10 Best EL34 Tubes: Amp Up Your Tone

The EL34 vacuum tube has been used in the power section of many amplifiers for decades. It’s the main source of British sound, all the way back to the early days of Marshall amplifiers.

They are used by many other well-known brands and come in amps right from the factory. And because of this unique sound, many musicians desire them for their amplifiers.

In this Killer Rig guide, we’ll go over the best EL34 tubes on the market today. We’ll also explore what it is that makes this tube so special. And how you can use them to get the best tone out of your amplifier.

In a hurry? Here are the top 3 – EL34 tubes you can buy today:

How we Tested the Tubes

To conduct our tests, we used a few amplifiers to see how they respond, as this helps us find the best ones. These amps are:

  1. Revv Generator MK3.
  2. EVH 5150IIIS EL34.
  3. Marshall JVM410H.

It’s also worth noting that each amplifier is loaded with a quad of El34 tubes that are matched. This also gives us more volume than a pair. We also biased each tube set the same, even the KT77.

Then, we ran the same guitar signal into the amplifiers. This allowed us to hear the differences in the highs, lows and mid-frequencies.

Best EL34 Tubes

When it comes to choosing the best EL34 power tube, there are many factors that you need to consider.

The first is the type of amplifier you are using. Do you have an amplifier that uses EL34 tubes? Then you will need to continue using them. Unless the manufacturer has stated otherwise in the manual.

The second factor is the type of music you play. If you play metal or hard rock, then you will want to choose a tube that will sound and perform the best.

The EL34 is a great option! But when selecting a new set, there are a few things that we feel are important considerations. They are sound, affordability, and headroom.

JJ EL34L (Top Choice)

JJ EL34L Tube

The JJ option is one of the most popular EL34 vacuum tubes available. This tube offers tremendous versatility! And with a very clear tone that can bring amazing depth to your sound.

We found that while this version is in fact versatile, it’s not as bright as some others. But it does offer a great bass and mid-range response. Especially as you push them harder.

The JJ El34L also has excellent headroom. This means you won’t have any unwanted distortion when playing at high volumes. It’s a good choice for all types of music, including metal and hard rock. They are very affordable and will last a long time.

If you’re looking for more sparkle in the treble at low volumes, there are better options for that.

Tung-Sol EL34B (Editor’s Choice)

Tung-sol EL34 Vacuum Tube

While the Tung-Sol EL34B is a bit on the expensive side, it offers everything that you could want. Pros have used this tube for many years and will continue to do so for its clear tone.

This is one of the few tubes here that does not distort the same when pushed to higher volumes. It’s more reminiscent of a 6L6 at first, but as you drive it harder, it then has the sweet EL34 sound that one would expect.

The headroom is no different from the others, but it does have a more well-rounded sound at lower volumes. On top of all that, they are also built like a tank. These tubes have welded plates and this not only adds rigidity but long life without noise.

The Tung-Sol EL34B is an exceptional choice for Jazz, blues, vintage, hard rock, and metal. It’s also good for hi-fi.

Genalex Gold Lion KT77 (Premium)

Genalex KT77 Tube

The Genalex Gold Lion KT77 is a more modern variation of an EL34. It’s got a nice midrange-focused tone, with very clear and present highs. The low end on this tube is also quick and tight. This would make it excellent for aggressive or high-gain music.

This tube can get pretty loud before distorting. If you like to push your amps hard, they are worth considering. The KT77 is more of a hybrid between a 6L6 and an EL34. We mention it as being a contender because it’s a great tube that is worth considering.

It has all the midrange growl you would expect from the EL34. But also has a top-end like the 6L6. The Genalex Gold Lion KT77 is awesome for all rock styles, metal, jazz, and blues.

Need preamp tubes too? Check out the best 12AX7 tubes here!

Tube Amp Doctor EL34

Tube Amp Doctor EL34 Tube

The EL34 Red Base is a new offering by Tube Amp Doctor to replace the now obsolete Black Plate series.

