The idea of the Grand Tube Review came from my long (20yr+) tube rolling history with the 6DJ8/6922/6N23P/E88CC tube type. I have always been amazed at the sound quality improvements that some of the better of these tubes made. Most recently I have been active on the Lyr tube rolling threads, but also use this tube in my modded DAC, and in two integrated amps that drive different speaker systems. So I have lots of places to try these tubes and have found they make a major difference in each application. A few years ago, after researching different 6922 type tubes, I stumbled on to what I thought were some pretty amazing sounding Russian tubes. After spending a year sorting and categorizing the different years and constructions, I found some I thought were the best 6922 type I had ever heard. I'd had a long experience with the top Siemens, Amperex, Philips,etc...so the sound quality of these tubes came as shock to me. As much as I found these tubes to be really special – I always had a nagging feeling that the best of the very best of the 6922's out there – like the legendary Siemens early 60's Cca's or the Amperex 6922 '60's Pinched Waists, even the amazing Telefunken E188CC's would be better. I had never compared directly the Siemens CCa's against this Russian glass, but just remembered how they had sounded. I wanted to do a direct comparison. Especially after reading other tube shootouts (see the HK Audio Club 6DJ8 tube shootout link below). So I decided to assemble these awesome tubes together and give them an intense one week roll-a-thon. To see what's what. And so on to the review and my conclusions. PS Note these are just one audiophile's impressions on his unique systems and with his personal preferences. So as always you may not agree and YMMV! http://hktubeaudio.homestead.com/files/6dj8.html System I have been upgrading my system for a couple of decades with each component rolled many times – and I feel it has never sounded better. Quick story on how I came to use the Schiit Lyr. After owning a half dozen really nice headphone amps, both tube and solid state, I read the 6moons review of the Lyr, and decided to give it a try. My last amp before the Lyr was the Woo WA6 - SE that I'd owned for over a year and had tweeked and tube rolled to perfection (Mullard '50s 5U4G Black Base, 6EM7/Woo Adapters). The Woo was extremely smooth with a fantastic mid-range – the Lyr with stock tubes was more dynamic and exciting – but rough around the edges. So I started tube rolling, and after a year and over 50 different tubes, I found some that hit the mark. And with these the Lyr was exceeding (to my ears and system) the Woo. The thing about the Lyr – it's very sensitive to tube changes. A perfect microscope to exam the different 6922 type tubes. Last note on my system – it is far from typical. $6,500 DAC, $750 ICs, etc.. So this review should be read with this in mind. I have two speaker systems as well as a reference for my headphone system. As always YMMV! Custom PC Music Server (Win 7, Foobar)>Synergistic Research Tesla USB>Modded Gustard U12>Audio Sensibility Statement Silver Reference SE 1.5M Coax SPDIF>APL DAC>Aural Thrills BCS IC Tube based Active Shielding>Lyr>HD800/Moon Black Dragon V2 Other equipment: SR Tesla electrical sockets, Synergistic Research X2 Ref Active Shield PCs for the Lyr and the APL, Shunyata Venom PCs on the PC Server, Modded Gustard U12, Aural Thrills Active Shielding Box, Tubemonger new tube risers, Still Point Mini Footers under the Lyr, Synergistic Research MiG isolation devices under the APL, Richard Gray Pro 400 power conditioner. Elfidelity SATA and fan filters on PC server. Info on the APL DAC - I had the NWO and traded down to it's little brother to raise some funds. Same basic design but with 6 AKM 32-bit DAC's per channel instead of 10 for the NWO, ECC99 Class A output, Lundhal transformer coupled, Super Clock, etc.... http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/aplhifi/nwo30go.html Aural Thrills Tube Powered Biased Cable System (Mullard 60's 12au7) Interconnects http://www.auralthrillsaudio.com 6Moons Review of the Lyr headphone amp: http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/schiit/9.html Audio Sensibility - Digital Cable - Statement Sliver SE Reference SPDIF RCA/RCA 1.5M http://audiosensibility.com/blog/products-2/digital-cables-occ-copper-and-occ-silver/#!/Statement-SE-Silver-S-PDIF-RCA-BNC-Digital-Cable-***-New-***/p/46391588/category=4059160 Synergistic Research Tricon Tesla USB cable: http://www.soundstage.