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Tube, Solid State, Pre, etc

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by wld3, Aug 2, 2008.


  1. wld3

    wld3

    Jun 22, 2008

    This is a bit of a novice question with some general thoughts on amplification.

    I recently had a chance to hear several top-notch amps. While I liked many solid-state heads, particularly the LMII from Markbass, I found that I really liked the hybrid Genz-Benz 750 with the tube pre active. I was not, on this occasion, able to hear an all tube amp for comparison. In any case, my current leaning is that I really dig the tubes.

    Lay aside the comparison/consideration of solid-state versus tube for a moment. I'm not looking to start a debate of the merits and detractions of each. I'd just like to consider one avenue of thought that presented itself to me after giving all these amps a listen.

    Obviously, if one wants that tube sound, one can buy an all-tube amp. Prevailing thought seems to be that if one wants that tube sound with a smaller and/or lighter and/or louder unit, one can buy a hybrid amp with a tube pre and solid-state post/power.

    Since I've often heard it stated, and have no reason to doubt, all amps color the tone, wouldn't it be a good move to try to find a solid state power amp that was the most transparent and buy a separate tube pre amp?

    My thinking is that you'd be plugged into that tube tone and then, when running through the power amp, you would get as little additional coloration as possible, thus 'powering' your tube sound. Is that just a pipe dream? Is running from tube pre to solid state pretty much alway going sound like any other hybrid? Is going all tube the only way to really enjoy that fat, warm tube sound?

    As a for instance, I've heard from others that Acoustic Image amps are quite transparent. I don't know first-hand, however, if that is accurate, couldn't one buy such an amp and then add a rack-mount tube preamp in order to get a high-powered tube sound? An added benefit would seem to be that you could then choose to bypass the pre for a clean sound and/or you could interchange the amp or the pre as necessary, since they are separate items.

    By the way, I'm not amp shopping right now and, yes, I know very well that the best way to determine things it to take your bass and plug in to whatever you can until you find what you're looking for; I fully intend to do this in the future. I just thought it would prove a worthwhile, and perhaps educational, discussion.

    Ok, that's my thoughts this morning. What do you think?

    If you want that tube sound, do you need to go all tube or do you think hybrid amps bring it home well? What about the idea I put forward of a as-transparent-as-possible power amp with a tube pre?


    TIA


     
  2. Curtybob

    Curtybob

    Jun 2, 2007
    Jackson, MO
    Just to address this one area of your post, I believe that most power amps are made to be as transparent as possible. If you have a power amp that colors your tone, either you need to quit spending $10 on a power amp, or there are some built in features that need to be turned off.
     
  3. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    +1
    And the "tube pre, solid state power section" is an extremely common combination, whether in a hybrid head or in a pre/power separates rack. So common that it might even outnumber the all-tube and all-ss amp heads currently in use (just guessing, but I wouldn't be surprised).

    Again though, while there are solid-state power amps that color the tone, the vast majority are designed not to.
     
  4. RickenBoogie

    RickenBoogie

    Jul 22, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    Ok, this is interesting. To my ears there are several huge differences to be addressed. First, a hybrid amp, or a tube pre will never get the sound of an all-tube amp, because of the power section. It cannot be reproduced. Otoh, a tube pre, or hybrid head, can warm up the tone, and is very different from an all solid state amp. It's really 3 very distinctive types of amps. The hybrids don't sound like all tube amps, any more than they sound like solid state. But, they're closer to the solid state amps than the tube amps. I love a tube amp at lower volumes, and I love hybrid heads at high volumes. Not a fan of the more sterile and cold solid state stuff. And, yes, a tube pre into a ss power amp is essentially the same as a hybrid head. Hope any of this helps, or makes sense. Bottom line, all 3 types are very different.
     
  5. will33

    will33

    May 22, 2006
    austin,tx
    Agreed, a good power amp shouldn't color anything, just make what's coming in come out the other end louder but still sounding the same.
     
