***Is It Me Or Have Todays Modern Tubes Gotten REALLY REALLY Good***


About 3 years ago it was the Quad VA-One EL-84 amp that won my ears & heart.Almost 3 years I ran that amp night and day and never felt the urge to roll any of the tubes,which I believe were E.H...A user interface problem forced it’s sale and now it is the magical Cayin CS-55a with factory KT88’s,AU7 & AX7 small signal tubes..Once again I find absolutely no reason to start rolling tubes.Maybe,maaayyybbbeee I could squeeze a drop more liquidity outta the upper mids and possibly a hint more shimmer on top but at what expense?I hate gambling.Anyone else noting the quality of today’s new issue tubes?
freediver
Your wallet is thankful.

As a hobby, I get the obsession some have with tubes. 

Like everything audio, it's subjective. Some have the luxury to drop more in tubes than the value of the gear. 

To each his own.
I'm happy to pay more for the qualities you mention. There are certainly some great new tubes being made. Inexperience with old tubes can be expensive.
I'm fairly new to tubes, but I'm REALLY happy with the stock tubes that came in my Mastersound. I've heard plenty of amps with rolled tubes as well. But at this point I'm not sure what I would even want to roll in to replace the current sound. Like they say, if it ain't broke... 
Often tubes get rolled merely for fun and to satisfy a curiosity regarding tube differences, and that's a large part of the tube thing...
Who made a tube and where isn’t nearly as important as how the tubes perform right now and the gear they’re matched with. Unless you have the money and the inclination to try all the possibilities yourself doing business with a great vendor is the best way to spend the money you do have.

I do agree with your premise, though, the new productions tubes I've tried lately don't give up much if anything to the vintage tubes I have.
You never know what you're missing until you try...Different tubes do sound different, better or worse is up to your ears.
My Luxman CL38U SE came w/Gold Pin JJ ECC 802s and Gold Pin JJ ECC 803s tubes. I've had them in my preamp for over a year and a half still very quiet. No desire to change at this time. 
I agree that new production tubes are for the most part very quiet and well made.The various brands sound different enough from one another so it's possible to try them out inexpensively.
We don’t know what we don’t know. That said, modern power tubes have been good for quite some time. What is heartening is that progress is being made in small signal tubes as well. IMHO and YMMV, they are still quite a bit away from the better European and vintage American tubes. And, when you consider that used vintage small signal tubes can be pretty inexpensive they present a viable alternative to new tubes.

One thing to consider is that modern amps are sometimes voiced with modern tubes and they can sound better. Vintage amps, almost never.
Have an Atma-Sphere MP3 preamp with New/NOS setup. I use the  New Shuguang Treasure CV181-Z  to replace the 6sn7 and nothing NOS sounds better (and it's not even close).

For the 12au7 I use the old Amperex 7316 long-plates, which in my mind is the top 12au7. Have not tried any new 12au7 because I've been totally satisfied with the 7316's. If anyone knows a new 12au7 that could be better, I'm all ears

I think there's probably a mix in the New/NOS scorecard. Ease of availability/cost is a definite + for new tubes
Psvane's are excellent and EH are good.
I think the new production Gold Lion KT88s provide great bang for the buck.  So yes, I agree with the OP.
We designed all of our stuff to work with the garden variety of available tubes. Why saddle the customer with the need for a tube that is difficult to get?
My experience has been that the Chinese signal tubes are pretty good but for power tubes the Russians or the JJ (Slovakia) tubes are the way to go- depending very much on the tube type however- the Chinese are making some good power tubes as well.
Old nos tubes from the  late 50s or 60s are always better than new ones.
^^^ Oh ok,since you are obviously a tube guru we will all bow to your superior knowledge and completely disregard todays far better manufacturing facilities and materials and spend hundreds of dollars on 50+year old tubes that may or may not be matched,balanced or even unused...
Don't get all defensive freediver.  Different people have different opinions.  If you haven't tried NOS how do you know how they sound?

Freediver, you make some good points, however I would respectfully disagree with you that today’s tubes are made with better materials, at least from a sonic standpoint, if not from a health standpoint.

Vintage tubes contained strontium, barium, lead and other materials that are no longer used, and appropriately so, due to health concerns. They did make better tubes, from a sonic standpoint IMHO.

The tube manufacturing facilities that I have seen photos of in China and Eastern Europe do not look more modern than historical photos of Western European and American tube manufacture. Tube making being an old tech process with many manual steps involved and people working at work stations much as they did 50 years ago.

https://www.eurotubes.com/store/pc/exclusive%20jj%20factory%20tour.htm

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UIBceKSvtcM
I dig the new production tubes. Haven't found any NOS, and I've rolled a handful,  that beat the the modern tubes for my phono stage. My amp and pre amp - that's a different story . 
My experience with NOS tubes has been that as a rule they do not stay quiet as long as the new production equivalents. Perhaps the very slightest loss of "vacuum"?
I won't say which brands of tubes, because I am just one individual, so the sample size is really small and it could have just been bad luck, however...

I decided to try rolling some new highly recommended tubes in my preamp.  About a a month after I got the tubes, one went microphonic.  The good news is I was able to return them for a full refund. 