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=176:synergistic-research-tesla-tricon-usb-cable&catid=36&Itemid=146 Links to my other threads on Headfi: R2R DAC Mod Project http://www.head-fi.org/t/740362/lite-dac60-pcm1704-r2r-tubed-dac-mod-project SSD Fanless Music Server Project http://www.head-fi.org/t/754654/new-pc-music-server-build-project-all-ssd-no-fans Soekris R2R DAC Technical Specs: http://www.head-fi.org/t/754547/the-soekris-r-2r-dac-technical-details Gustard U12 USB Interface: http://www.head-fi.org/t/754654/new-pc-music-server-build-project-all-ssd-no-fans Sound Qualities As I thought about the best way to do this kind of tube review – with so many tubes – I had run into a 6DJ8/6922 tube shootout that was done some time ago. They had used a point system for each attribute, so I decided to follow their lead. Instead of the five they used, I chose ten separate audio criteria. So here is a brief description of the sound attributes each tube was judged for: Clarity The ability of the tube to deliver a clear presentation of the entire frequency spectrum, but most importantly the upper mid-range through the extended highs. Sometimes referred to as 'air' or 'transparency'. Detail The ability of a tube to deliver the deepest layers of detail. These deep hidden layers can go a long way to revealing the subtle ambient clues that help build a truly 3D holographic presentation (more on that in Sound Stage). But highly detailed tubes can also reveal background vocals, percussion, those little cymbal rattles or bells, many interesting aspects of the recording that add to their enjoyment. Bass Well quantity and quality. Definition, and timbre being important for a natural and realistic sound (see Naturalness). Musicality Does the tube give an edginess to the treble, or is it smooth and relaxed. Is there a bit of hardness, glassiness or harshness – very evident on female vocals and some instruments like the vibraphone and piano. Tubes excel and generally beat solid state in Musicality and what at tracks folks (me for sure) to tubes. A rich natural tone is one of my most important criteria - I have yet to hear a solid state pre-amp beat a tube one in this regard. Flow Something I found with the best tubes – the ability to capture and hold your attention. For the very best an almost hypnotic or mesmerizing quality. Time seems to be suspended as the music holds your attention. Sound Stage As mentioned under detail, the ability of the tube to project a truly holographic sound. Think of 3D musical point sources radiating out in all directions in the sound field. Not just the main frontal projection, but the subtle back and side reflections that recreate the original venue. Versus layered flattish cardboard cutouts staggered in the sound field. Also judged as to the width and depth of the sound stage itself. Image focus and resolution as well. Euphonics The good kind! Sometimes the term 'Euphonics' is given as a negative – a kind of woolly unnaturalness. I refer to it here in the positive sense of the ability to convey emotion, and deliver a warm pleasing effect. Sort of goes hand in hand with Musicality – but with more of an emphasis on the ability to connect the listener (in this case me) with the emotions of the music. I look for the richness of tone as a good measure – maybe not the most realistic in balance. Here is another area where tubes can outshine solid state - giving a warmth to the sound. Transience/Micro-Dynamics This for me is very important. A tube being able to deliver a realistic and exciting presentation. It's the tubes immediacy and precision of effect. The attack of the initial frontal wave, followed by the natural trailing off of harmonics. Think of the snap of a guitar string or strike of a snare. Is it crisp and defined? Or a just a little closed in – rolled off - slow on the impulse wave. This is an area where solid state excels and tubes can seem sluggish. I can see some would like a 'softer' more laid back presentation. But for me, this one of the deciding traits of the very best audio and tubes. Scale/Macro-Dynamics So here the measure is the ability of the tube to deliver power and composure when the going gets loud and/or complex. Where other tubes seem to hit the wall and turn muddy, smeared, and compressed when pushed to the upper limit in output – the best seem to have an unending power reserve. On these intense passages the best tubes are a rush to hear! It's breathtaking. Exciting. They maintain their focus and clarity – the sound stage never collapsing or flattening. A judgment of dynamic compression when pushed hard. Naturalness/Realism The balance of tonality – is it realistic? Natural? Close to a live instrument? Being a guitarist I have a good feel for what a real guitar (acoustic) sounds like. Is the tube overly titled in one direction or another. The late great Harry Pearson founder of 'The Absolute Sound' used the Yin-Yang analogy. Yin for airiness - a treble tilt, Yang for a rich creamy mid-range and tilt to