NOS Tubes - Agony or Ecstasy -Part II - The Search

I thought I would do an update on my search for Tubes for my Don Sach's 6sn7 based Preamp.  The amp came with Shuguang we6sn7's.  Decent tubes once you get some good ones. About 3  out of 10 are bad.

So I started a search for some fine NOS tubes. Found the great reference threads on the Dehavilland and Head-HiFi sites as a starting point. I researched every possible seller except for Ebay, I won't buy anything on Ebay anymore.  I ended up buy tubes from a variety of sellers. Here are my experiences. Certainly not intending to critique any particular seller, just sharing my buying experiences.

I need matched pairs and wanted to mix brands including 50's RCAs, VT231's, 40/50's Sylvanias and Ken Rad.

Brent Jesse Recording equipment - ordered a pair of chrome top Sylvania's.  One tube dead on arrival. Sent them back and exchanged for a pair of older Sylvanias (bottom getter 2 rivet). He labeled them as "Bad Boys" but they are clearly not the 3 rivet version.  These tubes were so Microphonic they were completely unusable. One of them actually would feed back when tapped. Sent them back. I don't trust Brent's claims about testing so I will not order from him again.

Viva Tubes - Ok, so this seller has a bit of a reputation for hyperbole. In fact, all of his Sylvania tubes have "Bad Boy somewhere in the description, I guess for internet searches.  They are also mostly not true NOS but in his description "Tested NOS"? Whatever that means. He has a solid return policy for noise and miicrophonics so I went ahead and got a pair of Sylvania 2 rivet, bottom Getters, dated around 53. Tubes are great, pins needed cleaning but they sound great and have very low microphonics and no noise to speak of. So positive experience here.

TCtubes - Got a pair of 56 RCA GTB's just now. Zero microphonics, tubes look NOS, pins are clean. Burning them in but expect them to end up being keepers.  These guys are very responsive to emails, they just do not have a big inventory of 6sn7 but I'll buy from them in the future.

Vintage Tube Services - Andy has a great reputation and is 6 weeks behind on orders (maybe more like 8) So I ordered some Ken-Rads and am still waiting.  I have high hopes for Andy's tubes. Now that I have a basic stash it won't be so hard to wait a couple of months.

I also heard good things about Upscale but they did not have much in the way of NOS 6sn7's.  A couple of other recommended dealers did not have inventory.  There is one dealer on Etsy. However, he posted a photo of Sylvania's with hand painted logo so I shied away - he is very responsive to messages however.

At any rate - I hope that Andy finally gets those Ken Rad's shipped as I think they will be a great match to the Sylvania's - best of both worlds.  BTW, so far the descriptions of tonal qualities on the Dehavilland thread have been pretty right on the money.


@tomyc6, nice score but I bought from them some years ago and they have sent me end of life Mullards, i believe they have become better by now. Few sellers now on ebay are trustworthy.

Wow, @petg60, Sorry to hear that. All I’ve ever gotten from them are brand new NOS tubes, and I’ve tested them and they’ve tested new too.

Were your Mullards advertised as NOS?
Just a quick report on my impressions of these tubes.  My Don Sachs preamp uses 2 pairs of 6sn7's, one in buffer, the other driver.  

The Sylvania's have a lot of sparkle, In the driver position, they are great on detail but female vocals a bit grainy, maybe too much of a good thing. A bit lean on bass.  If your system tends to the dark side, these would be a great match.

The best combination seems to be the RCA's in driver with Sylvania's in buffer.  Great details and separation of instruments, vocals are smooth and sweet, bass is very nice. very holographic, the magic I have been looking for.  Seems to be a good synergy.

Either combination is more enjoyable than the Shuguang's. Although they had a balanced frequency response, not much detail or depth with them.

Again, can't wait to try the Ken Rad's in combination with either of these.
Yeah, drewh1, the right tubes can add that little bit of magic.

petg60, you should have been able to return those tubes for new ones.