Preamp tubes for ART Pro Channel preamp

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by willashland, Mar 24, 2010.

  1. willashland

    willashland Active Member

    Mar 13, 2009
    Sacramento, CA
    Hey guys, I'm relatively new to the forum. I want to get better at recording, so I'm focusing on adding gear to round out my studio. Here's what I'm working with right now-

    32-bit 3200+ amd pc running xp
    Sonic Foundry Acid 6.0
    M-Audio fasttrack USB interface
    Art MP studio preamp
    Logitech 2.1 speaker system
    MXL condenser and Blue Encore 200 mic (oh man I love that mic)

    I'm looking at upgrading two elements right now - my speakers and my preamp. I could use a new interface too, but that's another post. Anyway, here's my question-

    I've heard good things about the ART preamp, but I know most people recommend to switch out the preamp tubes. Knowing only a fair amount about tube types and having little experience, could anyone recommend some good general-purpose tubes for recording? I play a lot of acoustic stuff, with synths, lots of vocals which will need to be rich but not overly saturated, and I also will be laying down mic'ed clean to distorted guitar tracks. I'd like to stay on somewhat of a budget, so I won't be getting Telefunken tubes or anything like that.

    Any suggestions will be welcome, so long as they'll help me improve my studio. Thanks!
  2. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    Mar 31, 2007
    North Vancouver

    What is the model of tube in that unit ....12AX7?
  3. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Mar 20, 2008
    currently Billings

    Mullard tubes work well in the ART gear. Probably any NOS GE, Westinghouse, Philips, etc
  4. boxcar

    boxcar Active Member

    Jan 14, 2010
    Okanagan,B.C. Canada
    yeah, 12ax7.
    Brent Jessee has a great tube store too. i buy all mine there.
  5. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    If we are talking the MP model, then this is definately a starved tube pre. Changing the tubes in this will yield little results. If we are talking the Pro Channel model then there is a difference in design and having a Mullard or even a set of JJ's in there will change the sound. Remember that each type of 12xxx will have different characteristics to their output. A search on the Eurotube site will tell you what to expect and an email to these fine folks will confirm anything you may need to know.

    Any 12xxx tube will work, its simply what you want out of the unit.12ax7,12at7,12au7, etc....Contact for advice.

    Again, if this is the small MP model, you wont see much change at all. MPA, MPAII, MPA Gold, Pro Channel, Voice Channel,.... all these are the upper echelon of the ART series of preamps and are miles above the budget line.
  6. lostindundee

    lostindundee Active Member

    Mar 25, 2008
    Thanks for that clarification Davedog. I have a Digital MPA which should be identical to the MPA (apart from the digital section). I always wondered if mine was a starved plate design. I couldn't get a straight answer from anyone. At least I now know it isn't.

    Can the same be said of the ART PRO VLA and VLAII?


  7. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    Yes. Lets not be confused with the plate voltages. None of the ART stuff is going to be around 400volts to the plates. But they arent little glow sticks stuck behind a dummy tube either.
  8. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Jul 21, 2009
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Home Page:
    Hey, i'm in the same boat. i'll click the links for sure. JW any recomendations for a really "dirty" tube? I love pushing the levels on my pro mpa 2, but sounds as bad as solid state to me when overdriven. (in all fairness i' have gone overboard a few times, and am loving my new dbx compressor)
    Channel one i'd like to add a tube that's "somewhat clean w/ extra richness/body"
    Channel two i'd like to be downright dirty, for some pleasent tube disortion
  9. lostindundee

    lostindundee Active Member

    Mar 25, 2008
    Thanks Davedog.
  10. blackdog5150

    blackdog5150 Member

    Feb 12, 2011
    Vancouver BC.
    Hi All!
    New here, but got a kick out of this thread, so thought I'd jump in as I just did some tube swapping and got killer results. I bought a Pro Channel on a whim last week as a backup to my existing setup. Just a knockaround piece, but something that delivered the goods.If it sucked, I could bring it back within thirty days, so what the hell. First, I was fairly impressed for the price. I really like it's clean sound, and the amount of gain it delivered. Mine showed none of the build quality issues I've seen in posts,(which I read AFTER purchase) and virtually none of the noise reported, just a little background hiss when the tubes warmed up. I did however not like the amount of breakup it exhibited when pushed toward the upper range. Pretty raspy and unmusical.

    So after reading this forum, I pulled out a bunch of different 12ax7 variations I've had kicking around.
    here's where it get's interesting. First, I discovered a no name Chinese tube it came with is a microphonic piece of garbage. There's no disputing the fact. It's not a high gain tube really, just poorly constructed and very audible when tapped while the unit is powered up through my rig. With that gone I put in an old Phillips ECG tube. Not bad!......but still a little too much breakup when pushed beyond midrange.
    Next, an old Mullard ECC83. Nice bright sounding tube with crisp detail and great low and midrange. Now we're getting somewhere, and only the second one in, but let's keep going.

    Now a GE taken from my 75 Marshall Superlead...(can't read the script for the model...a bit flaked off,) but taking a step back....too much rasp at higher gain and a HUGE loss of high end.
    Next up a JJ 12ay7. Yeaaaahhhhh......lost a lot of gain. Had to really crank it up though the cleanness and responsiveness would be great for acoustic guitar, but not a real good all around choice.

    Last one.....Another JJ. a ECG83-S. Bingo! We have a winner. almost perfect I'd say. I really put it through it's paces, and it's the best of the lot. Harmonically rich and full sounding.
    I would highly recommend this tube as a replacement for the preamp section for the unit. It sounds completely different, and even the VU meter instantly became more useable. It just seems to track what's going on when turning knobs with a very comparable more accurate representation and predictability to VU's on my other equipment which is much "higher end."

    So the long and short is this unit has tons of potential. There are people out there who merely judge units on their price points alone, and I do get that to a point. This is not a Millennia, or an Avalon by any stretch, but I will tell you I did a side by side comparison against my Focusrite pre and it holds it's own now with this simple swap. Before I did it, it would be just a backup, the way I'd intended for jamming or whatever, but today it goes in my studio rack.
    As far as the plate voltage issue, it's not a rediculously starved design like the MP, though it is a lower voltage then a multi thousand dollar unit pushing 300 or's more like 150, but who cares in this price range? It delivers that tube warmth and works the way it's least with decent tubes installed!

    Not to get preachy, but to real over the top gear snobs who feel the need to berate someones gear...and there seems to be an abundance these days, I've got to say It's what most home studio folks on a budget can afford who have mortgages to pay and kids to feed, so I say enjoy it. It delivers, and treated right, it should provide years of loyal service.
    I'm going to use it for a lot of stuff given it's great EQ range. I must admit I felt a bit bummed not reading reviews prior to purchase which I usually do, though mostly positive, but the negative ones were real harsh. I had to give it a try with the swap, and I'm glad I did. You will be too.
    The bottom line is the tubes DO play a very large roll in how this unit sounds.
    That said, there are some folks who love the sound stock and claim a nice smooth saturation. That may be the case, but I have to say given the rather shoddy internal appearance of the tubes themselves, they may vary greatly from unit to unit.
    I'm going to swap out the post EQ valve later to see if theres any noticeable difference, but at this point it seems fine. The compressor valve also seems competent so it'll stay in place for a while until it gets a real good burn in and I can see how it squashes.
    Thanks for taking the time to read my rambling review!

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