Best is Psvane 845 T, Shuguang 84 is good also.
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TJ and Sophia (and Full Music) are the same tube, yes, but Sophia tubes are specially culled, i.e., they are the best of that factory's production.
KR makes an 845 tube and I would expect it to be the best of currently available tubes. KR had a bad U.S. distributor for a few years, which resulted in KR's reputation in the U.S. taking a hit, but their new Ann Arbor-based distributor is fine. E.A.T. and Emission Labs, the other two Prague tube manufacturers, don't make 845's.
While I don't want to say that all Chinese tubes are crap - the Black Treasure stuff out of Shuguang and the TJ / Full Music / Sophia tubes can be quite good - I believe that KR and E.A.T.'s production tends to be a lot better. It can vary by production run, however, as tube manufacturing is largely artisanal and like everything else that's hand-made, a worker has good days and bad - there can be bad quality production runs from the more prestigious manufacturers, and good quality runs from the crap manufacturers - you have to have a reputable vendor to ensure that you don't get the "runts of the litter". Why are there two different prices and two different warranties offered by some vendors for what appears to be exactly the same tube? The more expensive ones with the longer warranties tested better.
I'm not sure how relevant this is to the 845's, but I just had a monster quest for PX25 tubes, which are much more scarce.....
I heard from a couple reputable sources that the KR tubes are not of the same quality now that Dr Kron has died. This was confirmed when I went ahead and bought a new pair of their PX25's - they're pretty much the only game in town for new production on these. It turned out that they weren't as robust in construction, and they didn't sound as good as my pair from a few years ago.
I'd be interested to hear if the 845's are also on the decline...
I've only had my 845 amp a bit over a year, and haven't heard that many different 845 tubes. My amp came with the basic Shuggies stock, and I also got a pair of the Psvanes with it. To me the Psvanes were better across the board, but I'm now using Shuguang 845B's, which sound better yet to me, a bit warmer, more depth & dimension to the sound.
I'd love to try the Create 845 tube, as my prior amp was a 300B, and as much as I liked the Black Treasure 300B's, I preferred the Create 300B tubes in that amp--better extension on both highs & lows, but still with a magical midrange.
As with any task to designate a "best," a best 845 tube doesn't exist. First, it depends on your amp. One of the touted advantages of tube amps is the ability to "roll" or change tubes from one brand or build variant to another. Now, I say this as a lifelong tube audio devotee: if tube changes alter the sound of an amplifier, then which produces the accurate or highest fidelity sound? It becomes quite subjective. In some respects, audiophiles use tubes, like cables, as fixed parametric tone controls to tune the sound of their systems to personal preferences.
For example, nearly all of today's 845 amps ship with the cheap and ubiquitous Shuguang 845A commodity tube. It's super cheap and reasonably tough, and sounds fine out of the box. But I've not heard a single 845 amp that sounds its best with this tube, no matter how many times the maker says "the best tube is the one we ship with the amp." For most amps, the Shuguang 845B will improve everything over the 845A, at a modest increase in cost. The B tube will prove long-lasting and both electrically and physically durable, able to handle amplifier circuits that run the 845 aggressively.
But the Shuguang 845C has some interesting qualities. Its transparency, high frequency extension and transient speed are remarkable, though it produces about 20% less power than the A or B tube. It also is rated for less plate dissipation than normal spec (~75w v. ~100w in the A and B tubes) so in many amps it will have a short life and run borderline runaway, but that's a separate matter. Point is, in an amp like my Audion Black Shadow monoblocks, the 845C sounds shrill to the point of unusability unless paired with a speaker with a rolled-off top end. But if used in a Tri amp, which is voiced more like Shindo for a too-soft top end, and undynamic with rounded transient character, it *can* be an asset, depending on your preferences.
For most, the 845B is the "best" 845, because it is neutral, toneful and delivers good bass control, plus it's affordable, reliable and predictable. Some people prefer the Psvane 845-T to the Shuguang B tube, but the sonic advantage is not large and the newer T shows indications of being less reliable. It certainly hasn't established the long-term track record for reliability yet. But it's worth a try for someone restless.
The standard TJ tube has lower-than-spec plate dissipation, so it isn't universally compatible. The TJ Carbon plate that Sophia sells claims full RCA spec, so it should be fine. I haven't heard it. Nor have I yet heard Canada Fuller, Create and Synergy.
The KR 845 is the outlier. It is an interesting design innovated by Kron and it's off spec. It's dynamic, transparent, vivid. The initial version had serious reliability problems due to the ribbon filament shorting. This has allegedly been corrected though I can't personally vouch for current reliability. The maker of my amps, Audion's owner, says it's a drop-in replacement with no problems and it's his favorite way to listen to the amp. Prices are nearly at NOS levels in the US. In some other amps, some modification to the filament supply may be needed.
What's the best 845 tube? Tell me your amp, your speakers, your room characteristics, your tolerance for risk and expense, and your general sound preferences, and we can narrow that down to a "most likely to be best" for you.
I just bought a Cary 805 AE that came with a factory supplied Chinese 845's. Wonder if this is a Shuguang?
No matter how many sweet 300b's (for driver), 6sl7's 6sn7's (input stage) I plug in ahead of it there is a upper midrange emphasis I'm not keen on. My Cary 300bse have better balanced sound,including surprisingly more bass... although not as controlled.
This is my third 845 amp and either I have had bad luck in using bad sounding 845's or maybe I just don't like 845's as all sort of have this quality.
So wondering what 845s are considered to have best midrange?
I have both 845 and 300B single-ended amps. My answer is, yes the best 845 can compete with 300B in the midrange. The quality of the driver tube might be more important in the 845 than in the 300B, in getting equal midrange. There will be greater variances from amp to amp in the 300B realm than between the two triode tube types themselves. "Compete" doesn't mean exactly the same. If the two amps pitting 300B v. 845 are built to equal standards of design, circuit execution and build quality, the 300B amp is likely to be perceived as delivering marginally more finesse and dexterity and the 845 more energetic dynamics and projection. But the underlying fundamentals can be quite similar. You just have a few more tube options in 300B for voicing an amp than you have in 845. I will say, however, that if the oft-cited midrange magic of 300B SET is your first priority, you will get it from a cheaper 300B amp than 845 for similar sound. The less expensive 845 amps generally don't have as much resolution, clarity, dimensioning and light-handedness as entry level 300B.
But again, I am describing differences of degree. Both will give you essential SET tone. My 845 and 300B amps are the same rated power -- by virtue of the 300B amps being PSET. The midrange quality between the two is fully competitive, but the 845 sounds more dynamic and energetic, and the 300B amps have a little more ultimate resolving capability, in part influenced by the higher silver content in the 300B amps. The larger qualitative differences are in design and execution more than in the tube types.
I would hazard a guess that 99.8% of all 845 tube users have never seen, never mind heard, an original WE 845 tube.
Psvane is capitalizing on the Western Electric name that was made famous with their 300B tubes. I would not be an early adopter of any new Psvane tube, as they appear to coming out with a better tube each month. $800 for China made pair of 845s seems steep.