And, it does an excellent job, offering great tone and clarity. I determined that this tube was amazing for crunch sounds. But still offered the punch and low end that you need at high volumes.

It has a high-end sparkle that is reminiscent of the Shuguang valve. But the mid-range and bass are nice and strong. It’s a well-rounded EL34 offering among them all.

The headroom was about average, as it began to distort at roughly the same as the others. But this is because it’s designed to do so.

For the price, the quality of this tube is above average. TAD has upped its game with the new Red Base series, and it’s evident in the sound and performance. The Tube Amp Doctor EL34 Red Base is a great option for rock, hard-rock, metal, and even vintage tones.

Mullard EL34

Mullard EL34 Tube

The Mullard EL34 is a classic tube that has been used in many amplifiers over the years. They have a warmly unique sound that only Mullard can provide. These tubes are known for their creamy, smooth midrange tones, and useful headroom.

They are a bit on the dark side, but still offered a decent amount of clarity. The low end was also very tight and articulate.

These tubes are a bit more on the expensive side, but nothing outrageous. They didn’t have the same bite as some others, especially for high-gain sounds. But they were very smooth, which gives them their vibe.

The Mullard EL34 is excellent for blues, jazz, rock, metal, and vintage tones. We would also suggest them for hi-fi. Keep in mind that they are not quite as bright and so if you prefer a darker smoother sound, these will work well for you.

Svetlana EL34S

Svetlana EL34S Tube

The Svetlana EL34S is for players who like more of a classic rock sound. It’s got a heavy midrange and a glossy top-end, but the bass isn’t as pronounced as some other options.

It has a very musical sound that is perfect for any type of vintage tone. But for high-gain metal, I concluded that the bass didn’t have the right feel. These would be perfect in an old-school Marshall and have a great EL34 tone.

We also found it to have a large amount of headroom and excellent build quality. The Svetlana EL34S is a good choice for rock, classic, lead playing, and clean sounds.

Not the right tube? Check out the Best 6L6 Tubes here!

Electro Harmonix EL34

Electro Harmonix EL34 Valve

The Electro Harmonix EL34 is another affordable option on this list. But don’t let that diminish your opinion, as they are a great valve.

I found that this tube had a bit more midrange than some others, but not to the point of being muddy. The highs were also very articulate, but this tube is on the warmer side for sure.

They sound big and full and have a good amount of headroom. These tubes can work great for most music styles and, to my ears, sounded very pleasing.

The Electro Harmonix EL34 is wonderful for rock, metal, classic, and vintage tones. Looking for an affordable, great-sounding tube? Then the Electro Harmonix EL34 is perfect.

Mesa Boogie EL34

Mesa Boogie EL34

The Mesa Boogie EL34 is a bit of a different animal. It’s not your typical EL34 sound, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, I quite liked it.

The Mesa Boogie EL34 has more of a modern sound to it. It’s got a good midrange presence and highs that were exceptionally articulate. The low end is also very tight, making it great for metal.

This tube is perfect if you like to run your amp harder, as it will not break up as soon. The Mesa Boogie EL34 is great for hard and classic rock, metal, blues, and even jazz.

Groove Tubes EL34LS

Groove Tube EL34

The Groove Tubes GT-EL34LS is well-rounded and can do most sounds very well. It has that classic midrange punch and the highs are very smooth.

The low end was pretty huge, making it great for many styles of music. We found the build quality to be excellent, and they are very quiet tubes.

Fender currently owns and manufactures these tubes. From what we understand, they are reliable and need to meet certain quality standards. The Groove Tubes GT-EL34LS would perform well for all types of rock, blues, jazz, and metal. It’s also excellent for clean tones.

Psvane EL34

Psvane EL34 Tube

The Psvane EL34 is a more robust version made more for Hi-fi, but sounds great in a guitar amplifier as well. Psvane is a Chinese company that makes some pretty good tubes.

