By Emely Greenfield. Guitar Electric. Published at Friday, August 31st, 2018 - 08:12:21 AM.
Electric Guitar Tone: Vacuum Tubes. Changing the vacum tubes in your guitar amplifier can change the tone just as much as changing the speakers. Many people claim the best 12ax7 preamp tubes and 6l6 power tubes are the American made RCA tubes that were produced in the 1950's and 60's, like the short, ribbed plate RCA 12ax7 and the black plate RCA 6l6GC, as well as the European made Mullard ECC83. Those tubes do sound great but they are expensive and dwindling in supply, since they are no longer being made. Fortunately, there are also a number of high quality current production tubes that are available to upgrade the tone of your amplifier.
Recently, the bridge pickup on one of my favorite guitars stopped working. The guitar is a Yamaha semi-hollow body electric guitar in the style of a Gibson 335. Upon visual inspection of the wires through the f-hole, I quickly discovered that a single wire had broken off at the point where it was soldered to the volume pot. Under normal circumstances this would have been a snap to fix, but the difficulty in working on this style of guitar is that the only way to access the wiring is through the f-hole. There is no back access panel that makes it easy to get at the guts of the guitar, like there is on a Les Paul.
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.
The magnetic picks tend to be broken into two categories: The single coil pickup, and the double coil or humbucking pickup. Magnetic pickups gain their magnetic fields most commonly from two styles of magnets. There are pickups that will have a magnet that is a rod that will be attached to the base of the pickup, while other pickups achieve magnetism from pole pieces. Pole pieces are magnetic cylinders that come out of the pick and in some pickups adjustments can be made to strengthen the sound of the string.
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