In that tube family E88CC/E88CCa/6DJ8/6922 you have a plethora of choices. Many of the best tubes are no longer being made and are available NOS at premium prices. If you get NOS it's best to buy from a reputable dealer, especially if you are just starting out with tube gear. It is difficult to say exactly which tube will work best in your amp, in your system, in your room, to your ears, with your musical preferences. That said, of the NOS tubes in that family two of the favored flavors at the high end are both German made and pricy (read: $50-100 each!) are:
Siemens Halske E88CCa
There are many counterfit tubes out their of these types/brands so again, best to buy from a reputible dealer if you don't know how to spot a fake.
For less money (about $35 each) some folks have been happy with the Soviet Rocket tube which is a 6H30, and is a substitute for the 6DJ8 family. It will not work for all applications as something in the design is slightly different, but I cannot recall what. Check with the tube dealer for your application and see what they recommend. I think JJ Tesla does indeed make some great tubes, but have never heard their E88CC recommended highly over the competition, but have also never tried them out myself.
My personal preference for tube dealers is Jon at The Tube store
up in Canada. There are other fine dealers which you can get recommendations for here and on AudioAsylum. Jon has never let me down so I stick with him.
Sorry! My mistake: the tubes to be replaced are ECC 82 type... I do need your help the same way. Thanks!
Go over to www.audioasylum.com and do a search. You will get more information than you can use. Also, another very helpful and reputable dealer is Upscale Audio.com.
I suggest you wait until you are very familar with the sound of your new amp before you decide you need to improve on you sound. Then you will be able to ask for a specific sounding tube to change what you don't like or improve on certain parts of the sound spectrum, not just a generic "sounds good tube" for all applications.
In principal I'd agree with Newbee's advice. However, if you are new to tubes it may be difficult to know and describe potential differences without actually rolling tubes (swapping out one for the other in sucession for the sake of comparing the sound) and hearing the potential for differences among tubes yourself. Yes, you should definitely listen to stock, but you'll never know how different it may sound without comparing, and if you have the time, money and inclination it can be fun. Then again, if you like the way it sounds stock, as Newbee suggests, you can also save the time and money if you are not inclined to tweaking. As a VERY general rule of thumb the stock tubes most manufacturers include with their gear CAN be improved upon (most new tube gear that I'm familiar with comes with either current production Russian or Chinese tubes). I'm sure there are exceptions and I'm not familiar with the amp you mentioned so I don't know. Don't know ECC82/12AU7 tubes either, but, again, I'd talk someone like Jon to find out what he thinks for your application. Good dealers know their tubes well. By reputation I'd pay attention to the Mullard and Tungsram tubes in that family. Also, your friend who recomended JJ's may have been referring you to the NOS ECC802S which is a tube JJ Tesla designed specifically for audio use (the 12AU7 design was not originally designed/intended for audio applications, as I understand). Anyway, that JJ tube has a pretty good reputation. Again, no personal experience with this tube family, so I'm only telling you things I've read and recall. Have fun!
I am having fun already! As you all know, this is what audio is all about. I will listen to the original tubes of course and, much probably, keep them for a while. But, as I told before, this is a new world for me. And quite an interesting one. Meanwhile, I have visited audioasylum and I am starting to get the picture: 1. NOS better than current production tubes; 2. NOS are many times fake! 3. And some good models like Amperex 7316... One more thing: if the original tubes are ECC82/12AU7, I suppose I have to use this and only this tube type - am I correct? So what about NOS ECC802S as Jax2 mentioned: same family?
Yes, ECC802S are simply 12AU7's that JJ Tesla designed specifically for Audio applications. They are in the same family and should work in any audio application that requires the 12AU7 tube. See them at the bottom of the 12AU7 list at the Tube Store link I listed.
AudioAsylum is certainly another good resource for information (as well as misinformation). The picture you describe is a very broad generalization, and is not an inaccurate generalization. But there are current production tubes that are excellent choices among specific tube types. NOS tubes are indeed counterfitted (plenty available on eBay to choose from:-). Tubes are also sometimes re-Branded. Also, many manufacturers have some tubes manufactured in different factories in different countries (ie just because it is a Telefunken doesn't mean it was necessarily made in West Germany). For instance, I have some Telefunken E88CC tubes that were made in a Mullard factory in Enland, yet they are marked Telefunken and are not counterfits or re-brands. I have Amperex 12AX7 tubes that are marked "Made in England", that are actually manufactured by Tungsram and were made in Hungary that have been re-branded. Both of these are excellent tubes BTW, even though they are not "accurately" labeled. On the other hand I have a GZ34 rectifier tube that is marked as GE made in England (which should be a Mullard-made tube), but it does not have the hole in the base (a sign of a genuine Mullard GZ34), and has a telltale raised "X" seam on the top of the tube indicating a Japanese counterfit. A very similar kind of "X" seam (though not identical) can also be found on legitimate Siemens tubes which are not counterfits. So, once again, it is good to deal with a tube dealer you know you can trust if you are new to this. Your searches here and on AudioAsylum should give you some good general feedback to go on regarding specific 12AU7 recommendations. Again, good dealers know their tubes VERY well also, and may even know your specific component. Always keep in mind, just as in all aspects of this hobby, there are no hard and fast rules and YMMV. Use your own ears and system to make your own judgements.
