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DB seems to sound better on solid state

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by Noot, Mar 3, 2014.

  1. Hello, I would like to share an experiment I did, to see if it makes sense. I have a Hartke HA5500 amp, which has both tube and solid state preamps. I tried my plywood with K&K Bass Max on both preamps separately and the solid state preamp sounds much better. On the other hand bass guitar sounds much better on tube preamp than solid state preamp. I'm by no means an expert, but as I understand tube emphasizes overtones. Is it because upright bass has so much overtones, it gets too much for the tube so it sounds weird? Do people usually prefer solid state amplification for upright? Or is it just my particular setup/taste?
  2. dlargent

    dlargent Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2003
    Carrboro, NC
    Same here. Maybe it's not an issue of tube versus solid state, but I do like a clean and uncompressed tone for upright.

    For example when I use BDDI pedal as a preamp for gigs where I double, I will put the blend on 100% for my electric bass, and 0% for the upright.
  3. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    A tube amp controls the same speaker in a different way from a solid state amp. I discovered this a few years ago when I tried using a Marshall Major and a 1/15 cabinet to amplify my upright bass. Even at low volume, the notes starting at about C on the A string and lower produced enough excursion in the cone that I worried about damage. The tone in general was very loose and flabby. A 400RB through the same cab produced minimal excursion and a clear tone.
  4. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    As I understand it, we are not talking about power-amp stages, but about pre-amp stages. Thus, control of the cone is not at issue. The differences heard almost certainly stem from differences in loading and/or voicing of the two pre-amps. That is, they likely have nothing to do with the function of tubes vs. solid-state devices, per se.

    Tubes do not emphasize overtones. The emphasis of even or odd harmonics comes into play when the devices are driven into overload conditions, which you are likely not doing.

    The differences you hear could just as well be heard via two different solid-state or two different tube pre-amps.

    Finally, unless you constantly and/or intentionally overdrive your pre-amp, tube circuits offer absolutely no advantage over solid-state. If anything, they are less reliable. Again, it's essentially all in the voicing-- that is, the "transfer function" or frequency response.

    I say this as a tube-hobbyist and as one who has spent many hours restoring tube amplifier circuits.
  5. flatback

    flatback Supporting Member

    May 6, 2004
    As Someone who grew up listening to jazz on my dads stereo (in the dark), watching the glowing tubes was an integral part of the experience. Recently here, someone mentioned a Julie tube preamp for Bass (on a Big E page) and I started drooling like Homer Simpson. I only play upright but I found myself rationalizing the purchase of that preamp 100 different ways. Solid State may sound as good and better even and be more stable but Tubes have that undefined X factor that makes me want them.
    Why cant one of you tech wizards just say once "A Tube Amp would be the best possible sound for upright bass amplification, bar none!" I would be like putty, I would not rest until I had a beautiful stack of glowing tubes sitting on top of my cabinet at every gig. I wouldn't even face the audience anymore, I'd be that kid sitting in the dark listening to the phantom warmth of lit up music.
  6. flatback

    flatback Supporting Member

    May 6, 2004
    then the tempo would elope with the harmonic rhythm and the band would have me walk the plank.
  7. So there is no general rule that one or the other might be better suited for upright, it just depends on the setup, right?

    About the emphasizing, I wasn't sure whether what I meant was translated into overtones or harmonics, but yes I meant harmonics :)
    I do notice a certain sound pattern in tube bass preamps and a different sound pattern in solid bass preamps, even if they come from different manufacturers. For example when I tried my tube preamp it reminded me of the sound of the Ampeg SVT-4 Pro from a rehearsal room.

    I'll look into it to see if upright players prefer tube or solid state with piezo pick-ups,
  8. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    I think that either can sound really great, tubes didn't hold any mystique for me once I bought my Walter Woods MI-400-8. Since it's an analog amp with a digital power supply it has virtually the same warmth as all tube amplifier at a fraction of the weight it would take to produce a 400 watt RMS tube amplifier. Just my take

    Well, I'm certainly not a "wizard", not even close, but I've played several amps with 12AX7's married to a solid state power amp, and to my ears the Woods sounded infinitely warmer. Even the GK's with their three tube front end didn't sound as good. I haven't heard the Streamliner so I can't comment on that one.



    P.S. I quite convinced that the Julie Monique sounds wonderful if that's the way one wants to go.
  9. flatback

    flatback Supporting Member

    May 6, 2004
    yeah, no,
    I just like the IDEA really. I have a AI Focus and after spending years tryin to mix mics in, I miss my Walter Woods.
  10. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    I get it! :) Okay, I admit it. When I fire up my vintage system, I sometimes turn off the lights to marvel at the glow. Yup, it's an emotional thing. By the way, I grew up listening to my dad's mono. :) In fact, that's the very same system that's in my office. I restored the amp over a period of five years.

