By Anastasia Mace. Guitar Electric. Published at Friday, August 31st, 2018 - 04:08:53 AM.
The only true small bottle 5881 currently in production is the Tung Sol 5881 reissue that is also made by Sovtek. Like the Sovtek 5881WXT, the Tung Sol has lower output than most 6l6's. But when it comes to tone, there is no comparison. The tone of the Tung Sol is head and shoulders above the 5881WXT. The problem is, unlike the Sovtek, the Tung Sol apparently cannot handle the high voltage of most modern tube amps. As a result, most people looking to upgrade the standard Sovtek 5881WXT will do better with a 6l6 tall bottle or one of the new clear tops. In addition to the Tung Sol, Sovtek also has a premium tall bottle 6l6 called the Sovtek 5881WXT+ (not the 5881WXT, the 588WXT"+", which is a very different animal) and the Electro-Harmonix 6l6EH (near as I can tell, the WXT+ and the 6l6EH are the same). Both the 5881WXT+ and the 6l6EH have longer plates, more volume and a much nicer tone - with more harmonic complexity - than the Sovtek 5881WXT.
Here are some suggested combinations of strings pickups amplifiers speakers that I think work well: Roundwound Strings Humbucker Pickups Tube Amp. (6l6 tubes) 15" JBL Speaker (clean sound). Rollerwound Strings Single Coil Pickups Tube Amp. (6l6 tubes) 10" Jensen Speakers (blues tone). Roundwound Strings Humbucker Pickups Tube Amp (el34 tubes) 12" Celestion Speakers (distorted rock and roll sound). Flatwound Strings Humbucker Pickups Solid State Amp. Eminence Woofer (jazz tone).
As for the copper wire, "overwound" pickups tend to sound louder and have more midrange and bass; pickups with less windings tend to sound softer and brighter. One of the reasons humbuckers sound the way they do is because it takes more wire to wrap the two coils. The thickness of the wiring and the type of insulation that is used are additional factors that affect the sound (e.g. Fender's early Strat pickups had Formvar insulation instead of enamel; insulating them that way gave them a clearer tone). Today most humbuckers are also wax potted so they won't squeal at high gain, but the wax potting hurts the clarity a little too (Gibson's modern Burstbucker pickups and Seymour Duncan's Seth Lovers attempt to reproduce the clearer tone of early humbuckers by eliminating the wax potting).
The tone capacitor also plays an important role in the response of the tone knob. There are several different types of capacitors commonly used for electric guitars. Both the material used in the cap and its capacitance value will affect the tone and response of the control. The most commonly found capacitor values are .047uf and .022uf, for single coils and Humbuckers, respectively. The larger the capacitance value, the more treble will bleed off and the darker the tone control will be. The lower .022uf value tends to be great for blues and rock as there are many subtle shades available as the tone control is swept. The .047uf is great for jazz, achieving darker tones as well as being great for taming bright single coils.
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