TAD EL34B-STR Forum Member Reviews

MartyStrat54

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Okay. Here are the reviews for the TAD EL34B-STR’s.

First I would like to thank all the participants.

They are New Religion, Frankie, Micky, Stymie13, Johnfv, Michael RT and poeman33.

I would also like to add the following. There were two sets of tubes that were sent out. One was for the USA team and the other for the Canadian team. Unfortunately, there was a bad tube in the Canadian set and therefore Michael and poeman did not get to tests the tubes properly. I will say that the bad tube is going to be replaced. There was no hassle getting this rectified. The TAD EL34B has a six month limited warranty.

The reviews are as follows.

TEAM USA.

1. New Religion

First off I am pleased to report nothing negative by my ear. All tests were conducted with a wall voltage of 117VAC. I made notes of the plate voltage of the amps and bias settings as all amps were biased to 60% and 70% dissipation for TAD's with little to no sonic difference or feel. It should also be mentioned that this set of TAD EL34B-STR's dropped right in to the amps and fell between 60%-70%. All Plate voltages ranged between 471vdc -490vdc. Results are listed below.

I tested 3 Marshalls as clean as they would be and in the dirt where I live and breathe.

AMP #1. YEAR 1993: Model 1987X: TUBES: GT-EL34M versus TAD EL34B’s.

OBSERVATION: Harmonically rich with beautiful highs, mids and lows. Power amp was able to achieve a smooth saturated yet distinguished breakup when biased at 60%-& 70% dissipation. Less brittle than the GT-EL34M's I run in the amp. The TAD’s appear to deliver more mids. Definitely "the" EL34 for the Plexi as I do run it open always (Loudness on 10), attenuated so to speak through the loop with a processor.


AMP #2. YEAR 1989: MODEL JCM 800 2210: TUBES: SOVTEK EL34WXT versus TAD’s.

The results were a bit more dramatic when used on the Boost Channel as the high-mids really came into play here with this zenner boosted circuit.


AMP #3. YEAR 1981: MODEL JMP 2203: TUBES: RUBY EL34B-STR versus TAD’s.

The TAD's were nearly a dead ringer for the Ruby's. Both amps displayed the singing high quality attributes of a quality valve IMO.

Additional note: I ran the TAD’s at 60%, 65% and 70% in all three amplifiers. I never experienced anything harsh. In fact they appeared to maintain EQ integrity as far as my ears were concerned.

Bottom Line: I believe I may have been introduced to my new standby Power Valve.


2. Frankie

1.) The TAD’s look bad ass. They are much bigger than my other tubes with a cooler logo and nice brown base. Not that it really matters, but what cool looking tubes!

2.) The initial bias was way colder than my EL34-M's. They were idling about 60mA when I first popped 'em in. I biased 'em to 75mA.

3.) Treble. The high end is harsh! It's like these tubes amplify all that crust from the preamp that you don't want. I had to dial the presence way back to get rid of it, but then they sounded kinda flat. Even when playing clean the high end wasn't right.

4.) Mids. The mids on these tubes are pretty awesome, but I'm torn. They compress the mids and mid bass, making it sound real tight, detailed, and articulate. On the flip side, they also sound kind of flat here as well. Not very in your face sounding, especially considering they're in a Marshall.

5. Bass. The mid bass like I said above does sound fantastic, but these tubes don't bring the thunder down low. They make some nice tight bass, but they lack the attack of the EL34-M's. I couldn't really feel the cabinet moving.

6. And this one could've been fantasy, but I think they break up a little earlier on the dial than the EL34-M's I have in there. I didn't get to run them full bore, but at ear ringing volumes they had a good amount of flavor happening. This might be good for someone who wants that kind of sound.

Overall I wouldn't swap the trusty EL34-M's for 'em. Really I probably would use Electro-Harmonix or something like that before these. They don't have the right tonal characteristics for a guitar amp. Now where I think they might excel would be in a hifi tube audio amp! Think about that sizzling top end with those pronounced mids and bass running a completely clean signal. I bet they sound fantastic!

DSL biased to 75mA per side.


3. Micky

Initial thoughts - Packaging is excellent. This is the way it is supposed to be. Serial #, TC, PC on an identical box label makes things easy.

Except for the getter, they look physically identical compared to stock Marshall labeled EL34's.

They fit extremely tight into the sockets.

All labels on the base face outward and are readable.

The 2 'C' labeled serial numbered tubes 'crept' up to bias voltage.
Within 5 minutes were stable at 40mv, and stayed there.
All tubes were very close in bias current, only requiring slight adjustment.
(Note: My OEM tubes creep down very quickly to working voltage)

As I only have a DSL40C to try them in, I tried every combination of two pairs.
All biased properly and showed no differing characteristics.

