It’s cool that Joe Bonamassa is a pretty regular participant on the forum at his website. Maybe that’s because, at 32, he’s a little younger than most guitar heroes. Or maybe it’s because he’s jazzed about gear and wants to share what he’s learned – and is still learning.
Whatever the case, the fact that he shares beyond just giving interviews with guitar magazines is great.
Here’s what he says about tubes, edited a bit for brevity and punctuation.
“I usually prefer JJ tubes for everything – EL-34s and 6L6s. My stuff moves hundreds of miles a day. It’s played hard, put away still warm and travels. So the JJs work for me. Mesa tubes run too hot but are good. Svetlanas, new Mullards and Sovteks are good for the Christmas tree but not amps. Groove Tubes are okay, depending on the rating. My favorite of all time is a tie: old Teslas from the Czech Republic and Siemens from Germany.
“Again, it’s all ‘season to taste’ here. But a bad tube will ruin your amp’s tone.
“Pre-amp tubes are again subject to taste. Like you, your amps have good days and bad days. Power plays a big factor in that. Anyway: Old GEs are great for 12ax7s and 7025s. For 12 AT7s I like RCAs. I use an AT7 in my Chandler Tube Driver – makes it less gainy, as it should.
“For blue-collar, street preamp tubes, I’d use JJ honestly. That’s what’s in the Jubilees and Dumbly things I own.
“Be sure to not get too involved in the nanoisms of tubea and concentrate more on achieving the tone from your playing and attack. That’s the real key IMHO.”
He also added: “When running new tubes, break them in. They will all start out a bit sterile, but a week in it’s magic, two weeks in they are perfect, three weeks in you start to lose midrange and by week four it’s over…time to start again.”
Bear in mind Joe is out doing it every day! Maybe substitute “week” for “year?!”