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Thread: Modern EL34 reliability?

  1. #36
    Old Timer Leo_Gnardo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bob p View Post
    If a distributor screens tubes and rejects bad ones, those tubes have to go somewhere. if they're not being destroyed then they re-enter the marketplace somewhere else. Granted, that indicates that there is a problem with QC at JJ, but if there's a way to work around that by buying from the right guy, that's a better solution to me than dealing with microphonic tubes.
    We've been round & round with the same subject a couple years ago here on MEF. At that time, IIRC the distributors that had the best rep for shipping no-problem JJ's were Eurotubes* and Mojo. Time's gone by, maybe the results will be different. And new vendors have appeared, like Doug's and Valve Queen. Also CE/Antique/Tubesandmore have changed their test gear and presumably improved their game. I'm looking forward to seeing our correspondents' reviews. Maybe a different thread should be started for this, or even a sticky where we can monitor the suppliers over the course of years.

    Again, IIRC, Euro sells JJ exclusively, and offers no discounts. Let's hear about it if there's been any change.

  2. #37
    Supporting Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Something to consider... I have suspected that there are some tube vendors operating under more than one web presence. If one is bad, the other most likely will be. I once bought two pair of JJ el34's and they sat around for four and a half months before I installed them in an amp. Both pair failed. I wrote the vendor and explained the circumstances. No dice. The tubes were beyond the warranty period... Period. This makes it impossible to stock JJ tubes unless YOU are willing to test them the moment you receive them before stocking. Even then you can't offer a warranty to a client without the expense coming out of your own pocket. At the very least negotiating these particulars means that you can't order tubes until shortly before it's time to plug them in so that if they fail you can return them. And then if you have to return them there is additional time added to the amp order while you complete correspondence with the tube vendor and wait for shipping BECAUSE YOU CAN'T KEEP INVENTORY. Not everyone that builds or works on amps can become a vendor just to keep tubes at hand without financial risk. So we get the risk. We accepted this begrudgingly. But now that many on line vendors are failing to cull bad tubes (particularly el34's) it's becoming VERY cumbersome. Putting this burden on the buyer is insulting and disrespectful. I've mentioned the name of the vendor responsible for my situation in a couple of other threads so I won't put them down by name here, but it rhymes with thelubestore. Which is probably a vendor site the proprietor should start and link because a stop there first might make the experience less uncomfortable
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  3. #38
    Supporting Member tubeswell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    ... I won't put them down by name here, but it rhymes with thelubestore. ...
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  4. #39
    Better Tone thru Mathematics bob p's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    I have suspected that there are some tube vendors operating under more than one web presence. If one is bad, the other most likely will be.
    Sort of like CE-Dist selling to us with one hand, and also selling to end users as AES, TubesAndMore, and more recently, as Amp Parts Direct with the other hand? I never understood the need for their second or third retail presence. For all I know they have yet another one that I'm not aware of.

    You have to wonder if a company that actually culls might invent another online presence just to dump their culls without effecting the main store's rep.

    I once bought two pair of JJ el34's and they sat around for four and a half months before I installed them in an amp. Both pair failed. I wrote the vendor and explained the circumstances. No dice. The tubes were beyond the warranty period... Period.
    BTDT. I agree it's a pita, but you have to consider that not every customer they deal wtih is like you or me, an honest builder or service guy who buys tubes just to shelf them for who knows how long until they're needed. There are presumably guys out there who will run the tubes and then complain when they fail later on, so the merchants try to protect themselves from that with a time limit. I'm not saying it's right, but it is the way the world works.

    This makes it impossible to stock JJ tubes unless YOU are willing to test them the moment you receive them before stocking.
    If you buy in bulk, you have to do just that. You have to set up your own burn-in and matching jig, and drive everything into a dummy load to find the ones that have to be rejected right away. I hate to say it, but if you're serious then you have to bite into the bullet.

    Even then you can't offer a warranty to a client without the expense coming out of your own pocket.
    To protect yourself, you have two options: build your own burn-in jig or stop providing warranties on tubes. I do both.

    Sure, not providing a warranty is disrespectful to the customer, and we've been disrespected. We'd like to be the good guy who sticks his neck out by offering tube warranties, but in today's marketplace that just doesn't make sense. Why should we warranty something that the supplier won't warranty for us? IMO that's just bad risk management.

    The result is that I do my own burn-in to protect myself at the time of purchase. I hate doing it, but I have to do it, so I do it. And to protect myself at the time of sale, I don't provide warranties on tubes to users. I don't like doing that, but like you said it's just not fair for us to have to stick our necks out providing a warranty when the supplier won't back us up. Because of this I explain to my customers that I don't make the tubes and because the people who do make them won't cover them, then I can't cover them either. I've found that by being honest and explaining the situation my customers end up being disappointed but accepting, which is all I can ask. I jokingly tell them that all I can offer is a tail light warranty on the tubes -- I'll warrant that the tubes are functioning properly and work fine when I install them and test the amp, but the warranty ends when I see your tail lights.

    Realistically speaking, that's as fair as can be reasonably expected. Customers need to understand that you can't give them something that the manufacturer/distributor isn't giving to you... especially in the age when every customer has an attenuator and runs the amp on eleven, or when the amp gets tossed into a van right after the show, a keyboard gets thrown in on top of it, the whole lot gets shaken all of the way to St. Louis for tomorrow night's gig, then gets bounced on the loading dock, and plugged into God only knows what kind of electrical supply...

