I served as an importer and reseller of upper end tubes from China...
I preferred both the Shuguang Black Treasure and Psvane 300B tubes over the Sophia Princess (TJ / Tianjin), with the Psvane sounding best. That said, of the three, the Shuguang Black Treasure offered the most reliability.
BTW, if the sitting on a shelf theory held water, the market for North American and European NOS tubes would obviously not exist
As far as reliability goes, I have used the Shuguang Black Treasures in a VAC Ren 30/30 which pushes the output tubes pretty hard and have had no problems. I really cannot estimate hours reliably, but definitely more than 600 hours and while starting to measure weak, they still auto-bias just fine and sound great.
For sound and so far reliablty, I like the sound of the black treasures and the we300 b replica.
I haven't had much longevity from the Sophia's,300b's,2a3's or there 45's.The sophia's do sound good though.
Best of luck,
I preferred the sound of the Sophia Royal Princess over the sound of the Black Treasures. However, once I bought a pair of Takatsuki 300b, I stopped using the Royal Princess. Charles (charles1dad) likes his EMLs a lot. Others like the KR Balloons. All three - Takatsuki, EML, and KR - have a track record of reliability, but also have different price points. I have never tried the WE Replicas, but am curious about them as well.
In terms of sheer sound quality the best I’ve heard in my amplifier (Coincident Frankenstein MK II SET) in no particular order.
EML XLS, Takatsuki, Elrog and KR XLS.
The Elrog proved to be unreliable in my amplifier (supposedly improved now).
The other 3 are quite reliable.
I used the Shuguang Black Treasure 300b for nearly 3 years and it is a reliable tube. Good sound quality but not the same level as the upper tier tubes mentioned above (not as expensive either). This is a good value/performance choice of 300b.
Psvane makes good quality tubes but I haven’t heard their W.E.Replica 300b.
I have a Set of gold lions and a set of WE replicas and both are good tubes but I find I listen to the gold lions the most they seem to be some what better in the extremes better highs not rolled off like others and stronger and detailed lows. The replicas do have a slightly warmer mid though but not that much different really. I have not tryed the others so can’t say with those.
Ive had no issues with reliability with either tubes. But my Amp runs them conservatively
Thanks to all of you so far with your supportive comments... I think that music-reproduction quality is definitely in the ears of the beholder. No one has said positive things about Sophia's reliability, so I'll keep steering clear of their products. I have tried the Gold Lion's and JJ's and prefer the sound of the Sophia's over those, however will try the Psvanes...
I have nothing to compare my Sophia Royal Princess 300b tubes against for sound quality, because this is the first 300b that I've tried. I have owned them for almost three years without a hiccup, so I thought that was worth mentioning.
One thing I learned in development of the NiWatt amplifier is that you can’t take anyone’s word for it (I actually knew that).
I’m poking the bear here, but my point is that like any architecture, 300B amplifiers are wildly different and one person’s assessment of a tube plugged into their amplifier is very likely to be different from how that person would respond if he plugged those tubes into your amplifier.
A large majority of 300B amplifiers (when driving appropriate speakers) have a big, fat upper bass and lower midrange. This has been the "knock" on 300B amplifiers, but in fact, the original 300B tube design is very flat in its frequency response. Most of a 300B amplifier’s "sound" comes from the power supply and the driver circuit implementation. Needless to say, these design attributes differ greatly in different designs.
With that disclaimer, if you want a good, reliable inexpensive 300B, get a JJ. If you’re cork sniffing (guilty as charged), pick up a set of Emmission Labs from Tubes USA (no affiliation, but he’s great guy): http://www.tubesusa.com/
Thom @ Galibier Design
Here here ! Most 300-B tubes I have tried sound good. The subtle differences are in the Mfg and elements used I believe. As for the amps, yes... the PSU's and other components (ie... transformers) help make up or color the sound. I have a BorderPatrol S20 dual-mono parallel 300-B SET amp and the response is very linear. I prefer the sound of the Sophia Royal Princess tubes and if it weren't for my negative experiences with reliability would still have them. That's why I am looking for a great replacement.
I heard a pair of the Sophia Royal Princess in my amplifier for several weeks courtesy of a generous loan from a fellow audiogon member. It was a very good sounding tube but I felt that the Takatsuki was overall better sounding.
As Thom mentioned above the Emission Labs (EML) is worth serious consideration and similar price range of the Sophia RP. I don’t know if Thom uses the standard EML 300b or the XLS version (that I have). As acknowledged certain tubes will sound better/worse depending on the particular amplifier in use.
Thom I’ve read comments by Lynn Olsen regarding your Niwatt 300b SET amplifier and he is highly impressed.
Thanks for this information. I have heard the Emission-Labs 300-B (not the XLS variant) and they sound good however not as good (in my opinion) as my Sophia Princess mesh-plates tubes. I'm looking for a substitute, as I believe I'm on borrowed time with them.