The ones we have played always performed above average and are well-made. Even the alignment of the pins is so good that they fit in the tube sockets so much easier.

The sound was very well-balanced and has a rounded response. The top end was bright and clear, the midrange had the right impact and the bass was large and tight.

They are a more expensive option, which I suggest for Hi-fi applications. But they would do well in instrument amplifiers too if you are willing to pay for them.

How To Choose the Right EL34

Now that we’ve gone over some of the best EL34 power tubes, let’s talk about how to choose the right one for your needs.

The first thing you need to consider is what type of sound you are going for. Do you want a classic rock sound or a more modern metal tone? This will help narrow down your choices.

Next, you need to consider what type of amp you have. Some tubes work better with certain types of amps than others. For example, if you have a JCM800, you’ll probably want to stay away from the JJ EL34. It won’t get you that classic bright, Marshall sound.

And most importantly, you need to consider your budget. Power tubes can range in price from around $30 – 80 each. So, if you’re on a tight budget, you’ll want to stick with the more affordable options.

The Tone of an EL34

The EL34 is an exceptional sounding tube and is a common choice of many players as a result. This tube has lower headroom than others and as a result, it breaks up sooner when the same signal is applied.

The British sound of the last few decades has been founded on the EL34, as a result of its gritty tone. It also has a unique midrange in the sense that it sounds a bit more scooped than a 6L6, for example.

This doesn’t mean it lacks midrange, it simply amplifies specific frequencies. This adds to the flavor and tone of this tube. When used at higher volumes, you will feel more of a deeper bass response with an aggressive top-end bite.

But this also depends heavily on the amplifier they are being used in. A Marshall, for example, is focused on mid-frequencies. And so the EL34 will produce a well-rounded sound in this application.

Specifications and Maximum Operating Values

The tube was given its name based on some important characteristics that make up its design. For example, the E in its name represents the required filament voltage to power the heater, which is 6.3.

The L designates the tube as a pentode output valve, while the 3 and 4 show the base as being octal. The maximum values are as follows:

  • Filament Voltage: 6.3V.
  • Filament Current: 1.5A.
  • Plate Voltage: 800V.
  • Screen Voltage: 500V.
  • Plate Dissipation: 25W.

Pin Out Diagram

EL34 Pin Out
  1. Suppressor Grid.
  2. Heater.
  3. Plate.
  4. Screen Grid.
  5. Control Grid.
  6. N/C.
  7. Heater.
  8. Cathode.

The tube is aligned to the socket via a guide pin found in the center of the base.

Data sheets

If you need some data sheets of popular EL34 tubes by brand, we have included a couple for your convenience.


How Long Do EL34 Tubes Last?

Unlike preamp types, the power tubes don’t quite get the same mileage. They use more current and get much hotter. So EL34 tubes will last around 2500 hours before they should be replaced.

This is just an approximate average, so your mileage may vary greatly. This all depends on the amplifier they are used in and the operating conditions.

It’s generally recommended to change them once you are starting to hear a loss of brightness. Or if performance begins to suffer.

Are all EL34 tubes the same?

No, there are many manufacturers of the EL34 tube, and each one will have its own sound. This is due to the different designs and materials used. Which all contribute to the overall sonic profile.

You may also find that some tubes sound better than others in your amplifier. This is because it was designed around a certain tone.

So experiment with different brands and find the one that works best for you. Electrically, they are the same, so you can use any EL34 tube type in an amplifier designed to use them.

Do EL34 tubes need to be biased?

All power tubes will need biasing when they are replaced. This is because each tube will have different characteristics. So the bias needs to be adjusted to compensate. If you don’t do this, then you may find that your amplifier doesn’t sound right or might even be damaged.

The good news is that biasing an amplifier is a relatively simple task. It can be done at home with a few tools by those who know how to perform the task.

Otherwise, make sure to have a technician do the work to protect your equipment. But more so to prevent personal injury.

Photo of author

Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear. I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!