NOS Tubes - I Get It

Teleplayer

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I own 6 amps; 5 TopHats and a Dr. Z. I've played guitar 42 years and used to gig all over Chicago, including some pretty sizable stages.

During the past 15-or-so years, I've been into crafting my sound through tube rolling, matching the right speakers with the right amps, etc. And I always thought I was maximizing my amp's sound and tone through the use of various new tubes.

About 6 months ago, I went on Reverb and hooked up with a cat using the name Rogue8 - not realizing when I first saw the name that it is our own TGP brother PerryR. I bought a couple NOS and ANOS preamp tubes from Perry, and they sounded great. Perry is a gentlemen and has mad knowledge/skills/testing equipment ... not to mention a great tube stash.

I dug deeper and looked for other vendors who are not highly known quantities on TGP. I found Jim Cross and Vacuum Tubes, Inc. in Orlando, FL. Read Jim's bio - he has mad chops in the industry and is very well known - has even given expert witness testimony regarding the valuation of large tube stashes for estate valuations. Jim has a bazillion NOS tubes in his collection and - like Perry - is a great cat to deal with. Plus, his prices are less - typically by far - than the more renowned sellers.

So I decided to take a giant step. Between Perry and Jim, I have re-tubed literally all my amps. They are all running NIB, NOS and ANOS power and preamp tubes. The only tubes that are not NOS are the two 5AR4/GZ34 rectos I have (one in my King Royale and one in my Z RxES). And I will likely fix that within the next week.

Here's what I've discovered ...

First, I am too new at running NOS tubes to comment on their longevity - from a personal use perspective. But I can say the following two things:
  1. Each amp runs infinitely quieter than it did with new issue tubes. As an example, my TopHat 2x12 Club Royale is loaded with RCA smoked glass EL84s; Siemens/Ei/Telefunken preamp tubes and an NOS RCA EZ81 rectifier. The amp is literally dead quiet at idle - until it is almost all the way up. In other words, you practically have to dime it to even know it is running (at idle). Same with my King Royale. Same with the Z.
  2. The tone is so much more articulate in each amp, that it is almost like playing through new amplifiers. It is THAT noticeable. And, as an example, the NOS EL84s I run in the Club Royale, King Royale and RxES take all the fizziness/grittiness out of the tone.
Interestingly, I am also running two custom build TopHats that use matched quads of 6V6s. I decided to use Sylvania brown base military grade 6V6GTYs for power. I had Jim Cross drop ship a quad (along with a NIB RCA 7025) to Brian Gerhard at TopHat when Brian was prototyping/shaping one of the custom made circuits. Brian - who is a brilliant amp designer/builder, has been at the boutique game for 20+ years, has had his amps on stage with some huge acts, and was generally not a big believer in NOS tubes - was astounded at how punchy, articulate and dead quiet the Sylvanias run. Not to mention that he decided on the RCA in V1 (I sent him a handful of premap tubes and he crafted the circuit around what he thought sounded best) and a Telefunken ribbed plate ECC83 (thanks Perry) in the PI slot. He said the Tele had nearly dead-nuts perfectly matched sides - best match he had ever seen. And Brian has golden ears and an encyclopedic knowledge of practically every amp circuit you've heard of.

Anyway; mainly because of the two points I mentioned above, I'll likely never buy another new-issue tube. I used to be a doubter - or at least on the fence - about NOS tubes.

But I need to tell you, guy and gals, if you get a real trusted seller that has provenance on the tubes and goes above-and-beyond when it comes to testing, I think it's well worth the $$$. Plus, with the right seller/dealer, they are truly not THAT expensive.

Just one guy's $0.02. YMMV - as may your playing habits, amps and needs. These are my experiences, and I hope you all may find it helpful/useful.
 
