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The Two Easiest Amp Mods. Replacement Speakers and Tubes.


arlum

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This is something I've been doing for many years. Buy an amp, (used or new). Play through it for awhile. Does it please me 100%? If yes .....keep it stock. If not .... modify it to meet my desires.

 

I'm not an amp tech so I stay away from all the paths to electrocution. I've found that replacement speakers and tubes can make a huge difference all on their own without having to delve any deeper.

 

I'm wondering if anyone else here has certain "go to" aftermarket speakers to achieve this or that change in an amps tone / attack / cut through / etc.? AlNiCo , Ceramic or Neo whatever? Dustcover types? Cones ribbed or not? Surround? Voice coil size? Specific brands and models?

 

The same for both preamp and output tubes. Best preamp tubes for a specific sound in the V1, (or V2 in muti-gain stage amp), position. Best preamp tubes for the Phase Inverter position. Output tubes. Brands? Specific models or examples.? Compatible types, (EL34 / KT77)? Current tube construction vs. NOS.

 

Any other folks here too scared to enter the danger zone within the big bad tube amp yet desiring and achieving modifications that meet your desires?

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I'd be interested in hearing more about this from the forum members; amp modifications are not something I have previously explored, but I have a curiosity to explore.

 

I know some basics about the tube side; EL34 valves are a Brit sounding classic; 6L6 valves are the American counterpart; KT77 valves are somewhere in between? (correct me if I'm wrong). One question I have is; does anyone out there do combinations of these in their amp? 1 of one type, 1 of another?

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I am not one of those who will "clip the bright cap" or cut up a circuit generally... I have, on an Epiphone Valve Junior, modified it heavily and the results were signifiant. It sounds great if I do say so myself. However, I did take a $99.00 amp and turn it into a $400.00 amp that was worth $99.99! ;~)

 

Tubes are another story entirely as I see it. They are consumable so by their very nature they will have to be changed. In the old days I never thought to discern tubes. When one blew I went to the drug store and bought another one and put it in. I never really heard any difference in my '60's Ampeg Echo Twin. Tubes were better then and lasted for years and years.

These tubes today are not built as well. The best modern tubes will last two years at best in my experience. The brand names that were once meaningful are nothing more than marketing buzz words now. All modern tubes are manufactured in a handful of factories in Russia, China and Slovenia.

 

There are people who will hunt for that NOS tube nirvana and I have no doubt that they are getting great results for their efforts. The costs involved can be astronomical. There is a large portion of snake oil involved the claims of a lot of the sellers as I see it. Also, ANOS (as new old stock) is a thing now too! You can buy a USED tube for too much money. Like I said, old tubes do in some cases sound better and last longer but for me - I would rather buy new tubes from a reputable reseller so that when they do go bad I can order another set and be done with it.

 

On my Vox AC15C1X I did go through a couple of sets of tubes before I settled on the combination that I like best... All of the preamp 12AX7's are the same brand and the EL84 power tubes are a different brand. I did however wear out the power tubes anyway before went on to new ones. Matching power tubes is important. Getting the bias adjusted on non cathode based amps is important also.

 

Speakers are a matter of taste. Some people will go through many. I knew what i was going for when i bought my amp with the Celestion AlNiCo Blue. I don't think I would buy an amp these days that was not really close to what i had in mind in the first place.

 

Lastly, quite a few modern amps, and some vintage ones too, have speaker wires that are too small gauge and that is a very inexpensive mod that will make a difference.

 

"Rolling tubes" is really the only way to see if there is a great combination that suits you, but don't buy into the bullshit, especially on gear forums that claim if you spend $200.00 on X NOX tube you will be cooler than all of your friends. I don't believe it. Like I said, some NOS tubes are better than modern tubes but what do you do when the supply is completely done? If you have a modern amp the manufacturer is designing the circuit around modern tubes anyway!

 

I am all for experimenting. I am an eternal tinkerer. I just hate seeing people waste money on snake oil!

Good luck,

jv

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I'd only ever done one speaker replacement- on a Fender DRRI. I put a Weber AlNiCo 12" doped cone in and took it back out within a day. Was able to sell it used for almost as much as I paid for it. The problem was not the speaker- I just learned that I liked tube breakup much better than I like speaker breakup!

