What a tube sounds like... Soundclips and in plain language. Here you shop for tubes based on their sonic descriptions!
As you read through this page you will also discover how to cook up a custom amp sound by yourself. My customers are amazed at how different various tubes sound, and are astounded to discover that these different qualities can be combined to create a highly refined amp. See how-to in my free illustrated guide.


NEW: SOUNDCLIPS both clean and dirty for each tube type offered! Special thanks to Jim Phillips for his engineering skills, and for resisting the temptations to add any equalization or compression. Special thanks to Daniel King for his Tele playing skills, and sticking to the criteria of using a huge dynamic range. Hear Dan and his band The Naked Stills making better use of his talents on his webpage. The dry guitar sound was recorded without any embellishments, and then re-amped and recorded through a Fender 65' RI Twin Reverb for the clean tracks, and through a Marshall Super Lead Tremolo for the dirty tracks.

I began in 1984 as a professional Amp & Guitar Technician. You do not need a technician to change 12AX7 tubes. The 12AX7s' are the most important tubes in your amp in determining what your amp is going to sound like. I have hosted private tube listening / tasting sessions here for decades, and this website brings all that experience to your door. I stock only currently made reliable tubes whose characteristics are obviously different from other ones.

12AX7A choices: this is where tone happens! Different preamp tube characteristics will have a dramatic effect on your guitar amp, tube compressor, otherwise nice sounding foot pedals or any other 12AX7 equipped sound gear. There is no more comprehensive and practical testing done anywhere in the world. All tubes are burned-in, tested, listen tested, and Application Graded
by my me personally. See tone index below. Don't worry about getting lost here, there is a glossary at the bottom of the page that explains all of the terminology used on the website.

International orders at regular domestic shipping charges!


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This is where I make you fall in love with your amp! You bought a tube amp, now hear it for the first time!

If your amp would sound good with three of these tubes then choose one gain, one function, and one driver tube.
If choosing more than one type then read about successful mixing of tubes below.


Remember when reading terms like "Clean" and "Distortion" that these terms are used within the context of an amp with controls of that type; a distortion tube in a Twin Reverb will never be cranked up enough for the distortion to even come into play. A "Clean" tube in a High Gain amp would only be clean on a clean setting.


AVAILABLE 12AX7 / 7025 / ECC83 / B759 TUBE TYPES:

The Name... Attributes... Good Use.... Choose the Application... Quotes...

Deep and Clean.
High headroom very low noise.

 

HEAR IT CLEAN
HEAR IT
DIRTY

 

 

 

 

 




 

Solid.

This tube is all about extended bass response, diminshed treble response. This tube has incredible headroom.

The tone is very organic, woody - like an old tree trunk.







 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stand back harmonica players, bass players andaudiophiles! This brand new tube out-shines everything for you guys.

- WHY?

This tube has such great low bass, bass and midrange that you simply have to hear it.

It can take a HOT signal like a harp mic and still come up clean! V1 for harp, then if you want more dirt go to the next tube and further refine what you get from this.

You want more detail down in the bottom of your hi-fi? Simply solid tone, I guarantee this tube will pull you in and blow your mind.

- THAT'S WHY!

Do you want a more capable driver tube? If you feel you are getting unwanted distortion from the driver section of your amp then this tube offers you a bullet proof solution. Plus, great bass response in the driver allows the output tubes to deliver that instantanious percussive program material - transients.

Incredible quality in this new tube. It is dramaticly different sounding and works well when combined with other tube types.

Excellent tube for recording bass and guitar. Notably the single coil guitar outfits.

Cons? It's expensive.



GAIN for the critical first gain stage.
$100 USD

FUNCTION level tubes are not coming out of this production of tubes.

DRIVER for use with matched finals.

$100 USD

GAIN/DRIVER suitable for either use.

$110 USD

PRIVATE STOCK For use as a gain stage tube. These are the 1 in 200 tubes you hear about. Unusually high performing tubes, the very best of a lot.

$150 USD
"Jesus, I wish you never let me listen to that one, now I have to have it"

 High Presence,
Early Distortion, Moderate Compression.

