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Tube characteristics
Old 30th January 2013
  #1
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
Tube characteristics

Has anyone ever compiled a list of tubes and their audio characteristics? I'm wanting to have some different options in one of my 8-channel mic pre's that uses 4 tubes. I'm thinking I could have a pair of channels that were crunchy for room mic's and electric guitars, a pair that was warm and growly for analog synths and bass, a pair that would be crystal clear and clean as a whistle for vocals and acoustic instruments, and a pair that might be wildly distorted for vibe, etc.

The tubes I want to use are gonna be ECC83's, but is there a table anywhere of what characteristics I can expect from an early 60's NOS Holland Amperex, or a long-plate Mullard, or an old Telefunken, or a cryogenically treated J/J, or the newer GrooveTubes, or mid-80's Sovteks, or... you get the picture.

I realize that the art of tube-rolling is very complex, but if there was some kind of resource for those of us who simply cannot wrap our heads around the kind of knowledge necessary for competence in the field, but want the best sounds we can coax out of our tube gear, it would surely be a great and fabled compilation of wizardry that we mortals would appreciate a whole big bunch.

Does it already exist? Anybody know?

Thanks,
Robert

PS - a compatibility grid would also be a big help. I'm sure that exists somewhere already, right?
Old 30th January 2013
  #2
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emrr's Avatar
 
24 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Impossible over-simplification. The surrounding circuit dictates this mostly, the tube type much less.
Old 30th January 2013
  #3
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Marcocet's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Listen to Doug. He knows the score.
Old 31st January 2013
  #4
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countrymetalguy's Avatar
 
5 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
If only it were that easy.. Even tubes cooked in the same batch can have totally different sonics. And as stated earlier, the circuit surrounding the tube has everything to do with how it sounds. I can say that if your circuit runs a 12ax7 you can run a lower gain tube like a 5751 in its place, it could mellow it, but it may not create enough gain. Again, it all depends on the circuit. One "chart" you might look for is one on preamp gain values. This will give you a ball park to work in, just read up on a tube before to stick it in a circuit. Just cause it plugs in ok, doesn't mean it's safe.
Old 31st January 2013
  #5
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
Ok, how about in a simple preamplifier circuit? Or a list of recommended tubes for the 10 most popular tube mic pre's of the last decade? Or specifically, the circuit in the ART TubeOpto pre?

It doesn't make sense that anyone would have a 'favorite' tube for a given application if every tube on earth sounds completely and unpredictably different than every other tube on earth. And we read recommendations here and on other forums every day. What gives?

I was hoping for something more useful to everyone else here than even a thorough answer to my specific question would be.
Old 31st January 2013
  #6
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emrr's Avatar
 
24 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
ECC83 in circuit A will easily sound nothing at all like the same ECC83 in circuit B. It's like that.
Old 1st February 2013
  #7
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
Fair enough, but how about a table of 'ECC83 brand x, date y, country of manufacture z, will sound [descriptor] in preamp XYZ', narrowed down to 5 different brands/vintages of the same type of tube in 5 common project studio tube pre's?

For example, I read where someone recommended a specific mid-60's long plate ECC83 (I can't find it now or I'd specify the tube) for the ART TubeOpto pre that he reported as having a lower noise floor and more presence and clarity, so that would be entered as "ECC83 X -> ART TubeOpto -> quiet, clean, presence." My original intended question was whether anyone had constructed a table like that for different tubes in different preamps. I'm getting the overwhelming feeling the response is a resounding NO.

(I should mention, by the way, I'm not interested in swapping one tube type for another, outside of straight-up, common substitutions like a 7308 for a 6DJ8, for instance. I don't want to change the actual circuit. I just want to subtly tweak the sound of the circuit, and I know that old Telefunken and Mullard ECC83's sound slightly different in a given circuit than newly manufactured EH or J/J ECC83's.)

Question answered, then, with my thanks. It sure is a shame no one's bothered. Seems like it could be a really useful resource. So I guess I'm back to square one, which is to rummage through all the posts on all the forums and construct a table of recommendations myself. I'm glad to do it, but I have two months' worth of work backed up on me that I have to plow through before having the time to do something like that.

Unfortunately for me, that work would probably come out sounding a lot better if this recommendations table existed.

Thanks all the same, guys.

Last edited by esroberto; 1st February 2013 at 01:03 AM.. Reason: I fergot sumthin.
Old 1st February 2013
  #8
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Part of the other problem is many companies do not manufacture anything they just get a supply contract with a manufacturer and they just brand the tubes.

So let's say you're a maker of pro audio equipment using tubes and you procure tubes from one of these "non-manufacturers". The first few procured batches are good. Then the non-manufacturer changes suppliers mid-stream to a cheaper one to improve their bottom line. Next batch of tubes are inferior to the first set and you start getting complaints from high dollar customers. You find out that your supply chain was changed without notice, and you now have to honor warranty claims and you have lost $$$ in bad batches of tubes that can't be used in your products.

This actually did happen.

The point is, a table of parameters against tube brands would be a moving target.
Old 1st February 2013
  #9
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
That makes sense, sure. We could narrow it down further to only include tubes made before the mid 1980's, for instance. Then tube quality would be more of a known quantity, at least.

API pre's tend to sound aggressive, or at least they do 'aggressive' better than a lot of other pre's. Do they tend to sound aggressive on a soft Rhodes track on an R&B slow jam? Obviously not, but pointing that out isn't particularly useful. The underlying character of the API pre's is still, in the extended experiences of many engineers who have used them, in a word, 'aggressive'.

That's the generality of the information I'm looking for. "Compared to stock tubes, Tube X generally sounds Y and/or Z in comparison when used in most common microphone preamps."

Yes, there are many, many contingencies involved, but I think you guys are overthinking it, honestly. It is as simple as "When I switched this tube out for that tube, the sound seemed more [descriptor]." That's all I'm really looking for.
Old 1st February 2013
  #10
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emrr's Avatar
 
24 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
I've switched a lot of tubes in a lot of preamps, as many people have, and it's just not that simple. There's nothing I could relate to you that would make a concrete chart to follow, that anyone would agree on.
Old 1st February 2013
  #11
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
Well crap. I get it. I shall stop resisting the truth. It can't be done. Ok.

Nonetheless, thank you for suffering this tube newbie, and much gratitude for your answers, truly. :-)
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