Most Musical 6NS7 tube for a Preamp?

A request for recommendations by those with experience with different 6SN7 tubes.

My system so far is a Pass Labs XA25 SS Amp, and a circa 1988 Tannoy FSMs.
The speakers operate at 4 ohms with a 94 sensitivity.

The room size is medium. Acoustically well treated.

I listen at lower volumes 60-75db. Vocals mostly.

I am looking for the most musical preamp, with a remote.

Budget is $3k. Used preferred. Better value.

Not considering anything from Schiit Audio.

Considering- Supratek Chardonnay.

Any other suggestions?

Tube Ideas?

Thank you!
Well, I have tried a bunch when i owned amps that used them .
I thought the Ken Rad, Sylvania Bad Boys, were my favorites. if you can find some that are not "microphonic"..
I seriously doubt it
I got them from Andy @vintagetube services.
The problem with all 6Sn7s is that they do not have that great of bass, well except for The Ken Rads ... good luck. I even outright told Andy that i wanted some 6SN7 with good bass,,, It ain’t going to happen.
Now depending what other tubes it uses , you can get those with better bass and make it up. As an example my amps used one tube 6SN7 for the phase splitter and another type for the gain like maybe 12AT7.
Oh BTW the Sylvania bad boys do everything top notch...except Bass.
It is there . It just isn’t that strong

Check this out from Electra Fidelity
I copied and pasted it below:


As for 6SN7 tubes the circuit of the Silver 45-SE offers more flexibility, but again, some of the 6SN7 variants (especially those not designated with 6SN7 markings) may not work ideally in the circuit as it was originally designed. However, in our own testing and analysis we have found that for our preferences and best sound characteristics the Raytheon VT-231 with black flat plates (or alternately Raytheon 6SN7GTB, either short glass envelope with side getter or tall glass envelope with top getter) is the tube of choice. Next would be the Sylvania VT-231 with black plates (or alternately Sylvania 6SN7GT with medium glass envelope, black plates, and bottom silver getter, a.k.a. "Bad Boy"). Lastly the Tungsol 6SN7GT with black glass and round mica, a.k.a. "Mouse Ear", work well in the circuit.

Recently one of our customers did extensive testing of different 6SN7 tubes in the Silver 45-SE. Click HERE to view the 6SN7 tube analysis. So as you can see, many different sound characteristics are possible, all due to the different electrical and, perhaps more precisely, distortion characteristics of the tube.

As with the 45 tube types, if you have any questions regarding tube rolling and which 6SN7 tubes are acceptable replacements for the ones supplied with your amplifier, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss options with you.

This the link he had provided
Good Luck . Personally, I wish amp/pre-amp Builders would quit using them ,
This about exactly what i thought .
this is probably the nest IMLO

The Modwright LS 100 used should fit in your budget if you can find one.  I've been super happy with mine.  No lack of bass, but I have 4 subwoofers.  Having said that, Before I got my Harbeth Super HL5 Plus speakers I was using Legacy Audio Focus 20/20 speakers and they produced prodigious amounts of bass on their own when connected to the LS-100.  Is the LS-100 the "most musical" in that price range?  Beats me.  I'm sure you'll get some other good recommendations. 

The only issue I've had with it is NOS and some of the fancier new tubes going microphonic in it.  I won't mention brands, but their first name is Sophia and last name is Electric.  The Tung Sols that came with it have not had any issues with microphonics and sound surprisingly good.  They are in it now while I'm waiting for a replacement for one of the NOS tubes that started crackling...
why tube preamp into SS amp? I say go tube all the way. you can always put your SS amp back in for comparison.

those speakers are soo efficient you could easily go for a tube integrated with remote volume, probably remote source switching which I never use

or, an old tube preamp with a lot of features, manual controls, into a tube amp or integrated with remote volume, some sources direct to amp, some thru preamp.

