Vacuum Tube Reviews for the Schiit Lyr (1 & 2)
Note: Scroll down for updates, this post is being updated with more impressions as more tubes are being tested –
6DJ8, 6922, ECC88, E88CC, 6BZ7, CV2492, CV2493, 6N1P, 6N23P
(Scroll to bottom for detailed compatibility chart)
- What are some of the more popular sub-$100 (per pair) tubes to consider?
’60s Amperex 6DJ8 “Orange Globes”
’70s Voskhod 6n23p “Rockets”
National Matsush!ta 6922/E88CC
- JAN Phillips 6922 for ~$30 pair sound good, clear and neutral sound. Make sure to get low noise versions. They can be very microphonic.
- Matushita Mullard tooling E88CC for ~$99 a pair. Very large (too much for my HD800) soundstage. Slightly warm sound.
- Rare but worth it –
HE-500 – Lorenz Stuttgart PCC88 3-Mica
T1 – Amperex PQ 6922 Pinched Waist
- Great match for HE-500 – Amperex Bugle Boys, D-getter, ’58-’59 & Mullard CV-2492/3, ’60s
- Great match for HD650 – Amperex Orange Globe, halo getter ’67-’69 & Amperex USN-CEP, ’60s
- NL Matsu****a 6922/E88CC Tubes – these things are amazing!
Here are my favorites with the Senn HD800:
1. Amperex 6922 Pinched Waists
2. Siemens & Halske CCa
3. Amperex USN-CEP
4. Siemens & Halske E88CC Grey Shields
5. Amperex Bugle Boy 1959 D-Getters
6. Telefunken E88CC; 1960’s
7. RTC (La Radiotechnique) – both Heerlen and Suresnes, France versions
- ’68 Orange Globes with the HE-500. It definitely has a warm, tube-y sound.
- 69 ogs sound very mellow and nice
- 1965 O-Getters. I think they sound fantastic.
- I found the 60s version of the CV2493 quite good. Unfortunately the top end of the midrange was recessed. Found myself reaching for the volume knob to get more and encountering high volume with a dark centre. Not good for the ear. So their going up for sale. They’ll hopefully work for someone.
- The stock GE’s are inconsistant to me on the HD800. One session they are fun and detailed, next one they are dull (especially the lower mids) and some of the detail magically disappears. POOF I can feel a significant gap (almost a crackle) between the upper mids and the treble region, like they need a good “pop” to clear them. I’m not sure if this is due to both them and the amp being burned in (both are getting to around the 100 hour mark), but they are definitely changing from session to session.
- The 79 Silver Shield Rockets from billerB and the ones from Brent Jesse (Siemens 1972 A Frame, Amperex 1972 PQ Orange). I popped the Rockets in about an hour ago and there is a world of difference here on my SACD8004/Lyr/HD800 setup from the stock GE’s! My lower and upper mids are back. Bass has good extension, much much improved (I will be interested to see if they can tighten up the loose bass on my Denon AHD2000’s). HD800’s are just noticeably faster and more sparkly overall, pulling in details left and right. I’ve never noticed those bells in the chorus of Starship’s “Nothings Gonna Stop Us Now”. Iron Maiden’s “Revelations” has massive air between everything and is more powerful than I am used to hearing it. Midrange details are much sharper. Soundstage is roughly the same, maybe a tad bigger, but the sound is much more effortless.
- I rolled in a pair of 6N1P Sovtek tubes 4 days ago. Not terribly impressed, although the midrange is an improvement over the stock JJ’s, however the low frequencies are lacking.
- nelamvr6’s favorites:
1. Amperex 6DJ8 Orange Globes 1968
2. RTC E188CC circa 1967
3. Amperex USN 6922 D Getter 1960
4. Amperex 6DJ8 Bugle Boy 1966
5. Amperex USN-CEP 6922 ’60’s
Tubes: NOS Amperex USA 6922 gold-pin (orange print, PQ shield)
Impressions: Mind you, I just got these in today, so I’ve only been listening for a few hours. Also, as they’re NOS tubes, I don’t know how much burn-in and listening time they’ve already received. Compared to the JJ E88CC stock tubes (the only other tubes I’ve heard), it feels as if a veil has been lifted off the music. This is especially evident in the mids and the lows. Mids are clear and detailed, musical, and neither edgy nor recessed. Bass is present and cleanly defined, tight, strong, punchy. I do not feel that the highs are affected adversely by these tubes, and in fact might even sound a little better. Listening to Saber’s Edge from the Final Fantasy XIII OST, the harp and piano sound especially beautiful. Definitely an upgrade, no question about it. In conclusion, I doubt I’d pull these tubes in favor of something else, unless another profoundly positive tube review gets posted here (although I am looking forward to what Macedonian Hero has to say about the Mullard tubes).
