Reliability and Tube vs. Solid State

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by jgrotto, Dec 5, 2005.

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  1. jgrotto


    Nov 29, 2005
    I'm considering going tube. Ultimately, I'll be using a pair of Ampeg SVT 410 HLFs and I'm thinking about topping them off with an SVT CL. But I'm a little concerned about the reliability of tube amps. Is this warranted? I've noticed a few folks vehemntly arguing one way or the other in a random thread here and there, but I've not seen a serious discussion about it.

    To quote myself from one of the aforementioned threads:

    I've listened to both my guitarists cuss out their "f_ck_ng tube" amps a dozen times. Both have the distinction of frying 3 heads in two weeks. I've heard them solemnly swear to go SS. That lasts about as long as it takes to change the fuse or a tube or two and get them fired up again. Then their hearts melt all over again. And they're not the only guitarists I know who have reliability issues with their tube heads... So did/do these issues occur because they're using tube amps? Or do they just occur because sh_t happens? Dunno. But, having been on stage while guitarists troubleshot and swapped out heads for 5, 10, 15 minutes, I'm a little spooked.​

    Any bass amp horror stories? Any scientific (quasi- or otherwise) explanations why a tube bass amp is more or less reliable than a SS bass amp?
  2. Tube bass amps have a longer lifetime than SS amps (if you do not count changing a tube or cap as failure of the amp), but they are much easier to repair. Tubes can last pretty long- from a year to over 30 years depending on how well you maintain the amp and take care of the tubes. Guitarists, more often than not, mod their amp and run it to its full capacity, which can result in failure if the amp is not taken care of properly. I have seen way too many guitarists cause their amps to fail because they try to move em when the tubes are still hot, bang the amp against something, and kapoot.
  3. I'll use an example: s/s amp = fuel injected

    tube amp = carburated

    There are many carburated cars that run for many, many miles. Sure, they take a little more maintenance, but they are usually not too complex, and can last a long time too..

    Sometimes, a fuel injected car can be harder to repair without a specialist, but they usually require less maintenance..

    Buy based on tone .... Tubes aren't nightmares if you treat them right...
  4. Exactly ... just like my guitar-playing friend, who has imminently more musical knowledge than me, but treats his tube amp like a Tonka( stored in the heat and cold, no warming it up, tossing it in the back of truck..etc.)
  5. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Too much hip thrust
    I've blown a few fuses in live situations. This was always due to power tubes being loose from the journey (despite handling it with utmost care in a rack case at every stage) and usually only took a few minutes to fix. I always carry a pack of fuses in my bag of wires. I had a fuse blow a few times at a pretty high pressure gig (headlining at one of the best venues in town) and it threw things off a bit that night.

    I use a Mesa/Boogie Bass 400 now but also used an Ampeg SVT-4 back in the day. The difference in tone is enough that I never look back.

    Once in a while I dream about getting a cheap but powerful solid state backup.

    Tube is plenty reliable, but you have to be quite careful with it. Something very delicate and super heavy is a pain to travel with and waiting for warmup, checking power tubes, etc, is definately more of a pain in a live situation than Plug & Go. I think most of the tube amp users on TB feel its worth it.
  6. The 0x

    The 0x

    Aug 24, 2003
    Timonium, MD
    Tube amps are no less reliable than solid state amps.
  7. true! Sean, I bet the tubes in that Sunn are older than you... how do they sound?
  8. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    I agree that tube amps take no more special attention than any other amp. I own 3 of them...1 bass amp and 2 guitar amps. One of the two guitar amps is 5 years older than I am (making it 40) and it's still all original and sounding great. The other is about 3 years younger than I am and is also in great playing shape. They've both been on the road with me without any problem.

    My bass head is a 400+, and while I've only had it for about 9 months, I've gigged with pretty extensively in that time with no probems and no different care than my solid state bass head.
  9. I have a friend who has been gigging with the same Sunn amp and 2x15 cab since she graduated from college in 1969. That includes several years of touring military bases around the world during the Vietnam war. All I used were tube amps between 1954 and 1996 when I bought my first SS amp. They take a little bit of maintenance, but they're not disposable amps like a lot of the SS stuff. A well made, well designed tube amp is simple to work on and simple to maintain. They are an investment in great music. Of course the same goes for a well made, well designed SS amp like the Thunderfunk.

    I have a new tube guitar amp, a couple old (45-50 years) tube amps and my SS bass amp. If I had the bucks today for a new bass amp, I would give serious consideration to tubes.
  10. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    There are many more SS amps in the world than there are Tube amps. Far more.
    Tubes wear out by nature. They work by having a filament that heats up. Filaments are like light bulbs and wear out. They don't sound the same they did three month ago. (Yes we all have the light bulb that's been working for years - but it's not as bright as it use to be)

    SS is more reliable and more consistent.

    Tubes are so last century. There is nothing supernatural about them or their sound. Their behavior is well known and documented.

    If you want tubes - get tubes - don't look to justify it.
  11. There is to my ear :smug:
  12. The 0x

    The 0x

    Aug 24, 2003
    Timonium, MD
    Gnarly. [​IMG]
  13. The 0x

    The 0x

    Aug 24, 2003
    Timonium, MD
  14. Me and my music too.
  15. There are reliable tube amps. There are reliable solid state amps.

    There are also unreliable tube amps. Likewise, there are also unreliable SS amps.

    A well designed, well constructed amp, treated with reasonable care, should last for decades. Doesn't matter whether it's tubes or SS. Some components, such as jacks and potentiometers, have a limited lifetime because they are subject to mechanical wear--tube or SS doesn't matter as far as those parts are concerned. Likewise, electrolytic capacitors will dry up over time (though today's caps are better than those of 40 years ago).

    Tubes do have a limited lifetime, and they can be dislodged from their sockets or even broken, of course, but then a SS amp isn't necessarily bulletproof either. Otherwise, maybe just figure on replacing power tubes every 20 or 30 years (YMMV)....

    IMHO we cannot generalize that "tubes are more/less relaible than SS" ....
  16. I can generalize that getting a new transistor installed will cost lots more than getting a new set of tubes :p
  17. In all my years repairing amps, tube and s/s, I have NEVER seen a dead tube filament in an audio amp.

    What's a troll post, BTW? :rolleyes: :eyebrow:
  18. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Reference the original question.
    I was replying to it.

    But just keep telling yourself that I'm trolling because I don't think tubes are the best thing since slided bread (not sure what came first)
  19. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    BTW - since the original poster asks about "reliability"
    One measure is the warranty the manufacturer places on their amplifiers. Good manufacturers have at least 2 years. The same manufacturers tend to only cover tubes for 90 days.
  20. That's because it's very difficult to give an extensive garantuee something that can be broken very easily by mistreatment, while it's difficult to see if the customer treated it with care or not.

    It's been said over and over: as long as you treat tube amps right, they're reliable. But it can be a pain to always been very careful with your amp, giving it lots of time to warm up, cool down, and moving it in a very good flightcase. It's that's too much hassle for you, stick with SS.
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