Preamp Tubes? - Auditioning Tubes...

Discussion in 'The Tone Zone' started by joshuaaewallen, Nov 29, 2010.

  1. joshuaaewallen

    joshuaaewallen Active Member

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    There has been a lot of discussion about preamp tubes over the past couple years on this forum, case in point... "The Preamp Tube Thread". At 181 pages long, 7,230 posts, and counting, this thread contains a wealth of valuable info on different preamp tubes, pros vs. cons of various tubes, and identifying old mystery tubes, as well as numerous active participants that are always willing to assist other forum members. So...

    Why am I rambling on about preamp tubes? Because I'm not the sharpest knife in the draw when it comes to the technical stuff, for that, I head over to the preamp thread, but what I do know is how to use my ears. It's great to know that one tube is better/worse than another for reliability and such, but how do different tubes sound when compared to each other? Which tubes are more likely than others to fit the sound I am looking for? For that... Ya just plain need to use your ears, and that is the purpose of this thread.

    I have begun "auditioning" various preamp tubes in the V1 position of my amp for the purpose of getting some sort of general reference point on what basic tonal qualities different tubes. By keeping all the variables as consistent as possible it should be easier to ascertain which tubes generate more mids, treble, or bass. Which tubes might be louder, or have more "sparkle". The kind of subjective things that only your ears can decide. To do this I am consistently recording using the exact same amp, amp settings, and V2-V4 tubes, all recorded directly to my PC via the emulated line out on my amp. In short, nothing changes but the tube in V1.

    If anyone is interested in offering input, I would very much like to hear your thoughts. If you have any suggestions or constructive criticism, please, let me know. Any special requests on certain tubes to compare, again, let me know and I'll see what I can do. So... That being said...

    Here we go...
     
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  2. joshuaaewallen

    joshuaaewallen Active Member

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    Round one:

    The testing here was done on my Wilder modded TSL100, and recorded direct to my PC via the Emulated Line Out on the back of my amp strait into the mic input on my computer. For the sake of comparison I kept all my amp settings the same in each recording, and recorded two samples for each channel of my amp in each pickup position on my guitar.
    __________________________________________________ ____________

    ~:photos:~:photos:~:photos: ~

    The Tubes:

    The tube line up in the amp are as follows:

    V2: Raytheon Black Plate [​IMG] V3: Phillips E.H. [​IMG]

    V4: RCA [​IMG]

    Up for audition are the following in the V1 slot: My beloved Telefunken Smooth Plate (22-24 on Marty's tester):
    [​IMG]

    ... And the Matsushita Slant Gletter (26-27 on Marty's tester) that I just got in the mail (again, tip o' the cap to Marty):
    [​IMG]

    An RCA 12AX7 (Tests 18-16 on Marty's tester)(Sorry, No Pic at this time)

    Two GE 12AX7's (a 21-21, and a 30-30):
    [​IMG]

    RCA / Eico (Made in Holland, according to Marty by people wearing wooden shoes)(Tests at 30-30)
    [​IMG]


    The Amp:
    [​IMG]

    The Guitar:
    [​IMG]

    __________________________________________________ ____________

    I just ran everything on the same basic settings I had been using for the past God-Knows-How-Long...
    Quote:
    Clean:
    Gain - 3
    Volume - 4
    Midboost Button - Out
    Treble - 5.2
    Middle - 2
    Bass - 9
    Crunch:
    Gain - 4
    Volume - 3
    ToneShift - Out
    Deep Switch - Out
    Treble - 3
    Middle - 10
    Bass - 9.2
    Lead:
    Gain - 10
    Volume - 2.2
    ToneShift - Out
    Deep Switch - Out
    Treble - 6
    Middle - 6
    Bass - 9
    Global Controls:
    VPR (Virtual Power Reduction) - On
    Crunch/Lead:
    Reverb - 3
    Fx - 10 (little delay)
    Presence - 3
    Clean:
    Reverb - 6
    Fx - 10 (little delay)
    Presence - 4

    Oh... And everything was played through my PRS Custom 24 (Duncan Alnico II bridge Pickup & Sustainiac Stealth Pro Neck Pickup) w/ the volume knob set on 10.

    Whew! It took a lot to get to this point! Well... It's all for the sake of documentation. Now you know how everything was set, so here's the comparison:

    ~ :jam: ~ :jam: ~ :jam:~

    This will be an evolving post/thread, so check back often for changes...

    (Just a note... I may not have all the links up right away, so if not... Keep checking back. Thanks) So for comparison's sake, I'll include the links above as well. Enjoy!


