Every guitar enthusiast is probably looking for the best new 12AX7 tubes to improve sound quality. They’re known for their outstanding high-gain sound, and multiple ones are often used to increase the gain for better audio.
Although your guitar or Hi-Fi amplifier already comes with tubes, they tend to lose their quality over time. As a result, you’ll have to replace them to enjoy better sound quality with clean results without annoying noise.
Finding the right 12AX7 tubes isn’t easy because there are lots of models on the market. As a guitar enthusiast, you also need ones that would last for long, which might be a challenge.
In this article, we’ll answer all the questions that you might have concerning these tubes. We’ve read hundreds of reviews to help you find the right ones for you, and we’ll also review 3 of the top products on the market to help you pick the most suitable ones.
What are 12AX7 Tubes?
A 12AX7 is a vacuum tube which is a small double triode. This low-frequency tube has a high voltage gain and low slope of the transfer characteristic to minimize noise. These tubes are known in Europe and the U.K. as ECC83, and they belong to a family that includes hundreds of options that appeal to guitar users across the globe as it takes a small signal input and successfully amplifies it.
These tubes were designed to replace an older model called the 6SL7. They’re made to provide a higher gain with less noise. They’re also sturdier.
With two triodes inside single glass housing, these tubes are usually cascaded to build a higher sound quality by installing several ones. Previously, these tubes were used to amplify low-frequency voltages in several household appliances. Currently, they’re used primarily as guitar amplifiers.
Each triode has three pins inside that control the amplifier. The pins activate a heater element that affects the electrons inside the tube. This is seen as a faint orange light.
The combination of the high gain and low noise level is what makes these tubes extremely popular among high-quality sound equipment and analog computers. People use them to play longer records in higher quality.
As of 1956, the 12AX7 tubes became the industry standard in the U.S. They’re currently the most popular tubes in guitar amplifiers. They’re characterized by the significant amplitude limits and regular operation in the input overload mode.
These tubes are available as new or new old stock or NOS. The old stock was satisfying the market demand until the 1990s. However, with currently millions of guitarists using them every day, these tubes are still available in a new production that aims at satisfying the needs of all users.
What Makes 12AX7 Tubes Appealing?
The ability to reproduce music or music detail is what makes these tubes so popular among music lovers. They’re known for their exceptional gain and how they fit into a specific circuit. Although they don’t eliminate the noise, in most cases, the noise level is acceptable to offer excellent audio quality.
Musicians usually find that their systems aren’t working the same way they used to be. If the guitar or your sound system is becoming noisier or less dynamic, then the 12AX7 tubes will help improve the sound quality.
How to Choose the Best 12AX7 Tubes
Choosing the best tubes might be a bit challenging with all the available models on the market. Here are a few things that you should take into consideration before making a purchase.
You want to make sure that your tubes won’t wash out all the details and textures while providing good gain. There are several models that excel at adding good crunch to the music, which is a big plus when you’re playing rock music. You can also look for tubes that add more fullness to the sound.
Most tubes that feature a long-plate design are designed to provide excellent sound quality. The design will give the right balance and low mids that improve your audio quality.
Higher gain isn’t always better. The high gain should be combined with low noise that might affect the tone. The vacuum in the cylinder tube will affect the gain you receive from the tube.
Noise is a big problem because your tube will make random sounds. Although all tubes will have a noise floor, which is an acceptable level of noise while it’s operating, you need to make sure that this won’t affect the audio quality. Generally speaking, the higher the gain, the more background noise you’ll experience.
Due to the high gain of the 12AX7 tubes, the tubes will pick up mechanical vibrations and amplify them, which ultimately affects the sound quality. Although picking some noise is normal, there are several models that excel at minimizing this effect.
The best thing you can do is to screen several tubes to find the ones that suit you best. If you’re experiencing feedback problems, then you’ve probably picked the wrong tubes. In most cases, the noise will be more noticeable at higher volumes.
What is the Difference between New and NOS Tubes?
If you’re in the market looking for new tubes, then you’ve probably come across the comparison between New and NOS or new old stock tubes. Back in the 1960s, tubes were produced in factories in the U.S. with exceptional quality that made them extremely popular. In the 1980s, the last factory closed, and all the tubes on the market have started to come from other countries, including Russia and China.
NOS tubes are older tubes that have been produced by the American factories but were not used before. These tubes are more affordable and built with high-quality materials.
However, if you’re looking for new tubes, you shouldn’t worry about the quality. While older tubes weren’t that adequately built, this is no longer true. Today, many of the producers in other countries are following the latest techniques to produce excellent 12AX7 tubes with incredible gain that appeal to all music lovers.
There are currently a lot of NOS tubes, still available in their original boxes and have never been used. This is the old stock of closed factories which you can still buy today. These tubes probably had a technical edge over the Russian and Chinese tubes in the 1960s, but this is no longer true.
