Tube power amps

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by ihaveaquestion, Jun 2, 2019.

  1. Totally worth it

    60 vote(s)
  2. They sound much better, but the maintenance puts me off

    13 vote(s)
  3. They sound better, but not enough to be worth it

    20 vote(s)
  4. All that matters is the preamp having tubes

    8 vote(s)
  1. ihaveaquestion


    Jan 9, 2018
    I've seen people saying the preamp tubes is all that matters to them, so i'd like to know some opinions about it

    Edit: I'm seeking opinions from those who think tube amps sound better already, to know what they are talking about when they say tubes are better. Not bashing solid state in any way
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
  2. catalin gramada

    catalin gramada

    Dec 25, 2014
    Tube power amps choice is a matter of taste. That mean you should be happy with those type of tone cause are not as versatile as SS amps are in terms of bass response. Why is happen that ? Cause tubes power stages have a very poor characteristic of what is called damping factor. In other words are not able to manage very well speakers in low frequency range. So the choice for speakers it is very restricted, the choice for tones is very restricted and generally need to learn to play it. That did not meant cannot have great tones but have to look for that tone which generally is considered odd enough for modern bass.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2019
    fat4, Guitalia, oZZma and 2 others like this.
  3. beans-on-toast


    Aug 7, 2008
    There’s tone in a tube preamp as well as the power amp.

    How hard they are driven factors in. That’s when operating points extend beyond the linear regions. It also depends on the amp’s design and how the power tubes are biased.
    nilorius, PrinceByTor, oZZma and 3 others like this.
  4. BassmanPaul

    BassmanPaul Inactive

    If you can live with the distortion you get from a typical tube amp at playing volume then go all tube. For me I left tube output stages behind in the late Seventies when I sold my last tube bass amp. I should also mention that I designed and built that 150W amp.

    Edit: To add that I like having tubes in my signal chain. To that end my current set up is a tube pre-amp, again of my own design, pushing a Class D power amp.
    fjbass78, Haroldo, jw23mind and 2 others like this.
  5. catalin gramada

    catalin gramada

    Dec 25, 2014
    The ideea is when you carry in a bag a 50lb amp at least you should know very well why you do that. If you sound guy mike it at a gig you will now it worth, if he plug it by DI, it don't.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2019
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  6. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Most of the true tube aficionados believe the real magic occurs in the output section. Something to keep in mind is they like to push the amp up to edge where the output section is on the verge of crossing over into distortion. At this point what happens with most tube amps is the sound compresses quite a bit, the tone will thicken and the feel slows a bit, and you might get a bit of touch sensitive distortion. I actually have a bunch of tube amps, but in general I like to avoid this condition, so I guess at heart I am really a solid state guy.

    Another difference you may be interested in is preamps use single ended amplifier sections and most all-tube bass amps use push-pull output sections. When pushed into distortion, single ended circuits and push-pull circuits tend to produce a different harmonic series, so they sound different.

    Another factor is the output section taxes the power supply much heavier than the preamp. So when you push the output tubes hard, they will pull the supply voltage down. This is where some of the compression comes from. I believe it also widens the transition/envelope from where the amp crosses from clean and punchy, to compression, to light OD, to heavy distortion. In my experience, hybrids with a tube preamps typically have a narrow envelope, so it is a bit harder to stay in the sweet spot without using some additional compression.

    You also need to understand that there are many different tube amp designs that can sound drastically different from one another, Ampegs and Hiwatts for example incite tribal loyalties among the faithful. I own multiples of each and think they are awesome, but sound and feel very different from one another.

    Also when people talk about "tubey goodness," be aware that the term may mean very different things to different people. There are lot's of characteristics that people consider tubey, and IMHO some of them are just outright inaccurate. For example, warm is a common term use to describe tubey goodness, but in my experience most tube amps are actually voiced significantly brighter than most solid state amps. The warm tone comes from the type of speaker used with the amp; not the tubes. Tube aficionados tend to prefer traditional speakers like 810s or 215s that do not have tweeters. Many of these traditional speakers roll of high frequencies, so you get a nice warm tone even if the amp is voiced rather brightly. Play a Hiwatt through a nice full range flat response cab and you'll get the idea very quickly about how bright the amps are voiced. Ampegs on the other hand are relatively flat.

    This thread should degrade fairly quickly into a tube versus solid state thread; which typically happens every couple of weeks or so. Honestly I don't there is much to learn from reading about anyone else's preference. You need to try a bunch of amps and find out what you like. What I like is totally irrelevant to your journey, but I own several solid state, hybrid, and all-tube amps, so I tend to keep an open mind on these matter instead of going tribal.

    Good luck.
  7. Ross W. Lovell

    Ross W. Lovell

    Oct 31, 2015

    I love my tube amps, but carrying them is one issue.

    The other is the audience won't know the difference.
    Dabndug and Ellery like this.
  8. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG

    Absolutely there are some who love that sound of a good tube output section revving it up at that crossroads point. Some love to push it way past that point as well. I love that sound my own self. But for me, the draw was the clean sound. Just sounded better to me than any SS amp whether I run them clean or dirty. I think the perception that tube amp lovers only like them for the dirt aspect is something that started in the 90's with grunge and got blown out of proportion by the internet.
  9. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    My perception was formed right here on Talkbass. I think you and I are among just a few members who rave about how great an all tube amp sounds clean.
    gregmon79, dfoehr, jsbarber and 3 others like this.
  10. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Basically a troll thread about tube amps.

