What's the difference in tone between 6L6 and 6V6 tubes?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by Animal Mother, Jan 6, 2010.

  1. JRguitarguy

    JRguitarguy Senior Member

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    GE/ken-rads are awesome too but hate higher voltages and tend go gassy real fast, those CBS/hytrons are awesome too, bunch damn good 6v6 lol, tungsols etc, those spaceship looking Westinghouse GTAs are killer too.
     
  2. Nurk2

    Nurk2 "Ignore Everybody" ~Hugh MacLeod

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    Bruce Egnator:

    While we’re on the subject of the Rebel,

    there has been some talk about how,
    when panning from the 6V6 tubes to the
    EL84 tubes, the tone difference is not
    what some expected. It is believed that
    by simply changing power tubes you can
    make a Fender (6L6 power tubes) sound
    like a Marshall (EL34 power tubes) or
    a Vox (EL84 power tubes). What you
    are hearing in the Rebel when you go
    from 6V6 to EL84 is the real differ
    -
    ence in the sound of those two types of
    tubes. It may not be quite as dramatic
    as many believe but that is the reality of
    it. The tonal difference between vari
    -
    ous types of tubes is more subtle than
    many believe. A few people have even
    been disappointed when using the TUBE
    MIX features because their expectations
    of what should happen were really not
    based in fact. The intangible charac
    -
    teristic is the change in “feel” between
    different types of tubes. These subtle
    differences do become more apparent at
    higher volume when the power tubes are
    “pushed” a little more into overloading.
    What you are hearing in the Rebel is
    “the truth” about power tubes
     
  3. Geddy61

    Geddy61 Member

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    hello.lookin for some advice.i have an amp that had 2 6L6's in it.
    the amp is 30 watts.amp was not sounding to clever,breaking up etc.
    guy who repaired the amp said the 6L6GC's were too powerful for it,and changed them for 2 6V6GT's.he told me 6L6's were mainly for 50,60 watt amps.is what he said right ?
     
  4. Seegs

    Seegs Member

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    The first part sums it up for me...

    I've only ever had 2X 6V6 amps and they not have nearly enough volume or headroom for me...so based on that I do not agree that both are great...

    I have a big love/hate with 2X 6V6s amps...they do not work at all for me live...

    6L6s are by far my fave tubes...
     
  5. Timbre Wolf

    Timbre Wolf GoldMember Supporter Gold Supporting Member

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    The amp repair guy sounds off-base. A 30 watt amp would not be powered by two 6V6GT. There are many 30W amps powered by two 6L6GC.

    - Thom
     
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  6. larsjm

    larsjm Member

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    I don't know if this was already mentioned, but one of the most important things to consider in a tube amp's output stage is the bias method. This will have a much bigger impact on the tone and response of an amp than changing the output tube type.
    You have two options: Cathode bias, or fixed bias.
    Most 6V6-based amps use cathode bias, which is why they sound the way they do. Most 6L6-based amps are fixed bias, which is why they sound the way they do.
    Cathode bias generally gives you more sustain, is less efficient, and generally sounds more dynamic (breaks up earlier).
    Fixed bias gives you greater efficiency (about 40% higher wattage for the same tube), and generally has a tighter-sounding response across the audio spectrum. Hence the reason people think 6L6's have more bass and treble.
    So, in the example above, a good amp tech who knows what he's doing would not swap 6L6's in favor of 6v6's if a customer says the amp is "too clean and not breaking up". The 6L6's were most likely running fixed bias, so the better option is to change them over to cathode bias. This will reduce power and allow the 6L6's to break up sooner, while giving the amp a more vintage, spongier response.
    As mentioned earlier, swapping power tubes is not generally recommended because it changes your output impedance, thus requiring an output transformer change as well; unless you want expensive repairs down the road.
    If you want a different sound, change the bias method.
     
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  7. drbob1

    drbob1 Silver Supporting Member

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    Palmer makes an amp called the Dreis (3 in German) which has an EL84, a 6V6 and a 6L6 in the output stage (with a Marhsallesque preamp). Switching them in, individually changes bass response and overall volume a bit, but it's less dramatic than you'd expect. Similarly, the Emery Superbaby allows one to use any combination of octal output tubes, or an EL84 with an adapter. The volume changes more than the tonality. Granted these are all single-ended amps that don't have huge transformers, so they don't take full advantage of the bass extension of the 6L6 tube, but I'd argue that a Brimar 6V6 sounds closer to an EL34 and an RCA closer to a 6L6 than vice versa.

    I'm going to have to go with the "circuit is more important than the tube type" here as well. Another example, I had a Deluxe Reverb II which I hated the distortion in-cranking the clean channel, using a pedal or using the distortion channel. Changed out the 6V6s to 6L6s (had to do a little work to make it bias up correctly, and use a speaker mismatch). It didn't help at all-distortion was still ratty sounding with not balls. The circuit swamped the tube type in the sound I was getting.

    As to changing power tubes from one to the other, if you can bias it properly and the plate voltage is reasonable for the specific tube brand, it should be fine. For best clean volume you'll want to match the impedance, which is double for 6L6s to 6V6s, by using the correct speaker type.
     
