You say the ol' Camry ain't cuttin' it? Well check out this hot little number right here. Why, she's clean as a whistle and only like 40 years old... all highway miles... got one o' them Wankels too. Bobby, go an' show the li'l lady that sweet little...
Mazda-Bellvue 12AU7 we got out back. And she is a beaut. Intricately constructed, the Mazda is one architecturally silverlicious bottle if you like that sorta thing. No used car salesman needed to get you into this one. Sonically, I was again reminded of the tonal beauty of the Amperex, even writing that the contest "may be too close to call". Or maybe I was just getting burned out on the by now illegal quantities of Norah Jones that I was mainlining. I dunno. Anyway, ultimately, though the Mazda had an extreme makeover kind of outward beauty and a similarly aesthetically pleasing tonal beauty with perhaps a smidge more bass and impact than the Amperex, like Britney Spears, the Amperex just nipped it in terms of inner glow and tonal complexity. Translation? It's the Amperex for me by a nose, but the Mazda gets damn close. Pretty tube too, did I mention? She looks great in a Mini!! (Damn, there goes that one girl reader in Cleveland! Womyn, I said. Womyn. Damn. Sorry Srajan).

And now for something compluhtely different: 6moons is proud to present Captain Beefheart and D-Getter sisters! Yeah!
There are many tjoebs in this survey. Only one is steppin' large and laughin' easy with nary a natural male enhancement pill in sight. He's Captain Beefheart, the Heinz and Kaufman E80CC (apparently a rebranded Philips Holland-made Goldpin E80CC as Bill says that Heinz and Kaufman just re-branded tubes and didn't manufacture them). Now we coulda gone with the obvious Heinz ketchup play here, but when you've got a good inch in size on a standard 12AU7 and you draw literally twice the current, well, you're special. (Don't worry, the Minimax can handle it, sez Bill. We shall see!) Now, I had it from on high that the Captain gets a little irate when you plonk him down in the amplifier tube socket, apparently sounding a tad too aggressive. So he gotz hisself plunked into the
middle tube slot, the buffer. Did I try him in the amplifier slot to check Bill's advice? No. I would never either doubt Bill or annoy the Captain and by this time, I was now blowing a good 0.22 on the Jones-o-meter. Oh waiter, check please. But in the buffer stage, this big boy of a bottle proved he had the intestinal fortitude to back up his brawn. The music became more driven, meaty and powerful with great timing and excellent bass. Norah Jones almost became Curt Cobain. Well, maybe Eric Clapton. Seriously, this would be one great Rock tube! And it wasn't edgy in the least. Also, a lot of stuff seemed to be happening in the musical background when this tube was in place. The sound seemed somehow busier in a good way. In fact, Bill O'Connell wrote me that some gentleman in Taiwan uses a pair of Beefhearts in his Mini, one in the amp section and one in the buffer stage. He claims to have reached the 7th degree of mau tong. It seems that usually only those above the age of 80 can reach this level of peace and tranquility. I sent my mother two Heinz and Kaufman E80CCs immediately. No word yet.

D-Getter sisters
You've got their album, no? By all means run out now! How much worse than Norah could it be? D-Getter sisters are 1959 Sylvania and Tungsol 5963s - they are sisters. Turns out it's code for Goldstein. I never would've guessed. Always trying to be something you're not. Well, that's show biz, I guess. Anyway, both D-Getters were D-lovely. They sounded very similar in that both were even-handed tubes which barely put a foot wrong. They both sounded like refinements of the stock 12AU7 and I could live happily with either girl indefinitely. Or both. But that's another website. Really great sounding -- aw hell, 'neutral'
-- tubes both of them.

Rectifying the situation
Bill sent me a number of rectification 6X4 tjoebs, some rarer than rare and some, well, less rare. All altered the sound in some appreciable way. (Now that's reviewin', eh? Now we're talkin'!) Seriously, some warmed things up a bit like the Haltron Dark Glass CV 493, and some thinned things a bit and maybe added some speed like the Tungsol 6X4 WA. Truth be known, I haven't even worked my way through all of them because I decided to shine the spotlight on the 12AU7s this time. But one leitmotif did surface in listening to 3 or 4 of them - the stock rectifier tube is indeed quite rectus. I realize not all of us speak Latin so I'll translate: It is one righteously good tube in my opinion, serving up a nice even tonality with better bass than the few rectifiers I've tried so far. I'd stick with it. I'll let you know if I come to a different conclusion in the near/far future. E-mail me. We'll do lunch. How're the kids?

Bet you didn't think rectus meant all that, huh? This is in fact precisely why Latin has fallen into such disuse over the years - the vocabulary tests were murder!

