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Tube reviews seeming pointless and futile

Discussion in 'Glowing Bottle Tube Amp Forum' started by CV Jee Beez, May 4, 2017.

  1. ecosse

    ecosse Tele-Meister

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    I can definitely hear the difference between some NOS Ken Rad 6V6GT and the RCA smoked black plate 6V6GT I have in my Deluxe Reverb and the same can be said for long vs short plate RCA 12AX7s in V1 and V2 on my Fenders.

    I have done some extensive tube rolling and have found what appears to be my favorite combos out there for my amps. There is TO ME an unquestionable difference in tone with some tubes. Some are sweeter in breakup. Some DON'T break up. Some are brighter, some are darker. Its subtle sometimes, but they're there. I tend to think they all sound the same for the most part once the whole band gets playing up to volume. The audience certainly can't tell. But I can, and I'M the one playing the amp. That's all that matters.
     
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  2. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I've read this post a couple of times and have to assume that our values are just so drastically different that there is no reason for us to agree.

    While I think super high quality gear is cool, I can't delegate $2000 to a headphone amp. I have no problem with others spending big for top shelf.
    However, as a musician I place a high value on my guitar sound, so I have trouble understanding spending big for playback of others music while cheaping out on my own.

    But what is even harder to grok is that you seem to pay more for low quality guitar amp tubes than I pay for high quality NOS.
    What tube resellers charge for rebranded current production mediocrity is higher than you can get good NOS for.

    Of course there are vintage tube resellers who massively upcharge, but I would expect any tube savvy internet advice giver to be tube savvy enough to find good deals on top shelf instead of paying high prices for bottom shelf product.
    If your AC15 eats power tubes, maybe it's worth trying some better quality el84s.

    While it seems immensely popular to diss vintage tubes, what is really amazing is the scam of new production tube markup, often based on claims that we are buying "a faithful reproduction of a holy grail tube" for as much as an original might sell for.
    (Pointless tube reviews go here)
    That claim of faithful reproduction is hilarious.
    The prices IMO are not.

    I'm going to shut up now lest I shoot myself in the foot.
    Buying old tubes is risky and scary, I do not recommend it.
    Stay away! You might get hurt!

    You read it here! Tell all your friends!
    Love the internet advice!
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2017
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  3. fjrabon

    fjrabon Tele-Afflicted

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    In not sure where you got the first statement from given that I never actually gave prices? I pay about $10 give or take for new tubes. I've never seen any high quality NOS from a reputable seller in that range. If you can point me to the direction where you're getting blackplate rcas for $10, I'll gladly fill my amp with them and buy a couple hundred more for good measure.

    With regard to the second comment, that's just the nature of class a amplifiers, it's been something that's been noted about AC15s since the 60s. I guess you might believe that people in the 60s could have solved this issue inherent to the topology of the amp with vintage tubes from the 40s?

    If you like NOS in your amp, great. I was merely explaining my reasons for what I put in my amp. I have a decent collection of GE 5 stars, blackplate RCAs and voshkods. I like them. There are also quite a bit of garbage nos tubes selling for stupid amounts of money as well.

    I'd say less than 2% of touring musicians use NOS tubes. If current production is good enough for Warren Haynes it's probably good enough for me.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2017
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  4. koko1

    koko1 TDPRI Member

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    Increasing anode voltage and hotter biasing in v1 by simply replacing 2 resistors will do the job with cheaper tubes for those who need more aggressive sound. But for the average user tube swapping may be the right way. The not so cheap trial and error way...
    For myself, I'm doing neither of these. After reading many threads in tube swapping, I only swap tubes in case of a defect, noisy tube and as I prefer clean headroom, I follow recommendations of other users and buy JJs, as they seem to have a wide range in clean, less distortion generating output combined with a robust construction and they seem to be minimal microphonic.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2017
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  5. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I based prices on the online retailers offerings of new production 12ax7 varieties between $10 and $40, where I pay around $5 to $25 for NOS/ ANOS 12ax7/ 5751/ 12ay7. Same range for NOS 6V6.
    I have to pay more for NOS el84, but still stay around $20 each.

    Those black plate RCAs don't sound any better to me than lots of less pop options and since everybody thinks they are the best or at least read about them the most, they sell for some of the highest prices.

    I do not use any 1940s tubes, they were not fully developed then IMO/ IME.

    Re: class A amps, the AC15 is not class A, though the claim is another pop statement that gets repeated a lot.
    AFAIK the cathode biased AC15, 18w Marshall, lots of Dr Z amps etc run flat out at idle, so do indeed go through tubes. I don't leave my 18 watters running when not playing, FWIW.
    Cooling is pretty important too, and the classic AC cabs were terrible in this aspect.
    I have a lot of cathode biased el84 amps. We seem to agree on that preference!
    But choosing a cheap short lifespan tube because tubes don't last long kind of means you're always using weak or soon to be weak tubes.
    There is a wide range of lifespan even between different vintage tubes, but given that '50- '70s tubes were being built for military and medical use where lives depended on their reliability, we can find specs showing 5000- 10,000 hour lifespans. This would commonly be in military equipment that takes even more punishment than a guitar amp.
    New production tubes? Eeek! maybe 500 hours?
    Multiply the price by the useful lifespan and IMO new production tubes are the big ripoff.

    Now about those "reputable sellers"!
    Nice folks I'm sure but too rich for my wallet.
    So overall it's a risk buying vintage out of production tubes.
    Can't comment on Warren Haynes or what his amp tech is doing.

    I know Mesa and other builders had to redesign basic circuitry for the low quality of new production tubes in order to get adequate performance from the amps, so in many cases it may be better to use what the modern amp was designed around.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2017
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  6. fjrabon

    fjrabon Tele-Afflicted

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    My experience is just the opposite from yours. My experience is that to really benefit from NOS, you need the good stuff. I don't find many of the cheaper NOS 12ax7s to be any better than Tung Sol reissues or Sovtek LPSs

    I have no problem with your preference for tone glass. I just explained why I put mid-grade new production tubes in my gigging amp. Like I said before, I have at times put a NOS in V1 or the phase inverter. But I'd never put a NOS el84 in a gigging amp again. They burn out pretty fast. And in my experience you have to buy NOS el84s from a reputable seller because I've had bad experiences with unmatched tubes from less well known sellers. And like you point out the ac15 is more "near class a" than class a. As you know class b to ab to a is a spectrum and the ac15 is somewhere between the minimum for being considered ab but short of a. As far as tube costs go, you actually get the worst of both worlds with an ac15, as it burns through tubes as fast as a true class a does, but they still have to be precision matched like class ab.

    And I just don't hear enough benefit from NOS el84s over a well matched set of JJs. V1, yes, the difference is there if you're playing with no pedals in a completely silent room. The power tubes? Maybe your golden ears can hear the tone glass singing, but mine can't.

    Again, I never criticized your obsession with NOS tone glass. I simply stated my reasons as to why *I* don't. Maybe you think I'm a plebeian with lead ears for not caring enough to go on the tone glass pilgrimage with you, but... ***shrug***
     
  7. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I'm not sure what you mean by "increasing anode voltage" in the first statement.
    12ax7 has plates, grids, cathodes and heaters, right?
    AFAIK increasing plate voltage gets you cleaner sound, not more aggressive sound, right?
    From previous posts you seem to say that the only difference between 12ax7s is gain, not tone.
    And here you suggest aggression is what we want from better quality tubes?
    And that altering the factory preamp bias resistor is better than trying different preamp tubes?

    You go on to explain that you don't do tube swapping because of what you read about it on the internet.
    I think the biggest cause of confusion is that so much info on the internet is just stuff we read on the internet, repeat and try to teach, without actually understanding.

    Some players put a 12ax7 in their Tweed amps where a 12ay7 should be used, to get more gain, volume and distortion. That could certainly be considered a "more aggressive sound".
    But many players pull the higher gain 12ax7 from various amps and sub a 5751 or 12ay7 for cleaner "sweeter" sound.
    I often choose a lower gain tube for one position or another when trying to dial in my preferred tone.
    Lower gain is not lower quality tone/ sound/ clarity/ articulation/ punch/ compression/ sustain/ etc.

    I actually (like you) only swap a tube in the case of a defect, but I have an idea of the range of flexibility of the overall sound of my amps via tube swapping, so if an amp doesn't sound how I want it to sound, that's enough of a defect to warrant a 30 second tube swap.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2017
  8. koko1

    koko1 TDPRI Member

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    Anode = plate. In Germany we call it anode.
    Higher plate voltage + hotter biasing = more saturation of electron flow. This results in more gain, which tends to more distortion with tubes that are at the limit with higher plate voltages. Distortion in my ears sounds more aggressive. That's all. Maybe my English isn't the best ..
     
  9. theprofessor

    theprofessor Poster Extraordinaire

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    I agree with @telemnemonics here. I am surprised at folks saying they can't tell much of a difference between different types of the same spec of tube. In my experience (which is not vast, I admit), almost every tube swap I've ever done has made a difference. These are often differences that one can get by doing other things, though. One can turn up the treble or turn down the bass or use the guitar controls differently. But sometimes tubes just do things that can't be done in other ways--like bring clarity and verve to the amp, changing your response and touch a great deal. I've also thought to myself sometimes that some popular circuit changes or "mods" can be accomplished by simply inserting a different tube in one valve slot. No need to open up the amp. If that's the case, a $40 NOS tube may be a great investment, rather than taking the amp to the tech for a mod. One of the biggest things certain tubes can do is add clarity. @telemnemonics mentioned the Raytheon long black plate 12ax7 above. In another post, he's also mentioned Ken-Rad 6V6GT's. Those tubes are remarkable for clarity, and as he also rightly notes, they're no good for him when he's playing Esquires. So great tubes aren't great in every situation.