Tube: JJ 6922/E88CC (stock tubes)
Impressions: They are a little dull or blanketed to me. I am going to try to rate all my other tubes in reference to these.
Tube: Siemens 6922/E88CC (NOS and balanced)
Impressions: The mids are relaxed and slightly recessed compared to the JJ, kinda airy sounding. The highs are more forward and detailed compared to the JJ. The bass is better defined than the JJ but the same apparent level.
Tube: Mullard CV2492 (KB/D coded from 1960s, NOS and balanced)
Impressions: About the same in the midrange as the JJ except they are a little brighter in the top end of the guitar range. Highs are also a little crisper and more forward as compared to the JJ and Siemens. Bass drums sound a bit more transient and you hear a little more of the lower frequency content of the bass drum but at the same overall level as the JJ. Overall sound is a little richer, my favorite tube so far!
Mullard CV2492 (1960’s style)
You already know what I think of these from my previous review. This is to me my golden standard for the next couple reviews. They are though the most expensive tube in this review by far.
Amperex A-Frames ECC88 (Holland made)
These tubes are very similar to the Mullards. Their mids were a little more grity sounding, highs are very close, bass was lacking a tiny tiny bit of extension but levels were darn close. Might next best choice to the Mullards. I had a hard time choosing between these and the Mullards when it came down to selecting my favorite pair.
Ampered Bugle Boys 6DJ8 (Holland made)
Overall the Bugle Boys were leaner, airy, light on bass, (less lush) than the Mullards. I wasn’t a fan of them but they sound like a brighter JJ (less veiled)
Telefunken E88CC (German made)
Got a little funky, nice sounding tube, less wet/lush in the mids but equivalent in highs/lows to the Mullards, Might be a good tube for someone looking for something a little airy compared to the lush sound of the Mullards. I think some people may find these a better alternative to the A-Frame Amperex depending on their personal preferences.
My favorite tubes in order:
- Amperex A-Frames
- Bugle Boys
- JJ (stock)
PCC-189 are a variable gain tube, basically like how compression works in some systems, on my TV for example, i notice the music is too loud in films compared to the speech, but there’s an option to enable “compression” to make all the sound the same volume, no-more sudden deafening music scores. Some people like this effect, others don’t.
- PCC85 are a 9.5v heaters compared to the 6.3v the Lyr outputs, will work for sure but definitely not optimally, the maximum heater voltage you should go for in a tube would be 7.6v like the PCC88, there is a lower heater voltage version of the PCC85, look for ECC85, these are more akin to 6N1P tubes that Schiit offers for sale with Lyr.
- Testing the Russians (’74 OTK) 6N23P cryo treated right now and i’m not really good at this but I would say the soundstage is great however the highs are a bit too damped for my taste.
- NOS Amperex Orange Globe 1969 tubes. He said there was around 20 hours on them. I have given them a try and for some reason they sound way worse than stock to my ears. They seemed “slow” to my ears and to be honest a bit boring. The stock tubes sound ok to me but I can tell something is missing especially in the treble area.
- Radiotechnique RTC’s are beautiful tubes. A little more delicate to my ears than the Mullards but fantastic soundstage, touch of warmth and pristine detail. Very balanced from bass/mid-range/treble….and they fit your budget.
Mullard CV4109’s – The Mullards are incredible tubes with warmth, detail, great soundstaging and ROBUST instrument timbre.
1. ‘65 Amperex 6922 USN-CEP: I’ll call these reference tubes, as they are head and shoulders above the rest.
Pros: Completely unforced retrieval of detail, I.E. details present but not in your face. Excellent sense of space, I.E. instrument and vocal separation and the space between; great ‘soundstage.’ Accurate tone: I’ve heard many of the artists listed in the favorites section above live, and these tubes nail tone. Balanced: No particular portion of the frequency spectrum stands apart from others. Speed: Not to fast, not too slow. IMHO too fast=quick rise time=loss of decay and harmonics, too slow=lagging rise time=loss of pace, rounded tones and harmonics.
Cons:Microphonics must be controlled, as they are a little more prone to picking up transformer vibrations than others. A tad lean, which is attributable to the balanced response and balanced speed. I mention this as a con because many accustomed to romantic tubes would call it so.
