EL34 or 6L6

Discussion in 'Amplifiers' started by 88prs, Apr 21, 2020.

  1. 88prs

    88prs OCD for PRS

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    What sounds better for all around styles, EL34 or 6L6. Does PRS offer these options in amps?
     
  2. RickP

    RickP Established 1960, Still Not Dead

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    There seems to be exceptions to every rule when it comes to sound and people’s impressions based on amps using these tubes. I have a Boogie that uses both at the same time, and it sounds great. The rest of the components used in the amp also have a bearing on tone, as do the one thing that always seems to be a last consideration: speakers.

    There are lots of opinions out there, and I would always say it’s best to judge the amp as a package deal... do you like how the amp sounds? I realize that isn’t an answer to your first question. The second question is easier. PRS has used both tubes, depending on the amp.

    All that said, the common wisdom is the 6L6GC is more versatile.
     
  3. shinksma

    shinksma What? I get a title?

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    It really is a preference thing vs a utility thing, I suppose. But EL34s break up a little earlier, from what I gather, and some would argue aren't as suitable for heavier material (or at least get a bit muddy, I suppose).

    Of course, it depends on how "all around" your style is. If you think an all around style is something that can do country, blues, jazz, and non-metal rock'n'roll, then EL34s may be what you would prefer.

    If "all round" to you is clean New Wave tones to djenty-metal down-tuned in Drop B growly stuff, maybe 6L6s will work better for you. But the rest of the amp has to be compatible - you can't always just swap from one to the other, so as @RickP said, you need to look at the whole package of the amp, including the number and type of gain stages, master volume availability, number of channels, and speaker(s) (combo or separate cab).

    And yes, PRS has used both.
     
  4. jak3af3r

    jak3af3r Jake

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    I'm a 6l6 guy. I like big bottom ends.
     
  5. AP515

    AP515 Mostly Normal

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    6L6's for Fender amps

    EL34's for Marshalls

    One PRS amp with 6L6's and another of the same amp with EL34's.

    That's the recipe.
     
  6. ]-[@n$0Ma☩!©

    ]-[@n$0Ma☩!© Zombie Zero, DFZ

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    Can’t help. I’m an EL84 guy.
     
  7. markd21

    markd21 New Member

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    For gain I want EL34s. Clean I want 6L6. For riding the volume I want EL84s.
     
  8. iLookLikeElvis

    iLookLikeElvis New Member

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    6L6 always seems rounder to me when driven and bloomier clean. EL34 more squarish, if that makes any sense. I like 6L6 better on both counts.

    But that’s just me. And as Tom Waits said, I have to live with me...
     
  9. Em7

    Em7 deus ex machina

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    In my humble opinion, the 6L6 is more versatile than the EL34. The EL34 is a higher transconductance, which means that it does to take as much input signal to drive it into saturation. On the other hand, the 6L6 remains cleaner over a much lager input swing, which makes it a better choice for amps with high gain preamps. The 6L6’s geometry, internal structure, and harder vacuum give the 6L6 more bottom end handling capability. Pretty much all modern high-gain designs have been designed around 6L6GCs or the Soviet 6P3S-E tube, which is a 19 watt tube that is sold as the Sovtek 5881WXT. The Soldano SLO 100 was designed around the 6P3S-E.
     
  10. Tone-y

    Tone-y New Member

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    My Cornford Carrera can take either a 6L6 or an EL34 in single ended mode. Literally take one out and put the other one in. I would agree with iLookLikeElvis, I've always thought of the 6L6 as the rounder sound, and the EL34 as squarish. But the difference isn't huge at the volumes that I play at. And it does depend on the particular valves as well, as different brands of the same type can be fairly different in themselves as to the amount of gain they have and how early they break up.

    Like I said though, the difference can be subtle - and I'm talking about the exact same amp, same speaker and gain structure, preamp valves etc. All of those things affect the sound as much as just the difference between a 6L6 or EL34 output tube in isolation. I really wouldn't say either valve is better for any particular style, or better all round etc, it much more depends on the rest of the amp.

    I would say that in general I prefer the EL34 in that amp than the 6L6 as I tend to run that side of the amp (it also has an EL84 and you can switch between the 9 pin (EL84) or 8 pin (6L6, EL34) output valves) when I want more gain and a squarer Marshallier sound. The EL84 does a better more Fendery clean but gets a little boomy and muffled with gain, whereas the EL34 is a bit sterile clean (at the volumes I can get away with at home) but handles the gain without getting mushy so between them I have everything covered. The 6L6 kind of sits a bit between the two, but more to the EL34 side. My EL34 is in bad shape at the moment (kids turned the amp on for days without me knowing) so I've been running the 6L6 for quite a while, and I really don't notice too much of a difference in isolation without having heard the other one recently for comparison.
     