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  8. Guitar Dave T

    Guitar Dave T Member

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    Problem is The Deluxe Reverb, probably the most popular 6V6 amp of all time, is fixed bias, not cathode.
     
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  9. StummerJoe

    StummerJoe Member

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    I've always found 6l6's to be more boomy on the bottom and glassy on the highs. Makes for a wonderful clean sound. 6v6's I find to have more midrange and earlier breakup. Both are fantastic.
     
  10. jujube

    jujube Member

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    :rotflmao
     
  11. ProfRhino

    ProfRhino Member

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    true, it all depends on the circuit to a large degree.
    but how about a slightly different angle :
    folks who say they love how 6L6s sound overdriven, are you really running your preamp as clean as possible, but cranking the amp up so that the power amp distorts ?
    my own experience is different.
    6L6 are super punchy, full and stable while clean (this can get mighty loud even with "only" two of them), which also makes them ideal for squeaky clean amplification of a distorted preamp signal - the concept behind the majority of modern higher gain MV circuits, starting with the Mark II and ODS generation and including all 19" rack systems and the popular "metal amps".

    you can only really judge / compare 6L6 and 6V6 character in really similar basic NMV circuits, optimized for the specific tube type, and cranked up most of the way.
    which would basically suggest Fenders of the same generation, using the same cab. :idea
    others are better qualified to comment here, I always seem to get my best Fender tones from non-Fender amps ... :D.

    my personal, unscientific experience is as follows, in a nutshell :
    both are stellar clean tubes, the 6V6 (especially super quiet - I've seen Brent Mason set his volume around 1.5 ! :omg ) can get really sweet, and (only the very best) can have a super nice transition into harmonic crunch.
    yes, they often have a tendency to compress, though that might be more related to circuit and volume than the tube itself.
    they are not ideal for true cleans at high stage volume, by any means.
    6L6 on the other hand could be seen as the exact opposite in this regard, played super quietly they tend to be a bit generic, they absolute shine in clean high volume scenarios (punchy, clear, in your face), but can get a bit harsh when overdriven (some players like exactly that).

    like I threatened, only an unscientific (but properly biased ! :p) opinion, all ime,
    ymmv,
    Rhino
     
  12. Muttlyboy

    Muttlyboy Member

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    I was pretty much under the impression that 6v6s are more midrange focused and seem to have less highs and lows than 6L6s.

    But that isn't always the case.
    Not too long ago I got a pair of NOS GE "wafer base" 6v6s that are very scooped compared to the other 6v6s I have around.

    They sound great with my Princeton, but kind of shrill with my Deluxe Reverb.
    I was surprised at how different the the sound was between the tubes.

    I was told by Greg Levy of Hi-Test that the wafer base GE tubes are like that and have a different EQ
     
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  13. ProfRhino

    ProfRhino Member

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    similar experience here.
    I liked their tone a lot in my Blue Angel (think DR with more mids), but ultimately I felt they sounded a bit too "small" in that amp, and settled for green STR415 Sylvania 6L6 (works in that specific circuit, wouldn't want to try in a Fender without consulting a good tech).
    ymmv,
    Rhino
     
  14. Jr Deluxe

    Jr Deluxe Member

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    6L6s sound like L. 6V6s have more of a V-ish sound.

    JJ 6v6s sound like 6L6s.
     
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  15. ProfRhino

    ProfRhino Member

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    some evil historians claim that (in combination with an open window) was the inspiration behind the Flying V ! :dude

    rotfl, :banana:bonk:banana
    Rhino
     
  16. ProfRhino

    ProfRhino Member

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    you're right, 30W would really mean pushing the limits.
    but then, a Kelley @ half power (30W nominal) is a lot more amp than e.g. a DR (22W nominal) ...
    only going by experience, have not measured either, and the circuits are different as well.
    just saying,
    Rhino
     
  17. Muttlyboy

    Muttlyboy Member

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    Blue angel is the only Mesa that I ever liked.

    At one point I had a second hand Boogie Mk3 Simulclass graphic EQ Hardwood with some kind of 25 pound 12. It had to weigh at least as much as a Twin Reverb.

    I could not get any sound out of it that I liked
     
  18. drbob1

    drbob1 Silver Supporting Member

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    I would agree with this: Kelleys have the iron to be pretty authoritative at "only" 30w. And are engineered carefully enough not to destroy tubes at the voltages that he's using. Just to give a sort of example of how that part works: my Superbaby, with a KT88 puts out maybe 7w. It's not optimized for a KT88-not enough voltage and not running with the screens and the plates separated, IIRC. A KT88 in a Fender PS300 is putting out 75 watts-running at very high voltage, in push pull, with the screens, grids and plates carefully controlled!
     
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  19. larsjm

    larsjm Member

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    I don't understand what the "problem" is. My post simply stated that you can change the sound/power/feel of an amp by changing it's output tube bias method...period. I wasn't advocating any particular method over the other or any particular amp over the other or any particular tube over the other. And I did say "most" 6v6 amps are cathode biased. I did not say "All".
     

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