    And like most, doesn't offer enough options in the poll.

    I'll keep my Genz Shuttle 6.2 with the single tube preamp, thanks. Weight is 3.75 pounds, peak power 360W into 8 ohms. Never had a complaint about how it sounds, from band members or from the audience.
  11. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    And when was Talkbass formed? Late 90's. Likewise most of the other bass and guitar forums on the internet weren't formed till the 90's.

    Phil508 and Wasnex like this.
  12. ihaveaquestion


    Jan 9, 2018
    How dare you call me a troll? What you answered is in the poll, the option that only preamps matter. I didn't say one setup sounds better than another, you are overreacting
    JaseyT likes this.
  13. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Yeah, but I didn't start tormenting you all until Dec 2011. The reason I finally created a profile is tangentially relevant. I had recently bought my first all-tube bass amp since I sold my MTI SVT in 1989. The new-to-me amp was Pyrexian's old Trace Elliot V8 and it had broken down. @BassmanPaul gave me some good advice...and I get the impression he doesn't even like tube amps anymore.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
    JimmyM likes this.
  14. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Sorry, a recent troll thread was started on a very closely related subject. I actually wondered if this was a troll thread too, but gave you the benefit of the doubt. The whole tube VS solid state thing is beat to death on a regular basis, and some of the threads involve lots of troll-like behavior, so don't take it too personally.

    Unfortunately many people tend to have strong opinions one way or the other, and they often present their subjective opinions as irrefutable facts. It kinda gets on my nerves because people make buying decisions with the expectation that they are going to get an awesome amp, only to learn that they are looking for a different sound entirely. The term "tubey goodness" is thrown around quite a bit and is essentially meaningless because it tends to mean different things to different people. Tubey goodness to me is a blackface Fender Twin with JBL E120s played clean. That's the sound I learned to play bass with.

    Rather than fall for the hype and buy blind, it's always best to try before you buy if you can. I learned the hard way. In the early 80s I special ordered an Ampeg SVT and 810 off the hype I had read in various magazine articles. I had never heard or seen an actual SVT before. I put the amp on lay-away and paid it off working at Taco Bell after school. When the amp came in, they let me play it on the show room floor, and I knew right away that I had made a mistake...and no refunds on special orders. There were several amps I had actually played that I liked way better and cost significantly less.

    Turns out I like SVTs just fine, but I am not an 810E man. That's not to say they are not awesome cabs, I am just into speakers with more of an extended frequency response. It actually took years for me to figure this out. The articles I had read before ordering my SVT all claimed the 810 had great high frequency response. Since my amp was an MTI which looked a bit different than the amps I had seen in magazines, I first thought maybe it was counterfeit, or that something was wrong with it. But I have played many Ampeg SVTs with 810s since then and that is just the way the cabs sound. You might think they are the best cab ever, and you would be right (for you, but not me).
    cflat, Jesuguru, PrinceByTor and 7 others like this.
  15. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Inactive

    Nov 20, 2000
    Harrison Mills
    The louder I play the less it matters to me.
    AGCurry and BassikBrad like this.
  16. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    That seems bit counterintuitive ;).
    cflat and BassikBrad like this.
  17. FronTowardEnemy

    FronTowardEnemy It is better to go unnoticed, than to suck Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2006
    Chicago Illinois
    I started playing bass in 94. I had only solid state amps and I tried to replicate the recorded sounds I loved from my favorite bands. Many greenbacks later, after buying tube emulators for years, I took the plunge and bought a couple of all tube amps.

    Love em to death, and I will always own one. The output tubes matter to me, it gives me that tone I love and chased for years. I love the clean headroom, room filling oomph you get only with an all tube amp.

    I also own a GB ShuttleMax 9.2 for my light weight rig.

    I do have to say that my Tech 21 Landmark 300 sounds the closest to an all tube amp that I’ve ever heard coming from a SS amp.
  18. Dabndug

    Dabndug Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2017
    Somewhere in Oz
    I have a Vox AC50 that I loved to death, and used for both bass and guitar from '86 to '13. Since I bought the TH500 the AC50 gets no love for bass - to me preamp and power amp tubes are totally superfluous.
    ihaveaquestion likes this.
  19. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    I’m another one who vastly prefers tube amps when they’re running clean. Especially today when there’s far more varied (and better) ways to add dirt than pounding the tar out of an expensive amp

    Unless someone has a stronger backbone and wallet than I do, tubes are (to me) more suitable for studio and lower volume situations where you can really hear what they bring to the party. And these days, a tube amp packing around 50 watts is about the most I can justify spending money on or be comfortable routinely lugging around. Bigger than that and it’s solid-state amps all the way for me despite how much I love the sound of tubes.
    Wasnex, mikewalker, Haroldo and 3 others like this.
  20. Ampslut


    May 15, 2017
    Barrackville WV
    This thread assumes that tubes sound better than the current crop of SS gear both pre and power. IMHO they sound different but not necessarily better.