Vintage tubes

ntmo

Member
Messages
570
I got a new amp last week. A tweed Princeton 5f2a clone. The amp was great just as it came but never one to leave well enough alone I replaced the JJ tubes, a 6V6, a 12ax7 and 5Y3 GT rectifier with vintage tubes. An RCA 12ax7 and 5Y3 and a GE 6V6 GT, all pre 1970 manufacture and USA Made. I can't decide if all I got from it was a little mojo knowing the vintage tubes are in there. My initial listening test tells me that any tone change was subtle at best. Volume seems similar but I would need more testing, putting the JJs back in for another listen to make any real comparison. Was I expecting too much?
 

RockinRob

Member
Messages
1,026
Well that's a whole can of worms, and will lead down the old path of what some people can hear and some can't. In both new and vintage amps, I have not found the differences to be so dramatic as necessitate the fervor and cost of NOS. Most people will also tell you how the old ones were so much better built, and that hasn't been my experience either.
 

LPVM

Member
Messages
2,522
There was a much bigger difference 15 - 20 years ago. Modern tubes have gotten a lot better. The difference is subtle. That's coming from a guy with a drawer full of vintage RCA, Sylvania, GE, Tung-Sol & Mullard glass. These days I only use vintage stuff in V1 and other specific tone slots of my amps. I use new JJ's or TAD's for the phase inverter and lesser quality stuff like Sovteks, EHX and similar in efx loops and other utility slots that don't effect tone. The only place I exclusively use vintage tubes is in my vintage amps (but I have a lot of those :D).
 

thosk

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,933
You'll probably hear the most difference in the pre-amp tube slot. Try just swapping between the RCA and the JJ in V1. This is where I usually hear the difference, if any.
I would also expect that JJ 6V6 to sound different as well-kinda like a 6L6.
 

ntmo

Member
Messages
570
You'll probably hear the most difference in the pre-amp tube slot. Try just swapping between the RCA and the JJ in V1. This is where I usually hear the difference, if any.
I would also expect that JJ 6V6 to sound different as well-kinda like a 6L6.
The JJ 6v6 is a lot bigger than the GE I replaced it with so the design is somewhat different. I will do some further testing this weekend. If I can't hear any difference at least I have a few spare tubes now.
 

Stu Blue

Member
Messages
3,167
JJ 12AX7s are very dark, topless almost and the JJ6v6s are just down rated 6L6s not proper 6V6s ( true 6V6s have a bigger bottom end and lively top)... so you ought to be hearing a big difference.. agood fender Tele or Strat should sound very different.. get some new strings and try again?
 

Schroedinger

Member
Messages
2,125
I have old tubes and new tubes. In any of my amps, if the amp and tubes are working correctly and properly biased, the difference between tubes is pretty subtle.

My own personal experience, the NOS power tubes seem to make a bigger difference than the preamp tubes. I have a drawer full of old preamp tubes that I don't use because they're microphonic; and sometimes, the best sounding preamp tube in a particular amp is some cheap Sovtek that came stock in a new amp. For power tubes, I really like the new JJ 6v6S tubes- but as mentioned, they're not really a 6V6, more like a 5881. Other than the JJ's, I haven't found a new tube yet that can keep up with old GE 6V6's or Sylvania 6L6's.
 

Blue Strat

Member
Messages
30,201
I always tell NOS neophytes not to expect a life changing experience, that if 5:1 longevity upgrade isn't worth it to them that they should just get new production tubes.

Despite this, many find the differences/improvements notable. But as with anything subjective, this will vary from person to person, amp to amp, music style to style, speakers, etc.
 

Custom50

Member
Messages
8,622
I always tell NOS neophytes not to expect a life changing experience, that if 5:1 longevity upgrade isn't worth it to them that they should just get new production tubes.

Despite this, many find the differences/improvements notable. But as with anything subjective, this will vary from person to person, amp to amp, music style to style, speakers, etc.
Word. The thing I like best about old tubes is that they are rugged as all hell which is a huge deal to me. If you keep in mind that NOS tubes generally last dramatically longer than new tubes it's easier to justify the higher price.

I have a bunch of old 12AX7 tubes sitting around and I find they do sound better than current tubes but not enough to make a bad amp sound good.

Longevity and reliability is what makes them appealing to me!
 

corn husk bag

Member
Messages
4,242
Word. The thing I like best about old tubes is that they are rugged as all hell which is a huge deal to me. If you keep in mind that NOS tubes generally last dramatically longer than new tubes it's easier to justify the higher price.

I have a bunch of old 12AX7 tubes sitting around and I find they do sound better than current tubes but not enough to make a bad amp sound good.

Longevity and reliability is what makes them appealing to me!
I'll buy that. Worthwhile in the long haul. Also, Speaker changes can and do make a huge difference.

Kind Regards,
Steve
 

Custom50

Member
Messages
8,622
Agreed, speaker change is one of the biggest tone changers around! I find tube changes to affect "feel" more than "tone" if that makes any sense.
 

ntmo

Member
Messages
570
The speaker is a Jensen P10Q, I like the Jensen alnicos but being new there will be some break-in required. I have an old ('80s ?) Celestion 10-25D I may try and a Weber 20 watt alnico to see if they make a difference. That said I like the amp as-is enough but any improvement is always a bonus.
 