HEAR IT CLEAN
HEAR IT
DIRTY

 

 




 

 Emphasis across the entire plain-string range of notes.

Very punchy sounding.

Nice tube for a live situation where cutting tone is needed without piercing high trebles.





 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tonally, its more like a presence control than a treble control.

Nice tube for live situations where you need a tone than can cut, without harsh trebles.

Early distortion and some decent compression attributes pair up nicely for a chunky response without excessive bass or any sense of slugishness.

Good tube for both chording and lead work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


GAIN for the critical first gain stage.

$31 USD

FUNCTION not for use as gain or driver.

$20 USD

DRIVER for use with matched finals.

$38 USD

GAIN/DRIVER suitable for either use.

$43 USD

PRIVATE STOCK For use as a gain stage tube. These are the 1 in 200 tubes you hear about. Unusually high performing tubes, the very best of a lot.

$50 USD
"I didn't know that tube even existed."

Clean and
COMPRESSED


HEAR IT CLEAN
HEAR IT
DIRTY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This tube stays clean when overdriven by compressing.

The effect is very fluid and natural.

Punchy, clean sound. Diminished highs for rounder, smoother sounding trebles.
Bass is notably fuller.

 








 

This is the go-to tube for any amp that lacks punchiness. The sound is very much like the full natural sound of a recapped Twin or Pro.

The natural choice for tube compressors.

For your studio mic preamps if you want natural transparent compression use this tube and forgo dealing with finicky compressor settings.

Try it for mix down!

Bass players love this tube for its punchiness and round focused trebles.

There is great inexpensive tube rack equipment out there, but they don't know what I know about tubes! Use this one or the Clean and Accurate one, based on your application. Either will be a REAL improvement!

Harp players love this tube for it's breath and tone.

Guitar players may find that alone this tube is too far off goal, but has something pleasing about it. This tube is very popular to combine with another tube that sounds different. Guitar players often find this as a warm clean solution, or as a second gain stage tube for fattening up a distortion style tube in the preceding stage.

Recently adopted by one very big class A amp company with a reputation for very bright sounding amps using very bright very cheap tubes and favored by many MetaL players. If your new MetaL intentioned amp feels unexpectedly sluggish try a different tube than this for the first position! They went from one extreme to the other!!


GAIN for the critical first gain stage.

$29 USD


FUNCTION not for use as gain or driver.

$18 USD

DRIVER for use with matched finals.

$34 USD

GAIN/DRIVER suitable for either use.

$39 USD

PRIVATE STOCK For use as a gain stage tube. These are the 1 in 200 tubes you hear about. Unusually high performing tubes, the very best of a lot.

$50 USD

"That's what my amps been missing."

"WOW!"


"I had no idea that tubes could make such a big difference."

"That's perfect."

"I love your website, I read the entire site."

"Its a lot of information, you really did a great job."

"I cant believe it's the same amp!"

"My Super Reverb is finally exactly the way I want it!"

"You ought to charge more for this - this is really great."

"Everything is exactly as described. Thank you"

Clean and Bright

HEAR IT CLEAN
HEAR IT
DIRTY
This tube has that extra sparkle and edge when brilliant tone is needed without adding any drive or distortion. Less treble than the other bright tubes on the page. Accurate attack, more solid bass and mids make this tube an interesting listen.

Good when you want a more modern tone with a hard edge feel. Tight bass response to keep it from sounding tubby.

Clean and Bright, not brittle.

Sorry but no, its not blue.

Select this type as an alternative to the factory equipped tube that's close to the original sound but cleaner and with less treble.

In a distortion amp this tube offers a less harsh alternative to the factory tube, with more headroom.


GAIN for the critical first gain stage.

$27 USD

FUNCTION not for use as gain or driver.

$16 USD

DRIVER for use with matched finals.

$32 USD

GAIN/DRIVER suitable for either use.

$39 USD

PRIVATE STOCK For use as a gain stage tube. These are the 1 in 200 tubes you hear about. Unusually high performing tubes, the very best of a lot.

$50 USD

"This is the only place I get tubes from."

"I will never go to those other guys again now that I know about you."

