Nice review of 5751 breed. My coments are from listening on two '5751/12AX7 driver based systems (Sherwood S5000 and CJ-MV-52), as well as in Cal ALpha DAC driving these and ASL KI15 FOX, a SET IA (killer value). Variety of speakers (Celestion SL6Si, VSA-VR3.5, Monitor Audio, Kestrel).
I agree specifically with your notes on the Tung-Sol ('50s bent-D getter, long grey plate)and Sylvania 5751 3M-BP, GB or other. The latter is my choice for a desert isle, followed by, in a forced decision, TS versus GE (I lean to 'air' when forced).
For some reason, I am less enchanted with the Raytheon (3-mica BP). Though excellent as you describe, it does not to my ear have the character of the others. Very competent in all regards, however, nothing to dislike at all. Just no standout features, comparatively.
Also, I was not bowled over by Syl 5751 3M Grey Plate (WA version), a bit too diffuse for me, though has it's charms for sure, esp. for vocals, where it shines like no other. Much better than JAN versions of this tube, though.
The one I would add to the top three would be GE 3M- shiny BP from the '50s. In fact, these look almost identical to Sylvania GB--slight differences in width of plate flanges (wider in Syl) Not as much air as Tung-Sol, but better body and balance. Second to Sylvania 5751 (WA or GB black plate). Not as extended as Sylvania, but more body and warmth without compromise to clarity. More complex character when 'looking into stage'. Sylvania comes to you.
Three 12ZX7s that compete for top five slots, IMO:
Raytheon 12AX7A ('60-'61)--an odd '2.5 mica (retaining ring for top mica in this version)' 12AX7 type. Similar to Sylvania GB, not quite as well balanced, but, for dark amps (vintage) may be perfect. It displaced Sylvania GB from V3/V4 in my Sherwood S5000II (a honey of an vintage IA), but not in my more resolving CJ-MV52. Was close to Syl, though, for a couple of days.
Tungsram 12AX7 (Hungary, Yellow Print '70s): In my Califonia Alpha 24/96 DAC, this is the best I have tried. Transforms this DAC. In a bright system, however , could sound a bit 'fizzy'. The widest stage of all the tubes and best air. Transformed the sound of my Cal Alpha-CJ system--even with bright Monitor Audio Silver 9i.
Mullard CV4004 (83-85). VERY nicely balanced and extended, similar to GE 5751 with great body. Less air than the best 5751, but better balanced than Tungsram or Raytheon 12AX7. Great in Alpha DAC, better than rest in my circuit, until I tired the Tungsram 12AX7.
Amperex 12AX7 is also quite good--like the TS, but missing some clarity. Lively tube.
As a bass player running these tubes in an Ampeg SVP-PRO preamp.
4 x 12AX7 and 1 x 12AU7 tubes, I have to say that my favourite tube in the V1 is a NOS Telefunken 12AU7 (even though technically in the V1 it should have a 12AX7A (7025) or similar).
But my second favourite tube is the Raytheon you both mention. Man what a great 3D/Air/big soundstage, call it what you will, but it has this, combined with excellent midrange definition and clear solid slightly sparkling tops. The bottom end is ever so warm and perfectly compressed. An absolutely beautiful tube.
I dont mind the RCA black plate 3 mica but seriously the Raytheon is the only tube that is in the same league as the Telefunken that I've tried. Dutch Amperex tubes would be my top of the second division choice.
I have to say that I've been less than impressed overall with most of the US manufactured tubes but as I said, the Raytheon is a major league player IMHO.
I recently got some Amperex 'delta' 1957-1958 Long Grey Plate 12AX7 with Strip-Foil D-Detter. In my ASL MG Head OTL III with HD650/Cardas, these are outstanding tubes, esp. with TFK or Amperex EL84. To my ear, as good as Sylvania 3M-BP and even the Grey Plate gold pin Sylvania 5751GB, with an edge to the latter.
