By Sarah Broughton. Guitar Electric. Published at Friday, August 10th, 2018 - 21:08:35 PM.
Keep in mind the market for vacum tubes is constantly changing. It used to be that the JJ ECC83's and SED "Winged C" 6l6's were the best tubes available. But then Sovtek was bought out by New Sensor and started working with Electro Harmonix to develop new tube designs. Chinese tubes were notoriously cheap, but then Tube Amp Doctor and Groove Tubes started working with them to develop some top quality glass. It also used to be that you needed to get tubes from a reseller who tested them thoroughly because they were notoriously unreliable from the factory. But now Sovtek, for example, seems to be testing their own tubes more and selling the good ones under brand names like "Tung Sol" or "Mullard." The other thing the tube manufacturers are doing now is selling "gold pin" versions of their tubes (often for twice the price of the regular versions). I think it's worth it to buy the brand name versions, especially if you are buying direct from the manufacturer, but I don't think the gold pins are worth twice the price.
If you own a Gibson or Epiphone Les Paul style guitar, you have a ready-made trick waiting for you. It's easy, it's fun, and it sounds really cool. This article will tell you what it is and how to do it. So you can understand how this trick sounds, take a listen to Van Halen's "You Really Got Me". At the 1:38 mark, the music quiets down a bit. Between 1:40 and 1:43, the guitar sounds like it's going through some sort of mechanical jet engine machine. That's the trick I'm talking about.
The resistance value of the potentiometer plays an important role in tone; the rule of thumb is to use 250K potentiometers with single coil pickups and 500K potentiometers with Humbucker pickups. Both are commonly found on stock guitars. Guitar pickups can often be "hot", or sound a bit dull. To fix this, swap out the stock 250K pots with premium 500K models. This will allow the pickups to get more high-end sound while brightening up the overall tone.
The second common OEM tube out there is the Chinese Shuguang 12AX7 (Groove Tubes also sells this tube as the 12AX7C; Tube Amp Doctor has also sold this tube as a TAD 7025; and it has also been sold by Mesa Boogie). The Chinese 12ax7's are constructed with short, fat plates, like the Sovteks, but they have an extra spacer above the tubes, a big nickel colored brace connecting the plates, and a "halo" getter on top. Again, if you see a tube made like this, it's a Chinese tube, regardless of whether it has Groove Tubes or Mesa Boogie or TAD written on the glass. These tubes have a warmer tone than the Sovteks and more gain (volume). As a result, they work well in high gain amps.
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