To Tube, or not to Tube....

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by JoeDaddio, Dec 25, 2004.

  1. Well, I've decide on two bass heads that I want, and the only thing keeping me form making the decision is a question of tubes...

    It is not a question of sound, I really like the sound of both amps that I am looking at. It is more a matter of maintanence. The amps I am looking at are the Mesa M-Pulse 600 and the Mesa Bass 400 +

    The M-Pulse is 600 watts "simul-state" power, and the 400+ is a 500w amp that is driven with 12 tubes. My main question is this: is having an all tube bass head too much of a hassle? Is there too much maintanence, cost, care, etc that go into taking care of an all tube head?

    Someone on my usual board (MX) recommended me to post in here with questions I have about the 400+, that someone named Benjamin Strange (and a few others) here own one, and would be a good point if contact. I know that tube amps have to match the impedience of the amps they are powering, and I was wondering if the 400+ has an impedience switch. I have a Goliath III that I'd like to hook this up to, which is rated ay 8 ohms, but I would eventually like to get a 15'' rated at 8 ohms. Is there a way on the 400+ to switch from 8 ohms, to 4 ohms?

    Anything anyone can offer would be great. Some more stuff may come to mind and I'll post later. Thanks a bunch, guys!

  2. I'm sure others will chime in, but here's my 2 cents worth. First, tube amps aren't nearly the maintenance hassles people claim. Tubes can last for many many years. Second, the 400+ is not 500 watts RMS, that's their "peak" or "program" power or whatever they want to call it. Hmm, 6 pairs of 6L6's should be around 360 watts RMS, maybe a tad more . Psycho Bass Guy has taken exact measurements I'm sure... He can also tell you how impedance is selectable on that amp.
  3. TrooperFarva


    Nov 25, 2004
    New City, NY
    I can't really comment on the M-Pulse, but I have a 400+. First off, its rock solid. I've had a few problems with mine, but its not the amps fault, its my idiot friends fault. A retubing is $200-300, and needs to be done about every 2-3 years, depending how often and how hard you play. I love the tone I get out of my amp. It's the best amp I've ever played through. I have a Goliath III, it works well with the 400+. I'll get a second cab eventually, to push more air, but the Goliath III sounds good. The 400+ has different outputs for 2, 4, and 8 ohm cabinets.

    Also, the 400+ isn't really 500 watts. It's 500 watts peak, 300 watts RMS. Most brands use RMS. It's still plenty loud though.
  4. Folmeister

    Folmeister Knowledge is Good - Emile Faber Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    Tomball, Texas
    My 400+ has multiple 1/4" speaker outputs for 8, 4, and 2 ohm speaker loads. I have two tube amps now. They are very addicting.
  5. Alright... so how can they say that it is a 500w amp, when it puts out 300w? I'm kind of new at the whole electrical aspect of amps, etc. What is the difference between 500 watts peak, and 300 watts RMS? Thanks,

  6. chunky


    Nov 3, 2004
    Portland Oregon
    I've heard both heads. I think it boils down to personal taste. I liked the tone of both. I don't think you can make a wrong choice. Either one should be plenty loud, unless you're in a band that needs to turn down. :D

    I agree that tube maintenence and tube unreliablilty are greatly exaggerated.
  7. Juddium


    May 24, 2004
    cheaper companies put the peak wattage to sell their product - not too sure why a big name would advertise the peak instead of the rms though
    you can think of it like this: rms is basically the average that the amp can put it - it'll be running at or around 300 watts for the majority of the time (well, that's what it's rated to handle anyways). peak, on the other hand, is the maximum output over a very short period of time that it will produce. so peak has to do with bursts of power, whereas rms has to do with the average over a period of time. very generalized, but that's basically how it works.
    rms is more important that peak because the constant drive of the amp will do more "wear and tear" than a peak output could ever do, unless you constantly peak your amp (which would be both impressive and stupid)
  8. Fealach

