January 15, 2021

The Best EL34 Tubes For Guitar - Buying Guide & FAQ

It is difficult to pin down which of our recommendations are the best EL34 tubes. This is because each of them will impact the tone of your guitar amplifier differently.

There is no definitive answer and our favorite may not be yours.

You may be looking to improve certain qualities of your tube amp by changing out your stock EL34. Another brand may offer some different characteristics.

You may also be on the hunt because you have burnt out a tube and want to maintain the tone you had before.

In either of these cases, you should pay close attention to the tonal characteristic of the tube you plan to place in your amp.

Below is a list of some of the Star Bright Music team's favorite EL34 tubes for guitar. Take a gander below and you will be sure to find something you like.

We have also included an FAQ section. Let us know if there is anything else you would like us to cover in the comments and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Item
Why We Love It
Links
Our Favorite
Gold Lion EL34 Matched Pair
Genalex Gold Lion KT77
  • Tight bottom end
  • Smooth treble
  • Unique tone
Budget Option
JJ EL34 II Tubes
JJ Electronics EL34II
  • Good stock tube replacement
  • Sparkling highs
For Dirty Blues
Svetlana EL34 Matched Pair
Svetlana EL34
  • Driven mids
  • Smooth highs
  • Understated low end
Versatile
Tung Sol EL34B
Tung Sol EL34B Reissue
  • Versatile
  • Balanced tone
  • Russian build

Reviews

Genalex Gold Lion KT77 Reissue Vacuum Tube

Gold Lion EL34 Matched Pair
TL;DR
These are one of our favorites for their tonal profile. They are not exactly the same as you may expect from a standard EL34 though so may not suit everyone.
Check Price

Okay, I realize this is a KT77 and not technically an EL34, but they are compatible with amps that use EL34s. I LOVE their tone so I included them in our top picks.

The Gold Lion KT77 is a reissue that New Sensor Corp has engineered to be as close to the original as possible. Their team has gone to extreme lengths to make sure the sound quality and performance of these tubes is exceptional.

If you are unfamiliar with the original tubes, let's take a look into their tonal qualities. The bass in these is a particularly strong point. It is dynamic, full, and tight. What more could you ask for from your lower frequencies?

The mids are clear without being over-present and the highs extend well enough to not be considered a drawback.

If you like SED EL34 tubes you will love these. In our opinion, they are similar, but the KT77 tubes are a little better.

These tubes would feel at home in a HiFi system but they have many reasons to love them in a guitar amp.

They have an atypical tonal profile compared to most EL34 tubes. They actually land somewhere between an EL34 and 6CA7. Not ideal if you want to stick to a classic EL34 sound but can create a unique tone for you if you desire.

They have a brighter top end than you might expect which almost lends itself to 6L6 territory. You can of course still justify a Vox tone or something closer to '70s rock, depending on a few adjustments.

JJ Electronics EL34II Vacuum Tube

JJ EL34 II Tubes
TL;DR
Given that these have a reasonably low price they are a great replacement tube. They will improve your tone without shaking things up too much.
Check Price

These are our favorite value for money pick, they cost less than half what the Gold Lion KT77 do but definitely don't sound half as bad.

These actually come close to the Lions in terms of our love for them, and for the same reason, a superior top-end response when compared to many other EL34s.

These don't have as much reach for the bass frequencies as some more expensive tubes. Yet, they are more than capable of handling most situations.

These look similar to the older version by the same manufacturer. Double-check before you order that they're stamped with the "II".

The older JJ El34 tubes were good too, but these are better - a little bit of a smoother top end.

These also have technical upgrades such as crimped plates and better-formed mica spacers. Don't worry if you don't understand that last part it just means they are more reliable now.

These are a great choice if you are not exactly sure what you want to go for tonally. They will likely bear enough resemblance to your stock tubes to not throw you off completely. On the plus side, they may add a little extra sparkle to your overall tone. The low cost of these JJ tubes adds to this factor. They're a nice easy as a standard, yet quality replacement for your power tube.

You can buy them burned in already so they are plug and play.

Svetlana EL34 Tube Vacuum Tube

Svetlana EL34 Matched Pair
TL;DR
Lacking a bit of low-end response prevents this tube from being great for down tuning. There is still plenty to love if you intend to play classic rock or dirty blues.
Check Price

These are not ideal if you love a lot of bottom end growl but they offer a lot in terms of high-end clarity and mid-range energy. They are fine for most applications with guitar as the frequencies are still covered. If you play in a down tuning these are not ideal though.

When you push these tubes, the overdrive on them sounds great for classic rock or dirty blues. Pair them with an easy to push preamp tube and you can even get away with metal. Again, these aren't the best for down-tuning so just bear that in mind.

There are a few different versions of these. The Russian factory closed after Svetlana got bought out. The older versions of these are of higher quality and are technically a NOS tube now.

There is a small C printed on the older ones. Grab one if you see them. The newer ones are fine too though, I wouldn't avoid getting them just based on this fact.

These will feel right at home in an EL34 amp such as a Marshall 100.

Tung Sol EL34B Reissue Vacuum Tube

Svetlana EL34 Matched Pair
TL;DR
These are available with varying degrees of drive. This makes them perfect for many different genres. They're a safe bet if you know exactly how much harmonic distortion you want.
Check Price

Russian tubes are synonyms with excellent build quality. These tubes meet those expectations on top of offering pristine clarity and a balanced overall tone. You still have the profile of a standard EL34 but these also suck in the highs and bass to the mids.

These are an excellent fit for almost any amplifier that uses an EL34 tube. They are available in soft, medium, or hard. Hard has the most clean headroom and soft the least. So, a soft version is perfect for getting a crunchy tone at low volumes.

These are a little more mellow than some of our other picks. If you wanted a bright sounding tube these aren't the ones for you. However, the clarity and warmth are above standard so they may be perfect for your setup in that regard.

The sound is exceptional considering their price point. They are well worth your attention as a new tube for your amplifier.

FAQ

What amps use EL34 tubes?

EL34 tubes are often in British amplifiers such as Marshall and Vox. These types of amps are usually known for having scooped mids but that can vary based on the type of preamp tube used.

 

Should I Shop For a NOS Tube?

NOS tubes are older, discontinued stock and are therefore harder to come by. I would recommend getting them if you can but be prepared to pay a lot more than a newly manufactured tube. If you are unsure of what you are looking for though, it may be best to stick to a new tube.

 

Are EL84 and EL34 tubes interchangeable?

Nope! They won't even fit in the same socket. Tube names are a little confusing sometimes. Just because the letters are the same does not mean they're similar.

EL34 tubes are compatible with 6CA7 and KT77 amplifiers and vice-versa. Placing a different tube will alter the tone of your amp, sometimes for the better, depending on your taste.

 

Should I Buy A Matched Set?

Yes! EL34 power tubes are available a single, a matched pair, all the way up to 8's. It is far better to get a matched set than a single at a time. Obviously, if your amp doesn't have 8 sockets you don't need 8 tubes. Just use your common sense in that regard.

 

Final Word

We hope you have stumbled across a tube to fall in love with. If you are after something cheaper to replace a blown tube, go for the JJ's. If you want a more unique tone the Gold Lion tubes are awesome. For something versatile, check out the Tung Sol tubes. Send us a comment if you have any questions. Good luck with your shopping!

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