    It makes no sense to provide tube warranties, so I don't do it. I think amp guys like us need to be honest with our customers, be up front and tell them that given the quality of the tubes today, the way that we don't get backup from our suppliers, and the way people are abusing them with attenuators, tube warranties just can't be provided.

    I suppose that one way to deal with the problem for customers who demand tube warranties would be to sell them tube warranties a la carte. At that point you're actually selling an insurance policy, and you're acting like GC does when someone buys from them.

    I tried to post another long ramble earlier this afternoon but the board spat it back at me with a database failure. There seems to be a lot of that going on lately. I'll try again.
    Last edited by bob p; 07-16-2017 at 03:47 AM.
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  5. #40
    Better Tone thru Mathematics bob p's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo_Gnardo View Post
    We've been round & round with the same subject a couple years ago here on MEF. At that time, IIRC the distributors that had the best rep for shipping no-problem JJ's were Eurotubes* and Mojo. Time's gone by, maybe the results will be different. And new vendors have appeared, like Doug's and Valve Queen. Also CE/Antique/Tubesandmore have changed their test gear and presumably improved their game. I'm looking forward to seeing our correspondents' reviews. Maybe a different thread should be started for this, or even a sticky where we can monitor the suppliers over the course of years.

    Again, IIRC, Euro sells JJ exclusively, and offers no discounts. Let's hear about it if there's been any change.
    Yes, we keep going round & round. What's old always becomes new. I hate revisiting this topic as much as you do, but when someone pulls the fire alarm we still have to walk out of the building, right? Whenever one of these threads comes up we still read them, even if we only do so out of morbid curiosity.

    Yes, we've covered this topic over and over ad nauseum, but that's the price that we have to pay for clinging onto technology that went obsolete in the 1970s, in an era where there's no longer any fierce high-end competition. On the subject of suppliers: new players come and go, and old players have to up their game to stay competitive, so we have to keep revisiting the topic. The way I look at it, that's my price of admission, so I just bite the bullet and read on...

    The one thing that I don't like about this situation is when somebody gripes, but doesn't identify their supplier or doesn't provide complete operating conditions that lead to failures, and doesn't even attempt to identify the failure mode. "The tubes blew up" is a common complaint on many amp sites, but it's not quite the caliber of input that I'm used to seeing here.

    Not identifying the supplier serves no purpose -- it's not as if we're protecting anyone by not telling each other where we get our tubes, and making that data point invisible only adds to the obfuscation of the problem.

    Not providing the full operating conditions that lead to failures doesn't help either. That makes it impossible to figure out how to solve the problem at our end. In that regard, I guess I have to say that the people who don't provide operating conditions for tubes that don't fail are as guilty as those who don't provide operating conditions for tubes that do fail, when it comes to contributing to the ongoing obfuscation of the problem. Without that data we're left with anecdotes that don't really take us anywhere helpful.

    Leo, my hat is off to you. Very early in this thread you keyed in on screen dissipation and gave specifics on what operating condtions might lead to failure and what steps could be taken to avoid it.

    I'm having a bit of Deja Vu over this...

    This reminds me of the days when the JJ 6V6 were earning a bad reputation for blowing up in Deluxe Reverbs. Anyone remember that? It had to be around the turn of the century. I was posting on a private/invitation only forum back then, and a guy named Scumbag was claiming that the sky was falling because JJ tubes were blowing up in his DR. He told everyone their only choice was to buy NOS Mazda's. (Of course, he was offering NOS Mazda tubes for sale at the time and his assertions seemed self-serving.)

    I responded that in my experience modern wall voltage and his preference for excessively hot bias were the culprits, and that the JJ 6V6 were actually quite robust if you bothered to pay attention to operating parameters like Va and screen dissipation. Of course he responded that I spoke heresy because I suggested things like bucking transformer voodoo and "modding" the amp (screens resistors). In his simplistic mind any tube should be capable of being used in any amp when the schematic calls for it, without having to be bothered with such nonsense as paying attention to modern wall voltages, rational bias levels, screen dissipation, etc. Some horses just don't like water. Go figure.

    Fast forward to 2017 and JJ 6V6 are now regarded as the most robust 6V6 available. But now there seems to be a problem with EL34. What's old is new. JJ EL34 are "failing" in what seem to be high dissipation applications, and some people seem to be closed-minded about changing the circuits to address the problem. Everyone seems to want the plug-and-play solution.

    I have to admit that I don't understand why these "failures" are occurring, because people aren't giving us enough information to accurately identify the failure modes. If I were pressed to generate a hypothesis for the failures in the absense of good data, I'd suggest that people are experiencing screen failures and that they should design some experiments to test this idea.

    A problem comes along though, when people refuse to make modifications to the circuits that help to elucidate the nature of the problem. I respect Ampagers as being above and beyond those close-minded types who refuse to modify an amp, the kind of end-users who are inclined to say that any tube should be able to be plugged into a high voltage or high dissipation application, blindly, without paying attention to the failure modes that might ensue and how to avoid them.

    One of the reasons that I like this place so much is that the level of expertise is so high, relative to other sites.

    I'll offer my two-cents worth of operating data in the hopes that I can contribute to solving the problem:

    Watt-hours kill tubes. Drive them into an attenuator and you should expect short lifespans.

    Personally, I don't use EL34 all that often, I'm more of a 6L6 kind of guy. When I do use them I prefer to use them at lower Vp than most of the prevailing amp designs. For tonal reasons I like to keep Vp down near 400-425, I protect the screens with 2K2 screen resistors, and I use reasonable bias current. I use forced-air cooling and the amp is typically run hard into a resistive attenuator, with the signal re-amped into a slave for volume. The tubes won't last forever in this setting, and I don't expect them to. The tubes do have short lifespans, but I haven't had any unexpected SIDS* with tubes that have passed burn-in. I buy from CE-D.

