I do not consider myself a tube aficionado, however over the last four years I have had the great pleasure of listening to some of the most highly regarded NOS 12ax7 and 12au7 tubes because my DAC(Accustic Arts Tube Hybrid reference)and linestage(Audio Valve Eklipse)uses these types of tubes. I auditioned the famous "European Sisters", Mullards, Amperexs, Telefunkens, with the help of Brent Jessee, more about him later, of Brent Jessee Recording&Supply,Inc. located in Hoffman Estates,Il.
What I finally settled on was Amperex long plate G getters from the 50's in my DAC and Mullard long plate square getters also from the early 50's in my linestage. These tubes give me the best of both worlds sonicly in my system, extension on the top and bottom, transparentcy/clarity, 3D imaging, a big full soundstage with great layering and such beautiful/natural timbres and image density. The only "sister" that I could not warm up to were the highly regarded NOS Telefunkens that I admired for their utter dynamics,microdynamics, razor sharp imaging, but found them a little to etchy/bright for my tastes and I could not relax and get into the music as easily with them in my system.
During this long "tube rolling" marathon my "tube guru" became Brent Jessee who turned out not only being a fine gentleman, but a walking encyciopedia on the history of virtually all tubes and extremely talented at being able to verbally describe the sonic characteristics of each tube. His website, www.audiotubes.com, is a great primer on what the different tubes have to offer sonicly to help you match different tubes with your personal taste and what your looking for in your system. He has been spot on with his descriptions with every tube I auditioned and made it easy and fun to get what I was looking for when tube rolling. Brent is always generous with his time, has very fair prices, backs up his tubes with an excellent guarantee policy and finally is honest as the day is long.
Well, even though with the tubes I mentioned above in my DAC and linestage and my system really hitting the "sweet spot" for me, I would not be a real audiophile if I was not curious about if there was any other NOS 12au7/12ax7 tubes that might be another taste or an improvement over my reference tubes.
This brings us to the subject of this review, NOS Mazda 12au7's and 12ax7's. It was explained to me that this French tube was not very well known by many American audiophiles because historically Mazda was never imported in to the US unlike other European tubes. The company started in the late 1800's, was located in Normandy and lasted until the early 60's.
The exact Mazda tubes that I'm sharing details on are 1963 short plate 12au7's and 1950 long plate/gray plate 12ax7's. Brent recommanded them as being sonicly between the Telefunken's tremendous dynamics/speed/ details and the long plate Mullard's/Amperex's warmth/rich timbres/image density. Again, Brent nailed the sonics of this tube that I had never heard of.
Beautiful punch/dynamics, with the leading edge of the Telefunken's without the "etch". The body of the harmonic is not quite as full as the long plate Mullard's/Amperex's but more body then the Telefunken's. I would not call the over all tone as warm, but sweet, with great liquidity. They throw a big natural soundstage with great layering. Powerful fast accurate bass and the top end might be the most detailed/airy/natural sounding of all the tubes mentioned so far. I still love my long plates and now have a slightly different "flavor" to enjoy. The Mazda's are wonderful musical sounding tubes that rank sonicly with the best legendary NOS 12au7's/12ax7's and I would recommend if you use either of these tubes in your system to audition the Mazda's for the above stated reasons.Associated gear Click to view my Virtual System