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Why Installing Matched Tubes In Your Guitar Amp Matters

guitar amp tubes blog post

If you haven’t read our last blog post on upgrading your guitar amps tubes to 6V tubes and why 12V tubes are bad for it, take five minutes and give it a read! It will make your amp sound twice as good, I promise! That’s worth five minutes, right?

Now that you’re caught up to speed, you will most importantly want a 6n2p to be installed with an adapter in position V1. This replaces your typical 12AX7 and actually makes the amp sound better! Again, to learn why, read my last blog post for details. The first tube in the row (to your left if you’re looking at the back of the amp) is the most important in regards of overall amp tone. That position is called V1. Next down the line is where you would want a matched pair of 6p14p tubes. If you buy only one tube for the V1 position and use different tubes for the rest of the amp, they are obviously not matched and yield a thin, hollow sound in your precious amp!

Remember to always buy matched tubes for any amps that utilize multiple power tubes. This is very important because if they are not a good match, the amp will sound like it has no balls. It will sound thin, weak and never produce a desirable tone at all. Bad tone bad. Good tone good. Me love Jane.

Be careful who you buy your matched tubes from! As obvious as this sounds, it costs some serious money for good tubes these days so if the price is too good to be true… well, you know the rest. Most current manufacturers selling cheap tubes (like the new Mullards that are absolute junk) are pretty much garbage all around. There’s a reason the old NOS Telefunkens are getting $200+ a pop. Like anything else these days, the new stuff just sucks.

A tube has to be matched in 4 different ways, utilizing many different values across the tube as it operates. That is the only true “matching” procedure. Most of the big tube providers only do testing for cathode current, however that’s just one of the four requirements for true tube matching, so ask them how many steps they do to actually match their tubes. Will their tubes be a true match with only cathode testing? No, but it’ll be close enough that it works for their unwitting customers.

As your new “matched” tubes age, they will continue to lose any match they had until they no longer match at all and your amp sounds thin and weak again. When that happens, the sound suffers dramatically and becomes quite noticeable. When you buy a matched pair that is a true match from the beginning, these will never get far enough away from each other over to ever make a noticeable difference. They will stay matched for the span of their entire lives. This is the key difference in a true 4-point matched tube set.

A pair of NOS vintage 6p14p power tubes should last you at least a decade in your amp, unless you play 8 hours a day, 7 days a week. The new current production tubes will never last remotely that long. You’d be looking at 6 months to maybe 3 years tops, out of current production tubes. So if you have them matched true, you have a very reliable and great sounding set of tubes that will last you a very long time, saving you time and money. Ever put the low grade gas into a car that requires high octane? The engine skips and has a pause between gears. The car works, but it doesn’t work well, does it? You want to make sure you give your amp the right tubes for the same reason. Your amp will be happier and so will your ears and your wallet.

Why do we match power tubes?
Many amplifiers are designed to require power tubes that have similar cathode current among other characteristics. Even tubes of the same type made at the same time will have variations in their cathode current, and this is why testing and matching is required. Again, cross-reference your tube supplier for true tube matching. I recommend THIS guy. Ask him a question and you’ll get a five page dissertation. He loves talking shop and sells what he says he is selling.

In a few short years, 6v tubes will be just as expensive if not more as current production tubes continue to be made of crap. The more that people become aware of their existence and with the current trend of tube prices, this is a definite inevitability. Back in the 90’s people found out they could use 7025 preamp tubes in place of 12ax7’s and for a few years you could find them for $2 per tube. Now a days to find a NOS 7025, your looking at $50+ all day. So that tube became more expensive as a 12ax7 in the end. Why? Because it sounded better. So now it’s priced accordingly. The tube market has had quite the history to it. As always, I recommend stocking up on amp tubes whenever you can, while you can! Some people have underground bunkers filled with freeze dried food and 5 gallon water containers. Me? Tubes, tubes, tubes, baby. I’m starting a movement of my own, it’s called MTM, #MatchedTubesMatter! 😉

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