Valvos and Teles are as good as I've heard. If you want to go hard the other direction, try Mullards. Be careful shopping for the European tubes and their high prices. Often times, the labels are meaningless and don't match the actual plant that produced them. If you are going to spend the money, learn how to read the codes.
Check out upscaleaudio.com or thetubestore.com or Tubedepot.com for quality tubes. There are many brands such as Mazda,Siemens, Sylvania or even GE that can sound awesome. Have you tried 7189? Sometimes they have a "sweeter" sound and should be a direct replacement.
Keep in mind that some manufacturers make different versions too such as Amperex (globes) vs Amperex Trumpeter/Bugle Boys.
Montytx & Elevick thanks for advice! I bough mine from Tube Museum (New York), i've seen upscale audio youtube channel and noticed they sell on ebay and on their website. No i have not tried 7189 (i'll keep my eye on it).
I've heard about Amperex Bugle Boys but never tried. They problem is (as you said) each brand sells in many variations and if there is a strong contenders to go nose to nose with my vintage Telefunkens (quad of E84L and pair of ECC801S) i'd like to know exact model to try.
BTW any thoughts about russian reissues of Genalex Gold Lion or i should look for good NOS only? My telefunkens weren't cheap and in this price i can't buy many.
Chakster, the answer depends to some degree on the kind of sound you're looking for. If you like what the TFKs are doing, then IMO Montytx is right - the ECC801S and the Valvo 6201 is as good as you can get. Other well regarded tubes - the Sylvania Gold Brand, Mullard, Brimar, Amperex, and others - are all good in their own way but each will give you a slightly different flavor of sound. Some may not be what you're looking for.
If you want a decent crash course on how 12AT7 tubes sound, go to the Tube Asylum on AA and do a search for 12AT7. Look for threads where Bambi B has posted. Between Bambi B and Luminator you should be able to get a good sense of what to expect with each tube.
Ones results will of course will depend on the gear but in my Doshi phono stage the TELE ECC801s rule. Very clean, revealing, transparent and dynamic. Be careful though because NOS sometimes equates to OC (old crap). A lower priced but also very good alternative to the TELE is a Mullard CV4024. Very similar to the TELE but a little more colored and not quite the same frequency extremes.
Have also used Mark and Kevin and have had nothing but excellent service.
Myles ... Military TELEFUNKEN ECC801s matched pair and E84L matched quad from the 60s (nos) - this is what i use in my amp for 3 years and i agree with you description of the sound. Love it!
I only need something else but on the same level of performance , something pretty much involving, maybe different sound. Some modern tubes i have tried were total crap and non involving at all.
Chakster- Some years back; I was building a driver board for an amp(ST70) and required three 12AT7 family valves. Desiring the most transparent available; I sought the Tele ECC801S and Tube Museum was offering them. This purchase was, and remains, the only time I've been stuck with(very obviously) counterfeited tubes(out of multiple scores of deals). I'd be interested to know whether those that you bought from them have the embossed Telefunken diamond, at the base of the tube(inside the pins). If you still have them, could you take a look?
I decided to post my updates here:
Got this set of gold pins Sylvania Gold Brand 12at7WA
... and i must say this is the first tube that i really like compared to my Telefunken ECC801s. What a great experience, this Sylvania sound is something special, i think i have more flow, definitely more bass and while the top end is not so extended as with Telefunkens i still love the highs of Sylvania. very comfortable tube in my system. I think the gold pin version of Sylvania GB is rare, but still not so expensive as Telefunkens.
Now i’d like to replace my power tubes:
Telefunken E84L which i’m uning now with those Sylvania preapm tubes.
So the question is what can be really good as a direct replacement?
What about late 50s, early 60s cylinder "no hole" plate RCA smoke glass 6BQ5 tubes?
Mullard CV4024? Never tried, but they are widely available NOS in every tube shop as i can see (under $50). The Sylvania Gold Brand is not so easy to find, especially gold pins.
Anyway, not i'm looking for power tubes (6bq5/EL84) for back up, those Telefunken E84L is so rare and i want to put them aside for some time.
