A Need Some Helf On Some Stupid Stuff

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by MattMonroe, Oct 11, 2004.

  1. MattMonroe


    Oct 11, 2004

    I'm very new to the world of bass. I have been a guitar player for years, but not I was always too embrassed to ask these couple of questions. What is a preamp? How does it differ from a normal head? What is the difference between tube and solid state? I always felt stupid that I didn't understand these things. Thanks for the help.
  2. DubDubs


    Aug 23, 2004
    Los Angeles
    A pre amp shapes the tone and boosts the signal before the poweramp. The poweramp provides all the power to the speakers.

    Tubes have a natural distortion and solid state amps are clean. That's the most basic defference between tubes and SS.
  3. Mike Money

    Mike Money Banned

    Mar 18, 2003
    Bakersfield California
    Avatar Speakers Endorsing Hooligan

    Guitar player? doesnt know the difference between tube and solid state?

  4. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    In an effort to draw you out of the dark side, I will help you without my customary wit and/or sarcasm.

    A pre-amp is the first amplification stage of an amplifier system. It typically has the EQ circuits in it, and perhaps a compressor. It may be a stand-alone unit designed to feed a separate power amp, or it may be an integral part of what you call a head (we call it that, too), which has its own internal power amp. The key issue is that a pre-amp, by itself, does not have sufficient power to drive speakers. A power amp is required for that.

    Now on to tubes/solid state. An all-tube amplifier has vacuum tubes to amplify the signal in both the pre-amp and power amp stages. Solid-state amps use transistors to amplify the signal in all stages. Amps with tubes in the pre-amp and transistors in the power stage are commonly called hybrid amps.

    There is always a lot of discussion over which type of amp is "better" than the other. All-tube amps tend to be very heavy, mostly due to the transformers used in the circuitry. Their proponents cite the "warm, buttery tone" of all-tube amps. Solid state amps are lighter, especially if they use the modern switching power supplies. The output tends to sound a little more "dry" or "modern." Hybrid amps (my personal preference) like the Eden WT series and the Aguilar DB750 offer the best of both worlds, with the pre-amp tubes imparting the warmer tube characteristics and the transistors providing tons of good, clean, reliable power at lower weight.

    Another bone of contention among each camp's respective die-hards is whether "tube watts" are louder than "solid-state watts". The thing is, tube amps can be driven close to, or into, distortion and get away with it. The distortion has a pleasant sound to some (not me, but on guitars, it's OK). On the other hand, solid state amps sound pretty much like ass when driven into distortion. Anyway, that oughtta hold you for a while.
  5. MattMonroe


    Oct 11, 2004
    Thank for the help so far. So let me ask a few more questions: Is there any point to a pre-amp and power amp if you have a head? Sounds to me like it's just a head split in two. Also, I'm not quite sure why one would want a slight distortion unless you were Geezer Butler. Is that what kind of sound tubes are used to create. To be honest, I've been playing years on my Marshall head (a solid state) and I just didn't know what made it a solid state.
  6. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    You got it. One reason to use separate pre-amp and power amp is that you can buy the pre-amp of your favorite flavor, then couple it with something like a PLX 3402, giving you the potential to kick out 3,000 watts of power to get over some pin-headed guitarist's 100-watt head. If you have an amplifier head, you already have a pre-amp and power amp. They're just in the same case. There are a few bass heads out there that'll put out 1200 watts or so, but most high-powered bass heads run at about 750-800 watts. That'll keep you in line with a 100-watt guitar head, if you have the right cabinets.

    The choice between separate pre- and power amps is pretty much a matter of convenience and the need for brute power. Also, some people really like the sound of a particular pre-amp, so they go with separates to get their tone. I like the convenience of a head with cabs. Of course you can always go with a combo, which consists of an amp head built into a speaker cabinet. I'm partial to the Eden Metro and SWR Super Redhead combos, both of which have cherry-flavored tone coming from two 10-inch speakers. You can always add an external cabinet to add volume and tone.
  7. One thing I always wondered about: I'm thinking about spicing up the sound of my Hartke head (= pre and power amp already combined) with an (extra) Fodera outboard pre-amp. Is this possible, just by connecting it to the effect in/out of the head, or am I making a mistake here?
  8. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    so are you the mule that's the bane of the foundation?

    if you want to bypass the hartke preamp you could try the fodera preamp by running the output of the fodera into the effects return of the hartke. If you want to use both i would suggest running the output of the fodera into the front input of the hartke. Experimentation will be your best option here.
  9. No Asimovian connection here, I'm afraid! :smug:
    It just happens to be that Gov't Mule is one of my favorite bands... :bassist: