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Thread: What NEW 12AX7 is BEST

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    Senior Member guitician's Avatar
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    What NEW 12AX7 is BEST

    OK, with all the NOS stuff set aside. I have played and heard all types of NOS. Not comparing to the old stuff. What do you guys like as far as the New Production 12AX7 types. I'm looking more for reliability and consistency of specs., than tone, or what best suits an application.

  2. #2
    Senior Member melvin's Avatar
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    I have been really impressed with the JJ ECC83S tube.

  3. #3
    Senior Member guitician's Avatar
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    Thanks, I'll check them out. I guess there are only 4 or 5 new production 12ax7's out there. I may just pickup one of each and go from there.

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    Music Lover Sock Puppet's Avatar
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    TechTube Valves - Blackburn MicroTech Solutions

    There's a nice video on there too.

    S.

  5. #5
    Senior Member guitician's Avatar
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    I think that Co. went out of business. They are selling current stock on hand only. Seemed like good tubes though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by guitician View Post
    OK, with all the NOS stuff set aside. I have played and heard all types of NOS. Not comparing to the old stuff. What do you guys like as far as the New Production 12AX7 types. I'm looking more for reliability and consistency of specs., than tone, or what best suits an application.
    For any of the new production tubes, reliability and consistency is going to depend, in part, on who you buy them from. Different dealers have different thresholds for rejection of out of spec tubes. Some charge more for tighter tolerances.

    That said, most people do pick tubes based on what sounds best in his/her application, and I've been having good luck with the reissue Tung Sol 12AX7s. I have a good stock of NOS tubes, and they sound a bit like old-stock RCA.

    The short-plate JJ ECC83S seems to work OK in some amps, in some positions, and not in others, probably because its structure is different from traditional 12AX7s. For example, I recently had one of these sound good in a split-load phase inverter and awful in a long-tailed pair inverter/driver. And they make the Hammond Organ AO-28 preamp sound weird to my ears. I've also noticed wide variations in how these test in my tube tester--and some early failures. So, I usually expect them to sound bad and am pleasantly surprised when they don't.

    Sonically, I often like the tall-plate JJ ECC803S better.

    The latest (9th) generation Shuguang 12AX7s are consistent performers, too. I have a friend who likes them as V1 in his Twin Reverb.

    I think the best approach is to have several types on hand and swap them around till you achieve the best system synergy in your application. I do the same thing with my old-stock 12AX7s. It's seemed to me that there was always a lot of variation in 12AX7 performance in-circuit from manufacturer to manufacturer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by guitician View Post
    I think that Co. went out of business. They are selling current stock on hand only. Seemed like good tubes though.
    Yeah--unfortunately they were trying to launch a new product in the middle of a global recession--very bad timing.

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    For a new 12AX7 production tube, I've been pleased the the Tung Sol re-issue.

  9. #9
    Junior Member dwire's Avatar
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    Don't quite understand...

    I'm looking more for reliability and consistency of specs., than tone, or what best suits an application.
    I am assuming your statement should have read:

    "I'm looking for reliability and consistency of specs., THEN tone or what suits an application."

    Do you mean your first priority in asking for a recommendation for new production tubes is longevity and reliability as well as consistency in specs and tone or fitting your application is secondary to those considerations? I would likely only think in such terms if designing a circuit that the tube was merely a buffer stage of little consequence, or more likely was not even used for audio; surely not to put in something like your nice avatar.

    After literally thousands of tubes, NOS and factory-fresh, I find that a bit odd as well as unconventional indeed.

    I rarely buy factory tubes to speak of, Tesla's OK, Sovtek's surprisingly are not that hateful in some flavors if you do not get tricked by any of their hype (ala' Groove-Tubes type advertising and marketing business...)

    I guess I am one of the few lucky ones that has so many tubes on hand at all times I ALWAYS think just the opposite of what it would appear your statement implies... Correct for the application (or modify the circuit to perform as we wish...) and that it has the tone we want for said application; which with 12AX7's could mean a heck of a lot different things in a Mesa-Boogie or a "HI-FI" PA unit...

