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THE Tube Vs Solid State Thread

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by throbbinnut, Aug 7, 2000.

  1. Tube

    204 vote(s)
  2. Solid State

    104 vote(s)
  3. other case (why?)

    26 vote(s)
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  1. I was sitting around thinking last night, and I think I may have hit on something. I think that there is a direct correlation between people who like solid state amps owning really nice, expensive, hi-end basses, and people who love tube amps liking cheaper basses. Maybe it's just me.

    I'm a tube nut, and I have no complaints about my cheap bass. I think most of my tone and sound come from my tube amp, and my low-tech bass is just there for a decent playing signal source. Kind of like my bass is a fish-stick, and my amp is the glob of ketchup that overpowers the fish-stick and makes it taste real good. :)

    There are others out there who use solid state amps, and have really good basses. I theorize that they like solid state sound because the sound of their bass is incredible to begin with. They don't need tube distortion to make their sound better. Who puts ketchup on a Filet Mignon? (Actually, I do that too.:))

    Of course there are exceptions, cheap basses used with solid-state amps, expensive basses used with tube amps, etc.

    Anybody buy into this?

    Mmmmmm, ketchup.
  2. I totally agree! hehe =) great work =P

    I just bought my Hartke 3500 =) awesome man! tube and ss preamp! hehe I like the tube preamp

  3. surf-bass


    May 3, 2000
    I am trying to find a lighter alternative to my current amp, an Ampeg SVT2-Pro head that weighs in at over 75 lbs (plus the rack). I can easily find a tube pre-amp that sounds good, but how much more warmth do the power tubes add? Can I get away with a solid state power amp, or should I look for a tube power amp that just weighs less? Does one of those exist? Thanks in advance.

  4. killer B

    killer B

    Apr 18, 2000
    Phoenix, AZ USA
    Hi, I think the power tubes make a big differece in the sound. Not only do they add warmth, but dynamics and if you're in to aggressive sounds the power tubes clipping add a lot of character to that. That's why the SWR interstellar overdirve actually has a power tube in the circuit for that characteristic. I use a MESA/Boogie BASS 400+ and tried other amps the like the Ampeg SVT IV (tube pre-amp, solid state power) I found they lacked the same punch and pressece in the mix. I didn't have as much dynamic control and the overall tone was just not as rich and full. If you're diggin' the tone, I'd say put up w/ the weight, it's a small price to pay for a killer bass sound. That's my $0.02
  5. DaveB


    Mar 29, 2000
    Toronto Ontario
    As a guitarist I'm a tube guy....maybe even a tube snob.Hell, I practice and gig ONLY with my '69 Super Reverb (blackfaced, of course). However 90% of my gig work is now on bass and thoughts are quite different on the subject of tubes.
    Firstly, on bass - tubes ARE better.Let's get that out of the way. The warmth, tube headroom, lack of solid state clipping - all the same stuff as guitar amps. Like guitar amps the tubes cost a lot more. But here's the difference. Bass tubes, to me,offer far quicker diminishing returns on tone in comparison to guitar tubes. I have an Eden bass rig, that while it can be bested to some degree by any of the high end tube rigs, still sounds superb and tonally pretty damn close to the tube rigs.On the guitar side there is not one single solid state or hybrid amp that will come REMOTELY close to my Super Reverb at any price.I need to say here that my guitar style and musical choices would also preclude me from ever needing Randall death metal type solid state tone.And likewise for my bass style and choices.

    Maybe its just that the low frequencies tend to mask some of the tonal differences between bass tubes and solid state more than the guitar frequencies.Therefore the difference is less noticeable on bass.

    I should say that when I bought my Eden rig ( as you know is not cheap) I seriously looked at the 400 watt Mesa/Boogie tube amp and Boogie 410 cabinet.It was a killer rig. It would have cost me another thousand bucks. Now, I don't want to sound arrogant here but I can afford the extra thousand bucks and I still did not see the extra value in the tubes.

  6. surf-bass


    May 3, 2000
    Sounds like tubes might be the way to go, but there is still a big problem. I have not been able to find a tube power amp that is two rack-space or smaller. That's all I've got room for at this point. It wasn't just the weight of the SVT2-Pro that got me looking at other set-ups, but also the fact that I needed to carry it in a separate rack instead of the 3-space attached to my cabinet. I just want to put a pre-amp into the rack with a decent power amp and get good tone. But I have not found a tube amp that has any real power, especially at 4-ohms, which is what my cabinet is rated at.
  7. There are many trade-offs to consider when going "full tube". Weight, space, maintenance, etc. to name but a few. Some bassists (me included) find that a tube pre-amp and ss power amp setup works just fine and gives the tone without any of the trade-offs above.