What about current production and specifically the EI tube?
Its always a difficult to try and compare tubes of even a single variety e.g. 5751s which I have been collecting for only a year or so. I have 3 different Raytheon types alone, FWIW I also seem to prefer the double mica Raytheon although they are reportedly not as good as the triple mica which I own a few pairs.
The primary target of most collectors these days in 5751s is just finding good clean NOS 1950s early 60s triple mica blackplates. Not to long ago thre was an AA thread that declared the NOS supply completely depleted. Although you constantly hear that they are not a great sub for a 12AX7 in truth and that Joe's tube lore on AA is balogna, people squirelled them away anyway.
As prices climbed in the stratosphere (I saw pairs of well lettered clean Sylvania TMBPs go for $400 and $500 a pair). they started to come out of the woodwork as things like this tend to force the demand got high and a supply appeared, things aren't at a crescendo anymore but people still pay enough they are far from cheap unless they are garbage, plentyof that or abundant and newer.
I assume you were talking about the newer Sylvania/Jan (circa 1970-1980s). The main brands amongst the TMBPs from the golden era were Sylvania the most sought after still, the grey plates aren't far behind in terms of what they cost and commercial Gold brands had Grey plates in many instances. I noted that you do not draw much distinction between the black and greys which is interesting, because they do sound very different as entire categories. The big 3 Sylvania, GE, and RCA all had military contracts, denoted as JHS JG and JRC in that order but weren't different than the commercial versions except some of the Gold Brand Sylvanias in 2 micas. The other big players were RCA almost always blackplate in 3 mica, white label and the RCA "Command" a high demand double mica. GE seems to have made the most and had the 5 star brand they are the easiest to find and perhaps have the most thunderous bass, not the best necessarily, but the most, especially if you are talking about the grey plates.
Only a few obscure ones float around of which the CBS is considered unusual but not extremely rare the Tung Sols are available as recent production double micas.
I thought I knew most of them, but you got me with the Acturus never seen one available.
Even though they are a quintessentially American tube, there were even European ones made. Siemans made triple Micas in the 60s which have a collectors interest.
Curiously you did hit a tubeophiles delight in the Raytheon.
I don't have the desire to comment on your findings mainly because I am not entirely sure of the tubes you are describing but they appear to be the more recent production ones. It would be a tedious process.
I would highly recommend that you get some TMBP late 50s Sylvanias, they won our local audio area group's shootout. While you're at it get the others the RCA I like them they are taught and well controlled. The GE for dimensionality etc. These are for the older tubes only.
Please do tell tell me where I can find the Arcturus- Thanks- Steve
Well, I take back what I said about the Raytheon 5751 either 3MBP or 2MWMG. It a great tube. Lively as Joe puts it, good bass. The mids are not smeared at all, yet have a great touch of warmth. Wonderful wide stage with air as well, but maintains linearity and precision. Joe got it right. I think, right behind Sylvania 3MBP. All mine in late '50s. SUPER in DAC stages.
Grey plates always sound to me airier and warmer than BPs, esp. true for Sulvania 5751, as in Joe's review. I agree with many that while Joe nailed the 5751 characteristics so well, he dissed on 12AX7 in comparison. Valvo Hamburg and early LP Philips are excellent (all EU tubes are grey plate). Airy and holographic with wonderful, natural mids and decent bass--the mids shine, however. Also, very early USA blackplates with bent D-getter or corner square getter 12AX7 ('51 is as early as I have) and 1960 or so Raytheon 12AX7(A) shiny blacks are great 12AX7 comparable with the best 5751, IMO/TME in various amps and DACs.
Joe also dismissed the 12AU7 type; however, Early Amperex, Siemens and Valvo Hamburg LP D- getter and even the short plate halo getter from early-mid '60s and slant-halo Valvo Hamburg and certain 5814 brands are spectacular, in my opinion, as is 7316 Can't just dismiss these. Nope.