the bass. For me the best tubes get it right in the middle and actually have heaps of both. Tube vs. Solid State A note on the use of tube vs. solid state in audio gear. It's amazes me that after 40 years since the peak of tube use in stereo gear - they are still widely praised. In fact, many of the best audio manufacturers state of the art equipment is tube based. Why, you have to ask yourself? With all the attendant issues with tube equipment – why the popularity in the high end audio arena today? After all, solid state transistor science has evolved tremendously in that 40 years. Well I spent my first half dozen years as a serious audio hobbyist (when I could finally afford the 'good' stuff) strictly solid state. I went through much expensive and highly regarded equipment; Krell, Pass Labs, Threshold, etc... These amps, pre-amps, cd players, DAC's had great detail and lightning fast transient response. Tremendous frequency extension at both ends - boom & sizzle! But after long listening sessions I found my ears fatigued and generally unsatisfied with the sound. What was missing? So I started researching and discovered the early (when it was good) 'The Absolute Sound' magazine, this was back in the late 90's. The founder and main writer, who passed away last year, Harry Pearson was just an amazing audiophile. He had a different message then the stalwart 'High Fidelity' and 'Audio' magazines – where the lab bench tests were king. HP was different – he trusted his ears – and his mantra was tubes were where it was at! He spoke eloquently about their warm rich tonality, holographic imaging, forgiving nature and long listening satisfaction. Well this sent me down a whole other audio path – where I found much greater satisfaction. Going through a dozen really nice tube amps and pre-amps. I mean sota stuff like the Conrad Johnson ACT2 pre and Response Audio modded Hurricanes (200 watt 8 kt-88 tubes per channel mono blocks) to an Airtight 300b (8 watts of SET 300B magic), on and on it went. I was happy and much more satisfied then the all solid state stuff. After having lived in both worlds for an extended period of time - I found that there are things tubes can do that no solid state I have heard can achieve. One it is often referred to as Euphonics. But some things were lacking – the air, transparency, speed, bass depth and control - I had before. So I finally stumbled on to the hybrid design. Tubes in the pre – solid state (preferably Class A) amp/outputs. At last I had it all. Funny how even today for example, the audio engineering genius Dr. Fang founder of HiFiMan would use this very design for his new statement amp the EF1000, to mate with his statement headphones (and well may be the new headphone kings), the HE1000's. Well not much is know yet about his sota creation, other then it's hybrid in design using a Mosfet Class 'A' solid state amp section and a 6922 tube pre-amp section. Don't you think a man of his caliber couldn't make a kick ass all solid state headphone amp? But no it appears he has chosen a different path. This amp is now the electronics that he is using to show case the HE1000 headphones at the latest audio shows. Rumor has it – you will have to buy them together! Or well at least be strongly encouraged. This amp has my very keen interest. It can drive speakers to 50Watts of class 'A' power – very nice. And so, back to the tube review. I was looking for 6922 compatible tubes that did the same. Had the speed and transient presence, but coupled with tube liquidity and warmth. A very difficult combination to find. And I have found them! Read on to see which. Song Tracks: I tried to choose a variety of music, so combined music from different genres - Alt Rock, Emo Rock, Classic Rock, Vocals, Classical, Jazz and New Age. The tracks were chosen because I know them very well and have particular passages I felt highlighted one or more sound qualities. And well I had to like them enough to listen to them 17 times in a row in one sitting. Florence and the Machine – Album 'Lungs - 'Dog Days Are Over' Emo-Rock Difficult, powerful female vocals. Multilayer-ed recording with sometimes as many a three vocals layers at one time. Combining into some very difficult loud and complex passages – perfect to test the Scalability of a tube. Led Zeppelin – Album 'Presence' – 'Nobody's Fault But Mine' Classic-Rock A great test of a classic Zepp recording. Jimmie Page's power guitar playing, Bonham's monster drumming, Plant's strong vocals. Can a tube make this '70s rock track smoother and yet keep it exciting? This was was a blast to listen to – even after having heard it hundreds or thousands of times before. Mission accomplished. It never sounded better! Seether – Album 'Disclaimer II' – 'Gasoline' Alt- Rock Talk about