 

Within the last year I got a new Fender '68 Custon Deluxe Reverb. I love it- however I felt it was a bit too sterile. I put in a pair of new JJ 6V6 (matched) and that helped, but what made the most significant change was replacing the V1, V2 and (I think) V4 12AX7s. I had two NOS German made "AU" tubes that I bought and stashed for the Dr. Z amp I had. I found out they were worth quite a bit at this point (was credited $70.00 from the dealer for them once he determined they were new). I bought three "Select" 12AX7 tubes from The Tube Store (Canada). They are re-badged with Tube Store logo so I don't know what they are- but all I can say is WOW- did they "wake up" the amp! Quiet and very rich sounding- I bought them on reccommendation from one of the owners and I am VERY happy so far.

 

As far as longevity...we'll see. I have not had them in 6 months yet.

 

Brian

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I'm one who really believes in the far higher quality of NOS tubes. That said ..... I do use modern construction tubes of specific brands and types that have proven their worth to me.

 

Many of the offerings from "Grove Tubes" are excellent when compared to other modern constructs and are at least fair when compared to NOS. The don't compare favorably to NOS RCA 7025 or 12AX7A manufactured in the late '50s or early '60s in the U.S.A.. NOS Mullard ECC83 and EL34, Amperex EL84, (built at the Heerlen, Holland plant and most famously released under the "Bugle Boy" label which actually were the exact same tubes Amperex sold to companies like Hammond, etc. Note* Hammond labeled Amperex El84 tubes cost less than half the price of the same tube released with the picture of a bugle boy on the glass yet, they're the identical tube.), Philips and Sylvania U.S.A. builds, French built Mazda and German Telefunken, . Groove Tubes will certainly hold their own when compared to NOS GE, some RFT, Tungstrum, Raytheon and Tung Sol.

 

Another excellent "sleeper" tube offered today is only available from a Canadian company called "The Tube Store". They offer tubes under the name "Preferred Series". In general, by today's standards, these are good to excellent tubes The real gem is the Preferred Series 7025 preamp tube. They sound somewhat like an RCA 12AX7 standard series tube. On all of my amps that aren't running NOS RCA or Mullard in the V1 position I'm using The Tube Store Preferred Series 7025. They run around $24.00 where my usual NOS tube preferences run between $75.00 and $150.00 each. They won't last as long as an NOS tube but their tone comes very close and at $24.00 they're a steal.

 

About ten years ago I found the Svetlana Winged C SED production EL34 and 6L6GC tubes. As current production goes, in the case of both tube types, I considered these the best of the best. Originally I could buy them for around $28.95 and the price slowly grew to $41.95. Then about six months ago multiple tube sellers reported that the only factory building the Svetlana Winged C SED offering had been shut down. I wasn't concerned at the time. Recently I bought my second Fender Concert amp and wanted the same output tubes as I have in my first Concert. Winged C SED. Best price I could find ....$90.00 apiece. Don't mistake Svetlana for Svetlana Winged C SED. Totally different animals. They don't play in the same ball park.

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I'm one who really believes in the far higher quality of NOS tubes. That said ..... I do use modern construction tubes of specific brands and types that have proven their worth to me.

 

Another excellent "sleeper" tube offered today is only available from a Canadian company called "The Tube Store". They offer tubes under the name "Preferred Series". In general, by today's standards, these are good to excellent tubes The real gem is the Preferred Series 7025 preamp tube. They sound somewhat like an RCA 12AX7 standard series tube. On all of my amps that aren't running NOS RCA or Mullard in the V1 position I'm using The Tube Store Preferred Series 7025. They run around $24.00 where my usual NOS tube preferences run between $75.00 and $150.00 each. They won't last as long as an NOS tube but their tone comes very close and at $24.00 they're a steal.

 

 

THIS ^^^

 

I had written "Select" I was incorrect...they are the "Preferred" series that I got / am using now. Thanks for the correction Arlum!

 

Again- these guys are wonderful to deal with. They are one of two places I get tubes and they have never let me down!

 

Brian

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