    Clean Channel:
    Telefunken Clean Bridge Position
    Matsushita Clean Bridge Position
    RCA 18-16 Clean Bridge Position

    RCA/EICO 12AX7 ECC83 30-30 Made In Holland Bridge Position
    GE 12AX7 30-30 Clean Bridge Position
    GE 12AX7 (that I pulled from an old Hi-Fi) 21-21 Bridge Position


    Telefunken Clean Bridge/Middle Position
    Matsushita Clean Bridge/Middle Position
    RCA 18-16 Clean Bridge/Middle Position
    RCA/EICO 12AX7 ECC83 30-30 Made In Holland

    GE 12AX7 30-30 Clean Bridge/Middle Position
    GE 12AX7 (that I pulled from an old Hi-Fi) 21-21 Bridge/Middle Position


    Telefunken Clean Middle Position
    Matsushita Clean Middle Position
    RCA 18-16 Clean Middle Position

    RCA/EICO 12AX7 ECC83 30-30 Made In Holland Middle Position

    GE 12AX7 30-30 Clean Middle Position
    GE 12AX7 (that I pulled from an old Hi-Fi) 21-21 Clean Middle Position

    Telefunken Clean Middle/Neck Position
    Matsushita Clean Middle/Neck Position
    RCA 18-16 Clean Middle/Neck Position

    RCA/EICO 12AX7 ECC83 30-30 Made In Holland Clean Middle/Neck Position

    GE 12AX7 30-30 Clean Middle/Neck Position
    GE 12AX7 (that I pulled from an old Hi-Fi) 21-21 Middle/Neck Position


    Telefunken Clean Neck Position
    Matsushita Clean Neck Position
    RCA 18-16 Clean Neck Position

    RCA/EICO 12AX7 ECC83 30-30 Made In Holland Clean Neck Position

    GE 12AX7 30-30 Clean Neck Position
    GE 12AX7 (that I pulled from an old Hi-Fi) 21-21 Clean Neck Position


    Crunch Channel:
    Telefunken Crunch Bridge Position
    Matsushita Crunch Bridge Position
    RCA 18-16 Crunch Bridge Position

    RCA/EICO 12AX7 ECC83 30-30 Made In Holland Crunch Bridge Position

    GE 12AX7 30-30 Crunch Bridge Position
    GE 12AX7 (that I pulled from an old Hi-Fi) 21-21 Crunch Bridge Position


    Telefunken Crunch Bridge/Middle Position
    Matsushita Crunch Bridge/Middle Position
    RCA 18-16 Crunch Bridge/Middle Position

    RCA/EICO 12AX7 ECC83 30-30 Made In Holland Crunch Bridge/Middle Position

    GE 12AX7 30-30 Crunch Bridge/Middle Position
    GE 12AX7 (that I pulled from an old Hi-Fi) 21-21 Crunch Bridge/Middle Position

    Telefunken Crunch Middle Position
    Matsushita Crunch Middle Position
    RCA 18-16 Crunch Middle Position

    RCA/EICO 12AX7 ECC83 30-30 Made In Holland Crunch Middle Position

    GE 12AX7 30-30 Crunch Middle Position
    GE 12AX7 (that I pulled from an old Hi-Fi) 21-21 Crunch Middle Position

    Telefunken Crunch Middle/Neck Position
    Matsushita Crunch Middle/Neck Position
    RCA 18-16 Crunch Middle/Neck Position
    RCA/EICO 12AX7 ECC83 30-30 Made In Holland Crunch Middle/Neck Position

    GE 12AX7 30-30 Crunch Middle/Neck Position
    GE 12AX7 (that I pulled from an old Hi-Fi) 21-21 Crunch Middle/Neck Position

    Telefunken Crunch Neck Position
    Matsushita Crunch Neck Position
    RCA 18-16 Crunch Neck Position
    RCA/EICO 12AX7 ECC83 30-30 Made In Holland Crunch Neck Position

    GE 12AX7 30-30 Crunch Neck Position
    GE 12AX7 (that I pulled from an old Hi-Fi) 21-21 Crunch Neck Position


    Lead Channel:
    Telefunken Lead Bridge Position
    Matsushita Lead Bridge Position
    RCA 18-16 Lead Bridge Position

    RCA/EICO 12AX7 ECC83 30-30 Made In Holland Lead Bridge Position

    GE 12AX7 30-30 Lead Bridge Position
    GE 12AX7 (that I pulled from an old Hi-Fi) 21-21 Lead Bridge Position


    Telefunken Lead Bridge/Middle Position
    Matsushita Lead Bridge/Middle Position
    RCA 18-16 Lead Bridge/Middle Position

