What tube model/types do you need?
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Hi, when it comes to buying NOS or used tubes, I rely on Brent Jesse Recording and Supply. He grarantees the products he sells. He also has a wide variety of NOS tubes to choose from. Another thing I like about him is he takes time to share his wealth of knowledge which to me is priceless. His website is very innovative. Here is a link
Knowing what type tube you are looking for would help. Tvad is dead on with the signal tubes. The older ones (generally made in the 1950s) are superior sounding. The only new production signal tube I have any experience with that sounds pretty good in my preamps is the Groove tube Mullard remake 12ax7m, these are available from several sources. When buying older signal tubes I would look for a seller who has excellent feedback and who can give you test results from a mutual conductance test and not just the standard line "tested good for shorts and emissions on my xyz emissions tester". IMHO long black plates and D or square getters are positives to look for also.
although i prefer vintage tubes, the tube circuit is critical in revealing or not revealing the differences in performances between current production and older tubes.
i just spoke to lyric hifi regarding the mcintosh 2102 amplifier. i am looking for an amp, cd player and preamp--all tubes, and have been considering mcintosh products.
i was told that the 201 does not change its sound when the driver tubes are replaced. i am also considering the c 220 preamp. it may be relatively insesentive to tube changes as well. certainly, my bat vk d5 cd player hardly changed sonically when i used amperex and mullard 6 volt tubes.
the bottom line: a difference makes no difference if you don't hear it. many of the current generation of tube products are designed around current tubes and are not responsive to changes in tubes.
Which tubes work best with different system depends upon the system and the ear of the owner. I have tubed rolled many different new stock and old stock tubes in various applications, using myself and other audiophiles as judges. I have yet to find any new stock that outperforms good old stock, even new cryoed tubes(they are an inprovement but tend to be fatigueing over long listening periods).Tell us what equipment you are using tubes in and what tubes you have used