    *Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
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  6. #41
    Senior Member Enzo's Avatar
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    Warranty life is inconvenient, but as a repair man, if people start bringing back repairs a year or two later claiming they never used it until yesterday and it doesn;t work. Do you fix it again for nothing? it is not so simple as the tube vendors ought to warrant tubes no matter how long you claim to have had them on a shelf. I sympathize, but it isn't simple.

    WHy do CE sell as several vendors? SImple, brand loyalty. People who have been buying from one name tend to continue. You kill the name, and they wander off, maybe to another of your stores, but maybe not.

    CEDist is the wholesale division, AES is the retail division. Tubesandmore is the AES web site URL. If people call your store that instead of the name, then hang out a sign with that name on it too. They make no secret of it, and anyone in the business knows the two companies are the same. I call AES "tubesandmore" all the time, but I know that is not their name, just their address. Like we hear the latest news from "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" instead of "The White House."
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  7. #42
    Supporting Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bob p View Post
    Fast forward to 2017 and JJ 6V6 are now regarded as the most robust 6V6 available. But now there seems to be a problem with EL34. What's old is new. JJ EL34 are "failing" in what seem to be high dissipation applications, and some people seem to be closed-minded about changing the circuits to address the problem. Everyone seems to want the plug-and-play solution.
    Quote Originally Posted by bob p View Post
    A problem comes along though, when people refuse to make modifications to the circuits that help to elucidate the nature of the problem.
    Quote Originally Posted by bob p View Post
    When I do use them (in reference to el34's) I prefer to use them at lower Vp than most of the prevailing amp designs. For tonal reasons I like to keep Vp down near 400-425, I protect the screens with 2K2 screen resistors, and I use reasonable bias current. I use forced-air cooling and the amp is typically run hard into a resistive attenuator, with the signal re-amped into a slave for volume. The tubes won't last forever in this setting,...
    I actually have to pick at this a little. 6v6's and 6l6's have been respected by the tube makers WRT their typical operating conditions in guitar amps and there just aren't that many posts about how the new 6*6 tubes suck. But el34's are historically important and tone specific and current production tubes typically DO NOT STAND UP TO THE RIGORS as the 6*6 tubes do. No one wants to modify their Marshall for lower plate voltages, higher value screen resistors and a cooler than tonally optimal bias to accommodate shitty tubes. Something is definitely lost in that scenario. We just want an el34 that works as per the data sheet in amps and designs (vintage or new) that are arranged for that tube model. If a manufacturer can't provide that then they shouldn't be selling the tubes as el34's!!! I'm not at all saying that we can't (or shouldn't) accommodate the new tubes that are available. We do it all the damn time. But if a Marshall can't be operated as a Marshall then a tonal legacy is lost and tube manufacturers eating the dead bones so they can shit money by selling straight up false tubes is disrespectful, lacks any trace of mindfulness and is seriously pissing me off.
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  8. #43
    Senior Member Enzo's Avatar
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    It is another thing from the past that just isn't as good as the originals. I doubt they will get better.

    I am led to think of telephones. They used to be built like tanks, in fact the phone company owned them, you paid them a buck a month or whatever to have it. You couldn't use your own phones. When touch tone came along, they traded out your old dial phone. I think touch tone service also cost an extra buck a month. Big solid heavy touch tone phone. Then one day the supreme court or somebody decided the phone company could not monopolize the phone instruments.

    Now you could buy your own phone. You could buy one at retail or from the phone company. We bought from the phone company. But they didn't let you buy the sturdy phone you already had, they collected that and sold you a much lighter phone. We could no longer buy the industrial strength phones. That's life. Soon the stores were full of cheap phones. Phones that were not as reliable, phones that sounded awful. That's life too. But aside from teh crummy units, phone service was super reliable.

    Then cell phones happened. Oh so convenient, but then calls got dropped, calls might not go through, reception varied. We accepted the inferior service for the portability. And we accept the asshole talking loud two feet from our heads in line at the store. The days of one solid, reliable phone are gone. I wish modern phones worked as well, but they won't. But we still call them phones.

    I wish modern tubes worked as well as the days of RCA and Sylvania, but they don't.
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  9. #44
    Better Tone thru Mathematics bob p's Avatar
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    My house was built in 1957 and the guy who lived in it before I did was a phone service guy. He wired every room in the house with phone jacks and brought home phones from work. 60 years later every room in our house still has the original Western Electric made in Chicago phone in it. Built like tanks, indestructible, great tone. Since there's an extension every 10 feet in the house, and since there's not a place in the house that can't be reached by a phone cord, we've never bought a cordless unit. We successfully avoided all of the cheap crappy phones by going long on the good gear when it was still available. I guess that's the phone equivalent of having a case of NOS tubes on a shelf.

    edit: forgot to mention -- my house is mostly full of *rotary phones*. I hate it when I get automated responses where they assume that I have a Touch Tone phone and can press 1 for english and 2 for espagnol, and the system is so dumb that it gets stuck in a loop when you don't press a button.
    Last edited by bob p; 07-16-2017 at 08:08 AM.
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    Here's our original house phone. Maybe 1920s and still working fine. I installed a modern patch cord and a couple of components to get it to ring properly on the modern wiring system. It's much clearer and more reliable than any new phone, plus it works in a power cut. Originally it didn't have a dial - where the dial is now there used to be a mouthpiece to speak into and there was just something to listen with instead of the handpiece. At the side was a hand crank connected to a magneto. You turned the handle and got connected to the switchboard operator who put you through. In the 40s the phone company took it back and converted it to dial.

