tube preamp or tube amp?????

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by dixie1983, Jul 26, 2009.

  1. dixie1983


    Jul 12, 2009
    Hi, I was wondering the general consensus, basically I want a tube sound but without the huge price tag. Is it possible to get a tube preamp like a mo mark and still get the nice tube tone going through the rig without the hefty price tag of a tube amp? (Particularly like the tone of Tim Commerford/Rage against the machine) Also if anyone has any thoughts of a good way of doing this please comment, many thanks, Dean
  2. bongomania

    bongomania Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Couple of things:

    1) There's a lot of discussion on this already, so be sure to dig back a bit and read a bunch of what's been said before. Many ideas and solutions are covered.

    2) An all-tube amp gets its tone from not just the preamp, but also the power stage and the output transformer. A tube preamp is just that--the preamp stage--so obviously it can't sound the same as the whole package.

    3) "Tube tone" covers a vast range of tones and flavors. There is no one standard for what a tube amp sounds like, or what "tube tone" is, or which devices have the "most" or "best" tube tone. It's almost like saying "can a green crayon capture the lush green of a wooded meadow". No, it can't quite, but depending on the particular shade of green you're imagining, one or another crayon may be very close, though they may be dramatically different shades of green.

    4) Check out the Dave Hall (DHA) tube preamp pedals, and the Tech21 Sansamp VT Bass pedal. They are by no means the only options, but you should read about them for sure.
  3. dixie1983


    Jul 12, 2009
    thanks for reply, so from what I gather, a good preamp and a good head would do a good job as a loaded tube head? Although, I understand cabs etc have a certain role in capturing these tones and harmonics. Is there really going to be the vast difference in tone that everyone raves about?
  4. lorenk


    Apr 8, 2008
    Bend, Oregon
    In my experience, yes, the power stage plays a big role in how a tube amp sounds (ie using power tubes).

    Solid state amps always sound solid-statey (to my ear, not as warm). You can get some approximation by using pedals or tube pres, but a solid state power section is different sounding then an all tube power section.

    Now, this being said, I really didn't get the difference between solid state and tube until I bought a tube amp (Bass 400+). Since I've been playing on it I have been able to notice the difference, though I am not sure if the audience can :)
  5. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Read bongo's post again.
  6. drden


    Nov 11, 2008
    Troy, NY
    IMHO, it's not about the preamp nearly as much as as it is about the transformers and power section.

    good luck with the Timmy C. tone. I've been looking for it as long as I've been playing bass, haven't quite found it yet however...:(

    But to answer your question, no, you need an all tube head to get an all tube sound, that's why it's called "a tube sound." You can, however, get very good sounds out of a tube preamp section, just not exactly like a tube amp, and definitely not like Timmy C.
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    A year ago I'd have laughed at the concept of solid state being able to do real tubelike tone. But that Sansamp VT pedal is quite convincing. It won't give you that big warm feeling of air movement like an SVT, but you can cop the tones to the letter. Unfortunately, it's the only solid state product that does it. The Markbass LMII does a very good job of copping that vibe for clean tones, but it doesn't quite get it the way the VT does.

    Having said that, I still use my SVT because there really is nothing like it. As lorenk hinted, the audience only cares if you play the songs well and have a good mix. But YOU will definitely notice the difference, and if you notice the difference, maybe it will inspire you a little more. Certainly inspires me...and that always translates to the crowd.
  8. naturalkinds


    Jan 22, 2009
    Savannah, GA
    Right on, Jimmy. I don't think there's any denying that, from a practical audience standpoint, the difference between a $500 and $3000 head would be minimal, but it's not the audience you're necessarily trying to impress in upgrading your gear; it's you and your bandmates (if you're generous).

    Think a seasoned audience member of a symphony could tell if the principal cellist were playing a $2000 instrument instead of a $100000 one? I'd doubt it, but my point (and I think Jimmy's) is that that's besides the point. That upgrade is important to *them*.
  9. lorenk


    Apr 8, 2008
    Bend, Oregon
    Oh, yeah haha I shoulda stated that...Playing an all tube amp always gets me excited to play. And that is the reason I bought, lug, and baby an all tube amp. People don't come to listen to live music, they come to watch it, and if I don't get pumped playing my bass on stage with the rest of the band then I am not fulfilling my obligation to them and the promoter by giving a sub-par performance.

    Heh, we totally got off track here....ah well, good discussion/rationalization of buying spendy gear :)
  10. Baird6869

    Baird6869 Supporting Member


    But, 85lbs of amp head can be a complete pain in the @$$ to lug around.

