I have tried all the current manufactured 12AX7s and really like the Genalex Gold Lion that I run in both my phono pre and preamp section of my tube integrated.
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There are still a few NOS 12AX7s available. If I were you I would pursue a search. I saw some Sylvanias as a group of 5 NOS NIB for a fair price. There are still Mullards but like you said striaght labeled newish looking ones are almost non existant. I use 5751s for most 12AX7 duties but these too are scarce and not always the best tube for your application. These Noval double triodes do seem to last a long long time, it may be justifiable to invest in a good pair.
I second Morningstaraudio; the RCA 12AX7 long black plates are excellent, and would be my first choice as alternative to Mullard long plates. I've used the Mullard long-plates (halo getter), and my recollection is that the RCA are even a touch warmer; it's a lovely warmth, though. I think if I felt the Mullard were clearly superior I'd have stuck with them, but perhaps it's time to give it another listen; I've tended to shy away from their usage due to rarity/expense. The RCA 12AX7, GE 5751 "Silver Clips", and GE 12AY7 "red label" have spent the most listening time in my tube monoblocks (phase inverter position).
I've also tried Mullard short plates, CV4004 box plates, Tele ribbed plates, Tung-Sol long gray plates, various 5751, and a couple other 12AY7. The CV4004 have their good points, but the RCA & Mullard long plate 12AX7 are flat out better. The 5751 black plates are also generally excellent, but offer a different kind of sound.
Wolf -do yourself a favor and check out Audio Asylum Tube Asylum and do a search for the Gold Lion (Russian/re-issue/current production0 12AX7. Or you can just call Jim McShane who sells a lot of the GL tubes about them. He is a very striaght shooter. He has a website as well that you can do an internet search for. My understanding is that the GL 12AX7 is somewhat warm, sounds very good, is well made, and on the expensive side. That last sentence was 22 words is that enough?
Ya know...I have the same reaction to that site. I've been there before and really its format just blows chunks. Is that because people actually like the style or its just been that way for a long time and it's comfortable somehow? In any case, although I may talk to Jim McShane, I'd still like more opinions from people here since I'd rather be here than there.
The AA threads can be displayed in two formats. I prefer the one they call Classical. You will get many more specific answers regarding the Russian GL. Make sure to you look in the "Tube Asylum". It isn't all that painful honest.
The old Philips tubes from Holland are essentially European Amperex 12AX7s. They have a devoted fan base and are desirable if in good condition. I don't have any Philips Holland, so I can't comment specifically on their sonics sorry.
I see your curiosity has been piqued regarding Old Stock, roll with it. Sorry again about the pun.
I'm boycotting and protesting the AA Tube Asylum for archaic formatting! Also, I prefer this brain trust anyway.
I had a conversation about 12ax7s with a dude at "thetubestore" and he thinks the Lions are a nice but more classic sounding tube (i.e. "mellower"), and the "preferred" 7025s they sell (they sell both so there's no incentive to sell me cheaper tubes) are cleaner. I am not in the market for old tubes at the moment since it seems that there are some great new tubes that unlike the "vintage tube" market, haven't been passed around by collectors, or tested on sketchy machines by sketchy testors after being yanked out of some hapless dusty old radio to be sold for big bucks with no warranty with bent rusty pins and smeared printing. I just read a review of the new ARC Reference 150 using KT120s and I have yet to hear anybody dislike that tube in any meaningful way, and it's about as new as it gets. Also, the ARC Ref is about 9 times the cost of my Jolida so I feel thrifty.
Don't worry about archaic formatting at AudioAsylum, there are people there that have vast knowledge of tubes, new and old. You mat be right about some vintage tubes being tested on sketchy tube testers, but i can assure you my tubes are tested on a calibrated B@K 700 from an Electrical Engineer friend who rebuilds tube amps and amplifiers.In fact he will be doing some work on my VTL ST85 tube amp later this summer. Just to replace some power supply caps.
We all have our own take on risk-aversion, but from my perspective you're overestimating the risk of vintage tubes. I've used tons of tubes from many different sources (including ebay) and most of the vintage tubes (advertised with good test readings) work & sound great, and will last for a LONG time...even many of the gnarly-looking equipment pulls. Sure, I've had a few vintage tubes die on me (the minority, by far). However, the ONLY catastrophic failure I've experienced was with a fully tested new-production EH KT90.
