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  1. #1
    Luckybastidologist bungalowbill's Avatar
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    Question EL 84s

    OK guys, I'm looking for the fattest and cleanest sounding EL 84s....for a reasonable price. What are your opinions?
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    Default Re: EL 84s

    Newer made would be JJ's. Vintage would be GE's.

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    Mega Pony Rider Pink Unicorn Horsey's Avatar
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    Default Re: EL 84s

    Lots of people seem to like the JJs, so I'll plus-one that.

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker DesertRat's Avatar
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    Default Re: EL 84s

    I'm on the JJ bandwagon for affordable good sounding EL84's.

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    PinkElephantologist
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    Default Re: EL 84s

    okay, im going to say to find some new old stock EL84's. They are somewaht abundant on ebay, and not prohibitevely expensive, although the bidding can be compettitve.

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    LoveMachineologist jeremy's Avatar
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    Default Re: EL 84s

    for new the jj is good, hard to go wrong with old ones if you dont mind spending the money

  7. #7
    Mojo's Minions
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    Default Re: EL 84s

    I've been using Mesa Boogie EL84 tubes in my Budda Superdrive 30 and they are fantastic. Very reasonably priced, $17.99/pair.

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    Tone Member Myles's Avatar
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    Default Re: EL 84s

    Quote Originally Posted by Yngwiestein View Post
    I've been using Mesa Boogie EL84 tubes in my Budda Superdrive 30 and they are fantastic. Very reasonably priced, $17.99/pair.
    A few things to keep in mind here.

    Mesa used to use the Sovtek EL84 which was the darkest and most constricted sounding EL84 but they were cheap and reliable. If you like the tone of your Mesa with those and have not tried something else you may want to try something else as you may like your amp even more after the change.

    Second ... matching..... Mesa octal tubes (6L6, EL34, 6V6) come with six color codes ..... red, orange, green, gray, blue, white. These codes are on the base of the tube. Red by the way is the coldest tube and white is the hottest within that range. BUT ... you will not see any sort of match or color code on their EL84 tubes. Perhaps their logic is that cathode biased amps are self biasing and they feel the tubes do not need to be matched so these are not matched. If they work and do not make noise individually they pass and are boxed.

    The problem here is that cathode biased amps have a bias network that expects as per design a tube that is close to the design spec of the tube. If a tube is weak it runs cold which sounds grainy and does not allow the amp to produce full power. If the tube is overly strong compared to expected design spec it sounds harsh, runs too hot and has short life.

    The second problem is that when the tubes are more than 20% off on match you will get background hum in the output stage at all levels and loose sustain, articulation and definition as well.

    So ... if you had good luck with the Mesa EL84 offerings it was just that ... luck. It had nothing to do with matching.

    On the other hand, the matching Mesa does on their octal tubes is very good. Due to the fixed bias design of their amps they need to only offer tubes in a narrow range which is a range centered around actual design spec. If you break down the color code and convert it to the GT rating system is looks like this:

    Red = GT 4
    Orange = GT 4

    Green = GT 5
    Gray = GT5

    Blue = GT 6
    White = GT 6

    Mesa grid biased amps are generally overbiased and run cold so I always try to find blues and whites for my Mesa folks that want to use Mesa tubes. If you check the bias on Mesa amps with reds or oranges you may discover that the idle dissapation is as low as 28-30% where 50-60% is expected. Move to a blue or white and you will be closer to where the amp should be running.

  9. #9
    Toneologist wanmei1's Avatar
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    Default Re: EL 84s

    Quote Originally Posted by jeremy View Post
    for new the jj is good, hard to go wrong with old ones if you dont mind spending the money
    +!
    The JJ's are not the clearest sounding but they're rich and full with a smooth transition to breakup and a lovely crunch to the distortion.
    Money spent on NOS preamp tubes is really where it's at.
    You'll get more of a change in sound from your preamp tubes than you will from the power tubes.

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    Tone Member Myles's Avatar
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    Default Re: EL 84s

    Quote Originally Posted by wanmei1 View Post
    +!
    The JJ's are not the clearest sounding but they're rich and full with a smooth transition to breakup and a lovely crunch to the distortion.
    Money spent on NOS preamp tubes is really where it's at.
    You'll get more of a change in sound from your preamp tubes than you will from the power tubes.

