The 6L6 and the EL34 are two different power tubes that you can include in an amplifier. The real question is: which one would prove itself more useful. We will be laying out everything you need to know to spot 6L6 vs EL34 tubes.
We’ll discuss the differences between the two and their abilities when connected to guitar amps. However, when it comes to excellent sound quality, vacuum tube amplifiers prove themselves to be superior in that regard.
Since the 1960s and 1970s, these amps have been the go-to for many guitar players. Its direct rival, the solid block amplifier, was supposed to put an end to tubed amplifiers because it had one distinct feature: it could operate without those power tubes.
However, the solid block amplifier didn’t have one thing that the tube amplifiers do: better sound quality. If you don’t believe us, listen to the sounds coming from each amp. If you are an avid listener of music and have an ear for detail, you’ll notice the difference in sound quality.
Now, let’s take a closer look at each power tube so you know what they bring to the table. After that, we’ll make comparisons between the two.
What is the 6L6 Power Tube?
These power tubes will often be found in American-made amps. One of the brands that use these is Fender. It’s also the power tube used when you want to create that ‘California Sound.’
Fender amps with these tubes were considered the ‘cream of the crop.’ This is because it always provided the cleanest guitar tones possible. It also makes the tone a bit brighter as well.
Amps that contain these 6L6 power tubes include but are not limited to the Peavey Valveking 100, Fender Hot Rod Deville III 410, and several others. If you are looking for high-fidelity audio at its best, there is no denying that the 6L6 can deliver that.
What is the EL34 Power Tube?
These are native to the United Kingdom. You’ll find these mainly on Marshall amps, among others; if you are looking for something that can ‘snarl,’ this is the power tube that you want to give a try.
This is a power tube that can put out plenty of wattages. It will also give you excellent frequency responses, even if you have the amp turned down quite a bit. So if you are looking for something that will provide you with perfect frequencies, the EL34 doesn’t disappoint.
If you are a guitar player that enjoys the sound of distorted tones, we highly suggest that you go with amps that contain this power tube. That includes the Marshal Origin 20C, which is undoubtedly one of the best options.
If you don’t want to go with the Marshall brand, my alternative recommendation is the Mesa/Boogie Lone Star Special. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to give those amps a shot if you want a bit of a rougher sound.
6L6 vs EL34 Tubes: How Do They Differ?
What it comes down to is the different kind of ‘flavor’ of sound. The EL34 tube will have a more classic sound compared to the 6L6.
The 6L6 will have much more of a mid-range presence. It also has a bit more rock sound than its EL34 counterparts.
If you are a metal guitarist, the 6L6 may work to your advantage as it can produce a darker tone. The same can be said if you are playing hard rock or punk music.
Meanwhile, the EL34 tends to have better harmonics. In other words, it can produce multiple sounds without blending into each other. So the sound will be ‘in harmony’ despite being different from one another.
That might be music to the keen ears. And it might be the sound worth appreciating.
6L6 tubes are less scooped compared to the EL4. As a result, they have a flat frequency response. Also, as mentioned before, 6L6 is more American as the EL4 are British.
To the keen listener, they may be able to tell the difference between British sound from American.
The 6L6 tubes will have a looser sound and won’t break up as much as the EL34. So the latter will have a tighter sound but maybe smaller sounding when played on a cleaner channel.
However, the EL34 will have a much better breakup. These are my thoughts on how the 6L6 and the EL34 compare.
If you want to listen for yourself the differences between the two tubes, I have a video that you can check out. Listen to the sounds carefully, and you may decide which may sound better when a song is being played. You can listen to it right here.
Can 6L6 replace EL34?
Remember that the EL34 is a pentode while a 6L6 is a tetrode. Therefore, they are not interchangeable. However, some guitarists who use Marshall amplifiers say that it can be possible for 6L6 to replace an EL34.
If the 1K screens and the sockets are wired for EL34s, you could run 6L6s. The first thing you need to do before doing anything is to check the bias.
What kind of music can I play with a 6L6?
The best genre of music that can do well is 6L6. Specifically, if you plan on playing hard rock or metal, you’ll want an amp containing 6L6 tubes as it will provide you with a much cleaner sound.
We hope now that you know the difference between the 6L6 and the EL34, you’ll be able to choose an amp based on your tastes in sound. We think both of these tubes sound pretty good.
We also think that sound quality is subjective. So it’s up to you to decide which of these two tubes are considered the best. If you haven’t checked out the video that we linked, We’ll leave it here once again so you can hear the sound for yourself.