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Yamariv

Member
Messages
599
Amen Brother, thanks for the write up!! Just got into ANOS and NOS Tubes a few months ago and there's no going back. I was a huge skeptic thinking "how much better could a NOS or ANOS tube sound...." well, I tell you its real!! I'm hooked! Changing my tubes in my AC15 has taken it from an ok amp that I was thinking of selling to an amazing crazy smooth crunch sound that is serious Audio Porn every time I turn it on!! :dude

OP, what are some of your favorite tubes and combos of 12AX7's you've tried? For my AC15 I have an early 50's GE in V1, a late 60's Mullard in V2 and a 60's Sylvania in V3. Those three are magical together but I give most of the credit to the GE, it's gotta be the best underappreciated tube I've found
 

PurpleJesus

Moderation is key
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,682
I own 6 amps; 5 TopHats and a Dr. Z. I've played guitar 42 years and used to gig all over Chicago, including some pretty sizable stages.

During the past 15-or-so years, I've been into crafting my sound through tube rolling, matching the right speakers with the right amps, etc. And I always thought I was maximizing my amp's sound and tone through the use of various new tubes.

About 6 months ago, I went on Reverb and hooked up with a cat using the name Rogue8 - not realizing when I first saw the name that it is our own TGP brother PerryR. I bought a couple NOS and ANOS preamp tubes from Perry, and they sounded great. Perry is a gentlemen and has mad knowledge/skills/testing equipment ... not to mention a great tube stash.

I dug deeper and looked for other vendors who are not highly known quantities on TGP. I found Jim Cross and Vacuum Tubes, Inc. in Orlando, FL. Read Jim's bio - he has mad chops in the industry and is very well known - has even given expert witness testimony regarding the valuation of large tube stashes for estate valuations. Jim has a bazillion NOS tubes in his collection and - like Perry - is a great cat to deal with. Plus, his prices are less - typically by far - than the more renowned sellers.

So I decided to take a giant step. Between Perry and Jim, I have re-tubed literally all my amps. They are all running NIB, NOS and ANOS power and preamp tubes. The only tubes that are not NOS are the two 5AR4/GZ34 rectos I have (one in my King Royale and one in my Z RxES). And I will likely fix that within the next week.

Here's what I've discovered ...

First, I am too new at running NOS tubes to comment on their longevity - from a personal use perspective. But I can say the following two things:
  1. Each amp runs infinitely quieter than it did with new issue tubes. As an example, my TopHat 2x12 Club Royale is loaded with RCA smoked glass EL84s; Siemens/Ei/Telefunken preamp tubes and an NOS RCA EZ81 rectifier. The amp is literally dead quiet at idle - until it is almost all the way up. In other words, you practically have to dime it to even know it is running (at idle). Same with my King Royale. Same with the Z.
  2. The tone is so much more articulate in each amp, that it is almost like playing through new amplifiers. It is THAT noticeable. And, as an example, the NOS EL84s I run in the Club Royale, King Royale and RxES take all the fizziness/grittiness out of the tone.
Interestingly, I am also running two custom build TopHats that use matched quads of 6V6s. I decided to use Sylvania brown base military grade 6V6GTYs for power. I had Jim Cross drop ship a quad (along with a NIB RCA 7025) to Brian Gerhard at TopHat when Brian was prototyping/shaping one of the custom made circuits. Brian - who is a brilliant amp designer/builder, has been at the boutique game for 20+ years, has had his amps on stage with some huge acts, and was generally not a big believer in NOS tubes - was astounded at how punchy, articulate and dead quiet the Sylvanias run. Not to mention that he decided on the RCA in V1 (I sent him a handful of premap tubes and he crafted the circuit around what he thought sounded best) and a Telefunken ribbed plate ECC83 (thanks Perry) in the PI slot. He said the Tele had nearly dead-nuts perfectly matched sides - best match he had ever seen. And Brian has golden ears and an encyclopedic knowledge of practically every amp circuit you've heard of.

Anyway; mainly because of the two points I mentioned above, I'll likely never buy another new-issue tube. I used to be a doubter - or at least on the fence - about NOS tubes.

But I need to tell you, guy and gals, if you get a real trusted seller that has provenance on the tubes and goes above-and-beyond when it comes to testing, I think it's well worth the $$$. Plus, with the right seller/dealer, they are truly not THAT expensive.