    Superb point here:

    You'll get more of a change in sound from your preamp tubes than you will from the power tubes

    You are right on the money.

    In many amps the differences in output tubes actually do very little. What you are hearing in many cases is the phase inverter breaking down and that signal being passed to the output tubes. Most 12AX7s these days have plate current as low as 1/2 of expected output and your output section will distort faster in this case or be indistinct of flubby. If you have two tubes that are close to spec, a long plate and short plate you will probably hear a difference as well as the output section is driven harder.

    In many cases tube makers would rather have you buy a new output set of tubes which are more pricy (and in many cases will require a rebias in grid biased amps) than a plug and play cheaper 12AX7 or other tube in the phase inverter position which has much more effect.

    Chad Weaver (Brad Paisley) has a selection of phase inverters for Brad's amps that are all documented as to their plate current output, transconductance, plate resistance and actual true gain in circuit (transconductance is a design spec test and not always stated as in an actual amp circuit so both factors are nice to know). Depending on need or venue Chad can change the PI for a given venue or session.

    But .... the bottom line here is you are right on the money with your statement

  11. #11
    Guest rivera213's Avatar
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    Default Re: EL 84s

    My friend swears by JJ EL84's (in a Vox AC).

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker Fresh_Start's Avatar
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    Default Re: EL 84s

    If you can find them, the Ei version of the EL-84 is warm but still clean sounding. JJs are darker and not as clear to my ear. My Blues Jr. lost some of its chime when I put JJs in. Don't even get me started on the Mesa EL-84s - that's what sent me off experimenting with everything else.

    The Tube Store has the Ei tubes but you may be able to find them for less dough somewhere else.

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    Tone Member Myles's Avatar
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    Default Re: EL 84s

    Quote Originally Posted by Fresh_Start View Post
    If you can find them, the Ei version of the EL-84 is warm but still clean sounding. JJs are darker and not as clear to my ear. My Blues Jr. lost some of its chime when I put JJs in. Don't even get me started on the Mesa EL-84s - that's what sent me off experimenting with everything else.

    The Tube Store has the Ei tubes but you may be able to find them for less dough somewhere else.

    Chip

    Chip,

    The Eis were great in a lot of amps tonally. In a Dr. Z Mazerati which has a split bias ... the left two tubes with a seperate bias supply than the right two tubes (not inner and outer as most grid biased amps with four tubes) ... I liked JJs for one pair and Eis for the other pair for some clients.

    But ... the caviat .... the Eis tended to be very unreliable to physical shock such as road travel on tour. If you use these on the road you will need to carry spares as they can fail or become physically microphonic with little or no warning.

  14. #14
    Toneologist wanmei1's Avatar
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    Default Re: EL 84s

    Quote Originally Posted by Myles View Post
    Chip,

    The Eis were great in a lot of amps tonally. In a Dr. Z Mazerati which has a split bias ... the left two tubes with a seperate bias supply than the right two tubes (not inner and outer as most grid biased amps with four tubes) ... I liked JJs for one pair and Eis for the other pair for some clients.

    But ... the caviat .... the Eis tended to be very unreliable to physical shock such as road travel on tour. If you use these on the road you will need to carry spares as they can fail or become physically microphonic with little or no warning.
    Myles,
    Are you aware that EI el84's and indeed a lot of NOS tubes are not compatible with some amps such as recently manufactured Vox AC30 and Laney VC 30's due to internal wiring differences in the pin used for ground ?
    Last edited by wanmei1; 11-13-2008 at 03:48 AM.

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    18 watts of Mayhemologist JumpMarine's Avatar
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    Default Re: EL 84s

    Quote Originally Posted by wanmei1 View Post
    Myles,
    Are you aware that EI el84's and indeed a lot of NOS tubes are not compatible with some amps such as recently manufactured Vox AC30 and Laney VC 30's due to internal wiring differences in the pin used for ground ?
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  16. #16
    Ultimate Tone Slacker Fresh_Start's Avatar
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    Default Re: EL 84s

    Quote Originally Posted by wanmei1 View Post
    Myles,
    Are you aware that EI el84's and indeed a lot of NOS tubes are not compatible with some amps such as recently manufactured Vox AC30 and Laney VC 30's due to internal wiring differences in the pin used for ground ?
    Umm, if there's a problem with those amps, it's the fault of the amps not the EL-84 tubes.

