Carmen Ghia tube questions

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by Mike M, Nov 26, 2005.


  1. Mike M

    Mike M Supporting Member

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    I just picked one up and it sounds great. I do like to tinker a little with yubes and was wondering if anyone had some opinions on tube swapping in that amp. Right now it has the standard set up. JJ 12axy, GE 5751 PI, JJ El84's and GE Rectifier. Anyone try EI tubes in this amp with any luck or tried changing the 12ax7 for another type? I have a few Mullard 12At7's I was going to try.
     
  2. jumpchamp

    jumpchamp Member

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    tube changes can have a pretty significant impact on the sound of a ghia. i've spent quite a bit of time messing around with mine!

    i've tried all sorts of things in the preamp - 12ax7m, a 12au7, jj ECC833s high gain in the power inverter, etc etc. i've come back to the original jan12ax7 in V1 and 5751 in V2. i've only tried jj and gt el84s, and have had a mazda 5y3 in the rectifier, as well as 5v4ga that's in there now (bit more headroom).

    i purposely didn't describe the sounds of each tube because they're your ears that need to make the decision. the overall basic tonality of the amp will pretty much be maintained, but you can change the breakup point and darkness/brightness with some tube swaps. line em up on the table and plug away!
     
  3. paddywhack

    paddywhack Silver Supporting Member

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    ...i've done bit of tube swapping in my Ghia...i did slip some EI el -84's in....more aggresive and "harder" sounding than the JJ's...try a 5751 in V1 for a softer attack and less headroom...a 12ax7 in V2 gives more headroom and harsher attack....all in all its usually pretty hard to beat the Dr's stock choices for tubes in amps....Myles on the Dr Z website ha a wealth of information on tubes in Z's...especially Ghias....
     
  4. Pappy

    Pappy Supporting Member

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    While I haven't tried a ton of different tubes, I *really* like the NOS Tesla EL84s I've got in mine from KCA NOS Tubes.
     
  5. Blue Strat

    Blue Strat Member

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    Yep, you and about 400 other people. These are GREAT sounding EL84s.;)
     
  6. flicker180

    flicker180 Member

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    i used a JAN/Philips 5751 in V1
    Mullard NOS 12ax7 in V2 @ V3 ( iirc, there are 3 pre-tubes)
    Mullard NOS El84s
    and an RCA recto.

    was a very good combination.

    dave
     
  7. Timbre Wolf

    Timbre Wolf GoldMember Supporter Gold Supporting Member

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    As one of the ~400 others who've experienced Mike's stash of Tesla EL84s, I've got to agree. With all things considered (price, availability, and sonic response), probably the best deal going on NOS EL84s, and definitely an improvement over JJ and other current-production options.

    I also highly recommend NOS Tungsram EL84 (better low-end oomph), but they're generally less available.

    - T
     
  8. riffmeister

    riffmeister Gold Supporting Member

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    How do they sound different than the JJ's?
     
  9. Timbre Wolf

    Timbre Wolf GoldMember Supporter Gold Supporting Member

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    The general characteristic I can derive from my experiences with NOS Tesla EL84 is that of bright clarity, with all frequency ranges being more focused and lively than the current-production JJ EL84s. The Teslas break up a bit later than the JJs, as well.

    The only other NOS EL84 that I've tried that rival the top-end sparkle of the Teslas, are Mullards, RCA black-plate, Amperex's '50s bugle-boy, and Tungsram. The Teslas are a bit lacking in low-end impact (aka "balls"), especially when compared to these other stellar NOS choices, but that's okay, because there's a place for that, and sometimes you may not want to emphasize low-end. If you want chime, Teslas have it.

    Of course, all of these impressions are just my experience, and my disclaimer is that different circuits act differently (I've tried in single-ended, cathode-bias "class-A" [really AB] and fixed-bias class AB amps), especially if they're not properly biased. Also depends on how much you make the power section sweat.

    Hope that helps.

    - T
     
  10. Riscchip

    Riscchip Member

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    I ended up leaving GE 6BQ5s in mine, the rest of the tubes are stock. Sounds great.
     
