Telefunken vacuum tube E88CC-TK; NOS versus brand new.

Telefunken vacuum tube E88CC-TK; I just purchased a pair of these and they are fantastic; they raised my phono to a new level.

Now here's the question, I paid $60 apiece for a pair of these brand new. "Uncle Kevin" at Upscale Audio, sells these for $349. apiece. His are NOS, they should cost more, they also probably last longer, but do they sound better? That is the question. It is not in my budget to pay $700. to find out. Do you have any comments on this?
Only similarity is the name, which was purchased.     Whether you’d appreciate the differences, between what you own and NOS 6DJ8/E88CC iterations (there were many manufactured, over the years) by Tele; no one can possibly say, but you/your tastes.        Telefunken has always been acknowledged as one of history’s preeminent tube manufacturers.      It’s no surprise; some find it profitable, to purchase names like Genelex/Gold Lion, Mullard, Telefunken, etc and ride along on their reputations of excellence.
As long as it has your ears attention, it doesn't matter.

New Tele's are only a name. Like so many popular brands from the past, it's just a licensed name. Probably from the same  Russian factory many other tubes are made.

I’ve used 6922 tubes for many years, and these are the best I’ve ever purchased. In regard to NOS being much more expensive; I’m not going there because I still believe NOS are better if they are genuine because of production and material available. While that would make them last longer, they may not be audibly better than a new tube coming from the same factory.

As I look at it, I can buy 5.8 tubes for the price of one NOS; I don’t think I’ll even bother to find out if they last longer, because I have doubts about them sounding better than these.

Thanks for your comments.
   "........they may not be audibly better than a new tube coming from the same factory."           What factories exist, that were owned by the reputable manufacturers (ie: Telefunken, Mullard, Genelex, etc) whose names ALONE have been purchased?          Perhaps I'm missing something.
Telefunken never had a factory, or-manufactured a tube, in Slovakia.   All of their assets, during their vacuum tube production years, were located in Germany.      There is no, "same factory".      The name/logo wasn’t even purchased/licensed, for use in the USA, until 2000.     It was well after that, JJ (et al) contracted to make tubes for ’Telefunken Elektroakustik’.,-FE%20I%20....      I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with their tubes.      BUT- they’re NOT Telefunkens, in anything but name/logo.

^^^^^what you bought -- it is a gold pin sovtek/electroharmonix made russian tube

^^^^^ same same - probably one of the best modern 6dj8 types... certainly well qc’d at the plant so as to justify the price


just so you know op - a real german made tele small signal tube will have a 4-seamed top and usually a diamond mark on the glass circle at the bottom of the glass envelope inside the 9 pins

To anyone's knowledge, are there counterfit TFKs with the diamond stamped in the glass on the bottom of the tube, or can one assume that if the diamond shape is there, we have a genuine TFK?  Seems to me by now someone must have copied it, so you can never be sure what you have.  In my case, I have ECC83s that I personally bought new in the mid-1970s.  Only because of that, I am fairly confident they are real.
Lew, I believe the Telefunken diamond is unique. It's too difficult to fake. Most fakes are in the lettering and logos.

I want to thank everyone for their input; you guys have really added to my knowledge of vacuum tubes.

As good as these tubes sound, the first thing I'm going to do Monday is order another matched pair and hope I luck out again.

When people who know more than I do, take the the time to answer my questions, I want them to know how much I appreciate their help. It irks me that after knowledgeable people take the time to answer questions, some folks don't even say thanks. I'm not one of those; THANKS !
noromance, I agree and that is what every knowledgeable and reputable vendor has told me. 

NOS TFK’s (<>), whether 6DJ8 variants, 12AT7 or 12AX7 have been my favorite input/driver tubes for as long as I can remember. IN MY GEAR they have always sounded the most naturally textured, extended, dynamic, you name it as compared to NOS German Siemens, Amperex (USA, Holland) and other highly regarded tubes; not to mention modern tubes. I have not tried the very recent crop of East European or Chinese tubes, but for whatever it may be worth I have not tried a modern 6DJ8 variant that has come close according to my tastes. A beautiful sounding tube.