As far as tone is concerned, there was very little difference from the original.
Running in 40W mode, I noticed only a couple very slight differences.

The TAD seemed 'brighter' or more articulate. Less muddy I would say.

Also, they seem louder, as at the same exact gain and volume settings they actually 'felt' punchier or louder. Cleans were clean and I had to push them really hard to get power tube breakup on the clean channel with the gain at 9:00 (2-3 on dial). Crunch acted as expected, my favorite spot was gain at 3:00 and volume at 9:00 (gain=8 vol=3) which was enough to scare the shit out of Fiona (our Peek-A-Poo). Ultra channel has way too much gain for me. I ran OD1 gain at 9:00 and Vol at 9:00 and the TAD seemed to clean up the fizziness a bit. It was hardly noticeable.

One odd thing and I really don't think I can attribute this one to the tubes. The TAD’s seem to 'wake-up' the digital reverb. Suddenly it was more noticeable and at one point I turned it down to get things back to where I was comfortable. How power tubes could affect this is beyond me, but when I put in the OEM tubes, I had to turn the reverb back up to maximum.

Now mind you, most of my playing is in crunch mode (I did a few songs in clean mode) on the classic channel as I hardly ever need Ultra channel OD1 stuff. I can say I truly have no need whatsoever for OD2 mode, as I am more a rhythm player than anything else. A cross between Brad Whitford and Malcom Young...

Switching to 20W triode mode provided no noticeable difference other than slight decrease in volume.

Another thing I forgot to mention - I didn't notice a lot of difference between bias set at 30mv and 50mv. I didn't play long that way, so not really a complete test, but all sets biased easily at any spot between 30 and 50. (My DSL has separate trim pots for each side.)


4. Johnvf
I tried the tubes in 2 amps, both Ceriatone clones: 2204 and Trainwreck Express. Both amps had EH EL34 output tubes and V1/V2 are vintage Mullard/Raytheon BP. They also both have external bias and probe points making it easy to swap and match bias. The EH EL34 has a very mid centric tone, not great but not bad. Works well for me since I play mostly Strats.

My details and impressions:

1) TADs were well matched - all rated 12 on my VT1000 and biased well. Definitely closer matched than either pair of EH EL34s I had. The EH EL34s in the 2204 were 12/13 on the VT1000. I have not measured the pair in my TW Express. The EH 6CA7s were both 11 on the VT1000.

2) 2204HW: Plate Voltage was 476VDC. I biased for 34 mV at the probe points. In other words, 34 mA current. I tested with 2 guitars, my ES-335 with Lollar Imperials and a partscaster Strat with Duncan and DiMarzio pickups. The TADs had a very nice "HiFi" tone, full warm lows and crisp top end. In fact, I was surprised how different the tone was - I was expecting it to be more subtle. They reminded me more of a nice 6CA7. The EH EL34 is somewhat flat sounding in comparison. From the first chord I was impressed by the TAD’s.
I also compared the TAD’s with the EH 6CA7. These have worked well for me in my Hiwatt 50 and do have more of a HiFi tone (extended lows and highs) when compared to the EH EL34. Still the TAD is the clear winner – the 2204 sounded great before, the TADs make it sound even better.

The 2204 was played through a Mojo 2x12 loaded with Mojo greenback clones, I also played it through my vintage 1960A loaded with ‘80s Celestion G12-80 speakers.

3) Trainwreck Express: I biased for 34 mV at the probe points. I’m sorry, but I do not have an exact plate voltage number handy for this amp. I used a partscaster Tele with DiMarzio humbuckers. The difference here seemed more subtle but still rather noticeable. Fuller tone with nice lower mid punch, did not notice much differences in the highs like I did on the 2204. We did record a quick A/B comparisons clip and that is available if anyone is interested.

The TW Express was played through my ‘80s 1936 cab loaded with WGS ET65 and Invader.

Bottom line, I really like them and my band mates agreed it made a noticeable improvement. Judging from the prices on the Mojotone site they don't seem that expensive, I would consider these my new "go to" EL-34.

Note: The only scenario I might consider steering away from the TADs would be if I was purposely trying to tame a bright amp. That being said, they have a very balanced tone and worked great for me with the darker humbucker guitars AND my brighter Strat. I think these could be great tubes for the HiFi enthusiast guys as well. Judging from the prices on the Mojotone site they don't seem that expensive, I would consider these my new "go to" EL-34.