guitar overdrive power chords and power drumming! I saved this track for Saturday night, so I could take a few swigs of beer between tubes to settle down a bit. It had my pulse racing every time. On some of the tubes just a Power Rush! Wow! Not for those with heart conditions or those faint of heart. (Explicit Lyrics) Chick Corea and Return to Forever – Album 'Romantic Warrior' – 'Sorceress' Jazz For me one of the best of the '70s Jazz fusion recordings. Lenny White's great drumming. Including some awesome tympani work. Di Meola and Corea dueling each other – Stanley Clark providing the Bass. Joni Mitchell – Album 'Court and Spark' – 'Down to You' Vocals Over the decades this has been one of my go to test tracks. All the way back before CD's. Tom Scott's excellent clarinet work. This is one I use to test the Euphonic ability to connect with the emotions of the performer. Also a section where she overloads the Apex recorders – is very, very difficult for any audio gear to get smooth and right. Some of the best tubes just nailed it! George Benson – Album 'White Rabbit' – 'White Rabbit' Jazz Great blend of older more classic Jazz and newer styles. All kinds of winds and horns. A brass instrument like a trumpet can really show off a tube's Transient capabilities, flute their Musicality and Clarity. And one of the most difficult instruments for a tube to get right - the Vibraphone. Most tubes will sound awful with terrible ringing and harshness. Some in this test blew me away at how good they were. Locatelli -Krecek – Album 'Concerto Grossi Op1 Nos 1-6' – 'II Largo, III Allegro, IV Largo' Classical This track is one of my favorites – a great test of the natural tonality of classic instruments. Euphonic connection as well. I look for a natural rich and full tone – without going overboard. Layers of instruments at times. Nice string dynamics on the 'IV Largo' opening. George Winston – Album 'Autumn' – 'Longing, Loving' New Age Quintessential Winston Piano solo. Can the tube deliver all the amazing harmonics of his piano? Sound natural and real? You'd think a solo piano would be a breeze for any tube – not at all. On the opening piano notes he let's their overtones trail off for seconds. How far into the blackness can a tube deliver the lowest level of these? Some seem to extend almost infinitely. Results: Well I did this tube shootout the hard way – rotating all tubes on every track in one sitting. That was 136 tube rolls over the course of a week. I did this so I could compare each tube on the same track while it was fresh in my mind. In fact, I used a spreadsheet and marked a 1-13 point assignment for each attribute as I was listening, in ½ point increments. Then after each tube I would look at the scoring and make slight adjustments after the entire track was over – sometimes re-listening to that tube if I was unsure. I also occasionally ran the top tubes against each other. I would also change the order of the tubes in rotation. And here is the final ranking! The point average across all songs to the right. Reflektor Holy Grail '75 6N23P SWGP Silver Shields 121.7 Siemens Cca Gray Shield '63s117.8 Siemen Cca Gray Shield '65s117.5 Telefunken Ulm E188CC '60s 117.3 Reflektor '74 6N23P SWGP Silver Shields 116.1 Amperex PW D Getter115.2 Philips Miniwatt SQ E188CC Herleen Halo Getter VR9 '64 114.2 Amperex USN-CEP 7308 White '65 VR5113.7 Voskhod '75 6N23P Gray Shield SWGP 111.3 Amperex 7308 Green Print '68109.1 Siemens E88CC '60s Gray107.6 Telefunken Ulm E88CC '60s 107.5 Reflektor 6N23P '65 Dual Straight Wire Getter106.8 Valvo Herleen E88CC '67 Large Halo Getter 106.3 Nevz 6N1P-E '66 105.3 Siemens E88CC '70s Silver 100.0 Mullard England CV2492 94.6 *A sharp eyed dealer has spotted those Mullard Cv2492's as fakes - originally made in by Ei in Yugoslavia. No wonder they ranked so low. Buyer Beware Ebay! I will add the ranking by song and attribute later. Tube Comments: Any references to the 10 tube attributes scored are capitalized so you know exactly what I'm referring to (see the Sound Qualities descriptions). The point averages were obtained from the total sum of all 8 songs and divided by 8, for an average song point total. The song totals were an average of all sound attributes for that tube on that song. The tubes were swapped through the whole lineup for each song in one sitting this took 6 hours or more. Starting fresh for each new rolling session with a new song – going through the whole lineup, etc... By ranking: The Number 1 tube in my shootout! #1 Reflektor 6N23p '75 Silver Shield Single Wire Getter Post (HG's) - 121.7 Ave Points These amazing tubes finished #1 in 7 of the 10 sound quality categories. With 121.7 points a distinct winner! They do some things I have not heard from any of the other tubes – at least