NOS Power Tubes

Discussion in 'Ampage Area' started by stevo, Oct 6, 2018.

  1. stevo

    stevo Country Gent

    May 1, 2012
    Atlanta
    I've had a collection of NOS preamp tubes for some time and they refuse to die - Mullard 12AT7s, JAN Philips 12AX7, RCA 12AX7 etc. They're not all the best sounding - I find a modern preamp tube every once in a while that sounds fantastic...for about 3 months. But overall, given how little I paid for them back in the day, I feel they are / were worth it and for things like phase inverter or reverb position, you have a tube that will last for many years. Unfortunately, now you'll have to pay way too much for a NOS JAN Philips 12AX7.

    But, I just bought some ANOS power tubes, Tung Sol 5881 to be specific (test like new). Wow! These really sound fantastic. I've never had a power tube sound like this. And given that I got lucky and picked them up for about the price of new production tubes, it seemed like a reasonable test.

    Anyone else's experience mirror this? Any experience with older power tubes?
     
  2. swivel

    swivel Gretschie

    183
    May 13, 2018
    PNW
    I have a number of them out there. Dont use them much anymore though. Although the power tubes are fine. I have too much noise issues with NOS or OS pretubes. I switched to Mullard RI 12AX7's years ago and couldn't be happier. I have probably purchased a couple dozen now for projects and my main amps. Not one problem. I can spend time playing now instead of changing pre tubes. I actually have a sleeve of 5 RCA NOS 12AX7's out there. Never used them.
    Yeah the Tung Sol 5881's are killer though. Those are mostly what I saw in Fender amps that used 5881's back in the day. Brown's and Blonde's mostly IIRC.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
  3. stevo

    stevo Country Gent

    May 1, 2012
    Atlanta
    Yes, microphonics have been an issue with some of the NOS preamp tubes. The JAN ones weren't made for guitar amps, so they're indestructible but can be noisy and microhponic. So I tend to play around with them in positions other than V1/V2,

    Thanks for the comment on the Mullard RIs, I'll have to check them out. As a tip, I like the Tung Sol 12AX7 RIs - very fat and big tone.
     
  4. wildeman

    wildeman Friend of Fred

    May 10, 2015
    norcal
    I have some 60 year old amps that still have original tubes.
     
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  5. swivel

    swivel Gretschie

    183
    May 13, 2018
    PNW
    Yeah the pre tubes were stock at 40 years in my BFDR.
     
  6. Robbie

    Robbie Country Gent

    Age:
    65
    Jun 17, 2013
    Sarnia Ontario Canada
    I tried some NOS 6V6's (RCA Blackplate) in one of my '68 CDR's and wasn't happy with the result. The amp sounded so bad (IMHO) I removed them right away. The Tech I use was with me when I did this and the amp was biased properly. I've had a couple of NOS 12AX7's that sounded fantastic for as long as they lasted, which wasn't long and some were horribly microphonic. All that said, several of my friends that play night after night swear by NOS power tubes but one thing they have in common is they use late 60's early 70's amplifiers.

    Personally, just never had any real luck with NOS tubes...but that's just me. Glad to hear what you have is working well for you Stevo.
     
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  7. wildeman

    wildeman Friend of Fred

    May 10, 2015
    norcal
    Yeah, i dont think i'd mess with buying old tubes, if any of my old amps need retubing I'll buy new ones.
     
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  8. DaddyDog

    DaddyDog Country Gent

    Sep 18, 2011
    Mississauga, Canada
    I’ve never had a WOW experience with power tubes. Maybe because I seldom play at loud volume.
     
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  9. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Sorry Vista
    Admin Post
    Ju
    Just yesterday, a JAN 12AT7 in my Elizabeth decided to go microphonic and gave my amp a bit of a headache. JJs to the rescue. I still have some BlackPlate 6L6s in it, which sound fantastic.
     
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  10. loudnlousy

    loudnlousy Friend of Fred

    Age:
    52
    Oct 18, 2015
    Hildesheim, Germany
    I recently stumbled over a big plasticbag in our rehearsal-place.
    It contains at least 20 Siemens EL34 and even more vintage 12AX7 of various origin. All from the late 70ies to early 80ies. They all seem to function.
    I used to change tubes on my old Marshalls once in a year just to prevent failiure on stage. No matter what condition they were in. I stored them in that plastic bag and forgot about them. Glad that I found them.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2018
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  11. Mudshark

    Mudshark Synchromatic

    544
    Jul 20, 2012
    Canada
    During my amp kit building phase I became a NOS fan and scoured Ebay for 60’s tube for my tweeds. Reliability was an issue and eventually replaced the microphonic old tubes with new relatively inexpensive JJ’s. With this one exception:

    I have two Mesa boogie amps that take EL84’s and ran an El84 substitute: NOS Soviet 7189 which are a military application tube from the 80’s. In the old soviet block countries these are known as 6N14N-EB’s from the Reflector facility, They have thicker glass and can take higher plate voltages and sound absolutely glassy and true with high headroom. These Russian tubes lasted 5 years with daily use. On the other hand I have had multiple tube failures with the MESA branded El -84’s in the last year on 2 different amps. Both sets lasted 3 months before going microphonic so I would stay away from those.

    You can get these 7189’s at The Tubestore in NA; they are matched and tested.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2018
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  12. Srellim1

    Srellim1 Gretschie

    464
    Feb 6, 2016
    Los Angeles
    I love RCA 7025s in my DRRI and Super Reverb. As @Robbie said, they do want to go microphonic or be noisy and you have to gi through a few to get a strong one that lasts. The benefits vs a new Tungsol are minor when you consider the investment to find good ones. In my experience only, of course (though I do currently have a 7025 in V2 of my DRRI). I do notice huge tonal differences swapping tubes in my AC30.
     
  13. stevo

    stevo Country Gent

    May 1, 2012
    Atlanta
    It's a crapshoot unfortunately. In the 6V6 world, I have some old Sylvanias that are fantastic. But good ones are scarce and most of what you find now will not sound good. I currently use JJ 6V6 in that amp that I like but they are more like a 6L6. They're loud and strong.
     
  14. markeebee

    markeebee Country Gent

    Totally agreed. I can't help thinking that all the good NOS tubes have either been used or retained, and the ones available to buy are generally the not so good ones.
     
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  15. Bertotti

    Bertotti Country Gent

    Jul 20, 2017
    South Dakota
    I bought enough of these 6-N14n tubes to last me a life time. A few have some background hiss when not playing but once you play that all just gets forgotten. Love these tubes.
     
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  16. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Sorry Vista
    Admin Post
    One thing to keep in mind, with regard to NOS tubes is this: back in the day, techs had a huge stack of tubes above their workbenches and would swap tubes in and out as part of their troubleshooting. I have personally observed techs put a tube in, test, pull it back out and put that tube back in the stack, then grab another identical tube from the stack and use the new one instead. The point being that the tube deemed unacceptable was placed back in stock; “New Old Stock”, so to speak. The N.O.S. tubes still available may, at least in some cases, be the tubes that were tried and rejected, possibly repeatedly. That isn’t to say that all N.O.S. tubes were losers, but at least some of them were unwanted at their time.

    That having been said, I have a set of 6L6 Blackplates in my that sound like a choir of angels. Tubes are not linearly consumable. Overall, yes hours of use will equate to greater risk of failure, but even power tubes can live a very, very long life.

    Many of the tubes I use are no longer in production, especially in the U.S. I have tubes in my tube-store which are roughly the same age I am. There are European-sourced tubes which are quite good. JJs have treated me well and the JJ 6V6s I’ve used have sounded great.
     
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  17. Robbie

    Robbie Country Gent

    Age:
    65
    Jun 17, 2013
    Sarnia Ontario Canada
    Exactly what I use as well
     
  18. Robbie

    Robbie Country Gent

    Age:
    65
    Jun 17, 2013
    Sarnia Ontario Canada
    Pretty much where I'm at too.
     
  19. Lizardkinged

    Lizardkinged Friend of Fred

    Age:
    31
    Oct 5, 2009
    Michigan
    I like those in my lil 6w champ clonse, and start to get some mids from the compression. It's one of the only amps that I generally push into power tube distortion other than my Orange Dark Terror. (it get's really dark and compressed there).

    I also just stick with the JJ 6v6S model UNLESS the groove tubes that came are fine... My PRRI has some tube rattles I just haven't gotten around to getting that cage off. LOL. I think I might go with the Tung-Sols I have sitting around.
     
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  20. Henry

    Henry Gretschified

    Apr 9, 2014
    Petaluma
    I'm impressed that you've played in the same rehearsal space for almost 40 years!