Just one guy's $0.02. YMMV - as may your playing habits, amps and needs. These are my experiences, and I hope you all may find it helpful/useful.
I agree that old tubes are the way to go. For folks that balk at the entry price there are LOTS of anos tubes for $20 that greatly outperform any modern equivalent.

Also, OP, you gotta try out different rectifier tubes now. I found they make a big difference too. :)
 

BlueRiff

Senior Member
Messages
7,745
I own 6 amps; 5 TopHats and a Dr. Z. I've played guitar 42 years and used to gig all over Chicago, including some pretty sizable stages.

During the past 15-or-so years, I've been into crafting my sound through tube rolling, matching the right speakers with the right amps, etc. And I always thought I was maximizing my amp's sound and tone through the use of various new tubes.

About 6 months ago, I went on Reverb and hooked up with a cat using the name Rogue8 - not realizing when I first saw the name that it is our own TGP brother PerryR. I bought a couple NOS and ANOS preamp tubes from Perry, and they sounded great. Perry is a gentlemen and has mad knowledge/skills/testing equipment ... not to mention a great tube stash.

I dug deeper and looked for other vendors who are not highly known quantities on TGP. I found Jim Cross and Vacuum Tubes, Inc. in Orlando, FL. Read Jim's bio - he has mad chops in the industry and is very well known - has even given expert witness testimony regarding the valuation of large tube stashes for estate valuations. Jim has a bazillion NOS tubes in his collection and - like Perry - is a great cat to deal with. Plus, his prices are less - typically by far - than the more renowned sellers.

So I decided to take a giant step. Between Perry and Jim, I have re-tubed literally all my amps. They are all running NIB, NOS and ANOS power and preamp tubes. The only tubes that are not NOS are the two 5AR4/GZ34 rectos I have (one in my King Royale and one in my Z RxES). And I will likely fix that within the next week.

Here's what I've discovered ...

First, I am too new at running NOS tubes to comment on their longevity - from a personal use perspective. But I can say the following two things:
  1. Each amp runs infinitely quieter than it did with new issue tubes. As an example, my TopHat 2x12 Club Royale is loaded with RCA smoked glass EL84s; Siemens/Ei/Telefunken preamp tubes and an NOS RCA EZ81 rectifier. The amp is literally dead quiet at idle - until it is almost all the way up. In other words, you practically have to dime it to even know it is running (at idle). Same with my King Royale. Same with the Z.
  2. The tone is so much more articulate in each amp, that it is almost like playing through new amplifiers. It is THAT noticeable. And, as an example, the NOS EL84s I run in the Club Royale, King Royale and RxES take all the fizziness/grittiness out of the tone.
Interestingly, I am also running two custom build TopHats that use matched quads of 6V6s. I decided to use Sylvania brown base military grade 6V6GTYs for power. I had Jim Cross drop ship a quad (along with a NIB RCA 7025) to Brian Gerhard at TopHat when Brian was prototyping/shaping one of the custom made circuits. Brian - who is a brilliant amp designer/builder, has been at the boutique game for 20+ years, has had his amps on stage with some huge acts, and was generally not a big believer in NOS tubes - was astounded at how punchy, articulate and dead quiet the Sylvanias run. Not to mention that he decided on the RCA in V1 (I sent him a handful of premap tubes and he crafted the circuit around what he thought sounded best) and a Telefunken ribbed plate ECC83 (thanks Perry) in the PI slot. He said the Tele had nearly dead-nuts perfectly matched sides - best match he had ever seen. And Brian has golden ears and an encyclopedic knowledge of practically every amp circuit you've heard of.

Anyway; mainly because of the two points I mentioned above, I'll likely never buy another new-issue tube. I used to be a doubter - or at least on the fence - about NOS tubes.

But I need to tell you, guy and gals, if you get a real trusted seller that has provenance on the tubes and goes above-and-beyond when it comes to testing, I think it's well worth the $$$. Plus, with the right seller/dealer, they are truly not THAT expensive.