Don't want to risk spending a mint for a bad vintage tube? Then don't pay a mint for vintage tubes ;) There's still some excellent performers out there for reasonable prices. The diversity of sonic attributes available in the pool of vintage tubes is amazing; don't sell yourself short by limiting to ONLY new production -- some of which are admittedly quite good. While the great vintage power tubes are getting ridiculously expensive (and the good-quality new production is certainly appreciated), the vintage small signal tubes are still available. I've certainly heard some nice warmth from certain new production tubes (e.g. SED EL34, e.g. Russian KT120), but it's still not the same kind of magical warmth as that from a great Mullard or RCA -- those are...truly special.
If you still want to be cautious, the most careful tube seller I've ever encountered is Andy at V.T.S. If you *ever* get a mediocre tube from him, I'd be shocked.
Mulveling...you make a compelling case, and maybe I will get some Great Mullards just so I can say to strangers, "I now have Great Mullards"...totally worth it if only for that, although I assume most people would think I'm talking about a dog breed. I've had some old tubes around...usually stuck in a guitar amp and yeah, they do work a long time....really long...my 61 Fender Deluxe (got it in 1970) had original tubes for 50 years. I'll keep gathering opinions like the one I'm currently fishing around for about the 7025s the TubeStore dude was talking about, although they may have limited magical warmth (really...he described them sort of like that).
Cool, Wolf. :)
If/when you go for those "Great Mullards", try to hold out for some nice long-plates at a reasonable price...though the short plates & box plate CV4004 still yield gobs of warmth with at least a touch of the "magic". I also like the RCA long black plates quite a bit...just depends on your system. For me, it's difficult (but possible) to overdose on warmth.
I actually don't have any 7025s in my slightly substantial collection....perhaps someday...
I thought the only real old stock 7025s are RCAs, but I am not sure. Both me and another tube rolling friend have tried the 7025, and weren't impressed with the results. Therefore Wolf, if the 7025 is definitely your tube of choice I think you should go with something new. That said, my experience with old tubes has been a lot like Mike's. Remarkably the worst tube experience I had was with a KT-90 new production of course. It blew and took out a socket, resistor and then burned some section of the wiring.
New production 12AX7s are really quite good and it is really not necessary to buy old stock to get good sonics. I think as little as 5 years ago that wasn't the case. BTW I have only discussed tubes with people interested in the matter. I don't have a sign or T shirt advertizing what I have in my collection.
Mechans...are you saying there's something wrong with exploding tubes? You're supposed to only be concerned with the sound of the tubes and not conflagration issues, and always wear safety glasses. My post specifically asks for opinions about the NEW 7025s offered by thetubestore, since the dude there recommended 'em as "carefully made Chinese tubes that aren't euphonic" or something. I'm still waiting for those opinions, and am printing the question on a t-shirt as we speak. I am with you on the "only discuss tubes with people interested", and take it further to include "all things audio" as trust me, generally speaking, nobody cares. I have yet to experience ANYONE (except another audio geek) seeing my somewhat elaborate hifi system for the first time and asking, "please kind sir (filthy Dickens-esque central casting peasants make up most of my friends), show me what it can SOUND LIKE."
I ordered the matched "Preferred 7025" tubes from Thetubestore and will be forced to try them completely on my own...flying blind...nobody to provide pre-purchase comments...abandoned...but I'm gonna stick my Tung Sol 12AX7s in my guitar amp so there will be 2 tube change experiences at the same time.
Hey Jedinite24...you get your 502p up and running yet? Yeah...try these 7025s...they're really good. I've kept the EH 12AT7s that are original to the amp since, from what I've read anyway, they're supposedly somewhat "tone neutral", but that won't preclude me from looking around for other versions. I won't stop until I'm crushed under a pile of extra tubes.
Hey Wolf. Good to know those preferred 7025s work well with the stock EH 12AT7s. One less pair of tubes to buy. At the rate I'm going I will be crushed under a pile of tubes very soon. I've got way too many sets on hand already. From Mullard to JJ I've got way to many sets of 12AX7 and 12AT7 tubes to try.
I did give the Jolida 502p a quick run with matched Tung Sol 12AX7 and 12AT7s along with the Jim McShane matched quad of Tung Sol KT 120s I got and the sound was excellent. I would have listened more but then the heat wave hit the east coast. Now that it is cooler I'll give the 502p more listening time.
I've got AC so the 502 heat doesn't matter, although I did worry about that at first. I stuck it on the bottom of a rack with plenty of room above it, but it does insure that all the gear above it will never freeze. I just noticed the 502 stays mostly cool on the bottom so the vents seem to work, and the transformer cover isn't hot so I know the kt120s aren't melting anything.