EL34 Tube Review (updated January 2018)
Current production EL34 tube information.
I've been experimenting for years working to find the right mix of good sounding and reliable EL34 tubes to stock here at the shop. My top choice had been the Winged C but as of late 2013, the tube is no longer in production.
EL34BSTR from Ruby and others – This tube is marketed under various brand names such as Ruby, Tube Amp Doctor, Mesa Boogie, Marshall, Valve Art and others. The tone is pretty good but as of late 2017, the quality has been on a downward slide so it is no longer my top pick.
EL34B from Tung-Sol – Tonally, it is a good sounding tube with good note definition. However, after testing a large sample for reliability for this tube, I cannot recommend it. Long term reliability has been disappointing and we no longer stock the tube.
Electro-Harmonix EL34 – Physically, this tube appears almost identical to the Tung-Sol variety and it's built at the same factory, but it lacks the welded plate structure and the shock absorbing "springs" of the Tung Sol. The tone is similar to the Tung-Sols but slightly brighter and harsher in the treble. Long-term reliability has been poor in my experience.
EL34 and E34L from JJ – While these tubes sound good with a warm smooth tone, we have had serious quality issues in the past. Although a good set will often hold up well and have a fairly long life if not biased too hot, I had found it difficult to get a new matched quad without at least one tube making crackling and popping noises right out of the box. However, quality has been improving again lately. As of January 2018, we are again stocking this tube. By the way, the EL34 and E34L are the same tube. The only difference is the bias voltage requirement. Contrary to the way they are marketed on some web sites, all other specs are identical. The power output and headroom is virtually the same for both tubes. This is currently our top pick for EL34 tubes.