    Fealach Guest

    Apr 23, 2003
    Gone to a better place
    I have owned a 400+ for around 10 years, had to replace the tubes once. Had a scare a while ago, but it was a combination of old, bad tubes (cheap tubes to begin with) and a worn out power switch. Not too bad for its age, it was used when I got it. Tone is incredible. There are other great sounding amps, but nothing actually BETTER IMO, especially for rock. Sure, an SVT is cool and all, but... that's why I have both! I wouldn't let tales of tube amp troubles concern you, nor would I worry about the weight. It's manageable by one person. I'd go with this amp over just about any other. It's pretty flexible tonally. I prefer the Ampeg distortion, it's sweeter and smoother, and it always has that distinctive character to it, but it's a great distinctive character. Previous owner used to use a Sansamp from time to time on songs where he wanted a more sterile, soulless tone; thoguh sold as a tube emulator, once you've heard a real tube amp there's no comparison.

    That said... played an Mpulse (210?) combo in the store, and it was surprisingly good. Can't speak to its reliability and volume (400+ has heaps of both) but it sounded good, could cop a pretty decent 400+ imitation.
  9. So you all believe that th Bass 400+ would be enough to gig with, with my Goliath III, along with drums, guitar, piano, and vox? I'm planning on also getting a 15'' later on down the line, to move some more air, but that won't be for a while. Want to do the amp upgrade first. In my limited experience, tube amps have always sounded bigger and louder than solid state, but will it be able to stick out in the mix? Or should I just go for the whole 600w?

  10. How can you have your music if you don't use your tubes?
  11. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    the 400 will be hella loud. depending on who you talk to, tube amps sound as loud as ss amps that are 1.5 to 2 times theit wattage. that combined with the fact that you can send all 400 watts to your 8 ohm 4x10. even though the other amp is a 600 watt amp, it only puts out 300 watts into 8 ohms. from what i read, it can put out 600 watts into 4 ohms, and 720 into 2 ohms. with the 400, you'll be able to put the 400 watts into all three of those loads, whichever one you have at the time.
  12. DubDubs


    Aug 23, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Our of those two definatly get the 400+. Tubes aren't much trouble at all. It's a heavyer and larger amp but as far as upkeep they're not much if any harder to maintain than solid state amps.
  13. Having moved over to the all valve camp some time ago.. Its the only way forward, seriously. Boogie always claim the the rating for the 400+ was conservative but i would say 6 pairs of 6L6 valves would kick out a fair 400 or so watts. As for the life of tubes, i recently aquired a Linear Conchord L30 with its original Mullard tubes, 2xEF86, 1x12AX7, 1xGZ34 and 2xEL34. It is still operationally quiet, free from excess microphonics and still sounds cool if you wind it up... My Trace V4 rules too, tubes are, like I said, the way forward...
  14. If you don't mind hauling the extra weight of a tube amp, the 400+ is a great choice. There are a few extra considerations for a tube amp, but there's also a big payoff in tone, IMHO. As mentioned earlier, the 400+ can drive 8, 4 and 2 ohm loads.

    You can extend the life of tubes by allowing your amp a minute to warm up and a few minutes to cool down before moving it. If the amp will receive rough handling, it also might be worth using a decent shockmount rack like the MB SUS-4, which will protect your tubes from major impacts (short of dropping the amp).

    As far as maintenance goes, when it comes time to replace the tubes (2-3 years for the Mesa-branded tubes seems to be a concensus) you might consider upgrading to a higher quality brand. The installation and biasing of your new tubes should only be done by an experienced technician. You'll get longer tube life as a result of the upgrade, and the amp will sound better. It would also be worth having this technician install an external bias control at that time. This will make future adjustment and tube replacements a breeze.

