Like tuberist I tried a lot of 6sn7 tubes. My favorites were the metal based Sylvania’s stamped USN. I now use 6f8g and BL 63 tubes instead of the 6sn7’s because I like the sound a little better and the old 6f8g tubes from the 40’s are a lot cheaper then the 6sn7 of the same vintage. With easily obtainable adapters they are drop in replacements for the 6sn7. My favorites are the BL 63 tubes but you have to be careful using them as they require a little more current and might cause problems to some gear. As always shkong78 I look forward to reading about your findings.
This is the best value to performance at 3 tubes at 60$.
Sometimes you can find a bargain at Ebay, but it could be hit or miss.
I am listening to "Vision of Love" by Maria Carey using this pair of tube.
It has extended treble and tight and slightly fuller bass than Syl vt231 while it falls slightly short of clean treble compared with Syl vt231, but not that bad.
I like this tube better than "Bad boy".
I will also include this one in the shooout.
I bought this as reserve 6sn7 for Freya which use quad 6sn7.
After using KR vt231, I switched to this pair. It sounds clean and transparent with nice decays.
It sound better than " Bad boy" which cost me 10 times more.
I will also include this one in shootout.
Sometimes you can find nice bargain. But it could be hit or miss.
I received Tungsol Black grass round plate ans Raytheon Vt231 tubes today.
I had done shootout between TS BGRP, RCA vt231, KR vt231, Syl vt231, Raytheon vt 231 and Bad boy
I had played same tracks for 6 tubes.
Eva Cassidy’s ’Autumn Leaves"
"Post card blues " by Cowboy Junkies
For classical orchestra, "Trittico" directed by Fennel.
"Still harry after all these years" will be for fusion jazz
1. TS BGRP gave most transparent almost see through sound. But it’s tonal balance is slightly skewed to treble, so it could sound hot in bright system.
It sound fast but the bass falls way short of the standard set by KR vt231 even behind Rca or Raytheon.
Some people are of the opinion that this one is holy grail of 6sn7 tubes doing everything well .
But it’s bass is disappointing.
2. RCA vt231 is kind of all around player. Compared with TS bgrp, its sound is slightly warmer with lush tone but with enough sparkle and air.
It is also very transparent just short of TS.
Its bass is also better than TS.
I paid only 1/5 price of TS on RCA vt231.
But RCA is as almost as good as TS.
Thus TS bgrp is over priced due to hype and RCA is a good deal.
if you can find Nos RCA vt 231 under 1505, grab it.
I had bought 3 pairs of RCA vt 231 with average price of 130$.
3. Kenrad vt231 has best bass among 6sn7 tubes.
With KR in it, I got the impression that I do not need subwoofer to get deep bass.
It also sound sweet. Thus its tonal balance is kind of neutral.
It is pretty transparent just short of TS.
4. Raytheon vt 231.
I could grab one RT vt231 at 80$.
But it was steal for the performance.
Its sound is halfway between RCA and KR.
it give better bass than TS and pretty good speed with transparency close to TS.
I wish to emphasize again the TS bgrp is overpriced due to hype.
I ordered one more RT vt231 at 70$ today.
5. Sylvania vt 231
Its sound is very similar to TS.
It has spooky details and transparency very close to TS.
But it’s bass is too tight but not with enough force.
I also have three pairs of Syl vt 231 at average price of 110$ for pair.
This one work better in Freya pre in front of headphone amplifiers rather than 2 channel system.
6. Bad boy ( Sylvania GT 3 holes made in 1952 or 1953)
This one has good tonal balance (slightly bass heavy) which will work well with bright system.
But it falls short of above vt231 tubes in tranparency with limited treble extension.
Its bass is full but not at the same level as KR but close to RCA or RT.
To conclude, this one is not at the same level as five vt231 tubes in detail and transparency.
It is overpriced due to hype.
But if your system is on the bright side, bad boy may work.
I think it is foolish to pay more than 150$ on it.
Thanks for posting your results. I’ll start by saying all systems are different. I agree with your results of the KR VT-231, RCA 231. Also the Sylvania VT-231; very good tube but bass is light and not extended.
RCA vt231 is kind of all around player. Compared with TS bgrp, its sound is slightly warmer with lush tone but with enough sparkle and air.Good description, I find the RCA to have great warmth and air. For a more neutral tube, RCA GTB has the same mids and great top-end.
However, I must say the Tung-Sol BGRP is my favorite tube. I find it to have smooth extended highs, transparency, and solid bass. A very musical tube which presents realistic sonics.
I paid close to $500/pair. Very expensive, it’s become difficult to find matched pairs with low noise and microphonics. Some of the Sylvanias would be a good substitute and they are very affordable.
shkong78, Thanks for giving us the results of your shoot out. It's a lot of work to gather and listen to all those tubes in your system.
Aside from which tubes are among the best, I take away a couple of points. First, the law of diminishing returns applies big time in audio. you're going to pay a hefty premium to get something that is considered "the best".
Second, There is no one best for everyone. Our ears, systems, and rooms are all different. The tube that sounds right in one person's system may not sound right in another's. If you're looking for the best tube in your system, you have to try them out yourself.
