The 4 Best EL34 Tubes for Metal – Reviews 2021

best el34 for metal, best el34 tubes for metal

Photo by Shane Gorski / CC BY

Getting an EL34 tube for metal makes sense since the EL34 is one of the most popular models in the history of amplification. You’ll find them installed in popular metal amps, especially those made in the UK, like the JCM series from Marshall.

EL34 tubes use the same 8-pin base as other common power tube designs, like the KT77 or 6L6GC. This means you can often upgrade to EL34 tubes, even if they didn’t come installed in your amp, so long as you’re careful to match the power draw to avoid damage to the circuits.

Sonically, EL34 tubes are known for their aggressive projection. You’ll mostly notice this in the mid-range of a guitar’s tone. They also tend to have a tight low end and a lot of bite and crunch. This has made them especially popular with blues and rock players, but these tonal attributes are just as desirable for metal guitarists. All of the EL34’s below deliver the right amount of punch and power for players in all of metal’s many subgenres.

These are our recommendations for the 4 best EL34 tubes for metal on the market:

JJ Electronics T-EL34-JJ-MP Amplifier Tube

JJ Electronics makes a range of reliable, high-quality power tubes. Their T-EL34—JJ-MP tubes are 25 watts and sold as a matched pair for easy installation. They’re also a great value, especially given JJ Electronics’ reputation for consistency.

One reason the JJ Electronics T-EL34 tubes are perfect for metal is that they can stand up to heavy use without giving out. Once you install them in your amp, you won’t need to replace them for years. Sonically, they’re well-balanced throughout the frequency range. The clarity in the upper register is perfect for screaming solos, and there’s a nice tight bottom end, too.

JJ Power Tube Comparison (EL34, E34L, 6CA7, 6L6)(HQ Audio)

Valve Art EL34 Vacuum Tube, Apex Matched Quad

Like the tubes above, the Valve Art EL34 Vacuum Tube has 25 watts of output power. It’s sold here as a matched quad, which gives you the best value per tube. These high performance tubes are built to resist overheating. This makes them less likely to fail than other tubes—a big plus for metal players.

One great thing about these Valve Art EL34 (see full specs) tubes is their consistent sound. No matter what brand or style of amp you put them in, they’ll give you a full, rich tone with a lot of presence. The high end is clear and articulate, and there’s no muddiness down low. The only thing to be aware of is that they’re a bit larger than many stock tubes, which can make them a tight fit in certain amps. If you can handle that, these are among the best EL34 tubes for metal period.

Valve Art TUBES - Review of Cheap VALVES

Electro Harmonix EL34 Tube Quartet Matched Pairs

Electro Harmonix is another big name in power tubes. Their EL84 matched quad could ger pricey, but Marshall amp owners especially will find that extra investment worth it. Their sound is perfect if you want that classic ’70s rock or metal tone, with a natural overdrive that breaks up right where you want it to.

There’s a reason a lot of high-end amplifiers come with Electro Harmonix power tubes (see full specs). The EL34 combines vintage sound with modern performance, with an impressively deep bass and nice detail in the upper end. Electro Harmonix EL34 tubes help professional Marshall or Hiwatt amps reach their full potential, and can completely transform the sound of cheaper amps with stock tubes.

Edelweiss-3 amp with Electro-Harmonix EL34 tubes

Tube Amp Doctor EL34B STR Premium Tube

Finally, this matched pair of EL34B STR vacuum tubes from Tube Doctor is a high-gain, dynamic option suitable for the most powerful and intense genres. The cooling grids on these tubes are larger than most, and that gives it more stability and protection against overheating.

The main thing you’ll get with the Tube Amp Doctor EL34B is power. It’s got the same massive output in the bass as in the upper range, and there’s no mid-range sag. As an upgrade of stock tubes, the Tube Amp Doctor EL34s can literally make you feel like you’ve bought a completely new amp, unlocking potential you didn’t know your equipment had. For the money, these are among the best EL34 tubes for metal.

EL34’s for Metal: Is It Safe to Upgrade My Tubes?

We mentioned in the intro that an EL34 can fit seamlessly in place of many other tube styles. Just because it will fit doesn’t mean it belongs, though. Installing the wrong power tube can damage your amp, so you’ll want to do your homework first to avoid a costly mistake.

While they all have different designs, EL34, 6CA7, and KT77 vacuum tubes all draw about the same amount of power. This makes them largely interchangeable. Just make sure you replace the tubes in matched pairs, and that the pair you install has matching ratings.

If your amp has a different style of tube (6L6GC, EL84, etc.), EL34 tubes aren’t usually drop-in replacements. Having said that, there are often easy tweaks that can be made to modify the amp for EL34s. Guitarists who know how to adjust the bias and make basic equipment upgrades can often do this at home. If you’re not experienced with these kinds of modifications, hit up your local guitar repair store to ask if it’s a good idea for your amp, and how much it would cost to have it done.

So What’s the Best EL34 Tube for Metal?

The umbrella genre of metal encompasses so many unique styles and sub-genres that it’s hard to recommend one tube for all of them. Add to that the fact that any tube is going to react differently in different amps and choosing a new power tube becomes a very personal choice. The main thing all metal guitarists need is a tube that will hold up under heavy abuse, and all four of the options above fit that bill.

One last piece of advice: unless your budget is crazy tight, it’s best not to let cost be a big factor in your decision. A good vacuum tube will last most people at least a few years, so it’s not a regular expense. It’s better to buy the right tube the first time, even if it means spending a few extra bucks, than to have to replace them in a year or less because you’re not happy with the sound.

Any one of the tubes above could be the right fit for your metal amp. Hopefully this review has helped you make your decision! Good luck!

  • Micah Johnson started playing music in high school, when he taught himself the bass to join his friend’s band. He added guitar and drums during his twenties playing in local clubs, and along the way, he picked up unique, hands-on experience from hand drums to studio mixers. On Song Simian, he aims to share this knowledge from 20+ years playing and recording music. When not in gearhead mode, he enjoys photography and travel.

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