In my opinion, the gold pins offer no viable sonic improvement over the standard pins.
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I have used the EH6922 in several different components and in only one unit did their substitution have poor results (my ARC SP10, in which I use 6h23's). Generally I found them to have a full bass, an uncolored mid-range, and not over-emphasized highs. No particular warmth, but they are not even close to the sound of a Sovtek which in most components will sound as cold as a well diggers ass. IMHO of course. Also, sound wise, gold pins are not additive, but since they do not corode like steel pins they should maintain a sonic constancy which can deteriorate with steel pins (that corrosion issue is the reason I pull and check my tubes annually). Electrically, unless the socket has gold contacts, gold pins are of no benefit. Personally I wouldn't pay more for the gold pins. BTW consider that many very highly regarded NOS tubes have steel or stainless steel pins.
Of course: The some of the best 6922s(CCa, E188CC, 7308, E88CC by Telefunken, Siemens, Amperex, Valvo) DO have gold pins, but they(the gold pins)won't make any sonic improvement on a tube by themselves. Step up to a matched NOS pair of one of those variants in your preamp and the difference will amaze you.
In what way would you like to improve the sound from your pre-amp? You need a fix on that otherwise you will just be fling as blind as the recommendations that you will receive.
'Improvement' is too vague, especially when what most folks are actually looking for is a tonal 'difference'. The few that don't are usually looking for the same tonal balance but want greater clarity.
Tell us what you are looking for and if it is obtainable I'm sure you will get some sound recommendations.
"Warmer" and "darker" are colorations and exactly the opposite of "transparent". If you want "warmer" sound and less highs, a pair of NOS Mullard, Ediswan or Brimar tubes(British manufacture/coloration), ie: (http://www.upscaleaudio.com/product.asp?itemid=282&catid=42) will provide that without a sacrifice in imaging or soundstage.
I should have mentioned: With regards to the "focused bass" you're seeking- That's usually more a function of the amp/room/speaker/cable/interconnect combo. Of course the preamp plays a role as well, but the pre and tubes can provide as accurate a signal as possible, yet the bass end up sloppy via a lack of synergy elsewhere.
Any tube you put in the sgnal path invariably changes thes sound. However, there are more and less sensitive circuit respones to rolling.
If I am getting you- You really want completely neutral 6922s. Then I suggest the least expensive real NOS fom 1984 maybe but NOS Jan Phillips you can get at reasonable prices. Even the old cheap roll JAN is now expnsive from some dealers and there are a few that naturally cost more, for example the 7308 JANs .
The usual demands for improvement are complicated due to the excessive demand. The prices are almost impossible to figureband importantly don't tell you the most important issue. The tube you buy must be in excellent, non microphonic, quiet condition.
No matter what else the tube is supposed to be good at, it's useless if it's noisy.
The prices are obscenly high. Thus excersize caution- you have been warned. - Buy them from a very repuitable dealer who can tell you a bit more about the sonics but no one will declare what the tube will do in your rig.
IMHO The German tubes typically give you a fast clean attack and accuracy. They can be very sterile sounding so be sure to know what you know what sound you want before plunking down a ton of money.
The British are as mentioned on the warm side and a bit mid range emphasized. There is my favorite the Mullard Mil. spec CV2943 or E88CC-01 which is put in the 7308 category It is the only british tube I have heard that sounds more German than British. They are scarce but I think uncle Kevin had some. They cost too much at this point, for me to pound a shoe about them.
I would not be afraid to save some money and buy 6DJ8s they are much less as a rule and there is a wider variety of good tubes available.
Good Luck and buy them from a stand up dealer only. Because these obscenely expensive tubes will be sold without any hesitation the worst condiion really the old reject quality. Seller that are just part time, have no testing instruents and is a grandmother named Frank. You know at that small auction operation.
Disclaimer--- I have become a regular with a couple of dealers from that site so no not everyone is out to steal.
Thanks for all the suggestions. Mechans; you've hit on what I'd like to achieve, which is the most realistic sound with tubes for the biggest bang for the buck.
Would love some of those recommened rare NOS, but want to keep things as affordable as possible. Therefore, for consideration my next question becomes, if you wanted to go a step up from the 6922EH to most affordable NOS today, what choices are there that some of you may have discovered?
Before you venture off into NOS tubes, which addmittedly can be better in many applications, try some of the alternative new production 6922/6dj8's, and see what you think of them. Try the EH, also the JJ, which sound nothing alike, and given your financial considerations and lack of real focus, may just float your boat. If you don't like either of these tubes at least you will have gained another reference when asking for advise, for example my observations of the performance of the EH. BTW the EH is not a 'bad tube' at all. Lots of folks like it!
Caveat 6922/6dj8's that are quiet and worthwhile are usually very expensive. I prefer Amperex BugleBoys, some Siemans, and Tele's. Old Yugo's (EI's) now hard to find, are probably my all around favorite. Be very careful about who you buy from, this is classic swampland territory.
I'm out of the ball park for expensive rare NOS. Would like to keep under a few hundred dollars for all (3) tubes.
Newbee, please tell me more about the Old Yugo's and why you like them so much. What time periods/years were the ones you like manufactured? How would you describe their sound qualities? What weaknesses, if any?
One of the best bargains in NOS 6922s are Tungsrams from
www dot zeitmann-tubes dot com/
I bought from these fellows many times back when they sold on Ebay. They were trustworthy and thir testing was reliable compared with results on my tester. If I needed more tubes from the 6922 family, I'd buy from them again.
Here's a linkl to Brent Jesse's website , he gives his impressions of various 6922 & variants , and lists stock so you can see prices (not affiliated other than as a customer) - might be helpful