Orpheus-10, I have a beautiful pair of genuine TFK (<>) E88CC that I am not using and is NOT for sale that you are welcome to try and compare. (you pay ship/ins). Might answer your questions. PM me if interested.
 7DJ8 is another safe swap for the 6DJ8. 
There are NOS that can be found for sane(under $50) if you do a little hunting.

Brent Jesse's inventory is spotty at the moment, but scroll to bottom-USA section


you are welcome

a few other comments:

- we are in an era now, finally, where the russian and china tube makers are making very good quality and really excellent sounding products - they have been at this for 15-20 years now and they have their basic sourcing, production and qc processes pretty much in order (not to mention being savvy marketers scooping up the old dead brand names newbies read about and seek out)... so we as users can get input and power tubes that are easily the equal to old stock ones they are modeled after -- current tube makers are audiophiles with good ears too, and they are listening to what they are making...

- so when you find modern stuff you like - like your tele-labeled 6dj8 tubes - note who the supplier is and how the tubes have been graded, and as you are, get a spare set to have

- the problem with modern tube makers is how they sell their wares, especially their ’not-so-well’ qc’ed stuff... tube making is ultimately a make and sort process -- many bad ones are made with the good ones -- they are gonna blow that off quality stuff out to maximize their sales, and that’s why we need to be super careful about unknown ebay vendors or folks without sterling reputations selling certain tubes at surprisingly good prices - those should raise red flags right away

- as good as they look and sound, what is unknown about today’s good, premium tubes is their durability and longevity - these tube makers are trying to maximize profit, and are still at a disadvantage when it comes to sourcing rare and pure metals that were used in the great tubes of old, what we see are tube makes going with more sturdy inner parts to help longevity despite using cheaper/more impure metals... we shall see about this

cheers and happy listening
Many years ago I compared several brands of 12AT7 type tubes. To my surprise, by far the best sounding was a Chinese made variant sold to me by Billington in the UK. Since Billington is now out of business, I don’t know where I would get more of them, if I needed them, but fortunately I do not need them. My point is, don’t sell Chinese made tubes short if SQ is the major criterion. (The Chinese 12AT7s didn’t last long in use. Second best in my experiment w 12AT7s were GE 5-star gold pins.)
I've had lots of Telefunkens and believe they are the most neutral and transparent. Until I tried Shuguang Black 12AX7LS from Grant Audio. 
I recently rolled in a number of different NOS tubes to compare to the stock EH's that came in my amp and the stock Sovtek's that came in my preamp. The tubes include NOS Amperex PQ's, NOS Silvania Gold Brand, NOS Telefunken Smooth and Ribbed plates, NOS RCA Clear tops and the now unobtanium NOS 1963 GE long plates. While there are considerable differences between these tubes as to SQ, all of them sound to my ears superior in one way or another over the EH's, or the Sovtek's. YMMV.
I’m glad there are still companies out there, making tubes for our gear, wherever they may be located.      With enough variety to satisfy most tastes, in sound/presentation.       Even some that competed with the clarity/purity and quality of NOS Teles.       Although; the admission to that ballpark was a bit steeper.              ie:                   I hated to see, those have been discontinued.                  Happy listening!

That's very generous of you Frogman, and I'll make arrangements to accept your offer.

Dave, this is not the first time I got these same kind of tubes. I don't want to mention who I purchased them from, but the tubes went bad, and they made things good. The second tubes didn't last as long, but long enough that I couldn't request my money back.

These present tubes came from a different source

It seems that who ever gets the tubes from the manufacturer has to take them through a lengthy screening process to deliver the best tubes. When the tubes sound good and the price ratio is 6 to 1 for NOS, I have to give some latitude.

I am 100% per cent in agreement about NOS tubes. There are so many factors that make this so, including the experienced people working on the line to manufacture them, that no longer exist.
For my Fosgate Sig phono-pre Musical Surroundings used to provide Chinese 6922 tubes whose principal quality was that they were especially quiet. The pre is all tube w/60db gain, no solid state, no SUT. The pre (while still great) has not been made or sold for a long time and those tubes are no longer available from MS. I keep looking for quieter and quieter, phono-pre quiet, 6922s at a good price. Any suggestions?
@melm- Upscale Audio tests and rates their tubes for noise, as do some of the other tube mongers.     Look for his, "Platinum" rating, for the quietest.             Brent Jessee’s noise testing procedure, about half way down this page:       Can’t go wrong, with either of those sellers.
"For my Fosgate Sig phono-pre Musical Surroundings used to provide Chinese 6922 tubes whose principal quality was that they were especially quiet. The pre is all tube w/60db gain, no solid state, no SUT. The pre (while still great) has not been made or sold for a long time and those tubes are no longer available from MS. I keep looking for quieter and quieter, phono-pre quiet, 6922s at a good price. Any suggestions?"