Part-Time audiophile reviewed Takatsukis in one of the BorderPatrol 300b amplifiers - not sure whether it was the PSET design or the SET or PP design. As I mentioned, I love my Takatsukis; however, you need four of them. Pricey. You might consider the KR balloons.
I have heard the Sophia mesh (actually a perforated plate rather than a true wire woven mesh) in my system and it's quite different sounding than the EML. I can clearly understand why one would prefer one or the other. Numerous variables of the listener and system exert their influence.
Numerous variables of the listener and system exert their influence.
+1 on that statement.
I don't believe one given tube is going to be the best tube in each individuals system and or the best for each individuals Sonic preferences.
I quess we all are lucky that there is so many choices or maybe not depending on how you look at it.
Yes, there are definitely good choices available for the 300b tube. Disadvantage compared with many other output tubes is that the 300b can get pretty expensive. When I was using KT 88, 6550 and el 34 tubes with former amplifiers they were much less expensive.
This is a trade off I willingly and happily made with zero regrets. IMHO the DHT type of tube are generally more organic and just sound better . Again strictly my personal listening experience.
Yes... The Sophia mesh-plates are really as you say, a hole-punched piece of metal rather than a true woven mesh. They do sound good however but also run at about max for a mesh-plate. They lasted fairly well but I don't like that one I got had a hot-spot on the plate ! I had to return it for a new one but since it was out of warranty, I had to pay 1/2 price for a replacement. (I bought them but shelved them till I replaced my original set and it was bad right out of the box.)
Charles that's interesting I went the opposite way with power tubes. After having Cary 300B monos blow a WE 300B reissue tube after about 100 hours and later having a KR Audio amp blow a low hours 842 tube I swore I was done with amps that use expensive tubes. I lucked out and found a great EL34 amp and have been happy ever since. Ironically I could actually much more easily afford expensive tubes these days but I am happy with what I have.
No doubt that we all have our specific experiences and outcomes, exactly why I wrote IMHO. I’d rather have an excellently implemented Pentode push pull type tube amplifier than a mediocre DHT amplifier. If both of them are executed to a high level then I would lean toward the DHT option.
To be clear both of my push pull amplifiers were "really " good sounding. When I put the 300b SET amplifier into my system there was an undeniable improvement. To be truthful all 300b amplifiers aren’t created equally. Jond I don’t doubt that your el 34 triode wired amp sounds wonderful.
I can understand the frustration with tube failures. In addition to superb sound quality the other great attribute of the EML XLS has been exceptional durability and reliability, it’s a terrific tube.
Charles agreed all the way around and also don't sleep on DHT pushpull amps! Two of the best I've heard an integrated pp 2a3 amp from Cary, I loved it but the gf said it was too bright, and a pp 45 amp from Deja Vu. Both wonderful sounding and a great juxtaposition of tubes and topologies! And I am sure all of your amps pushpull and DHT were all great sounding you seem to have excellent ears.
Frequent attendance in live jazz clubs over the years (and a piano in our home) has conditioned the ears to natural sound. At least this is what I’ve come to believe. 😊
Nice speaking of which caught The Gil Evans Project doing the 60th anniversary of Miles Ahead at the Jazz Standard in NYC over Memorial Day weekend a really great show. My first live jazz in sometime I'm embarrassed to say.
@liquidsound heard the Emission-Labs 300-B (not the XLS variant) and they sound good however not as good (in my opinion) as my Sophia Princess mesh-plates tubes.
Sorry I'm not clear, are you referring to to the Emission-Labs 300b solid plates in your comparison and is it the pricier Royal Princess or the similar priced Sophia princess mesh you compared against eachother. I ask because I use the solid plates but I've been curious about the punched metal "mesh" of Sophia mid priced 300b. Thanks
I'm still using the Sophia mesh-plates. I gave up on the Royal Princess a good while ago. I am looking for a good replacement for the Princess mesh-plates. I have heard the Emission-Labs solid plates, not the mesh. The sound is good but notably different than the Sophia mesh plates. If I can find a 300-B tube that sounds like the Sophia mesh-plates or the Royal Princess, that would be great. No more Sophia tubes for me !
I use the Psvane WE300B on good quality SET amps, and I very very very highly recommend them. Nothing to criticize at all; the mids and highs are just the best i have ever heard. The only tubes that may beat them, and I also use them on another system so I know what I am talking about, are the famous and highly expensive Takatsuki TA300B, that output more bass but less glorious mids and highs. It will depend in fact on the nature of your speakers and/or your preferences. For your reference and comparison, the amps using the Psvane WE300B are the Coincident Frankenstein 300B MkII. The tubes you are using are known for being unreliable.