Note: I asked JV if he noticed more punch with the TAD’s due to their high transconductance?

(His response.) Definitely more punch, I was assuming that was mostly a tonal difference but yes punch is good word for it. Open and dynamic would be another way to say it. I definitely noticed more volume with my EH 6CA7 test (not as sure with the EL34s). Considering the TADs had a higher gain number on my VT1000 I thought that made sense. Like I said before, I was expecting pretty subtle differences but it was really clear. I think I’d sum it up this way – they put more Marshall in your Marshall!
(My note: This coincides with what Micky stated.)


5. Stymie13
I put about 3 hours on the TAD EL34s in two different amps, so here's the results: After setting the bias in my DSL 100 from 54mV up to 82mA I dropped them back to where I like other tubes, right at 76mV per pair although I must admit I couldn't really tell much difference. My initial impression was that they were more full sounding and better balanced than the JJE34Ls at moderate volumes. The lows and highs didn't seem quite as exaggerated. At high output volume they maintain their sonic characteristics with a noticeable bloom in the mid range. Excellent articulation and punch with huge, tight lows and sweet, clear highs. However, after a couple hours and switching back to the E34Ls I found that they actually sound quite similar to my ears. Essentially the same exact results in my Orange R30. The bottom line is, they are fantastic sounding and performing CP tubes but I must confess, for the price ($25 less per quad), I will probably stick with JJE34Ls. I appreciate you letting me give these babies a run as I've been really curious about the TAD products. Even though I will most likely stick with JJ, I would strongly recommend these tubes over all other CP brands I have tried (EH, GT, Ruby, Sovtek, and Winged C).


TEAM Canada.

6. Michael RT (Limited test results because of bad tube.)

I like the TAD’s, but I didn't get the "wow factor" from them. They do have a nice feel to them. They sound very close to my Sovtek EL34WXT's. They just have a little more top-end and they sit a little nicer in the mids.


7. Poeman33 (No testing done.)

Again, no testing was done due to a bad tube.


My comments.

I tested the TAD EL34’s in my 2204.

V1-High Gain Telefunken
V2-High Gain Raytheon Black Plate
V3-Sylvania Grey Plate
V4-Lopsided Sylvania Grey Plate

(This amp is modded with an additional 12AX7.)

Speaker cab-212 closed back with Eminence Swamp Thangs. 16 ohm cabinet.

I A/B the TAD’s against Sylvania 6CA7’s. Plate voltage is 482 and bias was set between 31 and 35mV. The TAD’s are pretty flexible with the bias settings. You can actually run them on the cold side and still get good tone from them. I didn’t push them beyond 68 percent dissipation. The TAD’s have a crazy high transconductance and when tested in my B and K tube tester, they peg the meter.

At low volume levels, the TAD’s have good detail, very similar to the NOS 6CA7’s. They sound really crisp when played cleanly. Once the amp is cranked to 6, the TAD’s show a nice mid voicing that I liked better than the Sylvania’s. Turning the gain up will really get these tubes going to a Marshall sweet spot, although I didn’t have to get too crazy with the gain as this amp has a hot preamp.

The TAD’s have above average harmonic content. Power chords are tight. The Swamp Thangs have good low end and the TAD’s provided good low end to the speakers.

While the tone of the TAD’s are balanced nicely, I liked the mid range bite of the TAD’s over the Sylvania’s. The only area where the Sylvania’s are better is life expectancy. I have no information on what the maximum hours of use the TAD’s are rated at. I also do not know what these tubes will sound like after 150-200 hours of break-in. (Most power tubes sound better, “less edgy” with a good break-in.)

After testing the TAD’s, I decided to leave them in the 2204. I will let the Sylvania’s take a break. I feel that the TAD’s are as good, or better, than the more commonly used EL34’s we all have used. The TAD’s are very reasonably priced at around $24 per tube.

Again, I thank all the guys that participated with the testing of the TAD’s. If you notice, several of us make similar comments.

If any of the testers have anything to add, please feel free to do so.

Marty
 
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Micky

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Crazy high TC... Hmmmm

Could that have any effect on the reverb?

I know higher TC can make them louder, or possibly seem higher gain, but with my original EL34's the reverb seems flat, or even dead. Certainly weaker than the TAD's.

I wonder...
 

MartyStrat54

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That's a mystery. I wish I could give you an answer. Apparently something is changing when you put in the TAD's.