Bright with slight COMPRESSION and slight distortion.

HEAR IT CLEAN
HEAR IT
DIRTY
Generally a clean sounding tube, it has tight bass, strong upper mids and highs. It goes into distortion when pushed.

One tube popular among amp makers, but a bit more soulful as it has a slightly softer more forgiving feel.

Not a dirty sounding tube, but will offer pleasing distortion when pushed.

Select this type as either a better performing tube of the factory equipped sound, or as an alternative that's close to the original sound.

Emphasis is on the treble area, so this is a natural tube for live situations where you need a tone that cuts.

Very pleasing distortion tone.


GAIN for the critical first gain stage.

$23 USD

FUNCTION not for use as gain or driver.

$16 USD

DRIVER for use with matched finals.

$28 USD

GAIN/DRIVER suitable for either use.

$33 USD

PRIVATE STOCK For use as a gain stage tube. These are the 1 in 200 tubes you hear about. Unusually high performing tubes, the very best of a lot.

$50 USD

"It's f***ing amazing."

"My band mates are completely ignorant about tone - they asked if I bought a new amp!"

"I tell all my musician friends about your site."

"I can't believe that's the same tube I tried before and didn't like...now it's my favorite!"

Rich with slight COMPRESSION.

HEAR IT CLEAN
HEAR IT
DIRTY

This description has been updated as the performance level of these tubes has significantly changed.

Rich sparkling distortion with only a very small amount of compression.

Suitable for any amp needing some degree of harmonic liveliness. This tube is so effective at adding harmonic content that its effect can easily be heard in the second tube position.

In a clean amp the effect is to add a richness to sound, subtle yet discernible it draws the listener in. Sparkling clears highs, tight controlled bass.

In a high gain amp the effect is aggressive, crunchy and well defined. Very even harmonic content, so rich that you either love it or have an aneurysm.

Highly recommended for Marshall, for MetaL, and anyone replacing an old GE 12AX7A / 7025.


GAIN for the critical first gain stage.

$29 USD

FUNCTION not for use as gain or driver.

$16 USD

DRIVER for use with matched finals.

$34 USD

GAIN/DRIVER suitable for either use.

$39 USD

PRIVATE STOCK For use as a gain stage tube. These are the 1 in 200 tubes you hear about. Unusually high performing tubes, the very best of a lot.

$50 USD

 "What a difference!"

"I have plenty of n.o.s. tubes. I did not need any tubes when I picked a couple from your site. My new tubes did more for my sound than all those other tubes did combined."

"I can't believe it."

"If I ever need tubes again I am coming here."

 

 

Warm with mild COMPRESSION and early distortion.


HEAR IT CLEAN
HEAR IT
DIRTY

 

 

 


 

Very musical qualities far removed from the sterile solid state feel.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tube to balance the tone of a naturally too-bright sounding amp.

A best-seller.

There is a unique increase in bass response, although not flabby.

Pushing the tube to distortion results in an full, rich, wondrously even tone with punchiness and more distortion than any other tube.

It is the combination of dark tone and early predictable onset of distortion that make this tube have such a balanced sound when driven hard.

The mild compression is just a bonus.

Private Stock performance level recommended for metal and hard rock.

A High Gain top seller, and dramatic improvement over factory tubes. Useful tone for recording situations. It will make you smile.

Good choice for bass players who want some grit, or a warmer tone without a lot of compression.

 

 


GAIN for the critical first gain stage.
$31 USD

FUNCTION not for use as gain or driver.

$16 USD

DRIVER for use with matched finals.

$36 USD

GAIN/DRIVER suitable for either use.

$41 USD

PRIVATE STOCK For use as a gain stage tube. These are the 1 in 200 tubes you hear about. Unusually high performing tubes, the very best of a lot.

$50 USD

"My amp never sounded this good."

"Oh my God!"

"I can't believe the difference."

"I graduated Berk**y and never knew tubes made such a huge difference."

"I love this tube."

Clean and Accurate,
high headroom,
low hum and low microphonics.

HEAR IT CLEAN
HEAR IT
DIRTY

 

 

 

 

The true response of this tube extends high frequencies beyond all other tubes.