Blue Strat

Member
Messages
30,201
Word. The thing I like best about old tubes is that they are rugged as all hell which is a huge deal to me. If you keep in mind that NOS tubes generally last dramatically longer than new tubes it's easier to justify the higher price.

I have a bunch of old 12AX7 tubes sitting around and I find they do sound better than current tubes but not enough to make a bad amp sound good.

Longevity and reliability is what makes them appealing to me!

Oh yeah, if someone starts out by saying they don't like their amp I never recommend expensive tubes. I lose a lot of sales that way. Unless you have a tube that's shot, no tube or tubes will make you love an amp that you hate.
 

gkoelling

Member
Messages
17,275
Oh yeah, if someone starts out by saying they don't like their amp I never recommend expensive tubes. I lose a lot of sales that way. Unless you have a tube that's shot, no tube or tubes will make you love an amp that you hate.
Conversely, crap tubes can make you hate an amp that you love.
 

corn husk bag

Member
Messages
4,242
The speaker is a Jensen P10Q, I like the Jensen alnicos but being new there will be some break-in required. I have an old ('80s ?) Celestion 10-25D I may try and a Weber 20 watt alnico to see if they make a difference. That said I like the amp as-is enough but any improvement is always a bonus.
Vintage p12q's are my favorite speakers. 10's I don't know?

Steve
 

DaveKS

Member
Messages
16,704
I got a new amp last week. A tweed Princeton 5f2a clone. The amp was great just as it came but never one to leave well enough alone I replaced the JJ tubes, a 6V6, a 12ax7 and 5Y3 GT rectifier with vintage tubes. An RCA 12ax7 and 5Y3 and a GE 6V6 GT, all pre 1970 manufacture and USA Made. I can't decide if all I got from it was a little mojo knowing the vintage tubes are in there. My initial listening test tells me that any tone change was subtle at best. Volume seems similar but I would need more testing, putting the JJs back in for another listen to make any real comparison. Was I expecting too much?
That's the thing, by time you switch amp off, fiddle with hot tubes or let them cool, put new tubes in, flip it on, wait for a slight warm up and then start playing again you've really lost all memory of the tone, it really is subtle to begin with, just fine tuning.

Only real way is with dual exactly matching amps/preamps that you can instantly switch A/B between.
 

okturbo

Member
Messages
40
I have a Revival 8E1 amp which is basically a 5f2a clone. It came with all new manufacture tubes. Sovtek GZ34, Tung Sol 6V6GT, and Tung Sol 12ax7...all Russian tubes.

The thing sounds great. I know the tubes won't last as long as NOS American tubes but so what....the new tubes are cheaper.

I tried a few old 12ax7's to see how they would react to a few of my pedals. An old 1960's Tung Sol...and old GE...and old RCA. None of them sounded different / good enough to change, so I put the Russian tube back in. The Russian Tung Sol pre amp tube reacts great to my Jetter Gold Standard in this amp. Classic rock tone in spades.

I bought a couple of spare Russian Tung Sol 6V6's so I'll have them when it's time, but for now....the amp rocks!

I'm very happy with the new Tung Sol's in this amp.
 

Double 07

Member
Messages
312
Good NOS pre's in comparison to new production preamp tubes is analogous to the minor leagues and the major leagues in baseball respectively. It really is a major difference/improvement in tone.
A speaker swap can actually have the most dramatic impact on the tone of an amp. But NOS tubes are also huge. If some can't appreciate the improvement, well sallieri couldn't hear the greatness Beethoven could hear either. Try as he did his ear just wasn't as musically capable.

Since there is money to be made it has attracted the unscrupulous, so there are fakes out there. So buy from a vendor you trust.
 
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Teleplayer

Moder8er
Staff member
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20,068
Interestingly, I have a bunch (about a dozen or so) Ei ECC83s from the late 90s. My fave preamp tube. They can go microphonic in a combo amp, but when they are on their game, they are beautiful sounding tubes. I dig both the silver and gray plates; and they sound great in EL84-based amps (i.e., sounded excellent in my Z Stang Ray and Prescription ES as well as all my TopHat Club and King Royales).

My single favorite 12ZX7 I own is a 15 year old EH 12AX7 that sits in the V1 slot of my 1999 TopHat 50w Emplexador. I then have one of the long plate Ei's in V2. Brian Gerhard told me the trick of putting a great long plate after a short plate or medium plate 12AX7 - he said it is like opening the flood gates of the signal coming out of V1. Spot on advice.

NOS EF86 tubes are always a crap shoot. I have 4 or 5 of them. The RFT I have sounds a bit dark. The others (Vlavo, Dario, etc.) all sound about the same.

Here's some good advice that I got from a longstanding friend of mine. He owns one of the 2 or 3 largest commercial sound reinforcement companies in the U.S. (has done significant sound work for bands like SRV, Journey when they were at their peak, King Crimson, and on and on). He's a great guitarist that has done hundreds of sessions (he as on pretty much every beer commercial in 80s and 90s) and has a monstrous vintage collection of guitars and amps.

He always has said that guys focus on stuff like tubes and cables, yet forget the single most important factor in getting any amp to perform at its peak - clean power. His sound company is know for its clean power and he has a ton of experience in that area. He said a good power conditioner will have a much great affect on an amp's tone and overall performance than any tube or cable.....yet nobody seems to focus on or understand that.
 






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