6L6 vs EL34

6L6 vs EL34: Which is The Better Tube Amp?

Planning to buy a new tube amp for your setup?

Tube amps are small sets of vacuum tubes. These tubes work as amplifiers to increase the amplitude of a musical instrument. The inside of the vacuum tubes heats up really fast to change the level of different frequencies. 

Considering all that, Both 6L6 and EL34 are on top of the mind when it comes to tube amps. So, which one to get between 6L6 vs EL34?

The main difference between 6L6 and EL34 is in the distortion. EL34 creates the high distortion that works best for the British music style. Whereas, 6L6 maintains a constant distortion level throughout different frequencies.

Still not sure about the details? Just jump right in and let’s find out the differences between these two tube amps in detail.

Think About Your Current Setup And Figure Out What You need

Before you even decide on getting a new tube amp, you should think about how and where you are going to use it. 

A general rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “ What kind of music do I play?” or “What sort of sound am I Looking for?” 

Also, it’s important to think about the condition of your setup. Are your tools of good quality? Are they in peak condition?

If you’re using your guitar extensively, it’s better to get it plekk’d beforehand. This will give you a clear idea of the condition of your tools. If any repairs are necessary, get them done before investing in an amp.

Although you won’t be able to tell much difference in hindsight, you will definitely notice that 6L6 Tubes can produce a wide sonic footprint. Whereas, EL34 can give you extra gain sounds and produce big crunch sounds. Now let’s dive deep to understand the difference in more detail.

6L6 vs EL34: Quick Features

Comparing different tube amps can be pretty tough. So, before we jump into the details, let’s take a quick look at the features of these two amps first.

Feature6L6EL34
GridHeats up less                                                        Heats up more           
PurposeAmerican Style            British Style                
Genre of MusicJazz                             Rock                         
DistortionLow distortion thresholdHigh distortion threshold  
Sound QualitySmooth transition between different frequencies High distortion, high gain
Wattage55W                          55W                       
Bias Voltage-37V                           -38V                         

Not enough to quench your thirst yet? Don’t worry, this was just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s dive into the details of these two tube amps!

6L6 and EL34: The Nerdy Details

Before we even get down to the nerdy details, you may ask, What is a 6L6 tube amp? 

6L6 is a beam power tube. It converts the sound of your musical instruments. And then amplifies it to a certain controllable frequency. They are mostly used by guitarists playing songs in the jazz genre.

Although 6L6 is very popular in America, the European counterpart is not far behind. The EL34 tubes are a founding pillar for British rock n roll. So, what is an EL34 tube amp?

EL34 is a thermionic tube of the pentode category. This is best known for cranking up the Mid-Range frequencies. Thus it is more popular among the British as it suits their music style.

At this point, you might be wondering why these details even matter. What’s so important about these small tubes that people hardly notice? So, it brings up an important question, Do power tubes make a difference?

Yes, it does. The easiest way to differ is, 6L6 tubes are made for American Style Music. Whereas, EL34 is for British Style Music. 6L6 has a unique design that offers versatility over different frequencies. On the other hand, EL34 offers a clean and crisp sound in Mid-Range frequencies. But it doesn’t do much on the low end or the high notes. 

The Grid Difference 

The functionalities of the tube amps are similar in many ways. However, the final outcome of the music differs a lot. It is due to how the tubes were made. Grids are basically 2 rods which are- anode and cathode. They work tirelessly to amplify the music with the free flow of electrons.

6L6

Before moving on to the explanation, a question may arise, What type of tube is a 6L6?

6L6 is a beam power tetrode. It allows the amp tube to do its magic between two grid points. The grid points are in close proximity to the vacuum tubes. That magic of electrons jumping around freely within the grid makes 6L6 very versatile. 

EL34

People know EL34 for its British heritage. So they are often curious, What type of tube is an EL34?

EL34 is a thermionic vacuum tube. It allows the amp tube to consume a large amount of electricity. So it can dish out a huge amplification of the frequencies it receives. Because there is more electricity flowing which creates more heat. And more heat means more resistance. This is what lets the EL34 tubes make a crisp sound in Mid-Range frequencies.

In other words, EL34 tubes need a lot of electricity to run. As a result, it heats up very fast. Thus, you may ask, Are EL34 tubes good?

For those who prefer high distortion performance, then yes, EL34 tubes are good to go. Their main advantage is getting the crisp and loud crunch in Mid-Range Frequencies.

Threshold of Clip and Distortion

There are a few terms that you need to know so that you can understand the depth of distortion. 

First of all, let’s talk about distortion. Imagine your amp getting cranked up. And at one point, it’s so cranked up that the power tubes start behaving strangely. To be more specific, the power tubes start conflicting with each other. And that’s what we call distortion.

