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I owned the original V12 about 10 years ago. Of the tubes I tried, I thought the EH 6CA7 worked the best. Contrary to some, I didn't like the Svetlana SED KT88; they were very closed in on the top (no pop).
I would suggest talking to Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio. He used to sell Cary. I think he liked the new Mullard EL34, among other options. I would also suggest upgrading the other tubes. Mine used 6922s and changing those-- to NOS Siemens-- made a big difference. He could probably help you here, too.
I've done some tube rolling but with an Octave integrated. First - I can't think of any output tubes at $50-60 a pair. Most current production output tubes are closer to 50-60 each. That being said you may want to try some Genalex KT77's. My personal favorite is the original Tung Sol 6550 black plate. They carry the EL34 sound but with more bass and power. Unfortunately production was stopped in early 1960. That being any original Tung Sol (made in the USA) tube carries that characteristic to a point. But all are very expensive. Finding 12 would be difficult. But back to reality. The current KT77's are closer to 150-200 a quad.
Not being familiar with the Cary if your amp is auto biasing you would need matched tubes. Otherwise if it is a manual bias you can get away with unmatched tubes but be forewarned if you get one with a low output and you push it with higher output tubes it will be the first to go (simple version). It's always best in my opinion to buy from someone who matches tubes because factory matching is all over the place. Jim McShane is one of the best for what he carries.
BTW Tung Sol 6550 solid black or grey plates that test as new typically cost 300-500 each when you can find them.
In your situation where you'll need 12 matched tubes my advice would be to contact an experienced, reputable dealer for a recommendation within your budget. I've had great luck buying from Jim McShane.
I have a Cary Sli-80 F1 and have tried a lot of different tubes, mostly El34s. The Gold Lion KT77 matches your wants, I think, and has been a very reliable tube for me but the're about $90 a pair. The best bargain tube I've found is the 1980's Russian military 6P3S-E, which is a 6L6 type but you would definitely want to get them from someone who can test and match them. McShane sells them for less then $40 a pair.
I own the Cary V 12 and the solution for you is to buy the NOS Reflector 6L6 6n3ce from Jim McShane. That is what I did. Read Jeff Day's review of these tubes on his Blog; he used to review for 6 Moons, currently Positive Feedback. These tubes are Sublime, I agree with Jeff Day wholeheartedly. The bonus here is that these tubes cost only about $65.00 a matched quad, $195.00 for 12 tubes. They are great. Talk to Jim McShane and read Jeff Day's comments.
I did speak with Jim McShane, and he was very friendly. He recommended the Gold Lion KT 77s and the EH 6CA7, but, looking on his website it appears that those are the only two options he has in stock.
It seems like there are some folks on A-Gon and around the web who think highly of the JJ KT-77s. Anyone have any experience with them? I've got the JJ EL34L's in the amp now, and they've been pretty good. They were a damn site better than the stock Ruby Tubes.
Just to follow up - I went with the JJ KT-77s as I had pretty good luck with the last set of JJ EL34L's that i bought. So far, I like them very much. The bass is a little tighter, but the real difference is in the treble - the KT-77 just has much better extension up top. That extension translates to more three dimensionality as the ambient cues and air are more audible. As for the midrange - which is supposed to be the EL34's strength - I don't feel like any of the prized liquidity is gone, but the clarity is much better. To my ear the KT-77 is a better tube in general. Now, having said that, I'm not sure how much of that is the just the benefit of having a fresh set of tubes, but I don't remember the EL34s sounding this good when they were new.
You might want to call Cary to see if you can use the Sylvania 8417 tube. I had an Audio Electronic Supply (built by Cary) AE-25 Superamp and tried dozens of different tubes in the 6550/KT88, EL34/KT77, and 6L6/EL37 families, both new production and NOS. However, it was the Sylvania 8417 tube that blew me away with its transparency, bass depth and control, and midrange magic. No wonder Quicksilver used this late-developing tube in the 8417 monos. As good as the Tung-Sol 6550, Amperex EL34, and Western Electric 350B is, the 8417 was, at least in my amp, in another league entirely. I would imagine the V12 to be able to use this tube and IMO worth a call to Cary.
I have a 280 V12 R and also love the EL-34's. I have used EH KT 88's which are certainly more extended top and bottom but we all know do not have that magical midrange and I've also run SED Winged "C" 6550's which are somewhat of a compromise between the 2 in a good way: they still have good extension but take off a bit of the edge which the EH 88's had while smoothing out the mids in a more relaxed presentation and hinting at (but not yet approaching enough) the magic of the EL-34 mids. What I am about to try next I had to call Cary to get the OK for. Apparently if your V12 has the later generation transformers (as do mine because I checked), they are fully capable of handling the new Tung Sol KT 120's. They hold tremendous promise and should be really cool in varying degrees of triode as well, not to mention the added dynamics, headroom and punch...
BTW This is a great amp.
I will have to check the manu date, I'm pretty sure it's probably a later model (I have the "F 1" "Formula One" updated Special Edition with the Jensen Copper in oil caps and Cardas wiring as well as ??? other little stuff and a silver faceplate with black top finish in place of the Jaguar Red) but one call to Cary will help you check out the transformers yourself. I believe I was told most, if not all the "R" series have the bigger transformers so you're probably all right.I will report back when the Kt 120's arrive and break in. Good luck.