I'll send out some feelers and if I find out anything I'll post it.
 

solarburnDSL50

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This was very cool and interesting to read. I liked knowing what speakers were used along with everything else provided guys. Again way to go!
 

plexilespaul

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Frankie

1.) The TAD’s look bad ass. They are much bigger than my other tubes with a cooler logo and nice brown base. Not that it really matters, but what cool looking tubes!

2.) The initial bias was way colder than my EL34-M's. They were idling about 60mA when I first popped 'em in. I biased 'em to 75mA.

3.) Treble. The high end is harsh! It's like these tubes amplify all that crust from the preamp that you don't want. I had to dial the presence way back to get rid of it, but then they sounded kinda flat. Even when playing clean the high end wasn't right.

4.) Mids. The mids on these tubes are pretty awesome, but I'm torn. They compress the mids and mid bass, making it sound real tight, detailed, and articulate. On the flip side, they also sound kind of flat here as well. Not very in your face sounding, especially considering they're in a Marshall.

5. Bass. The mid bass like I said above does sound fantastic, but these tubes don't bring the thunder down low. They make some nice tight bass, but they lack the attack of the EL34-M's. I couldn't really feel the cabinet moving.

6. And this one could've been fantasy, but I think they break up a little earlier on the dial than the EL34-M's I have in there. I didn't get to run them full bore, but at ear ringing volumes they had a good amount of flavor happening. This might be good for someone who wants that kind of sound.

Overall I wouldn't swap the trusty EL34-M's for 'em. Really I probably would use Electro-Harmonix or something like that before these. They don't have the right tonal characteristics for a guitar amp. Now where I think they might excel would be in a hifi tube audio amp! Think about that sizzling top end with those pronounced mids and bass running a completely clean signal. I bet they sound fantastic!

a review spot on. that's exactly my take on the tads.
 

johnfv

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It is interesting to read the other reviewers. Personally I really liked the TADs (in fact have already made arrangements to get a pair). Looking at other comments (even Frankie who did not seem to like them that much) I see several points to agree on:
1) Mids and "mid bass" - this is what a I really love about these tubes, killer sounding mids. I love the articulation in the higher mids and the warmth of the lower mids.
2) I did not find the high end harsh but I could see someone feeling that way. I mentioned I would not recommend for someone trying to tame a bright amp. Part of it may be that because I play a lot of brighter guitars, I am used to keeping the treble down.
3) Similarities to 6CA7 tone, I ran 6CA7 in my plexi back in the '80s and loved it
4) The tone should also make these excellent for HiFi enthusiasts

Thanks again for letting us participate Marty!
 

plexilespaul

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the most turn off i got from the tads are lack of defined mids growl that you get with old glass or even winged c or jj's. besides that the tads are good stable tubes. they didn't shake my balls.
 

MartyStrat54

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In this video, TAD's FTW. No contest.

I would have liked to hear Michael run a good set of TAD's to compare. I'm glad he was able to get some testing done before the bad tube crapped out completely.

The set sent out to the USA Team performed flawlessly after being shipped numerous times and installed in numerous amps. This is a good indicator of construction quality.

I also sent a copy of these reviews to the US distributor for TAD.
 

plexilespaul

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MartyStrat54

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I've had some request by PM to do this again with the TAD EL84's. I am working with the TAD distributor as they may provide me with the tubes.

FYI-The TAD EL84's are becoming a standard OE tube in many premium brand guitar amps.

If you have an EL84 amp and are interested in participating in testing these tubes, you can post here or PM me.

Remember, you must be competent in the safe handling of tubes, biasing your amp and be responsible for the safe packing of the tubes and postage.

If your amp is cathode biased, you will have to conduct a "dark room" check for red plating. Some tubes will not work in a cathode biased amp, but for the most part, many will work. It is just a matter of how the tubes are rated compared to the OE tubes.
 

solarburnDSL50

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Michael that was a good audio test. I could hear the differences. Sometimes lower mids can be really appealing but I like those mid to upper mids too. I'd take either of those recorded versions. LOL
 

solarburnDSL50

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Hey Marty...I'll provide my findings on the 84's since I've rolled them in 3 cathode biased amps. You know what amp they found a home in. The results were interesting across the board though.
 

Codyjohns

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Michael that was a good audio test. I could hear the differences. Sometimes lower mids can be really appealing but I like those mid to upper mids too. I'd take either of those recorded versions. LOL

Thanks Joe. :yesway:
Yeah you can hear that both power tubes are voiced differently in the mids.
The TAD's have a very nice top-end creamy sounding mids, defiantly voiced higher in the mids than my Sovtek's.
 

johnfv

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Marty you KNOW I am in for the EL84s. Definitely need a quad for that... :yesway:
 


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