Consider tubes like a tone control. Whatever sounds best in your system. I do like the 803s tubes from JJ.
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Are you referring to the ultra expensive NOS Telefunken 803S and not the reissues that are 803S in name only?
The true, old Telefunken 803S is, at least in my phonostage (Viva Fono) and extremely clear, detailed, dynamic, and extended range tube. It is NOT for someone looking for warm and lush. In that sense, it is like old Telefunken 12AX7, though I would say it is more dynamic and a touch more lean sounding. In my application, it is dead quiet, but, then too, the Telefunken 12AX7s that I had were also pretty quiet. The 803S has a reputation for being extremely robust and having a really long life, though I don't know if the McIntosh is hard or easy on tubes. If it is rough on tubes, I would say stay away because 803S are now VERY expensive.
As larryi said there is no ready supply of NOS/OS Telefunken 803S. They are truly rare not the BS rare you see in ads. The cost is astronomical as well.
I can help make a tube recommendation if you provide what you want the tube to do to your sound. Telefunken ECC83 12AX7 types are indeed kind of steely. They provide a clear/clean and strong signal.
I like the sound that the currently installed Telefunken 12AX7s provide, very lush and not analytical . I have just 2 objectives with considering the 803s; reduction of noise for phono and increased performance in clarity or sound stage if possible.
I run MC cartridges with step up transformers. I don't have a noise problem but like to keep looking for solutions to keep pushing any noise that is inherent to phono down. Lower is always better.
As for improvement in sound, clarity or stage, we all push for more but in this case not at the cost of too bright which the 803s can do. Let me know what you suggest; solution maybe stay with what I have.
In the mean time I will have a few extra NOS ECC803s in a week or so I can swap in and listen to the difference. I don't think I need to replace all 6 in the C22, just 2 for phono test. I will have to check.
Thanks for your input.
Many consider Telefunken ECC83/12AX7s to be on the bright or lean side. If you consider them to be lush enough for you (I do as well), then you certainly ARE a candidate for appreciating the ECC803S. These have a similar tonal balance, but also, greater clarity and a bit more explosive dynamics.
You possibly could rationalize such an expense by the reputation of that tube outliving its owner.
Larryi, your right the 803S are bright. I am currently running 2 MC275's in a horizontal bi amp config with all Telefunken 801S, 802S and 803S NOS tubes. Adding 803S to the C22 pre-amp will be too much. I am going to experiment with a softer tube in the C22 and in the MC275; GL Reissue 12AX7's and the NOS Amprex BugleBoy 12AX7 (D getter Long Plate.
The 803S is wonderful but I can not see having them in the C22 and MC275; only one.