tube preamp vs SS pre amp.

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by cobrasneverdie, Jul 29, 2003.

  1. im looking into getting a pre/power amp stet up and i have a question. i hear people all over the forums talk about how tubes are louder because of the harmonics. anyway what would be louder a tube pre amp or SS pre amp? and does the sans amp RBI have a tube pre. i am to lazy to look it up ;)
  2. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    The tube vs. SS argument about which is louder has to do with POWER amps, not preamps.

    All SansAmp gear is 100% solid state.

    The main difference (other than sound) between tube and solid state preamps is that tube ones tend to have fewer features. For example if you want elaborate EQ facilities as opposed to just bass, mid and treble you won't find it in an all tube preamp.

    Also be sure what you are looking at, many "tube" preamps have a lot of solid state circuitry as well. Use your ears to decide, not looking at spec sheets.
  3. thanks for your help.
  4. Mcrelly


    Jun 16, 2003
    Minnesota, USA
    I've often wondered if I could be happy with an all solid state rig. I have a SWR 350 head right now and that has a tube pre section, but I've heard lots of good things about EA's heads or Yamaha cp2000 also. right now I use the RBI through my effects loop and like the sound of the tube with the RBI effect and my EA cabs.

    I guess it depends on what YOU like to hear. I have told myself that I will always have real tubes somewhere in my signal chain, but I've also told myself that I'll probably always be using my RBI somewhere in the chain too!?!?
  5. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT
    Brian, that ain't necessarily so.

    My SWR Grand Prix has a two-band semi-parametric EQ in addition to shelving bass and treble controls, plus a high-pass filter set at 30 hz.

    The Aguilar DB680 has bass, treble, a two-band FULL parametric EQ (Haven't seen one of these on a solid-state pre... anyone?), plus a bass switch that gives +3 or +6 dB, plus a bright switch, ditto.

    The real difference is tone. For years I played through a Tube Works combo amp that has both tube and solid state preamp stages, selectable via a switch. So I've had the rare opportunity to try both at length, with the same EQ settings and the same cabinet, by just flicking a switch.

    The verdict? The tube adds wonderful roundness and warmth to the tone. Much more pleasing to listen to.

    It's tubes for me, baby.
  6. I have a preamp with an integrated tube compressor with adjustable tube saturation, and it really does add a bit to the sound although the effect isn't very extreme, but it is a mic preamp and therefore designed to offer a very clean sound
  7. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    My 12-year-old Green Audio ME-1 preamp has 2 solid state channels:
    Channel A: 10-band graphic EQ
    Channel B: bass, 2 fully(!) parametric mids, treble.

    Both channels have a pre-shape switch, stereo or biamping-capable - I LOVE THIS PREAMP.
    Solid state sounds awesome, I don't need distortion.
  8. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    The Grand Prix has one 12AX7 tube, used in the first gain stages. All the fancy EQ features are provided by solid state circuitry. I love SWR gear, but when they say "all tube preamp" on the front of their gear I just can't agree. That doesn't mean it doesn't sound great (it does), just that is is not "all tube". By the way, the Alembic F1X is another preamp that is not "all tube". Unlike the F2B, the F1X has some solid state gain stages.

    The Aquilar you mentioned is one of the few tube pres with extensive EQ....I should have known someone would bring it up :D You'll notice it also has a LOT of tubes in it, takes up two rack spaces and costs about $1500 :eek: The "deep" and "bright switches" on most tube preamps simply kick in capacitors, they don't use any active gain stages. It's a design trick that goes back to the old Fender preamps (and possibly even to the Western Electric cirucits that Leo Fender derived his designs from). Every active gain stage requires at least 1/2 of a dual triode tube (which is what a 12AX7 is).

    The cost of all those tubes is why most all tube pres are so simple and there's so much use of passive EQ circuits. Open up a Boogie 400+ and you'll find that it's all tubes EXCEPT for the graphic EQ which is solid state. Of course, you can bypass the graphic if you want the signal path 100% tube.

    Ashly and Yamaha used to make solid state pres with fully parametric EQ.

    To get back on topic, I was simply making the point that one reason to go with solid state pres is they typically have more features than all tube ones and the reason why is the cost of adding enough tubes to perform those functions.
  9. redneck2wild


    Nov 27, 2002
    Memphis, TN
    Some people like the sound of Tube Preamps over Solid State. Tubes affect gain and have a degree of compression built in (which can causes extra sustain). The gain usually has humps in some frequencies giving a certain "color" to a sound (the compression in the tube also affects the "color").

    You can completely change the sound of a Tube preamp by using a different type of preamp Tube.
    Higher gain preamp tubes sometimes also have extra noise or hiss. I tried 4 different Preamp tubes before I found one I liked when I replaced mine.