Moreover, clipping describes the transition from smooth sound to distorted sound. Lastly, Overdrive generally means the distortion that is smooth, warm and rhythmic. You can notice the difference by using a dual rectifier for EL34 and 6L6.

EL34

Due to EL34’s higher voltage and current flow cap, the tube gets hot real fast. Thus the amps are able to offer a high spectrum of overdrive.

Furthermore, upon the rise of volume, the tubes break up the distortion in a rhythmic way. It offers room for distortion to work in an explicit way. This even gave birth to several AC/DC songs! 

Compared to 6L6, the transition from smooth to distortion with overdrive is more rapid with EL34.

6L6

6L6 offers a wide range of bass frequencies and sonic footprint if it is controlled. Because it is easy to go over the distortion threshold. This may result in a very undesirable tone. It is more commonly known as “bloom”.

The threshold of distortion is lower due to less resistance to heat and lower voltage rate. In this regard, 6L6 offers a more calm and monotonous sound compared to EL34. Genres like blues, jazz, etc take advantage of the 6L6 threshold by adding solo tones and single notes. 

However, the restricted clipping and distortion limit some aspects of “sudden change of flow”. It offers to utilize clipping in a different way which is smoother than EL34. In other words, you will have more options available in 6L6 than EL34. But there are limitations to distortion in 6L6. 

Audio Gain & Sound Quality

Now the main concern is EL34 vs 6L6 audio gain and the overall sound quality. Audio Gain and Sound Quality is the main purpose of selecting the right tube amp.

Some people want a high distortion and some play in different melodies. Whatever it is, it all comes down to the type of amp system. To be precise, it depends on which tube amp you are going for. 

Oh, and you might find irritating microphonic feedback while using both the tubes. There’s a chance that you can easily solve this by using tube dampers. And that’s why we’ve excluded that from our discussion. Now, let’s dive into further details-

EL34

By now you already know how distortion and clippings play a major role in music. And another part is about controlling that distortion.

When you are adjusting your gain for your song, you will have a strong tonal level. This tonal level ideally exists around the Mid-Range frequencies.

In simple words,  EL34 sound quality can go from mid frequencies to lower values with a big crunchy noise without sounding awful and vice versa. 

For example, in the 80s & 90s, crunch tones and high-gain alternatives were trends in Europe. Bands like AC/DC, Queens used Marshall Amps or VOX Amps with the EL34 tubes. It gave them control over those distortion and crunch levels.

Lastly, with the preamp gain fixed, you can adjust the sound to your liking. However, you can’t achieve this with 6L6. 

6L6

Now, you may don’t know what type of songs you’re more comfortable with. So, you’re currently playing songs from different genres. In this case, it is safer to go with 6L6.

Because 6L6 produces clearer and warmer sound without too much distortion, unlike EL34. This means you will also have less control over the distortions. These tubes are mostly used with Amps like Fender Twin Reverb, Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, etc. 

6L6 features a shining high-end frequency without a sharp drop of mid-range oscillation. So, you don’t have to micro-adjust your audio gains. The sound quality you get is soothing for people who are into the jazz genre.

Wattage

If you are thinking about getting a specific tube amp, you will need to consider the wattage. So, let’s take a look at the wattage of these two tube amps.

EL34

How much power does EL34 Consume?

The maximum power output you get from EL34 is 55W. So you will be consuming 55W per hour. But the internal anode voltage is 265 V and the anode current is 100mA.

6L6

How much power does 6L6 Consume?

The maximum power output you get from 6L6 is 55W. So you will be consuming 55W per hour. But the internal anode voltage is 350V and the anode current is 54mA.

Brands

There are many brands out there that make different types of EL34 and 6L6 tubes. At the end of the day, it is up to the user to decide which amp tube to get.

EL34 

There are a lot of brands that make EL34 tube amps. However, there are some brands that stand out from the crowd. They are-

  • Mullard Reissue EL34 Power Vacuum Tube for Hifi
  • JJ Electronics Amplifier Tube for Marshall
  • Genalex Gold Lion KT77 for guitar amps

There are many more variants of EL34 tubes out there for different instruments but the main purpose and value you get from them remains the same.

6L6

And the renowned brands for 6L6 are-

  • Tung-Sol Reissue 6L6GC
  • JJ Electronics
  • Groove Tubes GT-6L6-R
  • Electro-Harmonix

Again based on the instruments and your purpose, you need to get the right size and brand.

6L6 vs EL34. Which One Should You Buy?

Although it may seem that both 6L6 and EL34 give the same result, there are many subtle differences. Starting from the build quality to sound quality and audio gains which were discussed in-depth earlier. If you are to choose between the two then there are some factors that you need to consider.

