It was an awesome Sunday of fun and games listening to vintage Hi-Fi gear here at Jeff’s Place.
On the menu was a fine selection of vintage vacuum tubes for a little tube rolling in the McIntosh MC240, a Crown 800 professional portable reel-to-reel deck, a beautiful Marantz 8 stereo amplifier, and some mighty fine wines courtesy of Ron, Leo, George, and yours truly.
We started off doing a little tube rolling in the 50-year old vintage McIntosh MC240 stereo amplifier: first we listened to the vintage RCA 6L6GC black plates (below), followed by Ron’s quad of NOS Philips 7581A, and my quad of Philips 7027A.
The Philips 7581A (Ron’s) and the Philips 7027A (mine) looked nearly identical. The glass envelopes were almost identical between the two, and the internal structure looked identical. As I understand it, the 7581A is a high grade military version of the Philips/Sylvania 6L6GC STR 387, and has a plate dissipation of 35 watts compare to the usual 30 watts of 6L6GCs. The 7581A also has a better anode plate coating for better heat transfer, a higher grade nickel anode for longer life, and a double getter. While the 7027A’s internals look identical, I don’t know if the plate coating and composition are the same between it and the 7027A. Maybe one of our tube experts reading this post can tell us more about the differences?
While the Philips 7581A and the Philips/Sylvania 7027A looked nearly identical, that’s where similarities ended. I think the 7581A is a considerably better sounding vacuum tube than the 7027A by being warmer, having more body and tone color, equal or better clarity, a tight and tuneful bass, and a lot of rhythmic drive. More than a few people think the Philips 7581A is the finest 6L6GC style tube ever made and its easy to hear why (with a price to match, unfortunately). Please note that I am not dissing the 7027A, as its a great sounding vintage valve in its own right … but man … that 7581A is really something special, which was the unanimous listeners’ consensus here at Jeff’s Place.
Between the RCA 6L6GC black plates and the Philips 7581A I’d say it was about a draw. On some music I preferred the RCAs, and on others the Philips 7581A. I think I’m going to have to get a pair of the Philips 7581As for myself, so I can do some longer term listening to these two musical titans of the 6L6GC family, and provide you a more detailed description of their charms.
Next up for listening was Ron’s vintage Pro Series Crown 800 reel-to-reel. Ron told me that, “The magnificent Crown’s pristine condition is attributable to my buddy Charles (Chuck) Ziska in Ocala, Florida. Without Chuck’s parts and assistance I could not have completed the Crown Project as the transport mechanics are his area of talent.”
One of the really cool things about the Crown 800 Pro is that you can drive an amp direct without the need for a preamp, as it has its own preamp section with volume control. In case you want to be like the Grateful Dead, you can also plug your guitar directly into it, and drive your MC240 directly to power your Voice of The Theater loudspeakers (The Dead LA house practice system), while recording the performance while you do it. That’s pretty cool!
The Crown 800 Pro reel-to-reel made beautiful music with those amazing reel-to-reel tapes, it was like having our own master tapes to listen to!
Reel-to-reel seems to be a fundamentally more musical source than even LPs … man oh man do they ever sound good!
I had been waiting all day with anticipation to listen to Leo’s beautiful vintage 30 watt Marantz 8 (the model before the 35 watt 8B) and I wasn’t disappointed when we put it in the system! The Marantz 8 is awesome!
The Marantz 8 with those EL34 tubes was warm, rich, musical, and mesmerizing. No wonder Marantz has achieved such legendary status! Here’s the nice part – Leo has left the Marantz 8 with me for a couple of weeks so I can do some extended listening to this magnificent vintage amplifier – thanks Leo! So you may hear a bit more about the Marantz in the future!
Thanks for stopping by!