Review: Tung-Sol by New Sensor EL34 B Tweak

Category: Accessories

Tube Report 12/02/2009 by kach22i
Tung-Sol EL-34 B valves/tubes (matched pairs);
Package; 2x driver tubes + 8x power tubes and single 6SL7input tube

The tubes previously used in my Golden Tube Audio SE-100 (100 watt push pull) amplifier were Electro-Harmonix EL-34’s. I had these in use for five years (infrequent use) with no problems (purchased with unit and described as slightly used) until I tried to rebias them from 300mv-340mv range to 500mv. I have since been informed on the Golden Tube Audio Yahoo user group that a lesser 450mv puts less strain on the tubes and provides a longer life. The EH rebiasing went from fat bass and rich sounding to a leaner, cleaner sound before one of the tubes blew taking out the right channel.

The Story:
Current setting for the new Tung-Sol tubes is 460mv; I expect them to settle down to 450mv by themselves in the next few months as this has been the pattern during the early tube break-in period.

I was instructed by GTA Yahoo group members to bias on installation, again at 10 hours of use, and then again at 50 hours of use. Also, check bias every three to six months depending on use and personal neurosis. I intend to check the bias at the 100 hour mark just to be sure and safe.

I have never installed tubes before but expected a break-in period of changing, developing and maturing sound. This is exactly what has happened, but I’m expecting small changes both in what I hear and in my perceptions as they (my ears) become accustomed to the new system signature sound.

In short and as a spoiler, Tung-Sol are great tubes and I would purchase them again knowing what I know now. I thought that I would prefer a more bloomy rich midrange and maybe at the expense of deep controlled bass and extended highs. However the very powerful, detailed and balanced across the spectrum sound I now have is growing on me quickly, no going back.

Tube Log 2009:

1 hr 11/12/09 biased tubes to 455mv
Great bass (Carver-like), soundstage is foreword but a bit flat. Cohesive sound top to bottom. Top end not very zingy, could sparkle more.

10 hrs 11/15/09 (2-1/2 hrs on but no music played) 11hrs total
Still dry sounding but much detail in bass. Dry means to me in this situation not in full bloom, yet very controlled. Lead guitar does not glare like it could at times before.
High end treble still muted somewhat. However voice is full and solid up and down.

TV positioned in between the speakers does not block soundstage in middle anymore like it used to with old tubes.

Solid and cohesive bass, it’s not crazy or over energized on Holly Cole’s CD Temptation like it could get before the tube change. My wife mistook Holly Cole’s CD for a vinyl record and started dancing to it.

Depeche Mode; Music for the Masses LP has full bass drive which never fades or quits. This LP can sound kind of recessed as if I could never play it loud enough, not anymore.

The Smiths; Meat is Murder is also a recessed mixed LP, it is still melancholy but in a more alive way.

4-1/2 hrs 11/16/09
Re-Bias after first 10 hours: found to be at 382-460mv range, brought back to 455mv. Better drive and upper treble, bass even tighter, vocals more clear, not recessed or foreword. Tambourines, bells and hi-hats are maturing. Music becoming more lively, plus good tempo and rhythm.

Finn Brothers opening track on CD is still very strong on deep bass, but more controlled and detailed. Still sort of weak in the treble considering the super tweeters are engaged.

3 hrs 11/18/09

1 hr 11/20/09

4 hrs 11/21/09

6-1/2 hrs 11/22/09
There may be a need to keep the system synergy and acoustics in balance with the changes brought on by the new tubes and resulting energy patterns.

6 hrs 11/23/09
Speaker tweak: I chose to change out materials under speaker spikes (from maple to bronze) on the rear spike for the different resonance and placed a composite grinding disk/cutting wheel under the front two spikes (resting on steel plate on custom sandbox on sprung wood floor). This also adjusted speaker angle to near vertical for good effect.

6-1/2 hrs 11/24/09
After three more listening sessions I am very happy with the sound, but moving ahead with more tweaks.

Turntable DIY modification: I took the time to perform a long planned turntable upgrade intended to increase bass and dynamics by removal of all rubbery things under the table.

TT link:

Acoustic Treatment: as mentioned before I unfortunately have a large CRT screen TV between the speakers. Draping a heavy wool blanket over the TV for serious listening is what I’ve done in the past. I have since carefully place pillows in front at the base and on top of the TV for even better affect. The pillow on top of the TV currently sits vertically on a bookend; face of pillow is currently five inches behind TV face.