I absolutely agree with your last statement for (for all, not only tubes, audio matters). And yes I have seen these ECC802S at the bottom of the 12AU7 list at the Tube Store link. I must confess I like this "designed specifically for Audio applications" concept. But I have one other silly question... These tubes are sold seperately, by unit. What about tube balancing? I am sure I will be glad to talk to Jon also (thanks for the tip Jax2) when I feel prepared to replace my stock tubes for new (that is old) ones.
Most dealers will sell you a "matched" set of tubes if you request that (I think that is what you are referring to by "balanced"). Some charge a small fee to match tubes, and most have good equipment to accomplish that. Not a silly question. The more expensive tubes are often priced per unit.
But Imagine I am interested (not yet...) in a pair of NOS like the ECC802S. In this case, should I ask Jon to match the tubes? And is it safe to buy tubes from so far away(Portugal is the southest european country)?
Yes, if you are buying a set of more than one tube for a pre-amp it would be a good idea to ask the dealer for a matched set of tubes. Yes, you would request that specifically. There are good tube dealers in other countries and far and near. Some tubes are more delicate than others, but if packed well, in general, they should ship well by air. If you receive a tube shipment in the Winter when it is cold outside you should allow the tubes to acclimate to room temperature before using them. I've purchased several tubes from overseas sources with no incident and all tubes have tested well. I bought some tubes from someone who had purchased from a dealer in Hong Kong and those tubes were not only not matched well, but one of them tested bad (in need of replacement). The guy I purchased from ended up sending the two worst back to Hong Kong. I kept the other two from the quad. Those were GEC 12AT7's. Especially when buying tubes overseas you should definitely only buy from dealers who you know from reliable sources are reputable and will stand behind their products and service. You risk the hassle of an international insurance claim if anything is damaged, and for expensive NOS tubes it may not be worth the hassle. Shipping insurance in general is a royal PITA, and it's getting harder and harder to "prove liability" and get paid for a claim. This may be even more so with Vacuum tubes where damage is not always physically apparent. Shipping is obviously also more expensive from overseas as well. Portugal is indeed in the southeast of Europe....was that a question? It's a beautiful country! Don't know any tube dealers there though, that's not to say they do not exist. I'm sure that there are good and bad tube dealers in most of the industrial countries of Europe, just like there are here. Some of the more exotic NOS seem more readily available abroad, probably since most were manufactured there. The Japanese audiophiles love tube gear I'm told, and are a major consumer of tubes and tube hardware. They do make some pretty good tubes in Japan as well, but are also known as a major source of counterfit tubes too. Again, since you're new to tubes, I would stick closer to home for now and save yourself the potential hassle. Along with my recommendation of Jon through my many experiences buying from him, you can also find many recommendations for other good dealers, closer to you, on this forum as well as on AudioAsylum. Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio, as well as Andy over at Vintage Tube Services both have good reputations among those who have dealt with them. Kevin Deal does run a full service high-end audio store, and has been criticized on these forums (he has also received much praise here as well) for giving priority (rightly, IMO) to the products and sales that keep him in business, of which tube sales are only a tiny part. The upside of that, as I see it, is that he deals with a great variety of different components and knows about how tube selection affects specific components. Both Jon, and Andy are strictly tube dealers as far as I know. All they sell are tubes and tweaks. Jon has been able to give me excellent advice about specific components as well and was right on in his assessment. Again, I have no doubt that all three of these dealers could be a darn fine source for tubes and advice about tubes. I have no personal experiences to speak of with either Upscale or Vintage, but there have been many posts recommending both as excellent dealers. Any of the three will be able to sell you a matched set of tubes, and should be able to recommend specific tubes for you application.