I have the Fosgate-version 2. If you want NOS, 7DJ8 as another alternative.

 They can be found at reasonable prices compared to other 6DJ8's.  I use the Japanese Matsushita. Can't say I actually hear any improvement. According to the manual, the Foz himself says the 12ax7 in the V3 slot is the "money tube". Triode matching in both halves of the tube is important for that position, based on the manual.

I just took a look at what the tube I use is going for. It used to go for half of what it is now, when I purchased them just a couple of years ago. Still less than some of the others. The new Russian tubes are probably fine, and reasonably priced.
Guys used to buy obsolete Tektronix oscilloscopes, in order to harvest from them the Telefunken 6922s, for use in their audio systems. I suppose they are all gone by now. In my one piece of gear that uses 6922s, I have been very happy with Siemens CCa types.
NOS Telefunken 12AX7s are available at more reasonable prices from Victor Kung at  He imports the EleKit amps and more. Tell him Boomer Bill sent you. They work amazingly well for me.

Music is very important to me, not stereo equipment; however, the importance of stereo equipment changed after I wandered into a high end emporium in 1990. Before that time, I had absolutely no idea how good music could sound when played on "High end equipment". That was also when I discovered tubes.

The thought never occurred to that I had been listening to tubes from the time I was born, and that transistors were what was new. Somehow "they" made me believe transistors were the thing, but after "re-discovering" know the rest.

It's nice to be communicating with people who know just how far a good pair of tubes can elevate a phono or preamp, and I am learning a lot. I have a question for you, with NOS tubes, it's difficult to ascertain how much of the price is due to scarcity, and how much is due to the outstanding ability of the product to deliver the goods. Do you have any comment on that?


mostly scarcity

there are old stock tubes that deliver all or most of the magic of some of the ’famous’ ones - for say half the money or less, all about supply and demand

witness 12ax7 vs 12au7, or german telefunkens vs hungarian tungsrams

Thank you JJ. I know for certain that RCA NOS 12AU7 deliver good value.

You've confirmed my opinion of very high priced tubes before I purchased any.
While I agree that "tube rolling" can make an audible improvement in SQ, I think of it as something one can do if one has no further understanding of electronics or skills on the workbench, the use of which can effect much bigger and more permanent positive results.  More permanent because tubes age, and in doing so they change characteristics.  So, for example, "matched pairs" of tubes usually will not stay matched for long.  And any tube will change sound over time. But a better sounding film capacitor is for all intents and purposes, forever.
While searching for three matched pairs of early Sixties (grey shield/external date code*) Siemens CCa’s, for my BAT CDP’s output stage, I purchased a matched pair each, of the same generation/iteration E88CC and E188CC (only those found with close balance between triodes and high mA, etc).     As most probably know; the CCa was a specially tested/selected, low noise designation, used by the German and Dutch Post (more on the link).      Bottom line; they all sound almost identical, in the CDP (low noise not being as critical).        Nice thing about these 10K hour tubes; they just continue to test very closely balanced, between triodes and their matched-pair partner, after ten years.       Makes them worth every penny, in my estimation.                 *The silver shield/internal date code CCa’s always sounded too zingy, to me, whether in my ARC SP-9, SP-14 (when I owned them) or- the CDP.                                        Yeah: low supply and high demand (there’s a reason).
@orpheus10 - If you get to try Frogman’s Teles, please: post your impressions.
Typically, in a CDP, tubes are used as cathode followers at the output of the CDP.  A cathode follower does not add any gain to the signal voltage and therefore is fairly neutral in its sonic signature.  If done well, it can be completely neutral.  I think there are or were a few CDPs that did use tubes for gain, such as the Raysonic's.  In that latter case it might be worthwhile to use the expensive Siemens CCa's in a CDP. 

