I used to spend money on NOS tubes and have discovered some new production sounds superior IMO. I'm off the NOS carousel now.
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In KT88’s I’ve run Svetlana, JJ, Tung-Sol, and Melody. At least they say Melody. But its a Melody amp, probably they screen it on, who knows who made the tube.
Before the Melody, in my Aronov we ran all those same brands of tubes, except that amp would run 6550 or KT88 so both were tried.
What I can say, its not that there aren’t differences between tubes. There are definitely differences between tubes. But to what degree? That is the question. My answer is, not much. I can get about the same degree of change by spraying anti-static, or demagnetizing. I can get the same or more by putting up just one HFT or sticking one ECT on the amp. A whole lot less than one Blue Quantum Fuse.
So the difference between a set of the cheapest JJ at $178 and the most expensive Tube Store at $272 is about $100 which is in line with other things one could do.
This is when comparing relatively new tubes. Obviously according to what I just posted, comparing really old worn tubes to new ones is a whole different story. A lot of what people are hearing rolling tubes may really come down to differences in age, warm-up, etc. Its not always that close but in my experience it has been.
Now with relatively new tubes (Tube Store matched JJ’s, actually the cheapest ones!) listening last night I heard a whole lot more inner detail, dynamics and good old tubey magic than my old tubes had been giving me. While tubes have proven reliable over the nearly 30 years I’ve been running them, still don’t like being without a spare set. So I just ordered a matched set of the Tube Store brand KT88.
I used to spend money on NOS tubes and have discovered some new production sounds superior IMO. I’m off the NOS carousel now.
The only one I am curious and might actually try is the EAT KT88 Diamond. At about $400 each a set is about what I paid for my demo no warranty Melody. Come end of year if all my necessaries are done, I’m flush, and the TubeStore guys are able to convince me, then maybe with all that I might give them a try.
Getting into that price range though, I still have my Aronov integrated. Something wrong, it blows fuses. When it worked though- magic! A lot of tube magic I think comes as much if not more from the transformers. Plus the Aronov has been modded with a lot of high end caps and stuff. One of those projects for when I have enough time and feel like learning to master the next new thing.
New matched set of TubeStore Preferred Series KT88s went in last night. TubeStore labels each tube with their matching number. When ordering I let them know my current set is 33, and so the ones they sent are 33. Sweet!
Bias hasn’t been checked in a while, and still hasn’t. Living the life! Caution to the wind! Blue spark! What?!? One of the new tubes went spffft (literally, I ran it through Goolag spel chek) and lit up with the same Tesla cool blue flash as the really old ones did recently. Which for a second had me frozen, fearful the lethal electric tube monster was about to burn my neighborhood down. But only for a second, and that was it. I remembered another guy saying this blue thing was a manufacturing deposit burning off and he could tell some tubes were good when they only gave a brief bit of this. So even though I’ve only seen it these two times it seems its nothing to worry about. Far as I know it hasn't happened again. As of this morning my house is still standing. Neighborhood too. Whew. But it was close there for a second. So be careful. Maybe hire an electrician.
Anyway the new tubes sound great. Not hugely great. Not like going from the near dead Melody tubes to the merely lotta hours JJ tubes. That was hugely great. This is more like what I’ve heard every other time changing tubes, just a little more articulate, extended, dynamic. Not life-changing. Enough to notice. Just like every other time. Including even going from 6550 to KT88.
Which, kind of a shame. If only there were more difference between tubes, then just maybe its worth hunting around for some really good ones. But the biggest difference is between old and new. Between new and new, its just not there.
Or you could go all out and get Marconi-Osram/GEC/Genelex/Gold Lion(original) KT88s. I have a pair not in use. When I did use them, my awesome but flawed Michaelson & Austin Tim DeParavicini TVA1 amp destroyed 2 of them. But when I had the quad running, they were sublime. Bass was a little ragged but the mids and highs were sweet and utterly three dimensional with infinite detail. Always tempted to build/buy a SET and use the last pair.