7 hrs 11/27/09

7 hrs 11/28/09 (pre-bias #3) 52 hrs total

4-1/2 hrs 11/28/09 (not a typo, after bias #3 to 460 mv)
Across the board awesome. Treble zings and swings with the best. Midrange vocals are a bit thin and dry from what I was used to, but well balanced, certainly not syrupy or romantic. Bass is very tight and detailed. Dynamic impact on whole drum kit is very real. Good tone, rhythm, depth and soundstage. Ultra detail; plucking of guitar strings, cymbal hits, hi-hats, snare drums, sighs and breathed whisper of voices all add realism to the music which blows me away. CD’s are warm, LP’s succulent and seductive.

The formerly booming bass on the first track of the Finn Brothers CD and several resonating acoustic bass passages on Holly Coles’ Temptation CD are more controlled. No longer boomy, would have to classify as strong, deep and forceful, not overpowering. There may be some room acoustic issues at the frequencies in question but they are not being aggravated as in the past.

Tone inflections of solo singers, duet voices and choirs have distinct and clear separation of voices.

7-1/2 hrs 11/29/09

3 hrs 11/30/09

8 hrs 12/02/09

Many to list, however pure drive on songs like Seal’s “Killer” top the list followed by detail across the board.

The fleshing out of vocal tones (mostly male) lags slightly behind all the other stellar aspects of these tubes. I’ve put on some Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, K.D. Lang, Holly Cole, Julie London, Sade and so forth, all rich in their own way and they do fine. Inflections and changes in tone that you never heard before might even be a bit distracting. However take some other rich voices like Morrissey, Brian Ferry and Duncan Sheik, the last bit of richness is a bit shallow at times.

I’m going to blame the recordings on some voices not fleshing out 100%, if it’s not there, it’s just not being added in. Not every singer is going to sound like an opera singer in the shower; I would not want it that anyway. However I think the trend of fleshing out certain voices on certain recordings is still in process and the sound is still maturing and getting better all the time.

My system in Martin Logan Forum:

Some More Stereo Pics:

Music CD:
Holly Cole/Temptation, Finn Brothers/Finn, Duncan Sheik/ Duncan Sheik, Shaun Covin/a few small repairs, Blue Tofu/Blue Toufu, Paula Cole/This Fire, Dead Can Dance/Toward The Within, K.D. Lang/Ingenue, Martin Sexton/Black Sheep, Concrete Blonde/Bloodletting, Johnny Cash/Solitary Man, Seal/Seal, Dean Martin/Greatest Hits, Frank Sinatra, ……….and a bunch of other stuff.

Music LP vinyl:
Pink Floyd/The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd/Wish You Were Here, Emerson lake and Palmer/Lucky Man, Colour Box/ Colour Box , Julie London/Julie is Her Name, Brian Ferry/Another Time, Another Place, Gnarls Barkley/Crazy, Depeche Mode/Music for the Masses, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark/Crush, David + David/Boomtown, Robin Trower/Bridge of Sighs, Sinead O’Connor/The lion and the Cobra, The Who/Live at Leeds, David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust, Bob Enevoldsen/Quintet, Elton John/Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Talk Talk/The Colour of Spring, Sade/promise, Rickey Lee Jones/Chuck’s N’ Love, King Crimson/Young Person’s Guide, Mel Torme/That’s All, Johnny Mathis/all-time Greatest Hits, Nancy Wilson/Naturally, Della Reese/Della, Gene Harris/Live at the IT CLUB, Art Pepper Quintet/Smack Up, Art Farmer Quintet/At Boomers……….and a bunch of other stuff.

Last Thought:
I have since been told by a good source (Ioannis) that my tubes are 90% broken in with 75 hours on them, and should be 100% in another 50 hours (time to re-bias). Quote: “the best you can expect is 3000 hours. On the last 500 hours the quality will be gradually declining (but surprisingly your ears will compensate for this!). From my past experience after the 3000 hour mark even if the tubes are still going, biasing will be a hard work and you risk blowing up a tube/fuse/burn resistor and so on. It's not worth it...........On the bright side, if you average about 10 hours listening per week, you're good for 300 weeks (vacations included: 6 years!). Much better ratio than any projector user!!!” end Quote.

Ioannis and I have the same model amp (GTA SE-100), but he has two of them and modified them extensively.