not to their extent. First off they have the greatest detail of any tube in the review, and the highest amount of Clarity while remaining completely Musical, with a warm naturally rich tone. Superb balance of air and transparency with positive Euphonics. But where they truly outclass all the other tubes, including the legendary Siemens '60's CCa's, is their realism. In particular, the Transience of these tubes stand apart from the others (well the little brother '74 is very close in this department), they are without doubt the 'fastest' tubes in the group. I'm talking solid state fast and precise, but with tube liquidity and warmth. There is an immediacy to the sound, crisp and tonally dense, never etched or brittle. Just the right amount of attack and decay of the waveform. A quick and clear transient dynamics, but warm and relaxed at the same time – breathtaking! Thinking about it a little more the word 'presence' comes to mind - they produce a spooky real presence. The other stand out is their Scale/Macro-Dynamics – they seem to have endless reserves of energy – never losing clarity, focus and holography. As for the Sound Staging - they have a unique presentation with a spotlight of focus on center stage, some call them 'forward', and I agree. But the Sound Stage is as wide and deep as the best – at times the sound field seems to just envelop you - extending from wall to wall – then seemingly around you. Well at least on my HD800's. Sounds appearing behind you can be quite startling – I sometimes had to take my headphones off as I thought I heard my wife speaking behind me. Part of the magic of this Sound Staging is the amazing detail retrieval of these tubes, you can hear the faint echos off the back and side walls, that help replicate the recording venue. The imaging is pinpoint precise, with an inner lit quality. I find they are the most holographic of all the tubes in the review. Vocals are smooth and grain less – even on the female vocals, which can sound a bit pitched on lessor tubes. To illustrate their Scalability/Macro Dynamics for example, on 'Dog Days' (at minute 3:50) during the chorus, Welch shows her vocal power and these tubes stay right with her – never running out of juice. The other tubes don't quite capture the vocal intensity as it climaxes. Always smooth and Musical on these loud and complex passages – with the tubes pushed to their seeming limit - the image never flattens, the sound stage never shrinks. They present the music as whole cloth – without holes or seams – one grand unified place. On the HD800's that slight center focus is helpful to create the effect of a live performance, as their very wide staging can sometimes be too wide - dissecting the sound field into left, right and center. This center forwardness brings the center into spotlight like it should be. On Seether's 'Gasoline' they have grip and bite on Morgan and Callahan's ripping power guitar chords. As someone said to me recently, they capture the 'crunch/bite' of overdrive guitars. On Josh Freese's power drums – awesome! Cavernous deep and tight – cymbal work crisp and real. Great stuff! Morgan's intense vocal screams never harsh or overloaded - again these tubes supply the power and then some. And everything in holographic clarity - crisp and decisive. What I a call my 'HG' or 'Holy Grail' tube. For me they are the tubes to measure all the others against. On Benson's White Rabbit they did the vibraphone thing perfect. The one criticism and the reason they only finished #3 overall on Bass ( a very close #1, #2 and #3) – at minute 2:53 there are some kit drums that come in from the extreme right channel – with the center focus on Benson's guitar - they were just a notch less noticeable with these tubes. That was the only flaw I found in the whole week of reviewing them. George Winston's piano solo – on the opening he strikes a few piano notes and on the last one he let's it trail off for seconds. On the HG's it seems the overtones trail longer and deeper into an ink black background then the other tubes. Finally, the last area they truly excelled at – Flow. They had the ability to just stop time, as one track flowed by and sometimes spilled into the next. It was hard to stop listening and go to the next tube. I just wanted to sit there and let the rest of the album keep going. Believe it or not, after 6 hour rolling sessions, I would put the HG's back in and finish the album with a cold one. What else can you say...completely addictive. Sources are various Ebay dealers – I have sold some pairs I've managed to assemble. Mainly for feedback from others – to see if they sound as good in their systems and to their tastes as mine. Not unanimous but for nearly everyone they've hit the mark. Including more then a few folks with