Jul 222013

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.

Leo Ron George

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.

Mac RCA 6L6GC (1)

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?

MC240 with Philips

 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.

MC240 with RCA 6L6GC black plates

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.

crown 800 with mc240

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.”

crown 800 with mc240 and Marantz

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!

Reel-to-reel tapes

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!

800 and tapes

Reel-to-reel seems to be a fundamentally more musical source than even LPs … man oh man do they ever sound good!

800 and tapes 2

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!

Marantz 8

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!

 Posted by at 7:59 pm

  9 Responses to “Another Vintage Sunday at Jeff’s Place: Crown, Marantz, McIntosh, Vacuum Tubes, and Music!”

  1. Hello Jeff;
    Chuck linked your site to me. I’ve been a Crown nut since my first deck back in 81′. Although I’ve owned other manufacturers machines, Currently through Chuck, now own a Crown CX822 with a tape counter, Low-Z strip D40 amp and Track sync, all mounted in a tilt roll around rack. I also have a vintage Crown SS824 with a Crown SA30-30 amp mounted also in a rack. I also have two identical SX724 decks (all decks mint, cal’ed & with new heads) and am working on buying a CX824. Chuck has been servicing Crowns for a long time. He’s now (more or less) taken over the business from John Haynes in Indiana. I live in Ocala too so I see him regularly.
    Send me your e-mail & I’ll send you photos of my decks!

  2. Hi Jeff

    If you prefer RCA 6L6GC BP over Philips 7581A you should have a try with Mullard EL37 which are as dynamic ,very good bass but sweeter especially with female voices.
    ( I would be curious about Jim’s opinion )
    Cheers Serge

    • Hi Serge,

      Thanks for the suggestion! The RCA 6L6GC BP and Philips 7581A are my two favorites so far in the MC240. Thanks for telling me about the Mullard EL37 – I’ll bet I’d like it from your description. They’re not easy to find!

      Kind regards,


  3. Howdy Jeff.

    I’m curious as to when you expect to take delivery of the MX 110 preamp. I’ve really been enjoying these recent posts about vintage tube stuff and am particularly excited to hear your thoughts on the MX 110 as I have recently been presented with an opportunity to get a refurbished unit to round out my eclectic system: Mac running Amarra; Lavry DA 11; Thorens 160; Decware SE 34.i2+ amp; Blumenstein Audio Orcas and dual matching subs (Blumenstein is a very cool, local company, btw).

    I happen to live in Seattle and also really enjoyed the bike tour and beer post.

    Keep up the great site!



    • Hi Blake,

      I’m supposed to get the MX110 pre at the end of August when Tom Manley & Terry DeWick are done with the restoration.

      Sounds like you’ve put together a nice system! (The Blumenstein’s contacted me a while back about doing a review, but my review queue was so backed up I had to ask them to check back in at a later time)

      Seattle is such an awesome city – you’re lucky to live there!

      Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by!

      Kind regards,


  4. Nice work Jeff! R2R with master tape, vintage valve amps and Tannoy’s…it doesn’t get any better!

    Cheers, Andy

  5. Hi Jeff,

    I wanted to ask you if this is the best place to type a message to you or if I may contact you via another method so we can discuss some tubes? I am particularly interested in the sound character of these 6L6 based tubes that you have been listening to, especially ones that can take some volts like the 7027A or the 7581A. I am looking for basically a tube that has a much of a see-through/crystalline type of a sound. Of course I can use KT77’s/KT88’s/etc. but my circuit really loves the lesser difficulty of driving tubes like the EL34/KT77 type, hence why I am very interested in the 7027A and 7581A tubes since the Russian ones used in the Leben seem to take nice voltage, but not quite as much as I’ll have the tubes running at. Would the 7027A be more of the type of see-through/fast/detailed/resolution type of tube or would you consider an EL34/KT77 based tube to do this type of thing better? I am also curious just how much resolution/detail/speed/clarity/see-through sound the 7581A even has, in spite it has that special extra stuff that you described above.

    Thank You Jeff and contact me at my email addy if you have a moment for a quick chat.

    BTW, lovely amps, tape reel (cough…that would be a thing to hear!), etc. And nice website. It looks fantastic!


    • Hi Mike,

      You are always welcome to post here or send me an email message at jeffday777@gmail.com. I don’t do telephone calls, I just don’t have the time with my schedule, I hope you understand.

      Of these tubes my favorite is the RCA 6L6GC black plates, followed by NOS Philips 7581A, with the Philips 7027A coming in third on the podium. That’s using my MC240 as a reference, as I haven’t tried them in my beloved Leben CS600. I’ll have to do that eventually.

      My priorities for vacuum tubes are not really “resolution/detail/speed/clarity/see-through sound” even though those can be admirable traits in the right context. I tend to go for vivid tone color, realistic timbral textures, a darkly detailed overall balance, and a dollop of natural warmth that favors a lot of not so well recorded music. If you are after “resolution/detail/speed/clarity/see-through sound” then you should be giving the NOS 6n3ce a listen (http://jeffsplace.me/wordpress/?p=188). They are inexpensive and sound great in the CS600.

      Jim McShane (at the link above) is one of the most knowledgable people on Planet Earth when it comes to vacuum tubes. If you tell Jim what it is you are trying to achieve with your system balance, chances are he’ll be able to make some nice recommendations. Jim’s who I get in touch with when I need some ideas and guidance.

      I hope that helps. If you find something that you think is really spectacular in your Leben be sure to let me know so I can give them a try too.

      Thanks for stopping by and posting a comment.

      Kind regards,


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