    I can, too. Sometimes the differences are subtle, but at other times, the differences are truly remarkable. As far as descriptions of these sounds go: I don't think they're all worthless. The trick is to find someone who is a connoisseur whose taste you appreciate. That person can tutor your ears in hearing certain qualities and appreciating certain factors when rolling vacuum tubes through a certain circuit. @Opaltone has been very helpful to me in this respect, and I must say that my own trials with various tubes--both preamp and power tubes--confirm his descriptions. Some of that is my coming to appreciate what he appreciates as a connoisseur. But some of it is that he's just gifted at listening and at describing sounds. It's a hard thing to do. Maybe a lot of folks are rightly suspicious of this sort of thing because so much of it is done badly, or done by interested parties who are trying to sell you products. But when done by someone truly trained in listening to vacuum tubes in various circuits and gifted at describing those sounds, the descriptions are often very helpful. Another example: many people on the KCA NOS website give testimonials about how they called up Mike Kropotkin and told him what amp they had and what they were looking for, and that he completely nailed it with his suggestion. I wonder how many people have a completely different testimony--that Mike got it completely wrong and that the tube was nothing special. Probably not all that many.

    I understand that NOS tubes aren't necessarily magical. Many of the best ones (the long plates, including some great ones like the Sylvania long black plate 12ax7's from the 1950's, among others) tend to become microphonic, especially in combo amps (not surprising). But it's difficult to deny that the market for new-production tubes is pretty bad, at least in comparison to all the magnificent engineering in tubes from the 1950's and 60's. And when you hear a great one, boy it really does seem magical. If I'm primarily a gigging musician, the new production stuff is probably fine. I can have several on hand at all times and can replace them cheaply if they ever go. But if I'm playing primarily in my living room and am looking for great tone out of an amp in front of me, vintage tubes can make a lot of difference. Not as much difference as a speaker change, but a real difference nonetheless.
     
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  10. CV Jee Beez

    CV Jee Beez Tele-Holic

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    Anode is the proper name. You had ot right. I'm American and we use plate so comonly we may forget it's proper name.
     
  11. chemobrain

    chemobrain Friend of Leo's

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    o.k , with all these possible variations, I'm just gonna hide for a while and stick with my modeled amps.
    this a very interesting subject to discuss but there seems to be so many ways of getting it wrong, when it come to tubes. It's a little over whelming.
     
  12. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Naawww, it's just like a chili recipe.
    Except that after you use a tube in your amp, you still have it to try in another amp or three. For years and years.
     
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  13. alnicopu

    alnicopu Friend of Leo's

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    I can tell more of a difference in preamp tubes. Bought a couple J.J. ECC803s' on sale and didn't care for them in my Princeton Reverb. Both raised the noise floor way more than I can tolerate. Tried both in my SFVC and, had I not known better, would have thought I had a problem with the amp. They both exhibited a horrendous distortion at about 1 on the dial.
     
  14. chemobrain

    chemobrain Friend of Leo's

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    thank you, I'll remember that the next time I start thinking about home easy it is to get a great tone from tube amps.
     
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  15. alnicopu

    alnicopu Friend of Leo's

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    Same here. In school anode was positive and cathode was negative. With transistors it's collector and emitter, respectively. Then in my semester of industrial electronics, source was B+, HT (high tension) or rail voltage. We called that Ladder logic in the old pinball machines. When I was a lineman for a power company it was single, bi phase and 3 phase, depending on how many HT lines were on the pole. I teach this stuff at HP Inc. now and most of the new guys coming up are clueless to those terms.
     
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  16. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Great! Happy to inspire!

    So the other night I went to check email on my iphone and my email app was completely gone.
    Checked memory usage and there was no email in the memory.
    This may shed some light on why the whole tube amp thing where I can see the tube and take it out and put in a different one kind of works for my particular, uh, brain.
    Gotta call tech support and find out how an app and all its stored data can self delete with the phone in my pocket.
    Maybe I'm just too lizard?
     
  17. Ripradiant

    Ripradiant Tele-Afflicted

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    I have had and do still have a number of Fender and Mesa tube amps vintage and contemporary .. they all sound good / they all have different tubes in them and if they ever need changing I simply replace with whatever the most affordable correct value tube. And, they still sound great. I think there is way too much voodoo around tube selection .... but I also get that experimenting is fun!
     
  18. chemobrain

    chemobrain Friend of Leo's

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    yes I do love the lore, just as long as someone else's card is picking up the tab on the tubes and the possible aggravation
    I have read about KT88s beginning better because of this that and the other, EL 34 s are other things either superior or inferior
    to other tubes, It is fun.
    Did Eric Clapton ever talk about the tubes in his Beano period Marshall amp (KT88's?) Had he ever tried other power tubes? Music Lore, Amp Lore, Guitar Hero Lore. It's fun.
     
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