Mook's Taste Tests for EL34
INTRODUCTION:Well, here are the EL34 Taste Test results. I tested 5 different sets of EL34s in a Marshall 1987x Reissue head and Marshall 4x12 cab (circa 1977, loaded with G12H 30-watters). Vacuum Tube Valley did an EL34 report in their issue #2, Fall of 1995, but didn't get into listening tests. Rather, VTV posted various charts on voltage handing capabilities and distortion of 2nd order harmonics.
The following list of gear is for "comparative" purposes only. This is NOT meant to plug or praise certain manufacturers. The guitar was plugged straight into the amp with a 20-foot Spectraflex cord. Volume and Tone knobs on the guitar were set to full (10).
Tubes tested were Svetlana EL34, Siemens EL34G, Sovtek EL34R, Tesla EL34, and Tesla E34L. Each duet was evaluated with the volume knob at 1.5 (clean) and 8 (distorted, if I put the knob on "10" it gets a bit too mushy, so I consider "max" to be at "8"). I played for about 10 minutes on each EL34 duet. Hot tubes were removed with leather gloves. I kept my BiasProbe attached to one of the tube sockets and every time I inserted a new pair of tubes, I adjusted the bias to 40mA.
- Reissue Marshall 1987x (50 watt) head with 4x12 slant cabinet loaded with G12H 30 watt Celestion speakers. The plate voltage in this Marshall is 464 volts. I kept the tone knobs as follows throughout the entire test: Presence = 2, Bass = 3, Middle = 8, Treble = 2. I used the #1 input and did not bridge the channels.
- Heritage Les Paul copy with Seth Lover pickups strung with D'Aquisto nickel round wound size .012-. 052.
RAW DATA:Svetlana EL34: When played clean, these tubes were very harmonically rich, but bright. Not terribly, piercing, but still very bright. Great for chord work and strumming when you need to cut through the mix. Also, great on the neck pickup. When distorted, they were fairly thick and had a nice harmonic richness. These tubes seemed to excel for cleaner and semi-distorted playing styles. Nice for finger-picking.
Siemens EL34G: When clean, these were as harmonically rich as the Svets. These did seem a little more smooth that the Svets and not as bright. They also had a bit more midrange. When distorted, these tubes were very thick and rich - just like Mom's brownies! Out of the entire tubes tested, these had the best and richest distortion sound. The distortion sound had a slight "Boston" (the 70's rock group) effect.
Sovtek EL34R: When clean, these tube very midrangey and lifeless - they lacked harmonic richness. When distorted, they sounded a bit "ratty".
Tesla EL34: These were not as detailed and harmonically rich as the Svets when played clean. They had less high end. These tubes had a decent distortion. The distortion characteristic was somewhat on par with the Svets, but with a bit more midrange. The Teslas didn't have quite the harmonic content of the Svets, though.
Tesla E34L: This tube seemed to share the exact characteristics of the Tesla EL34, while exhibiting more midrange. This increased midrange really shined through when maxed-out. The distortion what quite thick and ballsy! In fact, the distortion what almost up to par with the Siemens. The clean was very midrangey.
CONCLUSIONS:The best were the Siemens. Those thick distorted tones were pure heaven! No other tube matched the Siemens for it's thick distortion tone. In addition, the Siemens had an excellent clean tone as well, very detailed and harmonically rich. Recent posts to alt.guitar.amps report that the Siemens are not that well suited for road work, as they tend to have mechanical problems and cannot take higher voltages. That being said, the Siemens might be best suited for the "studio" or home use.
The Svetlana EL34s and Tesla E34Ls receive a second place tie, but for different reasons. The Svets were exceptional when played clean. Very harmonic and chimey - excellent for chord work. The Tesla E34L, on the other hand, while fairly nice clean, excelled at thick and "ballsy" distortion. If you were to combine these two tubes (the clean aspect of the Svets and the distortion aspect of the E34L), you'd get the first place winner, the Siemens.
The fourth place winner is the Tesla EL34. These had a decent clean sound, but not as harmonically rich as the Svets. In addition, they had a respectable distorted sound, but not as tight and rich as the "big brother" Tesla E34L.
Last is the Sovtek EL34R. The clean sound was lacking and sterile - not terrible, but nothing to "write home about". When maxed out, these tubes sounded a bit "ratty", not the rich smooth distortion that we all know and love. Don't fret, though. When played though a Marshall Power Break or Sholtz Power Soak with the amp volume maxed, these tubes lose their "ratty" feel and actually sound good. When played at cleaner volumes, these tubes don't sound half-bad either. So, these EL34s combined with the Power Break or Power Soak actually sound pretty good!
Thanks to Kevin Miller aka "Mook" for doing the testing and sharing the results with us in alt.guitar.amps .
Last updated: 05 May 1999
Taste Test copyrighted by Kevin Miller aka "Mook" 1999. Incidentals copyright 1999 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved. Miles O'Neal <roadkills.r.us@XYZZY.gmail.com> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514