Mesa tube question: Can I use tubes other than Mesa brand? I was told no by saleman.

Discussion in 'Amps/Cabs Tech Corner: Amplifier, Cab & Speakers' started by Helix, Aug 7, 2005.


  1. Helix

    Helix Member

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    Hopefully an easy answer, I'm just wondering if I can use tubes other than Mesa in my single Recto. The guy that sold me my amp told me that I should only use Mesa's tubes as they are made for the bias that mesa amps are set at. However, I see people everywhere talking about using JJ's or EH tubes and I'm wondering what the big deal is.

    Thanks!:)
     
  2. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

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  3. calieng

    calieng Member

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    The preamp tubes are not even an issue. You can use whatever you like.

    The power tubes need to be relatively middle of the road for current draw since the amp bias is not adjustable. Certain tube stores will check that the power tubes they are selling you are within Mesa specs.

    JJ 6L6 power tubes sound nice in the Mesa F-50 for example if you don't like the stock Mesa tubes.
     
  4. jimmybcool

    jimmybcool Supporting Member

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    HI,

    If I may butt in with what I think is a relevant question, I am also considering purchase of some new preamp tubes for a Mesa Mark IV. Based on your guys earlier response I am good to go with any brand.

    I found a webpage that sells a variet of tubes and includes 12AX7 tubes for much less than Mesa. But, you can pay an additional $5 per tube to get them balanced and such.

    In an amp with 5 tubes is it worth it to get this tube upgrade? It would still be less cost than from Mesa at around $14 each.

    Thanks.
     
  5. DoobieK

    DoobieK Member

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    The only preamp tube it would make a difference whether it is matched or balanced would be the Phase Inverter tube, which is usually the preamp tube closest to the larger power tubes.

    Keeping in mind that more than 99% of the music played through tube amps have not had balanced or matched phase inverter tubes, I don't think it matters. Some people also argue that the circuit in a push-pull output section of a tube amp are not balanced anyway, rendering the balanced PI tube useless.

    I tried a few balanced PI tubes and cannot tell the difference.

    Maybe it makes a difference in high-end stereos, but not for me in my guitar amps.
     
  6. baron55

    baron55 Member

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    Preamp tubes don't need to be biased. So any type you want.

    Mesa tubes are JJ's Eh etc. They just rebrand them like Groove Tubes.

    As for power tubes. Most reputable tube dealers know what tubes fall in Mesa's range, so it is a non-issue. Just specify the amp and usually they will give you tubes that fit in Mesa's bias range.

    Also many Mesa owners install an adjustible bias pot in place of the fixed bias resistor. But as stated earlier, you can get tubes in the mesa range.
     
  7. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    You can use any brand of tubes you like as long as they are the right type.

    Mesa's tubes are nothing special, they're just ordinary new-production Russian and Chinese ones that are selected a little more carefully than some other makers and resellers do.

    As the others have said, you can use any type of 12AX7s in the premap without adjusting anything - you can even substitute other types such as 12AT7, 12AU7, 12AY7 and 5751 in one or more positions if you want to experiment with cleaner or clearer tones, and they will all operate correctly.

    For power tubes you will need to use a set that are in the right bias range, but any reputable reseller will be able to give you a set that will work fine without needing to modify the amp. FWIW, NOS tubes were made to far higher tolerances than modern ones, and will almost always bias correctly anyway. They also last far longer and IMO sound better (both preamp and power tubes) than any new-production type I know of. I've put many sets of old-production tubes into Mesa amps and never had to rebias one... including with 7581As, which are not technically quite the same type as 6L6s, but are a ruggedized military equivalent (that IMO sound great too).
     
  8. jimmybcool

    jimmybcool Supporting Member

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    OK, so some advice would be appreciated.

    I purchased a used Mesa Mark IV. I have no idea how many miles are on it or the condition of the tubes. I do know the lead channel warms up slower than the other 2 channels.

    I am assuming the best course of action is to simply replace all the preamp tubes. The simplest action is to buy 5 12AX7 tubes and plug them in.

    If this is true, where would be the best choice for tubes? New "matched" Mesa tubes are $15 each.

    I found NOS tubes from thetubestore.com for $90 for all 5. Then again should I opt for the triode matching and would it matter?

    And should I just bite the bullet and replace the power tubes as well and same question with what?

    At a total cost of around $150-200 for all tubes replaced it seems a small price for the savings I got by buying a used amp.
     