Cheers, George/kach22i

Associated gear
System description:
Turntable: Dual CS 503-1 modified plus Cardas Neutral Reference interconnect

Cartridge: Grado Sonada, MM

CD Player: McIntosh MCD7009

Tuner: Lafayette LT-825, solid state, made between 1977-81.

Pre-Amp: GRAAF WFB One
tube with tube phono section

AMP: Golden Tube Audio SE-100
Russian EL-34 tubes (100 watts)

Loudspeakers: Martin Logan, Aerius 1992

Super Tweeters: Realistic 40–1310A

Subwoofer: M&K MX-90 (dual push-pull drivers)

Misc: Atlantis Rack, Tripp-Lite power supply box (1986)

Similar products
El34 by Electro-Harmonix
Tube Report 12/29/2009 by kach22i (Follow-Up at 100% break in at 130 hours)
Tung-Sol EL-34 B valves/tubes (matched pairs);
Package; 2x driver tubes + 8x power tubes and single 6SL7input tube
Power Amp: Golden Tube Audio SE-100
Speakers: Martin Logan Aerius, 1992 vintage with super tweeter and subwoofer

In short and as a spoiler:
Tung-Sol EL34 B tubes are great and I would purchase them again knowing what I know now. If you are using bass shy speakers without a subwoofer these tubes may give you needed bottom end grunt and drive. If like me you have full range speakers with a subwoofer in a smaller room, be prepared to improve your room acoustic treatments and bass absorbers, these tubes rock and rock deep.

Male voices; have warmed up and have more bloom (the correct amount) when compared to the 50 hour mark bias. A so called dry midrange may still be noted in the review because of the spectacular power and drive of the rest of the music. The term simultaneous contrast comes to mind as a possible explanation.

Example of simultaneous contrast; picture two different orange colors side by side, one will look more yellow the other more red than if either one were viewed by itself.

Review Notes; should be read in context with the earlier tube log of 50 hrs/90% break-in. The following comments are made at the presumed 100% break-in period of approximately 130 hours. Tubes were re-biased (did not need much) at 126-1/2 hours. Comments made here and now were made in a single day using both LP and CD formats.

Music LP vinyl:
Pink Floyd/The Dark Side of the Moon, Emerson lake and Palmer/Lucky Man, Colour Box/ Colour Box , Julie London/Julie is Her Name, ……….and a bunch of other stuff.

Music CD:
Holly Cole/Temptation, Finn Brothers/Finn, Duncan Sheik/ Duncan Sheik, Seal/Seal, Dean Martin/Greatest Hits, Frank Sinatra, ……….and a bunch of other stuff.

Pink Floyd/The Dark Side of the Moon, Original Master Recording (yellow band at top) found on side two, first track the song is “Money”.

Horn solo; is warm and sweet with just enough aggressive grit to sound angry when it needs to. There is no glare or stridency, sound projects well and is amazingly centered.

Bass; is full, dynamic and detailed. The bass provides a solid foundation for rhythm.

Highs: detailed cymbals, splashes of energy when hi-hat is hit, but not distracting or out of place. Music is cohesive without being blurred or compressed.

Solo Lead Guitar: could be more “in your face” but it is never fatiguing, screaming or ear bleeding, forcing you to beg it to stop or pray for it not to peak. Often Mid-Fi solid state does not know when to let go of a note, not the case here with tubes.

Vocals: perhaps dry for a tube, depends on what you are used to. The SE-100 Golden Tube Audio 100 watt amplifier used in this review was underrated in its day, original list price ($3,000) did not reflect its true audio value. With these tubes I’d have to say it leans towards an Acoustic Research signature sound more than a Conrad Johnson sound. That to say it leans towards a leaner drier sound than a rich bloomy sound but I place it in somewhere in the middle. I am no expert, just visited a lot of hi-end shops over the years and done a bunch of reading to pan off of.

Emerson Lake and Palmer/Lucky Man, found on side two, last track the song is “Lucky Man”.

Vocals; Greg Lake’s voice is pretty darn awesome, and the supporting backup voices truly harmonic. The drum kit is outstanding from top to bottom.

Details; everywhere is detail never heard before by my ears on these familiar recordings. There is no oversaturation, it is just pure music. Organ playing gives goose bumps, very liquid yet fast and tight and of course deep.

Julie London/Julie is her Name, 1st song is “Cry me a River”.