I traded my McIntosh SS amp and SS preamp for 2 tube pieces, couldn't be happier.

1. old mcintosh tube tuner/preamp, terrific collection of inputs, manual controls, mx110z.

2. Cayin A88T integrated tube amp, 45wpc. remote volume, remote inputs, preamp in bypass...

I would like external bias meter/adjust (not my model), and remote balance on the preamp, or, in my case, remote balance on the integrated.

think future options now.

luckily the old McIntosh preamp has phono 1 and phono 2, which I didn’t think about, but, moved up to a two tonearm turntable, having those 2 phonos made is soooo easy
Good preamp  recommendations.
I've been tube rolling 6SN7's for years and there are tubes with prodigious bass, such as NOS Tung Sol and RCA. Low-end response also depends on the signature and synergy of your components, and the room itself.

The 6SN7 is in my opinion the best tube for a line section in a preamp.

Back when we started using them the tube was considered obsolete and no-one used them at all. Obviously that’s changed in the last 30 years!

The Pass Labs XA25 only has single-ended inputs so the 6SN7-based preamp can be quite simple. Just make sure that the preamp is not going to have a problem with the input impedance of the amp, but the XA25 is 47K so should not be challenging for most preamps.

IMO/IME a simpler circuit is better- less to go wrong.

The best sounding 6SN7s of current production are coming out of China. We’ve seen fairly short lives out of the Sophia tubes, but otherwise the Chinese boutique 6SN7s seem to hold up well. I would stay away from the Russian fare unless you are able to find 1960s-era Soviet 6SN7s which are excellent.

The best of the Americans are the Ken-Rad, Metal base Sylvania Chrome Dome (WW2 vintage), the RCA red base, probably in that order, and assuming the individual example you find is actually good. But almost any American made 6SN7 is a decent tube- even the RCA coin-base tube.

The Chinese Shuguong tube is a copy of the Phillips JAN (Joint Army-Navy) 6SN7 and sounds very much like it. We’ve had good luck with this tube- they seem to hold up for years.

Of course its a simple fact that with high performance tube equipment, the tubes **must** be handpicked for low noise and low microphonics.

Have fun!!

Thank you gentlemen for the education and experienced commentary.
This is why I enjoy Audiogon. 

I am trying to learn about 6SN7 tubes and even though I erred in the Subject line as 6NS7 no one felt the need to mention it. 

I am also shopping for a preamp to go with the Pass XA25 that is
supposed to arrive Friday. Input Impedance 47k.

Must haves include:
-6SN7 tube
-Most musicality/$

Must not have:
-the words "headphone" or "schiit" attached
-over 5 years old and one owner.

A true bonus:
-trial period

Preamps I have recently owned:
-Audible Illusions L3A-Only dislike was the sound
with or without it seemed the same. Shouldn't a
preamp improve the sound or is that a myth?

Brands of Intrigue that fit my $3k budget:

-Audio Note-(likely too high even used)

Thank you again for sharing your knowledge 
and providing me excellent guidance.

@atmasphere 8,170 posts04-29-2020 9:00am

The best sounding 6SN7s of current production are coming out of China. We’ve seen fairly short lives out of the Sophia tubes, but otherwise the Chinese boutique 6SN7s seem to hold up well. I would stay away from the Russian fare unless you are able to find 1960s-era Soviet 6SN7s which are excellent. ...