    In my days as an active performer, I went through many, many tubes in each rig I played for any given group or session until I found what sounded the best and didn't push the circuit (amp or perhaps preamp units...) out of its nominally acceptable operating range. I was lucky to live in a region and have the connection to a near endless supply of all sorts of NOS and or slightly used antique tubes for pennies as well as a line for cheap production tubes of the day... Funny thing is, some of the most reliable and stable tubes sounded the absolute worst in my rigs. (Of course not always; just an irony to me at that time though...)

    I am sure there will be plenty to chime in with more suggestions on their more current assessments of factory fresh production tubes. I just thought I would post to try and understand a bit better what your motivation and thinking was regarding tube selection. A wise man once told me you learn something new every day, so perhaps I am in for some additional learning again today. (That same wise man once told me, "You can't see the forest for the trees in front of you..." as well, but that is a story for a different day!

    Would be nice to peer into your thinking a bit. Regardless, I hope whatever you settle on meets your needs, for truly that is all that matters is that you are pleased.

    Regards,
    dwire
    "but I ain't never seen me a one-legged stripper; and I've been to Morocco!" Quentin Tarantino, from Robert Rodriguez's PLANET TERROR. R.I.P.

  10. #10
    Senior Member guitician's Avatar
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    Well, the TONE is what I was going to grade myself. I thought if I had all the best current 12ax7's, and ran through some comparisons of them, I would settle on the one I liked best. Since the selection is smaller then I first thought, this thread didn't turn up much. Thanks

  11. #11
    Junior Member dwire's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Ahh Hah!

    Oh, I see; I totally misunderstood what you were meaning...

    I would be willing to bet I am one of the brave few that would point you at cheap old Sovtek's for back in the day, the were the right flavor for a few of my Fender rigs in the preamp and FX buffer stages. I also had some success with another brand not too bragged up either and that being Electroharmonix.

    I sort of thought (likely as you did) you post might end up like the infamous "oil thread" in an automobile or motorcycle forum where someone asks, "What is the best oil?" and invariably you get a bunch of replies with very conflicting opinions and often it turns ugly after a spell...

    Sort of surprised you have not gotten a lot of posts, but perhaps my mention of the two brands above will impassion people to disagree and tell us how much they suck and something else is much nicer; henceforth you getting more brand names and opinions to choose from...

    Good luck in your quest. It has been some time since I have bought any brand new tubes, including the above brands merely because of my NOS sock here, so those manufacturer's products could have changed or declined considerably in the last ten years or so...

    Cheers!
    "but I ain't never seen me a one-legged stripper; and I've been to Morocco!" Quentin Tarantino, from Robert Rodriguez's PLANET TERROR. R.I.P.

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    tubes

    the tesla/jj 12ax7's are right for tone as they have the right junk in the response....some dirt to them. Some tubes sound kind of sterile & those ones really don't.
    For a phase inverter I use an electroharmonix 12ax7LPS as it has spiral wrap filiments which helps to reduce hum since they are ac heated in most applications......though in theory the string chain is humbucking.

    The cathode follower tone tube is up for grabs as I don't get much of any deviation when swapping tube brands.

    This is all based on your picture of the rig which is I assume a plexi clone/bassman clone.

    If you have some loot, I would spring for a NOS mullard for the first position as they have the ulitmate tone & junk to there sound. Expect to dish out around $100+ for a single and watch the return policy of the company incase you get something thats been mishandled on the way to your doorstep.
    Mind you that vibrational aspects are a thing with tubes. SO I would suggest that you not put the head unit on the speaker cabinet......or alternatively get a piece of nice foam/sponge material to set it on if you need it to be on the speaker cab.....to absorb some of the sonic/vibrational shock. This may make the tubes last longer.
    Generically, you should really only have to change out the power tubes with time. If you have a boutique amp or built from a kit, watch the plate voltage as it may be quite high & out of the book parameters. SO depending on where the bias point is, based on a factory bias setting. You can drop the plate voltage down by setting a bias hotter so it draws more current. So once you reach the right ball park on the plates of the power tubes, you have to recheck the other tubes plate voltages to see if they have stayed in spec to the schematic.......and if they also went down then you will have to adjust the power supply resistors feeding those respective sections to dial in the proper voltages or live with where they are at if the sound & tone is good to your ears.
    When you get down lower in the plate voltages you will have less power in watts but it opens up sweet spots....the brown tone.
    High plate voltages tend to make the tubes very linear & brite & brittle.
    If you get them down to book spec then you should get maximum life out of them. NOS power tubes usually were over designed & could put up with the over voltages. The new brands may not live as long before failure. Ideal tube life is when they eventually start sounding weak & mushy. But then again you need to have quality power lytic caps supplying the power tubes as when they begin to act up they may make the amp sound like it needs new tubes.

