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Solid state/class d vs tube amps

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Sparkl, Oct 5, 2017.

  1. Sparkl


    Apr 23, 2011
    ok guys. As generic of a topic as this is I have a big dilemma.

    If you check my sig, you will see that I am a (proud) owner of Aguilar amps.

    They sound great and all but yesterday I tried to hook up a fender bassman tube clone.

    Wow! I couldn't believe the sound I was getting. Barefaced big twin 2 has a renown of being a cab that is able to pump monstrous lows, that are sometimes even hard to control. But with the clone, every low note has a clear and round, veery warm low end that doesn't extend over the limits. What surprised me even more is that every note I played, even on higher registers is still meaty and has a great low mid presence and just keeps on going and seamlessly blends with the low notes with zero volume difference.

    My aguilar amps work great as well but there was an obvious and immediate difference in the sound the moment I plugged in.

    I immediately felt groovier and a better bass player.

    Should I go after an all tube amp? I never played a solidstate with a similar warmth and meat to the sound and I am starting to think I never will.

    The bassman clone was 40w and I couldn't believe how loud it actually was.

    The size of these amps is bugging me though.
  2. mmbongo

    mmbongo Dilly Dilly! Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    Sounds like my reaction when I first discovered the Mesa Subway D800! But then again I've never played through a tube amp. I just can't imagine the hassle of moving it around and constantly changing tubes. But if you can try a Mesa Subway, it's about as tubey as you're going to get from a small class D amp.
  3. Christopher DBG

    Christopher DBG Commercial User

    May 18, 2015
    Westerly, RI
    Luthier/Owner, Christopher Bass Guitar (former username: smithcreek)
    Why would you "constantly" change tubes?
  4. Sparkl


    Apr 23, 2011
    Hey! Thanks for the info. Seems like I really have to give the subway a shot :)

    I am certainly looking for smoothness in tone, which basically all tube amps have loads of, with the addition of also being capable of going into the healthy grind mode with zero harshness to it, just pure warmth. I am an absolute fan of this sound. There is just something so natural about it, also with this mild tube compression going on.

    Hopefully the subway delivers, just have to wait for a nice sale.

    I am still not done with tube amps though :D

    My experience is that ss amps can get close to it and sound satisfactory on its own (especially if you have no tube amp lying around for an immediate comparison), but it really shocks you when you plug into a real tube thing.

    Why do they have to be so big and heavy?? :(
  5. mmbongo

    mmbongo Dilly Dilly! Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    Transformers! No not Optimus Prime! But any good tube amp uses huge transformers that weigh a ton.
    RedJag, alesreaper9, zon6c-f and 6 others like this.
  6. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    If Aguilar the knobs are at factory default position try turning them.
    Sounds simple, but it seems often that people try a amp with default knob settings and think that is the only tone the amp is capable of. Some heads are very versatile but you have to move the knobs. The EQ, and other knobs on many heads can drastically affect the sound - with a simple tweak.

    Other Heads have a built in "signature" sound. Signature sounds are a strong influence and the reason why it is built into heads. Sometimes these signature sound is so over ruling that you can't dial it out - if you ever want to.

    Can't really know if it going to work until you try it in several mixes. You can adjust while playing in a mix.
  7. superheavyfunk


    Mar 11, 2013
    Have you considered trying something like the LeBass, or the old EBS ValveDrive (I think that's what it was called)? Both are great tube preamps that might be able to deliver the tone/feel you're looking for, without the weight and hassle of a full-on all-tube head.
  8. mmbongo

    mmbongo Dilly Dilly! Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    Tubes wear out. They do not last forever.
  9. Cuzzie

    Cuzzie Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2016
    I am not an Aguilar fan (please no haters!) but that is just me. That bassman will give you an awesome sound.
    If you like a really deep and full bass tone then definitely Mesa D800 (plus or not) is the way to go, or at least have a play with.
    If you like a good amp with a nice drive function which is close to a tube amp sound, look at the Genzler Magellan.

    If you like you can stick a preamp pedal infront of things as suggested. I myself run a Two Notes LeBass, but i actually run a Hartke VXL before it to drive it even more. This goes into a Form Factor Audio Bi1000 amp and into a Barefaced SuperTwin.
    It is a beautiful monstrous loud sound. The Form Factor amp is very clean with an 'Ampeg' like EQ, great control over your mids and then i can get as organic as i want with those other preamps and a Cali76G compressor, it really is good and you should check out the amp.