Yep, agree. Was hard to believe, but true on my end too. The past two years of CN tubes are improving for sure. After restocking up on vintage RCAs, Sylvanias, others, and recent TS re-issues - compared again recently. The new CN stuff is inching closer now. PSVANE acquired all tooling/methods from TJ Full Music [small tubes] after the old man passed. Now with the reported Shuguang fire last year, will be interesting to track new developments this year on 6SN7s, other 12Ax,t,u,7 tubes too. Re-trying some small CN PSVANE "T-Treasure MKII" version input tubes now, made in 2020, better than 2012-2016 versions I tried before. So what’s changed...hmmm. Kinda getting closer to my mid-1960s Blackburn Mullards, maybe improved in some ways too with midrange and wider soundstage. Maybe a tad less texture, more burn-in required. Was not expecting that. Re-evaluating periodically to check my own hearing or wondering if I was imagining it. Nope, not imagining it, inching closer :)
Out of the 6SN7 preamps above in your price range the deHavilland would be an excellent choice once modified.  How do I know, I have repaired and modified most of them.  In the deHavilland a toridal transformer replaced the original, V-Capacitors were an upgrade and Audio Note resistors were an upgrade, and tube sockets, etc.  The 6SN7 tube was a cheap CBS which sounded the best in that preamp.  I think you can fit a nice remote volume in there if it does not come with one.

As for the 6SN7 tubes (the deHavilland only uses one 6SN7) the NOS Tung-Sol black glass round plates were the most musical I ever heard - don't agree with the tube chart link in one of the posts above.  Did not work as well in the deHavilland as in other preamps, Ken-Rads are very good, RCAs musical but soft sounding, CBS sound excellent especially as they are so cheap.Tried the CN CV-181 and with the correct bias setting they sounded very nice, pretty balanced top to bottom but overall not my favorite.  Tried the Treasure WE 101D tubes and preferred the Full Music much better versus what others have said about them in the past.

Happy Listening.

What do those upgrades approximately cost parts and labor?

Thanks for tube tips too.

Have you any first hand knowledge of the LTA or Supratek products?

I’m using the Tung-Sol black glass round plates in my Audio Note pre. They are so pleasing to the senses.

Some good info...

Having tried the top thirteen tubes, of this comparison:, I have to agree, the Tung-Sol, round plate, w/oval mica, is a beautiful, neutral, extended at both ends, with excellent sound stage and precise imaging, tube.      The pair that I now have in my Carys, came out of three NOS pairs (from three different sources), however.     The other four all went intermittently noisy(crackles), after less than a year, each.      However; I’ll never regret the purchases.      They’re that good.      As some surveys mention; It’s good to mix tube iterations, even if the same brand, which retains the strengths of both, while not emphasizing any weaknesses.      I’ve tried everything mentioned (the top thirteen), in various combinations.     In combo, with the T-S, the best were the tall bottle, metal or black based, Sylvania 6SN7W and Ken-Rad (bottom-gettered), from the 40’s and this Sylvania:, which gives me the best mid-Bass slam, without coloring the Midrange.      Those four tubes, in whatever position, offer the best sound stage, in width and depth, of any tried, in my system, not to mention, REALISM (ie: tone, dynamics, etc).      I’m staying stocked up, on the others, for when I’m out of (or can’t afford) round plates.      If by, "musical", you mean a warm, tubey, sound; try the other top tubes, on the above mentioned survey.      They all have good presentation, but- were a bit too warm, for my taste.      More opinions, which (of course) vary, per system/ear:    and:   Enjoy your journey!
Try some old Red Base RCA 5692 - the very best 6SN7 there ever was. The go for about $100 on average

These are what your looking for  - just as an example - no affiliation with seller - proceed with the usual caution 

Good Listening

Today I just happened to again watch Roger Modjeski’s talk at the 2018 Burning Amp Festival. In that talk, he discusses, amongst many other topics (always coming back to the seminal RCA tube manuals), pre-amp tubes (though he was much more interested in power amp design). If you haven’t yet watched it, do yourself a huge favour and do so. You will then understand why his passing is such a loss---his knowledge of tubes and wisdom regarding designs using them was unparalleled.

If you care enough to invest a tiny amount of effort, the talk can be easily found. Go onto YouTube, search for "Roger Modjeski", and you will immediately be offered the video.

Speaking of Roger: Do you why his AudioCircle Forum was closed down? Ted Denney of Synergistic Research didn’t like Roger dissing magic fuses. Coward punk.