    In amp terms it's probably equivalent to a Tweed Deluxe.

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  11. #46
    Senior Member Enzo's Avatar
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    I hate to hijack the thread but..

    When I was a kid, phones were hard wired. The phone had a cord, and the little square box with four screws in it was the hookup. You wanted phones in three rooms, you got three phones. Then they came up with the square four pin plugs. Now you can have one phone and move it around the house. Later they came up with the little plastic RJ connectors we have now. I also remember the four pin male adapter with the RJ jack on the back. You could plug your new-fangled plastic phone cord into the old four pin jack. Pretty high tech.

    These days, a commercial phone number might be 1-800-888-9999. No problem on a touch tone, but a real pain in the ass on a dial phone.
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  12. #47
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    JJ EL34 unstable at 500, thermal runaway, dropping screen voltage affects tone, no more Mullard metal base tubes, ZZ Top burned them all up in the 70's.

    put a fan on the JJ's, or place a 100 ohm 5 watt resistor in between each cathode and ground. this will make things more stable and give you some cool compression.

  13. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    I actually have to pick at this a little. 6v6's and 6l6's have been respected by the tube makers WRT their typical operating conditions in guitar amps and there just aren't that many posts about how the new 6*6 tubes suck. But el34's are historically important and tone specific and current production tubes typically DO NOT STAND UP TO THE RIGORS as the 6*6 tubes do. No one wants to modify their Marshall for lower plate voltages, higher value screen resistors and a cooler than tonally optimal bias to accommodate shitty tubes. Something is definitely lost in that scenario. We just want an el34 that works as per the data sheet in amps and designs (vintage or new) that are arranged for that tube model. If a manufacturer can't provide that then they shouldn't be selling the tubes as el34's!!! I'm not at all saying that we can't (or shouldn't) accommodate the new tubes that are available. We do it all the damn time. But if a Marshall can't be operated as a Marshall then a tonal legacy is lost and tube manufacturers eating the dead bones so they can shit money by selling straight up false tubes is disrespectful, lacks any trace of mindfulness and is seriously pissing me off.
    I suspect that a key problem maybe that Marshall etc ran EL34 above, sometimes way above, the manufacturer's suggested conditions.
    See top of p4 http://www.mif.pg.gda.pl/homepages/f...129/e/EL34.pdf
    A 51 watt amp suitable for continuous drive having a HT of 400V, 3k5 primary load, and a shared 1k5 g2 resistor.
    IME even back in the early 80s when Teslas were the norm and Mullards were still an option, it could be an expensive exercise putting together a set of reasonably well matched tubes that would survive in a Super Lead or OR120.

  14. #49
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    I've found that in amps running higher plate voltages that taming the screen voltage will often provide a much longer lifespan for modern-production EL34s. There are quite a few amps where the screen voltage higher than 500v, so the choice comes down to either finding a tube that will hold up, or reducing the screen voltage via a MOSFET dropper or similar. Increasing the screen resistor to reduce the voltage is counter-productive; a high enough resistance to give a meaningful voltage drop under static conditions plays havoc with the amp dynamics due to the voltage drop when the screen current increases under load.
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  15. #50
    Better Tone thru Mathematics bob p's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enzo View Post
    These days, a commercial phone number might be 1-800-888-9999. No problem on a touch tone, but a real pain in the ass on a dial phone.
    My previous house was old. The phone was hard-wired. It had knob and tube wiring too! Over the years that I lived there I converted everything to thinwall conduit. that was back in the days when NEC allowed you to use the conduit as ground.

    When I moved to my new c.1957 house in 1970 I thought that the phone system was new-fangled when I saw the phones that could be plugged into those great big 4-pin sockets! I still have several rotary phones with the 4-pin connectors mounted on round jackplate cutouts in the wall. Whenever I need to do an upgrade I convert the round cutouts to modern rectangular boxes, and use multi-port switch plates with RJ-type connectors. Before wireless became available and 10-base-T was considered fast I rewired the whole house with CAT5 cable, simply following the previous owner's layout for the phone system. Now I have an ethernet jack ij the same box next to every phone jack, and at least one in every room.

    I never had to buy a cordless phone because my phone guy had wired the entire house with phone cables and loaded the house with phones before cordless phones came along. Similarly, I completely evaded the need for wireless networking because I wired up the entire house for ethernet before wireless came along. Even though I only pulled Cat 5 cable, I still get good gigabit bandwidth, and with a jack every 10 feet in the house I've never felt the need to have wireless.

    Dialing 11 numbers is not at all painful if you're used to it. It's when you have to use a phone card that things really start to suck.
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  16. #51
    Supporting Member tubeswell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    ... No one wants to modify their Marshall for lower plate voltages, higher value screen resistors and a cooler than tonally optimal bias to accommodate shitty tubes. Something is definitely lost in that scenario. ...
    This is the issue with this customer. I have tried repeatedly to remonstrate with him about making small changes that will ensure crappy EL34s can work okay in his amp. He is emphatic that the 'handwired' reissue amps wonderfully marketed by Marshall, which he paid gazillions for, should work wonderfully and can't see the problem with just putting in some new tubes and biasing them up. I might just have to give the amps back to him as they are and say 'sorry M8, no can do'.
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  17. #52
    Supporting Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Try the Ruby el34B first. If this is a head amp, and it sounds like it is, I think they'll be good. That is, if this customer can stomach having Chinese tubes in his amp Some players seem to think that if you put Chinese tubes into an amp with something like, say, cloth covered wire a hole opens in the space/time continuum and Cthulhu brings a thousand years of darkness.
    "I've heard magic defined as "a technology you don't understand". By that aphorism, the folks in this forum are practicing wizards, able to summon AND control the lightning demon, and make charms to allow others to use the demon in certain ways." R.G.

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  18. #53
    Better Tone thru Mathematics bob p's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    I actually have to pick at this a little. 6v6's and 6l6's have been respected by the tube makers WRT their typical operating conditions in guitar amps and there just aren't that many posts about how the new 6*6 tubes suck. But el34's are historically important and tone specific and current production tubes typically DO NOT STAND UP TO THE RIGORS as the 6*6 tubes do.
    Well, to be fair, an EL34 is a true pentode, while 6v6, 6L6 and KT-77 etc. are beam tetrodes. There’s a fundamental difference in the way that those variants operate that renders such a direct comparison unfair.

    The EMI design for the beam tetrode provides screen grid current that’s about 5-10% of the anode current, while a true pentode’s screen grid current is on the order of 20% of the anode current. We tend to forget how the construction and electrical properties are different. Maybe one of the reasons that EL34 aren’t as robust as 6L6 is that pentodes by design suffer 2x–4x more much screen current at identical anode voltages, all other things being equal. This is the reason that it’s so important to keep a handle on screen current with EL34. To refuse to pay close attention to screen current is suicidal. Pentodes just can’t take the kind of screen abuse that beam power tubes can take, and everyone who insists on turning a blind eye to that fact is going to get burned.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    No one wants to modify their Marshall for lower plate voltages, higher value screen resistors and a cooler than tonally optimal bias to accommodate shitty tubes. Something is definitely lost in that scenario. We just want an el34 that works as per the data sheet in amps and designs (vintage or new) that are arranged for that tube model. If a manufacturer can't provide that then they shouldn't be selling the tubes as el34's!!!
    Philosophically I’m right there with you, Chuck – but being a pragmatist in a changing world I have to adapt and be flexible so I don’t get kicked in the teeth (very often).

    Enzo made a good point --

    Quote Originally Posted by Enzo View Post
    It is another thing from the past that just isn't as good as the originals. I doubt they will get better.
    ...
    I wish modern tubes worked as well as the days of RCA and Sylvania, but they don't.
    Tubes in 2017 aren’t what they were in 1970. They can’t be as good, they never will be as good, and things are only going to get worse. It’s a sad truth, but it’s a truth nonetheless. The major players that were responsible for the great advancements in tube technology, like GE, RCA, Sylvania, Tung Sol, EMI/GEC/MOV, Genalex, Mullard, TeleFunken, Tesla… they’re all gone. For the most part nothing is left of them but the names. The great names from each country that competed to drive technology forward during the Golden Era have abandoned the technology and left the market to the second-tier players. Most of those second tier companies have had their problems as well. EI was nearly bombed out of existence by UN Peacekeepers. Tesla was broken apart and the parts were sold away to private investors. SED quit the business because it was no longer profitable. Now all that’s left are a few of the also-ran producers who were never at the forefront of design or quality control. They face no serious competition and they can do whatever they want. Right now we’re at the mercy of Chinese suppliers who really don’t give a damn about quality and never will.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    But if a Marshall can't be operated as a Marshall then a tonal legacy is lost ...
    It was a fun ride while it lasted, but the writing is on the wall. The Marshall tonal legacy *IS* becoming lost, and it’s only going to get worse. We have to face the fact that that tonal legacy was great in our youth, that someday it will only exist on records, and that right now we're caught somewhere in between. We’re at the point in the tube era where we are all trying to scrape together the remains of abandoned technology to keep it going. We live in a scavenging society because new tubes just aren’t as good as the old ones. Nobody is left at JJ who manufactured tubes in the Golden Era of Tesla, now the lines are run by young workers who will never know as much as the old workers knew. Knowledge has become lost. We have the same problem here – NASA can’t even build a Saturn V rocket today because all of the knowledge died with the old engineers.

    Given the shape of the current tube market I’ve been thinking that we’re just like the scavenging mechanics in Cuba who are trying to propel a motor vehicle economy by scavenging parts for cars that were made in the 50s. The situation is only going to get worse. We have no choice but to adapt to it as best we can.

    I think that the take home lesson is that you’re just not going to be able to run a vintage plexi on new tubes, and that it’s foolhardy to buy a handwired reproduction when the new tubes won’t work in it either. There aren't parts to make the circuit work properly without modification, so the original circuit is now dead unless you have money to throw at a stockpile of NOS tubes.