    RCA/EICO 12AX7 ECC83 30-30 Made In Holland Lead Bridge/Middle Position

    GE 12AX7 30-30 Lead Bridge/Middle Position
    GE 12AX7 (that I pulled from an old Hi-Fi) 21-21 Lead Bridge/Middle Position


    Telefunken Lead Middle Position
    Matsushita Lead Middle Position
    RCA 18-16 Lead Middle Position

    RCA/EICO 12AX7 ECC83 30-30 Made In Holland Lead Middle Position

    GE 12AX7 30-30 Lead Middle Position
    GE 12AX7 (that I pulled from an old Hi-Fi) 21-21 Lead Middle Position


    Telefunken Lead Middle/Neck Position
    Matsushita Lead Middle/Neck Position
    RCA 18-16 Lead Middle/Neck Position
    RCA/EICO 12AX7 ECC83 30-30 Made In Holland Lead Middle/Neck Position

    GE 12AX7 30-30 Lead Middle/Neck Position
    GE 12AX7 (that I pulled from an old Hi-Fi) 21-21 Lead Middle/Neck Position


    Telefunken Lead Neck Position
    Matsushita Lead Neck Position
    RCA 18-16 Lead Neck Position

    RCA/EICO 12AX7 ECC83 30-30 Made In Holland Lead Neck Position

    GE 12AX7 30-30 Lead Neck Position
    GE 12AX7 (that I pulled from an old Hi-Fi) 21-21 Lead Neck Position


    ~ :jam: ~ :jam: ~ :jam:~
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2010
  3. joshuaaewallen

    joshuaaewallen Active Member

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    :hippie:
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2010
  4. LuredMaul

    LuredMaul Active Member

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    Well I know I'll be lookin for a Matsushita soon.
     
  5. joshuaaewallen

    joshuaaewallen Active Member

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    I've gotta say, Alan and Joe are on to something... Of the tubes I've demo'd so far, the Matsushita is one of my favs... Suprisingly, the GE's that I really liked in the early days of the preamp thread, are not. I find them to be noisy, and lacking the rich harmonic content of the Telefunken, Matsushita, and RCA tubes... IMO.
     
  6. lonewolfsx

    lonewolfsx Active Member

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    This was a genius idea, and I'd like to thank you for all the work you put in.

    I'd be interested in seeing some commonly available ones like the Tungsol, EH, Sovtek, Ruby, Groove tubes. I'm sure some are similar (or maybe even the same) as the ones you tested but I'm not really familiar with what brands are what and who makes what where etc.

    Thanks tons for the stuff you've already done dude!
     
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  7. joshuaaewallen

    joshuaaewallen Active Member

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    Thanks for the kind words.

    I do plan on doing some comparisons of current production tubes as well. Here's what I've got at home that I plan on testing (current production) [​IMG]
     
  8. HOT TUBES 70

    HOT TUBES 70 Well-Known Member

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    I have the Blue boxed TUNG SOLs in my 6100 right now , and i like them alot .
    At first they were sorta bland sounding , but after a short break in , they came around in a big way , might be the nicest sounding pre tube i've put in the 6100 to date .....cool thread Josh :dude:
     
  9. scat7s

    scat7s New Member VIP Member

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    that was recorded DI?

    wow, sounded better than i would have guessed thats for sure.

    all the ones i listened to sounded pretty good. thats a nice sounding crunch channel.
    i think i like the telefunkin best, but they all sounded pretty nice on the clean and crunch channels.
     
  10. RiverRatt

    RiverRatt Well-Known Member VIP Member

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    Thanks, I like to think so, too. You may think I'm crazy (hell, I am!) but the D getter Shitas are my favorite tube in a Marshall. I'll take one over a Mullard any day. The round slant getters are pretty much on par with a Mullard IMO.

    I know there are a lot of guys on here who swear that tubes don't make that much difference in tone and that tube rolling is a waste of time and money, and they refer to those of us who do hear a difference as "cork sniffers". FWIW, about 95% of the tubes I have were purchased for less than the price of a current production tube (sometimes WAY less!) and I hear a very noticeable difference in the tone and responsiveness of the amp.

    Anyway, keep up the good work Josh. I'm going to go sniff some corks, er, roll some tubes.
     
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  11. joshuaaewallen

    joshuaaewallen Active Member

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    I'll be rolling these too. I've been sitting on them for quite a while now, so I figure it's time to try them out. But I am gonna have Marty test them them for me first so that we have some idea what kind of gain factors we're looking at.

    Thanks mate. I agree, the DI recording here actually sounded closer to what I heard from my speaker than what I got from the mic that I was trying to use (Blue Yeti USB mic). Plus I think that for the purpose of this thread it also removes a some of the recording variables.