2. ‘70s National-Mullard 6922, ’76 Voskhod 6N23P: These are very different tubes. The National is quick and tonally clean while the ’76 Voskhod is slower and tonally rounder. They tied to my ears, as I prefer one or the other for different types of music. Voskhod=Classical, reggae, generally music with pace equal to the tube. National=Rock, pop, bluegrass, hip-hop, same comments on pace matching. National Detail Retrieval: Equal to the Amperex, but a little too much at times. ’76 Voskhod Detail Retrieval: Slightly opaque compared to the other two, but still very good. Transients are missed in some cases. Definitely never forced or overdone. National Space: Very good, with separation and delineation not up to the Amperex. Soundstage on par with the Amperex. ’76 Voskhod Space: Largest soundstage of all tubes compared, but the weakest separation, more opaque within the stage between sounds. Very romantic, however. National Tone: A little dry, lean, harmonics suffer compared to the Amperex. Favors transient shifts ’76 Voskhod Tone: Round, warm and favors decay of harmonics at the expense of transient shifts. National Balance: Favors upper mid range and lower treble, can sound a little bright, not kind to compressed recordings, which at times makes its favored rock and pop genres fatiguing. ’76 Voskhod Balance: Favors bass and lower mid range, but still has good extended upper treble, lower treble a little shelved, bass is deep and round, but not bloated. Can sound a little thick, can put one to sleep. Speed: As mentioned above, National=quick, ’76 Voskhod=a few gears slower.
’73 Reflektor 6N23P: Many give this tube a bad rap, but I like it. First, it’s extremely rugged. It exhibits no microphonics. One can tap on the Lyr’s case and hear nothing in the ‘phones; can’t say that for the other three. It’s primary fault is too high a rise time, which doesn’t allow adequate decay and development of harmonics. Detail: Very good, but upfront and prominent, glosses over slow cadence in the treble, which is often found in reggae. Space: Good, but not as convincing as the other three, and a few levels below the Amperex. The speed doesn’t allow full stage development. Tone: Quick, lean, dry, like a faster version of the National. Super clean. Very deep and tight bass, however. Mid range leans towards good solid state style. Balance: ‘V’ shaped curve to my ears. Tends to obscure the mid range. Hot in the upper treble. Speed: I won’t be redundant; very fast=too fast, rise time too high.
Conclusions of the Comparison:
1. I think the ’73 Reflektor is a bargain.
2. The National is perhaps the best cost-benefit, even at $80 a pair from Tubemonger (they are almost gone).
3. The secret is out on the mid-70’s Voskhods, so they are difficult to find at reasonable cost. I wouldn’t pay $100 for a pair, but I might buy a mixed batch of 20 – 40 from Russia and pray for rain.
4. As with most things of value, you get what you pay for. The better 6DJ8 variants are costly for good reasons. If you are keen for good tubes, perform careful research and pull the trigger.
- If you want superior results without breaking the bank, the best I’ve heard are the Tesla E88CC Gold Pins (+/- $50/pair). The Amperex USN-CEP’s are also superb, but more expensive.
- If money is no object, the best of the best (to my ears of course) are the Siemens & Halske CCa and the Amperex 6922 Pinched Waist tubes (next to impossible to find). These two are the only tubes I’ve ever heard that scored 10/10 in my personal rating system with the HD800 phones. Telefunken E88CC’s (also expensive) scored 9.5/10, the next highest.
- The Tesla and the Amperex USN-CEP’s both scored 9/10, as did the Bugle Boy 1959 D Getters.
- Everything else I’ve heard so far, which includes 1975 Voskhods , various other Bugle Boys, Orange Globes, both Dutch and French RTC’s, Lorenz Stuttgart ECC85 3-micas, Amperex A-frames, Siemens NON-CCa’s, did not sound quite as good. These scored (again, this is my evaluation system, no one else’s) between a 6 and 8 out of 10 with the HD800.
Ediswan CV2492 / 6922
Matsu / Nation PCC88
Siemens ECC88/PCC88 <= 1970
Ediswan have been great for me so far! neutral-ish, great sound stage and separation for certain. without super bright treble either.
