DI Backup for tube amp

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Chas49, Dec 24, 2018.

  1. Chas49


    Dec 24, 2018
    Hey everyone! I am the proud owner of an Ampeg PF 50-T that I use for live gigs. I love the warmth of the tubes and the multiple DI options it gives me for playing bigger venues. My only reservation about playing this tube amp live is that tubes are not as reliable as solid state amps (tubes can die mid-gig, etc.) and I don't want to be left at the venue with no way to get my sound out there if this happens. Hauling a second amp or backup head is not a preferred option for me. So... should I buy a DI as a backup?? OR will the DI in my Portaflex still work even if the tube is shot? I can't seem to find any reliable info online about the Portaflex working regardless of the tube status...but I'm guessing it won't... I'm wondering if anyone has had experience with this issue (especially with this specific amp) and what you might recommend in terms of backups in a live situation with this kind of setup. Thanks. Charlie
    Zbysek likes this.
  2. Geri O

    Geri O Endorsing Artist, Mike Lull Guitars and Basses Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    The instances of tube failures are so rare and infrequent that you should carry a backup DI for general good practices.

    You are more likely to blow a fuse, a speaker, or other component common to all bass amplifiers. And it’s more likely that your amp will be stolen or lost in a fire or flood than to suffer a tube failure.

    So, yes, carry a backup DI. Just because...:D
  3. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    Every venue I've ever played provides a DI for the bass.
    But carrying a backup isn't a bad idea. I have a Radial JDI in my bag just in case. I've never used it. ;)
    Gearhead17 and Geri O like this.
  4. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011

    Carrying a DI is a good idea. I have had a GK RB800 and an Eden WT800 melt down on tour. I normally run a DI between my bass and the amp so I just switched the amp off and had the audio tech dial me up in my monitor. The sound wasn't great, but I got through the remaining tour dates with no problem.

    I normally use a Countryman Type 85 or Radial PZDI. Since you're just looking for a back up, you might want to consider something that is smaller and lower cost, like a Radial StageBug.

    StageBug - Radial Engineering
    mesaplayer83 likes this.
  5. A Trace Elliot Elf could live under your car's front seat ready to spring to the rescue. DI and wattage in one.
  6. Chas49


    Dec 24, 2018
    Thanks guys! I feel like I assumed that tube amps break down more frequently than SS amps, and that that assumption might be wrong. I don't know. I've been a SS player all my life with no issues, and since I've switched to tubes I've had a few minor issues recently (especially with tubes buzzing and such), so I just assumed these issues might translate to the live arena.
    Zbysek likes this.
  7. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    IMHO, tube amps do break down more frequently than solid state. But tubes are considered consumable so it's not really a failure, your just replacing parts that are expected to wear out...I.E. replacing a bad or worn tube is kinda like replacing a dead battery or broken strings on your bass. Sometimes when a tube fails it takes out a few resistors and the amp needs to go to the shop. Usually it's a lot easier fix than when a solid state amp melts down, at least from a technical stand point.

    Regardless of whether your amp is solid state or tube, carrying a backup DI is a sensible idea. If you can swing it, carrying a micro Class-D amp as a backup is also a good strategy (as proposed by @Downunderwonder ).
    LiquidMidnight and mesaplayer83 like this.
  8. As a pf50t owner myself, I have a Tech 21 VT DI I use as “backup” or when there is no need for an amp. Very “Ampeg” like and can run on phantom power from the mixer board.
    klokker, GlueKill and Groove Doctor like this.
  9. hbabels

    hbabels Supporting Member

    Jul 26, 2015
    Phoenix, AZ
    I agree always good for have a backup no matter if you play tube or solid state. Tube amp failure are widely exaggerated. As long as you transport them them safely & make sure they’re connected to a speaker Load week switched on ( some like the PF-50 can be run with out one but most need to me connected to speakers always )
    They’re plenty reliable.

    With years of giving & mxing FOH I think I’ve seen more solid state amps die durning a gig than tube but both are rare really unless you just treat your gear like poop.

    Still I always believe in a backup option is wise. An Ampeg PF-350 or 500 can be had cheap or an Aguilar Tone Hammer. Are low cost small lightweight class D amps.

    Or for DI’s Radial JDI/ J48 or Countryman Type 85 work & Sound great for $200 or less and if you want something with more of a character and tone shaping the Sansamp VT DI , Ampeg SCRDI or Aguilar Tone Hammer are great affordable options.