Factor 1: Purpose

Let’s say, you are into the metal genre and running your Harley Benton. Naturally, you will be googling, 6L6 vs EL34 for metal and which one is better? 

Now, if you’re into thrash and death metal, then high distortion, constant rifting are a must. Thus you are bound to go for the EL34 route. Because you will get more value out of it.

Also, if you are more inclined into following European bands, that is another thing to consider. 

But if you are more into monotonous metal and love the flexibility, with a mix of different sorts of metal subgenre then it is better to go with 6L6. Again, 6L6 tubes are best suitable for playing American-centric music. That can also be a determining factor.

Factor 2: Genre of Music

What’s your music taste? Are you into Rock? Or are you into metals? 

Bands like AC/DC, Queens utilized the high gains from EL34 tubes to hit high rock distortion sounds. If you are following these artists for a long time then you may as well follow in their footsteps.

On the other hand, 6L6 offers a warm and melodious tone sound with medium gran clips. Musicians like Andy Timmons, classic steely Dan used a wide range of smooth clean tones with the help of 6L6.

Furthermore, heavy rock bands like Metallica, Lamb of God also relied on 6L6 for their versatility. They can play any song in both low range and high range frequencies with minimal adjustment. 

Factor 3: Sound Quality

We already mentioned earlier how the EL34 and 6L6 dish out different levels of distortion. Also, audio gains make the difference stand out even more.

So, If you are going for high gains and distortion then it is ideal for you to opt for EL34. On the contrary, if you want to shift to different frequencies easily, then you should definitely go for 6L6.

The Best Amp System for EL34 and 6L6

At this point, you’ve already known a lot about the amp tubes. Now the question arises, what amps use EL34 tubes?

These days almost any amp system supports EL34 tubers. Marshall, Orange Rockerverb, EVH, and Bogner Uberschall are some of the most popular ones.

There are many amps systems out there. So many that it is easy to lose track. 

On top of that, there are various types of tubes. So, what amps use 6L6 tubes?

These days almost any amp system supports 6L6 tubers. Fender Twin Reverb, Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, and Victory Kraken are the popular ones.

EVH 6L6 vs EL34

This is one of the heated debates in the community. EVH has been in the game for a long time. Their amps system has been performing really well whether it is running on EL34 tubes or 6L6. Their recent product is EVH 5100 and so far EL34 version is coming out on top.

Bogner Uberschall 6L6 vs EL34

Bogner is popular for serving different wattages of amplifiers which adds more flexibility. Because you will be able to fit in different sizes of tubes. EL34 Tubes have been performing really well with Ueberschall. Because those tubes need a lot of juice to go wild and Ueberschall is ready to deliver. 

Victory Kraken 6L6 vs EL34

Although Victory Kraken is new to the market, its switchable bias feature or dual-channel mode offers flexibility like never before. They are currently rocking the Guitar amp industry and slowly rising up on sales.  Because you can switch between 6L6 and EL34 mode, you can enjoy the benefits of both spectrums.

Our Recommendation

If you were looking for a better tube between 6L6 vs EL34, you were looking for the wrong thing. Because both of these tube amps have their own place to shine.

And most importantly, you know better than anyone for which purpose you need an amp. So, see which tube amp meets your requirements and get one from here right away!

6L6EL34
JJ Electronics 6L6 Amplifier TubeMullard Reissue EL34 Power Vacuum Tube
Tung-Sol 6L6 “STR” Power Vacuum TubeElectro Harmonix EL34 Quartet Matched Pairs Power Tubes

FAQs

Question: Are EL34 and 6L6 tubes interchangeable?

No, they are not interchangeable unless you change the resistors. EL34 and 6L6 use different bias voltages. So you shouldn’t use a specific type of tube amp in another model. But modern amplifiers can support different voltages. Read the manual of the amplifier to be sure.

Question: What are the best EL34 tubes?

Mullard Reissue EL34 Power Vacuum Tube for Hifi, JJ Electronics Amplifier Tube for Marshall and Genalex Gold Lion KT77 are the most popular EL34 tubes right now.

Question: What tubes can replace EL34?

6CA7 and KT77 can replace EL34 tubes. Structure wise they are similar. But the different model tubes will result in different sound qualities as well.

Question: Can I replace 6V6 with 6L6?

No, you can not replace 6V6 with 6L6. Because their bias and valves aren’t the same. The amplifiers are built to support specific valves. 

Conclusion

As we’re here, we hope that you found your winner between E34 vs 6L6. Both of these have their own place to shine. So, get the one that meets your requirement.

If you have any other inquiries, feel free to let us know in the comment box.

Until next time!

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