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@JoelT beautiful shots. Thank you for sharing.
@Dogmatrix wondering what kind of camera and/or lens you used for those tube shots -- very impressive!
My brief simplification/overview of the tubes mentioned in this thread. I didn't take the time to quote every "review" or call out all usernames... sorry.
Sylvania JAN 5814A - Extra bass, better for bright headphones, fairly easy to find a pair of these, also the first ones people started to roll in... overall very good feedback from everyone that's tried them over stock. Nice full/meaty sound.
Cost ~$50 for matched pair at tctubes.com
RCA Cleartops - More overall detail, thinner bass than Sylvania, but still more bass than stock, better for darker headphones - being offered directly through Woo for matched sets (~$250) - seem to be overall a tad more natural than JANs which might bloat the bass/mid-bass
Cost ~$65 at tctubes.com (though, this seems low, am I looking at the right things? They're labelled as "organ stock") @ tubedepot for ~$120 for a matched set
Shuguang - Not much in way of comparison, but liked by mattelka, better separation and forward mids (maybe similar to RCA CT)
Mullard CV4003 - Sounds like maybe similar to JANs but with a little less exaggerated bass - not sure how they compare to the RCAs? Or the Mullard ECC82?
Cifte/Mazda(?) 12AU7 - Good staging/separation, not compared directly to JAN/RCAs but JoelT and dogmatrix digging on 'em
Cost - found a pair on eBay for $130
Does that about cover this thread thus far?
Also, I have a tubeless WA7tp in my possession (with a stock tubed WA7) and a pair of PS500e's and looking for a good starter tube to use. Leaning towards the low cost JANs since it seems like they'd match decently well with Grados... but Mullards sound nice, too. I think a couple had some 500s in this thread - which tubes have you guys used?
A cautionary note - There's a lot I could say about the cryo'd Cifte 12AU7, but have avoided talking much about them due to startup arcing:
When used in the WA7tp, my Cifte 12AU7 cryo's tend to produce a small blue arc at startup. It only happens once and then never happens again as long as the unit remains powered. Proceed at your own risk! I contacted WA about the issue and was essentially told that it shouldn't be a big deal (but that they'd look at the WA7tp if I wanted them to). I initially had the RCA CT's arc when I first got them as well, though they stopped after I burned them in for awhile. I have another set of Cifte's on the way, and I'll test them for the same issue (and get them burned in as well).
I should also add a small report on the Genalex Gold Lion ECC82:
They are very forward, full, and have a very nice tonal balance. Slightly warm, but not gooey and over the top. The top end is sparkley and quite detailed - more detailed than the Sylvania JAN's to my ear. The bass is the fullest and most forceful out of any tube I've tested with the WA7tp. They're a bit too much for already warm and full cans (Audeze, I'm looking at you), but fill out the HD800 quite nicely. The catch is the soundstage. Due to being so forward, they tend to sound a bit compressed when compared with the Cifte 12AU7's and the RCA CT's. The Gold Lion's also loose some of the layering sensation. I think some may enjoy their rather intimate and full presentation, but I prefer the HD800's to render as large of a soundstage as possible, while remaining detailed and full. In other words, I feel that the Gold Lion's don't fully cater to a major strength of the HD800, despite making up for some of it's weaknesses (i.e. they can end up sounding thin with the wrong set of tubes). They definitely aren't a great match for the already full and weighty LCD-2.
All in all, I really wanted to like these, but they don't quite have the magic I was looking for.
Upscale Audio has NOS RCA CT's available for $40 or $50 each depending on the grade (they will match them if you purchase 2).
Thanks for your additional impressions! I have a pair of the Cifte on the way. I'm curious to see of I experience the arcing issue as well.
@CongeeBear it's an Olympus Omd-Em1 with stock 14-42mm
@cesupro excellent summary I believe that is the state of play so far
@JoelT After extensive research on arcing it seems the blue arc is caused by gas , common in tubes that have been in long storage and not a problem . A bright white flash on the other hand may indicate a tube is close to failure
You bet! I hope the Cifte's work out for you. If the Cifte's didn't sound so f'n good I would have moved on, but alas...they're amazing.
You seriously made my day. Awesome. Thanks for the information! I guess 50+ years in storage did the trick.
I'll try and put together some further thoughts on the Cifte's later tonight.
The Shuguang Natural Sound 12AU7-T matched pair can be bought from Shuguangs on ebay for about USD67 inclusive worldwide shipping. They also have a normal range for the 12AU7 at about 1/3 of the Natural Sound price.
Any thoughts on the organ stock clear tops?
The cleartops labeled for organ companies are the same tube as the RCA-labeled ones. They are the best value if you don't care about the logo. You can get a matched pair from Brent at www.audiotubes.com for about $40 (very reputable dealer in my experience).
Perfect, just ordered a pair of Organ Cleartops from Brent! Thanks for the recommendation.