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Interesting observation about tube amps

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Zirc, Apr 6, 2005.

  1. Zirc


    May 13, 2001
    Los Angeles
    Pretty much everything is becoming obsolete with the upcoming digital technology. Carbuerators (sp?) are obsolete because of Fuel Injection. Basically, vintage stuff is always being improved upon and what not, except with amps.

    How long have tube amps been around? Since the 50s? Amazing how no one has invented anything that sounds better than tube isn't it? You'd think we would have done it by now with technology.
  2. Marlat


    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK
    Many people would argue that tube is not in fact the be all and end all of audio technology for a large variety of applications (ie pa and high wattage applications or ultra clean bass sounds with large headroom for funk etc).
  3. By inventing transistor amps and Mosfet amps they kind of have but what sounds good is different to every person
  4. popinfresh


    Dec 23, 2004
    Melbourne, Aus
    Different strokes.

    But with amps, it's personal to what sound the user wants. Same with cars really, heh. Some people prefer not to use EFI or turbo and would rather stick with a nice holly and a supercharger.
    Kinda the same sound with cars/amps really :p Old cars/tube amps - nice loud rumble, with a nice warmth to the note. Newer 'ricers'/SS - Tinny and thin sounding.


    But certainly nothing has been able to re-create tubes.
  5. I agree. I don't think tubes *necessarily* sound best for bass at all. It all depends on what you want. You couldn't *pay* me to play an SVT: for what I want to do, they suck and I hate the way they sound. For someone else they're nirvana. And neither of us is wrong.

    So I don't think it makes sense to say nobody's come up with something that sounds better than tubes. (As far as I'm concerned, there are a lot of SS amps that sound better than an SVT.) OTOH, you probably could argue that nothing has been developed that sounds *just like* tubes. Whether that's good or bad or neither depends on the individual player.
  6. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    One interesting development (which carries over to the home audiophile camps, and is probably even more applicable there) has been that as solid state options get better and better (and there are some truly great options both in the bass world and for us "audiophiles"), this has driven some of the tube gear to get better and better, too. It's really an "arms race" that can lead to sonic improvements, though in some cases, it has lead to ridiculously high prices (especially in the home audio department).

    A lot of people fall firmly into the tube camp or the solid state camp. I suppose I am a "hybrid", myself. My main amplifiers at home are Theta Digital Enterprises (SS monoblocks), but my main source is a Denon 5900 universal player with a tube output stage (courtesy of Dan Wright, at Modwright). I would love to pick up a little tube integrated amp for a smaller listening room, at some point, too.

    On the bass gear side, I like both SS and tube amps, too, and I think each has their strengths and weaknesses. This is why I am thinking of trying a combined attack for my live rig. Tube and SS amps, working together, for tube growl/sheen, but SS tight, deep lows! :bassist:

    I have yet to test this theory live, though...
  7. Since the 50's? Heh...kids. :rollno:

    The first vacuum tubes were invented in the late 1800's. The triode, which made amplifiers possible, was invented in 1906.

    Something has been invented that's better than tubes...the transistor. Transistors have proved superior than vacuum tubes in just about eveything except a few specialized industrial applications and guitar amplifiers where their inherent flaws are still considered desireable.
  8. I work for a small hi-fi manufacturer and our flagship product is an active loudspeaker system utilizing this exact concept. Woofers are powered by 100W Bryston modules (OEM), midranges and tweeters powered by 5W Class-A 300B tube amps. All the crossover stuff is electronic and in the front end of the power amp section......

    Your post is a pretty good summary of my feelings on the matter, in general, butfor me, all-tube is the way to go for instrument amplification....:D But that's me.
  9. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Dang it!!! Now I have to go and clean the drool off of my keyboard! ;)

    Mark, could you PM me with some more information about this product, including a list authorized dealers, etc.?

    Thanks, Tom.
  10. I don't think either is really better for bass or guitar. I also think that "tubes is better" is becoming somewhat of a myth with the younger generation today. I don't know how many times I've heard kids say they just want something "with tubes" and don't really care about anything else.
  11. Done and done!
  12. Pickebass

    Pickebass Supporting Member

    Jul 12, 2004
    San Antonio, TX
    I think tubes fall into the same category as why most of us have some Fender style bass.... it has dominated the music we have heard over the years and our ears are "comfortable" hearing the sonic traits of tubes. For example, the SVT has long been considered the "holy grail" of rock and roll tone. Best sounding tube amp?? Probably not, but it has become our sonic reference point.

