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Uh Oh, Tubes Don't Sound Different. Scientific, Controlled Variable Test.

VICOwner

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,934
Well, what I know is if you plug in 3 JJ ecc83 into my amps and play them they are dull. Pull those out and put in 3 old Mullard I61 and the amp is vibrant, chimy, and sounds correct. Power tubes:
Same story, they all have different sounds. I’m not going to claim favorites because each amp responds differently. I swap around until I find the mate for the amp.
 
Messages
6,957
While I respect the effort and the methodology here, I think there may be a false presumption:
Modern tubes all sound very much the same > Therefore, tubes don't make any difference in amps.

AFAIK, all modern vacuum tubes come from just two [EDIT: maybe four] factories, and their production is highly automated. It isn't surprising to me that these would be virtually identical regardless of brand name.
My understanding is that [most of today's tubes] are all made on the same machines.
Of course they'd test the same.

I would be very surprised if the results were still the same testing classic vintage 12AX7s made in different factories - a real Blackburn Mullard, a French Mazda, a Dutch Amperex/BugleBoy, and a long plate RCA.

Or even some less scarce & pricey 1960s/70s tubes, like American Sylvanias vs British RFTs.
IME tubes from the vacuum-tube heyday can and do exhibit audible differences in tone character.

Those who've spent enough time with one amp to be highly familiar with it can verify this by swapping a couple of different NOS tubes into their V1 slot.
 
Last edited:
Messages
6,957
Even in an actual lab, subtleties can elude the most painstaking of tests by careful researchers.

There's a guy on TDPRI who says he's proven with scientific precision that the various alnico pickup magnet types don't sound or feel different. He has extensive test equipment, and a science & engineering background.

According to him, the sole difference is strength. No differences in tone, nor in attack character, nor in tightness vs looseness in the lows - all aspects where I've noticed changes when swapping magnets.

I mentioned my experiences to this guy and suggested that perhaps certain characteristics may become moreapparent with gain and that his dead-clean tests couldn't necessarily reveal these.

He responded with,"Setup variations! Confirmation bias! You can't trust what your ears and hands tell you. Only lab tests are impartial and scientific."

In his view my personal experiences weren't relevant, and because they didn't support what he'd "proven" he decided I was personally committed to a so-called "myth" of magnets having tone character.

He dismissed me as a true believer, immune to reason. Now, I'm not anti-science, nor am I prone to making up my own alternative facts.

But in this case I believe his science to be flawed, or at least incomplete.
 

zombiwoof

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,906
While I respect the effort and the methodology here, I think there may be a false presumption:
Modern tubes all sound very much the same > Therefore, tubes don't make any difference in amps.

AFAIK, all modern vacuum tubes come from just two factories, and their production is highly automated.
It isn't surprising to me that these would be virtually identical regardless of brand name.
My understanding is that today's Mullards, JJs, and Mesas are all made on the same machines.
Of course they'd test the same.

I would be very surprised if the results were still the same testing classic vintage 12AX7s made in different factories - a real Blackburn Mullard, a French Mazda, a Dutch Amperex/BugleBoy, and a long plate RCA.

Or even some less scarce & pricey 1960s/70s tubes, like American Sylvanias vs British RFTs.
IME tubes from the vacuum-tube heyday can and do exhibit audible differences in tone character.

Those who've spent enough time with one amp to be highly familiar with it can verify this by swapping a couple of different NOS tubes into their V1 slot.
The Russian tubes, from Sovtek/EH (Sovtek, EH, Mullard, Tungsol, etc.) are made in one or two Russian factories, each is made to different specs even if they look similar.
JJ tubes are made in Slovakia, not Russia, they are an offshoot of the old Tesla tube factory.
As I understand it, there are a couple of Chinese factories making modern tubes, Shuguang is the most prevalent one.
Mesa sources tubes from all of these manufacturers, they don't make their own tubes. They are tested and relabeled with their logo.
So, more than two factories. There are a couple of other manufacturers that make receiving tubes but not audio tubes as used in music equipment.
Al
 
Messages
6,957
The Russian tubes, from Sovtek/EH (Sovtek, EH, Mullard, Tungsol, etc.) are made in one or two Russian factories, each is made to different specs even if they look similar.
JJ tubes are made in Slovakia, not Russia, they are an offshoot of the old Tesla tube factory.
As I understand it, there are a couple of Chinese factories making modern tubes, Shuguang is the most prevalent one.
Mesa sources tubes from all of these manufacturers, they don't make their own tubes. They are tested and relabeled with their logo.
So, more than two factories. There are a couple of other manufacturers that make receiving tubes but not audio tubes as used in music equipment.
Al
Good to know that in fact there still are several modern sources. For a while there was even talk of somebody tooling up to produce new tubes here in the US, but I don't think it ever got off the ground.

