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6L6 vs 5881 vs 6550 vs 7027 vs EL34 vs 6CA7

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6L6 vs 5881 vs 6550 vs 7027 vs EL34 vs 6CA7

Postby scott on Fri Feb 10, 2006 8:58 am

Anybody done any kinda evaluating the differences in sound between all these tubes? Specifically for guitar applications?

Opinions? Which do you prefer, and why?
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Postby DanH on Fri Feb 10, 2006 10:47 am

I like the russian made KT-88's. They have headroom, dont break up so much for that coveted distortion that everyone likes. But then again, I use them in the ol Mesa 400+ on the bass tip. I dont want that kind of sound. In the tremoverb though, i like the sound of the 5881's (also Ruskie). And they last longer than them chinese ones. They seem to rock it on the screen, and last a while, getting beat up daily. 100w is one loud mothergrabber! that head is totally beating the crap out of a marshall 4x12 with celestion 65watters. like sonikboom said, BLAMMMO, bitches!
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Postby endofanera on Fri Feb 10, 2006 11:11 am

Unless the other numbers and letters are military cross-references for the same tubes, I only have experience with three of these tubes: EL-34, 6550, and 6L6.

EL-34s are my preferred power tube in that range for guitar.

6550s for bass. They are cleaner and brighter sounding and seem to have more power output/headroom.

It's been a while since Ive played an amp with 6L6s. Theyre used a lot in Fender amps -- really good for clean sounds. I dont remember liking their sound like I do EL-34s, however.

Of course, any comparison of 6L6s and the other two is probaby colored by other things besides just their qualities as power tubes. Ive used 6550s and EL-34s in Marshalls and Ampegs, so I have compared their effects on identical amps. Not so with the 6L6s.
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Postby tmidgett on Fri Feb 10, 2006 11:19 am

Watch current draw on 6550s.

They draw more current than the others.
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Postby Rodabod on Fri Feb 10, 2006 11:23 am

The 6CA7 is the EL34 / 6L6 hybrid is it not?

I think the best comparison between 6L6 and EL34 is the old Marshall JCM900 as they used both at different periods.

They can sound a bit crap, but are generaly good.

I like EL34s. I am biased as they tend to be European too.
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Postby scott on Fri Feb 10, 2006 11:43 am

tmidgett wrote:Watch current draw on 6550s.

They draw more current than the others.


Do you mean plate current, or heater current?

The EL34 is a heater current hog, at 1.5 or 1.6A per tube! Much more than the others which are only 0.9A. The Winged's C 6550C is also 1.6A according to this.

Going from EL34 or 6550 to 7027 is a safe bet... but not necessarily so the other way around.

And yeah, switching tubes is gonna likely require a rebias, and some of these tubes will require much more current than others.

In terms of power, the 6550 is rated at 35W plate dissipation, making it the beefiest of the bunch. 6L6GC's are 30W, and EL34's are 25W.

And Rodabod, the 6CA7 is roughly equivalent in specs to the EL34, the exception being that the EL34 has a suppressor grid (a true pentode) and the 6CA7 is a beam forming pentode/tetrode (depending on who you're asking, it's considered a pentode or a tetrode). The beam vs suppressor is the difference.
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Postby hiredgeek on Mon Feb 13, 2006 10:48 am

if this question is regarding tone and the "response" of an amp, this is what i have found with my ampeg v-2. bought the amp with the 6L6 output tubes (this was before the 7027 were around). i felt like the amp was as a car driving with flat tires, i mentioned this to the friend i bought the amp from. he put in 6550 output tubes. the amp was if i could only turn the car left, they car would turn left very well, but that was all that it could do. i drove the car in circles for a few months, took it in for something...the tech brought up the 7027 output tubes, said jj made them again...sure thing. brought the amp home and it was as if i was affirmed of not being crazy. for my ears and sensibilities the 7027 output tubes in the ampeg v-2 is the only way to go. everytime the amp is played out, i get loads of compliments, though i am the drummer...i used the car comparison as to not sound like a warm, punchy, detailed, tube sound.
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