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Are Tube amps louder than SS amps?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Paul A, Nov 7, 2000.

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  1. Paul A

    Paul A

    Dec 13, 1999
    Hertfordshire U.K!
    Someone tell me please!!!!
    Is a 100 watt Valve (Tube) Head
    a: Louder than
    b: Same as
    c: It's subjective
    when compared with a 100 watt Solid State head?
  2. noweapon


    Feb 10, 2000
    I think that The tube would be louder cranked at 10....but it would not last you as long the solid state. I think you would get a more consistant tone at higher levels from the solid state as well...
  3. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    The tube would undoubtedly be louder. But, you have to replace the tubes every couple of years, if not per year (yikes!). So its more expensive...buuuuut, pure solid state amps sound like balls.
  4. Well, I'm a newbie, but a 100 W Tube head will be much more powerfull than a Solid state head, that's for sure ..
    The sound will be much warmer, that's why many people prefer tube heads ...

  5. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    c, it's subjective.

    A speaker doesn't care if the watt comes from a tube or a transistor amp. Your ear might, though.

    Tube amps often color the sound in a way that makes it SEEM to be louder because you can hear it better.

    There is an old wive's tale that "tube watts" are more powerful, this is BS a watt is a watt. However not all amps have the same frequency response, the same bandwidth, the same level of harmonic and intermodulation distortion, etc. all of which affect the sound in ways that can make it seem louder when in terms of actual dB levels it isn't.

  6. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I'm thinking I agree with Brian, isn't a watt a watt?

    Isn't this like asking, which is heavier, a pound of feathers, or a pound of lead?
    Artman likes this.
  7. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Lead! Wait...oh... :oops: :D
  8. A Watt is a Watt. That is true. Tube amps sound louder for 2 reasons:

    They add harmonics to the signal (distortion).

    They compress the signal when overdriven, allowing them to sound louder for a given power out.

    Solid state amps can also add harmonics and compress the signal, it is just that when transistors do it, most folks think it sounds bad. Tubes can add more distortion and compress more without people saying it sounds bad, and actually a lot of folks say it sounds good.

    If you put a 100 Watt tube amp on a test bench feeding an 8 Ohm resistor, the amp usually puts out a fairly clean signal up to about 100 Watts, then as you increase the power out, the signal distorts, as the sine wave tries to get bigger, it is softly sqashed, but still rounded. You can get up to 150 or more true measured Watts with the signal distorted like this (theoretical maximum 200 Watts for pure square wave). You can do the same thing with a 100 Watt solid state amp, but as the ouput power goes above 100 Watts, the peaks of the sine wave are chopped flat off, not softly squashed. This hard clip point is obvious and harsh when listening to it through speakers.

    In the above situation, you can see where a 100 Watt tube amp may be putting out the same signal as a 200 Watt SS amp with compressed peaks. If the 100 Watt SS amp tried the same trick, the distortion would sound bad (according to most peoples' opinions). Here's where headroom comes into play. Solid state amps need lots of headroom so they don't clip the peaks of the signal, which by the way, has very large peaks but on average is not very big. Tube amps can clip the signal peaks and a lot of folks don't mind the accompanying distortion from the soft clipping. I dig it! :D

    This is just a broad generalization, but that's the gyst of it.

    huckleberry1 likes this.
  9. Rockinjc


    Dec 17, 1999
    The answer is it dependsÂ…

    Unless an amp is driven to distortion a watt is a watt. But tube amps behave better when driven past the point of distortion for some styles of playing IMHO. One day you will appreciate clean sound, but if you are not at that point yet. You may enjoy the sound of an overdriven tube amp.

    It has been said at this time so many times; use your ears. The numbers like watts can be misleading due to the fact that there are a lot of different ways to measure watts and speaker response for that matter.

    If you are shopping for an amp, use watts only as thumbnail gage to rule stuff out. Sound, Price, weight versatility, and reliability are more important in my book.

    Good luck.
  10. I think it's more than just LOUD that you should be concerned with. I look at headroom, feel and response.
    I had an Ampeg SVTIII last year and sold it after playing a gig that I was being smothered by our guitar player. He was using a Fender Twin. The Ampeg was rated, I believe at 250 watts, yet I could not keep up in an outdoor setting with either our P.A. or guitar player. The louder I took the amp the more terrible it sounded.
    I started looking into tube amps due to a lot of good things said in this forumn, and sure enough!.....
    "I was floored".
    Not only can I keep up with above band members, I have to watch out about overpowering them.
    Check out my profile, My V4b is only rated at 100 watts,yet it is noticebly more powerful that the solid state amp that I had.
    I am not technically minded about Watts ,Ohms , Volts etc. But I do know what I like, and you should do yourself a favor and try as many amps as you can to make a decision based on what sounds good to your ears.
    To each his own
    lowendrachel likes this.
  11. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Arent SVT-3 tube though dude? My SVT-4 is.
  12. mega,
    SVTIII's have a tube preamp 3 12AX7's
  13. The SVT-3 and SVT-4 are solid state amplifiers with tubes in the pre-amp section. There are no output tubes in there. The SVT-2, V-4B and SVT-CL are the only tube amps that Ampeg makes.
  14. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Ah, gotcha, thanks. :D
  15. Throbbinnut has nailed it.
  16. Akebono


    Mar 23, 2001
    Sorry...another tube vs. solid state question. But I played a 300 watt all-tube head (Sunn) that peeled paint. My SWR 350 head seems a bit pale in comparison.

    Are tube watts louder than SS watts in general?
  17. Oysterman


    Mar 30, 2000
    Congratulations, you have just opened a can of worms. ;) A heavily debated subject, that has been discussed before. Search the forum and see what already has been said, or sit back and watch them come...
  18. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Yeah, Oysterman is right this could get ugly. But what the hell?

    Reading that I've done by techs says that in the solid state vs. tube wars, two solid state watts = 1 tube watt, in that, 1/2 as many tube watts get the same PERCEIVED volume as twice as many solid state watts, e.g., 50W tube vs. 100W solid state (you aren't buying/getting more actual watts, this is just how your ears perceives the sonic info).

    Solid state power amps tend to generally flatten out the natural response peaks.

    Tube circuits have a higher output impedance than the lower solid state output stages, (but it doesn't necessarily HAVE to be this way), and the tone coming out of the speakers of solids sounds much "tighter" or compressed. Tubes don't even out the sound as much. Those are generalisations

    That said, my main amps have a tube preamp, but the power amps are SS and I like them just fine. I've owned "glow amps" but the upkeep and weight is a pain. Heavy metalers seem to like the way SS amps give a characteristic sharp distortion when clipped.

    (Allow me to duck)
  19. A watt is a watt.

    The difference is that a tube head will start distorting sooner, but in a very gradual, less audible way.

    When SS starts clipping (at high volumes) the distortion becomes immediately noticable.

    Anyhow, the last thing I would ever do is actually trust the manufacturors specs to be applicable to the real world.


  20. What you're saying is right except tube amps do not start distorting sooner. Tube amps and SS amps both start clipping at the same time. ie when the amp is driven beyond its maximum linear power. The difference is that solid state distortion is immediately identifiable as distortion because it sounds bad (odd-order harmonics prevalent). I think this may be what you're trying to say and it's probably just semantics.... A watt is most definately a Watt. Tube amps just seem louder to our ears because of the way we percieve sound.

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