- Siemens CCa Vs Voskhod ’75 Grey Shield
Tonally these two tubes are pretty much identical. Both have a very flat response and not overly ‘Tubey’ in their sound. To clarify the ‘tube’ sound to me is a bit rounded and punchy in the mids. Sometimes ‘tube’ sound is a bit soft on the details and the trade-off is pleasant to listen to. Many would argue this, but I’m talking about cheap common tubes. To my ear they typically fall a bit short.I gave each pair 1/2hr to warm up. Both are well broken in. The CCa with maybe a few hundred hours on them, the Russians have 100hrs of break-in time only. They might get much better with time, but I don’t know.The Russians are slightly more intimate with an ever so slight emphasis on warmth over the Siemens. Both allow you identify placement and certitude of instruments with ease. I seem to be mostly focused on sound stage these days. Space and art of envelope layering by the artists. So I’m going to focus here rather than anywhere else, other aspects being negligibly equal.
- AMPEREX ORANGE LABEL PQ 6DJ8 / ECC88 – A veil has been lifted off the music. I used to find the Lyr too warm but now the sound is perfectly balanced. Mids are clear ,detailed, musical, Bass is tight, strong, punchy & highs sound a little better.
Ediswan CV2492 +RTC E188CC 7822 + National-Matsu 6922 = Maybe all you’d ever need
- Mullard/Amperex Orange Globe Blackburn tubes and wow, oh WOW, OH WOW! This is exactly the amazing sound I was after.
- Siemens CCa and Telefunken E88CC. Both superb.
Russian 6N1P: Much better sounding and musical than the JJs. Brings back the bass, and some fairly decent mids. The highs are a bit rolled off, but not lacking at all.
Amperex OGs (Halo Getter, 1969): High extension without being sibilant, a nice, deep, and tight bass without being overpowering. Very well balanced, and euphonic sound. Its not the most neutral, but I find it colors the sound in the right way.
Amperex OGs (A-Frame, 1973): Very very similar to the 1969 OGs, however I found the Halo-Getter has a deeper bass extension than the A-Frames. The A-Frames have not been burnt in yet though.
Matsu 6922: Not sure how to describe these, they sounded fairly flat and neutral, but rolled off at both the extremes. Found it too bright with some tracks, but found it too bassy on others, almost like they have small humps at the mid-bass and mid-high regions. Probably need more time with these. Out of all the tubes, these were the only new tubes, all others had some hours on it already.
- great success with the HD800s, the Lyr, and the Russian Voskhod 6n23p. These Voskhods outperform the standard OTK Reflectors, and the very rare ’75 Voskhod Gray Shield wire getter posts have beaten every high end tube I’ve heard
- Siemens & Halske 6922 CCa Grey Plates and Amperex 6922 Pinched Waists. To my ears, these are the pinnacle, 10/10 in my personal ratings, but good luck finding them and kiss your wallet goodbye if you do find them. Next, I would say that all of the following are superb (9/10 in my system – not in any particular order, except that I am very partial to the USN-CEP’s):Amperex USN-CEP
Tesla E88CC Gold Pins (excellent bargain)
Valvo E88CC, both Red Label Gold Pin and plain Gold Pin versions (also excellent bargains)
Amperex Bugle Boy 6DJ8 1959 D-GettersNext, the La Radiotechnique (RTC) tubes, both Heerlen and Suresnes, France versions are very good; 8/10 in my rating system.
- First Place – Voskhod 6n23p 1975 silver shield wire getter post. Supremely musical, incredible layers of detail. But the winning factor, the ability to just capture the emotion of the music and sweep you away. Just an incredible flow to the proceedings – layers and layers of detail – never muddled or congested. Soundstage deep and wide, on the Maggies just breathtaking holographic. Albums went by last night as I just became absorbed into the sound. Whether on the lyr/hd800 system or the Maggies just incredible.Second place tie: Voskhod 6n23p 1975 gray shield, plate getter post. Well I was initially expecting these to take the prize, but they ‘only’ tied for second place. The margin between these and above was small and came down to that flow equation. Very sweet sounding tube, silky textures, great detail. Deep layers of sound, all clearly distinct and just as silky smooth as the main sound. On David Gray’s White Ladder album – ‘Please Forgive Me’ has the gravely voiced Gray singing, backed ever so subtly by these violins. These could be followed easily, but most important were just silky smooth, a great contrast to Gray’s close miked voice. The later bass drops had slam and deep extension. The opening drum taps realistic, the bells just hanging in space – with reverberations prolonging into the deep black background. The cymbal taps clear, again hanging in holographic space. Gray’s voice has this capturing spacey quality. All excellently portrayed. Again these only lacked that last bit of flow and just a bit less depth of detail from the above.Second place tie. Amperex USN-CEP white label 1965 USA. I really love this tube, unlike other Amperexs l have tried these have greater detail, and aren’t so euphonic. A true match for the best Voskhods, wonderful flow, large sound stage, sweetly musical. Just a touch more layed back then the above Voskhod Rockets. Backgroud textures were clear and silky smooth. On Florence and The Machine ‘Dog Days Are Over’ no etch on Welch’s voice which can be heard on some tubes. I use this track to test for this and in the middle section – for congestion – as it gets very loud and busy. Not with the USNs, everything cleanly seperated, easy to follow, no strain at all. The main difference between these and above Voskhods, especially the 1st place winner, a slightly more layed back presentation and a touch darker. Some may prefer this depending on their source. Mine was a tubed DAC – APL NWO, for those with a solid state dac this slightly darker nature may be prefered.Third place: Voskhod 6n23p 1975 gray shield wire getter post. These were the darkest of the group, and lacking a slight amount of detail. On Gray’s track, I had to work a bit to follow those background violins. They were there, but just didn’t have the clearness of the above. Their silky texture masked a bit. A little congested and a bit of etch on Dog Days as well. Solid bass slam and depth.
