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Old 25th September 2007, 04:40 PM   #1
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Default Best CHEAP + best BEST current production EL34?

NEED AUDIO HELP! As many of you know, NOS usually sounds the best. I have NOS tubes in my best gear that I use. However, I'm not sure NOS is so much better as to justify what they are going for ($500 a quad? no thanks). Also, almost all of the tube reviews I can google are in guitar amps (which is fine) but I am looking for tubes for hi end audio and need your help. There is a huge difference in applications and those reviews dont help so much...

So for audio use...

My question is this, I need a set of EL34s for the bench, testing etc... and want your input on the best CHEAP current production tubes - Chinese, Sino, Shuguang, Ruby, Russian EH? Ones that I can put in the amps while im building them and won't cry if I hit it with pliers and smash the glass... know what I mean? At the same time, I want good performance and sound too...

Also, what about the BEST current production EL34 tubes for audio? The new Mullards? JJ KT 77? (though not a true el34). SEDs?

I appreciate your input and time and would request that you keep this to current production EL34s - I don't need to know personal preference on 6L6, KT88 etc or to NOS mullards... though a permanent thread devoted to just that would be nice and helpful! Basically, saying use Sovtek KT88s doesn't help me here... so again thanks for your EL34 input! -Sean
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Old 25th September 2007, 09:32 PM   #2
hihopes is offline hihopes  South Africa
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I don't know if this is going to help you much, but I can give you some feedback on my recent experimentation with EL34's. I had a pair of Tesla EL34's that I was quite happy with, but recently decided to try to find something better. After much research, I got 2 pairs of 6CA7's to try. One is EI and the other Sovtek. Both are significant upgrades on my Tesla EL34's (I suppose those would be called JJ/Tesla now, but there is no "JJ" on the bottles). I was tempted to try the JJ KT77's, but I was concerned that they might need some adjustment before they worked correctly in my amp.
There was quite a bit of talk about regarding the Svetlana "winged C" EL34's, and I was tempted to try them, but most commentators rated the 6CA7's better. I am very happy with both pairs of 6CA7's and I would have a hard time choosing between them.
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Old 25th September 2007, 10:15 PM   #3
Salas is offline Salas  Greece
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Best cheap is EL34EH. Best current is =C= EL34. If you feel like splashing out, it is available in a cryogenically treated version also.
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Old 26th September 2007, 02:12 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by salas
Best cheap is EL34EH. Best current is =C= EL34. If you feel like splashing out, it is available in a cryogenically treated version also.
Thanks... that's what I was getting from what I've read. If I were going to spend the upper $$ I'd go for a set of the NOS RFT/Siemans EL34s that are floating around the web. I have several sets of the Siemans tubes from different times - and they are just awesome. I love them and they should last for my personal amp for many years to come... they are my reference tubes for critical listening. I only have 1 mullard left from the old days and it's well used and living in a SE guitar amp. It does sound nice. I have some of the original Svetlana EL34s (2000? 2001?) that are pretty nice... are the SEDs made at the same place? Same tube only newer? I'd rate the Svetlanas about 85% of the Siemans tubes -- but easily besting typical solid state gear... they sound fantastic.. just a little midrange bump and somewhat less resolution of soundstage and fine detail comapred to the NOS tubes.

