Ghirteen: What are the stock tubes?
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Actually, the 5U4 rectifiers are Sovtek as are the 6922s. The 6sn7s are chinese. At least that's what was in mine. The 6sn7 were replaced by 1950's Raytheon's and the 6922's were swaped for some NOS Ediswain. These changes were suggested by Kevin Deal of Upscale Audio and they are a good return on the investment (approx. $200). You should give them a call.
Ok here goes again,
The 6922 tubes ARE Sovtek (thanks Intune)
The 5u4g tubes are Sovtek as well
The 6sn7 tubes are Chinese
I am currently using Electro Harmonix 6550EH power tubes, and Svetlana 6550 as well. Initial edge goes to the EH, these things sound nice!
ANyway, which of these (6922-6sn7-5u4) should be changed first?
I am hoping to be somewhat scientific about this, and therefore only want to change 1 thing at a time, which is also easier on the budget.
Intune: what differences did you get by going to the tubes suggested by Kevin? (BTW Kevin is awesome)
The 6922/6sn7 swap resulted in better high freq. sound along with a bit better detail. I guess most of the audiophile jargon would apply - air, sound stage, image all improved. YMMV. Over the next few weeks I will be checking out some Tungsram and Siemens 6922s along with some Ken Rad VT231 (6sn7 equiv). I suggest a visit to the audio asylum tube section if you haven't visited already. The asylum posters are very helpful.
You will have a lot of fun starting out with tube rolling. Make sure you get some good advice and don't overspend. Needless to say there is an infinite number of possibilities with NOS and the SLI-80.
The 6922's - Currently using Seimens 7308's with great results. Detail and clarity are much improved over the stock tubes.
5u4g's - Swapped out a few different but really didn't notice much change. Went back to the stock tubes.
6550's - Changed to Svetlana KT-88's. Everything is bigger and fuller. Nice improvement to the bottom end.
6SN7's - Went through a few and then found nirvana with some old Raytheon tubes that blew me away. Literally, the soundstage doubled in width. Kind of eerie how much better.
Anyhow, good luck. I have found Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio to be an invaluable source for information and steering in the right direction without going crazy. All of my tube upgrades have come from Kevin and I have been pleased with each set.