I know I'm late to the party.. but "vintage" and NOS tubes? I didn't know what I was missing!

War_in_D

Well-known member
I picked up an old Hickok 800 tube tester late last year/early this year and along with the tester, there were a ton of old used and NOS tubes. Mainly radio and TV type tubes, but there were a few RCA 12ax7's, at7's and au7's. A couple of GE 12ax7's and even a Motorola 12ax7 (never even knew they made or branded tubes). There were several RCA 6V6's too... For what I paid, I feel like I came out alright. I tested them all, and labeled them, etc. and then they just sat there.

Last week while I had the Splawn Nitro out of the headshell messing around with it, I decided to roll some of these old/NOS tubes through it and see if the hype was real. Holy cow! I never knew what I was missing! Today, I pulled the chassis on the Bogner 101B and decided to roll some tubes though it as well. Wow!! As I have stated before, I'm absolutely no good at describing what I hear but I'll give it a shot. After trying these old/NOS tubes the new production stuff just sounded sterile to me, for lack of a better word. Sure, I thought they sounded good (before I knew any better), but these vintage tubes had so much more "depth" to them. I think I understand now what people mean when they say something sounds 3D. Call me crazy, but I swear I could hear these harmonics and over/undertones that weren't there with the new production tubes. They have a warmth and musicality to them that I never knew was lacking from the current production tubes. I feel like my eyes (and ears) have been opened.

I know, right now is not the time to be discovering that I like vintage/NOS tubes.. but I've been bitten by the bug. There's no going back now. LOL
 

Nigel

Well-known member
Last week while I had the Splawn Nitro out...Today, I pulled the chassis on the Bogner 101B...

Since your amps are British inspired, you need to check out some Mullards, Philips, Valvo, and Amperex. Timbre Wolf's posts on TGP are a great reference. RCA/GE are American and will do wonders for Fenders and Fender inspired designs, like Mesas.

Whatever you do, don't buy a Mullard f91/f92 longplate 12AX7, unless you want to receive the bite for which there is no cure...
 

War_in_D

Well-known member
So, let me ask this question. I think my tester may not be calibrated 100%. Most every 12ax7 I've run on it tests low, even a brand new tube. Where it says that a GM of 1250 is new, a new tube will test around 1150-1175-ish. Most of these tubes I've been trying out today, all test close to "new" by that comparison (somewhere in the 1100-1200 range). Now I don't know if the GM reading has anything to do with gain, I'm kind of stupid when it comes to that kind of stuff. But, nearly every one of these vintage/NOS 12ax7 tubes I've tried so far didn't sound as gainy as a new production 12ax7. Is that normal? The vintage/NOS stuff more than makes up for it in what I would call "the toans" though. LOL
 

War_in_D

Well-known member
Since your amps are British inspired, you need to check out some Mullards, Philips, Valvo, and Amperex. Timbre Wolf's posts on TGP are a great reference. RCA/GE are American and will do wonders for Fenders and Fender inspired designs, like Mesas.

Whatever you do, don't buy a Mullard f91/f92 longplate 12AX7, unless you want to receive the bite for which there is no cure...

Thanks, I'll keep an eye out for those. I'm sure these are probably not cheap and I'm not quite sure that I'm ready to drop hundreds on a preamp tube yet, but I may ease into to eventually.
 

Nigel

Well-known member
Thanks, I'll keep an eye out for those. I'm sure these are probably not cheap and I'm not quite sure that I'm ready to drop hundreds on a preamp tube yet, but I may ease into to eventually.
An inexpensive option, and how I discovered Mullard magic, is the CV-4024/mil-spec 12AT7. They work great in most slots, and shine in PI and EFX/Reverb driver slots. You can throw one in V1 and get a great idea of what Mullard has to offer. Here's a deal:

 

Racerxrated

Well-known member
Welcome to better tone. For those who don't think they make a difference, you'll save some money. But I feel bad for you as well; since your ears are compromised.

