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Achieving valve tone with solid state plus..?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by dirtychinchilla, Apr 22, 2021.

  1. I imagine this question has been answered before, but I wanted to ask some specific questions so apologies in advance for any re-hashing.

    I run a Peavey Headliner 1000W head with a Fender Rumble 210. I then use a Helix in a send and return loop to largely bypass the tonal controls of the amplifier and get things like an Ampeg SVT tone from the Helix. This sounds great at home, but I had some feedback from my guitar shop worker guitarist about the tone. He thinks it would have a lot more strength if I was actually using a valve amp.

    So I think that's in part snobbishness - I'm not sure that he could tell a valve amp from a solid state amp using a Helix, but I could be wrong. He also knows that I'm interested in this sort of stuff hence the conversation with him. I can't afford a valve amp and I don't want to lug one around either, so I'll be keeping the Helix and the Peavey. I also love the versatility it gives me.

    Having said all that, I built a valve pre-amp pedal which he hasn't heard much of. I think I could put that before or after my Helix (probably after???) to give it some genuine valve grit. Just wondering what you guys think of that? Would that be a reasonable compromise and would the resulting sound actually add that grit? I'm not sure what effect putting all that through my power amp would actually have.

    Obviously the guitarist doesn't control my tone, but he did set me thinking - getting a valve tone has always been a goal of mine, but I've just not had the funds. I also need to rebuild the pre-amp because it constantly overheats, so I'll take the opportunity to improve the whole thing when I do.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. Rent a few different all-valve heads if you can. Gig them. See if it’s really what you want.
    I like the compression that valve amps give my sound. So I added a compression pedal to my solid state rig. Also I found that I like the sound of lower wattage amps, which all valve heads typically are. High powered stuff is just to clean.
    Anyway, it’s all a big experiment finding something that works. Everyone has different expectations. But trying a bunch of stuff is part of the journey.
  3. Good idea. Fortunately, as he works at the guitar shop I can go in there as a prospective customer :)
  4. paskisti


    Jan 20, 2005
    I think your Helix will do all tricks by itself to whatever tone is pleased and there is no need for any kind of other pedals. The difficulty is to structure tone correctly with all Helix options: compression, eq, dual path signal, overdrive, compression again, [your favorite block] etc :). If you really are missing something I would replace the cab or add another one. My evaluation about SVT tone is partly in correctly equed preamp, compressing powerful power amp and the big cab that makes you feel the power. You have the power (Peavey 1000W) and preamp with endless options (Helix) but you are missing the punch of 8x10. Even playing lower volume you can hear the difference of 2x10 and 8x10.

    Edit: You already got the tone you like but missing the powerful feeling in rehearsal room? Then the more cab is the best bet. And check also that you are not over eq your tone for round bedroom sound. Live situation needs much more raw sound to act correctly. That's what valve amp does naturally when giving more gas. Helix doesn't.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2021
  5. That's very interesting, thank you. My understanding of tone build-up is not brilliant, so I'll look into that.

    I wish I could have an 8x10! But that's completely unrealistic. What I could try and do is see if the rehearsal studios we use happen to have any. That wouldn't help me for recording, but it would certainly make a difference in the rehearsal room.
  6. JeezyMcNuggles


    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    There is no way to sound like a tube amp without tubes. The helix is a cool product, but it doesn't really sound like anything. My guitarist used one for years. It's stale, bland, and generic. Sure, you can do some cool stuff with modelers. But, it sounds like a modeler. Like, if you were using VSTs in your DAW.

    He just upgraded to the Fractal. Again, it sounds good. But, it's stale, generic, and generally fake sounding all the way around. It gets some life in it by running it through his powertwin.
  7. Do you think a tube pre-amp might fix that?
  8. paskisti


    Jan 20, 2005
    I disagree here, sorry for that. I have compared Sansamp RBI + 1000W power amp against SVT, both to Hartke Hydrive 8x10 cab. Sansamp got same and more balls and quite flexible tone controls. SVT was bit boring and not much grind and started to fart when opening the throttle. Sound with higher gain setting did not made any better. I liked the eq but it was nothing special or rare in the end - more options in middle range than in RBI though. I haven't fully understood either what is the tube sound that cannot be reached otherwise with endless choises of preamps and amps. So SVT as an amp is not my thing but I like the closed 810 that seems to be at least half the sound.

    I think that if you make correct sound out of Helix, pump it into 1000W Peavey power and then to Ampeg 810E cab you are very close to nice SVT sound.

    Edit: Some fine tuning here and there.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2021
  9. JeezyMcNuggles


    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices

    It would warm up your sound a little. But, that's about all. You still wouldn't have the response, or harmonic structure of an all tube amp. The real sound is in the power section. Not only the tone, but also the way it feels. When you have a good amp, it will actually play with you, as you play through it. Responding and reacting to your playing. If you had a good tube amp, and plugged into one and then the other, you would understand what me and your guitar buddy mean instantly.
  10. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    I input a valve [Nightowl Edison] pedal to give my class D amp some tube attributes.
    halcyo, Huw Phillips, Loring and 5 others like this.
  11. MattZilla


    Jun 26, 2013
    you had another 210 to have a vertical column of tens with the top one punching you in the chest instead of just wheezing on your knee.
  12. That is one good looking board!

