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PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2016 8:14 am 
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Mark II

Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2016 9:56 am
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Location: Missouri
Ok so I have 2 Mesa Roadsters laying around and both are loaded with different tubes. One is completely loaded with Mesa Branded Tubes (6L6)- the other is a set from Dougs Tubes (6L6) match quad with a mix match going on in the pre-amp section.
So I decided to throw together a quick compare/contrast to see how vast or how little of a difference tube brands and if chassing the rabbit of tone down the hole of tubes and tube selection- if its worth it or not.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmGTB0JXlzg

Id like to know what you guys think- and if there is some crazy tube combo's that have blown you away- such as the KT66 or KT88's? I was open to trying out all these but after how little of a difference I noted not really that enthused about spending that kind of money for a marginal difference.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2016 9:05 am 
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Mark II

Joined: Thu Dec 13, 2007 11:33 am
Posts: 115
Location: Canada
If I'm not misled, Mesa stock poweramp tubes are Rubys rebranded, at least in the Roadster.

I personaly own a Roadster, and while the Rubys made a great difference in my Single Rectifier, they didn't at all in my Roadster. I couldn't see the difference either. But the JJs 6L6s I now have in my Roadster do make a huge difference, it's night and day. The only other tube I swapped was the V1 to put a Tungsol and it made a difference too. I had to reEQ my amp afterwards, but since then it "breathes" a lot more, is more articulate.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2016 10:09 am 
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Mark II

Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2016 9:56 am
Posts: 51
Location: Missouri
Correct- from my understanding Mesa has a system they do in which then they brand certain tubes as their own- so your more than likely correct about the origins of said tubes. I can see some validity in swapping the V1 to a Tung-Sol but even then the difference for me in my small world is so small its almost negligible.
You mentioned you now run JJ's in your Roadster- and Ive heard some folks say that JJ's are crap heard folks say Rubys suck too- I guess it all depends on the individual and more so its really difficult to draw a definite line as to which is best or better.
Thanks for checking out the vid and thank you for your perspective in regards to the roadster and the JJ's- I may at some point try them out.

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Belt Fed Riffs & Gear
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Current Rig:
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Orange PPC 2x12 cab w/ V30's
Two Notes Torpedo Live


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2016 10:13 am 
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Mark II

Joined: Thu Dec 13, 2007 11:33 am
Posts: 115
Location: Canada
My pleasure!

Although I never heard Rubys were crap, I did hear de JJs have a less lifetime than other brands. I'm still running my first quad and so far so good. But tone wise, they're the best so far in my Roaster, at least for the dirt side! (I also tried the TADs) But my cleans are nice as well!

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Last edited by nismofreakish on Tue Aug 16, 2016 7:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2016 6:13 pm 
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Mark II

Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2016 9:56 am
Posts: 51
Location: Missouri
Cool deal when its time for me to re-tube I'll give JJ's a second look or consideration specially given that you as well are rolling with the roadster

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Current Rig:
Mesa Boogie Roadster Head
Orange PPC 2x12 cab w/ V30's
Two Notes Torpedo Live


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2016 12:14 pm 
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Dual Recto

Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:31 am
Posts: 2580
Location: North Carolina
Great post by the way, watched the video. Sounds great, both amps sound the same...

I have been down this rabbit hole, primarily with the Mark V. However I also have a Roadster and have tried various tubes in that excluding the cathode follower positions V3 and V5.

I believe the Ruby 6L6GCMSTR tubes are the same tube as the Mesa 6L6GC STR440. Not much of a major difference will be noted with same tube, perhaps some are selected for a given set of characteristics but the differences will not be audible. I have a set of the Ruby 6L6GCMSTR that I have tried both in the Roadster and the Mark V. There may have been a slight difference but essentially they sound the same. If you want to hear a difference between different 6L6GC tubes best to use unlike versions. TAD 6L6GC-STR are phenomenal tubes, SED =C= 6L6CG are similar, TungSol 7581 and the Svetlana 6L6GC (not identical to =c=) share some similarities but quite different in tonal character and gain structure. Just change in power tubes to something unlike the Mesa branded Ruby tubes will be apparent.