Siemens Cca's and other great tubes! For those who found them forward they tend to love the Holland sound – so another path for some to explore. The particular pair I used for this review was not some special pair – but my only spare backups. No month matching, but output matched. Value for the money? Well when compared to tubes cost well north of $400/pr – and for me beating them. What's their value?? So how did the other tubes fair? On to number two. Tie for #2 Siemens CCa's – '65 Gray Shield (printed plate codes), '63 (and '62) Gray Shield (etch glass codes) - 117.8 & 117.5 Ave Points Well these tubes deserve their legendary reputation. They are simply incredible. The early '60s were just a hint warmer but less incisive. Or that could just be tube variances. The '63/'62 combination ended with 117.8 ave point score and the '65s 117.5 – a dead heat in my view. And they share the same characteristics. Excellent tone, superb detail, deep controlled bass (ranking slightly above the #1 HG's). They do every thing right – why not number one then? Well as I said, the things that the HG's do are so extraordinary that they are a notch above (see #1 review), especially in the Transience and Flow departments. The CCa's are just a tad less Musical – but very Musical in their own right. I never heard a hardness or glassiness in all the recordings. But the HG's were closer to the even warmer Amperex D Getter PW's and Philips MiniWatt E188CC's. That said, the CCa's are very neutral in overall presentation and balance. Excellent holographic Sound Stage. They just did not deliver the level of excitement or realism of the #1 tubes, for me. #3 Telefunken E188CC 60's Ulm, Germany – 117.3 Ave Points Man these are some sweet tubes – finishing just a hair below the CCa's with 117.3 (really a three way tie for #2). A bit sweeter then the CCa's, with a Musicality and Euphonics actually greater then the HG's. Sort of between the best Holland tubes and the HG's in the Euphonics department, finishing at #3 in that category. Excellent Clarity, Detail and transparency – just less then the HG's and CCa's – finishing #4 and #5 respectively. They just seem to get it right in a very nice way – I could listen to them for hours. Bass was deep with excellent definition – ranked at a tie there for #2 with Amperex PW and Philips Miniwatts. #4 Reflektor '74 Silver Shield Single Wire Getter Post – 116.1 Ave Points Well like it's better brother – it shares many of the same excellent characteristics. Especially the rich natural tone and incisive Transience. Where do they differ? They have just a bit less Clarity, Detail and Scale – finishing at #3, #4 and #3, respectfully. In two main aspects they are not quite to the HG's level as well, the Yang side of the equation Musicality, Euphonics and Naturalness. They seem to lack a bit of the HG's warm natural & rich tone and ultimate smoothness. While never disagreeable in their own right – they were a notch below the very best of the best in these categories. This was very stiff competition, not your ordinary vintage tube lineup – so to finish fourth is quite an accomplishment! I would say they are also a touch less forward then the HG's and so may appeal to some folks – who might find the HG's overpowering. #5 Amperex '60s 6922 D Getter Pinched Waist Holland - 115.2 Ave Points Well as compared to the tubes above these are a whole other breed. One that some folks may greatly prefer to the German/Russian house sound. They finished #1 in two categories – Musicality and Euphonics. Just as warm and forgiving as any tube I have heard – this tube is just sublimely rich in tone, gorgeous on female vocals. Tonal color beautiful – the Holland sound at it's best. Amazing bass – finishing in a tie for #2. All these better then the #1 HG's. And depending on your sound preferences and system could be your #1, same applies to the Tele E188CC's. It all comes down to your personal tastes (what I'm saying is YMMV!). But for me they were not #1, or #2 or #3, or #4. Why? They lacked that ultimate Transient realism and excitement. Just slightly less forward, more laid back then the others. Polite is a great word – never offending – but never producing goosebumps as well. The more I listen to these tubes, well tubes in general, the more I appreciate what the HG's do – EXCITE! Thrill! Their immediacy, lending a kind sparkle to the music. The HG's produce this inner lit quality that is so elusive, each instrument and singer radiating out into space, so natural and incisively real. The Holland tubes just did not have that precision. The PW's produce delicious sounds on all kinds of music – not the most natural – but a ton of fun. #6 Philips Miniwatt SQ E188CC Halo Getter '64 Herleen, Holland- 114.2 Ave Points Ok the trip to lovely