    The information above should not leave you with the impression that a tube amp is fussier than solid state. Solid state amps fare a little better than tube in rough-handling situations, but they also require maintenance and proper care. The current generation of hybrid and SS amps sound very good to my ear and have the advantage of generally being lighter weight. In the end though, I personally prefer an all-tube amp.

    Good luck!
  15. A pair of 6L6s will give you a maximum of about 50 clean Watts continuous. Most 6l6s will come up a bit short of that. The 400+ I bench tested did about 285W at .1% THD. Distortion was well over 1% at 300W.

    Does it matter? No :D. The 400+ is a great amp. Sounds great, plenty loud for any situation. It just isn't a 500W or even a 400W amp. Any 300W amp can give you 500W peaks.

    I totally agree with you on the fact that tubes can and do last quite long. I still have the original Magnavox tubes in my SVT and they're still measuring over 50W each and are not microphonic. The assertion by many that tube amps are higher maintenance and less reliable than solid state amps is a myth.
  16. Thanks for all the input guys, I have definatly learned a lot. Looks like I'll be going the 400+ route when my student loan check comes in (hey, if I can't spend the banks cash on bass equipment, what can I spend it on?)

    I've definatly been impressed with the 400+, and I don't think I've heard anything richer, warmer, and bigger than all tube bass amps. The majority of the people telling me to go with the M-Pulse have used weight and maintanence as their main complaints. I'm not too worried about the weight, personally, and it seems as though most all of you all believe that the idea that tube amps are pain in the butt, faulty relics of the past is more myth than reality. I'm sure in the end it all comes down to people respect for their own gear. Take care of your equipment, and it'll take care of you.

    Thanks again guys, and if anyone has anything to add, please feel free to chime in!

  17. Sparkie


    Nov 15, 2004
    Hey JD

    I believe M Reccord will concur that while tubes can last years it really boils down to owner use. How cranked you play it, how often you turn the amp on and off (heating and cooling) how much jiggling and clanging about it gets etc.

    Lesser amp companies cut corners by attaching the tube sockets to the PC board which are flimsy and over a couple tube change outs one could break the film leads to the circuit board. Hard wiring sockets to the chassis is much preferable and in the case of Mesa I shouldn't think you'd have to worry, (but I haven't seen the innards to their bass amps)

    There is also the cost of tube replacement that requires an amp tech to re-bias the tubes to the correct voltage. Theirs danger in them thar Electrolitic caps as well. So unless you know what you are doing......

    The pre amp tubes will last a lot longer than the power tubes save for the phase inverter tube which should be changed out when the power tubes are replaced on any A/B class

    Lastly, if you are interested in tube amps there is a super forum over on Ampage at that has some of the smartest techies on the planet residing. Once you acquire a tube amp it's very interesting to know the hows and whys of these beasts.

  18. billys73


    Apr 25, 2003
    Partial quote:

    I totally agree with you on the fact that tubes can and do last quite long. I still have the original Magnavox tubes in my SVT and they're still measuring over 50W each and are not microphonic. The assertion by many that tube amps are higher maintenance and less reliable than solid state amps is a myth.[/QUOTE]

    I agree with you that a good tube can last years and years. My experience with new tubes made in Eastern Europe and China is that they are a lot less consistent than American-made tubes from the hey-day of the vacum tube. I also think that many New-old-stock (NOS) tubes you can get now days are basically garbage. I have had better luck with Sovtek than NOS Sylvania or RCA or GE. My experience makes me concerned about using a technology that is fundamentally out of production as far as the rest of the world (outside of instrument amps) is concerned. Just my experience.
  19. Agreed.
    Device life is also really dependent on how hot they're biased. Of course, this applies to transistors as much as it does to tubes....
  20. We tested basically every 6SN7 and 300B (for a hifi amp) in existence last winter and we got the best results from current EH 6SN7s and current 300Bs by Sophia (which are made in the same factory as the EH ones, I believe ;)). They had the best gain consistency and lowest distortion numbers. Better than even the uber-expensive NOS ones...