    What are we to do? One option is to gripe. Another option is to adapt the circuits to get the best results that we can based on the parts that are available today. Yeah, modding the circuit sucks, but it's better than the alternative of having no other option beyond the "Plexi" setting on a modelling amp.
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  19. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by bob p View Post
    ... We’re at the point in the tube era where we are all trying to scrape together the remains of abandoned technology to keep it going. We live in a scavenging society because new tubes just aren’t as good as the old ones. ...
    Speaking of which, these just arrived in the mail from the UK 5 mins ago by courier - an 'untouched' ;-) quad of Sovtek EK34G*! Will these do the thing? Time will tell

    Any bets on which will make the best P-P pairs in a superlead100? (I'm going to have to spend some time burning them at 500V methinks)

    (And which ones on the non-inverting side of the PI? LoL)

    *If these don't work, I'll try the ST EL34BHT - and if those don't work, That's it!
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  20. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by tubeswell View Post
    Speaking of which, these just arrived in the mail from the UK 5 mins ago by courier - an 'untouched' ;-) quad of Sovtek EK34G*!...
    Porn request. Please show us the goodies under the box.
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  21. #56
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    I try to keep a pair of the most common tubes on hand. 6L6, 6V6, EL34, EL84, 12AX7, 12AT7, and a couple of rectifiers. I use mostly JJs, except for rectifiers. When I get a dud that is out of warranty, I simply order another. When the replacement arrives I return the bad out of warranty one. The vendor thinks it is the one they just sent me, but who cares? They sold me a bad tube, and I want it replaced. When this happened with back to back JJ GZ34s a while back, I switched to Ruby.
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    It's weird, because it WAS working fine.....

  22. #57
    Supporting Member tubeswell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Phillips View Post
    Porn request. Please show us the goodies under the box.
    here ya go
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    I have found that when repairing guitar amps using modern production tubes it is sometimes necessary to up the screen grids.
    If the screen voltages is to similar in voltage to the plates this is a must IMHO.
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  24. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by tubeswell View Post
    Speaking of which, these just arrived in the mail from the UK 5 mins ago by courier - an 'untouched' ;-) quad of Sovtek EK34G*! Will these do the thing? Time will tell

    Any bets on which will make the best P-P pairs in a superlead100? (I'm going to have to spend some time burning them at 500V methinks)

    (And which ones on the non-inverting side of the PI? LoL)

    *If these don't work, I'll try the ST EL34BHT - and if those don't work, That's it!
    Sovtek EL34G's were not very good back in the day and they are likely just as bad now. My brother had a pair in a new Sovtek MIG 60. They came stock in that amp, and that amp had somewhere around 620V B+. The tubes failed within 2 months of use, sucked a hole in the glass from the inside and smoked. Amp was sent back under warranty, tubes were replaced with another pair of EL34G's, and the amp was traded for a vintage Silvertone 1484 ASAP. I hope they will work for you, but I doubt if they will.

    Greg
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  25. #60
    Better Tone thru Mathematics bob p's Avatar
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    When I see high B+ and high dissipation, I automatically think "fan". Lots of high power amps use them, it helps. It's also a cheap upgrade. The problem is that budget amp manufacturers won't even consider adding a fan due to cost.

    I have one of those old Silvertones. They don't have a high B+ and they're not biased hot.
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  26. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by soundmasterg View Post
    Sovtek EL34G's were not very good back in the day and they are likely just as bad now.
    This was my experience as well.
    Perhaps one of the options for troublesome EL34 amps that should be considered is conversion to 6L6, like Marshall had to do in the 90's.
    (this would be for those who do not want to spring for real NOS, which I guess I would consider pre-90s)

    As far as the discussion about why modern tubes seem so crappy, I will add my pet theory about so many amps modded to adjustable bias; and then adjusted hotter to meet some mythical % figure because the designers didn't have a clue what they were doing with their cold bias.
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  27. #62
    Better Tone thru Mathematics bob p's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by g1 View Post
    This was my experience as well.
    Perhaps one of the options for troublesome EL34 amps that should be considered is conversion to 6L6, like Marshall had to do in the 90's...
    I remember EL34 always being less robust in Marshalls than KT66, KT88 & 6550. Hasn't that always been the case? Isn't that just the beam tetrode vs. pentode thing all over again?

    Quote Originally Posted by g1 View Post
    As far as the discussion about why modern tubes seem so crappy, I will add my pet theory about so many amps modded to adjustable bias; and then adjusted hotter to meet some mythical % figure because the designers didn't have a clue what they were doing with their cold bias.
    ^ Agreed! But I don't think it's really a pet theory. I think your pet theory is FACT.

    Modding amps to provide adjustable bias is a definite contributor to the problem. Manufacturers like to bias their amps cold for reliability reasons; they know exactly what they're doing. The standard recipe is to provide cold bias, and maybe balance adjustment. IME under these sorts of operating conditions tubes DO last. But bias them hot and you're intentionally trading away tube life in exchange for tone; it should not be too surprising when tubes burn out. The brightest candle burns out fastest, as they say.

    I think that attenuators are another contributor to the problem. Sure, we all like the cranked plexi tone, but very few of us can get away with cranking a plexi into a full stack to get that tone. I'm willing to bet that if we all ran plexis directly into full stacks, then tube lifespan would be prolonged significantly, as the Bleeding Ear Syndrome amounts to a feedback loop that makes us turn down the volume, which in turn prolongs tube life. If you stick an attenuator in between the amp and the cab, things change dramatically.

    Ramble:

    I don't remember attenuators being all that popular until fairly recently (but then my frame of reference spans several decades.)

    I remember when Tom Scholz was one of the first guys to champion their use, and he had to design his own attenuator because there was no option commercially available at the time. He started manufacturing and selling the Power Soak but it wasn't all that common. Marshall Power Brakes, THD Hotplates and TW Airbrakes came along, but their price tended to limit how many people deployed them. We didn't hear as many complaints about tube failures as we hear now, at least partly because attenuator use wasn't all that common in the old days as it is today.

    Before Ken Fisher passed on, those of us who knew how he built the Airbrakes were honor bound not to openly publish the information. In the 1990s Kelley had drawn up an Airbrake schematic in OrCAD and that PDF was circulated among a select few Ampagers. (that schematic had a mistake intentionally drawn into it, as sort of a safeguard just in case it got loose.)

