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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 the adapter in position V1. Remember, that first tube (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. Then you would want a matched pair of 6p14p tubes for your precious amp. If you buy only one tube for the V1 position and you use one of your current tubes that will not be matched. Remember to always buy matched tubes for any amps that use multiple power tubes. Very important. Why are matched tubes important? Because if they are not a good match, the amp will sound like it has no balls. It will sound thin and weak and never produce a great tone. 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 the equipment to be able to do this. 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 they 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, not just a little. 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 time that will effect the sound of your amp. They will stay matched for the span of their entire lives.

A pair of 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. Saves you a lot of money and gives you the best sound you can get out of your amp! 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, your amp itself will be happier and your ears will be as happy as 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, nothing less.

In a few years these 6v tubes will be just as expensive if not more, sadly, as current production tubes continue to be made of crap. The more 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 easy. 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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