Today all the new tubes available are of excellent quality and will do exactly what they’re supposed to. Moreover, due to the big production, these tubes are also available at a reasonable price.
In most cases, it’s safe to say that the new tube is a re-issue of the old one. The new and NOS tubes are different, and users will prefer one over the other, depending on their needs and personal preferences. There are some physical and tonal differences that set them apart, but they’re still both adequate choices for different users.
Reviews of the Best 12AX7 Tubes
If you’re looking for a new tube, then you need to check out these fantastic choices.
Tung-Sol 12AX7 Preamp Vacuum Tube
Surpassing NOS tubes in all aspects, this tube is an excellent choice for 3D audio quality. This tube excels at providing exceptional lows so you can enjoy your music to the maximum with no noise. This single tube is suited for Hi-Fi applications as well as upgrading your guitar.
This tube is rich in harmonics with a low microphonic level that affects the quality of music produced. The highs are also exceptional because they’re smooth without being too harsh, guaranteeing an excellent overall quality of music.
Some users think that there are other tubes that provide a better response. This might be true because the tube can tame highs and harshness without weakening the sound or making it too muddy.
These tubes combine the affordable price of NOS tubes with the exceptional sound quality that you would get from an industry-leading brand like Mullard or Brimar from the U.K. It provides the right gain for blues and blues-rock so you can enjoy amazing melodies without breaking the bank.
If you’re looking for the right balance between grit and crunch, then this tube is the right one for you. It’s easy to replace and lasts for long. It’s designed to give clean sound, and you have to crank up the volume to detect any hum, which is excellent news for music lovers.
What We Like
- Affordable tubes that provide excellent gain.
- Suitable for all Hi-Fi applications.
- Low microphonics and noise.
- Tames highs without being too harsh.
What We Don’t Like
- The overall response is rather average compared to other tubes.
J.J. 12AX7 / ECC83 Preamp Vacuum Tubes
This tube is trendy among guitarists and musicians due to its ability to provide defined lows, excellent mids, and exceptional highs with a rather low level of noise. This is a pack of three tubes, which is good value for money.
The gain you get from these tubes might not be that high, but this is why the sound is so clean. The lows and mids are sharp and defined to provide for better sound quality while the highs aren’t that high.
Don’t worry about pushing your tubes in overdrive because the smoothness of the sound isn’t affected. The clean distortion is guaranteed, which is what most musicians prefer. These tubes are incredibly versatile and can be used with different music styles.
To enjoy a colorful tone that offers a great mixture of lows, mids, and highs. Each tube comes in an individual box, so you can keep it safely stored until it’s needed. The sound you receive will always be warm and rich.
Some users feel that these tubes aren’t that durable compared to other models. This, however, shouldn’t be a big problem since you’ll receive three in your package. As they become a little old, the low ends might not be that impressive, but they’re still a great choice to replace your original tubes on a guitar or in any Hi-Fi application.
What We Like
- Affordable new tubes.
- Each is individually wrapped.
- Acceptable gain with clean audio.
- Excel when pushed into overdrive with no distortion.
- A colorful balance of lows, mids, and highs.
What We Don’t Like
- They’re not that durable.
J.J. Electronics Amplifier Tube
If you’re looking for a new vacuum tube to install to your Hi-Fi amplifier or guitar amplifier (I like the Monoprice tube amp myself), then this is the tube to pick. For an affordable price, this tube will instantly improve the sound quality thanks to its amazing gain without adding much noise to the sound produced. It’s so versatile that it can be used in any preamp or microphone application.
The sound you receive is well-balanced with impressive audio quality. The balance of lows and mids is particularly remarkable, unlike other tubes that might produce distorted audio. This tube is suited for all types of music because it offers an excellent balance.
Enjoying warm music is possible once you install these tubes to your guitar or Hi-Fi device. They crunch well, especially when you turn the volume up. However, some users might find them a little cold.
You should check your tubes because these don’t come adequately wrapped. They might get damaged before they reach you.
What We Like
- Good balance of price and quality.
- Impressive gain without adding noise.
- Balance of lows and mids.
- Warm music produced from your Hi-Fi device.
What We Don’t Like
- They don’t arrive appropriately wrapped, so they might be damaged.
To improve the audio quality of your guitar or any other Hi-Fi device, you need to make sure that you’ve installed the best new 12AX7 tubes. These will smooth out the audio produced while reducing the noise level so you can enjoy your music to the maximum.
We chose the Tung-Sol 12AX7 Preamp Vacuum Tube<span style=”font-weight: 400;”> as our top choice because it’s versatile enough to be used in several Hi-Fi applications. This tube can deliver smooth highs and lows for the best audio quality.
New tubes have come a long way as they provide the same quality of the older tubes without breaking the bank. All you have to do is to pick the right tubes and install them to enjoy the lows, mids, and highs without any distortion.