I doubt that there are many good OS tubes on the market. the good stuff has been picked over, sold, picked over, resold, etc., ad infinitum, and most certainly the shadiest crap is on eBay. So, don’t waste your money on OS tubes unless you met the seller at your Unitarian church, and have known him for at least twenty years.
Well, whatever those OS tubes had going for them it wasn't magic. It could only have been manufacturing. Which is all known. Like the amps themselves, it is all right there out in the open. So you do like EAT did and copy the you know what out of it. Or, like the TubeStore, you get a tube maker to copy and tweak, tweak and copy, until you get the best version you can come up with. Which is what they did with the Preferred Series tubes I just put in there.
So I have zero interest in expending any energy whatsoever looking for NOS tubes of any stripe or vintage. It is at this point simply way too hard to believe the stories are anything beyond what can be accounted for by ordinary every day run of the mill nostalgia. Those were the days, etc.
The only ones I would even be curious to try are the EAT set, because unlike all the rest they seem to be made with actual quality manufacturing materials and attention to detail. Which, let's face it, as much stuff as we've screwed and as many times as we fall short we can at least say for sure we're able to manufacture stuff at a much higher level now than 100 years ago- when we can be bothered to go to the trouble. Which the EAT guys seem maybe to have done.
So if you got em, roll em. Roll em right on over this way. Because, Unitarian, Baptist or whatever, at $1800 a set that is the only way yours truly gonna be bothered.
I've enjoyed many new tubes including Gold Lion KT88s, 77s, Tung Sol KT120s,150s, 6550s, and my new fave the 7581a. All new, all great tubes. For preamp or driver tubes NOS Mullards, Sylvanias, GE...all plentiful and often not too expensive, and the new Tung Sol 6SN7GTBs aren't too shabby. I'm a fan of thetubestore and have bought lots of stuff from them...also Viva is a cool little company.
I saw the ETA and maybe it's good. The GEC are magic. Not my fault if market forces drive their prices into the clouds.
Some great new tubes. Psvane 6SN7 Globe is excellent once burned in. Shuguang 12AX7LS black are better than OS Telefunkens, and Tung Sol 7581A best my RCA black plate 6L6. Have you tried the KT150 in place of your 88s?
No, and not much interested. Thing is, of all the tubes I've tried, its not that there aren't difference but rather what differences there are simply are not enough for me to care. And I am a guy who cares about really small things. The only one I recall being worth it was 6550 to KT88, where I prefer KT88. But even then its pretty small.
In contrast to that is the difference between two very similar amps running the same tubes. In those cases I have to think its almost all down to the transformers. I've swapped caps, resistors, diodes, wire, pretty much everything but transformers. And circuit topography, I'm nowhere near being able to evaluate that. But from what I do know it sure seems transformers are the real key to glorious tube amp sound.
The main problem I think is no one can roll transformers. I even keep my old Aronov amp around mostly because I keep thinking its transformers are largely to credit for its superb range and depth and I might one day have time to learn enough about electronics to restore and rebuild it.
The two tube amps I have the most experience with are the Aronov LS960I and Melody 880. Both are about 50-60 Wpc. Have run a lot of KT88s in both, and 6550 as well in the Aronov which can run both. Have opened up and modded both amps, most extensively the Aronov with all upgraded caps and diodes. As I've said before its easy to hear the different tubes, but the differences between them - even between 6550 and KT88 - are pretty minor.
The differences between the overall sound of the two is a different story. They both have about the same extension in terms of low to high response. But the Aronov has more authority and control down low, more midrange natural unforced presence, a little more liquid top end, and the whole presentation just has greater depth and width with a greater sense of the natural acoustic venue, if that was captured on the recording. It all adds up to a much more significant difference between the two than anything I've ever heard from any tube or cap or diode change.
Just to look at them, to judge by component quality, quality of point to point wiring, simplicity of design, etc if I had to guess based on that without listening I would have to give the edge to the Melody. Listening however its the other way around. The one unaccounted for variable being the transformers.
It sure seems to me that by the process of elimination that is all we have left. Transformers are a big underrated and unsung factor in tube amp performance.
I'm impressed you know what are in yours. I have no idea what are in either of mine. One thing I do know, sure would like to be able to build an amp around those Aronov transformers.