Our thoughts go out to all who are affected by COVID-19. Stay well, stay safe.

Best 12AX7 Review

What is a 12AX7?

12AX7 tube is a high gain dual triode tube found in many tube amps.

Because of the high gain, the 12AX7 tube is often used in the V1 position of guitar amps, which has a lot of effect on sonics. It is the tube that defines the sound of your amp in a big way.

If you are looking to upgrade the tubes in your amp, 12AX7 in V1 is where you want to start.

There are many 12AX7 tubes on the market today. These 12AX7 all sound different in subtle yet distinguishable ways. Because of the number of selections available, making a choice can be daunting.

Below are our top 12AX7 picks to help you with your selection.


Best 12AX7 For Guitar and Bass Amps

TungSol 12AX7

TungSol 12AX7 is our go-to tube for guitar amps.

Tung-Sol 12AX7 delivers good gain, but without washing out the fine details and textures. It is a great all-rounder.

When in doubt, we start with Tung-Sol 12AX7. TungSol 12AX7 handles everything from vintage rock to a clean tone sound.

All our Fender and Marshall Tube Sets use Tung-Sol 12AX7.

Shuguang 12AX7B - The Silver Dragon

12AX7B Silver Dragon is the favorite amongst metal musicians, and for a good reason.

If the high gain sound is what you are after, the 12AX7B Silver Dragon tube will do very well.

We take great care in testing and screening these tubes since we know they will be used with the volume wide open. Once we toss all the duds, we refer to the remaining punch-packing12AX7B as the "Silver Dragon."

Mullard 12AX7

Mullard 12AX7 has a bit more fullness to the sound with the right amount of gain. Coupled with a fuller tone and gain, Mullard 12AX7 works well for rhythm guitar duties as well as wailing solos.

Mullard 12AX7 is a long plate design which makes it a tad more susceptible to Microphonics, so we recommend low noise option if you use a high-gain amp.

Want to try them all? Our 12AX7 Sampler Set has all three tubes above.

12AX7 Sampler set of 3

We carry many more on our 12AX7 Page


Best 12AX7 For Audio

Genalex Gold Lion 12AX7

Genalex Gold Lion ECC83/B749 is the ultimate in current production 12AX7. Gold Lion ECC83 delivers a full sonic range with excellent articulation.

Like all Gold Lion Tubes, Gold Lion ECC83 is built with meticulous quality, which makes it ideal as the premium upgrade for any audio 12AX7 application.

You may have noticed there is a Genalex Gold 12AX7/ECC83 Standard Pin version also. The standard pin version is a small plate design that is different from the gold pin version.

The standard pin version is a good value, but we think the Genalex Gold Lion ECC83/B749 gold pin is better of the two.

Mullard 12AX7

Mullard 12AX7 is a long plate design that provides good balance and resolution. Mullard 12AX7 has a very pleasing low-mids that gives extra depth to source materials.

Mullard 12AX7 is an excellent choice for upgrading the factory-installed 12AX7 and has become the go-to standard for audio applications.


Some Notes About 12AX7

12AX7 and the gain

A 12AX7 is a high gain tube. Various 12AX7s tends to be a few points higher or lower on the gain. Due to the nature of the vacuum tube circuit, this doesn't mean one will be louder than the other.

Instead, the gain affects the tone and noise floor. The higher gain doesn't always mean a better tone, so we encourage you to try different 12AX7 tubes and see what works for you.

12AX7 and Microphonics

High gain of 12AX7 tube also means there are more chances for microphonic noise.

Microphonic noise is caused by the tube picking up mechanical vibration and amplifying it. This is just like how a microphone works, hence the term "Microphonic."

Some amount of microphony is reasonable for a vacuum tube. What we want to avoid are tubes that are excessively microphonic, resulting in unwanted ringing or feedback.

We screen all our 12AX7 for excessive microphonic noise, but if your gear is sensitive to microphony (phono amps or tube mics), we offer the low-noise screening option.

If you want the absolutely the lowest microphonic, we recommend Electro-Harmonix 7025EH. It is specifically designed to be ultra-low noise.

Related Links