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EL-34 Tube Shootout

Posted: Tue May 26, 2015 9:58 pm
by Brad737
Hello all,

I recently added a Mark III Blue Stripe to my collection. I've read tons of tube threads here on the Boogie Board, and the overwhelming majority recommend the Mesa STR 415 and 416s. I've been lucky to find 8 of the STR-415 6L6GCs for my IIC (on the way to get the C+ conversion from Mike B. as we speak) and my Mark III. Since I can't find any of the STR-416s, I've read that the Winged C EL-34s would be the next best choice. However, since the Winged Cs are out of production, I've been looking for another option.

There are about 4000 tube threads here on Boogie Board. So I've decided I'm going to order a few sets of ELs and see which I prefer. I figured I will put my VERY meager recording setup to work and share my results with you all. I do have a couple caveats. First off, I've only recorded 3 or 4 tracks ever, so I can't guarantee any of the tracks will sound that great. Secondly, I'm not going to try and show off what pitiful chops I have. I just plan on playing a few riffs clean and dirty, and not post which tube is which, until folks have had a chance to listen. I'll also leave the settings exactly the same for all tubes.

I plan on buying pairs of JJ 6CA7, EH 6CA7s, Ruby EL-34BMSTR, and possibly some Winged Cs, if I can find some for a halfway decent price. Any others I should consider?

Thanks,
Brad

Re: EL-34 Tube Shootout

Posted: Sat May 30, 2015 12:57 am
by Brad737
Hmmmm...I figured more folks than I would find this interesting. I suppose it's been done. Off to google I go!

Re: EL-34 Tube Shootout

Posted: Sat May 30, 2015 10:06 am
by soundchaser59
Well, there's always curiosity at my place about the Tung Sol, Mullard, EHX (maybe that's the same as the EH you referred to), Genalex Gold Lion, Siemens, Shuguang, Svetlana, Penta Labs, GT (relabeled Tesla?)......I'd be interested in whatever you end up comparing.

Problem for me is I'm actually more interested in long term reliability, which your experiments may not reveal anything about. I've not ever been able to discern a great deal of tone variation among the 4 or 5 brands I've had, not as much as I can discern with preamp tubes, and even those are subtle variations.

Re: EL-34 Tube Shootout

Posted: Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:18 pm
by Shredd6
You should definitely give Gold Lion KT77s a try. While I don't have my Mesa anymore, those tubes became my favorites for my Hughes & Kettner Triamp and Heidkamp Dumble clone. Great tubes man.

Re: EL-34 Tube Shootout

Posted: Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:21 pm
by thunda1216
The Ruby STR's are great tubes, last a long time, don't break the bank.

Re: EL-34 Tube Shootout

Posted: Tue Jun 09, 2015 3:19 pm
by sotosprince
I would be very interested in this one as well...

Re: EL-34 Tube Shootout

Posted: Tue Jun 09, 2015 3:44 pm
by Brad737
So far, I've only tried the Ruby 6L6GCMSTR and the JJ KT-77 in the outer sockets. I'm still shopping for some decent choices. I'd really like to snag a pair of Winged Cs, if I can get some for a decent price. After I get a few pairs of various tubes, I'll get set up for recording some clips. As of now, I prefer the 77s over the Ruby 6L6. I'm also just getting the hang of the Mark III. I LOVE the Simulclass option. The Class A setting is almost like having a second amp. It's definitely a different sound than Simulclass, although they're voiced similarly. Sort of like having a JTM-45 and a Super Lead. I will say that I currently prefer Simulclass vs. Class A, but it's cool having the option.

Re: EL-34 Tube Shootout

Posted: Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:24 am
by bandit2013
When I had a Mark III, I enjoyed the RCA EL34/6CA7 large bottle tubes. That ended in early 90's when Mesa no longer offered the RCA tube.

One set of tubes I did like in my Mark V were the JJ 6CA7. Those were sweat but did not last very long (2 weeks at best).
Gold Lion KT77 are awesome tubes and worked well in RA100, Mark V (sinister) but did not favor them in the Roadster.
SED EL34 were best tubes I have for the RA100. Just did not impress in the Mark V (could not try them in the MKIII since I sold it long ago).
The Mark IV that I had was similar but not quite a Mark III. What really sounded robust and by far the most dark grind was a pair of TAD6L6GC-STR and a pair of SED 6L6GC. Talk about complex harmonics :twisted: Perfect for Heavy Metal.

Most of the available EL34 in current production just do not seem to have that iconic sound. Perhaps the Mullards are close. Tung Sol is not bad. SED EL34 just had that sweet tone, saturated extremely well (best tube I ever had in the RA100). The only issue I had with the SED tubes (EL34 and 6L6) that were manufactured more recently (prior to them stopping consumer products) is tube rattle. EL34 were the worst. Other than that, very rugged and durable.

Re: EL-34 Tube Shootout

Posted: Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:15 pm
by thunda1216
my issue is that for the last 20 years or so I can not turn up loud enough to actually get power tube breakup, so the point has become moot.

I have some SED tubes that date from 2004 ($45.00/quad!) that are still going, and they really sound no different than the Ruby or Sovtek equivalent in a real world setting. Sure, at home by yourself, you might be able to hear some nuances, but in a live band situation, moderately loud, no difference. Really loud? Po Po come, put you in the back seat and take you away

Re: EL-34 Tube Shootout

Posted: Thu Sep 17, 2015 2:55 pm
by swbo101
For me SED =C=, Tong-Sol, & Mesa str-450 for El34s

Re: EL-34 Tube Shootout

Posted: Tue Nov 24, 2015 7:10 pm
by soundchaser59
swbo101 wrote:For me SED =C=
And where are you finding those for sale?

Re: EL-34 Tube Shootout

Posted: Tue Nov 24, 2015 9:54 pm
by bandit2013
Some places do have them, they may be second quality though. Also there is a hefty price to go with it. "the tube store" has them at about $70 each. Upscale audio has them too but they refused to sell them to me due to my application "guitar amp". They claimed they would not be suitable and they do not do business with people who are purchasing for instrument amplifier use. There may be others that have the =C= EL34 (SED) but there have been some poor quality tubes made in the last few runs so may not be worth the extra cash. I do have a matched quad of SED (=c=) EL34 and are my favorite tubes period. Mullards are a bit too much (seem to have early gain), Tung Sol EL34B are okay. I would rather use the Mesa EL34 or EH. I would like to try the EH 6CA7 just for kicks.

Re: EL-34 Tube Shootout

Posted: Mon Nov 30, 2015 9:37 am
by swbo101
soundchaser59 wrote:
swbo101 wrote:For me SED =C=
And where are you finding those for sale?

These will be hard to find now, best bet on secondary markets like ebay. They stopped producing a few years back. I just stocked up and horded for myself. I'm very selfish that way. :oops:

I would look into the other 2 mentioned. They are easier to find and both are good. The str-450's are much better than the Tung-Sols, but cost at least double. I was very happy with both though, just my 2¢.