Sovtek 5881 WXT | 6l6 WGC | 6Π3C-E Tube Guide
Cracking the Sovtek 5881 WXT Tube Code
Tubes (aka valves) can be quite confusing, but the most confusing is the industry standard Sovteks that are OEM on most major amp brands.
Sovtek 6l6GB, 6L6WXT+, Electro Harmonix 6L6GC, 6L6WXT, 6Π3C-E, 6Π3C, 6P3S-E, 6N3C-e, 6Π3C, Mesa Boogie STR425, Fender GT-6L6B or 6L6R Groove Tubes GT-6L6B or GT-6L6R, Ruby Tubes 6L6R Fender 6L6 Precision Matched Tubes are just some of the names for just a few different Russian tubes.
NOS Vacuum Tubes / Valves?
Why not buy American?
Unfortunately we can't. They no longer make tubes in the United States, England, or Western Europe. By all accounts they were the best but now supplies of them are running out and they have gotten very expensive and are harder to find.
Several online stores sell NOS vacuum tubes. New-old stock vacuum tubes are tubes produced long ago that have been sitting in a warehouse for years unused. You can still find them if you have the cash, but buy them from a reliable dealer. I buy new production Russian tubes, so I have no experience with dealers who I could recommend. New tubes are made in Russia, China, and Slovakia. The most common one is a Russian variant of the 6L6. It comes in many names and it is sold at many (often outrageous) prices. But we'll need a little background in tube codes first.
Disclaimer: I am a Guitar Instructor in San Francisco CA, and the frontman and lead guitarist of the San Francisco based rock band Rock 'n' Roll Villain Society I do not sell musical equipment , and neither I, nor my band, nor this website are sponsored by any manufacturer or retailer, unless explicitly stated in the article. This and my other articles in my Guide to Guitars, Amps, and Tubes are written purely to help my students and fellow guitar players make more educated choices on purchasing equipment, and on how to use and maintain it. In general modifying, dismantling, or buying things because someone on the web told you to, is a bad idea. Thanks, Jay Skyler.
Tube Letter Codes Unraveled:
Russia uses the Cyrillic Alphabet:
U.S. Tube Codes:
Famous/Infamous Cold war era tubes:
Sovtek Tube Codes:
The Sovtek 6L6-GB (AKA 6Π3C) Vacuum Tube
The Sovtek 6L6GB has a very smooth warm and round tone (and can be had super cheap). It is used in some low wattage boutique amps (Traynor for instance). Unless you own a boutique amp that has these recommended for it, DO NOT BUY IT FOR A 6L6 AMP!
I have heard that these tubes have been discontinued, but that there is still a massive supply of them. If you really like these tubes and they are appropriate for your amplifier, now would be the time to get them! Once supplies drop, people will start wanting them. Even if they hate them now.
The Sovtek 5881 WXT or 5881/6L6 WGC (AKA 6Π3C-E)
They have about 20% lower output than a true 6L6GC. However, being rated for 500 plate volts with 2 tubes, they will probably handle any guitar amp you are likely to have.
Some folks don't like the tone. But they are near indestructible and long lasting. They have a mean, crunchy tone with an upper midrange spike.
Highly recommended if you play loud in a band with a 50-100 watt head these things sound great, punch you through the mix, and survive tours and drunken roadies.
Not recommended if you play small boutique amps and are looking for a smooth warm tone for solo playing or home recording.
Why is it called a 5881 if it can handle going into a 6L6GC (30 watts per tube) amp, a 5881 is 6L6GB (23 watts)? Remember it's really neither; it's really a
All of These Tubes are Really the Sovtek 5881 WXT or 5881/6L6 WGC:
They have been rebranded by various companies EITHER to:
Or more cynically:
Remember the 5881 WXT or 5881/6L6 WGC is a different tube than the 6L6WXT, 6L6WXT+, & Electro Harmonix 6L6GC (which are all the same as each other).
It's also different from the Sovtek
I'll gladly pay for service, not for a new logo silkscreened over the Sovtek one! If you have to get them at a Guitar Center or similar store, get whatever matched set is cheapest.
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