Sorry if I should complicate matters: The advice so far is excellent as far a personal taste, listening habits etc are concerend. Also there is a definite advantage of the ECC802s over the ordinary brands of ECC 82s as regards tube life, freedom of microphonics, tube hiss etc. Generally they are built to such close standards, that matching them is most probably not even necessary if they are truly NOS. The Teslas are good tubes, but nothing really spectacular. You might just as well stick with the original ones. I would prefer the Telefunkens for silence, speed and a wonderful liquid midrange. They are hard to find though, but there are reputable German dealers who sell through ebay, they go for about 80-120 bucks a piece. At the moment there are a quad of Mullards for sale, which equal the liguidity of the Teles, but have a wonderful warmth as well, which gives female voices an extra shine. They are ultra rare, the dealer has good feedback and you can find them at http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3021220838&category=3284. They are probably worth while to look into. If you want the best, Teles and Mullards are the ones to go for, the Siemens are a bit cold and generally not so much liked by audiophiles...Cheers and happy listening,
I'd certainly defer to Detlof or anyone with extensive personal experience with the specific tube type you are considering. I don't think you complcate matters at all Detlof; I was not trying to recommend the JJ, but merely suggested that if someone did recommend it they were probably referring to the ECC802S version since it is supposed to be superior to the standard ECC82 they also make (from what I've read). Sorry if that came of as a recommendation of that tube over other options as it was not intended that way. As I said, I have no experience with 12AU7's at all so would not presume to know which was best and why. The only thing I might disagree with is that NOS tubes should be expected to match if they are "truly NOS" (or new current production tubes for that matter). My experience tells me otherwise. I have purchased sets of otherwise identical NOS tubes both from overseas dealers (Tele E88CC's as well as the GEC's I mentioned) to find out they were certainly not matched. Perhaps 12AU7's are different in that respect(?). Regardless, please correct me if I'm wrong here, but I was under the impression that it was far less important for these smaller pre-amp tubes to match up closely than it is to match up power tubes for amplifiers(?).
Jax2, I am in complete agreement with you and apologise for being unclear as far as the matching of those NOS tubes is concerned. What I had in the back of my mind was exactly what you had stated at the end of you post, that contrary to the matching of power tubes, the matching of preamp tubes is far less important and that generally in the range of the ECC 803s and 802s tubes, if from the same batch, differences are slight and certainly not noticeable to my ears at least when listening to music.
Yep, I think we're on the same page too Detlof! Thanks for the clarification and no need to apologize...no offense was taken in the first place.
Thanks Jax2, Newbee, Detlof... Impressive amount of information on tubes! Tubes were totally unknown for me. But I have learned a lot for the last two days (I think I have, that is...). 1. NOS are USUALLY better than current production tubes; 2. NOS are many times fake BUT there are some dealers we can trust (like Jon) 3. Power tubes need to be matched. Preamp tubes also but it seems to be not as important as for power tubes. The same for NOS 4. There is no such thing (as there isn't for all audio matters) like the best tube. It will depend on the system and, of course, on personal taste. Nevertheless, within the ECC82 family, models like Amperex 7316, Tesla ECC802S, Sylvania GB-5814A or Siemens ECC82 seem to be worth a listen. So, I have one more question: according to your personal taste, and considering the tubes listed above or other, which ones do you like the best? And still one other remark: I do apologise for my English... Thanks!
TGM, in Jadis gear I have had the best results with:
1. Telefunken ECC803s and 802s. They must have the typical Telefunken diamond imprinted as part of the glass bottom of the tube.(not silkscreened but in the glass tubebody itself!)
2."Normal" Tele 83 or 82s with the diamond.
3. Mullards as a close second, or even a first with rather coolish equipment.
4.French Mazdas ECC83/82 are highly musical as well and a sleeper!
5. Amperex bugle boys if you want slam and dynamics and don't care so much for a warm midrange.
6. The Sylvania you mention
7. Personally found the Siemens 82 a bit "whitish" and grainy, did not like them.
All this is purely subjective anyway. Cheers,
AH! Now I think I get it...you are living IN Portugal!?? If so, what a beautiful country you live in! I enjoyed visiting there back in 1999. I'm sorry that I did not realize that (if it is true) in answering your questions about buying tubes from abroad (so obviously your English is excellent and there is no need for apologies). There are many reputible dealers in Europe that have all kind of wonderful tubes available, and because you are over there (at least I think you might be) you should probably seek them out. Germany and Switzerland both have some reputable dealers and are not far from you. Anyway, glad to help you in whatever small way I could, but as I mentioned I cannot comment on the tubes you are interested in and will leave that to those with more direct experience with that tube type.
Yes, Jax2, I do live Portugal. So where have you been in Portugal (please, do not say Algarve only...)? About REPUTIBLE dealers in Europe, are you aware of their links (if there are any)? And your help was not small at all. On the contrary, it was quite usefull for me to get into this tubes' business. Thanks for all, Jax2!
I was staying in a house in the country north of Sintra near Mafra. I can't recall of the name of the village though. I was there for two weeks and traveled a bit in that area with many trips to Lisbon and Sintra and along the coast, and as far in as Evora. Loved the Fado music there. Your drivers are of the craziest I've ever encountered (no offence intended)! The coast is GORGEOUS. The people were warm and friendly, and the pace of life there is sooooo relaxed and comfortable compared to the rest of Western Europe. Just a wonderful country!
As far as tubes in Europe, there are many dealers selling on eBay with an abundance of good feedback. I recall one in Switzerland called Micronetics selling some pretty exotic tubes and having some excellent feedback in abundance. Here is the Micronetics Website
. Check on AudioAsylum for some names also (search the "Tubes" section with something like "europe dealer"). Sorry, but since I buy most tubes local to me I don't know European dealers that well. Try World Tube Audio Portal
to get some information and links about world dealers.