By Esperanza Roux. Guitar Electric. Published at Friday, August 31st, 2018 - 17:32:41 PM.
6l6 Tubes. 6l6 power tubes not only have different size plates, they also come in different size bottles. There are basically three (3) types. The small bottle "stubbies" modeled after the original Tung Sol 5881, the tall bottles based on the original Sylvania 6l6GC STR, and the clear tops that have the side getter construction of the famous black plate RCA 6l6GC. The most common OEM 6l6 is the Sovtek 5881WXT, which is sort of an anomaly. The Sovtek is a short plate tube in a tall bottle. It's called a 5881 but it's really a 6l6. It can handle high voltages like the other 6l6's but it has the lower output of a 5881. And you will see it branded both ways. Sovtek calls it the 5881WXT but Groove Tubes sells it as a 6l6GC, Fender calls it a 6l6GC, and a Mesa Boogie sells it as a 6l6GC STR. Regardless of the name, the Sovtek is a very reliable, inexpensive tube, but it doesn't have the best tone.
Another thing to consider is the wiring harness (i.e. the tone and volume controls, and the pickup selector) inside the guitar. You can swap out cheap pickups to improve the tone of your guitar, but you won't be able to get the most out of the change if you have a cheap, low quality wiring harness connecting the pickups to the output jack. The harness consists of two or four potentiometers, one or two capacitors, a switch and the wiring connecting them all together (and any shielding inside the control cavity or around the wires). The best components are US-made CTS pots, Sprague caps, Switchcraft switches and jacks, etc. The controls reduce volume or treble by introducing resistance and capacitance into the circuit. If the quality isn't there, the tone will be negatively affected even when the controls are turned all the way up; and the pickups may hum more or less depending upon how well the harness is shielded. So if you are replacing your pickups to improve the sound, it usually makes sense to also check the wiring and see if it needs to be upgraded or additional shielding needs to be added. And, last but not least, any effect pedals you use between the guitar and the amplifier will also tend to dominate the final tone. Some pedals are more transparent than others, but obviously if you rely heavily on pedals for the tone you want, then the type of pickups and strings you use will have less of an effect.
The best guitar cables will have a solid insulation using a material that wont allow this interference into the core of the cable. The job of your lead is to get the signal from your guitar to the amp without anything any contamination, so you need a material that conducts electricity very well. The high end and studio spec guitar cables will be made from oxygen free copper or silver, both of which are great conducting materials.
The other primary factor in determining the tone of an electric guitar is the strings. Electric guitar strings are made of nickel and steel. The more nickel, the warmer the sound; the more steel, the brighter and louder the strings sound. Also, the thicker the strings the more volume they will produce. That's why some players like to use heavy strings; they have more tone. If you try them and find they are too hard to play, you can always tune down a half step or more to compensate.
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