300B or 845?

am new to tubes.
I have read the archives.
Can anyone explain the inherent differences between the sonic character of 300B and 845 tubes?
Given the amp cicuits are good and built to utilise the strengths of the tube - what differences are audible on 96db sensitivity speakers?
My music is all acoustic - and 90% is female vocal. I love the sound of a sweet intimate vocal - there are not that many - plus single instruments: guitar, viola, flute, fiddle. I like melody and rhythm. I don't cope with massed instruments be it orchestral or rock bands.
Any advice is deeply appreciated.

Showing 2 responses by jax2

For your musical tastes a well put together SET system would be ideal, IMO. Any opinions about the two tubes you ask about will be generalizations and will largely depend upon just how those tubes are implemented within a specific amp design. Power supplies are also very important in a SET amplifier, as in any amplifier. There are great 300B amps, as there are mediocre 300B amps. Same goes for any tube. Assuming you are considering a SET implementation of the tubes you mention, a 96db speaker would be just about right for a smallish to moderate room to enjoy the splendors of 8 watts of SET amplification done right. Synergy of amp and speaker is paramount with low-powered SET amps though so care should be taken - research your selections. I have no experience with the 845 to speak of. I believe the designs that use them are generally more expensive. The tubes themselves are less expensive than 300B's but do not last as long and there seems to be a more limited selection. Check with member Gunbei (Dean) - He's been loving his Bel Canto SE40 which uses the 845 tube. I can tell you my experience with the 300B tube in my system excells in every area you mention. It is not as good in orchestral nor Rock. But with vocals and acoustic solo instruments I have heard nothing better. You can read plenty about these tubes, and different amps that use them, both here in the archives as well as over in Audio(SET)Asylum. I won't wax rhetorical on stuff already said much better than I could say it, suffice to say, good choice...you've obviously done your research.

Per Philefreak, I'd agree on the suggestion to try listening to some 2A3 SET amps, especially an amp like the Wright 3.5. But I would add that you'll be pushing the limits at 96db efficiency if you like listening at louder levels on some music. If you go that route I might suggest very careful speaker selection as you are only talking about 3 watts of power at that point. Those three wats are pretty magical if done right though. I can give you my own comparison of 2A3 vs 300B: I'd agree that the 2A3 does vocals like no other tube, but in a SET configuration, in my experience, it has come with what I might term a lack of fullness in the range. The 2A3 tube in SET is all about midrange and upper midrange. The lows are not a strong point with the 2A3. I would put that choice at the extreme end of selection in considerations, though if you truly do listen to 90% female vocals, I'd say it'd be an excellent suggestion as well, given the caveat that you'll be looking at different speakers. I do love the Wright Mono 10's which use 2A3's in a push/pull configuration to yield about 11 watts. This, to me, yields a fuller sound from those tubes, while maintaining that magic midrange potential. I'm not sure if there are other 2A3 amps that use the tube in that way, but it may be another choice to consider. It is closer in fullness to my 300B amp, while having a bit of an edge in female vocals (a bit more sweet and airy). In my 300B amp I would say it is a more balanced implementation of the strengths of SET and less of a sacrifice in any one.

As far as the overpriced WE 300B tubes, do keep in mind that they are by no means the only good choice. There are plenty of decent 300B's out there that you don't need to sign over your first born to obtain. Certainly the WE's are an outstanding tube, and I use a pair myself, but the more recent production tubes typically can be found for $400-800 pair and have a predicted lifespan of 10,000 hours. I've read a few recent shootouts and comments here that maintain that the newer Svet's and the JJ gold's are not far off the mark, and to some ears may be superior than the WE's. There's an abundance of 300B's to choose from in current production. Your selection of current production 845 tubes is quite limited AFAIK. 2A3's also, though not quite as limited, though the simple Sovtek 2A3's are actually excellent tubes in my amps, and well respected. NOS 2A3's go for some pretty large coin too, though not quite as much as the 300B's that were mentioned, which I think is ridiculous personally.