J/K....I hear a difference with vintage amps mostly. Newer Mesas, EVH, Wizard, SLOs I don't notice as much. The best way to shop for them IMO is to look for used tubes that have plenty of getter flash left, and take a chance on eBay from a seller with good feedback. And, learn how you can find these as 're branded' as well...they can slip through the cracks with those labels.
 

psychodave

Well-known member
So, let me ask this question. I think my tester may not be calibrated 100%. Most every 12ax7 I've run on it tests low, even a brand new tube. Where it says that a GM of 1250 is new, a new tube will test around 1150-1175-ish. Most of these tubes I've been trying out today, all test close to "new" by that comparison (somewhere in the 1100-1200 range). Now I don't know if the GM reading has anything to do with gain, I'm kind of stupid when it comes to that kind of stuff. But, nearly every one of these vintage/NOS 12ax7 tubes I've tried so far didn't sound as gainy as a new production 12ax7. Is that normal? The vintage/NOS stuff more than makes up for it in what I would call "the toans" though. LOL
How long are you leaving the tubes on the tester to warm up? They likely need 10-20 minutes to reach operating temperature. Also, they could be tested on different equipment which will cause changes in testing.

The newer tubes tend to be more grainy and have more high end. This makes the ear believe they are more high gain. You also noticed that NOS brings the tone… this will be the quandary of hunting NOS tubes. They all sound different. Last thing, even bunches of the same tube will sound very different, so make sure you try a bunch otherwise you might end up not liking a specific tube brand only because the one you had was a dud. 😉
 

bubucci

Active member
Any clips to prove this NOS madness ?
Oh wait, Pete Thorn make fantastic video about preamp tubes and my conclusion is they are different but none was better than the others, just slightly different and their gain make most of difference. Put new strings make more difference. Sorry for pissing on Your parade 😀
 

psychodave

Well-known member
Any clips to prove this NOS madness ?
Oh wait, Pete Thorn make fantastic video about preamp tubes and my conclusion is they are different but none was better than the others, just slightly different and their gain make most of difference. Put new strings make more difference. Sorry for pissing on Your parade 😀
No worries. I wish I didn’t have such discerning ears. 🤷. Not only is it “tone”, but tubes can change the feel of an amp. It’s no secret the tone monster and master tinker EVH liked Sylvania 6CA7’s in his number one Marshall. He had access to any tube he wanted. There is a reason why he liked the Sylvania 👍.
 

bubucci

Active member
I understand…it is all about fine tuning of sound but price of NOS tubes make it nonsence for any sound benefits. There are so much important things for Your final sound than tubes.
And VH sound…doesn’t understand hype…technique yes…sound ? not so much. Poeple are afraid of their own sound and want to hide for ‘but VH or any other famous guitar player used that’ gear they are using. 😀
 

Nigel

Well-known member
No worries. I wish I didn’t have such discerning ears. 🤷. Not only is it “tone”, but tubes can change the feel of an amp. It’s no secret the tone monster and master tinker EVH liked Sylvania 6CA7’s in his number one Marshall. He had access to any tube he wanted. There is a reason why he liked the Sylvania 👍.
You have basically revealed the secret of block letter 5150 tone: Peavey shipped them with Sylvania power tubes.
 

Fordman65

Well-known member
I've personally chosen not to go down this rabbit hole. I've found that 8th gen Chinese 12ax7s sound great it almost anything (though I do use a Sovtek LPS in V1), so that's what I stick with. If it ain't broke, why change? For PT, I stick with Mesa branded in my rectifier and Ness branded in my Marshallish anps. Have fun though, some really enjoy the process
 

Nigel

Well-known member
Last thing, even bunches of the same tube will sound very different, so make sure you try a bunch otherwise you might end up not liking a specific tube brand only because the one you had was a dud. 😉

Not been my experience with vintage long plates. Sylvania black plate, Ei, Mullard, RCA have been extremely consistent, tone-wise. The Ei have consistently gone microphonic, too. 😂
 

mooncobra

Well-known member
Tubes definitely make a difference. I used to throw in a set of JJ’s or Ruby’s. Then I did a trade with racerxrated and my already totally Bitchin Friedman became even more Bitchin which I didn’t think possible.

The amp was tighter, had more definition and clarity and was very tight. I could not believe it. I slowly got rid of all my other amps and have strictly played the Friedman for 3 or 4 years now. Could not be happier.

Although, I’m fired up to get the Hermansson when they are released.
 
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