    Have you thought about that ?

    Good luck - John
  8. surf-bass


    May 3, 2000
    Yes, I am thinking about it. In fact, that is the main reason I started this thread, to ask all of you experienced players for your opinions on the plusses and minuses of going with the tube or solid state pre-amp. I have purchased a Hughes and Kettner tube/ss pre-amp, and am looking for a fat warm low end for my current band. If I can get this with a smaller lighter ss amp, I will be happy. I'm just trying to get as much information as possible because I live in Cincinnati, Ohio, and there aren't a lot of dealers with power amps to play through and I hate to order an amp over the net without playing through it first.


  9. I am currently using a Tmax (tube and solid state hybrid) as a preamp and using a fully digital CS800s (1200 watts of ground shaking madness) as a power amp. The power amp is only 23 lbs, and 2 spaces high. I control the tone with the tube side of the tmax. I have had the best luck and performance with this amp.
  10. Matthias


    May 30, 2000
    Vienna, Austria
    I have to admit that I have NO experience with tube power amps but heard some things.
    If you want to replace your tube amp with a transistor amp, you should double the power to have enough headroom. I guess if you do this, you will get a good tone too. But if you get an transistor amp with the same rated power as your current tube head, you might be pretty disappointed.

  11. DaveB


    Mar 29, 2000
    Toronto Ontario
    The past of amplification is tubes - the present is solid state/hybrid but the very near future is definitely digital.
  12. surf-bass


    May 3, 2000
    OK, assuming the present and future is hybrid or ss/digital, the question remains- can the new ss/digital amps be made to sound as good as the old tubes? I assume the technology involved in the newer amps has advanced, and that has spurred the changeover, so can I also assume that the new ss amps have ability to make the bass sound full and warm, or is that full, fat, warm sound history, too?
  13. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson SUSPENDED Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    DaveB:"Firstly, on bass - tubes ARE better".

    I disagree. That has not been my experience. I've used the same solid state head for ten years with nothing but great sound, no matter what I plug it into. My primary concerns are warmth, punch, smoothness of sound, headroom and a true representation of what I'm playing. I also don't have to tweak it to get the sounds I want, they're there from the time I plug the bass in and set it (the bass).

    I've tried a bunch of SVT's over the years, Mesa/Boogies, Eden, Aguilar and all of the upper end (is there a lower end?;)) tube and tube/hybrid stuff and have not been overly impressed with any of it, to the point where I'd look at them as even a minor improvement over what I'm using. At 400w @ 4ohms used with efficient cabs it's more than loud enough for the places I play and never sounds stressed. Handles the low end on my fives perfectly. I don't mind the fact that it's small and lightweight, either.

    I A/B'd my amp with several all tube and hybrid rigs. I've let friends use mine in place of SVT's and Eden heads, invariably they ask to buy my head.

    It's an AMP BH-420. I'm not saying it's magical and I honestly couldn't tell you why it sounds as good as it does. It just does. If the alternative is a 40 -100 lb. amp setup... I'd pass.

    I did like the sound of an Alembic F-1X used with a Crown amp, I'm sure it would sound good with other ones, the Eden pre's?... if I needed to do that much tweaking...I'd get a different bass because obviously I'm not happy with the way it is. I've tried Kerns, Demeters, etc. they're nice, too, but demonstrably nicer than what I have?.. not to me.

    I don't think you gain that much from having a tube power amp, especially if your front end is coloring the signal. To really test the need for tubes, blind testing is the way to go. This takes time but I'm pretty sure a lot of people wouldn't pick what they see as the "ultimate" without visual input;) YMMV

    BTW are the highly touted Bass Player magazine equipment reviews blind. They should be, whenever possible.

  14. I'm a tube freak. To me, tubes are definitely worth it, but I've never used more than 100Watts. I now use 50 Watts of tube. If you need any more volume than that, then the PA should be used to get a good controllable mix.

    I need no EQ, effects, noise gates, power conditioners, etc. The only thing between my bass and Ampeg B25-B amp is a standard cable. That's it. My playing is too crappy and my basses are too cheap to handle solid state perfection. I have to have the sound of a tube amp to be satisfied.

    I theorized in another thread that there is a direct correlation between people with really nice basses liking solid state amps since their basses have such a nice sound to begin with. My basses are "crappy" to a lot of folks, but they are pure gold to me.

    Fact: Generally speaking, tubes and solid state sound different. Pick which one you want.