    I really like the Ampeg SCRDI as my backup because it has a great tone , switchable Overdrive , and the aux in and headphone jack plus the fact you can run it on a 9volt means I have an easy way to practice or warmup at venues / hotel rooms etc
    Zooberwerx, zZippy and Chas49 like this.
  10. Chas49


    Dec 24, 2018
    Thanks! I will definately check out the Ampeg SRC DI. I love the overdrive/headphones options, both of which I am missing in my current rig.
    zZippy and hbabels like this.
  11. I carry a Sansamp ParaDriver as a backup to my Jule Monique M700 - but I’ve never needed to use it.

    Can run on 9V Battery, commonest wall wart, pedal board or Phantom power FTW.
    TinIndian likes this.
  12. Tube power? Or just preamp tubes? I have three amps I use fer variety on my gigs. All have tube preamps and solid state, or digital switching, power. All the tubes I have in my amps, and one floor pedal drive with a tube, are at least 20 years old. Some close to 30. I like em old. Tubes, for me, wear in. Sound warmer, have better, more predictable drive characteristics, and are generally more quiet. I'm a, "If it ain broke, don't fix it", type of guy. I carry spare preamp tubes, they can be switched in minnits, but I honestly haven't had a tube fail. I play 200 or so dates a year fer the last 30 years. And my amps stay on all day, every day, fer a very long time. I wouldn't worry a preamp tube failure at all. I do carry spares. Of EVERYthing. D.I. included. I have a SansAmp BDDI active and a Whirlwind passive D.I. Again, for variety. I also carry spare tubes, cables, strings, and a drum key. Heh. Stuff like that is too inexpensive not to carry.
    Power tubes, on the other hand, tho sound great, I avoid. Maintenance being one reason. Weight and convenience, are other reasons. So I can't speak much bout those types of amps. But I have friends who use em nightly. On as many dates as me. 2-3 years seems a regular maintenance interval, but if no issues are present? I wouldn't worry. Some all tube amps have run decades without a change, especially run at today's lower stage volumes. If the amp isn't pushed hard, tubes could last a lifetime, I suppose.
    Bottom line? Of course, carry spares. Of anythin an everythin you use regular. But I feel cables today are less reliable than tubes. But each person's experience varies. Just remember Murphy's Law. What can, will. Go wrong, that is.
    Chas49 likes this.
  13. jeff62

    jeff62 Supporting Member

    Oct 24, 2005
    Central FL
    Yes, spare preamp tubes fail rarely and are easily replaced when they do fail. You can’t replace a Power tube on the fly... well, you can but you shouldn’t because you want to make sure the replacements are properly biased.
    The Nameless likes this.
  14. Stranger Danger

    Stranger Danger Feel Like A Stranger Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2010
    I own one of these

    TC Electronic SpectraDrive Bass Preamp/Overdrive Pedal

    It’s a tremendous DI plus you get EQ, Compression and overdrive. The compressor and overdrive are TonePrint enabled so you can change the flavor. It’s got aux and headphones for practice. Sounds great. It’s a great little Swiss Army knife.
    MAXSPINRUN likes this.
  15. mesaplayer83


    Jun 27, 2017
    Those StageBug DIs are very good - I bought one to keep in my travel bag as a backup so I don't have to haul around my Countryman or JDI, and it's sound is quite comparable to the JDI:

    DI Boxes(2).JPG
    Zbysek and Wasnex like this.
  16. john m

    john m Supporting Member

    Jan 15, 2006
    My backup ( and go to band practice )
    head is a Trace Elf.

    It has an xlr out and is a complete amp that can run a 4 ohm load.
    Zbysek likes this.
  17. TinIndian

    TinIndian Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2011
    Micco Florida
    I've carried a Paradriver for years for the same reason. Never needed it either.
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  18. I carry a DI splitter as a backup. Bass to the DI, DI splits to your amp, and to the board. If the amp goes, I still get a signal to the board.
    Zbysek likes this.
  19. MIMike


    Jan 1, 2013
    West MI
    The Trace Elf has been mentioned a couple of times already, and I will throw out the GK MB200 as another option that could double as a backup amp or a DI in a pinch. The DI on it might not be as nice as any of the previously mentioned ones...but it’s a backup' right?

    In all my years of gigging, mostly with SS amps, the only time I ever had a failure on a gig was with my Bassman 100. A powertube went out, but I pulled it and it’s corrisponding pair out and finished the gig running half power (roughly). So, I really didn’t need a spare.
    The only time I ever bring a spare on a gig is when I play the Bassman. I have a GK MB500F with me as my backup now.
  20. devnulljp


    Oct 13, 2009
    BC, Canada
    Admin on the D*A*M Forum
    I've got a JDI in my bag at all times just in case. But if you're loving the Ampeg sound, why not get a BDDI or one of the VT Bass pedals as backup?
    Zbysek likes this.
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