I decided to try another highly recommended set of new tubes.  One of those went microphonic after a few months.  I contacted the manufacturer and they offered to apply the purchase price of the first set of tubes towards their "new and improved" tubes.  I said sure.  One of those was microphonic when I installed it.  I gave up on that brand also. 

I put the stock Tung-Sol reissues back in and those worked fine. 

I recently bought a pair of NOS  Sylvania 6SN7GTA Chrome Dome tubes to replace the Tung-Sols and those seem to be working well so far.  I paid an extra $13.99 for an extended two year warranty, so if these go bad any time soon, they'll be replaced.  These were also less expensive than either of the two new sets of tubes I bought.

It's too soon to say how these will hold up over the long run, but they're quiet and sound great in my preamp.
+1 kalali

IMHO, much depends upon the components and what is palatable to the listener’s ears. Very subjective. IME, the new production EH 6922’s were flat - no dynamics. The new production PSVANE 12AU7-II’s were diffuse. The new production JJ 12AU7’s were dynamic - but missing midrange harmonics. All were quiet - no microphonics. But, did not provide the rest of the tonal package.  My reference is how a real piano sounds.  YMMV.

When you see those old videos of the Mullard production - large factories cranking out vast quantities of tubes using almost steampunk technology- it’s kind of amazing. The scale of production was considerable and the tooling was fresh, I gather some of the materials are now unobtanium, or at least not so easy to use in an age when worker health and safety is highly regulated as it now is in the EU and the States. (I think that’s a reason why most plastics are made abroad these days).
I still haven’t found a better 12ax7 for my amp than an old Telefunken, but have not tried the Psvane black tube. The current production Sovtek sounds lifeless in my amps in my system- Vlad supplies them with new tube sets presumably because it’s reliable and supplying more exotic, older tubes would be time and cost prohibitive.
I roll rectifiers in my phono stage power supply and the best sounding ones have been old ones. The new tube that came with the unit was not good sounding. (That the rectifier makes such a difference in sonics is fascinating since it isn’t in the audio path).
I thought I had an issue with my line stage tubes- from the get go, I had DR Reflectors- I grabbed a matched quad of the E-H variant (they are now all made in the same factory) and the system sounded drier, less resolving, less harmonic decay and less information overall. I sourced another quad of DR Reflectors and the difference was immediately apparent. The mojo was back.
I think some of the differences in results are probably due to the circuit and how the tube is used. One person on another forum said they didn’t think the DR old stock was better in an ARC component. I’m using them in something else..
The original GEC KT 66 is a dramatically better sounding tube in my little Quad IIs. The amp was built for those and other tubes I’ve used in those amps just don’t sound the same.
I would much love that brand new tubes sounded better or at least as good as these old tubes. The 6H30 is a PITA since there are very few options. As far as I know, most NOS Tele small tubes are ’pulls’ or of uncertain provenance that test ’as new’- I’m not sure most vendors can say more unless they found some master carton of them-- and for these more commonly used audio tubes, the prices keep going up as the supply dwindles.
..
That does not match my experience with an Audio Research LS2B MKII Pre.  First owner here and about 25 years old.  I've auditioned newer stuff from time to time but it sends them packing. Came from AR with a 6DJ8...  tried bunches of them from Bugle Boys to Valvos, Telefunken and such and then moved to CCa6922 's with many tested and none as good as the Siemens and Halske grey plate from late 50's and early 60's.  Had pinched waist 1959 Valvo Cca 6922's that were magnificent but the issue with all classic tubes...  forget the 5,000 or 10,000 hours nonsense...... if you get a couple hundred hours of prime performance before the bass starts deteriorating or the tube gets strident you are lucky. ... and I say that after rolling this unit for almost all of it's 25 years.  Using 6N23P Volshad Rocket circa 1977, silver version and it's really, really good.  As with the best Siemens and Valvos it's not listening to music, it's going to a performance.
Nice amp , and yes modern tubes are good . However , I dare you to roll in 4 NOS  Telefunken signal tubes and say it isn’t an improvement. But everyone knows it’s subjective . I must be stupid as I have more invested in tubes , than my amp . But it’s been fun . Hi “ My name is Mike, Im a Tube Addict “ . With all the NOS stuff I have , I absolutely love the Tungsol KT 120’s . And I hope I never run out of Svetlana Winged “ C “ KT 88’s . I’ll keep coming back 😎
For 6SN7 tubes for my preamp and amp, I am really quite happy with the Shuguang Treasure CV181-Z and CV181-T tubes. They might not be quite as good as the very best NOS war time tubes, but they are more consistent, less expensive, and easier to get.

For KT88 power tubes, I like the Shuguang Treasure KT88-Z and KT88-T tubes better than any of the Russian tubes out there. I don’t even consider NOS for these tubes as I am not going to spend the money for the old Genalex tubes.