    Alternatively if you want thunderous lows and distortion then you can look at the Tech21 dUg amp (expensive!) but they are bringing out a pedal of the preamp next year.
  10. Sparkl


    Apr 23, 2011
    I love the di signal I get out of my tonehammer for studio use. Nice and full and gets close in a studio mix. The ag500 not so much, too tight and articulate to fill the studio mix.

    Now I would love to get a similar vibe going on live :)

    I have of course turned every knob there is hehe. The problem is usually with the meaty low mids. I either get a nice round bottom on low notes but lose on the upper register resulting in thin upper notes, or I get a nice and beefy g and d string but get overwhelmed on the e string. Could a hpf filter do the trick perhaps?

    Somebody mentioned the tube preamps, which is also something I might try out.
  11. Christopher DBG

    Christopher DBG Commercial User

    May 18, 2015
    Westerly, RI
    Luthier/Owner, Christopher Bass Guitar (former username: smithcreek)
    Ok, so you meant "eventually", not constantly. I was starting to wonder if I was doing some wrong. :)
    Artman, lowplaces, GregC and 10 others like this.
  12. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    They can, but there are plenty of vintage amps out there with the original tubes still in them.
    It's certainly something to factor in but at the end of the day it's usually blown way out of proportion.
    dBChad, Artman, beardedclam and 14 others like this.
  13. mmbongo

    mmbongo Dilly Dilly! Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    Nah I just can't see using a tube amp every day. Man the last tube amp anything I had was a Soldano guitar head. I do miss that amp! Just couldn't justify having a $2500 amp sitting around for occasional 6 string wankery although I hope to be in that financial position again someday :)
  14. klejst


    Oct 5, 2010
    My main thing about Class-D amps is you can get some of the tube goodness with the hybrid setup in sometimes a smaller and lighter package.
  15. husky123

    husky123 Supporting Member

    Jul 6, 2006
    Leesburg, VA
    Endorsing Artist: Bergantino Audio Systems
    My 74 SVT has had the same pre and power tubes in it since 1992 and I use it all the time. No BS.
  16. Luckydog

    Luckydog Supporting Member

    Dec 25, 1999
    Nothing lasts forever....and tubes are only part of the equation. Tube amps may require a little more maintenance than solid state, but there is absolutely no need to "constantly" change tubes. Tubes can last for years. Moving a heavy amp is like moving anything else. Too heavy? Use a hand truck, or *gasp!* ask for help. To some ppl, the tone of a tube amp is so satisfying that they are willing to deal with the 1st world problems of moving heavy music gear in order to achieve it. If we find tube tone to be extremely satisfying for the relatively long period we hear it (vs the relative short period we move it) then we find ways to do it. If it is not important enough, we retreat into lighter gearspace. I use both tube amps, as well as small lightweight gear at different times. Depends on my mood, and the circumstances of the gig. I'm an old guy, and despite arthritis and a previously broken back, I will make the 1st world sacrifice of lifting a heavy load, in order to achieve my ideal tone on occasion. And yes, horror of it all, I have been known to occasionally (very rarely) change some tubes.
  17. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    Check out the Ampeg PF-50T or the Mesa Prodigy. Not 5 pounds class D light but certainly more manageable than the older tube heads.
  18. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Because your first language isn't English?
  19. I have an Aguilar AG700 into an AudioKinesis Hathor 1203, super punchy and clean but definitely not hitting tube territory. I use a Keeley Compressor Pro and a Two Notes LeBass in front of it, still get the punch that I like, but with the added balance of the compressor and the tubey goodness of the preamp pedal. I'd love to have a real tube amp, but this gets me close enough without having to deal with the carry.
  20. Caca de Kick

    Caca de Kick Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    If you call "constantly" about 10 years between tube changes.... no they do not need constant change. nearly all ss amp guys I know have bought several new amps in that time frame.

    Sorry, but even the D800 doesn't sound anything like their tube amps. I bought one, it sounded absolutely nothing like my Strategy or my Bass 400, and couldn't even cop the glassy high end of a tube amp.
    dBChad, Suncat, Mark Andrew and 15 others like this.

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