    EH & sovtek are generally the same tube stock but just selected within the batches unless its a specified design.
    NOS mullards might also be relabeled under different brand names like RCA. You have to know the guts & how they look to spot re-badged tubes.

    I use alot of sovtek 5881's and have been quite happy with them. I did notice that it seems that they have switched factories as my early tube stocks were from the winged"C" plant. I've dealt with them for 20+ years.
    I have only had 1 failure in that time and the tube only had a few hours on it.

    In theory a tube is not much different that a light bulb....and remember that there is an edison light bulb still burning after 100 years in some fire house I think on the west coast.

    I broke out a few of my tubes from my stocks to demo for a guy that had a soldano head he wanted retubed.....based on explaining to him that not all 12ax7's are the same. But for modern tubes...the tesla/jj is th way to go if you want a sound with dirt in it at the right spot.

    Also mind you that you can buy from dealers tubes which are selected to have balanced sides....since the 12ax7 is a dual triode...its 2 tubes in one case. This makes for a good phase inverter.

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    I just put a Tung-Sol reissue in V1 and a Mullard reissue in V2 of my TSL 100 and was pleasantly suprised over the lifeless JJ's.

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    Supporting Member tubeswell's Avatar
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    I like the plain old Sovtek WAs or WBs. The EHs ain't too shabby either - in normal gain stages, but not too fussed in CFs or other things with high cathode voltages - they don't seem to like high h-k voltages (and neither do the shuangang - if that's how you spell it)
    Building a better world (one tube amp at a time)

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    I'd read - can't remember where - that latest sovtek production had resolved the h-k insulation problem.

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    I really love the old Telefunken ECC83/12AX7 tubes, I know it's NOS, but they're really reliable and sound wonderful!

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    Maybe it would help to rephrase the question.

    Which 12AX7 tubes have you found to be complete crap and should be avoided in terms of reliability (fails often), spec (gain all over the map), and sound (unusable by anyone's standards)... and for what application in the amp was it bad.

    The sound/tone part often seems to be somewhat subjective. For example: Tube A transformed my amp Tube B was just horrible. It is not uncommon that people will tend to exaggerate the difference if there was a marginal difference. When a more accurate statement might be Tube A sounded pretty good, Tube B was a little better (I seem to hear a difference and like it).

    Example of a bad tube brand/manufacturer: I used Tube C and based on most people's judgment it was total crap (name the reason)... the amp just was not fit for use by any discerning guitarist. In other words, if I were performing I would rather use a cheap solid state amp plugged into a line 6 modeling processor to model my amp and cabinet (than use my amp with that tube in it).
    Last edited by BluesDude; 02-04-2010 at 10:30 AM.
    I am learning. My posts should not be considered as expert advice or suggestions for you to implement... on the contrary, I am looking for expert advice!

  18. #18
    Senior Member guitician's Avatar
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    OK, here's how I would rephrase it......

    Which New Production 12ax7's have the most consistent test numbers and last the longest?

  19. #19
    Senior Member Pedro Vecino's Avatar
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    Most consistent and very lasting, Chinese 12ax7. But itīs not the better sounding in all the circumstances.
    Tung Sol is also a good tube, though it continues having the typically russian compression in overdrive circuits. The samples that I have tried had high transconductance values and very similar between them. The problem is that itīs not possible to use with cathode followers.
    New 12AX7WC Sovtek also are good tubes for clean sounds and reliable.
    ECC83JJ ... very dependent on the selection but more prone to degrade. Gold pins that I tried, same as Tung Sol: high transconductance and very similar between them.
    Real good classic sound: Groove Tubes 12AX7M, but more inconsistent with values.
    Regards

  20. #20
    Junior Member Ludus's Avatar
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    Question

    I have read answers above but didn't found answer to my question too: I have a little Marshall VS40 amp that have ECC83 in preamp section. As it stopped to respond I tried to replace it with 3 different manufacturers: EH, JJ and Mesa (based on slightly scratched title). To me seemed that JJ made best distortion in boost mode than other two and I leaved it inside amp.
    I know that this amp isn't metal monster but tube distortion ability is fact that impact on sound in boost mode. Do you have some recommendation for this purpose inside ECC83 tube family? Thanks.

