ECC81 preamp

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Daviedawg
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ECC81 preamp

Postby Daviedawg » Sat 12/10/11 10:14 am

For some time I have had a box of old valves sitting around left from my ham radio efforts. They were inherited from my father who was a serious electronics hobbyist. I have no idea of their age but I have had the box since the early 70s.
Among the stock were some ECC81s which I had been meaning to try out. So I picked one of each make a Mazda and a Mullard to try in my Normal channel which has a paralleled input and a single input.
I was expecting less gain and more headroom, which has been provided by both valves. But I am astonished not just at the difference in tone from the two ECC83s I have previously used (JJ and a Sovtek). But also between the two old makes.
The Mullard is soft and easy going but when pushed it has a gorgeous rounded distortion. The Mazda is similar but has a sharp edge to it.
A further benefit from the ECC81 is the variation gained from using the VVR on that channel. From clean warm tones at a good volume (high voltage) to smooth distortion at lower voltages. But the quality deteriorates sooner than with the ECC83s.
I have to confess to having been sceptical about the amount of real difference between old stock and recent production. Looks like I will have to review that position. But I have no intention of swapping out the trem channel ECC83 for an ECC81. I will have to dig deep for a Mullard I guess.

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Daviedawg
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Postby Daviedawg » Mon 12/12/11 10:10 am

Further to my item above, I have had a bit more time to play and listen using the ECC81s. Two things have become clearer. The Mazda valve is my preference over the Mullard. And if you want more clean headroom the ECC81 in the Normal channel is a good solution.

Although you can get some lovely soft distortion from the paralleled input using the volume knob. It is loud of course even with VVR. But if you want the true 18watt signature you need the gain of the ECC83.

So I am looking hard for two things at the moment - a vintage well run in ECC83 at a sensible price to see how that goes and.... a use for lots of clean headroom.

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Postby guitar-rocker » Mon 12/12/11 11:20 am

Just out of curiousity, would you compare the softer tone/cleaner headroom you heard from the ECC81 to any F*nder type amps? I'm curious, as I have a two channel build in the works, with the V/T channel based on a F*nder type amp, the other a Superlite TMB. It'll be a 36W 6V6. Thanks for your input. Terry
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Daviedawg
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Postby Daviedawg » Tue 12/13/11 2:29 am

guitar-rocker wrote:Just out of curiousity, would you compare the softer tone/cleaner headroom you heard from the ECC81 to any F*nder type amps? I'm curious, as I have a two channel build in the works, with the V/T channel based on a F*nder type amp, the other a Superlite TMB. It'll be a 36W 6V6. Thanks for your input. Terry
I have only ever owned one Fender amp which was a small solid state (cheap) one. I have tried out a few of the current crop of the valve "blues" type in a shop environment. Based on that limited experience I would say that this channel does not sound "Fenderish" but just less "Marshallish" and could perhaps be described as an "old fashioned" sound. It sounds like what I remember my (cobbled up from ex-WD radios) amps sounded like in the sixties when we used whatever valves were already in or lying about.

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Postby dotfret » Tue 05/01/12 11:56 pm

There are two distinct types of "old" ECC81, and one has a lot more gain than "nominal". I've got some old industrial Brimar versions which are very meaty compared to standard types, but they were bought for hifi purposes.

I've never been tempted to try them in V1, but I might give it a go ...
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