The Best New 12AX7 Tubes 2021

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.

Bass Amp

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. 

Audio Quality

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. 

Gain

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. 

Microphonics

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