Thanks again for the info.
Bass too tight?
Of this group I think the Tung Sols are the best. With probably the Raytheon as my 2nd choice. Ken Rads are usually very problematic in high sensitivity applications. K.R.s probably my least favorite. The GTBs tubes from the 1960s are actually very good and are very reasonably priced. Best of these would probably be the Tung-Sols or maybe Sylvanias.
I agree with your points.
There is no best one for everybody.
It will depend on system and personal taste.
Each person had better try those tubes in his system himself.
I appreciate transparency of TS bgrp but it is too expensive to have one more pair as reserve.
I have 3 pairs of Rca vt231, Syl vt231 and two pairs of KR, RT vt231 as reserve since it is getting difficult to find Nos tubes in good condition.
List of 6sn7 that I have
1. Six Syl vt231
2. Six RCA vt231
3. Quad Kenrad vt231
4. Quad Raytheon vt231
5. Pair of Tungsol bgrp vt231
6. quad Syl GTB made in 1955
7. Two Amperex 6sn7 made in Canada
8. Six Rca gray glass gtb
9. Two Syl GT "Bad boy " made in 1952
10. Two Melz metal base 6n8s coming on May from Ukraina( two more coming on June)
11. Five Tungsol 6sn7gtb
12. Two CBS/Hytron 6ns7gt
13, Three Sylvania brown base 6sn7gtw
I will do second sets of shootout after delivery of Melz metal base which I ordered 3 weeks ago.
It seems they are same but I am not so sure.
I am curious how it sound in my system compared vt231s.
I ordered pair 3 weeks ago and have my finger crossed when I will get it..
It was processed in Kiev 2 weeks ago.
The Reference 6SN7 Thread
All vt231 (Syl, Kr, Rca, RT and TS) are in the same tier, not that TS is one notch above .
Bass Kr, Rca, Rt, TS , Syl in the order
Transparency TS, Syl, Kr, RT, RCA
Details Syl, TS, Kr, RT, RCA
Tonal balance Kr, RCA, TS, RT, Syl
Soundstage width RCA, Syl, TS, Kr, RT
Soundstage Depth TS, Kr, Syl, RT, RCA
Thus overall they are close in SQ.
Unless you want see-through transparency, you do not need to pay 500$ for TS bgrp.
Kr is attractive due to best bass and sweet tonality.
Syl is attractive due to excellent details and transparency
RCA give warm and lush sound which make one comfortable with nice bass.
RT is not far behind other ones.
TS’s bass is close to Syl with tight but not full impact compared with KR.
It’s been my experience; everything matters, when it comes to life-like sound reproduction. I’m not going to skimp on what produces the sound, that’s being projected into my (already maximized) listening room. What would have been the point, of making all my other system/room upgrades? Last week; I paid close to $600 (with shipping/insurance), for Brent Jessee’s last pair of round plate Tung-Sols. These are the forth pair, that I’ve had in my Carys, in the past couple decades. They proved my top pick, from the upper dozen+, of the Chimera tube trials. I’ve tried them in concert (splitter and driver), with every other top rated tube, on that list, over those years. Currently, using a pair of Sylvania, bottom-gettered, 2 hole/T plates, from 1952. I’ll never regret one cent, spent on any of those T-S beauties! They’ve consistently allowed whatever comes before, to pass without editorializing. Of course; that’s just my opinion and- who am I to say, what’s right in your room?
I do respect your personal choice.
Choice of tube or cable depends on system and personal taste.
There is no best thing. for everybody.
I had pulled the trigger for another Kenrad vt231 which fit my personal taste with sweet mid and most strong bass.
Thus I will have 3 pairs of KR vt231 which will outlast me.
Each vt231 has 10k expected hours.
The only tube which has possibility to dethrone KR vt231 is Melz metal base which I ordered 3 weeks ago.
If you rewire your filaments to 8V or 12V the price of NOS SN7s becomes a whole lot cheaper.
Better still don’t use an amp with tubes that every Tom Dick and Harry is using, driving prices up to insane levels. The 6SN7 isn’t the be all and end all by any means, and there are plenty of viable alternatives which don’t have the mythology attached.
If you build our own gear the world is your oyster. Ever heard a really well designed 12B4 preamp?
I found that Nos12sn7 tubes are available at lower price.
But I like full and sweet sound out of 6sn7.
After having spent 2800$ on buying 25 pairs, I found my favorite Kenrad vt231.
But I do not mind using some other 6sn7 tubes from time to time to taste different flavor.
My journey on 6sn7 is almost over.
The only remote possibility is what will happen if I like Melz metal base.
This thread prompted me, to look at my tube stash. If anyone wants to audition the Ken-Rad, bottom gettered, black glass, 6SN7GT/VT-231/JAN CKR; I just counted eleven. All from the early 40's and still new. Even one pair marked, "Tung-Sol 6SN7GT". Yeah; they're another one, that I liked with my round plates. Never knew there was a Melz metal base. The internals resemble the round plate's (X2). It'll be interesting, to hear your reactions.
