Mike Outram

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Hive Mind,

I need to know more about valves. Having just spent £100 on some valves, I’m thinking they’re ok and everything, but they’re not blowing my mind. So, question is: what do you consider when you choose what you get?

Clean all the way? Break up early? What makes the most difference: pre-amp or main valves? If you’ve got 4 pre-amp valves, are they all the same? Is one for the reverb? What do you know about valves. Tell me everything you know. Starting now.

Come on. Let’s have it then…

I’m waiting…

We’ll do capacitors next week…

Anyhow, get writing…


6 responses to “Valves”

  1. Gianni says:

    IMO get some good new old stock like GE…new tubes (things like Groove tubes, and other re-branded Chinese tubes) will not last as long as they are not as good quality. Old tubes emit well after 40+ years…the new stuff dies after one year…

  2. Mike Bryant says:

    Whatever valves you use, you will never be able to push them to their limits without:
    a) doing serious ear damage or
    b) using an attenuator.
    Here’s one that I suggest:

    Also, here is a great mail order service in the UK which has some really choice valves that they deliver. (and no I don’t work for them!)

    Mike B.

  3. Paul says:

    Hi Mike,
    I was always a bit skeptical about the overall effect of different brands/ages etc until recently. A friend of mine is buidling a me a Fender Deluxe type combo and we played around with different valves…the differences were pretty amazing. I settled on some new old stock Brimars for the power stage: they just seemed to warm it all up a bit. We’re putting 1960’s GEs in the preamp. As a result of this, I’m now prepared to believe the same is true for capacitors, resistors etc!

  4. Simon says:


    Do not forget about biasing your new valves! New set of valves can sound cold and sterile if not biased properly. You can also run your power amp valves ‘hot’ giving overall sound more character but limiting lifespan of valves. Check if your amp if fixed or adjustable bias. If it is adjustable it should be checked and adjusted when fitting new valves. I like to run them ‘hot’ but it kills them quickly.

  5. Joe says:


    First of all, what is the name of the amp you are using?
    For what I hear from your playing, you know damn well what tubes are supposed to sound like.
    If you get a matched pair, or four power tubes, most likely you will not need to bias them.
    Usually, the preamp has two tubes for the gain stages and the phase inverter. Since you are not playing epic megadeath superheavy rock, the gain stages tubes should be as clean as, so you get your juice from the power tubes when cranked. This is the difference between sounding like mush or three dimensional when you play a V7b9#5 chord.
    You mentioned the tubes you paid £100 for are not blowing your mind. Do you get this feeling when you are live gigging? maybe you bought extremely linear gain tubes? are you pushing the front end with some type of booster? is anything different from before, when the sound did blow your mind?
    I’ve used a cheap, extremely loud Laney VC30 for over 4 years, played several 100’s gigs as well as daily practice and still has the original 4 EL 84 TAD tubes in it. And still blows my mind.!
    If you don’t travel overseas often, I would recommend Watford valves. They know their stuff.

  6. Mike Outram says:

    Hi Joe,
    Cornford Hurricane is the amp.
    I guess what I need to do is to try out some different valves in a shop to hear what works best. Thinking you’re right about getting gain stage ‘clean as’, and then I can drive it hard. The ones I have in it now are breaking up too early, so it sounds a bit mushy at higher volume. Needs definition. Maybe I’ll call Watford Valves and see if they’ll explain what would work best.
    Thanks for taking the time to chime in!

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