    I have purchased a Sure SM57 and a Presonus USB interface to do some recording, but I haven't had a chance to try them out yet.

    So far my two favorite tubes for V1 are the Telefunken and the Matsushita.

    I'm right there with ya Alan. Cork-sniffing or not, tubes do affect tone!!! And cost-wise... As hobbies go, rolling tubes would actually be a fairly inexpensive hobby over-all. IMO.
     
  12. joshuaaewallen

    joshuaaewallen Active Member

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    Re: Preamp Tubes? - Auditioning Tubes... TUNG-SOL SHOOTOUT!

    Up for comparison today, I have three tubes...

    A NOS Zenith labeled Tung-Sol 12 AX7:

    [​IMG]


    A current production Tung-Sol 12AX7:

    [​IMG]


    And...

    A current production Tung-Sol Gold Pin (ECC803S) 12AX7:

    [​IMG]


    And for kicks and grins...
    ______________________________________________________________
    Unless otherwise noted, all clips were recorded using the same settings as all those previously posted.
     
  13. joshuaaewallen

    joshuaaewallen Active Member

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    For Kicks & Grins...

    Tonight I have been playing around w/ "The Tung-Sol" trio in my TSL. I tweaked the eq ever so slightly (adding some gain & treble) and noodled around on the main riffs from Free's "Alright Now" (forgive the big time sloppy playing), and recorded the Nos Zenith labeled Tung-Sol, along with both the standard & gold-pin CP Tung-Sol's that I have.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    This is on the TSL's Crunch Channel.

    Zenith - Free
    CP Blue Box - Free
    CP Gold Pin - Free

    I also butchered some "Sandman" as well, this time on the TSL's Lead channel w/ the Tone Shift engaged.

    Zenith - Sandman
    CP Blue Box - Sandman
    CP Gold Pin - Sandman

    Now... Here's where I had the most fun... This is the beginning part of Def Leppard's "Promises"... I was just having fun playing around w/ Audacity and trying to learn some new tricks multi-tracking (I'm a newbie). This is all direct to the PC via the Marshall's Emulated Line Out:


    Ok... I admit... It's pretty rough... But it's still fun! :dude:
     
  14. rockinr0ll

    rockinr0ll New Member

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    You put a lot of work into this... and just found this today?

    Of the first batch I really dug the Telefunken, it seemed less hollow than (dare I say) the RCA.

    The 2nd batch was easy for me, not being a fan of gold pins or CP Tung-Sol the old ones had all the mojo!
     
  15. joshuaaewallen

    joshuaaewallen Active Member

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    Thanks for the feedback. I wasn't sure how well the nuances of these different tubes would translate on other peoples speakers...
     
  16. rockinr0ll

    rockinr0ll New Member

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    Well, I just got some new pro audio headphones so I'm sure those helped a little. ;)
     
  17. joshuaaewallen

    joshuaaewallen Active Member

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    New toys... Suhweet! :rock:
     
  18. BDowell

    BDowell New Member

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    I love the tele, I have a ribbed plate in my TSL..and thanks for taking the time to create this post. It is much appreciated.
     
  19. solarburnDSL50

    solarburnDSL50 Well-Known Member

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    Shoot Josh I just found your demos here and checked them out. You put a lot of time into these and I think they turned out great! Thin Lizzy FTMW! I kinda like that Tung Sol 803s. Nice clear gain if I'm hearing it well. What are your thoughts on that one? Loved my Shita D getter in V1 of the DSL. Alan gave me that one. Now I get just the slant or D getters in those. What's not to like about the Funken's...unless your amp is really bright and stiff. The Funken in V1 and Raytheon BP in V2 was killa in the DSL. Not in my EL84 amps though. I have to say roll'n in the Marshall was much more rewarding.

    Again nice work my friend!
     
  20. joshuaaewallen

    joshuaaewallen Active Member

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    There's lots of different descriptions of this tube's tone, or that tube's tone, on seller's websites & online stores, but not much for actual "rubber meets the road" audio examples out there. In my own round about way, I guess I'm just trying to provide something useful to those out there who, like me, always read those descriptions and still wonder, "yeah... But what does it actually sound like?"

    I'm glad ya like it.

    Thin Lizzy rocks!

    The 803... Well, to me it sounded warmer / less bright, than the blue boxed Tung-Sol. But the blue-boxed had a lot of bright character to it that was really good for classic rock tones on the crunch channel... Of the three Tung-Sol tubes, the Zenith was definitely my personal fav, but if I had to go with a CP tube... I think I'd go with the blue-box over the gold-pin... But that's just me.
     

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