    I recently picked up a Genz Benz Shuttle Max 12.0 as a backup to my SVT for gigs and as a light weight practice head. I must say, I am very impressed at how it sounds. It has a tube pre and really nails that "tube-y tone" IMO. And at only just over $1000 new, under 7 lbs AND 1200 watts.... it is worth a look.

    Any of the heads with tube pres IMO are now worth a look regardless of it is Genz Benz or Mesa, GK, Markbass, etc. In the last year or two the technology has improved dramatically and SS amps with tube pres IMO have never sounded better. Plus, your back with thank you...:D
  11. Sorry to be the 3rd person to quote this, but this REALLY is a good statement to take to heart, OP. Don't settle, instead just work towards getting something that you sit down, play around with, and go "I like how that sounds" instead of chasing other people's sounds. I've never really met any serious bassist or guitarist that sat down and flat-out said "I don't like the sound of tubes at all" if you decide to get an all-tuber you won't be disappointed (might have some backaches though lol). Play around on some different amps until you get something you like and work towards getting it.

    I love the tube sound and dig the sound of my Sansamp RPM, but the ultimate goal is an all-tube head...I love the Ibanez SR500 I got by trading it in, but I miss my traynor all-tube head every single day its gone. :bawl:
  12. blendermassacre

    blendermassacre Supporting Member

    May 28, 2009
    kansas city, mo
    The hole point of the tube pre is to get close to the tube sound w/o the back ache and the empty wallet. You can get close, but not exact. Maybe you should go play some amps and make the decision for yourself if it's worth it to you. I love my peavey t max head. It's a tube pre (it has one 12ax7) as well as a solid state pre, and a ss power section. But it's not an SVT.
  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    Genz Benz kicks, no doubt. And hey, I own an LMII so it's not like I'm against micro heads. But the head is only a pain in the ass for a minute or two, and gigs can last hours.
  14. koobie


    Jul 11, 2007
    Portland OR
    It seems like a lot of the discussions concerning hybrid & solid-state amps here on TB are concerned with weight & cost. Not saying those aren't very important factors, but I think they tend to overshadow discussions of tone and feel.

    You need to play a few amps and see which ones make you smile. You might actually prefer an all solid-state rig with some kind of overdrive pedal, you won't know until you try some stuff out.
  15. Baird6869

    Baird6869 Supporting Member

    True, but my SVT tends to damage things.:spit: The rear bumper, upholstry and that big dent in the door of my car when i slipped on ice after a gig and fell into my car.;):D Also, Slipping and dropping a SVT on a hardwood floor causes more damage than I would care to admit.:bawl::D
  16. SpamBot


    Dec 25, 2008
    St. Paul, MN
    Look at what happened to Newsted.......
    Woulda been a little different if the backline had been LMIIIs, eh :D
  17. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    To the floor, no doubt ;)

    Yeah, I hear ya. It can be unpleasant now and then. There are gigs where I just can't deal with using it.
  18. dixie1983


    Jul 12, 2009
    thanks for all the responses, I am definatley going to try out some stuff however the only Tube head with cab is an Eden and thats in my whole area of music shops!!!!!!!!! And that is well..........quite expensive, will have to do a bit of overtime lol. Anyways I suppose at least it will give me the idea of how it will sound. A great discussion though, Price vs tone vs how you feel vs how the audience feel vs weight lol
  19. Tim splits his signal: one is clean (Ampeg tube preamp only) and the other uses his "homemade" distortion pedal. This gets it "fuzzy" yet keeps the bottom end (pedals take away the boom). No tube power amp involved.
  20. AudioPhile60


    Jul 15, 2017
    Huge price tag ≠ tube sound or good sound. Buy a pair of "good" used QUAD II Classic amps online which will cost around GBP 1000, use your existing preamp or look for a "good" used also QUAD tube preamp. Always remember, the "tube" sound you're looking for is produced by the "tube" power amps and not the preamp. With a pair of Harbeth's ; PMC's or Tannoy Legacy speakers, you'll get all the tube sound you're lookin' for, I guarantee ! In my 40 years of experience as an audiophile, I've learned a valuable lesson that price does not mean good sound. I was one of those and I have owned amps that cost over $20k and my most expensive speakers "were" the Wilson's; Dynaudio's and Magico's but sold them all losing a lot $$$. Now I use PMC's Twenty5.22 speakers and a pair of old QUAD amps and a Chord DAC preamp and I'm very very satisfied with the sound I hear. Try it and thank me later. Btw, I've also purchased the new Tannoy Legacy Cheviot and waiting for delivery. The sound my system makes at less than 5k can anytime compete with a system that costs over 50k. Listen to the music, not the sound from the cash register of the seller.