I decided to bite the bullet and order two matched pairs of the increasingly rare & expensive NOS GE 6L6GC’s for my vintage MC30 monaural amps, so I could compare the fresh new GE’s to the new production Tung-Sol 6L6GC STR’s.
I have found certain aspects of the Tung-Sol’s musical & sonic performance to be very endearing, like their gorgeous mid-range and spooky presence, but I also found that even with more time they were not smoothing out to the extent that I like (and need) in the upper mid-range and high-frequencies to be a good match to my Tannoy Westminster Royal SE loudspeakers.
The result was there was too much emphasis on surface noise and sibilance with the Tung-Sol 6L6GC STR, except on those few extremely well recorded LP’s, to make listening to music as rewarding as I know it can be.
In order to make the Tung-Sol’s work, I pretty much came to the conclusion I would have to put some really mellow & warm caps in the MC30’s (and maybe the MX110Z too) to get the sort of tonal balance that sounded like real music does.
As you know, I’m not opposed to rolling caps, and if fact I enjoy it quite a lot, but I’d rather just plug in a set of tubes that will provide the musicality that I know my MC30’s & Westminster’s are capable of.
I ordered my GE 6L6GC’s from the husband and wife team, Tyler and Chelsea, at TC Tubes, and they arrived today by USPS. (Hint: they have two matched pairs of the GE’s left, tell them Jeff sent you).
I’ve been on a tear ordering from Discogs lately, and one of those albums was the The Johnny Smith Foursome Volume II on Roost (above).
I’m a huge Johnny Smith fan, and I adore the tone Johnny Smith got from his Gibson, being rich, warm, and achingly beautiful.
Except that with the Tung-Sol 6L6GC STR vacuum tubes Johnny’s Gibson sounded too lean, with the surface noise of my “very good” rated album sounding excessive, and the Tung-Sol’s just robbed Volume II of the “big tone” I knew it was capable of.
I put the GE 6L6GC’s in the MC30’s, and even cold out of the box with no time on them at all they sounded fantastic on Volume II, with the beautiful tone of Johnny’s Gibson coming through in spades. I could still hear the surface noise of my less than pristine copy of the Volume II, but it was now in an acceptable range that wasn’t a distraction from the music.
I didn’t realize how tired my old GE’s were before they let go, and putting in a fresh set is rather revelatory in how good they sound compared to anything else in my experience.
The fresh GE 6L6GC’s absolutely crushed the new production Tung-Sol 6L6GC STR’s, and it wasn’t even close.
Ok, that’s not the result that many of us were hoping for, that the Tung-Sol’s would be able to go toe-to-toe with the GE’s.
In fact, the disparity was so huge between fresh GE’s and the new production Tung Sol’s that it made me kind of sad, because that means as the GE’s run out that few will be able to hear the level of musicality it brings to the MC30’s.
As far as I know, there’s no new production 6L6GC vacuum tubes that can even come close to the level of musicality the GE’s are capable of.
I’m not sure why new production tubes like these Tung-Sol’s can’t come any closer to those fine old vintage GE 6L6GC’s.
Actually, there’s probably quite a few reasons current production don’t sound as good as these GE’s, with probably the first reason being that manufacturers aren’t actually listening to these new production designs long enough during the design phase to get the design sorted out enough to compete with the NOS tubes like the GE’s.
Richard & Sue at Sophia Electric are among the exceptional few that seem to be able to coax that level of vintage tube musicality out of new production tubes, but as far as I know they’re not in the 6L6GC business or plan to be.
The Sophia Electric Aqua 274B rectifier is in that rare category of a new production rectifier that is beautifully & compellingly musical, for sure, but there is no blue-glass ST bottle-shaped 6L6GC from Sophia in the works either now or in the future, unfortunately.
All I can say is that you better get your GE 6L6GC’s while you can, because once they’re gone it’ll be “the day the music died” in the world of 6L6GC vacuum tubes.
As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!