  11. Em7

    Em7 deus ex machina

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    [QUOTE="Tone-y, post: 557690, member: 21122]
    Like I said though, the difference can be subtle - and I'm talking about the exact same amp, same speaker and gain structure, preamp valves etc. All of those things affect the sound as much as just the difference between a 6L6 or EL34 output tube in isolation. I really wouldn't say either valve is better for any particular style, or better all round etc, it much more depends on the rest of the amp.
    [/quote]

    A single-ended amp is not an accurate tool for demonstrating tube performance in a push-pull circuit. A singled-ended amp is true class A. There are no true class A push-pull guitar amps, not even the Vox AC30 at full tilt.

    The EL84 is an even higher transconductance tube than the EL34. In fact, it is the highest transconductance power tube that is commonly used in guitar amps. Most EL84 power stages bias up around -10 volts, which means that there is only 20 volts peak-to-peak signal swing. That is why EL84-based amps can get away with very simple, low-gain preamps. In order to effectively mate a high-gain preamp to an EL84, the output from the preamp has to be reduced. The Mesa Studio .22 is a perfect example. That design employs 220K/2.3M voltage dividers on the grids of the power tubes.
     
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  12. BrianC

    BrianC more toys than talent

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    for ME, EL34 is the sound for everything (yes I like 6l6 better for cleans but that is only a small amount of what I play)
     
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  13. Rider1260

    Rider1260 New Member

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    After a lifetime of only playing a 6L6 amp ( Mesa MKII ) I am at the moment all EL34 in both my MKV and PRS H :) , yes it is a bit more work to get the cleans to sound right but all else is wonderful !!!
     
  14. 88prs

    88prs OCD for PRS

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    Sounds like the Archon 50 might be a nice amp for gigging at most venues. Great looking amp. Good choice?
     
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  15. DreamTheaterRules

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    BEST CHOICE! (IMHO, YMMV, etc.)
     
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  16. elvis

    elvis Hamfisted String Banger

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    PRS amps can sometimes take either tube type with a bias adjustment.

    For high-gain amps, the tone is often dominated by the preamp, lower gain amps rely much more on the power amp section. So for Archon, the difference would be more subtle than for a 2-ch Custom or DG.

    For me, the question is often, can it cut through a band mix? EL34 has a natural advantage there, as it has a more narrow-band frequency response, but 6L6 amps like Archon can be heavily tweaked with the Depth and Presence controls. So for more modern amps, it probably makes less difference overall.

    The place I would recommend 6L6 for sure is if you want HUGE CRUSHING lows. I'd recommend EL34 for Marshall-esque tones.
     
  17. bodia

    bodia Authorities said.....best leave it.....unsolved

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    Absolutely! Great, great amp.
     
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  18. DreamTheaterRules

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    I've often figured, but it's hard to confirm given how loud they are when doing this, that the tubes matter much more the more you turn the amp up as well. I'd say they would certainly be more different when pushing both to breakup. That said, I agree completely that most higher gain amps get at least "much" of their tone from the pre-amp section.

    Inspired by some awesome tones I've heard from Splawn amps, I've also considered the EL34B tubes as something to try in the Archon. Supposedly EL34 tone but with much bigger bottom end. In theory at least, that could be GREAT with an Archon.
     
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  19. RickP

    RickP Established 1960, Still Not Dead

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    Very interesting discussions here. Good points all around. Speaking of less common tubes than the 6L6/EL34, one of my favorite amps in the current stable is the Carol-Ann Tucana 3, which uses a pair of KT88s. This is the first amp I’ve owned using those tubes, and man are they nice. They can get quite loud while remaining clear and full, and if you can stand the volume (I use an Ox Box) the response is glorious when they pour on the power. I’ve currently got a set of SED Winged C tubes in, and I love the power of this amp.

    I’m no expert on these tubes, but this amp, as a package, is a tone monster. I’ve read a lot on their history, but just don’t see them a lot. Anyone else using KT88s?
     
    #19 RickP, Apr 23, 2020
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2020
  20. DreamTheaterRules

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    KT88s = Beast Mode!
     

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