6V6 Tube Review
Current production 6V6 tube information. Updated March 18, 2020
I've been experimenting for years working to find the right mix of good sounding and reliable 6V6 tubes to stock here at the shop. After installing thousands of tubes, here are my two top picks and why.
Top Pick – 6V6GT from Electro-Harmonix – This tube has always been the best sounding modern 6V6 but has had some production problems in the past. However, current production is vastly improved and it's back to it's former glory. The most authentic sounding 6V6, reminiscent of the old RCA gray plate versions. These are now the default tube in our repairs and re-tube jobs. The tone is on the brighter side and power output is above average with good headroom.
Second Choice – 6V6S from JJ. This is generally a reliable tube. Although the tone is not really true to the 6V6 standard, it is still a good sounding tube. Its voice is a little stronger in the midrange with a little more aggressive overall voice. Power output is few watts lower than some others but the perceived volume is not radically different. It's a good choice when a little more midrange grind and good reliability are needed. There are two disadvantages to this tube. 1) Mechanical rattle is a common complaint. This rattle is heard as an annoying glassy or metallic rattle coming from behind your on certain notes. 2) The output is a few watts lower than others. Because of these factors, this tube has been phased out shop here in our in favor of the EH (see above) for our standard for use in repairs and in our own Andrews Amps.
Coming in at #3 – Tung-Sol 6V6. Physically, this tube appears almost identical to the Electro-Harmonix variety and it's built at the same factory. The internal parts are the tube are moved up higher in the glass bottle but they are the same plates. The bottom mica wafer has a different shape and the getter (the part of the tube that sprays the silver coating onto the glass) has a different shape and is moved to the bottom of the tube. Neither of those components affect the tone or reliability of the tube. I realize that there is much talk around the internet by people who prefer the TS or the EH tube over the other choice but as many time as I have listened to them, I have yet to hear any difference more that what I would hear between two pairs of the same brand. I suspect these are functionally identical tubes although I have no direct proof. I have also not seen any difference in reliability between the two. Therefore, I rate the Tung-Sol third because it has a higher price tag without bringing any extra benefits.
Last choice – Ruby 6V6GTSTR. A couple of years ago,
these were great tubes but in early 2019, we started getting way too
many that were bad (crackling) right out of the box. I've not tried
them this year but since the EH 6V6 is currently working so well and
sounding so good, we're sticking with them unless things change.
Note about Grove Tubes 6V6 – GT markets the tubes on this list with their brand name on the tube and a higher price tag. Hopefully their testing is good enough to weed out the bad ones. We prefer to do our own testing and keep our prices as low as possible so we don't sell the Groove Tubes brand.