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WE91 19th May 2009 02:24 PM

Which EL34 tubes for Hi Fi

Just looking for some more solid pointers before buying a new set of EL34's

I have really tried searching for the best current production EL34's for my needs.
On the net "reviews" are all over the place in what to recommend and are often about tubes for guitar-amps, not Hi Fi.

Knowing that choosing brand of output tube is dependant on amplifier and also is dependant on input/driver choice, here's what I have:
Amp.: Lectron JH50
Small signal tubes: 6SJ7's red metal longlife RCA and 1950 6SN7's RCA silver marking, blackplate, side getters.

I have narrowed my search of EL34's down to these (not ranked):
SED "winged C" EL34
Groove Tube EL34M (rating 8-10?)

What I need is deep, controlled bass, liquid and articulate midrange with good bloom without being "mushy" - and extended, sweet highs, rich in details together with a good and precise 3D soundstage.

My question to you is then: What's your best bet/guess/recommendation?

Best Regards

audio845 19th May 2009 02:46 PM

Hi WE91,

I use my EL34s in a Mullard style UL PP circuit with a 6SN7 driver, YMMV. For years I've been using NOS Mullards and Sylvanias quite happily but as you have probably noticed the price of these has gone through the roof. I've tried many of the newer versions to find a substitute. The SEDs are acceptable. I've had one tube run away and go up in smoke in two sets of the JJ KT77 so although I like the way they sound I refuse to get any more of them. The best sounding modern version BY FAR is the Genalex reissue KT77. I love this tube - I'm currently using them in place of Mullards and everybody who hears them and uses EL34s goes out and buys a set. I got mine from Jim McShane and they have been trouble free. Can't recommend them highly enough.

RJ 19th May 2009 05:58 PM

Re: Which EL34 tubes for Hi Fi

Originally posted by WE91

Just looking for some more solid pointers before buying a new set of EL34's

I have really tried searching for the best current production EL34's for my needs.
On the net "reviews" are all over the place in what to recommend and are often about tubes for guitar-amps, not Hi Fi.

Not fully true.
Class A Combo Designed and built by Bernard Raunig. This is a true single ended class A amplifier, using a 5Y3 rectifier and a single 5691 pre-amp tube. With a volume and single tone control this amp really lets you hear the tonal differences between the tubes.

azazello 19th May 2009 07:59 PM

Mullard's very good choice!

WE91 19th May 2009 10:04 PM

Thank you all :)

I need a quad of EL34's

I'll be counting money and figuring out if it's going to be a quad of Groove Tubes EL34M (close Mullard XF2 copies) for 104USD or reissue Gold Lion Genalex KT77's for 190USD ...

Another option:
I see that "the tubestore" has just good things to say about the reissue Tung Sol EL34B (thank you for your pointer concerning your testing, RJ)
What do you guys think of these compared to the "competition"?
These are also made by "Reflektor" (Sovtek?) as the reissue Genalex ...

Looking very much forward to your answer.:)

Panicos K 19th May 2009 11:58 PM

When someone is selling tubes will always say good things for the tubes he is selling(no offence for any store).By the description you gave for your taste in sound wich seems to be the ideal for most,I do not believe that any new production EL34 can fullfill this task.Yes NOS prices have gone very high,but IMO as long as you can afford them,get them.Besides you will not be changing tubes everyday,and it is for your listening pleasure afterall.SED might be preferable than other new production,but older Svetlanas are more musical.Also look for Siemens NOS.For some reason they are not so expensive as other NOS and they are very good.

audio845 20th May 2009 12:55 AM

A year ago I would have agreed with you and I was scouring ebay for single Mullard EL34s to match up myself as that is the cheapest way to get them. Even buying them that way they were usually about $100 a piece Then I heard the reproduction Genalex and I have been happily listening to them since, even with the choice of using Mullards. I'm using a Tamura output and running the tubes UL with about 500v on the plate at 50ma. Sound wonderful and have held up for 7 months without problems. Of course all of us have our own sonic preferences.


sorenj07 20th May 2009 01:46 AM

I say try the EH EL34's. They're cheap and reliable, and will provide a solid basis for comparison with later, more expensive purchases.

Personally I've used JJ E34L's and KT77's. I like the KT77's a little better, as far as I can tell.

Happy hunting!

rknize 20th May 2009 05:00 AM

My ears can't lend much help in the nuance dept and I certainly could never afford NOS Mullards, but I have tried Valve Art (Shuguang) and SED EL34s and JJ KT77s.

I have to give props to the Shuguangs. I bought them for bringing up and testing/thrashing new amps because they were the cheapest I could get. They actually sound really great, especially for the price. I've had no issues with the set even after much abuse and the build quality is consistent between them. Seen my share of Chinese firecrackers and I have steered clear in the past. I have no complaints about these. Since they are stamped "Valve Art", perhaps the quality is a tad higher.

The SED tubes are my current favorites in the SE amp for detail. They are quite good and I have come to really enjoy this amp now with these tubes now that it has broken-in some. They look like "normal" EL34s and are beautiful in operation as well.

The JJs have quality issues...look-out for slippery cathodes that slide down and out of the top mica when you pop the tube in. It will either cause a short due to the strap on the cathode touching something or the tube will arc over from exposing the heater inside the cage. My first quad had lots of issues, but the supplier was good about it and sent me a new set that is perfect. While they live in the standard, generic JJ-shaped bottle, the plate structure and cathode shape is unlike any other JJ I have they are unique. They sound great in both my VTA-70 Dynaco and the Simple SE. They are detailed like an EL34 but with more bass. Less of a compromise than the 6L6 IMHO. The difference in the PP UL amp is subtle, but it is more apparent in the SE.

I have to confess that I am a bit of a skeptic when it comes to New Sensor's "reissue" tubes. I can certainly see the marketing angle with picking-up the Mullard, Tung-Sol, and Gold Lion brands. If they are indeed trying to make tubes that are as close to the originals as they can get, then by all means have at it. No one else is going to do it. However back when they snapped-up the Svetlana brand while the original factory was still producing tubes gave me the impression that it was all marketing. I can't help the feeling that they are just "binning" tubes as they come off the test line. Tough, low microphonic tubes get EH stamps and nice looking, well testing tubes are Tung-Sol or whatever. When you look through the bottle past the silk screening, I don't see any difference between a Tung-Sol 6550 and a EH KT88. Do you? Do they really sound different?

Panicos K 20th May 2009 08:26 AM

It is true that many of these New Sensors look very much the same but they sound a bit different.When I was looking for EL84's I have been impressed somehow by the Sovtek EL84.Not as good as the Mullard NOS but better for my taste than other more expensive names from New Sensor.To my surprise I was trully amazed by Ei Elites EL84.I was able to get eight of those and I'm very happy with them.No problems either as we reed they have.Marketing war too ? :) In my amp they sound very musical and effortless with great soundstage and depth.

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