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"extremely clean, transparent sound," tubes?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by babsobass, Mar 27, 2015.

  1. babsobass


    Jan 10, 2009
    Milwaukee, WI
    Was reading a for sale add of a tube preamp, not here on TB. Was intrigued by the description of a tube pre that states it is clean and transparent. I normally think of tubes as having as certain desirable color that solid state doesn't provide. I think solid state when I think of clean and transparent. Am I wrong on this? Can tubes be transparent and clean?
  2. Dave W

    Dave W

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    They sure can
  3. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    It does rather defeat the purpose, yes?

    But a clean tube preamp will add, in theory, a degree or "natural compression" and nearly imperceptible "Dirt" that give it that "warm" feeling. I know when I run my tube preamp on my Ashdown, I get that .
  4. christw

    christw Get low!

    May 11, 2008
    Dayton OH
    I want to be Tesla (tinkerer at Dayton Amp Co)
    Tube amps can be extremely clean in nature including some designed for musical instruments. Check out some of the ultralinear Fender designs and subsequent Musicman amps.
  5. They were originally designed to reproduce cleanly. Then gui****s got hold of them.
    Mike A, Jeff Scott, JakeyBran and 6 others like this.
  6. cfsporn


    Aug 20, 2011
    New York City
    I doubt these would be so beloved by audiophiles if they weren't transparent.
  7. xk49w


    Apr 13, 2008
    Depends on the purpose. If the purpose is transparency, then there is no defeat.

    A minor disagreement with that last statement. Not in theory, rather by design. I have an Audio Research SP6 preamp, -3dB from 1 Hz to 250 kHz, and low distortion at least by tube amp measures. IMO it has no natural compression or dirt, but I don't use it because the noise floor is too high.
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2015
    B-string likes this.
  8. Mr. Foxen

    Mr. Foxen Commercial User

    Jul 24, 2009
    Bristol, UK
    Amp tinkerer at Ampstack
    Important bit is that the distortion that is there, which still can be very little, can be very unobtrusive. Thus they can give an even cleaner impression to the ear than might be measured.

    Clean valve amps kinda suffered fro the whole power wars when people demanded watts over sound though.
  9. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    Add to that, there is a certain irrational mysticism surrounding valve amps. You know... a bit lke folks who like damaged instruments because they have "mojo".
  10. Mr. Foxen

    Mr. Foxen Commercial User

    Jul 24, 2009
    Bristol, UK
    Amp tinkerer at Ampstack
    If you think a valve preamp in a solid state amp is a relevant comparison point, probably don't really grasp the whole thing.
    TMARK likes this.
  11. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    Oh, clearly. I am not one of the enlightened! :D
  12. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    I love tube preamps that are clean...and it's the heart of my rig. Harmonic distortion doesn't necessarily come across as distortion but as 'richness' that still is perceived as totally clean. I love the Monique by Jule, which really has the 'feel' and the note envelope of a fully tube amp along with that richness. I also have a Kern IP-777 that is a different smoother fatter clean.
    paparoof and SanDiegoHarry like this.
  13. Jim C

    Jim C Is that what you meant to play or is this jazz? Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    I find that an SVT-CL can be extremely clean, clear, and with a deep 3D soundstage
    While most don't use for that purpose, the sound is there and why I use one as my reference amp

    OTOH, my MB 800 has perhaps more clarity although I do find more warmth in the top end of tubes as well as the "slower" softer attack.
    phishaholik likes this.
  14. The Boogie in Mesa Engineering was purposeful tweaking of a breaking up amp to break up even worse ie better.
    chaosMK likes this.
  15. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    The preamps in a lot of Ampeg tube amps are dead flat with knobs at noon, although with some of them, the output section does a little tonal change. So it's absolutely not impossible to have flat response and tubes.
    JakeyBran, fdeck and throughmylens87 like this.
  16. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    The preamp in my Hevos hybrid amp is designed to be "clean" (unclear what is actually meant by that though), with a neutral frequency response and no distortion. It doesn't do distorted rock sounds, something a lot of people seem to equate valve/tube amps to.
  17. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass **** Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    I have an old Demeter pre that's very clean, it won't do dirty no matter how hard you try. I also have a Sunn 200s w/ JBLs, at lower levels it gives the impression of being clean. You'd swear your hearing a DI playback in the studio through a solid state board. While on paper, tube amps aren't clean they can sure sound like it when they're operating within the thresholds for which they were designed....of course not all amps are designed to ever sound clean.
  18. Sputnik Monroe

    Sputnik Monroe

    Feb 11, 2014
    Indeed the Sunn 200s is very clean ... as it is literally a Dynaco MK III hi-fi power amp

    FFTT, salcott and Rain Wash Me like this.
  19. Let's recall the early days of guitar and bass amps. Leo Fender and others did not sit down and start from scratch, they didn't go "gee let's make an amp that will overdrive into a nice pleasing distortion or a hard grindy crunch". Nope, Leo and the others took standard designs for audio amplifiers and basically stuck a 1/4" phone jack on a microphone input, with a volume pot and tone stack stuck in there. These audio amp designs were originally intended to be nice and clean and transparent, they were meant for audio reproduction. So distortion was not a desired byproduct, quite the opposite in fact. (Everett Hull of Ampeg hated distortion, he wanted his bass amps to be clean.)

    Now in those days, "free from distortion" is a relative term, tube amps could be quite clean depending on the sophistication of the design, but there's always a slight bit of asymmetry in a tube gain stage--barely discernible if at all, but there nevertheless; fortunately it's a pleasing bit of distortion so nobody complained. The original basic concept though was that music amps would be free from distortion just like their audio amp ancestors.

    Fender and the others though didn't plan on one thing: they didn't foresee the onset of Rock and Roll. They didn't know that folks would turn the amps up and overdrive them purposely! Up till then it was assumed that people would stop turning the amp up when it started to distort...but it turned out quite the opposite, starting with Link Wray's Rumble and similar songs. The sound of tubes being driven into distortion could be quite pleasing--sometimes. I say that because some tube circuit designs don't do all that well when driven into distortion, they may lack grid stoppers so the tube may go into blocking distortion (farting out) for example.
  20. Mr. Foxen

    Mr. Foxen Commercial User

    Jul 24, 2009
    Bristol, UK
    Amp tinkerer at Ampstack
    Marshall has a lot to answer for, for making people think valve amps are supposed to sound like they are broken.

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