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the tube to get to know your gear with. The least amount of tonal coloration, accurate attack, the most extended treble range available. Use this tube to find out what the amp sounds like. Use as a reference point from which to start.

When no other tube will work without squealing in your high gain circuit this tube will get it done, and with an added sense of connectedness.

For your mic preamps if you are concerned with accuracy and low noise this is the best tube.

This tube exhibits the widest frequency range, as well as the lowest microphonics, and the lowest hum. Hmmm, impressive, unique mix of attributes.

Hi-Fi if you want it.

GAIN for the critical first gain stage. not available
GAIN/DRIVER
suitable for either use. not available


PRIVATE STOCK For use as a gain stage tube. These are the 1 in 200 tubes you hear about. Unusually high performing tubes, the very best of a lot.

$50 USD

 

 

 

 

 

"I wanted to try the bright slight distortion tube. I had some doubt if it was the right tube to use. I bought it and the clean accurate one just to make sure. Once I heard the clean tube in my amp I could really tell the difference. It was like hearing my amp for the first time. I went back to the website and reviewed my choices. Turns out I was right about both tubes. I will be using the clean accurate tube in all my amps to figure out what other tubes to get from you."

 


Glossary:

7025; this is actually a 12AX7 with an American INDUSTRIAL part number. The 7025 designation indicates additional testing for low microphonics and low hum. Similarly, you would choose one of my Applications Graded TM GAIN tubes, which additionally would be tested for the greatest gain, burned in and listen tested in an actual amp with a specially optimized brutal high gain circuit! If it sounds like an Applications Graded TM GAIN tube is better, and it is!
Application Graded TM; There are three different types of circuits in your amp that use 12AX7 tubes. There is the GAIN stage which is the most demanding in terms of sonic qualities, followed by the FUNCTION stage(s) which may or may not increase the gain of the signal but not by much, and then lastly the DRIVER stage which must have each triode within it operating at the same potential in order for you to benefit from those matched output tubes. By sorting the tubes for their best application the amplifier performs far better. Its tone is stronger, the sustain is longer and more natural, and each tube in the amp lasts longer! Hi-Fi tube amps are laid out much like a guitar amp, featuring gain stages and a driver stage. They also stand to gain from properly selected tubes. For other tube based equipment like expensive studio gear and tube foot pedals, a GAIN tube should always be selected.
Burn in; most electronic equipment including tubes will fail within the first 24 hours if it premature failure occurs at all. So to bring out failures, power is applied along with the typical load for a period of time (burn in time).
Clean; the ability of a tube to amplify a signal as designed without adding harmonic overtones.
Compression; In a word, punchy. Compression lessens the dynamic range. The quieter parts of your playing are made to sound louder by making the loudest parts quieter. For example your picking, plucking, swishing and single notes can be made to sound the same volume as a loudly played chord. Or the breath of a singer made to seem as loud as her voice. Technically when the tube runs out of headroom (ability to accept larger input signals while still resulting in proportionally larger output signals) instead of distorting the tube puts out a clean signal but the louder parts don't get represented by as loud of a signal as it otherwise would. If this sounds to you like it gets quieter, then you thinking right, however, the brain interprets the new softer loud part as being a louder soft part. In other words, compression makes the quieter parts of the sound seem louder. For example, a single note could be made to be as loud as a power chord. Tubes compress very naturally, unnoticeably until you learn to listen for it. Compressors deal with rigid predetermined levels for what happens and when - the compression ratio is how much the loud part gets squashed, the threshold is the level that has to be crossed before anything happens. In a tube the compression ratio changes with the amount that you exceed the threshold. In other words, dynamically. Another distinguishing difference is the release time. That's the part That's really hard to get right on a compressor, because it is the time it takes to fade to normalcy. In a tube you never can play in such a way as to hear that gating effect of the release. Tube compressors usually use tubes that are rich, dirty, and ill suited for its use. That's is because the compression brings up all the noise levels. Use a CLEAN COMPRESSED tube in your compressor if you can, to reduce the noise and allow some natural tube compression! Select PRIVATE STOCK for the best possible performance level.
