• WARNING: Tube/Valve amplifiers use potentially LETHAL HIGH VOLTAGES.
    Building, troubleshooting and testing of these amplifiers should only be
    performed by someone who is thoroughly familiar with
    the safety precautions around high voltages.

Mullard EL-34: new vs vintage

I'm not a believer that one tube vintage vs. new sounds substantially different over another...there's way too much tube voodoo and snake-oil hucksterism going on in that respect IMO...particularly among vintage tube sellers who are usually intent on separating some poor sap from ridiculous amounts of his hard earned dollar.

Where the difference between new..usually Russian or Chinese made tubes vs. vintage (British, Euro, American) becomes important IMO is their robustness and longevity.

There are however current production Russian and Chinese tubes that are made to military grade specs, that others here more expert than I can recommend, that are the equal in terms of construction and longevity to old production tubes.
 

tim614

Member
2008-06-15 2:20 am
weak tubes sound different than strong tubes…
regardless of brands and or vintage or new reproductions. i have try many different brand new and NOS and i do hear difference in sounds, but of course its all because of how weak or strong the tubes are.
i am with the camp of science and not VOOODOOO rubbish. i do believe that vintage are more reliable from tubes to tubes because of the tight tolerance in tubes production back then, because tubes were the only device for the job at the time.
 
weak tubes sound different than strong tubes…
regardless of brands and or vintage or new reproductions. i have try many different brand new and NOS and i do hear difference in sounds, but of course its all because of how weak or strong the tubes are.
i am with the camp of science and not VOOODOOO rubbish. i do believe that vintage are more reliable from tubes to tubes because of the tight tolerance in tubes production back then, because tubes were the only device for the job at the time.

Weak vs strong....yes...and I agree that most (but not all) of the newer production tubes aren't as robust in construction and longevity. If someone believes they can hear the difference between a NOS vintage EL34 output tube and a set of NEW JJs..................well I've listened to 'em all in both guitar applications and Hi-Fi applications... and I'm not one who has heard any difference;)
 
I'm looking for any info on how the new Mullard EL-34 (in the blue box) compares in sound to the old vintage Mullards.

Thanks
Jim

Used in what, and with which circuit?

There is a basis for tube rolling, and you may get a different sound from different types. However, that almost always applies where no gNFB is used. One of the purposes for gNFB is to make circuit performance less dependent on the characteristics of passive and active components.

since EL34's are pents, there's a good chance the device in question includes NFB: certainly global, and quite possibly local (Ultralinear) as well. If that's the case, then it probably won't make enough of a difference to be worth paying the audiophool "tax" to acquire vintage Mullards.
 

prairieboy

Member
Paid Member
2010-11-22 2:31 am
Hm , well thanks. I can clearly hear differences between different kinds of tubes though, pop these in, listen, pop those in, listen. So what I'm after is info from somebody who has been able to compare the vintage ones to new ones. Thanks.

Although you might be hearing something, perhaps it is not the different tube, but that the tubes have not been adjusted for bias, optimum grid stopper, etc. To use an analogy, that's a bit like jumping from one car to another, without adjusting the seat for height/position/back angle and saying one feels great and the other doesn't.
 

river251

Member
2010-08-07 2:27 pm
Sorry, it looks like my question was not clear.

Assume one compares an NOS vintage Mullard EL-34 tube(s) in some circuit of good quality to a "new" Mullard EL-34, and carefully listens to the sound to determine whether they are sonically the same or different. Assume bias is properly set and everything else is equal. Can anybody tell me if or how they will sound different?

I really am looking for a direct answer from somebody who has had the requisite experience with both the vintage and new Mullard EL-34s to provide a direct answer to this very simple question.

Thanks,

Jim
 
Last edited:

jjman

Member
2009-01-17 2:41 pm
I think the 1st step is to determine if tube A and tube B have anything in common other than the spelling of their names on the boxes. Do vintage Mullard el34s have anything in common with the new ones? Country of origin? Machinery used to make them? Specs? Materials? Designs?

I don't know but I would think someone here would know the answer to all of these.
 
while rebuilding my Eico HF-60 monoblocks, I used Shuguang (Valve Art) EL34s as my test valves. I put plenty of hours on them and really enjoyed listening to lots of different types of music through these Chinese tubes.

Later on I threw down the big $$$ to buy a quad of vintage XF2 Mullards. My expectations were high that my amplifiers were going to jump up in a whole new league. Honestly, the improvements were pretty minimal. Better? Sure... maybe... Dunno. If I had an ABX box and switched back and forth, I would be hard pressed to hear the differences. That aside, the vintage Mullards seemed to a hair more extension, both bass and treble along with a "bigger" soundstage... there was a touch more detail.

Having said that, I have heard some rotten EL34s - like the slim bottle EH EL34s, which - at least to my ears - sound like solid-state in a bottle. YMMV
 
river251 said:
Sorry, it looks like my question was not clear.

Assume one compares an NOS vintage Mullard EL-34 tube(s) in some circuit of good quality to a "new" Mullard EL-34, and carefully listens to the sound to determine whether they are sonically the same or different. Assume bias is properly set and everything else is equal. Can anybody tell me if or how they will sound different?
Your question has been answered: a hi-fi amp with NFB will mean that they sound about the same, a guitar amp may sound different (as that can be sensitive to things like internal capacitance). However, any difference that is heard tells you almost nothing in general about the quality of the tube, unless it is noise or microphony - all other differences are about that particular tube sample in that particular circuit.