  11. G'OlPeachPhan

    G'OlPeachPhan Member

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    V1 (first preamp tube) is the most impactful tube you can swap to alter the tone of the Ghia. The differences can be pretty amazing. They're pretty inexpensive, so it doesn't hurt to buy a handful of them to see what you like best. For current production my favorites are the JJ ECC83S for good chime with a greasy midrange and tight and big bottom, the Ei ECC83 (the old dull gray plate ones sound fantastic if you can find a good one) is probably the most aggressive of the bunch with a lot of chime sparkle and cut in the treble and upper mids (with a bit less bottom than the JJ), and the Electro Harmonix 12AX7 makes the amp sound REALLY creamy and in general seem have the most gain of the three... I like the EH's the best for a really thick and wooly lead tone and dirty hairy chord work (Black Crowesque tones to Warren Haynes type tones all the way to the more modern alternative grungey STP tones depending on the other parts of your rig), the Ei's the best for clean all the way to edge of breakup for Tom Petty type stuff, and the JJ's the best for straight ahead harder rock like 70's ZZ Top (when I have a JJ in V1 I always want to play the riff from The Darkness' "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" for some reason). If you want to find one tube and stick with it, I think the EH is the most versatile of the group, and also seems to have an EQ curve that works really well with the Ghia's Tone control.

    For NOS 12AX7's, the Tungsram is really hard to beat (probably my favorite tube in V1), and the RFT's are great as well. Both of those are a good value in NOS tubes. Mike at KCA sells both of those, as well as the current production EH.

    That said, swapping speakers and cabs is even more impactful in altering what you're getting out of the Ghia, and would be the first thing I'd experiment with. I started out with the tubes in the Ghia as well, and was never completely satisified with my tone until I started my search to find the perfect cab/speakers. As it turns out, a Z-Best with the stock V30/H30 is IT for me. Honestly, I'm far less picky about what tubes are in my Ghia now that I run it through that cabinet, as things always seem to sound good now. Tube changes make it sound a little different, feel a little different, make it break up a little earlier/later, but it's far more subtle than having the right speakers.

    The single most important thing that you can do with the Ghia is make sure you're using a fresh matched pair of quality EL84's... If you can afford to pop a fresh set of NOS in there every 300-400 hours or so of playing, then that's probably a great option for you. Otherwise the JJ's make this maintenance task a bit easier on the wallet (you can almost buy 4 matched pairs of the JJ's for the same price as one matched pair of the NOS Teslas), and I think the Ghia sounds fantastic with them (good clarity, chime, detail, and they are very reliable and hearty tubes). If you do decide to go the NOS route, you'd be hard pressed to find a better guy to do business with than Mike at kcanostubes.com... I've bought all my NOS tubes from him over the years and always been completely satisfied. I've been buying my JJ EL84's and ECC83s from Bob at www.eurotubes.com for years and have always been equally satisfied there.

    I don't have a good source for Ei ECC83's any more... maybe someone else can help there.
     
  12. Blue Strat

    Blue Strat Member

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    I agree. To sum it up quickly, the NOS Teslas "cut through the mix" better than anything, except possibly the Sylvanias, at higher playing volumes.
     
  13. Timbre Wolf

    Timbre Wolf GoldMember Supporter Gold Supporting Member

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    Which Sylvania 6BQ5 are you referring to, Mike? I've got five pairs of black-plate Sylvanias that I love (gruff and lively, with earlier breakup), but I have not experienced them being sparkly like the Teslas.

    - T
     
  14. Timbre Wolf

    Timbre Wolf GoldMember Supporter Gold Supporting Member

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    Nice tube descriptions! You make a JJ ECC83S sound like a JAN-Philips ECG 12AX7WA (bold lows, unfocused low-mids [greasy? don't quite know what that means?], bright, zingy highs], and the EH 12AX7 sound like the RFT ECC83 (creamy, earlier breakup, great for leads). I have not experienced the EH tubes in that way, but your EI description is spot-on for my experience - sorry I don't have a lead for you on supply. I really like how you've equated the preamp tube characterstics to known artists/styles.

    I also like Tungsram ECC83 as possibly one of the best tubes to carry through the full frequency spectrum: even better than Telefunken smooth-plates, which, like the EIs, are lacking in low-frequencies. If you'd like a tube that has the Tungsram's range, but with more clarity and openness, I'd like to put a good word in for Mullard's late-'50s long-plate, halo-getter 12AX7s - a true rocker!

    And I agree completely about the even greater impact of speaker/cabinet changes. Ultimately, everything matters! I've been trying out lots of different pick styles/materials lately, because that has a powerful influence (almost as much as tubes). Now, to cut to the chase, I'm going to propose that the most powerful tone-shaping force of all is spirit (yes, yes, the fingers too :rolleyes: ) which drives many of us to these crazy lengths to create the sounds in our minds!