Herleen Holland continues! Superb tube! Warm and Musical, with a rich Euphonic tone finishing #5 and #2, respectively. Beautiful on vocals. On Winston's piano solo – noted 'Tone! Nice Tone!' They portrayed the piano with a rich color – though the opening overtones did not extend as far into the blackness as some of the other more detailed tubes. But the tone was creamy smooth, really nice. Great Detail and Clarity finishing at #6 and #7 – not at the level of the top German and Russians, but nothing lacking unless measured in comparison. Bass tied for #2 with the best – deep, articulate. Well done. This is just a great tube of the money – and a Best Buy at under $200/pr. #7 Amperex USN-CEP 7308 '65 White Print 'O' Getter USA– 113.7Ave Points From all the non-Russian tubes I found these to be the closest in personality to the HG's. They finished with excellent scores for Clarity and Detail, #5 and #6. Very good Scale and Transience, at #4 and #5. They have a clean, incisive presentation, a bit forward , but also very good Euphonics and Musicality. Like the HG's they combine all these differing and many times competing attributes together in one neat package. These have always been my favorite Amperex tube. There was no one area they were weak in, Bass was nice and deep, ranking at #4. A couple of comments – I have had these in the past and I have to say the 7308's sound better to me then the 6922 version. But as always YMMV. A definite 'Best Buy' tube under $175/pr. #8 Voskhod 6N23P '75 Gray Shield Single Wire Getter Post – 111.3 Ave Points The Ruskies that started me on this quest for every 6N23P/6N1P vintage I could find. You can read my original review from nearly two years ago. They were the best 6N23P I could find at the time – until I stumbled onto those rare '75 and '74 Reflektor Silver SWGP's. They are still my #3 6N23P and ran very well in this tube Olympics. Talk about tough competition! Well they held their own and nearly tying the USN 7308's. I still find they have incredible Flow – at times I was just lost in the music, even though these came far down the listening cue. It didn't seem to matter – they had the 'magic'. Bass as well was excellent finishing at #5. They did not have as open of a presentation as the top tubes, nor the deepest level of detail. But a great natural tone and Musicality. Definitely a 'Best Buy' under $100/pr. #9 Amperex 7308 '68 Green Print USA 'O' Getter – 109.1 Ave Points Very nice tubes. Not as good as it's earlier USN brother - despite what some say – these sounded good but the USN-CEP sounded clearly better during this review. As with the USN's they had a nice balance for an Amperex. Nice rich natural tone with good Detail and Clarity. They beat out the Tele E88CC's and the Siemens E88CC's and that says a lot. They finished #7 in Clarity and #8 in Flow. In the Bass category they finished #6. Very similar in personality to the USN's just not as good, but also less expensive. A 'Best Buy' under $120/pr #10 Tie Siemens '65 E88CC Gray Shields (Stamped Plate Date Codes) – 107.6 Ave Points Telefunken 60's E88CC Ulm, Germany – 107.5 Ave Points Well two well know and great examples of the German vintage house sound. In a 'normal' tube shootout, I'm sure these would have scored much higher. But up against a couple of pairs of CCa's, a pair PW's and the Tele 188's – Ugg! But don't let the ranking dissuade you from these awesome tubes. Nice Detail, and Clarity, good Sound Stage and Bass. Not the last word in Euphonics, but Musical enough. I feel the Tele's should have ranked a bit higher – one of the tubes started to develop a slight low level buzz near the end of the review and may be going bad. They still had really nice warmth for their level of Detail. Of the two - the Tele is the warmer, the Siemens is the more detailed. Comparing the Siemens E88CC to the Siemens CCa of the same year – well the CCa's were clearly superior in nearly every respect, and not just subtly better either. I would say both of these tubes are 'Best Buys' under $175/pr. #11 Reflektor 6N23P '65 Dual Straight Wire Getter Posts – 106.8 Ave Points I found these very, very rare tubes in my hunting for Russian glass. They are not the common dual dimpled plate getter post Reflektors you can easily find. These are way better. At first, I was hoping they would be better then the HG's. So decided to include them in the review. Well they are very nice – smooth and laid back. They lack the Detail and Transience of their much better relatives, the '75 and '74 SWGP Silvers. But not as forward as well. A really pleasant tube to listen to. Their best finish was #8 in Clarity. Oh well – they're not top of the heap glass but way better then stock. #12 Valvo E88CC Herleen '67 Large 'O' Getter White Print – 106.3 Ave Points