1. I *really* think you need to include shuguang WE6SN7 plus and CV181-TII in the group you audition. However, these will require some period of break-in. So that might slow down your testing and comparisons.
Many folks who have rolled all the tubes you are testing have come to the conclusion that these new production tubes are right up there with the best of the old best NOS tubes.
2. Do you think you need to be concerned with burn in when you are testing these tubes?
3. There are several great 6SN7 threads out there. Please add your comments to these threads on head-fi and here on Audiogon. Look for 6SN7 reference and 6SN7 tube addicts threads.
Keep it up.
Although I have Shuaguang Black 181z, it is not Nos, it will not be included here since it is not Nos.
I had already done comparison between Sylvania vt231,and Shuaguang Black 181z about one year ago.
My conclusion is that although latter sound warm and organic, it falls short of the former in details and transparency.
Thus it is not in the same league as five vt231 tubes here.
But its performance will be close to 6s7ngtb made in 1950’s which can be bought at 50-60$ per pair.
Some pre amplifier makers recommend new production tubes.
The reason is simple
They can get hundreds of new production tubes but not hundreds of Nos tube.
Thus they can not design their amp based upon Nos tubes.
I am not going to expand my inventory more than 14 kind of tubes that I already have.
This is subjective test for fun.
Choice of tube is dependent on personal taste and system.
Thus people should try themselves in their system.
@markusthenaimnut- "Do you think you need to be concerned with burn in when you are testing these tubes?" Like virtually everything else, in this hobby, people will argue, forever, about that. My experience parallels that of Brent Jessee, who’s considered (by many) an expert, regarding NOS valves. Here’s a verbatim excerpt, from an instruction/info sheet, he included with my tube purchase: "New tubes need a break in period before they can exhibit their true sonic character when used in audio circuits. Preamp tubes especially benefit from a good break-in. This period may vary widely, but NOS vintage tubes usually need at least 48 hours of use, sometimes up to 100 hours. New current production tubes need 24-48 hours typically."
According to my research the early Melz tubes have the 1578 lettering. There were two factories producing Russian tubes and the holy grail tubes have multiple holes on the plates.
If the listed price is 150$ instead of 250$, then I may take the risk.
But I will wait for the tube coming from Ukraine.
As writing this, I am happy with sound out of KR vt231 which sound sweet, laid back and punch.
By the way I use demagnetizaion track for speedy burn in.
It seems to work well.
I found that Nos12sn7 tubes are available at lower price.Did you change the filament voltage on the amp concerned to suit the12SN7? All other things being equal, the filament voltage shouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference to the sound. You were hearing the difference between the tube types, not the difference between absolutely otherwise identical tubes using different filament voltages.
To make a sweeping statement that 6SN7 tubes are ‘fuller and sweeter’ than 12SN7s, or 8SN7s for that matter matter without conducting a series of tests using controlled samples is simply not credible.
I placed an order for this genuine "Melz 1578" at 250$.
Although I do not need more 6sn7 tubes, I pulled the trigger for shootout.
Let us see what happen!
The following is quoted from Jesse Brennt.
" New Old Stock White Box, aged. This is the rare military version of the 6H8C with the special 1578 stamp on the glass that audiophiles look for, NOT the junky blackbase version selling elsewhere for $25. Worldwide stocks of the military version have virtually vanished from the market. Heavy duty metal bases, T-shape plates with the holes in the sides, and spring steel plate supports like Tung Sol oval plate construction! These tubes have incredible air, image, "rosin-on-the-bow" realism, and powerful yet accurate bass. Very hot testing tubes with great gain, yet incredibly quiet. Some clients say these are the best 6SN7 tubes they have ever heard. I have a few RARE matched pairs of these, carefully selected and matched to within 1-2 percent. SINGLES ARE $100 EACH. Better grab them now, before these Russian beauties become rarer than Faberge"
While waiting for 1578 tube to be delivered tomorrow, I am using Red Brown Base Sylvania 6SN7WGT to play old Jazz by Benny Goodman.
This one is very good for i old Jazz with transparent window and nice details.
But I paid 60$ for three tubes.
What a value!
With 14 different sets of 6sn7 tubes, i can taste various flavor like various wines.
I received Melz 1578 tube 2 hours ago.
It blew my mind with nice decay and body, deep bass, wide and deep soundstage.
I had not been blown by TS bgrp just impressed with its transparency.
To me this one is one tier better than TS bgrp.
I am listening to "The Wall" which sounds full and powerful without subwoofers.
I ordered one more tube as spare.
They are gently used.
Thus no burn is needed.
It has nice body and full decay and the widest soundstage that I have had in my room.
It is worth every penny.
There are some USSR dealers in Ebay who sells tube with 1578 logo with 60 day’s return.
But it will take 6 weeks to get them.
I may need to order some more from Russia for Freya which use quad 6sn7.
Damn it, shkong78- Why didn’t you do this shootout, and test those Russkie tubes, a month ago? I’d have been looking for a pair of those, instead of buying the T-S’s. Now, I have to start shopping again. Thanks, pal! ps: What’s that seller’s eBay moniker?