    Anyway, thanks for your post!

    - T
     
  15. G'OlPeachPhan

    G'OlPeachPhan Member

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    Hey Timbre Wolf - thanks for the kind words!

    On my description of the EH 12ax7, it's completely based on how it reacts in V1 of the Ghia... It might react differently in other amps, but in the Ghia it's definitely the creamiest and grittiest (in a good way) of any tube I've tried. I think the EH in V1 of the Ghia almost sounds like some of the other 12ax7 brands when hit with a Germanium full-range boost - they've just got that sweet gritty-wooly aspect about them as part of their natural character... I really like the breakup dynamics due to that character...

    On the JJ - By "greasy" (you're right, I was kind of non-descript with that word) I mean somewhat blurred (unfocused), but in a somewhat positive, musical way.

    NOS Phillips ECG 12ax7WA - sounds nice in a Ghia. Kind of a cross between some of the characteristics EH and JJ... I prefer the EH though over this tube for overdrive, and the Tungsram for an overall great performer in the same price range.

    The Tungsram is like a really nice blend of everything I like about 12ax7's... Most of the top end ZING of the Ei (though a little more relaxed in the upper mids), most of the bass and lower mids of the JJ though with a little more clarity, and some of the creaminess of the EH when overdriven, though I still think the EH is the master of overdrive tones for my taste. I almost wish I had two Ghias - one with the Tungsram in V1, and one with the EH in V1. I'm hard pressed to pick which one of those two I like more, but those are definitely my two favorites in V1 of a Ghia.

    As for the Mullards, I've got one NOS Mullard (actually branded as RCA) that was given to me, and I've never cared for it in my Ghia -- too dark and smooth. But it sounds GREAT in my 5F1 tweed Champ clone!

    Other tubes I've tried in V1 of the Ghia:

    GT 12ax7m ("mullard") - too dark for my taste in the Ghia

    Various Sovteks (WA, LPS) - the Electro Harmonix made by Sovtek SMOKES both of those in a Ghia for my taste

    GT 9th Gen Chinese 12ax7 - too harsh and brittle sounding overdriven in a Ghia, but not bad clean.

    Various NOS JAN 5751's - some would love this in V1 of a Ghia, particularly blues guys most likely, but the highs were too rolled-off and not enough gain in V1 for my taste. Sounds great as a balanced PI in V2 though!

    Another cool trick to try with a Ghia is a balanced 12BH7 in the phase inverter (V2) spot... More clean headroom than the stock 5751, and brightens the tone up a bit.

    Timbre Wolf - we agree... Spirit/soul is definitely the most powerful tone shaping force! :cool:
     
  16. Timbre Wolf

    Timbre Wolf GoldMember Supporter Gold Supporting Member

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    G'OlPeachPhan -

    I've been looking for someone to discuss the nitty-gritty details of tube-tasting with. Sounds like you've been out on some of the same limbs I have. Look for a PM, headed your way.

    - T
     
  17. G'OlPeachPhan

    G'OlPeachPhan Member

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    Cool man - I'll look for it!
     
  18. Blue Strat

    Blue Strat Member

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    The ones I A/Bd the Teslas with were the later Sylvania grey plates. Of course, variables like bias current play into the equation.
     
  19. riffmeister

    riffmeister Gold Supporting Member

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    Yeah....I always got mine from Mike @ KCA.....then he stopped carrying them. :(

    I mentioned this in some other thread here on TGP, and a week or so later Mike contacted me saying that he found about a half dozen and would I like to purchase them? I did, and so I think I'm set for a couple of years now......that Mike is a great guy and takes good care of his customers! :)

    In lieu of EI's, I'm really wondering how the new long plate JJ's sound......gotta get a couple sometime and see......
     
  20. BozoTone

    BozoTone Member

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    +1 on the late '50's Mull long plate...I have a '56 in V1 of my Goodsell...Good'OlPeaches descripton of the EH is dead on to my amp and ears...one new production tube you might consider is the TungSol AX7...very smooth, no nasty peaks...would fit the "jazzier" side of rock to a T.....As for 84's, my favorite of what I own are GE's even over Mullards...mine are the grey, oval plate type from 1966 ..I wish Santa would go ahead and open up HER toybag (wallet) and let me get some of the Polam Telam EL84's before they get real scarce and EXPENSIVE....word on the street is that they are to 84's as Mullard xf2's are to 34's...............
     

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