Distortion; tubes either compress or generate harmonic overtones when asked to do more than the tubes' construction allows. In musicians language distortion refers to the latter, rich harmonic texture that is desirable and specific to the way that tubes distort. Technically, any variation in the signal other than amplification is distortion, which compression certainly is, but we do not hear compression as distortion. Instead, we regard the added overtones as obvious and use this definition in music-speak.
Driver; the last tube before the output tubes. In push-pull amps (almost every amp over 15 Watts) the output tubes should have matched performance, although there would be little point if the driver tube was not also matched. More on this and more on the about tubes page.
Dynamic Range; the ability to express yourself in terms of volume. Acoustic guitar for example can play to a maximum volume. That range of volume from the quietest to the loudest is the dynamic range. In electronics, you take into account the noise floor. When measured, this value is expressed in decibels.
ECC83
; this is the European part number for the American 12AX7. They are in every way the same tube.
Gain; when the signal voltage comes out at a larger magnitude than it went in then it has gain. For example, the voltage from your guitar swings one tenth of a volt, and the voltage of the same guitar signal after being amplified by the first tube circuit will increase to maybe five volts! Now that is some gain! If the input is the same as the output then it has unity gain. You do have circuits in your amp near unity gain. A tube would really have to be messed up, or you would have to really be rocking the amp for a microphonic tube to be a problem when in a near-unity circuit! 12AT7's are very prone to high frequency microphonics, but due to their pingy tone they only find use in very low gain stages like the reverb driver or the output driver. Different tubes within a batch exhibit differing amounts of gain. The more "healthy" a tube is the more rigid it must be in its construction in order to be usable, ie; a tube may have so much gain that it exhibits an unusable amount of microphonics in a gain stage circuit, and still be perfectly suitable for use anywhere else in the amp.
GAIN/DRIVER; these are a bit hard to come by, and are an ideal choice for experimenters. You can use them as top performing gain stage tubes, or as balanced section Driver tubes equally well. One of these of each tube type make the ideal experimenters kit, as they can each be used anywhere in the amp. Offered at a slight premium.
Headroom; how loud your signal can be before you can expect its behavior to change. What happens when you run out of headroom in a tube is going to be harmonic distortion and or compression.
Microphonics
; when the vibrations caused by amplified sounds cause an internal part of the tube to vibrate in sympathy resulting in a runaway effect similar to sticking a microphone in front of a speaker. All tubes are microphonic to some degree. In preamp tubes the problematic notes always tend towards the higher frequencies. In output tubes the tendency is towards low notes. Since preamp tubes and circuits have more gain, they are more likely to be a practical problem for the player. Most amps are laid out so that the input jack is closest to the tube whose circuit has the most gain. This first tube also imparts the greatest effect on the sound of the amp.
Noise Floor; how loud the noise level is when no signal is present.
Overtones
; notes in addition to the fundamental one that is a product of the electronics and not necessarily part of the musical source.
PRIVATE STOCK; For a long time I would not sell these to anyone. They are truly the best tubes available of their type. Very few tubes make the grade. When you read about guitar legends who utilize a technician to hand pick the best tubes after listening to hundreds, THIS IS IT. That's what I'm doing, these are the tubes. Offered at an appropriate premium.
Punchiness; a sound quality similar to bassy response but relating to the ability to move a lot of air quickly. Like a punch in the chest.
Re-Amp; a recording technique where the instrumentalist is first recorded without the sound of an amp, then that is played back and recorded through an amplifier.
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CREATE YOUR OWN SOUND! The very best part of this whole thing is that you don't need to settle on just one single tube sound! The tube closest to the input jack, V1, is the tube that effects your sound by the pound. The next tube down the line alters the sound by the ounce, and so you now have the opportunity to bake a sonic cake. The next tube down the line is the last tube before the output tubes, the driver tube. This one does in fact amplify the signal voltage too - so its a pinch of spice to finish it off. Now its time to cook!