    As tube power amp sections are pushed into hard power amp clipping, they give the growl everyone likes. That's why I like 50 Watts: I get the growl at a sane volume without ruining my hearing.

    Are they worth it? Damn straight they are! I'm an electrical engineer, I know and use transistors, but I have to have tubes for my sound.

  15. DaveB


    Mar 29, 2000
    Toronto Ontario
    Brad - I think we're saying the same thing except, perhaps,to a somewhat different degree. As I said the diminishing returns don't warrant the extra expediture on tubes.I would still maintain that if warmer tone is what you want then the tubes generally will do that easier. That doesn't mean, of course, that solid state can't sound warm.I'm pretty old school when it comes to bass tone (think old tube Ampeg B-15). I sure don't criticize my Eden rig for not sounding as warm and old school as I need it to be.
  16. surf-bass


    May 3, 2000
    OK, now we get to the heart of the problem. As a few people have stated, and I agree with, the best way to go is to hear and compare amps. This is my problem! I live in a town where the music stores don't carry much gear to try, and I just don't have the time, money, or patience to travel around to cities with good music stores just to play test a bunch of amps. Admittedly, I am trying to cut a corner by getting input on amps without having to play them. Unfortunately, it seems my only option. I would love to go with a small tube amp and rely on a PA, but the couple bars I've played in have not had good PA systems, and often my rig has not been monitored- sometimes not even sent to the board. So I feel I need the power to be heard without relying on anything to assist- it might not be there all the time. I have also been considering a powered monitor to hear myself on stage, but that doesn't help if I can't go to the board. It gets more complicated all the time....
  17. I used a 100 Watt Ampeg V4-B tube head with no PA assist for years in small-medium bars. It worked, cause I had a huge 18" refrigerator-sized Distex sugar-scoop cabinet that threw out a lot of low frequency dB's, and tube amps sound pretty loud for the watts rating, if you like a little distortion, which I do. :D

    I'd love a big 300Watt tube amp, but I sounded good with a 100 Watt amp.

    If you want to never have to worry about maintenance, get a solid state amp, though, and a tube preamp will get you a lot of the sound with modern convenience. :)

  18. reel big bassist

    reel big bassist

    Mar 27, 2000
    I recently bought an Ampeg SVT-300.
    It is bassicly the power section of an SVT.
    It is probably one of the best purchasing
    decisions I have ever made.

    That thing has an incredible amount of power.
    I was playing through an ampeg 4x10bse, and
    an ampeg 1x15 bse, I had the level knob turned
    up to about 3, or 4, and the speakers were

    To me, the sound is a little different
    than solid-state. I have an ampeg B-2r solid
    state amp. I was curious about the difference in
    sound also. So I used the B-2r as a preamp
    to the SVT-300, then I used the b-2r by itself.
    The sound is not really that different,
    the only thing that is really different is the
    amount of power. That's what I bought the amp
    for power, and lots of it.

    The SVT-300 is about 4 rackspaces. It's very heavey as well. I don't mind though. If you want to see if their is
    a difference do what I did. Use a solid-state amp as a preamp to a tube power amp. Then use the solid-state amp on it's own.

    Hope this helps,
    Greg P

    P.S. I havn't pushed the amp to the point of distoriton,
    because my speakers would explode. So I can't coment on
    the sound of power tube distortion, but I bet it would be
    sweet. :)

    [Edited by reel big bassist on 08-15-2000 at 11:30 PM]
  19. JimM


    Jan 13, 2000
    Northern California
    I dont gig much,but I think that if you want clear articulation where even your lowest notes can be heard separately you should go with solid state.maybe even in the preamp as well as power amp.
    I personally got an Eden VT-300 (all tube)because I missed that tube sensuality that I just cant get from the solid state amps I've been playing.I really like both for the different sounds they have,but if I have to come home to one or the other,I choose the silky tube sound.I think it does come from power tubes.When I play at church,I use their Trace Elliot S.S. and get my fill of raspy punch.
    I know these terms are poor ones to descibe sound with,Tube freaks will say they get raspy punch from their 6550s,but I'm talking clean tone.::inserts obligatory"YMMV"::
  20. JimM


    Jan 13, 2000
    Northern California
    I don't know of any Tube power amps that are two rackspaces exept the ones made for guitar by Mesa,such as the 2:Ninety which probably isn't enough for you.

    Sorry if my last post is confusing,what I tried to say was that there's good things about the sound of solid state amps that tubes dont do as well,IMO,but what tubes do makes up for it.I'll take flubby if it comes with creamy and silky.by the way,that Eden isn't what I'd call flubby at all compared to some tube amps.Its just not as ultra crisp as a good S.S. amp.

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