Cheap is good.Oh yes... sorry I haven't updated my X-CANS page yet.
Last night, I did a VERY comprehensive "live rolling" session (left the unit open for quick access) with the X-Cans and four different pairs of tubes. I used jazz, electronica, and classical music as the primary test elements:
First Place: JJ Electronic E88CC - $22/pair
* Highs were articulate without any harshness.
* VERY detailed midrange. Absolutely the best for vocals.
* Bass is a bit restrained, but still acceptable.
* Soundstage is wider than any of the others. Nuff said.
* Dynamics are fluid and immediate. Definitely the best tested.
If all of JJ Electronic's tubes are as good as this one, it's our duty to support this company. I hereby declare this tube as the Official X-Can Upgrade Tube!
Second Place: Kevin's 6H23-EB - $50/pair
* Highs were similarly articulate. No harshness.
* Midrange is disappointing with this tube. Significant loss of detail. Unexciting response.
* Bass beats 'em all. Deeeeeep and accurate. Roasts yer face off. Other amps can go lower, but this tube pushes the X-Cans to the max.
* Soundstage is plenty wide... 95% of the JJ's.
* Dynamics are excellent at the extremes. A bit "soppy" in the midrange.
This would be the rock n' roll tube. It gives the classic stereo sound... punchy highs and lows. Not quite as fun to listen to as the JJ's, but still an excellent replacement choice.
Third Place: Stock JAN/Philips 6922 - $16/pair
* Highs are ear-bleedingly harsh.
* Midrange is nicely detailed.
* Bass is ever so slightly more restrained than the JJ's.
* Soundstage is wide... perhaps 90% of the 6H23's.
* Dynamics are the inverse of the 6H23's. Punchy in the middle but thin at the bottom end. Top end sizzles uncomfortably.
Would be a good tube if not for the high-end harshness and thinner bass response. People who have never rolled tubes will likely find them OK... but they aren't. Roll 'em.
Fourth Place: Uncle Ned's Sovtek 6922 - $24/pair
* Highs are articulate. A bit too dry.
* Midrange is detailed but lacks soul.
* Bass is tight and controlled. Sounds analytical.
* Soundstage is very small. It fits inside the incense burner (see below).
* Dynamics lack a certain body. Again... "thin" is the rule here.
Looking at this tube's getter might explain why it sounds thin and 2D. It looks like a microscopic incense burner. The other three have halo getters... with the JJ's being the largest. Does size matter? It seems so. This tube didn't do anything harsh, yet neither was it exciting in any way. I did extensive swapping with the JAN/Philips to make sure.... and yes, the Sovtek is indeed worse by a hair. These don't mate well with the X-Cans. Skip 'em.
There you have it. The cheapest replacement tubes happen to be the best. I wish everything in life was this way. Those who want a minimum of fuss should rush out to buy the JJ's. Remember though, that taking your time and rolling them all will give you a much better understanding of tubes. A cheap education, if you will.