I'm happy with Sylvania 12at7/ECC81 as an alternative to my telefunken ecc801s. Can't buy every tube i wish to try, unfortunately.
Mullard NOS 6201 (12AT7) tubes from Upscale in my power amp (previous 4024s are in my backup tube bullpen)…gold pins, sound great, relatively inexpensive, and in my amp are the phase inverter/drivers so a little less important maybe than the 12AX7s in the input stage…or something…anyway, the Mullards flash when you start ’em up, which I enjoy (and demonstrate for friends sometimes…not sure if they give a crap, but hey…). I also use the re-issued Gold Lion 12ax7s, and GL KT88s for power, and both of these types are relatively inexpensive but reliable and available without paying for mythology. All work perfectly and sound great.
I'm sure it will be impossible to beat my military Telefunken E84L (quad) that i use now in my amp, so i'd like to avoid any new tubes made in Russia for various brands today.
I'm looking only for NOS vintage tubes from the 50s or 60s.
Seems like the late 50s or early 60s classic cylinder "no hole" plates with a tilted top disc getter RCA "smoked glass" 6BQ5 NOS is a contender, they are $109 for matched pairs from Brent Jessee. Anyone tried them ?
I run ECC801S' in a phono stage. It is an extremely clear, dynamic and detailed sounding tube. For me, it has so far lived up to its reputation of being extremely durable and long lived.
But, it would be the WRONG tube if you are looking for a warmer, less analytical sound. On that end of the sound spectrum, I like Amperex Bugle Boys. They are warm sounding without being muddy.
Dear @chakster : """ something pretty much involving, maybe different sound. Some modern tubes i have tried were total crap and non involving at all. .... """
Stop to play rolling tubes, it's useless and can give you what you are looking for: TRUE MUSIC ENJOYMENT.
If that is your target you need to change and forget almost all the AHEE teached and you learned as a very good audiophile. You need to take a radical path to arrive " there " and only have one alternative that's through a good SS overall design. Tubes can't honor MUSIC, yes can make sounds but that's all.
You are an audio hyperactive gentleman so why not ( " just for fun ". ) make that " proscripted " ( by AHEE. ) change?. You can do because if you want to grow up then you have to experience NEWAYS to do it!
After all, we have to test and listen " new " things to evaluate if we are really in the rigth road or not. That's what you do every day with your several cartridges to evaluate whcich are the best ones.
Regards and enjoy the MUSIC not DISTORTIONS,
You are an audio hyperactive gentleman so why not ...
Oh, thanks for this description, Raul :) Actually i'd like to try low power Pass Labs First Watt amp with my full range high efficiency (101db) upgraded Zu Audio Druid mk4 speakers as the manufacturer used to run this combo on their shows for demo. I think the pass labs amps are special current amp and unique, designed for speakers without crossover (like my Zu Audio), here is the thread about them.
However, i love tube amp in my system, all my music created and recorded/mastered with tubes equipment, so why not reproduce this music with push-pull triod tube amp?
Dear @analogluvr : There is no doubt that you was and are a very good student ( with honors. ) of the corrupted AHEE where all belongs to.
Problem with you is that after all those years in the audio hooby you are still sticky to that tube real crap that we all learned since ( at least ) the middle of the last century but you need awake. Even that you still live in that old past century years we are in 2017: wake up !. Things already changed for the better and that's why exist SS and digital technologies ! ! !
Regards and ebnjoy the MUSIC not DISTORTIONS,
Everybody knows than Raul prefer Solid State and that's fine. When we're talking about new concepts and new ideas in Solid State amps, i think First Watt designed by Nelson Pass in USA is worth to try for the owners of high efficiency loudspeaker owners, at least i would like to try (only) if i could find used one for reasonable price.
The fact that we're in 21st century doesn't mean that we have to use only new designed products in audio. Personally i don't care about most of the new stuff when properly designed vintage high-end available 10 times cheaper (turntables, tonearms, cartridges). I'm fine with new speakers, new amps with nos tubes, and new cables, though. I don't care about digital because my favorite music recorded in the 70s and sounds great on original pressings (vinyl).