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Strange Question

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Funky 1, Sep 19, 2008.

  1. Funky 1

    Funky 1

    Jun 29, 2006
    Ok, I think this question has an obvious answer, but i'll risk it anyway...

    Are watts generated by a tube amp any louder than solid state watts? I was having a discussion with my guitar player and he seems to think that tube watts are louder. I think that a watt is a watt, since it's probably a calculated value anyway.

    On the other hand, it sounds too dumb to not be true. :meh:
  2. abarson


    Nov 6, 2003
    Santa Cruz
    and it is a measure of power.
    Power (watt) = I (current) x E (voltage)​

    Why a 30-watt tube guitar amplifier can drown out a 100-watt solid state bass amplifier has more to do with how efficiently the given wattage is converted into audible energy measured in sound pressure level (SPL). And don't forget that more power is required for low frequencies to reach the same SPL that for higher frequencies.

    An analogy are old incandescent light bulbs vs. the new compact flourescent bulbs: the former may require 100 watts while the other only needs 30 watts to produce the same amount of light, measured in lumens. It all comes down to efficiencies.
  3. Bassmec


    May 9, 2008
    Ipswich UK
    Proprietor Springvale Studios
    A Watt is a watt but tube amps are a bit compressive and tend to be apparently louder or seem louder before the distortion becomes that harmful to tone. As most people quite like the sort of valve amp grunt
    not really clean and not really dirty.
  4. gerryjazzman

    gerryjazzman Supporting Member

    Dec 31, 2006
    New Jersey
    This is going to be true for a 30-watt solid state guitar amp as well. The comparison between guitar and bass can be addressed fairly succinctly by the psychoacoustic phenomenon described by the Fletcher-Munson curves:

  5. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    COW!! A/K/A "can of worms"...

    A watt is a watt, as abarson says. Back in the '70s people used to say that "Englsih watts" were bigger than "American watts" to explain why a 100 watt Marhsall was louder than a 100 watt Twin Reverb. Of course they carefully avoided noting that the Marshal was driving at least four, and often eight, 12" speakers in closed cabinets compared to the Twin driving two 12's in an open-back cabinet. A watt is a watt.

    How the ear perceives things can vary a lot however. Some say that a tube amp distorts in a pleasing fashion so you can run push it harder than a SS amp, and that's why it sounds louder. But that doesn't make a tube watt "louder" than a SS one. And noting where the volume knobs are set doesnt' tell you anything either BTW.

    The only way to really compare would be to take a SS power amp rated at 100 WRMS and a tube amp rated the exact same way. Make sure they have matching input sensitivities. Hook them up to identical speaker loads. Put the exact same pre-amp in front of them and run the power amps wide-open. That'd be a fair test. Until that's been verified by reputable people, it's all just speculation.

  6. Funky 1

    Funky 1

    Jun 29, 2006
    Didn't mean to open a can of worms here. I have my answer, we can end this b4 things get out of hand.
  7. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Class-D watts are the loudest. They draw less power from the wall socket for a watt of output.:bag:
  8. billfitzmaurice

    billfitzmaurice Commercial User

    Sep 15, 2004
    New Hampshire
    Owner, Bill Fitzmaurice Loudspeaker Design
    +1. SS amps of equal power will sound every bit as loud as tubes if the signal is compressed and processed properly. The advantage to tubes is that they do what they do without processing. With the price of tubes versus SS and the drastic drop in the price of digital signal processing tubes will eventually go the way of the vinyl record, but probably not within the foreseeable future.
  9. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You know, as happy as I am to see a 1-pound stompbox that can imitate a B-15, I will not give up the tube amps quietly. You can get the sounds, but you can't get THE SOUND.
  10. RickenBoogie


    Jul 22, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    Me either. I've dabbled with modelling, it's not even close if you actually A/B it with an all tube amp.
  11. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    I see a can of worms being opened...

    And no doubt, a single watt is a single watt - tube or not. The tube watt may sound better, but the energy expressed is the same, period.


    I went to that link above - lots of good stuff in there - it reminded me of a discussion I had years ago on this subject - it had to do with what it means when you call an amp a "300 watt amp". I too had a high-end solid state amp that was rated at some crazy power but seemed a bit gutless... So I started reading about analog amp design and how they differ. Heck, I even built a little tiny tube-amp just to learn something...

    I found that the power rating on any amp is almost never a maximum measurement - it usually means the amount of watts "RMS" - (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Root_mean_square) - which is, in simple terms, the average (not transient) maximum output an amp produces during normal operation. Now, here's the thing: To power a tube power-amp section, you usually need a mondo-big transformer to heat those tube and make all that magic happen, yes? That's why an SVT weight so darn much - it's those coils, not the tubes - and that transformer, creating all that current, gives you the ability to really pump extra watts out of a power section that a solid state amp just doesn't have. So, it is my understanding that while two amps rated at 300 watts RMS should have the same power output, the tube amp will have more "headroom" in the power section. Of course, that headroom will usually distort a bit, and in rating amps you usually don't rate the distorted bits (since that is technically not desirable) - - but we all know that there's nothing quite so fun as power-amp tube distortion for guitar and bass... You overdrive a power section of a solid state amp it sounds... well... nasty. Just nasty.

    Does that help? And if someone on this thread thinks that I'm delusional, feel free to correct me - I'm a computer geek, not an amp designer!
  12. will33


    May 22, 2006
    Absolutely, modeling still doesn't have it. To the OP, sooner or later you will be told to search this as it's been argued a hundred times. Bottom line is, if it sounds louder, then it is. Now, back to arguing about why.

    Modeling can do some great things and makes home recording easier than it's ever been, and sounds pretty good to the general public but A/B a model to the real thing and it's still no contest, at least to the player.

    FWIW, the first time I recorded with a Line6 bass pod I had no idea how to work the thing, hadn't used one so I just dialed in what I thought sounded good. Found out later the model was supposed to be based on a Mesa400 or 400+, not the Ampeg. Having played both real rigs, neither model sounded anything like the real thing but the Mesa model at least had some sort of balls.
  13. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Well, no... Headroom is by definition the amount of un-distorted power handling available above what is in use at any one moment.

    Also, the transformer does not pump out any "extra watts that a solid state amp just doesn't have". There is no such thing.

    Where you're coming from is not exactly wrong though, in that I think you mean to say a tube amp run past its rated abilities tend to sound awesome while a solid state amp run past its rated abilities tends not to. Many people will agree with that.

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