- Detailed compatability Chart:
Note (1): Equal “=” signifies equivalent tubes using different naming conventionNote (2): Slash “/” signifies closely related tubes but are variants of the original
Note (3): Schiit column indicates compatibility statement on Schiit’s website
Note (4): mu means variable gain which is not recommended for the Lyr. The standard gain (mu) for the 6DJ8 is 33
- I have listened to the Siemens & Halske E88CC (Gold pins, double stage o-getter with chrome shield) for two days now and boy do I love this sound. I was going for a bigger soundstage and if possible a good, tight and controlled bass. The soundstage is incredible, but I might even be more impressed with the bass. I wasn’t expecting it. A really nice welcome. It’s so tight, so controlled, so clean. Incredible. All my music sounds better now.
- I find the Amperex usn cep 6922s (mid 60s) are great for bass – deep, warm and plenty of punch. Add in to that, lots of detail and you got yourself a very nice tube.
- Enter the E288CC!….. This is a bizarre tube in that it is technically not the same as the 6DJ8.
It is taller and although has the same tube pinouts, it has 2x the gain.
What I like about the E288CC is that it seems to create a very large soundstage without any sonic veil like a Siemens CCA but with mids from an Amperex.
This tube does everthing well and is one of my fav tubes.
Just need to turn down the volume a little.
On an Amazon customer review of the Schiit Lyr, someone also praised the E288CC highly.
- wide soundstage so the E88CC (with insane bass) is great.
- JJ E88CC – Came with the my Lyr – Okay, but I would pass. 71/100GE 6BZ7A – Minimal improvement over the JJ’s but nothing special, I would passToshiba 6DJ8 – A noticeable improvement in sound, but nothing special, I would pass
Philips JAN 6922 – A seriously good sounding tube. These are good for what they cost, but still a long ways to holy grail tubes
CBS 6DJ8 Made in Germany – Was told these were good alternatives to Telefunkens at a fraction of the price. Didn’t really care for them.
Amperex 6DJ8/ECC88 Orange Globes – Great Britain Small O-Getter – Very nice, very lively tubes. Was told these were relabeled Mullards. One of the best I have heard.
Amperex 6922 JAN White Label Large O-Getter – Very similar to the Orange Globes above, but larger soundstage and clarity extension. Missing some extension on the low end. Great sounding tubes, but for what they cost, I think there are better
Telefunken ECC88 – These tubes are in my Lyr right now. They are my favorite of the ones I have tried so far. I would highly recommend to anyone looking for great bass and and impressive soundstage and great dynamics.
- I have to say something about the underrated Siemens steel pin tubes. These tubes were made by Siemens in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. They were made in the Siemens factory in Munich Germany. These tubes are EVERY BIT AS GOOD as the vaunted Telefunken tube
- The Siemens E88CC are a big step up from the Amperex tubes. The E288CC have a insane soundstage that should work wonders with classical. For me the E88CC are my favourite between the two because I just love love the bass from them and they have great soundstage as well
- Amperex Fat Bottle 6DJ8 (Hungary 1983) tubes for the Lyr 2, I can tell already they sound much better than the Amperex Bugle Boys 6DJ8 (Holland 1964) on the Lyr 2. Soundstage finally came to life on the Lyr 2 and the bass has a lot more slam, some reason the Bugle Boys were overly flat sounding on the Lyr 2.
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