I own a Pass X-25 and a Supratek Sauvignon. I also have a LTA MicroZOTL Mz2 on it's way.. should be here by Saturday. In talking to Sean Casey of Zu, he also has a high regard for the Pass HPA-1. He used the XA-25 and HPA-1 together at a number of shows. It doesn't matter to me about being a Headphone amp. I have a Mytek DAC that has a volume control for the Digital side. Since you're up and down when playing LP's I figured it doesn't matter. The best preamp I've heard so far with the XA-25 is the Dodd Audio Battery unit (not the passive unit) that an audio friend of mine owns. The idea of shoving him out the door and claiming I'd never seen him before, definitely crossed my mind. If your interested in some comments/observations between the two, I'd be glad to share.

The reason I bought a MicroZOTL Mz2 is because there is a reviewer that claimed it sounded very similar to the Dodd.
How about an Aric Audio Motherlode pre-amp
You could even discuss which Brand of capacitors, Resistors and many other components if you know what you want or like
I recommend the Shuguang Treasure CV181-T/6SN7.
I use them in my Don Sachs preamp. Lot's of resolution top to bottom, meaty and’s also quiet and reliable. I think it looks great too.

But don’t take my word for it. Don Sachs has every holy grail version of the 6SN7 tube and he says this one kills every one of them.

Apparently the newer Shuguang WE6SN7 is a little bit better. I have listened to this one too but not long enough to hear the difference. It sounded just as good to me. It is a bigger tube and may not fit in all applications.


I've tried a bunch of 6SN7s over the years for the driver in my monoblocs.  Finally settled on the Psvane Globes from Grant Fidelity. Initially bright, they took 20 hours and more to level out and open up. They are excellent with great transparency and tone. 
Wow you guys are a true fountain of knowledge!! Thank you!!

-Kara Chaffee of deHavilland is taking a sabatical
currently with no know date of return.

-The newer LTA that was available on USAudio sold today. Coach?

-Auric is a dedicated purist who does not seem to do remotes.

Coach-I will be waiting anxiously to hear your thoughts on the
new LTA coming your way!! Meantime I will read up on the battery

Aric audio makes a 6sn7 preamp called the Special which can be ordered with or without a remote. The remote version is $3250 I believe. I own the Special and love it. Should i need to replace my BEL 1001 MK5 I am also considering the Pass XA25. 
Agree with Peter's recommendation of Red Base RCA 5692.
I have tried other NOS RCA's, Sylvanias and Raytheons as well as new production Chinese tubes and the Red Base 5692 were the best for my Cary SLP-88 preamp.
Buy a used with remote deHavilland Ultraverve. I got a used one without the remote and immediately sold my 12Au7 based pre amp. The mods bigkidz mentioned sound nice and you may can have them done within your budget if you buy used. And thanks for the update on Kara. Hope she is ok. Great to deal with. I liked my Ultraverve so much I had her build me a modded Mercury III. I am keeping both preamps. Have fun! Oh, I have used several tubes in the Ultraverve but the Ken Rad is my favorite. Fun to try different ones since there is only one.
My vote is for the Ultraverve also.  I have had mine for about 12 years and, as a result, have tried an amazing number of different vintage 6sn7’s. There are at least a dozen really good ones...each with their own personalities.  That said, each of these tube are all very relative to your particular rig configuration.  I run my Ultraverve through a big Bryston 14bsst ss amp and then on to B&W 802’s. As a result, my favorite 6sn7’s are what works for my system...and to my ears.  I will say that swapping out this particular tube in the Ultraverve can make dramatic tonal changes in the sound of your system. As Kara Chaffee describes it, experimenting with different 6sn7’s is akin to trying different wines! Also, the Ultraverve is built like a rock with point to point wiring, choice of remote or not, and designed to put very low stress on the tubes. I had Kara raise the 5aw4 tube seat to accommodate a bulbous 5au tube. She also updated my Ultraverve with Dueland caps and wiring about three years ago.  It sounds amazing and I get the best of both worlds, the warm musicality of the tubes along with effortless power of the sis amp. 