Here we go with more pure "opinion":  I don't like 12AU7s at all.  Whenever possible I have replaced them with 6CG7 or 6FQ7, which are identical electrically.  Among 12AU7s I have used, Amperex Bugle Boys, real ones, were the best, but still not quite as good as a 6CG7. (You can't just plug a 6CG7 or 6FQ7 into a 12AU7 socket; some re-wiring is required.)  I'm talking about gain stages; 12AU7 is probably OK for cathode follower use. It's just my opinion, and I was wrong once back in 1965, maybe.  (Kidding.)

Let me tell you what prompted me to write this thread. For about a year now, I've been focusing on TT, phono, and cartridge. With each upgrade I got substantial improvement, but it wasn't until these last tubes did things really pop. BTW, this is the second set of these same kind of tubes, but this set was purchased from a different tube monger.

That just goes to show you that not every batch of tubes is the same, especially when you're talking about new tubes as opposed to NOS. These last tubes opened up a new world; records that have been in my collection forever are brand new all over again.

I bought Carol King's "Tapestry" when it came out, and now it's like I'm hearing it for the first time; we're talking holography, and each song seems to have more meaning, plus somehow I can almost feel her presence in the room. The bottom line to all of this is just how much difference the right tubes can make.

Also, you must take into consideration that this is the last improvement at the bottom of the list of many other improvements, all in the record playing section.

Some nice 12at7wa tubes discovered by myself when I was looking for a cheaper alternative to my rare Telefunken ecc801s military NOS tubes:

National 12at7WA “Pinched Waist” (Matsushita/National)
From tube experts online: “I’ve noticed that tubes from 1958 and earlier have a bigger pinch then tubes from around 1960. Personally. I haven’t seen tubes after 1960 with a pinched waist. The most well known pinched waist tubes are from Philips Heerlen and Valvo Hamburg. They were made mid to end 50s and have the glass pinched around the top mica spacer. I assume this was done to fight microphony. They were only produced for a few years AFAIK and the technique was later abandoned by tube manufacturers. I had always thought the pinching was to clamp the micas in tighter to reduce mechanical vibration of the structure and therefore microphonics.”  

Sylvania Gold Brand 12at7wa (Gold Pins) and National Matsushita 12at7wa are on this image

NOS Japanese Matsushita pinched waist tubes are great!  it was direct replacement in my push-pull amp (where the power tubes are rare Telefunken E84L). 

Whatever new tube with an old company logo is nothing but fake, an old (NOS) Telefunken are probably the most expensive tubes and there are good cheapel alternatives (old tubes). NOS 12at7 (ecc801s telefunken) tubes are much better than new (if they are perfect). 

The primary reason for my confidence in stating that, if not for the lower noise floor of the CCa Siemens, the E88CC and E188CC's all sound virtually identical, is the fact that the BAT CDP has allowed me to hear every nuance, of every tube auditioned.   That always held true by changing just one pair, out of the three pairs it takes.     The personality of the BAT was changed dramatically (not a statement I make lightly, or- often), from the Sovteks that were stock, with any NOS tubes I tried.    The closest I ever came, to the presentation of the Siemens CCa, was an early Sixties, Amperex Navy, 7308, pair.    But; they warmed thing up, a bit more than I like.   Bottom line, regarding NOS Siemens; if you want the transparency, texture, freq extension (in both directions) and ambience info recovery of the early CCa (what buyers have valued about them and Teles, for decades): the 88's and 188's will deliver, for a lot less $$.    If you need super low noise (for pre or phono), have them tested.

All of this information is ever so helpful; I am strongly anticipating a change in my present financial condition; that will allow me to try more tubes with your recommendations.
According to the old stories, HP used to hire co-op students to test their E88CC's etc. and reject 98% of them. A percent or two got to bear the HP logo. Those tubes populated the instruments that sent men to the moon.

They sound better than the rest, as you would expect. Used to cost the earth, now no-one remembers what they really were. Major bargain.

Best of all were those made and selected for HP by TFK. I bought a sleeve of E88CC's, three of which still bear the TFK and HP seals. Never heard a tube close to them, and that includes pinched Amperex, TekTronix, etc.