Mook's Taste Tests for EL84


In the month of December 98', there was a lot of talk about EL84s on AMPAGE. In fact, there was one person who did some listening tests.

Well, I did the same. I "tested" 5 different duets of EL84s. Although, I tested 5 different sets, it looked as if some of the sets were internally similar (same internal component structure). Even though certain sets seemed internally similar (hey, that's a tongue twister!), I got very different aural "results".

The following list of gear is for "comparative" purposes only. This is NOT meant to "plug" or praise certain manufacturers (There have been posts about this recently as well). The guitar(s) were plugged straight into the amp.

I listened to Ruby EL84R, Tesla 6BQ5, NOS Sylvania, Mesa/Boogie 6BQ5, and Groove Tubes GTEL84S. I "listened" with the volume knob at 2 different positions - at 40% (medium) and at 100% (full).


Tesla 6BQ5: With a Strat at medium, these tubes had a nice, but slightly "biting" clean sound - very "toppy". At full, these tubes definitely "cut through". With the LP, these tubes were TERRIBLE at medium volumes. Other tubes were slightly "acoustic" at medium volumes, but not these. At full volume with the LP, is where these tubes were the best. BOSTON. Yes, BOSTON. The first and only thing that came to mind was the 70's group. Somebody presently has a post on AMPAGE about trying to find that "BOSTON" sound...well, look no further!

Ruby EL84R: These sounded somewhat like the Teslas but they were more "natural" and better sounding. These tubes exhibited slight "acoustic" properties, with both guitars at medium volume. Although they did sound damn good at full volume with the LP, these did not have that "Boston" sound. In other words, these tubes sounded like a more "professional" version of the Teslas (without that Boston magic).

N.O.S. Sylvania: With a Strat at medium volumes, these tubes sounded a little bright, but still very nice. At full volume with the Strat, these tubes were very, very "Texas" - very throaty midrange and very "Stevie". With the LP at medium volumes, they had a slight acoustic property, but at full volume, they took on a very tweed sound. Billy Gibbons. Although a bit darker sounding than other tubes at full volume, they still had a very nice and pleasant top end. These were very good tubes.

Mesa/Boogie 6BQ5: These tubes pretty much sucked. With a strat, these tubes were way too bright and had no character - I didn't like them. With a LP, they were mostly midrangey. Still, no character or acoustic properties. These tubes were the worst in the "showdown".

Groove Tube EL84S: Of all the tubes, these seemed to have the most "acoustic" sound and presence. At medium volumes with both guitars, these were perfect "strummer" tubes. Great for chords. With the strat at full volume, these tubes sang perfectly! With a LP at full volume, these tubes had the perfect Marshall "rasp". Of all the tubes auditioned, these sounded the most Marshally with a Les Paul. Presently, there is a "Groove Tubes" thread happening. Here is some data to help support Groove Tube enthusiasts.


As I said earlier, some tubes looked as if they had similar internal components. For instance, the Ruby EL84R and Mesa 6BQ5 looked identical. Are these the same tube? Probably, but I got drastically different listening results. Also, the Groove Tubes EL84S and Tesla 6BQ5 looked the same. But again, even if they were the same tubes, I got very different listening results.


The Best was the Groove Tube EL84S. Clean (nice acoustic sound) and Dirty (Marshall City), these were the best sounding. The next were the N.O.S. Sylvania. If I were playing SRV or Billy Gibbons, I would choose these, as these tubes receive the "Little Texas" award! The 3rd runner up was the Ruby EL84R, followed closely by the Tesla 6BQ5 (remember to think "Boston" with these tubes). The last were the Mesa/Boogie 6BQ5.


Mook did a followup test you should read as well. -Miles

Thanks to Kevin Miller aka "Mook" for doing the testing and sharing the results with us in alt.guitar.amps .
Last updated: 26 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 <> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514