I've had both the Ultranerve and LTA mk2 ( currently have the Microzotl preamp).The UV has your classic tube sound. The LTA more linear with a touch of tubiness,Read the reviews of each, They are spot on.
@bdp24  Roger and I disagreed about his assessment of the 6SN7. For some reason he only used the early Tung-Sol documentation to support his views of the tube as you can see in the YT video. The issue was corrected by Tung Sol in later versions and by different manufacturers.

I agree with his assessment of some of the 'boutique' fuses. If they have a Teflon tube inside, the fuse will not blow correctly and so can damage the equipment its meant to protect!
I second the suggestion of reaching out to Aric of Aric Audio! I have the original Motherlode mated with a pair of XA60.8's and it is total audio nirvana. Far outperforms my old Pass XP20, Mac 2300, or Arc Reference 5.

Are there any others with experience regarding the Dodd Audio Battery preamp? 
Battery power intrigues me. However I need more information
from those who have used this preamp. 

Emil-Thanks for the ideas. I am reading all the reviews now.
I think I am leaning toward the deHavilland product as a better
way to reach the sound I seek. 

Any Audio Note users ?
I had an Ultraverve and it was a nice preamp. But ultimately it didn't have the resolution I wanted. It was a little too "tubey". I will soon be taking delivery of a Don Sachs Model 2 with all the upgrades. I have been living with TVCs and LDRs for several years now so I wanted to try another active line stage. Figured that Don's is as good as most.


I think you will love the Don Sachs model 2. I have one with the last all-wood case because I didn’t want balanced inputs/outputs...but did want all the new upgrades/6BY5GA full wave rectifier mod. It is not ‘tubey’...and almost solid state like in its resolution but very musical. 

I love my Audio Note linestage. It’s a M2 Special, which I’m told was a custom order from the factory.
A used M2 would cost $3000 or less. Audio Note products are built to last a lifetime with regular maintenance and upgrades. Mine is 15 years old and sounds wonderful. It’s dynamic with a wide, deep soundstage, and presents a transparent sense of realism. Not tubey, not clinical.
6SN7GT gain stage with tube rectification and regulation.

I've owned the Don Sachs model 2 and DeHavilland Ultraverve III and compared side-by-side. I sold the Don Sachs. 
I only know of one company who only make a line stage and line stage with phono and have been perfecting it for decades: Audible Illusions. A preamp company. And the only preamp that has consistency received TAS Editor’s Choice award saying “one of the best at any price”. A SET design using only one tube per channel, it is uniquely transparent and musical with no particular sound of its own. Separate power supply. A used L3A that is fully factory refurbished with new tubes and upgrades can be found used for around $2500. Used is preferred for 95% of new that is now $5200.
But to be compared to an $80k preamp is not only valid but justified.
Not that I have owned such a preamp but I have owned a $20k Rowland and a DeHaviland and others and would new never own other than an AI.
Recently purchased a Supratek Chardonnay and told Mick just put in the best of everything, about $3500. KenRads, Psvane, GE, Sylvanias, Bad Boys and Chrome Domes, Shuguang, and a couple of others. Psvane CV181 TII won the day. Best bass combined with balanced musically. How do I know? I now need a rumble filter. Best bass I've ever had. 
And BTW, I absolutely love the preamp, it replaced a much more expensive unit.
Yeah @atmasphere, for pre-amp applications, Roger had a hard-on for the 6DJ8 (used in his RM-5 and the Audible Illusions Modulus 2 & 3). He was a man of "firm" opinions. ;-)
Well, the Don Sachs Model 2 has evolved quite a bit from only a year ago. It has better caps, a full wave rectifier (you can hear the it ships with a half wave rectifier too), sealed input relays, better tubes, new housing/casing. And you can have it match the input impedance of whatever amp you’re feeding. 
I sold my AI L3.
I want a preamp that makes everything sound better not just be invisible.
Is this unreasonable? 