  6. I like the tube pre/ solid state power amp. QSC is a nice place to start looking if you want to go this rout.

    The tube purists will argue that anything solid state hurts their tone. Yet you will see them play active basses.:help:

    I need more bang for my buck, so I go with the solid state power amp rout and have never looked back.

    However, the tube preamps "feel" different than the solid state ones do. I think they are more dynamic when you begin to dig in and get to feeling the music.
     
  7. seamonkey

    seamonkey

    Aug 6, 2004
    Go out and try a few modeling products
    Ampeg SVX
    Peavey Revalver
    Guitar Rig
    ...
    And not a modeler, but sounds interesting
    Tech21 VT Bass
    Sound clips at Bass Player site

    You'll get all your tube sound and be able to switch instantly to many different tube sounds, or switch it to any sound including clean and transparent.

    Used with a transparent power amp, and full range cabinet you'll be all set.
     
  8. im going through this same delima. i had a old fender bassman(all tube) which i adred. but its gone now. ill prolly get the mesa 400+ cuz I in particular like the ALL tube sound. (btw I own a lm2 as well. best ss around man) but for a long while considered a fender tube pre and either a crown/qsc or the fender power amp. not cuz it was any better just for the "wow some on actually bought this thing" factor.

    however i dont like hybrids, heads or rigs. even though you can get some great sounds out of them esp. ashdown. but why half a$$ it. ya know, Im gonna get a all tube head thats heavier than anything else and just say f**k the police.

    so all in all imo

    1. mesa 400+
    2.LMII
    3.Ashdown ABM 500 EVO II
    4. fender pre with poweramp(they are all pretty much the same)
     
  9. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Not if they have good sense! ;)

    Just kidding, you active bassists...lighten up! I have a few active basses myself. But the reason we'll use active basses in tube amps is because there's a big difference between a tone-generating device and a tone-shaping device. Active bass preamps are pretty much limited to taking the tone that's there in the pickups and enabling you to boost bass and treble past a flat EQ. But standalone preamps and power amps have a very active role in determining what character of tone goes to the speakers. So to tube bassists who use active basses, the active pre is seen more as a little extra tone control when needed.
     
  10. wld3

    wld3

    Jun 22, 2008
    Yes, I recognize this; of course you are right. When I re-read my post I found one or two comments I made that were either poorly worded or my mind was wandering as I typed because I didn't make it all clear.

    I do understand that a tube pre, that is then amplified, does not equal a tube amp. I was just wondering if a separate tube pre and ss power amp might not be better at achieving that tube sound with greater power output than a typical hybrid unit. The logic? You could buy the best sounding tube pre and the most transparent ss amp.

    Of course, earlier replies sort of shot that down as being any of sort of brilliant, new idea.


     
  11. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    At least you're thinking, bro. If you never heard of it before, it's new to you.
     
  12. wld3

    wld3

    Jun 22, 2008
    Forgive me if this is foolish, and I certainly don't mean it with an argumentative tone, I am trying to learn, however, I don't really get that.

    I mean, I understand the the pre/EQ is where the shaping/purposeful coloration is - In my view, this pic of the Mesa Big Block 750 tells that story plainly --

    170892.

    You have an overdrive knob on the far left, a o.d. master on the far right and the knobs in-between - gain, tone adjustment/frequency, and master - are all grouped together and collectively labeled as belonging to the preamplifier. So, to put it plainly, all the bits that are about tone are consolidated to the preamp section. Though not always labeled so plainly for us as yet unlearned folks, it is understood that this is how things work.

    However, allow me an imaginary scenario to explain my question... If you could take 10 ss amps from 10 different makers, all with same wattage rating, etc., and could remove the preamp from the equation entirely, are you telling me that they would all sound relatively the same? (You say they are all designed to be transparent/not color the tone.)

    If so, well, I learned something.

    But, doesn't how the power amp is constructed, the circuitry utilized, etc. have something to do with how it sounds? I get that makers may be striving for transparent power amplification but I doubt that means they all sound the same. And, if one sounds different from another, then doesn't that mean they "color" the tone?