  9. wsaraceni

    wsaraceni Member

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    you can just replace them with any tube, but different tubes will sound differently, so without experimenting, you might or might not like what you hear. i would go with someone like mike @ kcanostubes.com and tell him what you have. he might be able to suggest what certain tubes will sound like and recommend what you need. his prices are good, and if it costs you anything extra at all (it probably wont) you'll end up making it back in customer service.
     
  10. spikeRI

    spikeRI Member

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    never buy anything from that idjit again...............he sure don't know squat about tubes......go ask him if you can sub 7025's for 12AX7's.....
     
  11. wsaraceni

    wsaraceni Member

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  12. Gril Grissom

    Gril Grissom Member

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    Mike at KCA will deal straight with you. Like others have said, tell Mike what amp you have. He suplied tubes for my Boogie(s).

    I think spikeRI may have been talking about that uninformed salesman, not Mike.

    And as others have said: preamp tubes not a problem, choose who you wish. Power tubes go with the middle ranges. Which Boogies are geared for, as I remember.

    I hope Mesa gets outa GC someday... :( IF GC was the culprit in this case.
     
  13. Blue Strat

    Blue Strat Member

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    Which "idjit" are you talking about?:confused:
     
  14. jimmybcool

    jimmybcool Supporting Member

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    Well, I ended up with a full tube replacement kit from Eurotubes using standard 6L6s and 12AX7s. The tubes are JJs. Total cost was like $108 delivered and I mean delivered. I think I ordered Monday night like after business hours and I have them NOW in my amp on Wednesday night. Where the hell is Eurotubes - next door?

    ANyway, the amp rocks now. At first I had problems cause the new tubes had more volume and briliance than the old ones. After some work I got it dialed in and it rocks. Course, I still have the channel volumes set at like 2 and master volume around 2. Hey, I practice in a SMALL room. :dude
     
  15. Helix

    Helix Member

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    Thanks for all the replies guys! It wasn't GC, it was a small shop. I figure he told me about the tubes so that it would be less trouble for him (didn't want me blowing tubes and calling, ect.) still a bad sales move.

    The amp is a Mesa Solo 50 (The single Recto) and it's new, I was just thinking of getting some EL34's to try out. I've read alot of people like JJ's for power tubes and EH for preamp tubes, in general.

    I imagine there are a ton of options, all sounding slightly different, that a person could choose from. I'm wonding what a good starting point, or safe middle, would be. Making it more rock and modern rock, and less metal.


    Thanks:)
     
  16. spikeRI

    spikeRI Member

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    THE SALESGUY!!!!!!!!

    not Mike, Mike is 1st class all the way and has forgot more about tubes than I will ever know......

    sorry for the confusion and my laziness(to identify the guilty) before lobbing a idjit reference....
     
  17. Blue Strat

    Blue Strat Member

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    I loved the "idjit" reference regardless of who it was aimed at.:dude
     
  18. spikeRI

    spikeRI Member

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    one of my favorite phrases............I was told its from Bugs Bunny gargon
     
  19. Peter C

    Peter C Member

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    I have a Rect-o-verb (the reverb version of the Single Recto) and I've been trying different 12ax7's lately. Have some fun by getting a bunch of different tubes and listening to the sound differences. The sound will definintely change from tube to tube.

    Here's a quick rundown of what I've found (totally in my opinion only, and trying to find the sound in *my* head):
    JJ's - too much highs if you use them all - I use one or two to "modern" up the sound a bit
    GT-ax7M - pricey, but was a good sound in V1
    Mesa Russian 12ax7 - smoother than the stock Mesa's that were in my amp (I got mine in 1999, so their "stock" tubes may have changed).
    After that, I went NOS and tried a bunch of different makes and models. As I mentioned, each was different - not only were certain frequencies enhanced/muted, but I found the guitar's sustain changed from tube to tube as well.

    Right now I have a RFT ECC83 in V1, Raytheon in V2, Mesa Russian in V3, RCA 12AX7a (grey plate) in V4 and a JJ ECC83s in V5 - and I'm still not quite there yet. There are some others I really want to try, but I think that's getting in the next price range for tubes (is it worth it to me to drop $100 on a Mullard 12ax7?).

    Good luck and have fun!
     
  20. Euthymia

    Euthymia Member

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    jimmybcool: I'm curious as to what brand/model of tubes you finally got from Eurotubes.

    Helix: my favorite tubes for retubing Mesa preamps are 12AX7EH's.

    Here at my repair shop, I usually stick to just 2 different preamp tubes, depending on what the customer wants.

    People who play harder styles, who want the most gain and distortion possible get the 12AX7EH's.

    People who think their amp already sounds too edgy or play country or jazz get JJ ECC83S's.
     

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