Impressions; the sound of this LP has improved so much over the time I’ve been using it as a reference that it is downright crazy. I in fact first chose this LP not because of the honey sweet vocals, but because of all the snap/crackle/pop surface noise it had. System improvements and tweaks were designed not to awaken this beast and to manage it within reason through careful resonance guidance.

Changes; I’ve tweaked the room acoustics and the turntable many times during the tube break in period, non-scientific of me, I admit. However I could not overcome my desire to hear music reproduction in the most flattering light. Adjusting the system and optimally tuning it is par for the course in audio world land, right?

Bass; the additional details (plucking, performance and instrument size) I hear in the acoustic bass I mostly attribute to the Tung-Sol EL34 tubes and not so much due to the other changes. I have a tube log and a pretty good mental record of the changes made, and the results.

Vocals; her voice is as full of natural bloom and as liquid as you could possibly attribute to any tube swap. Time Machine Transportation (TMT) is a phrase I’ve just coined to describe my emotional response to this LP. This is one of the songs I heard as a child on the Motorola table radio my mother used to listen to while cleaning the house in the late 1960’s.

Colourbox/Colourbox, found on side one, 3rd track the song is “Say You Will”.

Vocals; reverb/syth on voice is good. Female voice is realistic until recording engineers sought canned echo sound which really carries into the room nicely for a techno dance sound.

Deep Bass; is a bit overpowering at times (maybe room acoustics), then again it does feel good to turn up the volume on this track. I can imagine this track being a real performer on smaller systems looking to achieve a big sound.

Colourbox/Colourbox, 3rd track the song is “Say You Will”.

Vocals; the echo hall effect reverb/syth on female voice is just “more there”. I suspect that the quieter background of the CD allows this to happen more effectively.

Deep Bass; is there but not annoying present. Must be an issue with my turntable, the CD is much lighter in balance.

Top End; the maracas/tambourines jingle constantly throughout this song. These instruments play a much more predominate role in the CD version of the same song.

LP vs. CD: observation of this single example has the bass driving the rhythm and pace of the LP. And for some unknown reason the mix of the CD has the jingle of the maracas/tambourines leading the rhythm and tempo of the song. Is this an odd or unusual phenomena?

Finn Brothers/Finn, 1st track, the song is “Only Talking Sense”.

Vocals; are very intimate, detailed, delicate and lifelike. The singer sings at a little higher pitch than most male vocalist, which means that the narrow slot of “dryness” I was hearing in some male vocals is avoided entirely on this CD.

Bass; the first track when played on my system has always had a hit you over the head bass response. Big and boomy unless played at moderate volumes, I have adjusted and corrected much of the room acoustics responsible for this, but it is still there lurking in a lesser form and degree of severity. The rest of the songs following the first track are better behaved and better balanced, and sounding better than ever with the Tung-Sol’s now fully broken in.

Holly Cole/Tempetation, 2nd track, the song is “Train Song”.

Bass; the big warm bass is in full but not excessive bloom and seem to fill the room with its presence.

Vocals; Holly’s voice, every breath and tonal inflection are wonderful. Detail combined with that certain “tube magic” it is a joy to experience within the comfort of my home.

Duncan Sheik/ Duncan Sheik, 6th track, the song is “Serena”, also played the three songs after that.

Vocals; this is one voice I might expect to hear some dryness on as Duncan covers the typical male range. Some male voices had been sounding a little flat compared to the energy across the rest of the music, rather problematic having the all important midrange developing last as it did. I found the vocals to no longer be dry. I’d have to describe the sensation as intimate, full of nuances and detail. The singing voice was sort of delicate and vulnerable, but not effeminate and it had dimension.

Short Story-aside; way back when this CD was released in 1996 Duncan and the band appeared on Conan O’Brien’s late night show. A few days later they played the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, Michigan which was a couple of blocks from where I was working. My co-worker John and I stood outside in line putting up with an interment a drizzling rain. Then some guys walked up past us and started to chat it up with some pretty girls about eight feet in front of us. I was convinced these guys were putting up an act like they knew these girls so they could take cuts in line (first come seating). I started to think that I might have to bop one of them in the head with my rolled up umbrella and send them all to the back of the line. Suddenly the small group of guys decided to split. My body language and eye contact must have sent a message because as they were leaving one of them, stopped to kindly explain to me that he is the band’s drummer and the guys in the band were trying to give back stage passes to the pretty things in line (I think the girls said no thanks). I told him that I just saw them on Conan and that’s why I was there, which seemed to make his day – a real friendly guy. The concert was great, but filled to capacity. I felt the small stage and low ceiling of the basement club may have cramped their style a little.

