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The Bugle Boy 6DJ8 is over-rated if you believe it is


Any tube is only as good as you think it is. Not only does taste vary considerably, the individual use changes perspective. A lot of people who rave about the RCA "cleartop" 12AU7 and this can be a very good, energetic 12AU7 I use the 12AU7 only in vintage McIntosh and a Scott tuner and I can imagine it would be too bright in faster, modern gear. In my use, it wakes up the sleepy McIntosh pleasantly, for others it may seem too much. And conversely, I tend to be very enthusiastic about a certain 50's Sylvania 12AT7WA, but this amazingly lush and deep tube would never work for me in the same McIntosh gear as it transforms the sound into syrup- it's only good in my microphone preamp when I want that lush, "vintage", tubey sound That one is almost like a "special effects" tube! Most of the time I use a pair of Valvo, Hamburg 6201's which are a whole other story of articulate, balanced, and dynamic sound.

The other aspect of this is that the designer/refiners of tube gear, due to the limited choices of current production tubes inevitably have to design and refine so that their stuff sounds as good as possible with tubes they can buy in quantity and the owner can buy in 10 years when it's time to replace them. The Audio Research SP16 was voiced around the current production EH 12AX7A and our friend Victor Khomenko talks about focussing on the qualities of the 6H30- for which there are few alternate choices- in his use of them in B.A.T. designs. An SP16 or B.A.T. preamp is carefully arranged to sound great with the currently available tubes and the possibility that NOS will push them further in a preferred direction is icing on the cake.

The 6DJ8 family is the group I find the most problematic. It seems that frame grid tubes must be difficult to make well for use in audio, and I went through a period when I never wanted to see another one, even though I still feel the Audio Research SP10 is one of the best phono preamps ever made- and that uses 12. The SP10 drives the tubes hard enough that only 7308's and Sovtek or EH6922 will survive a long time. However, the Philips 7308 with it's higher current handling and attention to noise and microphonics seems to have a slight penalty and to me is less dynamic a tube than the Bugle Boy 6DJ8.

So, yes if the Bugle Boy is not your taste, in your gear, in your house, at this time and you believe others are praising it too highly without qualification, then ,yes, for you it's over-rated and really no one can dispute that fact. Still, I've found with NOS tubes that keeping an open mind to the significant differences when the same tube is used elsewhere- like the RCA cleartop 12AU7 example, allows NOS tubes to be thought of like an artist's colour pallette- that bizarre purple that would be terrible next to the green one in a portrait- is sublime next to the cerulean blue in the landscape.

Perhaps "tube rolling"- a term that for some reason I never liked, should be called "aural painting" or "audio colouring". It's an art- and a highly personal one at that.


Bambi B

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