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Preamp Tubes for High Gain. Shootout Results.

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  • Preamp Tubes for High Gain. Shootout Results.

    Tonight, I did a preamp tube shootout, just to see what pre tubes are the KING of high gain. The test amp was my extremely good sounding 50W Marshall Jubilee on Jubilee 4-12 w/Vin 30's and Tesla JJ E-34L's (10% higher output than EL-34's)

    I actually lined up my whole collection of preamp tubes and started popping them in one after the next in the 1st position. The other 2 are GT12AX7C's.
    I listened to the amp's gain from 3 to 10, and listened for thickness, tightness, and sustain on chords and high notes.

    First of all, preamp tubes are very difficult to hear all the differences, sometimes there was almost no discernable difference.

    I won't bore you with the details of all of them I tried, like the Russian 12AX7A, EI's, EI Gold Elites, Sovtek WXT, JJ ECC83, Electroharmonix, and some Various no-name ones pulled from old amps. All of them sounded good, but I'll narrow it down to the high gain killers for you.

    Mullard 12AX7/7025 Made in Britain NOS. Pretty damn good, but just a tiny bit of mush at highest gain settings....gain on 10 fairly loud.

    GT12AX7M (Mullard copy) A tiny bit fatter than NOS Mullard, but again, just a bit indistinct and sloppy when gain is on 10. Sounds better on vintage type amps.

    Tungsol 12AX7 Current Production. Nice rich tone, tight, and great gain, but the sustain would drop out just a little. Still a great tube well worth buying, but let's move on. Keep in mind, I'm splitting hairs....it's a phenomenal tube.

    GT12AX7C or any unlabeled Chinese 12AX7 Shuguang 9th Generation.
    Now, we're getting into the top rung on the ladder! These are extremely tight on the palm mutes and have excellent sustain for low and high notes!
    These are what come stock in Bogners and Two Rock's I believe. I use them in my Ecstasy and they sound great! The only drawback is that the overall tone is just a tiny bit narrow in order to give you that super high gain. You get great chunk and sustain, but you may need to back your treble down 1 notch because of it's bite. Killer tube!

    Telefunken Hand Selected German NOS. What can I say, it's the most legendary 12AX7 there is! Sweet smooth and sustaining with tight low end chunk even with the gain backed down to 7. With gain on 10, it stays clear and tight, just like the Chinese 12AX7, but it's a tiny bit warmer and sweeter.
    The drawback? Expensive as hell! Why spend the money when you can get the prior tube or the next one on my list.....the high gain amp winner!!!

    The SOVTEK 12AX7 LPS!!! Sweet, smooth, sustaining, the right amount of aggression and low end palm muted chunk at all gain levels. Trust me, I went back and forth about 6 times, shutting off the amp, and swapping tubes between the 12AX7C, the Telefunken, and the Sovtek LPS. It came down to a battle between the Telefunken and the LPS, because it was THAT close.

    In summary, if you own a highgain amp like a modern Marshall, Jubilee, Mesa Rectifier, Stilletto, ENGL, Peavey JSX, 5150, Soldano, or other similar amp, it's not a bad idea to swap out your pre tubes for either the GT12AX7C @$14, or the Sovtek 12AX7LPS @$12. The 1st position will make a difference, but you may as well get a set of 3 if you haven't changed them in several years.
    Originally posted by Boogie Bill
    I've got 60 guitars...but 49 trumpets is just...INSANITY! WTF!

  • #2
    Re: Preamp Tubes for High Gain. Shootout Results.

    I recently changed the pre's in my rectoverb from the original mesas to the chinese 12ax7c's, relying on your recommendation from pryor posts Joneser. They really are great. They tightened up the distortion channel quite a bit, and palm mutes are chunky as hell. They are rediculously good for the money I paid (although even if I had unlimited gear money I would buy them anyway). I couldn't be happier. Thanks A lot Joneser.
    Current Gear: USA Custom Dinky S: Mahogany Body, Pau Ferro Neck & board, DD, Jazz. Schecter C1 E/A: C5, Jazz. Wolfgang Special USA: Air Zone, Air Norton. Ibanez RG7621 7 string. Schecter Stiletto Studio 5 string Bass. Line 6 Vetta 2 with Mesa Recto Cab
    Past Gear : Schecter C1 Blackjack. ESP LTD KH602. Ibanez S 7 string. Ibanez RG7420 7 string. Mesa Rect-o-verb Head. Peavey Classic 50 4x10. Line 6 POD 2.0

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    • #3
      Re: Preamp Tubes for High Gain. Shootout Results.

      i'll keep this in mind for the engl when it needs tubes and may try some of those Sovteks in the near future in the ultra plus (it has all JJs now). good info, thanks for the review!!

      -Mike
      www.DAvanzoGuitars.com

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      • #4
        Re: Preamp Tubes for High Gain. Shootout Results.

        Cool. I'm glad my recommendation worked out great in your amp. I have a feeling these tubes would work well in a clean amp as well, just because they keep the preamp tight and focused. They might help to give the feeling that the clean headroom is lowered, since the preamp is pushing it harder.

        I'm becoming less and less of a believer in New Old Stock tubes. Of course, old RCA, Phillips, Telefunken, and Amperex tubes are great, but who wants to pay $70 per tube??? If I put those tubes up against a new Tungsol, GT, or Sovtek LPS, I can't even hear a minute difference......and I'm really splitting hairs when I listen and play!
        Originally posted by Boogie Bill
        I've got 60 guitars...but 49 trumpets is just...INSANITY! WTF!

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        • #5
          Re: Preamp Tubes for High Gain. Shootout Results.

          Awesome shootout, GJ!

          Thanks for the info.

          Vault?
          Originally posted by Kanye West
          Welcome to the real world. Everybody wanna booooo me but I'm a fan of real pop culture!!! No disrespect but we watchin' the show at the crib right now cause...well you know...I'm not crazy y'all, I'm just real.

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          • #6
            Re: Preamp Tubes for High Gain. Shootout Results.

            I might try swapping the V1 and V2 tubes in my amp. Right now I have a GT12AX7M Mullard reissue in V1, and Shuguang 9th gens in V2-V4. I might also just swap the M out altogether and see what I hear.
            After Osmosis | My Music | Instagram

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            • #7
              Re: Preamp Tubes for High Gain. Shootout Results.

              Originally posted by Gearjoneser
              I have a feeling these tubes would work well in a clean amp as well, just because they keep the preamp tight and focused. They might help to give the feeling that the clean headroom is lowered, since the preamp is pushing it harder.
              You beat me to it!

              I tried the Shuguangs in both my Matchless Clubman & Boogie Blue Angel....definitely brings more bite to the board & tightens everything up.

              I opted to keep the RFTs in the Clubman though...I dig the vintage Marshall-like fatter vibe.

              I also use Ei Silvers in the Boogie 4x10....again, too smooth.

              What did you think of the Ei's??? Not enough gain to compete, I suppose.

              Right now I'm A/B'ing the Blue Angel 4x10 & a Blue Angel head I picked up....maybe instead of selling one, I'll switch up the tubes & give it a different feel.

              GRANTED...these are not high gain amps, but like you say...clean amps can benefit from these tubes too, if you're looking for a different feel.

              Good shoot out Joneser....as usual!!!!
              Last edited by PUCKBOY99; 06-11-2005, 04:46 AM.

              Guitars: Frankinstein TeleBird/Classic Vibe Esquire w/BG-1400/Martin 000-28EC
              Amps: 3rd Power Dream Solo 4 '68 Plexi/Port City Wave 2x12
              FX: Skinpimp Faceplant/Skinpimp 3OD/Flyin' Dragon


              https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/fa...wn/id786464154
              http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/seanhanley

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              • #8
                Re: Preamp Tubes for High Gain. Shootout Results.

                vault material....... im SOOOOOO gonna need this when i find a nice UK tube store hehe

                thanks man

                tom

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                • #9
                  Re: Preamp Tubes for High Gain. Shootout Results.

                  Hey Imp, isn't Watford Valves in the U.K.????


                  www.watfordvalves.com

                  Guitars: Frankinstein TeleBird/Classic Vibe Esquire w/BG-1400/Martin 000-28EC
                  Amps: 3rd Power Dream Solo 4 '68 Plexi/Port City Wave 2x12
                  FX: Skinpimp Faceplant/Skinpimp 3OD/Flyin' Dragon


                  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/fa...wn/id786464154
                  http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/seanhanley

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                  • #10
                    Re: Preamp Tubes for High Gain. Shootout Results.

                    yea - they seem to have a pretty solid agreement with whoever makes 'harma' valves.. i might as well try the harmas tbh.. they sound pretty good

                    'hotrox uk' sell valves too.. i need to raise funds first

                    tom

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                    • #11
                      Re: Preamp Tubes for High Gain. Shootout Results.

                      How'd the EHX perform, that's what I'm currently using.
                      || Guitar | Wah | Vibe | Amp ||

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                      • #12
                        Re: Preamp Tubes for High Gain. Shootout Results.

                        Yeah, I haven't looked at their site in a long time & just gave it a look when I posted above.....definitely seems like they have something going with Harma.

                        What kind of music ya' play Imp? You might wanna try the RFTs...I love 'em!
                        Last edited by PUCKBOY99; 06-11-2005, 07:16 AM.

                        Guitars: Frankinstein TeleBird/Classic Vibe Esquire w/BG-1400/Martin 000-28EC
                        Amps: 3rd Power Dream Solo 4 '68 Plexi/Port City Wave 2x12
                        FX: Skinpimp Faceplant/Skinpimp 3OD/Flyin' Dragon


                        https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/fa...wn/id786464154
                        http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/seanhanley

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Preamp Tubes for High Gain. Shootout Results.

                          NOS tubes are great but you have to keep in mind that the NOS tube craze happened at a time when almost ALL current production tubes were pure garbage...current production tubes have made leaps and bounds in tone and construction in the past 10-15 years.
                          If you just read a post by The Guy Who Invented Fire please understand that opinions change, mind sets change and as players our ears mature...not to mention our needs grow and change. With that in mind, today I may or may not agree with the post you just read!

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                          • #14
                            Re: Preamp Tubes for High Gain. Shootout Results.

                            Originally posted by PUCKBOY99
                            Yeah, I haven't looked at their site in a long time & just gave it a look when I posted above.....definitely seems like they have something going with Harma.

                            What kind of music ya' play Imp? You might wanna try the RFTs...I love 'em!
                            rft's? ill look those up.. still at the ideas stage hehe

                            im mostly doing ambient stuff at the moment, its almost an electronic band with a token guitarist im looking for a well-balanced, all-round tube sound, but at the same time i'm not really a fan of EL84s for high gain... i guess medium-high headroom, but with a pleasant sounding distortion when it does start to clip. i'd be using pedals carefully, i like the radical EQ change different pedals can kick in..

                            tom

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                            • #15
                              Re: Preamp Tubes for High Gain. Shootout Results.

                              ECC83/R.F.T
                              German valve that I have seen also branded Brimar, Siemens & Telefunken. This tube was also used for a
                              long period by Marshall. The valve has a rich bass response with great drive. Very low in microphonics due
                              to thick glass envelope. The valve also distorts earlier than the U.S.A types. The valve does show less treble
                              response than the U.S.A types which lends the valve to be used in a more rock style set up. The rich
                              harmonic distortion make this a great valve in Marshall. Boogie and Vox amps. It showed rich sustain with
                              plenty of bass crunch. Mid range was clear and detailed. Defiantly for the rockers and blues players.


                              http://www.guitaramplifierblueprinting.com

                              CHECK HERE FOR MORE TUBE INFO....The RFTs probably aren't what you're looking for though!
                              Last edited by PUCKBOY99; 06-11-2005, 01:26 PM.

                              Guitars: Frankinstein TeleBird/Classic Vibe Esquire w/BG-1400/Martin 000-28EC
                              Amps: 3rd Power Dream Solo 4 '68 Plexi/Port City Wave 2x12
                              FX: Skinpimp Faceplant/Skinpimp 3OD/Flyin' Dragon


                              https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/fa...wn/id786464154
                              http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/seanhanley

                              Comment

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