E's Tube shoot-outStock GE's vs. Mullard M8100 vs. Amperex 5654
I use my amp purely for CD and LP listening. The system I own and used for this tube comparison is as follows: Marantz DR700 CD Player/recorder > Transparent Digital Link Plus Coax > Theta DS Pro Basic II D to A converter > Monster Cable M1000i interconnects > Melos MA-333 Preamp > Transparent Music Link interconnects > Little Dot MKIII HP amp > AKG K240 Sextett later production cans circa 1981
Some fave cuts from Cds that I love:
T Bone Burnett “River of Love” from self titled Dot release 1986
Great recording direct to two track. All acoustic. Exceptionally natural sound on a good system
Lou Reed “Hang on to Your Emotions” from Set the Twilight Reeling 1996
Lou used some awesome Soldano Custom tube guitar amps for this recording. Love Fernando Saunder’s fretless bass lines here.
Beck “Loser” from Mellow Gold 1994
Subterranean bass, interesting studio effects, a head banging demo piece.
Lucinda Williams “Fruits of My Labor” from World Without Tears 2003
The drummer uses brush sticks and the textures are quite a challenge to get just right. Rich bass.
I installed the original tubes and let the amp warm up for 20min., played the four songs, switched to the Mullards and waited 10 minutes, repeat, Amperex, repeat, then repeated the whole business a second time.
There are differences in the three tubes, but for every characteristic I’ll describe here, you could preface each adjective with the words “subtly” or “very subtly”. I wrote down notes while listening and what follows is a pretty simple laundry list.
The stock tubes. I thought the amp sounded darn good right out of the box. It did improve after break-in. Now, revisiting the stock tubes, I find I’d be happy to live with them indefinitely.
Great clarity, good balance, clean, acoustic guitar has sparkle, spacious air in the highs, very clean sound. You could mistake this amp as being solid state. Bass is a bit leaner than the others in weight and depth. Sound stage is flatter, vocals and instruments are more forward.
Mullards. Fuller bass, Beck intro goes deeper, Vocals less in face, full sounding in general. Slightly softened attack on tom/snare, fuzzier detail or slight veiling, textures not quite as clear.
Amperex. Vocal similar in depth to Mullard but cleaner, bass line very clear, Beck intro still deep, Beck’s voice less “canned” sounding, Highs have air but not forward sounding. Maybe a touch soft in a euphonic way. Great texture to brush drum sounds. Good warmth.
So for me the winner here is the Amperex. Between the stock GE’s and the Mullards, I’d call it a toss up. You give up some clarity for more bass with the Mullards. The Amperex seem to combine the other two’s strengths without their short comings.
Now I’d like to hear what others say about non-EF95 series options.
Enjoy the tunes,