Just one guy's $0.02. YMMV - as may your playing habits, amps and needs. These are my experiences, and I hope you all may find it helpful/useful.
Wow..thanks for the post. Which brings into question - is there a market big enough to launch a company selling boutique quality tubes? Call them NOSQ - New Old Stock Quality - built exactly to specs & tolerances and materials from the old days. Very cool to hear about this outcome - I was also skeptical about NOS tubes.
 

Bush

Member
Messages
174
I'm awaiting delivery of my first pair of NOS power tubes. I bought a matched pair of Tungsram el84s from KCA NOS Tubes for my 2061x. I've heard good things about these tubes and I can't wait to install them and hear them. If I like them I will order more.
 

Yamariv

Member
Messages
599
I'm awaiting delivery of my first pair of NOS power tubes. I bought a matched pair of Tungsram el84s from KCA NOS Tubes for my 2061x. I've heard good things about these tubes and I can't wait to install them and hear them. If I like them I will order more.

This is just and opinion and some will say otherwise but beware that you "may" not notice much difference if only changing your power tubes to NOS. If you really want to change the sound of your amp, I'd suggest first changing your V1, V2 then V3 and so on.....In my experience, V1 makes the biggest difference, a huge difference actually.....
 

PurpleJesus

Moderation is key
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,682
I'm awaiting delivery of my first pair of NOS power tubes. I bought a matched pair of Tungsram el84s from KCA NOS Tubes for my 2061x. I've heard good things about these tubes and I can't wait to install them and hear them. If I like them I will order more.
I've used a quad of those in a Komet Tremwriter and they're spectacularly good. They sound great clean or pushed into distortion.

Those are actually the tubes Komet and KCA both suggested I try independently of each other.

@Timbre Wolf sold me a great older matched pair of Tungsram EL84s also! (They sound even better, but they were private stash unobtanium so I'm grateful to Thom for sharing)
 

Teleplayer

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Staff member
Messages
20,626
I've used a quad of those in a Komet Tremwriter and they're spectacularly good. They sound great clean or pushed into distortion.

Those are actually the tubes Komet and KCA both suggested I try independently of each other.

@Timbre Wolf sold me a great older matched pair of Tungsram EL84s also! (They sound even better, but they were private stash unobtanium so I'm grateful to Thom for sharing)

PJ - good to know.

I got two matched quads of NOS Russian 6n14n (7189) tubes from Perry. He bought them new in the 1980s and has had them since (Dr. Z gets his from Perry as well -- the go into the Z Wreck and Maz 18 amps). These are the real deal, and pin out like a true EL84. They are projected for 5,000 hours use.

Perry matched all 8 tubes within 1ma of each other. Crazy.

I put them in my Z RxES and script logo TopHat King Royale. Beautiful sounding tubes. They take some of the fizziness and harshness off the top. Stout, but smooth sounding.

For preamp tubes in the Z, I am running NOS Siemens ECC83 in V1; Dario Miniwatt EF86 in V2 and NOS Ei ECC83 with matched triodes in the PI slot. Amp is quiet as a church mouse.

For preamp tubes in the King, I am running NOS Siemens ECC83 in V1, NOS Ei ECC83 long silver plate in V2 and a Telefunken ECC83 ribbed plate with matched triodes in the PI slot. Until the amp is running at about 75% of full volume, you would never know it was on (at idle).
 

Teleplayer

Moder8er
Staff member
Messages
20,626
Wow..thanks for the post. Which brings into question - is there a market big enough to launch a company selling boutique quality tubes? Call them NOSQ - New Old Stock Quality - built exactly to specs & tolerances and materials from the old days. Very cool to hear about this outcome - I was also skeptical about NOS tubes.

I had a lengthy call with Aspen Pittman years ago about this. Interesting; but the market isn't really that big, all things considered.
 

PurpleJesus

Moderation is key
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,682
PJ - good to know.

I got two matched quads of NOS Russian 6n14n (7189) tubes from Perry. He bought them new in the 1980s and has had them since (Dr. Z gets his from Perry as well -- the go into the Z Wreck and Maz 18 amps). These are the real deal, and pin out like a true EL84. They are projected for 5,000 hours use.

Perry matched all 8 tubes within 1ma of each other. Crazy.

I put them in my Z RxES and script logo TopHat King Royale. Beautiful sounding tubes. They take some of the fizziness and harshness off the top. Stout, but smooth sounding.

For preamp tubes in the Z, I am running NOS Siemens ECC83 in V1; Dario Miniwatt EF86 in V2 and NOS Ei ECC83 with matched triodes in the PI slot. Amp is quiet as a church mouse.

For preamp tubes in the King, I am running NOS Siemens ECC83 in V1, NOS Ei ECC83 long silver plate in V2 and a Telefunken ECC83 ribbed plate with matched triodes in the PI slot. Until the amp is running at about 75% of full volume, you would never know it was on (at idle).
Oh, THAT Perry! I know that guy, great guy. I bought a backup set of the NOS EL84s that Z ships with the Z-Wreck when I had that amp. And, yeah, he sent me a matched set of higher headroom EL84s within 1ma of each other. Great prices too, agree on all counts. @Teleman76 was my oracle on that one. :aok
 

Bush

Member
Messages
174
This is just and opinion and some will say otherwise but beware that you "may" not notice much difference if only changing your power tubes to NOS. If you really want to change the sound of your amp, I'd suggest first changing your V1, V2 then V3 and so on.....In my experience, V1 makes the biggest difference, a huge difference actually.....

I just wanted to start with the power tubes first then move to the preamp section. Any NOS 12AX7 recommendations for a Tungsram powered Marshall ?
 

Tone Meister

Member
Messages
3,266
I just wanted to start with the power tubes first then move to the preamp section. Any NOS 12AX7 recommendations for a Tungsram powered Marshall ?

Consensus favorites for Marshall are Bugle Boy, Tungsram, Ei, Mullard longplate (V1), but I also love longplate Sylvania and longplate GE if you can source strong examples that have been screened for microphonics. The Siemens/RFT work well for earlier breakup and rolling off some high end.
 

scottrolf

Member
Messages
1,622
Well, I thought "I got it" a long time ago with NOS as well.
What I personally have found is that NOS is not always "better".
I am running a combination of NOS and Current Production in my Komets and Victoria amps.
Without naming brands, I have discovered that in the 6L6 category, Current Production to me sounded better.

Pre-amps are usually NOS with the exception of the PI.
Rectifier's are somewhat of a wildcard for me. Personally, if you can find a Rectifier with longevity that's all that really matters. NOS or not.

I guess what I'm saying, is that NOS is not always the end-all for tubes.

Just my 2 cents.....
 

sickboy79

Member
Messages
14,273
Right on Fred. I discovered NOS tubes about 15 years ago and haven't looked back. The majority of my amps have NOS tubes in the - preamp and power tubes. They make a HUGE difference.
 
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Teleplayer

Moder8er
Staff member
Messages
20,626
Well, I thought "I got it" a long time ago with NOS as well.
What I personally have found is that NOS is not always "better".
I am running a combination of NOS and Current Production in my Komets and Victoria amps.
Without naming brands, I have discovered that in the 6L6 category, Current Production to me sounded better.

Pre-amps are usually NOS with the exception of the PI.
Rectifier's are somewhat of a wildcard for me. Personally, if you can find a Rectifier with longevity that's all that really matters. NOS or not.

I guess what I'm saying, is that NOS is not always the end-all for tubes.

Just my 2 cents.....
Agree on all counts. As an example. I have an "ancient" EH 12AX7 in my stash that is one of the best sounding 12AX7 tubes I have ever heard - bar none. Sits well in my TopHat script logo Emplexador.

I am looking for longevity regarding the GZ34 thing - especially for my King Royale 2x12 combo. It has a forward-facing chassis, so when I take it out, it's really awkward and cumbersome. Especially since the transformers are beefy and have some weight to them. Thus, the less i have to mess around with it, the better.

But I must say, the current Sovtek recto actually sounds fine in that amp. I am still looking for the NOS to quiet the amp down even further. I am/was astounded at how much quieter all my amps run now.
 




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