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Joe Bonamassa on tubes ...

Discussion in 'Ampage Area' started by Flyer91, Feb 15, 2017.

  1. I posted this over on ST, and thought it might be of some interest to GT readers as well ...

    So like you guys probably also got ... I received an email from Amplified Parts on the 15% off Tube Amp Doctor (TAD) tubes, and I curiously started to surf about looking at different tube sets recommendations for my two Vibroverb RIs.

    I ended up landing at Joe Bonammsa's web site (which is kinda cool cuz he actually is an Admin there, and answers us peons ;)) and read what he had to say about tubes, and how often he changes them.

    The following quotes from there really surprised me, cuz the JJs at ~ $95 a set 'with matched power tubes', are about the least expensive set I can find, and sell for about $40 to $60+ less that their competition.

    Anyway, this is what he had to say when asked about tubes ...

    "Hey Guys,
    I usually prefer JJ tubes for everything.. EL-34s and 6L6's . Two Rock was always nice enough to throw New Old Stock GE 5881's into my amps that I bought.. Only problem with going there is the expense and the durability.. My stuff moves hundreds of miles a day. Its played hard, put away still warm and travels. So the JJ's work for me. Mesa tubes run too hot but are good, Svetlana and new Mullard and Sovtek are good to the chrismas tree and not the amps, Groove Tubes are ok, depending on the rating. My favorite of all time is a tie, Old Tesla's from the czech republic and Siemens from Germany. Again its all season to taste here. But a bad tube will ruin your amps tone.
    Joe B
    PS, when running new tubes, break them in. They will all start out a bit sterile, but a week in its magic, two weeks in they are perfect , three weeks in you start to lose midrange and by week four its over.. time to start again.."

    Then when pressed on just pre-amps, he said ...

    "Pre-amp tubes are again subject to taste.. Like you your amps have good days and bad days. Power plays a big factor in that. Anyway.. Old GE are great for 12ax7s and 7025, 12 AT7s I like RCA. I use a AT 7 in my chandler tube driver. Makes is less gainy as it should. Peter Van Weelden has the best knowledge of tubes I have ever run across. He also owns the best collection of tubes.. For blue collar street preamp tubes.. I d use JJ honestly.. Thats whats in the Jubilees and dumbly things I own.. Be sure to not get too involved in the nanoisms of tube and concentrate more on achieving the tone from your playing and attack.. Thats the real key IMHO
    Joe B"

    That's kind'a mind blowing to me (the selection, not the practice thing) ... especially the comment that appears to indicate that even $100K+ Dumble amps used what I have always felt was a so-so tube!
    I would have expected Howie to have used all custom-mfg'd tubes ... made from 'off world' smuggled in gold plated unobtainum, for the functional components, and encased in hand carved (by virgins) Waterford Crystal. :confused:

    Anyway, if interested the entire thread is here:
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  2. DaddyDog

    DaddyDog Country Gent

    Sep 18, 2011
    Mississauga, Canada
    Yikes! won't spend the money on that! I don't even change my underwear that often.

    (re the underwear, just kidding. I'd hate to lose some cyberfriends over it)
    HBob, PDogga, Flyer91 and 1 other person like this.
  3. TV the Wired Turtle

    TV the Wired Turtle Gretschified

    Jul 25, 2009
    so cal
    I can only scratch my head w B's comments. I mean he's got lots of gear no doubt and has many many many friends that work on his stuff for him..
    put 5 boutique amp builders in a room, and most all of them will say JJ's suck(be sure Tophat amps and Billy Zoom are there) :) btw.. mesa and groovetube is just a silkscreen job on another manufacturers tubes.
    Against J's advice I will always get in the "nano-ism" of tubes, I enjoy guitars and gear more than I do playing. I make a meager income performing 2 hrs a week on a stage in suburbia, rehearse 2 hrs a week, chart my sets 2 hrs a week, and play the instrument every day for a few minutes at a time as I work on pedals and amps. I love, lust and obsess all the details! :) :)
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  4. Stefan

    Stefan Country Gent

    Jan 20, 2016
    SWART also recommands JJs.
    ruger9 and Flyer91 like this.
  5. loudnlousy

    loudnlousy Friend of Fred

    Oct 18, 2015
    Hildesheim, Germany
    Only good experiences with JJs. Tried quite a few other brands during the last 35 years or so...
    I agree:
    Compared to e.g. NOS Siemens and Telefunken all newer tubes seem to be of inferior quality. But among the "inferior" generation of contemporary tubes JJs are in the "o.k. league". (TAD does a good job in selecting the better ones, too- btw.) Just my opinion. I would not like to get too religious about that.
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  6. toddfan

    toddfan Synchromatic

    Mar 12, 2012
    I just re-tubed one of my amps....I used Ruby for the EL84 Power Tubes (which I understand to be re-badged JJ's) and I used plain ol' JJ's for the 12AX7's.

    I could'a spent more...but, I doubt I would be able to tell a difference for my particular usage....besides, the amp came stock with Ruby's which were all pretty much re-badged JJ's anyway. :eek: So, I basically went with what I started with.

    I'm SURE it's all in my head, but the amp definitely has more sparkle and oomph now IMHO. The old tubes were probably about 5 years old and I was getting a mystery crackle/hiss sound when I turned the amp off...but, with the new set all is fine more snap/crackle/pop. :D

    The only tube I didn't change was the Rectifier.
  7. Lizardkinged

    Lizardkinged Friend of Fred

    Oct 5, 2009
    Don't let Joe Bonamassa plant the seed of doubt in your brain. What a load of crap.

    You either like JJ's or you dont.
    Robbie likes this.
  8. Yeah, the JJ's recommendation sorta surprised the heck (polite for poop) out me too.

    Can anybody confirm that Dumble use/used JJs???
    Maybe I'm misreading what Joe said about "dumbly things" and possibly he was talking about some other tube devices that I've incorrectly interpreted as him meaning Dumbles. (???)

    And 'no way' am I changing my tubes every 4 weeks ... under any circumstances.
    When they start to go... I call that free FX, and live with it until I can force myself to allow my wallet to squeak open in a cloud of dust. ;)
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2017
  9. TV the Wired Turtle

    TV the Wired Turtle Gretschified

    Jul 25, 2009
    so cal
    I'm of the belief that the JJ tubes of today, are NOT what they once were. Just like the Ei tube company, those were THE tubes for Vox style amps and then suddenly we kept throwing out more and more of them. Company is gone, tolerances and quality turned to poop.
    For balance here ..I dont think JJ is going away though anytime soon, they established themselves from the start as a solid reliable tube w a low cost. I just wonder if these days, the major manufacturers get the good stuff and the rest goes to market.
    Flyer91 likes this.
  10. wildeman

    wildeman Friend of Fred

    May 10, 2015
    I've got 50 year old amps with original tubes:eek:
  11. TV the Wired Turtle

    TV the Wired Turtle Gretschified

    Jul 25, 2009
    so cal
    ..and they arent JJ's are they? :) :) :)
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  12. LivingMyDream

    LivingMyDream Country Gent

    The key, to me, is that Joe B. acknowledges that the advice involves personal taste. I have Groove Tubes in my Fender DRRI, and since I haven't gotten into the nuances of tubes, I am fine with it. I fell in love the the Stratocaster + DRRI sound, so I haven't even been inclined to make changes. That might happen down the road, but I'm just not there yet and am just enjoying what I have.
    Flyer91 likes this.
  13. rcboals

    rcboals Country Gent

    Nov 21, 2008
    Springfield Oregon
    Bonamassa could play through a transistor radio and sound great.
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  14. wabash slim

    wabash slim Country Gent

    Feb 10, 2010
    lafayette in
    Me, too. RCAs and Tung Sols hold up. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Aged wines and liquor store are better, right?

    In Joe B's defense, the four week thing probably has a lot to do with ham handed roadies, semis, and a massive touring schedule. Amps and such are usually the first things off of the stage, so it's conceivable that they get put away warm. They still have plenty of cool down time while the rest of the semi is loaded. I do doubt that he really works on his amps himself, tho.
    Flyer91 likes this.
  15. Henry

    Henry Friend of Fred

    Apr 9, 2014
    Well I can think of one simple reason why he uses JJs. Did you see how many amps he has? Hundreds? Thousands? Imagining finding NOS tubes for all those amps - he'd have to pull a Setzer and discover and buy a whole warehouse full.

    Anywho, I so agree that for the average guitar player, you are better off spending time improving your abilities than swapping tubes, etc. I totally get that some people get in the "nano" aspects, particularly if they are in the business, but most of us would sound better with better skills, not different equipment.
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  16. TV the Wired Turtle

    TV the Wired Turtle Gretschified

    Jul 25, 2009
    so cal
    uh oh.. the road just got real real bumpy..

  17. Robbie

    Robbie Country Gent

    Jun 17, 2013
    Sarnia Ontario Canada
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  18. One of my recently acquired Vibroverbs sounds a bit better than the other one, so I swapped the pre's and the better tone followed the tubes from the better sounding amp, and vice versa.

    I don't 'need' new 6L6s, but a new set of 12AX7s is probably in order, and for now I won't need to bias.
    The Vibroverb has fixed bias resistors in a divider circuit, so when I get ready to replace the finals I'll have to come up with a clever way to add a bias pot to the divider circuit, which will be a bit more tricky that just adding in a 10 turn pot ... and probably why there's not already a "Great mod to add a bias pot to a Vibroverb RI" post on the 'net.
    But once I sit down with the schematic and actually work out the details, it's a mod I'll certainly do, and post on Fender Amp forums.

    In any case, I'm tempted to get a matched 'quad' set of TAD 6l6's while they're on sale along with two sets consisting of of 10 12AX7s for the pre-amps, phase inverters, reverb recovery, and tremlo circuits, and 2 12AT7s for the reverb drivers.

    That way, once I bias the finals I can just swap a spare set of matched 6l6s ... if needed as an "in flight" back-up, and press on.
    The price for a quad matched set is actually less than two matched pairs. (???)
    Only a penny, but heck ... do that a few thousands times and, as Yogi Bera said ... "that's real money"! ;)
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2017
  19. Tony65x55

    Tony65x55 Gretschified

    Sep 23, 2011
    The 'Shwa, Ontario, Canada
    I dunno, Joe is certanly a very experienced guy. I did a bunch of tube rolling myself, not to test old stock beauties but to see which new, ordinary production tubes I liked best and could easily obtain. I settled on JJ for power tubes and Tung Sol for the preamps. Works for me.
    Flyer91 likes this.
  20. rcboals

    rcboals Country Gent

    Nov 21, 2008
    Springfield Oregon
    A few years ago a promoter asked our band 56 Pontiac to play our rockabilly stuff for his classic car cruise in. He asked how much, we told him $150.00. He said he could get a blues band for $50.00. We told him if he wanted blues we could do it for $0 we didn't get the gig.