As for preamp tubes, Mesa sorts out the JJECC83s tubes that meet specific characteristics. You can get some subtle differences with just a change in V1. Tung sol 12AX7 will alter the tone in the top end and reduce some of the dominant bottom end and shape some mids. Mullard RI 12ax7 long plate will also alter the amps character with smoother top end and perhaps a bit more midrange presence. You can get a different character if you leave V1 stock and change V2 to other type of 12AX7 tube. Change in V3 or V5 did not have any apparent or noticeable change (I actually prefer the Mesa branded JJ 12AX7 in these positions). I have tried the penta-labs, Ruby HG version, and the old Mesa Chinese 12AX7A (better than the others) in V3. Not much of a difference here as it feeds the tone stack also has one of the late gain stages. One last position that will affect tone would be the PI tube (V6). Just a slight advantage in top end with a Sovtek LPS or JJ ECC803s but not much.
I actually prefer the Roadster with the Mesa tubes as they complement the Mesa 6L6GC STR440, also some tubes may take away the grind or gain characteristic if their impedance places a shift on the tone (TungSol 12AX7). Even the Mesa SPAX7 will slightly alter the character of the Roadster. There is a slight change but more audible with change in power tubes.


If you were comparing two Mark V amps with different preamp tubes, they would sound different as that amp seems to react well with preamp tube change. Perhaps it is the early tone stack location on that amp that makes change in preamp tubes apparent. Not really sure.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2017 3:17 pm 
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Single Recto

Joined: Mon Mar 09, 2009 5:16 am
Posts: 1258
For my Mesas, I only have the V1 preamps replaced with SPAX 12AX7s for both my Roadster head and Mark V head. For the power section, both have matched quads Winged C 6L6s. It does make a difference at least to me


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2017 3:20 pm 
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Single Recto

Joined: Mon Mar 09, 2009 5:16 am
Posts: 1258
BeltFedRiffs wrote:
Ok so I have 2 Mesa Roadsters laying around and both are loaded with different tubes. One is completely loaded with Mesa Branded Tubes (6L6)- the other is a set from Dougs Tubes (6L6) match quad with a mix match going on in the pre-amp section.
So I decided to throw together a quick compare/contrast to see how vast or how little of a difference tube brands and if chassing the rabbit of tone down the hole of tubes and tube selection- if its worth it or not.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmGTB0JXlzg

Id like to know what you guys think- and if there is some crazy tube combo's that have blown you away- such as the KT66 or KT88's? I was open to trying out all these but after how little of a difference I noted not really that enthused about spending that kind of money for a marginal difference.


They are slight differences between brands indeed. May not be night and day for some people. I for one dig those Winged C 6L6s. However, if you wanted a more drastic difference, changing different poweramp valve type will do more. Since you have two Roadster heads, I suggest you keep one with 6L6, and maybe try a KT66 or EL34 set with the other, assuming you don't mind spending money on a full revalve on the second Roadster so to speak


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 2:10 pm 
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Donating Member
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Joined: Mon Jan 08, 2007 2:59 pm
Posts: 1275
Location: Canada
I can definitely say that EL34s are a great choice in a Roadster if you're playing at big-boy volume and on the crunchier or heavier side of things. Passive pickups with sensible output levels into a Roadster with EL34s on CH3 vintage and a little boost kick in the input jack is an awesome 'classic heavy metal' tone - nice tight, focused chug and grind and a lead sound that isn't 'stiff'. You can also get a f%&# amazing vintage lead tone on CH2 Tweed with EL34s if you're in a situation where you can play LOUD.

EL34s do (in my experience) make it a lot harder to dial in three or four channels all sounding good at combat volume, though.

My overall experience is that preamp tubes, specifically V1, make a noticeable difference in the "flavor" of Roadsters and Rectos. I haven't found anything that sounds exceptionally bad, but in general the Roadster, like pretty much any Mesa, sounds better with a loud/bright signal hitting it early, and it also makes the rest of the tone stack more effective. When we were recording, I would test preamp tubes in a Valve Jr. just to find the brightest, loudest one (even if it was just some random Chinese tube), throw that in my buddy's Roadster, and it would always mix better. That's the thing - tube rolling past V1 in modern multi-channel amps doesn't make any difference if you're going into a full band mix. You won't hear it.

I tube rolled the living sh!t out of two Mark IIIs and I can't say that I ever noticed any difference worth spending money on. Marks gonna Mark, I guess. On my RA100 I discovered that I could do soooo much subtle-but-audible stuff with judicious manipulation of the power soak and 50/100 switches that screwing around with preamp tubes just didn't make any sense as long as I put good quality EL34s in it.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 15, 2017 5:48 am 
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Dual Recto

Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:31 am
Posts: 2580
Location: North Carolina
I would agree on the older Mark amps, not much of a notable change unless you can run an integrated quad (6L6 + EL34) in Mark III or Mark IV. Can't be done with the Mark V (or should not be done). However, The Mark V does take well to different preamp tubes and will be noticeable in terms of compression and or top end roll off (which is more desired than ice). I did try a few different tubes in the JP but did not make much of a difference probably due to its heritage.

Tung Sol 12ax7 or even Mullard RI 12ax7 will make a notable difference in overall tone of the Roadster. Power tubes will also contribute as the Mesa 6L6 STR440 has its own unique tone, SED =c= 6L6GC is as close as you can get to some of the older NOS tubes but they cost as much and probably not worth the money at this point as most are seconds and not best quality that are on the market nowadays. =C= in the Roadster was definitely brighter in tone but seemed to lack the 3D effect in this amp that I get with the Mesa 6L6. Not the issue with the Mark series amps though. The tone of the Mesa STR440 just does not work well with the Mark V but they sound awesome in the JP-2C. How does that relate to the Dual Rectifier amps? it does not since the overall tone of these amps are generally darker and do not boost the midrange as much or the top end. Probably why I love my Roadster. Perhaps what is similar in tonal range would be the JP-2C but it is very thick in the midrange band but yet does not sound bad at all. Blends quite well with the Roadster where as the Mark V seems to be a bit thin and notched and bleeds out as honky in the mix (depends on how you set it up). I know this is all off topic....

I can only say one thing about the EH (Mesa) el34, they are a bit harsh in character. What sounds better to me is the Mullard EL34 reissue. Still the SED =C= EL34 was tops in my books and I am still using a set in one of my RA100. When those crap out I will move on to the Mullards or try something else like a 6CA7 (probably the EH brand). I have not had any luck with the JJ 6CA7 power tubes as they did not last very long before failing but they sounded so good I would consider them again. Definitely want to try out a quad of 6CA7 in the Roadster as they generally have more bottom end than the standard EL34, more bite and grit in the gain character, just sinister in nature but how that will perform in a Roadster is unknown to me.

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Old friends I sometimes miss:
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 3:04 pm 
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Mark IV
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Joined: Sun Feb 13, 2005 1:10 pm
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Location: Portland, OR
Cool video.

It really depends on the amp. Rectos/SLO's/5150's are all so saturated that other than the V1 and the PI, you won't hear much difference at low volumes. As you crank the amp up though, certain tubes can help alleviate fizziness or upper midrange 'clank' in your pick attack that can sound like nails on a chalkboard through something like V30's. Through something like a Plexi or an 800, the preamp tubes make a drastic difference. Right before I opened this thread I was experimenting with different 12Ax7's and 5751's in my Splawn Quick Rod and every move made a pretty noticeable difference. It just depends on the amp and how the gain is structured.

For fun, it would be worth doing another video of a mic on the cab. I have a Torpedo Reload, and while I like the Two Notes stuff, the amp's individual impedance curve isn't really taken into account. Amps that I have that sound drastically different end up sounding pretty similar through the Torpedo. It tends to homogenize the tone.

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