From what I am hearing its down to three choices:

-New Supratek Chardonnay $2-$2,500
-New or used deHavilland Ultra $2,500 + or -.
-Used Audio Note M2 $2,500 or so.

Thank you all so much for sharing your experiences
with the gear I need to decide on.

You must try 2c22 (7193) tubes with adapter. You need two for one 6sn7. Imho the best solution for 6sn7 preamplifiers.
One more vote here for the Don Sachs preamp. You won't regret it musically, and it is perfectly in your price range. Also very easy access for rolling tubes.
I would look for a Rogue Audio Magnum 99 pre and then you can roll all the 6SN7's you like. I tried them all and some of the variants are just better. I went from the 6SN7 to the 6F8G's and then to the 6J5GT's which will require and adapter, these are by far the most linear of all....
The word musical means different things to different people. It’s just word. There is a very large audiophile vocabulary for sound which oft goes unused. Anyway, you can’t go wrong with Sylvania NOS of almost any type, Chrome Domes all the way up to ‘52 Badboys. Then, more progress can be yours for the cost of Herbies tube dampers. They’re gold, Jerry, gold! All tubes are microphonic, even ones that claim ultra low microphonic. And two dampers are better than one, one of the glass at the level of the getter the other on the base. 🤗 Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “but don’t two dampers cost more than the tube itself?”
@ozzy62. Your assessment of the deHavilland is correct that why it requires the changes I mentioned above. Just adding audio note resistors will change all that around $60 for the two non-magnetic or over $100 for the silver versions.  Add some nicicons and v-caps and almost there. Change out that junk of a transformer and you are there.   Of all the 6sn7 tubes the CBS 6sn7 sounded the best for $15.   Happy listening
In the past I wouldn't give you a nickel for any Chinese tube but the recent new Dawning Series tubes out of Shuguang are excellent.  I recently bought a Don Sachs all in preamp and he suggested them and they are lush sounding.  WE6SN7 PLUS.
Long time 6SN7 fan and tube roller.  I happen to run a Modwright LA-100 and like it very much.  I have run every 6SN7 and I mean every! mentioned above.  I stumbled a crossed a Don Sachs forum thread and for the first time heard of a tube that got rave reviews from NOS snobs like myself, that I had not heard of nor tried.  The Shuguang Dawning Series WE6SN7 PLUS.   Bought a pair on line from a Hong Kong dealer, let them burn in for 150 hours and was absolutely shocked by what I heard.  They replaced my beloved NOS Tung Sol VT-231 Black Glass Round Plates.  These inexpensive Chinese tubes were better in every way.   Sound stage much more open and spacious, great balance top to bottom with lush but not overblown mids.  Great bass and beautiful extended highs without harshness or glare.  I had tried every 6SN7 and these were by far my favorites.  In fact bought a second pair that I now run in my Modwright Oppo in my main system.  Just a heads up....these tubes are huge for a 6SN7!  They are beautiful but in my LS100 I had to cut holes in the top for them to big deal as I had already cut a whole in it to fit the Mullard GZ-37 Fat Bottle rectifier I am running.  In any case, this Chinese  WE6SN7 PLUS is an incredible tube!
My neighbors own both the microzotl and the Sachs. We are able to A/B and often do. I can say with certainly both are wonderful sounding pre amps. The Sachs sounds bigger and exhibits more of a tube flavor but in the most natural way. The LTA offers all the beautiful layering that tubes provide but with a blacker background. If you are looking to make your stereo sound bigger, maybe slightly warmer, I’d say the Sachs. If you are looking for a slightly more neutral sound perhaps the LTA. Again, I don’t think you can lose with any of them. I have not hear either with Pass 😔