Bizarrely listenable 6JI tubes...am I losing it?
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AthenaZephyrian

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Got a new Little Dot I+ to replace my old, tiny NS0-1E as my go-to tubey. I bought some GE JAN5645W tubes (matched, top-shelf selection) to go with it, as I'd heard the 6JI tubes were pretty bad. I immediately chucked the 5654's in the amp, after checking to make sure the amp was configured for the EF95 family, and plugged in my HE400i's.

Sounded pretty nice as predicted, if a wee bit warm (what did I expect? It's a tube amp), though pleasantly so, and perhaps a bit congested. Definitely better detail and soundstage than the NS0-1E, and I've heard the congestion can be attributed to the op-amp, so I've got an AD823ANZ on the way.

The weird bit:

I then tried, after a couple hours listening, to plug the 6JI's in. They sounded...similar, and tolerable--certainly better than no amp at all. Granted, they were less spacious, and a bit...stiff and dry perhaps? They also had a harsher top end and more recessed mids than the 5654W's, but the difference in the treble range was comparable to the ATH MSR7/HP200 dichotomy in that range--not make-or-break. They weren't great, but what I heard about the 6JI's lead me to believe they were the tube equivalent of someone throwing screwdrivers at a piano hooked up to a guitar pickup (I've heard this in real life). This they are not.

They're like...Grados, if Grados were $35 a pair, rather than of quality.

So is my hearing just that bad? Or are they not that bad?

UPDATE: Tried listening to the comparison again, after burning the 6JIs in a bit, under the suspicion that the HE400i's were too kind to them. This time I used HP200's, and, indeed, the 6JI's sounded simultaneously crowded, thin, and unrefined in the mids, a bit bloated in bass, and too hot in treble. The JAN5654W's were a bit too smooth for my taste, still, but quite a bit better.
 
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