    Yup, my take as well. (Agreement #4,177 between us :))

    Makes sense. Again, it's basically all in the transfer function. Tube power amps almost always have those wonderful output transformers that add to the classic "tube sound."
  11. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    It's a lot more to do with what the circuit is designed to do. You can make clean or dirty pre-amps with either SolidState or Tube. SS and Tube circuits can be designed to generate even and/odd harmonics. What sounds "Clean" many not be clean, instead it may have some added distortion you like.

    IMHO - In summary, it doesn't matter what the devices are - just that the end results is what you want.
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  12. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    +1 with a couple of exceptions, it's nearly impossible to build a full on tube pre amplifier that's as small, and runs as cool, as its solid state counterpart. Jule Monique builds a beautiful, all tube pre amp, but it either has a tube cage or cooling fan, with vents to keep the tubes from overheating.
    Walter Woods managed to build a solid state 800/12,000 watt rms amp that doesn't need a fan, and weighs 7.5 lbs. Tecamp builds the Puma 900 that produces 900 watts at 4ohms that weighs only 2.2 lbs. which is utterly amazing.


    Attached Files:

  13. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Sorry, but I will never understand those of you who say that upright doesn't sound as good in a tube amp as a solid state amp. I've used and still use both quite extensively for upright, and while SS is perfectly usable and sounds good, the best tones I've gotten are from my B-15, V4B and SVT's. I'll use anything and make it sound good, and I often have in the past, but they are my ideals for both electric and upright. I'm using an upright with a piezo in the bridge wing, but I have used them with magnetic pickups before and I prefer tube amps regardless.

    I find tubes generally less reliable than they used to be, but not tube amps. I find clean running tube amps to sound way less compressed than anything I've ever used on the SS side, too. They are heavier and run hotter, yes, but I have no more issues moving around a 41 lb. V4B as I do my upright. I don't hear what those of you who don't like upright with tube amps are hearing, I guess.

    Just thought you all might want to hear from someone who prefers tubes. Like I said, I use SS too and I'm not unhappy with it by any means, and I'm less unhappy with SS for upright than for electric. But if I could, I'd take my V4B or SVT on every gig.
  14. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    The point is that there is good reason to believe that your preferences have nothing to do with the use of tubes vs. solid-state, per se. Rather, they have to do with the particular designs of the individual amps you've used. The tubes amps you used were likely "voiced" in a manner that you find desirable. Build that voicing into a SS amp and you'll not only love it, you won't be able to tell the difference.
  15. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Welcome over to the other side of the TB universe. I used a B-15 for DB at a time when pickups were so unbelievably bad that I completely gave up on using a pickup with DB for most of the 70's. When I got my first Walter Woods amp in 1980 I couldn't believe how great it sounded with an Underwood pickup, so I abandoned the B-15 head and used the cabinets with DB which sounded great. I've compared the two heads many times and found the Woods to be more powerful, lighter, and warmer sounding.As pickups have improved dramatically the Woods amplifier sounded better with each step forward in pickup and speaker designs. I always pull out the B-15 to compare and the Woods always sounds better, to my ears.

    Well, call me a whimp, but since I can get a beautiful sound from a 9 pound head and a 30 pound cabinet (that's my largest rig by the way) I don't see any benefit in transporting a B-15N that weighs @80 lbs.

    Always good to hear a different opinion, it would be a pretty boring read if everyone had the same take on amplifiers.

    Ric ;<)>
  16. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    For me it's not tubes vs. SS as much as how it's voiced.

    Back in the 1980s I used an old Fender Bassman head with an Ampeg Baby Bass and never could get a good sound. The EQ stack and overall response simply wasn't well matched with the Baby's pickup and the cabinet I was using at the time. Result: terrible sound, feedback, etc. The Baby into a SS Traynor combo worked much better.

    I've used supplied SVT backline on gigs and gotten a very good sound in the past but I have no need of such a huge amp for any gigs I do, even on bass guitar!

    Back to the OP: the "tube preamp" in Hartkes (and many other similar amps) is tweaked to give you overdrive which can sound great with bass guitar but just adds mush to string bass IMHO. As others have noted, it's not hard to built a super clean hi-fi tube amp circuit but that's not how most tube bass amps are designed.
  17. I will try the upright on an Ampeg SVT-4 PRO, which also has a tube preamp and seems to have more professional features, i.e. you should be able to get a clean tone if you want to. This may sound amateurish, but so far I have gotten the best results with a Fender Rumble 75 combo, which has a 12" speaker and 75 watts of modern power (I think it's class D). Sounds clean and gives me enough power for an "unplugged" band.