    What amazed me was that as soon as Ken Fisher died, a few people started making claims about being his collaborator, or his ghost builder, at a time when it became impossible to corroborate or refute those assertions. Some people seemed to be trying to grab a little piece of Ken's coattails to ride on by claiming that they secretly built his amps for him. But I'm digressing.

    Back to the tube problem -- prior to Ken's death the Airbrake, like the other attenuators, was not at all common. It was a costly boutique item and very few people had one. At the time of Ken's death it seems that everyone's respect for his intellectual property rights (and the interests of his estate/surviving family members) went right into the trashcan. Although people here still respected Ken's estate and never disseminated the Airbrake schematic, someone released a layout diagram of the Airbrake (I think it was at the Amp Garage). Because the Airbrake was a simple design with a low parts count, everyone and their brother suddenly had cheap access to a high quality attenuator. DIY types started building Airbrake clones en masse.

    That was a watershed event. There's not a guy alive at the Amp Garage who has built a TW clone who hasn't also built an Airbrake.

    Today adjustable bias and attenuation are ubiquitous. We're seeing lots of hot-rodded high-gain amps that are being run with HOT BIAS into RESISTIVE LOADS. That's a deadly combination for tubes. And everyone is doing it. Maybe the reason that EL34 are getting such a bad rap today is that people just aren't being very kind to them, and because being pentodes they're just not as robust as beams.

    It's a sad truth that hot bias and attenuators tend to drive tube consumption in the marketplace. That's going to result in the consumption of a lot of new production tubes, and it's also going to prematurely deplete the supply of NOS tubes from the market. If anyone thinks NOS tubes are too expensive now, just wait ... it'll only get worse. In some respects I think attenuators may be our own worst enemy.
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  28. #63
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    I haven't had as much bad luck with my EL34's.

    Guess I better keep my original Mullards, Svetlana's etc. For my own personal use.

    I've run my old Marshalls into a Hotplate since THD first made them, and even made my own crude attenuators before the internet and never had any problems.

    Those amps don't even have screen resistors.

  29. #64
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    I'd also like to see where we end up with attenuators, hot bias, and ANY power tubes... now there are guys screaming for an attenuator in their 5W amp because it's still too loud. We're not only going to be using our supplies of "Big Bottles," but small bottles as well...

    It's one thing to use one or two steps to suit a venue, but when we're expecting to be able to use a 100W amp in every venue from a stadium to our bedroom, we're a little lost. Personally, I HATE the sound of modelers and software and silent anything. So I wait until the time comes to crank it up, and I enjoy the hell out of it. But I'm not going to run my Bassman into an attenuator for silent playing - bad for the amp, bad for my tone.

    It's also all a lesson in learning to appreciate many different sizes and topologies of amps.

    Anyway, not sure where 'm going with all my philosophizing...

    Justin
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  30. #65
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    This amp I'm working on at present (a 1959 RI plexi 100 handwired in the UK in 2005) has a B+ around 500, with screens a couple of volts below that. I noticed this morning that the AC-limiting resistor for the bias winding is 27k (and that this is what the reissue schematic shows for that amp). But there is a notation on the 1970 'unicorn' schematic for the 1959 100W showing 22k (bracketed beside the 27k) for this resistor. So I'm going to cite historical precent (to the owner who doesn't want his amp modded), and I shoved a 22k in there and hey presto, the bias voltage range is now -43.6 to -54 (instead of -32 to -42).

    I'm also figuring out how I can mod the amp to lower the screen voltage without the owner being any the wiser. My 1st thought is to change the screen supply wire from the choke side of the power rail to the middle of the screen filter cap stack. The VDC there is 248 unloaded. If that's not high enough, I was going to replace the 56k balancing resistor on that bottom filter cap to something like 270k, which would bring that node to around 420V. (or 100k which would give around 330V). What would you do?
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  31. #66
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    I got opinions, but can't say they are facts. I think attenuators came about as a result of the Led Zeppelin era. Jimi. Whatever. In those days three 100 watt MArshalls stacked each on two 4x12s was your basic stage rig. Hell, even our band had to compete with a guitar through a 100 watt and two 412s. "Hey, turn that down" everywhere we went. SO everyone wants that cranked to the sky sound, so the attenuator is born.

    Adjustable bias. Peavey even spelled it out for us. They design them cool for reliability and long tube life. The tone is in the preamp. In the guitar world "bias" has taken on mythical qualities. I had a guy come in with some small amp, I think a Classic 30, and wanted me to modify it for adjustable bias. it wasn;t because he wanted to tinker, but he had been told you MUST adjust the bias every time you change tubes. SO he couldn't do that for his new tubes unless we did the mod. Players came to expect and demand bias controls, back to Peavey: they started adding bias controls, but they are very limited in range, so you could turn it end to end and still not underbias the thing. But at least ther was a knob to twiddle. Wherever 70% came from it is now religion. So yes indeed, they crank it up to the sky. "Wow, my amp sounded the best ever, right up to when the tubes melted."
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  32. #67
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    Quote Originally Posted by bob p View Post
    I think that attenuators are another contributor to the problem. Sure, we all like the cranked plexi tone, but very few of us can get away with cranking a plexi into a full stack to get that tone. I'm willing to bet that if we all ran plexis directly into full stacks, then tube lifespan would be prolonged significantly, as the Bleeding Ear Syndrome amounts to a feedback loop that makes us turn down the volume, which in turn prolongs tube life. If you stick an attenuator in between the amp and the cab, things change dramatically.
    Good point, watt/hours are something there should be an onboard counter for. Imagine if the player could see the meter ticking for the cranked into attenuator amp compared to a master volume type amp putting out the same speaker loudness.
    'Player' forums are full of guys asking 'how do I get that cranked tone?' and are always presented with the various attenuator options.
    But there is a new game in town. Stepped PPIMV switches with settings actually labelled in watts. Most guys on 'player' forums seem to believe there are actually big power attenuators built into the amps, which is not the case.
    So the users can't seem to hear the difference to real attenuators, and the manufacturers are saving tube life. Win/win.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tubeswell View Post
    I'm also figuring out how I can mod the amp to lower the screen voltage without the owner being any the wiser. My 1st thought is to change the screen supply wire from the choke side of the power rail to the middle of the screen filter cap stack. The VDC there is 248 unloaded. If that's not high enough, I was going to replace the 56k balancing resistor on that bottom filter cap to something like 270k, which would bring that node to around 420V. (or 100k which would give around 330V). What would you do?
    The supply resistance at the junction of the two 56k balancing resistors will be 28k. Won't the screen current pull the voltage down?
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  34. #69
    Better Tone thru Mathematics bob p's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enzo View Post
    I think attenuators came about as a result of the Led Zeppelin era. Jimi. Whatever. In those days three 100 watt MArshalls stacked each on two 4x12s was your basic stage rig. Hell, even our band had to compete with a guitar through a 100 watt and two 412s. "Hey, turn that down" everywhere we went. SO everyone wants that cranked to the sky sound, so the attenuator is born.
    I remember things differently, but then I'm thinking about a different context. Prior to the Jimmy/Jimi era I remember working musicians (wedding, lounge, venue working stiffs) owning a collection of different sized Fender amps, and choosing which one they took to a gig depending on the size of the venue they were playing. Even in the old days preceding the 70s rock era there were guitarists who liked to crank their amps into the sweet spot for tone, albeit in a more subtle way than we see today. Back then it was more of a compression / cusp of distortion thing that people were looking for. Before attenuators were available the standard solution to this problem was to own a Deluxe Reverb, a Vibrolux Reverb and a Twin Reverb and to choose the right amp for the occasion. For the most part these guys were working stiffs, not necessarily rockers, who just needed several tools available to match the gig they were playing. Attenuators would have vastly simplified logistics for them, but back then attenuators just weren't available.

    But I agree with you in the context of the Jimmy / Jimi era and the effect that they had on changing the tone that guitar players sought as their target. Still, when I think of attenuators, I'm thinking about how they were deployed in terms of exactly what it is/was that people using them are/were trying to accomplish.

    Jimmy and Jimi are famous for the 100W stacks running balls out, but their attenuator was a large room and their iconic sounds were a combination of amplifier distortion and speaker distortion. They didn't produce their signature tones, which so many people tried to emulate, by using attenuators. They just dimed the controls and rocked out. Their fans, who didn't have large venues where they could run their amps balls-out, eventually started using attenuators out of necessity when attentuators became available as they tried to capture that large venue/cranked Marshall tone in smaller venues, venues even as small as a bedroom today, where high obtaining tone via high SPL was prohibitive. But that deployment of attenuators came along much later. I think it's safe to say that in the era that Jimmy and Jimi were performing live and creating their iconic sounds, not one average Joe at home was running his amp into a loadbox.

    Recording changed forever when an MIT engineer named Tom Scholz wanted to get that cranked Marshall tone for recording the Boston albums in his basement studio. He very specifically wanted to separate amplifier distortion, which he found desirable, from speaker distortion, which he found undesirable, using amplifier-only distortion in his recording paradigm. He designed his own attenuators, which are likely to be the first time on record that attenuators alone were purposefully used to create cranked Marshall tone without speaker distortion. I know you're old enough to remember when the first Boston album came out in 1976. At the time it brought a radically new sound to the radio. I guess it's hard to remember how groundbreaking that album was, looking back on it 40+ years later.

    Why does this matter? Unlike Jimmy and Jimi who didn't use attenuators during their rise to fame in the late 60s to early 70s, by the mid 70s Scholz had designed an attenuator for the purpose of creating recorded cranked tone. I think that was a first. Now everyone is doing it, both in the studio and at home. And a lot of tube have died because of it's popularity.
    Last edited by bob p; 07-18-2017 at 04:39 AM. Reason: spelling
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  35. #70
    Senior Member Enzo's Avatar
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    I don't think we disagree much, pre Jimi, those guys with the Fender collection were never going for power tube overdrive. It was the advent of the Jimi type LOUD rock band that got us all into the wall of amps deafening sound. So when later guys hear old Zep records, "Hey I can do that" but they need it to be not deafening.

    Yes, the big stars playing arena rock could plays balls out. But the local club warriors couldn;t get away with that.

    Old? I remember when the first Jimi album came out, I was on the radio. The music director came in and asked me to check out this new thing, "it's sorta psychedelic Motown or something". 1967 maybe?

    On amps in the old days. Ther was a local dance bar, The Coral Gables, where the bands all played. We played there, with our Jimi Hendrix guitarist. One day a new band was booked, and I suspect the agent oversold them to the bar. The "band" pulls in, the drummer has a kick, a snare, and one cymbal, the other two guys played guitar, and the both plugged into one Deluxe Reverb. That's it. They lasted two days and were shown the door. Not their fault, they were who they were. But it was an interesting contrast to bands playing Jimi and Zep. But they were not loud, honest.
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