    Do you know what the actual problem is with these amps and which tube brands/manufacturers do make compatible "EL-84s"?

    EL-84 pinout is:
    2 - control grid
    3 - cathode and suppressor grid
    7 - plate
    9 - screen grid
    4 & 5 - heaters
    1, 6 & 8 are internal connections

    Maybe some new "EL-84" tubes aren't really EL-84s. Just a guess - the AC-30 may use one or more of the internal connection pins to mount a component because some new not-really-EL84s don't use a pin for one or more of those connections.

    It wouldn't be the first time this happened. Sovtek "5Y3GT" rectifier tubes don't meet specs for that tube at all and the voltage drop is 20-30 volts less than it should be. There's a mechanical difference between how the cathode and heater are connected (or not connected).

    Chip

  17. #17
    Tone Member Myles's Avatar
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    Default Re: EL 84s

    Quote Originally Posted by wanmei1 View Post
    Myles,
    Are you aware that EI el84's and indeed a lot of NOS tubes are not compatible with some amps such as recently manufactured Vox AC30 and Laney VC 30's due to internal wiring differences in the pin used for ground ?
    Yes, that can be an issue at times. Another issue in amps that have PCB mounted output tube sockets with a hole in the chassis where the tube has to pass through the hole to hit the socket ... the hole is based on spec bottle diameter which used to be consistent in the past but is not consistent these days at times. So ... you cannot even get the tube installed in the amp in the first place.





    That 0.875 outer diameter can get to 0.90 and even larger.

  18. #18
    Toneologist wanmei1's Avatar
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    Default Re: EL 84s

    Quote Originally Posted by Myles View Post
    Yes, that can be an issue at times. Another issue in amps that have PCB mounted output tube sockets with a hole in the chassis where the tube has to pass through the hole to hit the socket ...
    I noted that you said in another post that you thought they were a good sounding tube apart from the reliability issues.

    I think it could be advisable to point out that the tube is actually unsuitable for a few currently manufactured amplifiers and should not be used unless modifications to the amps wiring or the tube itself is made.

    I wonder how many people have bought and installed Ei's only to have the fuses go or worse.

    The manufacturer makes no mention of this also.

    It would seem to me that for those that wish to use these tubes and don't want to modify their amp by having the sockets wiring altered, the thing to do would be to snip off pin number 1 of each tube with a pair of cutters.

  19. #19
    18 watts of Mayhemologist JumpMarine's Avatar
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    Default Re: EL 84s

    The JJ's are great for sure. TAD's seemed to have a bit higher headroom when I've tried them. The sweetest sounding new production tubes I've tried though were the Ei's. Don't get me started on the GT's, they are the same Russian tubes as the JJ's, but IMHO if you get the JJ's from Eurotubes they do a MUCH better selecting the best tubes from the batch. I've already had the stock GT's fail in my Dr Z and the replacements are starting to get noisey already....popped some JJ's back in and all of my problems went away.
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  20. #20
    Tone Member Myles's Avatar
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    Default Re: EL 84s

    Quote Originally Posted by JumpMarine View Post
    The JJ's are great for sure. TAD's seemed to have a bit higher headroom when I've tried them. The sweetest sounding new production tubes I've tried though were the Ei's. Don't get me started on the GT's, they are the same Russian tubes as the JJ's, but IMHO if you get the JJ's from Eurotubes they do a MUCH better selecting the best tubes from the batch. I've already had the stock GT's fail in my Dr Z and the replacements are starting to get noisey already....popped some JJ's back in and all of my problems went away.
    A few points to try to help here ....

    The JJ is not Russian it is what was Czech, now Slovakia.

    The stock tube in Z EL84 amps were the EL84S (JJ) in a #5-6 rating.

    If you have GT stuff that is going south contact Mike Fineburg at Kaman which took over GT and try to get them replaced under warranty. When I was at GT we would always replace stuff, no questions asked, in any new Z amp.

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