  21. #21
    Senior Member guitician's Avatar
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    The sound of the tube?

    By themselves triodes do not have a particular "Sound". It is the circuit they are used in that has it. And different parameters from tube to tube show as changes to the circuit responses. I've heard that a very strong vacuum in the tube increases life, as well as cathode metallurgy. Some special tubes tout a 10k hour heater life, and I've seen a lot of worn out tubes, but never a dead filament. Consistency and quality go hand-in-hand, and as the manufactures spend more time and money on quality, the consistency will get better.

  22. #22
    daz
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    Some of you are mentioning the chinese as a good tube. Can anyone tell me how that latest offering differs tonally from the old square foil getter chinese from the 80's? I ask because i always go back to those, but i am running out and wondered if theres anything similar available. having tried tung sols (VERY different) JJ's, EH, and possibly a few others, nothing is the same or even close enough to satisfy me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by daz View Post
    Some of you are mentioning the chinese as a good tube. Can anyone tell me how that latest offering differs tonally from the old square foil getter chinese from the 80's? I ask because i always go back to those, but i am running out and wondered if theres anything similar available. having tried tung sols (VERY different) JJ's, EH, and possibly a few others, nothing is the same or even close enough to satisfy me.
    Hi daz,

    I have some of the newer Chinese 12AX7s that came with a Weber kit. Initial impressions were it sounded very similar to some 80s ones I have. I didnt do any direct swapping for comparison though. Actually, I was rather surprised they sounded this good.

  24. #24
    daz
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    Thanks, i think i may have to try them. Speaking of being surprised by chinese tubes, i got my hands on a free set of EL34's that are not the current gen, but last gen i believe, and if i recall they were called "B" series as in "EL34B". Anyways, having sets of tung sol, EH, and winged C el34's, the chinese were smoother and fuller and IMO better in some ways than all of them ! Unfortunately they aren't made any longer and i don't know if the current chinese EL34 is as good. Also i think they were a tad less articulate then i wanted, but great tubes none the less. I always hear they are lousy so i was really surprised at how good they sounded.

  25. #25
    Senior Member CharlieP's Avatar
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    I have tried many new production tubes, jj, Tung-Sol, Mullard, Sovtec, EH and unmarked Chinese tubes. I started trying some TAD 12ax7 and 7025 Highgrade and Penta 9th Gen 12ax7. I like the TAD 7025 Highgrade in V1 of my VK112 and Penta in V2 with Sovtec 12ax7 LPS for V3 best. My tastes for clean country! I have since then bought ANOS tubes, RCA, Mullards and prefer them to new.

    TAD, Tung-Sol RI, Penta, Mullard RI are nice sounding new production along with the Sovtec LPS. I would use them if I couldn't get ANOS anymore. The others mentioned above, I would not bother with buying again. My opinion thru my ears only, YMMV!
    CharlieP
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  26. #26
    Junior Member Ludus's Avatar
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    Lightbulb RTF

    I tried last week RTF ECC83 in my Marshall - I think that this tube is what Marshall genuine use with its logo in their amps. It is "high gainy" and crunchy tube, like born for pre-amp section. Not cheap but thanks to Lord, I don't need a fistful of them for my amp.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by tubeswell View Post
    I like the plain old Sovtek WAs or WBs. The EHs ain't too shabby either
    Same here, and we use a lot of 'em. No complaints from the customers, and a microphonic one turns up here and there. No biggie. I have no reason to switch.

    I won't touch Chinese tubes with a barge-pole!
    John R. Frondelli
    dBm Pro Audio Services, New York, NY

    "Mediocre is the new 'Good' "

  28. #28
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    I'm a big fan of the long-plate JJs. I have them in all my amps, v2 and V3 in the Super clone (5F4), v2 in the Deluxe clone (5E3) and it's the only preamp tube in my Champ clone.

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