As for the 6CA7 and KT77 - those are not true pentodes, but rather the kinkless tetrodes / beam power tubes like a 6L6 or 6550. In general, I've preferred the sound of the EL34 to those tubes in the past... but I am interested in more feedback on these. I have read enough good things about the JJ KT77 to consider picking up a set. Would appreciate more comments on these El34 equivalent tubes as well. Thanks everyone...
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Old 26th September 2007, 02:48 AM   #5
Salas is offline Salas  Greece
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Quote:
Originally posted by Cycline3
are the SEDs made at the same place? Same tube only newer?
Yes. =C= logo is St. Petersburg made like the old ones. The old Svetlana 'S' logo is now ownership of New Sensor, made in Saratov. Same as EH, and new 'Mullard'.
Petersburg anodes have no holes on their side wings. Saratov ones have vertical holes running the length of the anode side wings. They sound rougher enough than SEDs.
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Old 26th September 2007, 08:18 PM   #6
hihopes is offline hihopes  South Africa
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I quote from your post:- "As for the 6CA7 and KT77 - those are not true pentodes, but rather the kinkless tetrodes / beam power tubes like a 6L6 or 6550."
Where did you get this (mis)information from. Yes, KT77 is a beam tetrode, but 6CA7 is the American version of EL34, with a bigger bottle, bigger plates and sound to match. If you don't believe me, download a datasheet. I know of guys who routinely throw our EL34's whenever they fix amplifiers and replace them with 6CA7's. I wouldn't do that, but that's me.
I almost bought EL34EH's, but the comments I came across persuaded me that 6CA7EH was superior. BTW, i reported in my previous post that one pair was Sovtek - they are actually 6CA7EH (Electroharmonix). You can get them, or the EI/Yugo's, for really good prices. IMHO, they are well worth the money.
I would be interested to hear from anyone who has compared either of these with the winged C's.
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Old 27th September 2007, 01:52 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by hihopes
Where did you get this (mis)information from. Yes, KT77 is a beam tetrode, but 6CA7 is the American version of EL34, with a bigger bottle, bigger plates and sound to match.
Being electrically equivalent does NOT mean or imply equivalent construction. From a leading tube retailer website:

"6CA7 was originally an American counterpart to EL34. 6CA7 is a beam tetrode like 6L6 and sounds quite different than EL34. Today, Electro-Harmonix produces a true beam tetrode 6CA7. KT77 is also a beam tetrode, originally introduced by MOV of KT88 fame. Today, JJ produces a replica of this wonderful tube.

Both 6CA7 and KT77 are excellent drop-in replacements for EL34 if you want to try different sonics from your amplifier. "
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Old 27th September 2007, 05:22 AM   #8
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Quote:
Both 6CA7 and KT77 are excellent drop-in replacements for EL34
Be careful here. In general, pentodes are able to use higher value grid resistors than beam tetrodes. For this reason, KT77s may not do particularly well in an amp designed for EL34s.
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Old 27th September 2007, 05:37 AM   #9
Salas is offline Salas  Greece
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Philips held the extra grid pentode patent in those days and Americans responded with fine geometry and with channeling the beam by using guides, introducing the 'kinkless' tetrodes. Both pentode and beam terode tech was developed to avoid an anomaly to the low left corner of the curves chart for normal tetrodes. The famous tetrode 'kink'. We can still see some ripple residue there, both for pentodes and beam tetrodes betraying the evolution step. Tungsol had published 6CA7 as pentode, showing the extra grid connected to pin 1 as in EL34. Sylvania was the main producer of 6CA7s even those labeled RCA. Given the uncanny resemblance to the geometry of their STR 6L6GC and the fact that the Americans raced against the Philips patent, I highly doubt that we will find an extra grid if we brake a vintage American 6CA7. I was never so curious, so I ask for the light of anyone that have seen a broken one.
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Old 27th September 2007, 01:31 PM   #10
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Hi Cycline3,

Against my better judgment (and the judgment of this forum BTW) I have just replaced my JJ EL34's with a quad set of original Mullard XF2 EL34's. Both sets of tubes have been biased correctly.

Here is my take -

1. The tubes sound no different to me at all!! Damn. Perhaps if I drink a bit more whiskey the Mullard tubes will sound better....I will get to work on that right now.

2. The Mullard tubes are a better shape (flat top) and look a little better, in my opinion anyway. The construction quality is certainly better than the JJ's. Those old tubes were made to last. Having said that, I am sure the JJ's have more life left in them just by virtue of the comparative age.

3. The Mullard tubes are certainly louder for a given volume setting when compared with the JJ's but at the same volume they sound the same, if that makes sense.

4. The Mullards glow brighter, no question but the JJ's have a nice blue phosphorescence on the glass which is only faintly present on two of the Mullards - the getter on the non-phosphorescent tubes is a bit shabby and although they test well I think that they are a bit long in the tooth.

5. If your wife/girlfriend/partner catches you buying original Mullards, it doesn't matter how they sound, you won't be around to enjoy them

Anyhow, I realise that this does not directly answer your post but in my opinion, the JJ's sound just as good as the original and apart from aesthetic differences (which is a matter of opinion anyway) they seem to be comparable.

Conclusion: If you are only interested in the sound, the JJ's are great.

Hope this helps,

Rob
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