For, 6922 tubes, I could not find a new production tube that sounded good. So I invested in late 50’s and early 60’s Siemens and Telefunken NOS tubes. In the end, I used an adapter with Western Electric 396A/2C51 tubes. These were the best tubes I ever heard in 6922 applications. Russian Reflektor 6NP3-E tubes with the same adapter are really good too. Better than the much more expensive 6922 tubes.
I really like the Genelex Gold Lion
reissues for power tubes. Also, the Mullard
 reissue for small signal tubes.
Never personally used tubes for hifi stuff. But I have played guitar for 30 years and I must say tubes make a huge difference in my various amps of different manufacture. Both power and preamp. Just my experience. Old black plate RCA 12ax7s, 6v6s and 6l6s sound much better than the new variants. I understand it's different for hifi and guitar. I'm just getting into this game and I must say it's quite something. Deciding right now between tube or SS. Anyhow.... I really enjoy the discussions and knowledge shared here. Thank you!
Dear ebm,you are absolutely right: nos-tubes from the late ‘50s and the early ‘60s are the best. The voices ,instruments ( piano, guitar ) sounds much more natural than the new ones.
Since my power amp and preamp both use 6SN7GTBs, I've been enjoying NOS RCAs, Amperex, Sylvania "chrome domes," and new Tung Sols...and the differences between 'em all. An Amperex sounds great in my amp, the RCAs and Sylvanias in the preamp...this will likely change at some point and hey...that's just fine and I dig it.
I'm laughing at the poster who stated that after a few hundred hours, NOS tubes lose their bass.  I have small signal tubes which have lasted over 6,000 hours in conservatively rated gear (versus ARC equipment which especially kills power tubes-I know I had several ARC amps and my friend has the same issue). 

I had to roll 6SN7s for cathode followers.  The Russian stock all sounded dreadful, thin, bright, no bass.  I ended up with 1950 Raytheons although Ken-Rad and RCA sounded similar.  The Chrome Dome Sylvanias were also excellent but tipped up in the highs for my equipment.  

I rolled 6DJ8s for my EAR Acute.  The latest stock tubes EAR uses for it are quite good but the earliest Amperex are superior.

When I used the EAR 864, I had to roll the tubes to obtain superior performance.  

If I purchased a VAC amp, I probably would only try to roll the 6SN7 tubes since the amp is voiced for the supplied tubes.  I agree that many modern tube equipment is voiced for current tube production and won't benefit from NOS tubes.  NOS power tubes are rare and expensive.  NOS 6SN7s are not especially rare and expensive, particularly 1960s versions which are still very good.  RCA used the same tooling and similar production methods for that tube for it's entire run. 
@fleschler - a real never used old small tube should have long life But, for what used to be a common tube, like a 12ax7, I suspect most of the Telefunkens being sold as NOS are just ’tests as new’ which does really tell you how much mileage they really had before you installed them.
You are correct.  That's why I purchase industrial versions of Amperex 6DJ8s and RCA 12AU7 clear-tops.  Telefunkens were generally used in home audio and notorious for being faked and well used despite good test scores.  It is a problem but I have had 40+ years experience using NOS tubes in my gear.  Luckily, most of the tubes in my current gear are either rated for 100,000 hours purchased new (subminiature tubes for my pre-amp and phono stage) or exotic but common new tubes from the 1980s (6BG6 Russian output tubes at $6-7 each).  
I can only speak for my experience, have atmasphere ma-1 and mp-3, rolling 6sn7 and similar on pre amp discovered that the cv181-t black treasure on the pre amp sounded amazingly good compared to stock and nos chrome domes, well that's not the end of the story. When NOS high quality and conductannce used these were better than the black treasures tubes, not all NOS are created equal that's my conclusion.

When Sylvanias were rolled into the ma-1 and entire different sound developed, more e coherently sounded was implemented

Very very happy with my amps and pre 

One of the worst NOS brands is GE.  They were always mediocre.  
Hi freediver, i read with interest your thoughts on the Quad VA one and was wondering how you thought the Cayin sounds in comparison. I have owned the Quad for about a month and love the sound but was curious about tube rolling or if the Cayin would be an upgrade ?  Also can i ask what user issues you had with the Quad?   Thanks!
Hi raiths.I don't see the Cayin as an upgrade as far as the sound is concerned.That little Quad amp is amazingly musical.About the only real difference I hear is when running KT88's in UL mode.Bass slam & definition is deeper & has a little better tightness over the Quad but the mids, when running EL34 in Triode mode are right at the level of the Quad.The ONLY reason I sold my Quad is because even with glasses I didn't want to be poking around the inside of the Quad to bias new power tubes.I will say that the Cayin is simply awesome from an ease of use factor and being able to switch from EL34 to KT88 with a simple re bias AND the triode/Ultra Linear modes makes for a hugely enjoyable amp!
Thanks freediver! Yep im thoroughly enjoying the Quad, its more natural and engaging then the Hegel 160 i have - but wondered as its my first valve integrated what would be a worthwhile step up.  I love the sound but as always in this hobby, what might give me more of the same musicality (in an integrated).  Anyone any thoughts?

thanks
^^^ to be honest I've heard Tube integrated amps & separates up to $10,000.00 & IMO they just are NOT that much "better"than the Quad.I would try some good NOS small signal tubes and look at upgrading speakers/cables before I would change amps.IMO that amp could scale up to $10,000.00 speakers and not be outclassed.