    I noted something in the last issue of Bass Player and I looked it up after reading the replies here:

    "All output devices impart distortion on a signal, altering its waveform by creating overtones (or 'harmonics') related to the frequency of the signal." [Bass Player, July 08, p.42]

    Wouldn't that mean that a nice tube tone from a tube pre would be effected, i.e. - colored, by running into a ss power amp?

    Or is it just that the tube pre, amplified by a ss power amp, being largely transparent, has an absence of additional color that a full tube amp's power section would provide?


     
  13. Really? Who? (on both counts)
     
  14. A lot of people here will disagree, but NO, they all will not sound the same for various reasons. Their design goal IS the same across the board but every design (if they're PA amps) has its compromises which gives it a "sonic footprint."
     
  15. wld3

    wld3

    Jun 22, 2008
    Thanks. I appreciate the folks here who help out and, in turn, I try not to ask inane, lazy questions but, rather, things I've been reading/searching/thinking about that I just need some help understanding.

    I fully intend to look back on these posts in a few month's time and feel a bit foolish about what will then be my former ignorance.

    :meh: :smug:


     
  16. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I've done it, but I'm ashamed of myself for it.

    Anyway, wld3, you are absolutely right that they can color the sound. But generally, SS power amp makers design them to be relatively transparent. How successful they are depends solely on the designers' definition of "transparency," but most of them use it as a general goal.
     
  17. Curtybob

    Curtybob

    Jun 2, 2007
    Jackson, MO
    I may have been a little simplistic with my post here. Yeah, I suppose they do leave their mark on the sound. I have heard differences before, but most of the differences were in the quality of the output (like hum and hiss, not tone). When I bought the Tapco that I'm currently running in my rig, I thought it sounded a bit squashed. Low and behold, it had shipped with the limiter and 30hz high pass filter engaged.

    I guess what I should have said is that as far as I can tell, the tonal differences in decent and good amps are very small. Reliability and output quality (and weight) are the main differences that stand out to me.
     
  18. LowBSix

    LowBSix Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2008
    818 ~ 805 ~ L.A.
    Endorsing Artist: GHS Strings
    You're doing a great job seeking and asking question. There are some helpful and very cranky/self-righteous folks here on TB... Take what you like and leave the rest...

    IME: All power amps, preamps and speakers color your tone one way or another.

    IMHO&E, a minimum of 300 watts is required for enough headroom to play with dynamic range. If you like the tube sound, by all means find something within your budget. Keep in mind power tubes will color your sound and solid state power depending on capacitors and resistors will color your sound as well.

    RackableSolid state power amps are relatively inexpensive; like $350-$400 for 600+ watts per channel @ 8 ohms. Tube Preamps can range from $125-$550 depending on brand, features and quality.

    You can also get a hybrid like the the Genz Benz, Eden, SWR, MESA, etc.

    Happy Shopping and don't let the crankies spank your brain!!! :ninja:
    :bag:
     
  19. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    It's a question of scale. It's absolutely true that different solid state designs and components can "sound different" and thus be described as coloring the tone, even when the design mission was transparency. But IMO -and I am an extremely picky listener- those differences are so subtle in this context that they are not worth considering. Note that I'm not talking about SS bass amps that use FETs or whatever to emulate tube coloration, but PA-marketed power amps. They are designed to be transparent, and they get close enough to that goal so much of the time that any potential differences are too subtle for me to bother with. And I'll go out on a limb and say those subtleties don't matter to anyone but the bassist who spent a lot of money and hauled a heavy load just to convince themselves of the mighty tone of their particular choice of power amp. Remember that most people in the audience are hearing whatever power amps are at the venue in the PA rack, not your onstage amp, unless you brought a big rig to a small gig.

    Even if that's going too far for some of you, I'll say with certainty that the tiny amount of coloration caused by a PA SS power amp is not something that would make a big difference to the tone of a tube preamp.
     
  20. LowBSix

    LowBSix Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2008
    818 ~ 805 ~ L.A.
    Endorsing Artist: GHS Strings
    +1

    Just remember.... you've got to like it and most bar gigs don't pay more than $100...

    :cool: