Rollin' Tubes

Rollin' Tubes

Postby cmc64 » Fri Jun 29, 2012 12:20 am

I'm currently using a Fender Super Champ X2 combo amp. It's far from the greatest amp around but it is surprisingly decent considering its price point (got it brand new about 6 months ago for $225 due to Guitar Center fuckup). Anyway, it came stock with some rather anemic Groove Tube tubes - a 12AX7 in the pre-amp stage and a pair of 6V6's in the power amp stage. I have a friend whom I very recently met that builds tube amps and today he set me up with a Vintage NOS RCA 12AX7A and a brand new matched pair of JJ Elelectronic 6V6S tubes. Popped them in, turned the amp on and let it cook for a few hours to get them nice and warm and then plugged in.

Man, I was knocked out. That little 15 Watt amp just came to life. I didn't realize how much my tone was being compromised; the amp has a much lower noise floor now and the level of fine detail has increased 10 fold. There is so much more definition to each note played, such an increase in clarity - it literally sounds like I got a new amp. I have a JBL K-110 on the way and once that speaker is in place the little guy should sound pretty good. The amp does not seem to have that little potentiometer to bias the tubes but even without it, the difference is like night and day.

Well, I now have an entirely new thing to obsess about and that is tube tone. It's time to start hunting down different combos and seeing (hearing) what I can get out of them.

So what do you guys out there like to use?
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Re: Rollin' Tubes

Postby Tony6Strings » Fri Jun 29, 2012 3:18 am

I've seen more than one person drive themselves crazy on the Great Tube Hunt. It's pretty much the same thing as the Great Pickup Hunt. Or the Great Fuzz Hunt. I've seen people trade away great amp after great amp, go through vintage and boutique speakers like they were socks, and spend ungodly amounts of money on rare NOS tubes. Hell, I've even seen people going loony from trying to find the perfect tone capacitor :D . It all comes down to the search for that Holy Grail Tone. Use your ears, get close enough to make yourself very happy, and then leave it alone and enjoy it. Just a disclaimer. What I can say regarding tubes is that I use run of the mill Sovtek and I'm very happy with the sound of my rig.

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Re: Rollin' Tubes

Postby Smolder » Fri Jun 29, 2012 5:51 am

im a huge fan of old stock tubes. I'm trying to collect and hoard enough to last my lifetime. not only do they sound better 90% of the time, NOS are likely to live 5-10 times as long. congrats on your tube score!

i was about to start a thread asking the more experience tone chasers like waldo and sarno what their years tell them regarding preamp tube... especially in the twin to sms... maybe they will weigh in here.
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Re: Rollin' Tubes

Postby tigerstrat » Fri Jun 29, 2012 7:59 am

is the RCA 12ax7a the same as a 7025? That's my Go-To 1st Gain Stage tube.
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Re: Rollin' Tubes

Postby strumminsix » Fri Jun 29, 2012 8:53 am

"let it cook for a few hours " do you always let your amp warm up this long?

I find that with any tube amp after being on for a couple hours it sounds better.
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Re: Rollin' Tubes

Postby mgbills » Fri Jun 29, 2012 12:17 pm

Yea Tubes! Tigerstrat...just put an RCA grey plate 12ax7a in my '68 Deluxe. Awesome. In the same purchase I found a Ratheon that was actually an old Telefunken. Can't wait to try it.

But here is the other side...I was jamming with my son this week. He was playing through my little Mesa TA-15. I spent all week combing the vendors for a new tube set for the Mesa. EL84's & 12ax7's. You know...that little amp sounds great with the stock tubes.

Who knows. I know I tend to pick apart every little detail because it's in my nature. I love the tube hunt. Like everything else...it's up to personal taste.

On another note, I swapped the 12ax7 in the Reverb send on the Deluxe. My memory was faulty on which preamp tubes effect tone. I put a new EH in the reverb send, and the amp went totally ice-picky & sterile. Then I re-read my Weber amp book, and realized the PI tube only has to be functional.

Good stuff. I love the TubeSwapORama!
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Re: Rollin' Tubes

Postby TI4-1009 » Fri Jun 29, 2012 1:40 pm

Torres sells tube kits (among other things) for various Fenders

http://torresengineering.stores.yahoo.net/
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Re: Rollin' Tubes

Postby cmc64 » Fri Jun 29, 2012 1:49 pm

strumminsix wrote:"let it cook for a few hours " do you always let your amp warm up this long?


Occasionally. But I usually just plug in, turn on and go.

strumminsix wrote:I find that with any tube amp after being on for a couple hours it sounds better.


I agree. But in this case my friend stopped by my work and dropped the tubes off. As soon as I got home I put them in the amp. Since I had some other stuff to do, I turned the amp on and let them heat up - I wanted to really hear what they sounded like. Finished up my around the house stuff and then plugged in and gave 'em a run. That RCA 12AX7A is a really nice tube. Low noise and full of lush, juicy tone. My buddy is a bit older than me and is slowing down a bit, winding down his business, that sort of thing. He has several of these NOS RCA's - hopefully he won't mind parting with a few more so I have a few extra on hand for backup or when I pick up another amp.

I met this guy about a month ago. When he gave me the tubes he told me that about three months ago he had about 30 NOS 6V6's - not sure what manufacturer. He sold the whole lot to some guy. Man was I bummed when I heard that. Timing can be key...
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Re: Rollin' Tubes

Postby caspersvapors » Fri Jun 29, 2012 1:51 pm

op, did you bother to adjusting the bias when you changed out the tubes?

I have a scxd and am thinking about changing out the tubes
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Re: Rollin' Tubes

Postby cmc64 » Fri Jun 29, 2012 3:59 pm

caspersvapors wrote:op, did you bother to adjusting the bias when you changed out the tubes?


No. I was unable to find the potentiometer to adjust the bias. Not sure if there is one in the X2. IIRC you can adjust the bias by changing a resistor if there isn't a bias pot, but I didn't do that either. Sounds very good as is. I do need to learn how to bias the amp for future tube swaps. (see op)

caspersvapors wrote:I have a scxd and am thinking about changing out the tubes
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Re: Rollin' Tubes

Postby gpilcher2001 » Sat Jun 30, 2012 7:13 pm

Newer amps like the ta-15 are designed around the tube data of new russians tubes and will, 90% of the time, sound best when used with high quality new russian tubes. Especially high gain amps like a boogie. Any of the new reissue amps will work good with nos tubes and of course vintage amps. I guess weighing the cost against application and the tone your looking for is what matters. Let's not forget the reason for tubes is there distortion characteristics and harmonic content. If you run a clean power section then new tubes should do just fine. If you have a nice class a amp that you can crank for that power tube saturation then a nos tube whould be well worth the investment. My opinion anyway Greg.... :cool:
good to know you got shoes to wear when you find the floor.....
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Re: Rollin' Tubes

Postby cmc64 » Sun Jul 01, 2012 7:37 am

gpilcher2001 wrote:Newer amps like the ta-15 are designed around the tube data of new russians tubes and will, 90% of the time, sound best when used with high quality new russian tubes. Especially high gain amps like a boogie. Any of the new reissue amps will work good with nos tubes and of course vintage amps. I guess weighing the cost against application and the tone your looking for is what matters. Let's not forget the reason for tubes is there distortion characteristics and harmonic content. If you run a clean power section then new tubes should do just fine. If you have a nice class a amp that you can crank for that power tube saturation then a nos tube whould be well worth the investment. My opinion anyway Greg.... :cool:


I got really lucky with my tubes, especially the NOS RCA 12AX7A. I work at a battery store and my tube dude needed 10 1.2V AA Ni-Cd's for his solar lights so we traded batteries for tubes. Cost me a whopping $6.70. Can't beat that.

Anyway, one of the regulars at my store is a amateur/HAM radio freak and passed on some good info - next Saturday there is a amateur radio "swap meet" of sorts about 10 minutes from my shop and there will be several vendors there with multiple flavors of New. Vintage, and NOS tubes. At this point I could not be more pleased with my tube selection but I am gong to hit up the event and hopefully cop a few goodies. Anyone have any recommendations for anything in particular that I should be looking for? Something that may be somewhat rare but quite exceptional? The guy who turned me on to the event has been going to these all over the tri-state area for years and said there will be many good deals to be found on some pretty nice stuff, if you know which vendors to hit (which I now do).

If any of you guys out there are after something special I'll be more than happy to try and find whatever it may be.

Thanks for any/all input!
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Re: Rollin' Tubes

Postby lunasparks » Fri Oct 19, 2012 12:56 pm

Rather than launch a new thread, I thought I'd tag along on this one. Link below is to a test of several different sets of12ax7 preamp tubes in my SMS --> MC2105 --> JBL E120 rig. It goes on kind of long but I was trying to hear chords, single note runs, noodling etc.

There are 5 pairs tested in the clip. 1st at 0:00, 2nd at 2:09, 3rd at 4:12, 4th at 6:21, 5th at 8:39

For those interested, I'd be curious to get feedback on which of the 5 you think has the best Jerry tone. I'm trying to find just the right crispiness but I've tested so much I can't hear the difference anymore! :? If a handful of responses come in, I'll follow up with details on the tubes -- I don't want to bias anyone just yet! Let's hear what people like or don't like :smile:

http://www.soundclick.com/player/single_player.cfm?songid=11953637&q=hi
Last edited by lunasparks on Sat Oct 20, 2012 10:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Rollin' Tubes

Postby Bear62 » Fri Oct 19, 2012 10:28 pm

Ok- Simple first impression! 3,5,2,4,1

Very close among 3, 5 & 2. 2 may be a bit hotter tone.
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Re: Rollin' Tubes

Postby mgbills » Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:14 am

Diggin' 3. Warmer more dimensional. 2 was cool.
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