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Tube preamps vs. tube emulation preamps

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Geezer Brown, Dec 27, 2013.

  1. Ok, so I know the age old debate on if tube emulation really can sound like an all tube head. We're not here to debate this.
    As we all know, the tube power section is the discerning factor between all tube heads and tube emulation.

    Seeing how DI's and standalone tube pre's going into solid state power sections are all the rage nowadays, I'm wondering: what sounds closer when plugged into a solid state power amp, a tube emulator circuit (VT bass etc.) or a standalone tube preamp (SVP-Cl etc.)?
  2. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    Sounds closer to what?
  3. Tubes. Sorry about that.
  4. Jim C

    Jim C Spector#496:More curves than Sophia + better sound Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    I have a SVP-CL with an Ampeg 1500 watt power amp
    It sounds similar to my SVT-CL just as my 7-Pro does.
    Between the 3 I like the SVT-CL the best.
    Sounds more 3D, wide sound stage, high end is smoother and never brittle
    Only downside is the weight.
  5. I used to have one

    Man do I miss it :bawl:
  6. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I'll take a VT over some tube preamps, but the SVP-CL isn't one of them.
  7. It depends a lot on the design. There are many tube preamps where the tube is nothing more than an ornament. Others that actually feed some voltage to the tube sound a lot more convincing especially if they also have a transformer in the circuit. I really believe people that say any tube preamp will give you some "warmth", "grit", "tubiness" are listening with their eyes. Don't be fooled. There are a lot of masquerading preamps/hybrid amps out there.
  8. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    This. High voltage tube preamps that have transformers involved. To me they're the ONLY thing that sounds like a 'full tube' amp...with the power section not overdriven or compressed.
  9. Very interesting responses. Care to throw a few examples of such preamps my way?
  10. Mike in Chicago

    Mike in Chicago Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2011
    Yeah. I think you need more than one to rub those rough edges off.
  11. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    The two I have are the Kern IP-777 which has transformers, 2 12AX7's and a 12AU7 and a Jule Monique, which has transformers, EZ81 rectifier tube, 2 6SL7's and a 12AU7. There are others out there, Alembic makes one, several others are also in common use.
  12. Mike in Chicago

    Mike in Chicago Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2011
    I have a svtIIP right mow which I like more than the svpcl I had. Within the next month or two I'll have scraped together enough dough to buy a new SVTCL for the upcoming fest season and summer. Going to go back full tubes & 810 just like I used to use when I was a kid because nothing sounds the same.
  13. How about the verellen meatsmoke pre?
  14. teemuk


    Mar 1, 2011

    Is this thread serious?

    If you want authentic tube tone, get tube preamp.

    I don't know why there even is question whether tubes will sound like tubes... On the other hand, tubes never had a single tone so expect pretty much everything.

    On the other hand, if you want good tone, or anything you consider "tube-like" tone (whatever that is), then just get anything that sounds like that to you and forget what's inside of it.

    Tube preamps will sound different from another just like any hybrids or all-solid-state ones will. The technology alone won't guarantee that the unit has (or doesn't have) the tone and specs you look for. You will find examples you love, examples you loathe and much from between from all categories.
  15. dukeorock

    dukeorock Owner BNA Audio Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2011
    Nashville, TN
    Authorized greenboy designs builder/Owner of BNA Audio
    They're trickier to come by (and fairly expensive), but I'm over the moon for the Reiner 6SL7 tube pre.
  16. ScottTunes

    ScottTunes Gear-A-Holic Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2011
    So Cal
    You're going to have to play quite a few preamps through your choice of power amp until you find what sounds best to you.

    The best tube sound I've found in a non-tube head is TCE RH450. It's voiced similarly to the Ampeg SVT, and adjustable enough to have more or less of a tube sound/feel.

    I haven't heard any new preamps in the last 2 years or so, and therefore can't suggest any... But after much consternation over a tube amp replacement to save my back while loading in/out, the best tube sounds came from some very light weight non-tube heads! IME/IMO/YMMV of course.
  17. beate_r


    Jan 25, 2012
    Mhmm, the possibly closest modeling amp to any arbitrary tube amp might be the kemper profiling amp. But that is a pretty expensive solution: http://www.kemper-amps.com/page/render/lang/en/p/184/

    The "closest" and most consequent hybrid solutions are IMHO small SE tube amps delivering a few watts and feeding a power soak and a passive DI-box into a PA (standalone they would make a nice practice amp).
  18. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    Depends what you mean by "tube like" ... not all tube amps/preamps are designed for breakup or an Ampeg-like tone for instance. Some are quite clean and detailed rather than gritty (which is what I suspect a lot of TBers mean when they look for a tube amp). The Hevos amp I use for instance is a hybrid with a very clear and detailed tube preamp, not at all intended for that Ampeg rock sound.
  19. ThisBass


    Aug 29, 2012
    In opposite to all solid state designs any tube design is far easier to construct to provide a musical harmonic distortion.
    However if any tube design yields on a minimum of THD so it is nearly impossible to recognize an audible difference to an equivalent solid state design.
    Lot of custom amp design engineers let a tube stage run with an very asymmetric quiescent point. Thus providing an improved amount of 2nd Harmonic distortion.
    But this practice of a schematic design very disagrees the classical science of schematic designs.
    So it all depends, because a tube does not automatically sound like a tube because it is a tube. It depends on the specific design if a tube really sounds like a tube.

    I don't call any name but a very lot of the so called vintage preamp tube designs are a rubbish and sound like garbage.

    I have got no idea if any emulation can emulate the different feelings of different brands of tubes. Let's say different 12AX7 of EH or JJ or GE or Svetlana. But if an emulation can ever emulate a tube, then which one of all of them is the emulated tube in particular?
  20. Mike in Chicago

    Mike in Chicago Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2011
    OK. I'm confused.