As I mentioned in my last post, I’d originally planned to hold off for the foreseeable future on upgrading the 300B tubes of my Audio Note Kits Kit 1 amp, due to the stratospheric prices demanded for those tubes. For example, I swear to you that what follows is an unaltered screen grab from a current eBay offering for a pair of NOS (new, old stock) Western Electric 300B’s:
Okay, that’s just whack. So here’s a more sane and sober example for a pair of swanky, Slovakian, KR Audio 300B’s:
Still too pricey? Okay, here’s a more real world example; the well reviewed Shuguang Black Treasure 300B:
You might still say, “Ah, but $560 for a pair of power tubes is still a lot of dough!” And I wouldn’t argue.
The point of these examples is simple: if you wish, you can spend a small (or large) fortune on a matched pair of 300B power triode tubes. Which is why I thought I’d be using my entry-level Shuguangs for quite some time into the future.
serendipity (n): the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way
In Googling around the ‘net looking for information on 300B tubes, I came across a recent article entitled “Triode Roundup: 7 ‘Common Man’ 300B Tubes Compared” by Noam Bronstein. It’s on the Canadian audio web site Wall Of Sound, where Bronstein is the head honcho. (If you haven’t spent any time on Wall Of Sound, you should. There’s a lot of great information there, and you’ll find informative reviews of equipment not covered elsewhere.)
The 7 tube brands surveyed by the author range in price from US $220/pair for the Shuguang 300B-98 brown-base (which is what my Kit 1 shipped with) to US $560/pair for the Shuguang Treasure 300B-Z.
I won’t rehash what the author has to say about these tubes, except to note that he finds none of them to be terrible, and several in the mid $200’s are deemed to be great values.
We Have A Winner
Bronstein concludes that the Genalex Gold Lion PX300B is his favorite of the bunch. Retail price is $328/pair; not “cheap,” but not unconscionably expensive, either.
Bronstein expressed thanks to a Canadian, online outfit called “The Tube Store” for supplying not only the tubes he evaluated, but also an Elekit TU-8300R amp for use in the tests.
I’d never heard of The Tube Store, and (in another instance of serendipity) a check of the company web site revealed that they were in the midst of a Black Friday – Cyber Monday Sale. (For our non-North-American readers, Black Friday is the Friday after the American Thanksgiving holiday; it’s a day many retailers discount their wares to build momentum moving into the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Etc. gift shopping season.)
So, a matched pair of the survey-winning Genalex Gold Lion PX300B from The Tube Store was discounted to around US $270, and I took the plunge and ordered a pair. Shipping was inexpensive from Canada to Texas, and delivery was very prompt: just a few days. I was very pleased.
Because I Know How Much You Like Pictures
The Sound Of (300B) Music
So, how do the new Genalex Gold Lion 300B’s sound?
In a word, “excellent.” The soundstage is wider and deeper. There’s more separation, clarity and “air” around instruments and voices. And the tubes manage to be both smoother and more revealing at the same time. Although I haven’t listened methodically to all tubes in the Wall Of Sound survey, I think Noam Bronstein knows what he’s talking about. This is a very fine sounding tube at (given the 300B market) a most reasonable price.
“Keep Them Tubies Rollin'”
So there you have it. The first stage of my tube rolling adventure is complete and the Kit 1 is sounding very fine.
I hope this article has helped you find some good, new sources of both tubes and general audio information.
Until next time, be kind and enjoy your music.