Mix different tubes - I can tell you that when I voice an amp that my clients seldom choose three tubes of the same type! Pick what two or three different tubes sound like what you want from the descriptions and then try them out in different positions to hear what the effect is! Remember that V1, usually the tube closest to the input jack is the one tube that has the most dramatic effect on the sound. Most of the time people nail it with their choices the first time. The experimentation validates the choices that you made. If you choose to do this experimentation you will need to select "gain/driver" application grade TM for each tube.

Advice on choosing new tubes - First try to figure out what your starting with. Do you want less razory trebles? Do you want a more realistic, connected feel? A punchier sound? A brighter sound? Richer texture? More, or maybe less distortion? From there you really have your own answers, its simply a matter of priority. As you read the product description ask yourself if that is something that is important to you.

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What are the characteristics of a bad preamp tube? There a few common failure modes. Excessive microphonics will render a tube useless because of the high pitched squeal. A shorted heater will make a loud hum but you may still be able to play. A vacuum leak usually discolors the glass bluish gray, but it wont work. A quick way to determine if a bad tube is in the preamp or output stage is to see if the offending noise can be turned up and down with your amps volume or gain control. If so, then the bad tube is between the input jack and the volume/gain control (V1 and or V2). All preamp tubes are used in 'self biasing' circuits so you can replace them without a tech. To refine your bad tube search pull one tube out and see if the noise stops. You wont hurt anything aside from burning your fingers, and yes tubes normally do get scalding hot. Generally, preamp tubes seldom go bad. The worst failure is bad tone, and since that is a matter of taste you may never experience what an incredible amp you already own.

What is different about the tubes? Thankfully every time someone makes a 12AX7 they have different materials, different physical dimensions, different vacuum levels, and invariably a different sounding tube. It's my business is to know what tubes sound like so that I can test them and offer you reliable choices. Choices that are as unique as possible.

Who makes the best tubes? There is so much talk about this, and its all opinion. All working examples of tubes sound good, that is why we have tube gear. Some tubes sound more like what we want than what we currently have, others bring us farther away from our goals. The way to buy a tube is to select one for the way it sounds, not where it's made or even how reliable the particular type is! Tubes that are subjected to a burn in period, high gain listening tests, and Application Graded TM are going to last a very long time regardless of who the manufacturer is. This process allows tubes of any initial level of reliability to screened for a very long life. In the case of the 12AX7 the expected life of the tube will be decades. I want choices! Because of my unique process, we can have tubes that both sound the way we want and are highly reliable! We live in the golden age of tubes!

There are no brand names displayed on this website. I do not reveal the brands for a reason - I want you buy your tubes from me! I offer a service that is truly unique. It evolved from decades of experience. If you want the benefit of all that expertise, then you will need to buy the tubes from me. Here you get to buy the tubes that sound the way you want, plus you get to model your own amp sound. A little trust here. I do not remove the names from the tubes, only from the website. If later you want to try to save some money and buy more of the same brand tube from someone else, you're welcome to. But you won't be getting the same quality or performance! I know this because I reject as much as 80% of the tubes I buy! If by chance you were to choose the exact tubes that are in your amp now, it will sound stronger have better tone and increased reliability using my tubes!

Guarantee All tubes are guaranteed 90 days. Preamp tubes like the 12AX7 are guaranteed for 180 days. If you are unsatisfied with the tubes you may exchange them for a 15% restocking fee. Note that from 2006 to 2013 there has only been a single return; an exchange for another type! This whole thing really works!

Confidentiality: WE HONOR OUR CUSTOMERS RIGHT TO COMPLETE PRIVACY. Still no name dropping. I won't sell my customer list, etc. No credit card information is ever kept on file.

Delivery: Allow time for delivery. Typically 2-3 weeks. I have kept shipping charges down in spite of the heavy increase in shipping costs. Shipments are normally filled in less than one weeks time. For USA customers the delivery may take a couple of weeks or more. I am not charging for overnight delivery, so relax. If you file a paypal claim for non-delivery before 21 days you will banned. For you overseas customers you know how long your local post takes, add to that how long our post takes, add customs delays. Be reasonable in your delivery expectation. Aussies I love you but you are not 3 weeks away! And thank you for your business!

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