hours I have on them, but they recently tested 9/10 on an Orange tube tester.
     
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