When someone says something like "this tube sounds darker" he is telling you almost nothing except that he probably doesn't understand electronics.
 

tim614

Member
2008-06-15 2:20 am
Df96,
I totaly agree!
I think sometime people want to hear what they want to hear from people that are I'n the same camp to confirm their theory on tubes Rollin. On some other forum, yes you can finds tons and tons of this kind of discussion, but this forum I don't think is one of them.
 

Parafeed813

Member
2012-08-15 8:24 am
DF,
I always read your posts with great interest, but now I start to wonder why you are interested in valve technology at all. After all, SS amps measure a lot more like a wire with amplification than valve stuff. Maybe I miss something?
Personally I use theories and measurements as tools for building, analysing and improving my amps. However, the goal is to improve the listening experience, I am not looking for the best measurement values or confirmation of electronic theory.

To come back a bit to the question of this thread: some 15 years ago I compared the 'sound' of several different valves in the amp I had back then. It was a PP-UL (5k5), with around 480V on the output valves. I am not sure about the GNFB, but I put plate to driver plate FB in there. Bias was a combination of bypassed cathode resistors and negative g1. I compared RCA (by TS) 6550's with chinese firecracker KT88's and Valve Art 6550A, KT88 and KT100 (really EL156). All set for the same idle current. The firecracker KT88's didn't have a soundstage, very flat and locked inside the speakers. The VA 6550 and KT88 look to be identical inside, but deliver different soundstages: with the KT88 you can pinpoint every instrument exactly, but the 3D image was between the speakers. The VA 6550a projected a much bigger stage, but the instuments were bigger as well, so no pinpointed locations. The RCA's were better than both the VA KT88 and 6550a. The big surprise was the VA KT100 (with EL156 insides). These had a very good 3D image, and were 'sweeter' sounding than the RCA's. They reminded me a lot of 300B's.
So TS, yes some people can hear differences in output valves (in certain amps), but I haven't compared EL34's like this.
One time I did put some metal base Philips EL34's in an Audion Sterling amp (SE EL34). It seemed like that tiny amp gained a whole octave in the bass region compared to the chinese EL34's that were in there before. As it was in a shop I didn't measure anything.

I did one time (20y ago?) some power measurements on my old plexi Marshall guitar amp. I found some interesting differences between various power valves. Chinese EL34's, east German dimple top EL34's, Sovtek EL34G, Tesla (not JJ) EL34's, they all put out 120W upon clipping. With chinese firecracker KT88's it delivered 175W, just like with Philips (Mullard) xf4 EL34's. Biasing was done visually by scope: turn up the current until the crossover notch just went away. Even if my dmm was inaccurate, the differences were reproducable.
 
Sorry, it looks like my question was not clear.

Assume one compares an NOS vintage Mullard EL-34 tube(s) in some circuit of good quality to a "new" Mullard EL-34, and carefully listens to the sound to determine whether they are sonically the same or different. Assume bias is properly set and everything else is equal. Can anybody tell me if or how they will sound different?
Jim
If you can hear a difference between tube brands that will put out the correct wattage and bias currents, then your high fidelity amp needs redesign or repair.
The only difference I've noticed over the years in this 1961 build dynakit ST70, is old worn out tubes putting out flabby 7 watts, versus new tubes putting out 17.5 crisp watts. I've had GE 6CA7 1970 buy, Mullard EL34 1976 buy, and now JJ 6CA7 2010 buy. Mullard is now a trademark of a Russian tube factory, I don't buy those. Guitar amps can run in the non-linear part of the curve, where tubes can sound different. For those type amps post in Instruments & amps section, or music-electronics-forum.com which is all about guitar amps (and Hammond organ owners are not welcome).
 
Last edited:
River251, It appears you came to the wrong forum to ask your question. Try Audio Asylum instead.

This forum can provide a lot of useful information but many of the participants do not share your perspective on the audibility of various changes, this time with different tubes but the same could be said about the sonic effects of different components such as capacitors and resistors. I happen to share your perspective. I am able to hear, quite easily, significant differences between tubes. This is true whether they are vintage or modern, output power tubes or input signal tubes, and whether the amp has global feedback or not. Unfortunately, I don't have any experience with the tubes you asked about. I have read, however, that modern "Mullards" have nothing in common with original Mullards except the name.

In general, I nearly always opt for carefully selected (by listening) vintage tubes for all tube locations except PP output tubes where NOS is just too expensive for me. In my PP amps, I use reissue Genalex KT-77s and Tung Sol KT-120s.
 
Parafeed813 said:
now I start to wonder why you are interested in valve technology at all.
I have explained this in other threads. To be brief, I seem to have more success with valves but I always try my best to avoid 'tube sound'.

It seemed like that tiny amp gained a whole octave in the bass region compared to the chinese EL34's that were in there before. As it was in a shop I didn't measure anything.
I'm glad you said 'seemed', as I can't think of any reason why swapping properly functioning valves of the same nominal type would genuinely affect bass. Maybe a small change in distortion might change the perception of bass, as the ear/brain can synthesise missing bass from harmonics when necessary. More distortion means more harmonics which means more ear fooling; people then prefer the valve which gives a poorer performance.