I am thinking of doing a 12AT7 review. Guess what--the more expensive and rarer ones homologous to 12AX/AU7 sound super in 12AT7, as do all the 3Mica /ECC81 and ECC801S I have tried, as well as CBS 7728. Tungsol early-mid '50s with D-getter grey plate 12AT7 are the only USA 12AT7 that I think sound close to big league.
Grain of salt: my 12AU7 and AT7 impressions are from one amp: The Ear Max Pro with HD650/Cardas and other HP and great ICs. So, I can't speak well for how these sound in stereo rigs--and that's quite critical. I am hoarding for the time I spring for a 12AU7 based PA or IA.
So, the Yankees own the 5751 and the top tier are super, in league with any 12A out there. The Dutch and Germans own the 12AU/AX7 flavors, on the whole, with some competition from Yankee black plate 12AX7, and possibly Tung-Sol LP 12AX7, '50s bent D-getter.
Its always worthwhile experimenting by sub-ing 12AT7 and 12AU7 and even 12AX7/5751 and 12AT7, with some caution.
Finally, in my opinion, Joe's review of 6DJ8 variants is absolutely and remarkably impeccable. Thanks Joe!!!!!!!
My 2 cents are based on tubes used as drivers for input section on an integrated amp driving 6SN7's with output tubes KT88/6550's also used with CAL Alpha instead of 12AX7's
The best one for the CAL Alpha is simply the Tungsram ECC83 (12AX7) 100 Mu tubes.
I have tried mullard blackbourne, RCA 7025 black plates, Sylvanias, Amperex, Telefunken smooth plates (Very nice indeed), and a few new production like EH, SHuguang 12AX7A, also the B's (worse than the A's .. .) EH 12AX7.
The GE black plates and gray plates in both versions 2 mica & 3 micas though they are wonderful all of them the Tungsram for the CAL are simply the best combination of bass definition, mids liquidity and top end purity creamy and lively qualities.
Now for the amp driving the 6SN7's i think it is a matter of tubes you use to combine them with and then the synergy with each tube that comes after the chain. in the case of Sylvania's chrome tops (6SN7 GTB)the Tungsram ECC83 were a little bit too bright (I/m nit picking here by a hair), using RCA gray glass 1940's 6SN7 GT and GTA's then the Sylvanias 5751 (BP 3 Micas) took the cake, now I am using a combination for the 6SN7 of Tung-Sol and Zenith branded GE made black plates long envelope (2 and 2 in mirror matched per channel configuration) on that configuration the GE 5751 3 mica black plates just has no equal.
Note that this is driving a quad of Tung-Sol 6550 gray plates 1965 well matched and bias adjusted to +- 1% or each tube. in triode strap. though Ultralinear sound good for 70's rock and reggae, the Triode modejust does magic on all the other music, jazz, voices, classical, R&B, Blues, etc. etc.
So . .. to me the synergy of the tube with whatever comes after in the circuit, and probably before also is the essence of how the sound of the tube you will prefer, also take into consideration the rest of the circuit and that sometimes the 68 Mu gain from a 5751 may not be enough to drive the rest of the circuit compared to a 12AX7 that has a gain of 100 Mu. you need to check on that also
However be warned these tubes are expensive and hard to get choose wisely.
Enjoy the music;
I've been using a Sylvania (KUHL - Cryo - yellow printing) from TubeWorld that I got about a year ago with a MapleTree Headphone Amp. I am very pleased with the sound and highly recommend it. Extended highs, deep/tight bass. I use Sennheiser HD600 and AKG-501 headphones.
5751 replaces 12AX7's, so how do the Sylvania 12AU7 fit in. Its a different tube. No wonder it's on the bottom of your list.
12AU7s are a very low mu or voltage amplification tube. It is unusual for them function well in place of a 12AX7. But 12AU7s are frequently used in circuits as drivers for the 12AX7s. As a double triode I guess they can be phase splitters as well.