Well here we have a nicely Euphonic tube but again against some super star competition. I didn't find them objectionable, nor exceptional. Just good, sweet sounding, warmish tone and Musical. Sound Stage was below average as were the dynamics, but that is below average for this group. Not below average against say an Amperex OG, or PQ orange shield or BB. I would say they are better then those. A truly 'Best Buy' at $80/pr #13 Nevz 6N1P-E '66 Triple Mica, Black Anode – 105.3 Ave Points Easily the best 6N1P I have heard and I have almost all of them. Very energetic and lively. Fun to listen to. Not bad as far as Musicality – a few times I cringed a bit – but mostly it was smooth sailing. They run very hot and are not compatible with the Lyr 2. A good buy at $70-$50/pr depending on source. #14 Siemens '70s E88CC Silver Shield – 100 Ave Points Well these were a come down from the greats, but again much better then stock. I ran a stock pair GE 6BZ7's for one song and I would say it would rate in the mid to high 80's for ave points. So these are clearly a step up. The issue with these was a lack of Musicality and warmth. Kind of a cold tonality, just a little thin on the bones. Good detail – not just not hitting the mark for me. #15 Mullard CV2492 – Made in England. - 94.6 Ave Points These were by far the biggest disappointments for me, as I had heard so many good things about them. I could not find a factory or date marker on this particular pair, just 'Made in England'. I know there are much better English tubes out there – just not these. Again, not awful – better then stock. Their biggest weakness lack of detail and a closed in sound. Part of the problem is the level of game of the top tubes – just a tough crowd to stand out in. One day I will try and get a pair of the '60s CV2493 Blackburn Mullards – I hear those are excellent. Note: A sharp eyed dealer has spotted these as fakes - after sending him more detailed pictures he has found a mark indicating they were made by Ei in Yugoslavia. Thanks for the tip! I'm not as familiar with the different UK tube constructions as I am with the German, Dutch, American and Russian tubes. 2nd Note: The dealer gave me some good info to pass along on recognizing real Mullards: Final Thoughts and Thank You's A shout out to two members who were kind enough to lend me their precious glass. Guidostrunk for the '65 Siemens Cca's and Lekoross for the loan of the '60's Amperex 6922 D Getter Pinched Waists. Thanks guys! An additional thank you to Lekoross for doing a proofing on the review - I will add in his grammatical improvements next week. Thanks again! Final note – this was a huge undertaking – but lots of fun. To spend so much quality time with this amazing lineup of tubes was quite rewarding. These are just one man's opinion, so take it for what it's worth. As always YMMV. Some pictures: The line up. What a few thousand dollars worth of tubes looks like: Group 1 the Russians: Left to right: HG '75 Reflektor Silver SWGP '74 Reflektor Silver SWGP, '75 Voskhod Gray Shield SWGP, '65 Reflektor Dual Straight Wire Getter Post, Nevz '66 6N1P-E Triple Mica, Black Plates. Group 2 The Germans: Siemens '65 CCa Gray Shields, Siemens '63/'62 CCa Gray Shields, Telefunken E188CC '60s, Telefunken E88CC '60s, Siemens '65 E88CC Gray Shield, Siemens '63 E88CC Gray Shield, Siemens '70s E88CC Silver Shield. Group 3 Amperex Holland and US, Philips Miniwatt, Valvo, Mullard: Amperex 6922 D Getter '60s Pinched Waist, Philips MiniWatt '64 E188CC SQ Herleen, Valvo '67 O Getter Herleen E88CC, Amperex '65 USN-CEP 7308 White Print, Amperex '68 7308 Green Print, Mullard CV2492. Happy Rolling! Edit Loaded the wrong spreadsheet of the Results tally - fixed. Additional Resources: HK Tube Club's 6DJ8 tube shootout: http://hktubeaudio.homestead.com/files/6dj8.html http://www.audioasylum.com/scripts/d.pl?audio/faq/joes-tubes.html#6DJ8 My original Voskhod Rockets 6N23P review: http://www.head-fi.org/t/549508/schiit-lyr-the-tube-rolling-thread/8595 Subsequent review of the Reflektor SWGP (posts 1914-1918): http://www.head-fi.org/t/673709/schiit-lyr-tube-rollers/1905 Brent Jesse (Great resource for tube date and factory codes): http://www.audiotubes.com/chinese.htm http://www.audiotubes.com/6dj8.htm http://www.audiotubes.com/teledate.htm http://www.audiotubes.com/mullcode.htm Tube World's Ranking of the best CCa's: Tube World's Rank of the Best 6922: https://www.tubeworld.com/index_high.htm Schiit Lyr and Lyr 2 tube compatibility list: http://www.head-fi.org/t/755300/schiit-lyr-lyr-2-tube-compatibility-list Edit: Grammar and some phrasing - added Resources links Edit: Added System info Edit: Added the 'Tubes vs. Solid State' section Edit: Mullard's spotted as fakes by a keen eyed dealer. Review section on those updated.