Sonics and Staging; this CD sounds better than ever, love the tubes and the vocals have become the best part of the music (as they should), everything just sings with emotion. Some of the best centered front/back and side/side sound staging in a recording so far. Projection of vocals into the space is excellent; this is not a recording where the singer seems to be standing ten feet behind everyone else. Not by a long shot. Prior to the last tube bias adjustment and adjustment of room acoustics I did at times find Holly Cole’s back-up singer in front of her, and Roger Walters was floating around backstage, but all these break-in teething issues have now gone away.

Seal/ Seal, 4th track, the song is “Killer”

Rocks Me; I have always loved this song. I think that I first heard it in the Chicago based High School situated boxing movie called Gladiator (co-starring a young Cuba Gooding Jr.). The drive and force of this really rocks, hard to believe that I first heard this song on Laser Disc in Prologic which actually sonically stomps to death any of the later DVD formats. On CD with the tubes “Killer” is pure “ear candy”, a sinful delight. It is also much cheaper than listening to the best PA system in a strip club of yesteryear, and unlike the club the stereo is wife approved. Deep inside of me a part of me wants to hear this song on some big horn speakers while spilling beer on a basement party floor, it’s just that kind of song. However my hybrid electrostats illuminate all the spicy detail along with the Blast-O-Meter effect. Seal will not sing without generous amounts of reverb, he just don’t like his own voice that much (remembering an interview on Charlie Rose and a CBC studio performance). Despite all of this, his voice still is not dry or shallow on this recording, the tubes must be working overtime.

Frank Sinatra/ The Reprise Collection, Disc 3, 1st track, the song is “Got You Under My Skin”

Finally Moves Me; the last 10% of the tube break-in has definitely happened. There is just “more” to the music, more bloom, more detail, more continuity, more rhythm, more dynamics, more billowing lung capacity to Sinatra’s voice too. Does NOT sound short, dry or flat. There is a deeper resonance to Sinatra’s voice than heard at the 50 hour bias mark. The 130 hours of tube break-in has crossed the maturity threshold I was hoping for and given me that last 10% which had been missing.

Dean Martin/ Greatest Hits, 9th track, the song is “Volare”

Vocals; one cannot help but smile when listening to this happy sounding song. Dean seems to be having the time of his life, kind of like Mel Torme singing about New York. The joyful pleasure is in listening to the pleasure one must imagine Dean Martin had when recording this song. The sound of his voice jumps out at you like a 3D movie image, almost in your lap.

Replay; lowered the volume level two notches. As I suspected it sounds good lowered, but the overly projecting voice peaks reach me without jumping in my lap and almost startling me.

The Acoustic Monster Residing in my Living/Listening Room:
My continuing battle with room acoustics was aggravated by the additional deep bass but not out of place bass these tubes delivered. The “live” quality of drums and other percussion instruments including cymbals can at times be more real than certain male voices. This as you can imagine could at times affect the balance of the soundstage both side to side and front to back. I tend to blame the room acoustics and myself for having placed a large CRT screen TV between the speakers. Other staging issues can also be the recording; it is often hard to distinguish when this happens.

Be careful of midrange suck-out, placing too much dampening in the room to control the highs and lows, as this may also suck out the middle frequency energy (could be part of my problem).

I’ve already admitted that I love these tubes, and you may want to keep in mind my room and my personal bias as you read the full review.

Bias Note:
My friend Ioannis on the Golden Tube Yahoo group is correct, bias at:

125 hours

The last 10% of the tubes sound fleshes out between 50-130 hours. And although not as dramatic as the earlier break in period changes, they will reward the critical listener.

Cheers, George/kach22i
Wow......long review of the tubes.

As an FYI....I have a Golden Tube SE-100 also. Purchased new in 1996(?).

After a bunch of expiramentation (haven't tried the Tung Sol EL-34's yet) I like this set-up.

Tung Sol 6SL7GT input tube.

2x Groove Tubes EL-34M (Mullard XF-2 dual getter reissue) in the back/driver positions.

4x Electro Harmonix output tubes

4x Svetlana (Winged C) output tubes.

Good Luck