Over the years RCA has offered a variety of different types of 12AX7's (long black plates, long grey plates, short grey plate 12AX7A's, and short grey plate 7025's). Furthermore, each 12AX7 type has their own strengths, weaknesses, and tonal qualities.
Three rules of thumb to remember:
1) Shorter plates are less noisy (on average)
2) Longer plates are tonally more complex i.e. more "depth/fullness" (on average)
3) Reach out to a Fuzz expert if you would like more help determining what tubes are best for you! We can be reached at Support@FuzzAudio.com or by clicking the chat icon in the lower right hand corner of your screen.
RCA 12AX7 Long Black Plate
It is important to note, that the RCA black plate 12AX7 is 1 of 2 long plate variations and is the oldest type of RCA 12AX7 we offer. These tubes were manufactured roughly between 1949-1959, and thus, would be found stock in classic 1950's Fender Tweed Amplifiers and are the best option for restoring one of these amps to former glory or enhancing the sound of a clone. These tubes flourish in smaller amplifiers (typically one speaker) but are excellent for most applications.
Black plates have the least amount of headroom (breakup sooner) amongst the RCA 12AX7 types and come with a HUGE bottom end. They are warm and are a great option to get rid of some "shrill" in any amplifier. As well, black plates' distorted sound is legendary, with lows, mids, and highs all staying more defined as the tube starts to breakup.
That being said, black plates can be a tad noisy and if you are trying to avoid noise, these may not be a great choice. Likewise, if you play clean.. these should not be considered as they reduce headroom (breakup sooner) and again, can be noisy.
The RCA 7025 is the opposite of the black plate in a many ways. It has grey short plates, it is quiet, comes with more headroom, the most recent of RCA tubes made and can be less 3 dimensional in tone. Keep in mind that all RCA 12AX7 variants are tonally exceptional- yet few tubes are as warm as US long plate tubes...
Rumor is that the 7025 was invented/manufactured to reduce noise in larger guitar amplifiers, and could be found stock in fender amplifiers throughout the 60's. It is the most recent of RCA tubes manufactured, along with the 12AX7A/ECC83. They are extensional in Twin Reverbs or any blackface Fender amp, or any application where noise is undesired.
RCA 12AX7 Long Grey Plate
Found stock in Fender, Silvertone, Gibson and so many more classic amplifiers of the late 50's and early 60's, the long grey plate has been heard a million times on all your favorite albums from the 60s and 70s- keeping in mind what was just said about the 7025/12AX7A.
The RCA long grey plate 12AX7 will be less noisy than the black plate but more noisy than the 7025 or 12AX7A (long plates=more noise but better tone). Like the black plate, the long grey plate breaks up sooner and has amazing breakup and clean tone.
Believe it or not, at Fuzz Audio, we consider this tube the best overall RCA 12AX7 tube if a little noise does not bother you and you like to play clean and dirtay evenly. Compared to the black plate, the long grey plate will have better cleans and less noise. Again, if your amplifier is larger and noise is an issue.. you should consider another type over this one.
Can't wait to get push back from what we are about to say.. but 7025 and 12AX7A are for all into intensive purposes the same.... queue angry mob!
Although, maybe slightly more noisy, the 12AX7A/ECC83 is a fantastic all around tube that is extremely quiet and great tonally.
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