Fra Diavolo
Eh, ahm tawkin t'yoo! A phrase meaning that Joe Fratus, head designer and owner of Art Audio USA, is addressing you, kind sir. And when he talks, you betta respond or friggin' else! At least that's the feeling you get when you tawk to 'im on the phone for the first time. Ever think to yourself what if Tony Soprano designed single-ended tube amps and sold them to the public? Me neither. But I certainly thought that after talkin' to Joe. Don't get me wrong, he's the nicest guy you ever want to meet once you get to know him. But before that? You better watch your family. Know what I'm saying? Badabing, Joe gets the cameo television role. So does his amp.

The Diavolo SET amp is an oft-written-of-in-these-cyber-circles object d'art and for good reason. It's a silver-and-gold chromed wonder that upon receipt, had me in mind of American Chopper. You know, that show about Orange County Cycles starring the ripped, loud and 'stached Paul Tuttle Sr. and his quieter and consequentially more productive hen-pecked son building kick-ass and flashy theme choppers. Like a spin-off of Paul Senior, I picture Joe Fratus yelling at some hapless offspring in his factory stuff like "get on that goddamn tranny! I want all dese damn chrome jobs finished, do you hear me? Finished by nine tonight and don't gimme no bullshit, Vinny!"

Well, by some happenstance (maybe Vinny screwed up?), my Diavolo happened to come with what were billed to me as the only set of, wait, let me get the box, KR 842VHD output tubes in private ownership in this here US of A. True? I dunno. But I felt special and sure wasn't gonna argue with Big Joe. So, I did the only thing any self-respecting FNG audio reviewer would do: I asked my editor what to do. He

was nonplussed. "Review 'em". So I did. In fact, it was these apparently very new and therefore equal parts scarce tubes that I used in my Diavolo for the First Annual Norah Jones/Vanilla Ice NOS Tjoeb Festival (see above). They served me well. But how would they fare against their more standardly supplied Diavolic brethren, the KR 300BXLS? You're on the edge of your ergonomic chair, aren't you? I can hear it creaking. Here goes:

The KR 842 Very-High-Dynamics tubes sound one way and the BXLS tubes sound another. Let me clarify somewhat. They are so different sounding that it's like have two Diavolos, one for business and one for pleasure; only they both offer surpassing amounts of pleasure. Now that's the business! The 300BXLS has a big, smooth and easy wall-to-wall sound, filled with lush colors and liquidity. The slight softening of transients and filling out of textures is immediately apparent when you switch out the KR 842VHDs for the BXLSs. There is really no reduction in bass but there is perhaps a perceptible slowing of pace. Things take their time a bit more. (As a recent ex-Naimie/flat-earther, I am particularly sensitive to pace variations, I think) You stop and smell the roses. You smile. God is good. It is a beautiful night. ("God Is Good. It Is A Beautiful Night", page 285 of The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, Vintage Books Edition, copyright 1982. It is the poem that begins his collection entitled "Transport to Summer". )

Until, that is, you throw your pair of super-secret ultra-new KR (lemme get the box again) 842VHD tjoebs in your Diavolo. Then, still smiling, you become afraid. Very afraid. I could swear when I first set up my Diavolo with these bottles that I heard a subtle whining from it. I dismissed it as a break-in issue. But I now know, upon comparison to the 300BXLS tubes, what that subtle little whine was. It was the turbochargers inside each of these benign-appearing bottles coming on-line at idling RPMs. Then I pushed play. Wanna know what PRaT (Pace Rhythm and Timing) is all about without having to sell your soul and join the Naim cult and ultimately go through the shaking chills, high fevers and diarrhea that accompany de-programming and subsequent withdrawal? Think tube amps, especially SETs, are tooby and torporous? Yeah I did.

Until Joe's amp grabbed me by the balls and unceremoniously plunked me down in my own amplification slot on the couch. Then I heard a loud "bonk". I turned my head sharply to find that the Diavolo, fly unzipped, had all 13 watts sprawled across my coffee table. The amp was laughing. There were fives and ones in his g-string already and the music just started!

Speed, pace, rhythm and detail - the 842s had it in spades. With these in place, your Diavolo will stay with whatever other amp you care to drag it against. Just pull up to the stoplight and let 'er rip! It also manages, while at speed, continued nuance and subtlety and superb image definition and space. Excellent plump and pitch-accurate bass is the icing on this hot-rodded cake. Don't get me wrong, you still get palpability, intimacy and all those other adjectives - just, well ... Fra Diavolo! Big Paulie would be proud.

So you pays your money and you takes your chances. Personally? I wouldn't wanna be without either tube. The best thing is, for a little extra change, you don't have to be. "Buy one amp, get one free!" For some reason, it's not the official Art Audio motto (there's no accounting for advertising), but if you've got a Diavolo and you buy yourself whichever set of these big tjoebs you don't have - it'll become yours.

PS: I hear Norah's coming out with a new CD soon. I rang up Bill and he's gonna send me 20 more tjoebs!

PPS: It was a joke. Hey, where you goin'? Come back!

Eastern Electric website
Art Audio website