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EF86 - Help Me Understand

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by sax4blues, Mar 6, 2021.

  1. sax4blues

    sax4blues Friend of Leo's

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    I had a Vox AC15C1 for many years and sold last year. I'm once again GASing a Vox similar amp. I could just buy another AC15C1 but have been looking further. What I'm confused about is where the EF86 fits in this family tree. Is EF86 integral to Vox sound?

    Current Vox amps - NO EF86
    Morgan AC20 - NO EF86
    Matchless C30 / C15 / Nighthawk - EF86
    Matchless Lightning - NO EF86
    Bad Cat Cub - EF86

    One concern is regarding quality or availability of reliable EF86 tubes. I've seen more than a few posts discussing new tube being microphonic either immediately or not having a reasonable lifetime. What experience have people had?
     
  2. drf64

    drf64 Poster Extraordinaire

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    I built a Ceriatone Creme Brulee clone. Yes, I built a clone of clone using the Ceriatone layout. I love the sound and found that the microphonic ef86s were tamed by tube dampers:

    upload_2021-3-6_17-27-40.jpeg
     
  3. KC

    KC Friend of Leo's

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    It's a pretty cool tube, to my ear. I have two Bad Cats -- Cub & Black Cat 30 -- and I use the EF86 voice almost exclusively. (On the Black Cat it's a different channel, the Cub it's a switch.) Current fave is the Winged C which of course they stopped making. JJ makes an EF806 which in my experience doesn't sound as good but seems rugged enough. If you're playing an EF86 amp and it suddenly starts to sound like it's broken, it's the tube.

    Vox did make a version of their hardwired ac15 a while ago with the EF86 in the preamp; they seem to go for reasonable money but I've never played through one. Ditto the Morgan, except for the "reasonable money" part. The Cub "USA Player" series is quite a bit cheaper than the fully hardwired version, sounds great, seems rugged enough. I've gigged mine for a couple of years. The head was under a grand new, though not by much, if I recall correctly. Separate head & cab will help avoid mechanical vibration issues in a combo. Good luck.
     
  4. KC

    KC Friend of Leo's

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    almost forgot: the Winfield Cyclone uses an EF86, too, hand-made by a member here, only played one once but really liked it.
     
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  5. Wayne Alexander

    Wayne Alexander Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    The earliest AC15s (late 50s, early 60s) used an EF86 in the preamp, they were gainier/thicker sounding than the "normal" channel which was the first 12AX7 preamp channel Vox used. By the mid-60s guitarists wanted a gainier/thicker/brighter sound than they could get from the "normal" channel (which was sometimes voiced as "brilliant" with a different bright cap, so Vox came up with the top- boost channel which was gainier and brighter than the "normal" channel.

    Matchless uses a top-boost type channel in the left channel and an EF86 in the right channel of the DC30, Bad Cat Black Cats have very similar setup and sound.

    A lot of the 65Amps amps used an EF86 preamp.

    Vox put an EF86 channel and a 12ax7 top-boost channel in some of their handwired AC15s and AC30s.


    The current version of the Vox handwired AC15 and AC30 has a normal channel and a top boost channel, which can be blended, and Celestion Blue speakers.

    Is the EF86 integral to "classic" Vox sound? No, but amps that have it as one of the channels are pretty great. The "classic" Vox sound is either the normal channel , or the top boost channel, with Celestion Blue speakers. Can other variations sound great? Yes. But if you want to sound like Brian May with Queen, or Brian Adams' early stuff, or early Beatles, or the sounds the Edge made in the early U2 albums, you do need the Celestion Blue speaker, but you don't need an EF86. A Celestion Greenback in a Vox can sound good, but it'll be more Marshally and less Voxy sounding.
     
  6. sllsll

    sllsll TDPRI Member

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