Sophia Mesh Plates with the ceramic base and gold pins.
I did a search on AA and also checked the 300b reviews as Gregm suggested (thanks). Again, it was a mixed bag with individual preferences. Although WE, TJ and others were highly recommended but I'm trying to stay within a budget since I'll be needing a quad set + a pair as back ups.
I think I'll try some Chinese Valve Art titanium/mesh plates with gold pins as JB1094 suggested. People on AA seem to like them as well and the price is within my budget.
I just hope they don't die on me overnight...there seems to be reliability issues with some Chinese and Russian mfd. tubes. Most or all tubes that are shipped for "export" seems to be the "B" grade and tubes bought here in North America are probably "C" grade.
Oh well, passion is the enemy of precision...
Vu, of Deja Vu Audio, recently sent me a pair of his custom 300b monos with his best rare vintage transformers. He chose EH Gold Grid for that amp. My Art Audio sounds best with the Sophia Princess and with my Welborne DRD I like the EH. Point is in some circuits one brand may sound better than another and of course, it's all about your own individual taste. I will add this, the WE sounds fantastic in all of mine.
Which set of trannies did Vu use in your 300b amps? I am guessing that you have his pushpull amp -- I don't recall any single ended amp that he makes with vintage transformers. I am quite familiar with his amps, both the ones with old Chicago and the ones with Acrosound TO-330s. Personally, I like his amps with the new Western 300b. I am sure that NOS Westerns would be even nicer, but that would be really pricey.
By the way, I have one of Vu's pushpull 45 amp (Acrosound TO-330). It is currently not in use (replaced by an Audionote Kageki), but I really like the amp and plan some day to use it as the bass amp in an active bi-amp setup.
I am curious if WE 300B's will eventually be in your future? If so, you might want to consider a very inexpensive set of 300B's until you are ready for the WE investment. I have tried KR 300BXLS, KR 842VHD, Sophia Meshplate, and finally, WE's. To my ears, the WE's really are worth the price. Don't make the mistake that I did of spending as much on various makes of 300B's when you could just go for the WE's in the first place.
The trannies were the Acrosound, not sure of model #, and the amp was pushpull. Vu's amps have a beautiful sound to them. He told me he does make single ended but the price jumps to 20k or more because it's much harder to make a transformer for SE so they are rarer and much more $. I wish I could of tried the WE in them but I only have 1 pair.
The first time I spoke with Vu, I told him I had Apogee Duetta Sigs and he offered to send me a one of his 2a3 pushpulls. I thought this was a bad idea but I had some other speakers I could try them on also. Well the 2a3/Apogee combo put out some of the nicest music I've ever heard within of course certain spl's.
Yeah, I've condidered the WE route. Many people say the old 40's & 50's vintage is the way to go. Ebay seems to be the only place to pick these up but at $1200 and upwards for a pair!? I don't want to risk buying a bad tube or a fake...alternately, the newer production WE is tempting but I gotta' think about the loved ones this X'Mas season.
I'll place the WE at the top of my X'Mas wish list and see what happens. But for now, I'll just settle for a Russian or Chinese quad set....sigh : (
I haven't heard NOS WE 300b's from the 40's or 50's. No doubt, they are very good and likely better than the new production. Mine were manufactured in the last quarter of 2004. All I can say is that the new version is extremely good, and the best I've heard in my system. Plus, with a 5 year warranty and no fear of getting a fake or bad tube, it's tough to go wrong. Fortunately, I only needed a single pair for my system. It would have been a lot tougher for me to justify a quad. Good luck with your choice!
I have dual monobloc Push Pull 2A3/45 amp from Vu using vintage Chicago transformers. I use it to drive various Spendors (SP100's, S3/5's ) and Soliloquys 5.3 and SMA 2A3's with tremendous success and even my Quad ESL 63's. It is sweeter and more dynamic than any SS or SET I have tried including my Korneff 2A3/45 which can get close on high effeciency speakers or horns. The Sophia 2A3 and 45 mesh plates sound the best in it next to vintage RCA 2A3's. If the sophia 300B's are as good as their mesh plate 45's I would suggest trying them.
My experience with the 300Bs is limited in recent years to using them in my Reimyo PAT777 amp. I initially heard the amp with 1960s WE 300Bs, but when I got mine it had new production 1990s WEs. Later I managed to get some 1960s WE and found them incomparably better than what I initially had. I have a pair of TJ 300B mesh plates which I have also tried. I actually preferred the initial 1990s WEs better. I once tried the KR 300Bs versus the TJs in another 300B amp and did not like them.
I know that older WEs cost lots of money, but nevertheless, they are superior in my amp in my opinion.
The dealer that sold me my SET amp told me to stay away from Electro-Harmonix. On the other hand, their 6922 gold pins are a mainstay in my push-pull amp. I would like to know if the 300B from EH is actually bad. I'd like to think that, if they can make a 6922 that whoops NOS tubes, they can make a pretty decent 300B.