300B Tubes - Which is Best?

Can't find anything addressing this on site so, here we go! What is your favorite 300B SET tube and why? What source do you use for these little treasures? What experience has anyone had with the Sophias, sound and company who sells them? Any thoughts on Western Electrics and that strange blue glow? Maybe they aren't as vacated of gases as some others? Anything new out there? Thanks, people.
Check out Vacuum Tube Valley, a few years ago they did a nice job testing and reporting on 300B tubes. Their latest issue is on many types of KT-88 tubes. www.vacuumtube.com
I liked the Sophia TJ 300B meshplate.
Check out 'Chilling at the Bee-Hive, A Group Test of Nine Different 300B Valves:'
The Western Electric 300B is THE class act in this arena.
They have a rated life of 40,000 hours (the 6550 in my ARC VT-100 Mk-III are reated for 2000 hours/2 years).
The designers took something like five years (from project genesis) before they reissued this classic.
I also like the Sophia Electric TJ Meshplate, which is actually just a re-branding of the Tianjin Meshplate also known as Full Music Meshplate. They are all the same, under different names, made by Tianjin. Beats the WE.
My experience is that the amps you're using do make a difference since WE's and meshies have distinctive sonic signatures. Call Jim Ricketts of TMH audio. He's exceedingly knowledgable. Also keep in mind your ears are subjective. You may find that too much transparency is a little too much. If using WAVAC amps from Japan then my vote is for meshies. TMH audio.com or 937 439 2667
Stereophile did a comparison of 300B tubes a while back. It is archived on their web site.
I like the WE ones. They were moving recently and setting up a new production line somewhere down south, so supply of them is hard to find at the moment - maybe sold out temporarily. They set the standard in this tube and have been doing so for 60+ years.

40,000 hours is fairly unrealistically optimistic. A lot depends on the amp, but even driven at low power, it's not likely to get 40,000 hours out of a set, despite the 'myth' about that. Guaranteed they will be pretty spent even @ half that usage. Tubes just dont' last that long, esp. power tubes. (think: that's 8 hours a day for 13-14 years straight. No....just not realistic)

They made the 'old' version up until 1989, then stopped, thinking there was no more market. They brought the line back up some years later, in the 90s... I don't think it took them 5 years just to restart the line (though they are notoriously slow, re: product developement) - most of the tooling and some of the workers are originals from the old production. There's tons of good info on this @ their site, www.westernelectric.com

Can anyone give me their experiences with the Sophias as regards music making ability, reliability, and the company who sells them in the U.S.? Thanks, guys.
Dear Tomryan:

We are in Washington, DC area. Check out www.sophiaelectric.com or call me at 703-204-1429

It may be an old thread but I will continue it. I have used the Westerns, the TJ mesh plate regular, and the newer Sovetek. All are very good and very reliable. The newer Sovtek's are in the same sound line as the WEs. I am very impressed by them. A WE may be better, but mine always had some harmonic problems which WE failed to verify. The TJs, like the Sophias are excellent and have good bass. All are subject to your ears. I use mine in Cary 805c Anniversary amps with Quad 988 speakers. The detail of the speakers seem to lend themselves to mesh plates. I have yet to try the new Valve Art or the better TJs / Shphias and would like to.
Keep in mind the Cary 805 uses the 300b as a driver tube not an output tube. Just an FYI for others.

Aren't the TJs a Sofia product? Aren't they one of their versions of s 300B?

Also, I noticed Gjgoldy has Cary 805s. I'm still interested in anyone who has tried someone they like better than W.E.s as power tubes. Mine are still chugging along after three years and half years with no noticable deterioration.
I thought Cary used the 300B up to a threshold (10-12 watts?) then the "big gun" (845/211) kicks in up to the rated maximum (50 watts?).
Dweller - no. it's a 3-stage amp.

O.K. What does that mean?
3 gain stages. No amp (save for a couple DIY ones I know of) have multiple choices for output tubes, with one acting as a mid-stage booster amp in the manner you described.

input->driver->output or driver->driver->output is how the Cary is set up, as is any 3-stage amp (in the most general terms). each stage adds gain.

ED_SAWYER: You are right. The following taken from Stereophile Archives:

"The following circuit description is based on information provided by Dennis Had. The input signal is DC-coupled to the grid of a 6SL7 dual-triode operated in parallel as a single voltage-gain amplifier. The 6SL7's plate is AC-coupled to the control grid of an EL34 pentode wired as a triode (footnote 4). The EL34 dissipates about 19W of class-A power and produces 4W of audio power to drive the grid of the 211 through an inter-stage transformer of air-gap design. The 211 is cathode-biased, and the output stage is operated in class-A1 (no grid current) up to 25W output. As the drive to the 211's grid is further increased, operation shifts to class-A2. The 211's grid goes positive (and starts to draw current) while the output power with increased efficiency reaches about 50W. The ability to drive a 211's grid positive is made possible by the use of the inter-stage transformer coupling between the EL34 and 211."

The Cary 805 does shift gears but only within the 845/211 output tube.
BTW, the previous info is from the "B" version of the 805 amp so substitute "300B" for "EL34" and "845" for "211".

Regards, Ken
I am using WE 300B in my 805 AEs amps(using 211 Amperex output) which make the sound way better than Sophia Mesh plate or Valve Art 300B.
I've tried the JJ's (thin midrange and too aggressive), the Svetlana's (excellent midrange, laid back, slightly thin in body), and the Western Electric's. For anyone to suggest that the Svetlana's are close to the WE's is IMHO downright crazy! The Western Electric's are the most remarkable tube I've ever heard of ANY kind. They deliver unadulterated, balanced, full-bodied music, plain and simple. I find myself listening to songs that I used to skip over. With the WE's, nothing is harsh. When listening to Karen Carpenter yesterday, my wife said, "She sounds alive." Enough said.
Although there is a growing consensus that the mesh plate tube design are very appealing, they are not exactly to spec wrt max plate dissipation. This means that some amp design like VAC that operate their 300B at high plate voltage will not be compatible with offerings from Sophia or TJ. I should also note that not everyone likes the WE tube sound. Your best bet is to try if you can before buying. The latest offerings from Valve Art and EH are very good for the money, even if not the cream of the crop.
My current fave: KR or EAT offerings.
Bar none, the AVVT 300B-C37 is my favorite 300B. Others worth consideration are the Emission Labs 300B and 300BXLS as well as the Western Electric 300Bs. I like the KR 300BXLS in amps that can use it to its full potential, but I do not like it as a standard 300B.

Sophia's "mesh" tube is a Chinese relabel (from all accounts, it's a TJ/Full Music). These wannabe-meshes are decent tubes. They're grainless with good dynamic extension. My problem with these tubes it their distant and unimpressive midrange. All the pairs I've tried (whether it be Sophia or TJ) were the same. I really do believe people are so enamored with these tubes because of the pretty lights.