    In regards to improvement with vintage products, I think we have seen quite a bit of improvement in design, build quality and sonic accuracy/clarity over the years. One other thing to consider, is the extreme costs in making an all tube amp. Since the amp is expensive to make, the quality has to be superb. You may accept OK sound from a $200 amp but you expect alot from a $2000 amp
  13. protoz


    Nov 30, 2000
    I'd be considered the newer generation (19) and for guitars I can only see tubes for some reason. I haven't really heard a good SS guitar amp...

    As for bass, I am more open to the SS/Tube change-up.

    I have a hybrid Hartke 5000, a full SS Sunn Coliseum 300, and a tube Sunn Sorado on the way. I can see different applications for each amp already as each of them will sound quite different.

    My Hartke can give me nice defined lows and some mild pre-overdrive, the Colisuem has a lot of punch, and the Sorado will give me that tube bite and growl.
  14. Jerrold Tiers

    Jerrold Tiers

    Nov 14, 2003
    St Louis
    I think that really, the issue is NOT the "inherently better" sound, or other qualities of the tube or the transistor, MosFet, whatever.

    The real issue is that we are dealing with a "relatively new" phenomenon, amplified instruments. For the most part, it is post WW2, and really post 1950.

    The defining qualities of this "new" phenomenon were established with tube-type equipment.

    That equipment was really, technically, pretty rotten stuff. Made cheaply and with relatively poor audio performance.

    BUT, all the flaws, blemishes and good points of that equipment were incorporated into this "new instrument" which is the combination of a guitar (bass or otherwise) and an amp with speakers.

    The amplifier, as built, has certain inherent characteristics that alter the sound. Tubes in particular have certain inherent characteristics as they act in an amplifier.

    Musicians learned to use these to get new sounds. The bad types of sounds were ignored, and the better musical sounds got used. (yes I have heard some really nasty tube amps).

    Those new good sounds that the tube amp could make, then became a "definition" of certain musical styles, and crossed over into other musical styles and genres also. Other possible good sounds were not considered, because they were not what you got with what was available.

    So now, the tube amp is the comparison standard to a large extent.

    If regular transistors or MosFets had been first, we might be having a different discussion..............about how tubes just don't sound the same as MosFets, etc.......you just can't get those sounds, etc,etc.. Interesting thought......

    Of course, if SS was first, we likely wouldn't have bothered with tubes....but you see the point.
  15. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    I dunno - when it comes to front-end (I really mean 'foot-pedal') distortion, I've tried a bunch, and I like solid state better - specifically my ODB-3!

  16. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    Just for fun, try substituting the word tubes with rock music. It would leave an equally subjective statement, and probably a great many people would agree with it still.
  17. Tedintheshed

    Tedintheshed Banned

    Oct 8, 2004
    Columbus, Ohio
    I thik that both trube and SS technology has it's application in the arena of music, however I do not beleive that either has been surpased by digital technology,

    I like my analog.

  18. I believe that people waiting for solid state amps to 'surpass' tube amps will be waiting a long time, because what they really want is for SS amps to sound like tube amps. This is pointless, because SS amps don't have the flawed functionality that gives tubes their distinctive sound, and are therefore hard pressed to emulate less reliable, more random technology. SS amps give a much more precise amplification of the sound of the bass - they're simply better audio equipment. The choice between that and the distinctively altered sound of tubes is yours to make.

    Fake Edit: This sounds rather judgemental, but I figure it'll get the attention of people who claim that tube amps are inherently superior to solid state.
  19. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    OK, then try recording a piece with 300 embedded loops, recorded in 17 different studios, using only analog equipment. :cool: Your perspective all depends on what you're trying to accomplish with your tools, no?

    I like my analog.

    Me too, I still get a kick out of nearly every tube amp that leaves my shop, hopefully working better and inspiring someone to play something cool. Same goes for computers though, for me.
  20. Jerrold Tiers

    Jerrold Tiers

    Nov 14, 2003
    St Louis
    Like I said...what you get used to.....

    If SS was first, we'd be thinking differently, different standard of comparison.