Even so, it's hard to imagine that today's automated production wouldn't be far more consistent than the skilled-labor methods of the 50s and 60s.

I would be very surprised indeed if similar comparison tests showed zero difference between a vintage Telefunken ECC83 and a modern JJ, or between a NOS 60s Tesla and a modern Sovtek.
 

ekkybedmond

Member
Messages
1,938
Well, what I know is if you plug in 3 JJ ecc83 into my amps and play them they are dull. Pull those out and put in 3 old Mullard I61 and the amp is vibrant, chimy, and sounds correct. Power tubes:
Same story, they all have different sounds. I’m not going to claim favorites because each amp responds differently. I swap around until I find the mate for the amp.
Amen and end of thread, I'd say.
 

NorCal_Val

Member
Messages
13,183
This video, again?
All I know, is that my Randall Satan feels tighter/quicker/punchier with the x2 KT-88s and x2 6L6s, than it did with x4 6L6s. Does it sound different? Meh, I don’t think there’s a big difference between the 2 sets. But in terms of feel/response, definitely.
 

teemuk

Member
Messages
3,207
Different tubes react differently in a circuit. However, from how they react in one circuit one can't determine how they will react in another. If difference of 6L6 and EL34 tubes in one circuit is that the EL34 has more mid-range differences in another circuit may still be entirely insignificant.

Nowhere in tube datasheets are listed specific "tone" characteristics. You merely find characteristics like plate impedance, transconductance and I/V characteristic curves. Tubes simply don't have a specific "sound" of their own.
 

Amp_Addicted

Member
Messages
688
Most of the tracks are put into a song context, so you really couldn't tell the differences between tubes. When he took out the rest of the tracks, each preamp tube did sound different. These differences might have been subtle, but proved to me why I would always default to a Shuguang 12AX7 over a JJ(they have better top end to my ears). It would have been more interesting to hear a few well known nos examples of Miniwatt, Telefunken or Sylvania 12AX7 tubes thrown into the mix to see if there was any difference between the older 12AX7 tubes vs newly made 12AX7 tubes. This is the big argument that is happening, and he avoided doing the test would be in fact more telling of whether or not older 12AX7 tubes sound better than currently made 12AX7 tubes. I wish I had that 20 minutes back as the music was beyond annoying.

Good to know that in fact there still are several modern sources. For a while there was even talk of somebody tooling up to produce new tubes here in the US, but I don't think it ever got off the ground.

Even so, it's hard to imagine that today's automated production wouldn't be far more consistent than the skilled-labor methods of the 50s and 60s.

I would be very surprised indeed if similar comparison tests showed zero difference between a vintage Telefunken ECC83 and a modern JJ, or between a NOS 60s Tesla and a modern Sovtek.
The tubes from the 50's & 60's were produced for military, industrial & hospital level performance. The tubes were far more rigorously tested in the days when they had to keep medical or military devices running rather than someone's home stereo amp. As some that used to poo poo these type differences between tube manufacturers, I would say this video didn't answer the real question though he poked at it a couple of times. Granted changing a speaker will probably change the tone of your amp more than changing a 12AX7 in the first gain stage, but the older preamp tubes are certainly more euphonic than contemporary examples. I started collecting older preamp tubes in the 90's when it was still cheap to get them. People laughed at me collecting Miniwatt, Telefunken or Mullard 12AX7 tubes...I am glad I did because I have a couple hundred of them now.

I bet JJ, Shuguang or Saratov/Reflector don't produce tubes to this standard anymore:


Here is how Shuguang does it today. The video is not as long, but that Mullard factory looks far better run:

 

BadAssBill

Member
Messages
7,460
Anyone who says there is no difference between tubes and SS/modeling has never gigged, on stage, with someone else who's not using a tube amp. Everyone has their own opinion...but IMHO it's just not the same. Anytime I've played with a musician using a SS state amp, a half dozen times or so, it somehow sonically messes everything up. It sounds enemic...the warmth is sucked out of the room. YMMV
 




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