    That's very true...I could do with some sort of amp riser actually.
    2saddleslab likes this.
  13. MattZilla


    Jun 26, 2013

    more speakers.
  14. Whilst I agree with you, more speakers = more impractical.
  15. ihixulu

    ihixulu Supporting Member

    Mar 31, 2000
    South Shore MA
    Since we don’t even know what you mean by “tube sound” it’s hard to know what you’re aiming for. My guess is if you stuck a box with a glowing tube in it on top of the amp, your guitarist will see the difference immediately. He’ll see it even more clearly if you stick an Ampeg badge on it. You don’t need to muddle your tone by putting it in the signal chain, just make sure the glowing tube is visible.

    That said, two issues rise to the top for me. A 210 cab is going to be limited in terms of oomph, so moving to a bigger cab might give your guitarist the tickle down below that he may be craving.

    The second is how do you feel about your current tone? Does it sit well in the mix of the band? Or is the guitarist being a tube snob rather than a musician taking into account the overall sound? If you can honestly say that you like your tone and that it serves the music well, then I think you should tell him that he needs to replace his speakers with greenbacks or Celestion whatever the heck speaker guitar players geek out over, because his guitar tone doesn’t quite have the mojo of a “real” guitar amp.
  16. That's fair. I'd been thinking of explaining the tone in the OP. My favourite bassists are Tim Commerford and Geddy Lee. Their tones make me cream my pants, and I think there are some strong similarities. So I aim to have my clean tone a lot like Geddy's, and dirty a lot like Tim's. I can achieve most of that quite easily, and then up the drive when I want to get that really dirty RATM tone.

    I think the adjustments I'm making to my tone at the moment are bringing them to a clearer position in the band's arrangement. To be fair, the amp he has is lovely. I don't know what it is, but it sound great. Some sort of tube Fender I think, extremely beefy. I always play with heavy mids so I think that's cutting through. On Monday we had our first practice since COVID and I think I was really cutting through his stuff then. So I'm not far off. I think he's being somewhat snobbish, but he's also reminding me of what I was trying to achieve previously.

    I could probably look at bigger cabs, and as others have said, that may well be worth trying out. I just don't really want anything bigger as the 210 is a lump to carry around already! Any suggestions on that front?
  17. paskisti


    Jan 20, 2005
    And if he already got them you can say that he needs a mix of 2 different models to reach correct mojo. I don't know much of these but heard guitarists talking about mix of Vintage 30 and Greenbacks, both must be Celestions
    Huw Phillips likes this.
  18. MattZilla


    Jun 26, 2013
    hobbies = impractical. Bass guitar hobby = less impracticable than drums, but more impractical than guitar or violin- that’s just the nature of bass guitar. Maybe switch to saxophone or trumpet?

    For reproducing the sound and strong feel of a large bass rig you need a large bass rig, whether with one impractically large cab or two quarter-size modular cabs to stack up.

    With just one little knee height cab, the best you can hope to emulate is a B15N. Sticking the small cab up in the air will just, at best, sound like a B15N decoupled from the floor and wheezing a bunch of midrange and nearly no bass at you.

    A riser works for guitar amps because they don’t need to be coupled to the floor, in fact they often make the band sound better when they are decoupled.

    You could sell the Helix and the valve preamp pedal and just use the Peavey and a pair of 210s and yield something far closer to the “strength” of tone to an SVT than any magical box from Helix, Fractal, or Tech21 can do for any lone 210 on the floor or in the air.

    tbz and Omega Monkey like this.
  19. Haha thanks for the trolley link! I won't be selling the Helix because it's brilliant - I play in a cover band as well as the main band and for that, I need all sorts of different tones. I have them at the scroll of a wheel, which I love. And I don't have to buy a single pedal for some random tone I need. As an example, one of my bandmates suggested chorus for a particualr song the other day. I just brought it up and there you go, chorus.

    I built the pre-amp myself so it's not really saleable! It does sound sexy though. The UK regulations for selling stuff that you've made with a high voltage circuit in also mean that it would have to be certified, which I'm not going to be doing for that janky pedal :)

    I know what you mean about impractical though! I'll look into buying a second 210 because that's not entirely unachievable. I'm hoping I can get a discount at Andertons...we'll see.
    Loring likes this.
  20. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa, Product Support-Genz Benz
    There’s no reason IMO that you can’t get there with the Helix. I have heard some excellent results from those willing to learn how it works and how the parameters/order of the algorithms impact the models.
  21. Have you got any examples of this? I'm inclined to agree with you having experienced it myself.
  22. Primary

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    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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