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Tube Vs. SS

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by IvanMike, Feb 20, 2005.

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  1. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    This is a general thread on the subject posted as a link to the FAQ sticky for the amps forum. After review of old threads and merging several of them i decided it would be more useful to post a fresh one. To access the original merged threads click on this link. Just be aware that it can be somewhat repetitive and it contains some flame wars, some of which are from years ago. Hopefully most of the combatants have made amends since then. :)

    Please go ahead and post your preferences and insights in this thread.
  2. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin'

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    After years of Ampeg B15N ownership, I recently retired the old 1963 girl and got an Ampeg B100R. It weighs about 2/3 what the old one did, and is much less awkward to move, with no fragile and hard-to-find tubes (the story is that Everett Hull was always being sweettalked by the tube reps to buy up their harder-to-move offerings, leading to the bizarre tubes found in old Ampegs). The tone is very similar, and the user friendliness is much greater. I'd like to add that I love tubes for guitar, and the B100R is only the second instrument amp I've ever owned that was solid state, going back to my Sears Silvertone Twin Twelve. Tubes have their place, but for non ear-bleeding levels I think solid state will give you results that are just as good. Since I perform and record with acoustic/singer-songwriter types, I don't need nuclear capability (not that anyone does, other than in their imagination).
  3. protoz


    Nov 30, 2000
    I haven't gotten my hands on a full blown tube head but my Hartke 5000 with a tube preamp sounds pretty good (older model). My Sunn Coliseum 300 is full blown solid and sounds very nice as well. Much more-so than my Hartke as I don't get any hiss out of it.

    I have never had problems with my solid state equipment but my guitarists have troubles with their tube amps more often. It could be how they are running them or just something about it being a tube amp.

    I am planning on buying a full blown tube amp one of these days, but until then I'm enjoying my solids
  4. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    I am somewhat split on the tube/solid state issue. I love the sound of some tube amps, like the SVT, but I find tubes get dirty faster with the kind of music I play (lots of drop tuned, heavy, slow metal). I have a huge fetish for clarity in my bass tone, and for that I think solid state is the way to go (unless you can afford enough a tube amp powerful enough to be run at 1/4-1/3 its total capacity and still be loud enough).
  5. I haven't had much experience with a variety of amps, but my Eden Metro has both a solid-state and a tube preamp (both into a solid-state power section) and I definitely prefer the tube preamp. I've spent a while EQing both and no matter what I do, I can never get the SS-pre to sound as warm or full as the tube-pre. So, take that for what it's worth.
  6. maxvalentino

    maxvalentino Endorsing Artist Godin Guitars/ Thomastik-Infeld

    For the longest time I was quite happy with SS power amps, whether it be from a tube preamp/SS pwr amp head or a stand alone power amp...in fact for the past several years I had been using a SS preamp (Raven Labs) as well. This was mostly due to the issues already mentioned: reliablity, maintainance, weight and size.
    Tho, to be fair in my home studio I have some really nice tube gear from Universal Audio, Manley and Avalon....

    But recently I convereted: I went all tube with a Demeter tube preamp and Demeter VTHB300m all tube power amp. It sounds incredible. Big?yes...bulky? yep..heavy? you betcha.....and a lot more expensive, but it sounds like nothing else.

    For al lot of gigs I still take a smaller and lighter SS power system (either a Stewart power amp and various cabs, or a SWR California Blonde combo in which I run the Demeter preamp into its' fx return jack thus bypassing the SWR preamp). But when the Big One comes out...t is tone to burn.

  7. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    My favorite tone is from an all-tube amp (SVT lover here), but with solid state I get a lot more watts in a much lighter package so that's what I use these days. Now, I typically use a tube (or tube emulator) preamp with an SS amp: the tube preamps don't really replicate the sound of warm power tubes, but are close enough for my ears (and back).
  8. To a Tube guy- Solid State is "sterile" and Tubes are "Warm."

    To a SS guy- Tubes are "Mushy" and SS is "clear."
    crust_cheese likes this.
  9. TheChariot


    Jul 6, 2004
    Boston, MA
    Now we're all like a different species.... :p

    I can only wonder what this forum must look like to a person who knows absolutely nothing about musical amplification.

    "My God!.... They're all divided into gangs and cults!"
  10. Tube emulation. Best of both worlds.
  11. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    Au contraire, the best of both worlds would be to own several of each...
  12. Yep, as an owner of both I'd consider this to be a pretty accurate statement... although I find tubes to be better at clarity than SS is at warmth, even with a tube preamp into a SS poweramp.

    Pros for the SS is lighter weight, cheaper per watt, less maintenance.

    Pros for the tube would be louder per watt, and most of all the big fat warm sound.
  13. kjones


    Dec 4, 2004
    I think a lot of the comments do reflect the way these amplifiers have sounded in the past. However, there is a lot of warmth in the Thunderfunk and the Walter Woods, for example. There is no way those amps sound sterile, so long as you EQ them appropriately.

    What they don't do as well, IMO, is get that sound where they're just about to break-up, i.e., the sound of an extremely overdriven tube amp. If you need that, you probably have to go to tube, hybrids, or maybe effects.

  14. This is way too overgeneralized on both sides to be the least bit useful. :D

    It is possible to have warmth and clarity, in either type of amp. I'm not sure why people think you need to sacrifice one for the other. I've heard mushy solid state amps and tube amps with stunning clarity.....
  15. junglebike


    Feb 14, 2003
    San Diego, CA
    It's dangerous to make blanket comparisons -- there will always be "warm" or "muddy" sounding solid state amps, as well as "clear" or "sterile" sounding tube amps. There's lots of leeway in both designs. Instead of focusing on one vs. the other (like Ford vs. Chevy), I think it's more useful to compare specific amps (SVT vs. Eden).

    My experience -- I have totally fallen in love with my old '82 Mesa D180 200W tube head. It's not terribly heavy (~45lbs) or expensive (~$380 on e-bay). It has a similar sonic "signature" to the old SVTs -- an aggressive sounding midrange power tube breakup, and a warm rich low end, particularly through my Bergantino NV610 and Fender jazz.

    If you are looking for total clarity, this isn't your rig. I sold my EA iamp 800 combo because the music I'm playing these days demands that strong, warm fundamental that just sits back in the mix. If I was looking for something where the bass was out front-and-center, or where I was slapping, I'd want my iamp back.
  16. Pickebass

    Pickebass Supporting Member

    Jul 12, 2004
    San Antonio, TX
    The biggest issue really is weight. I love my tube amps and the tone of tubes is generally warmer than most solid state amps. One of the issues I think is volume. When you are playing in a loud situation sometimes the advantage you gain in tone are lost.

    Tube preamps/ss poweramp combos can be a good trade off. Amps such as the DB750, Mesa Bigblock 750 offer high power close to an all tube sound (no I didn't include the eden WT800 because it is a different amp with diffferent sounds)

    On the other hand, I heard an ampeg svt/810 combo plugged up outside of a music store for "testing". It rattled the neighborhood, made car alarms go off and could be heard a 1/4 mile away!

    Long live tubes!!
  17. The 0x

    The 0x

    Aug 24, 2003
    Timonium, MD
    Also depends on the brand of amp. A Sunn, Hiwatt, or Trace tube head will be much clearer sounding than an Ampeg head EDIT: In my limited experience.
  18. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    I'd like to have both, but alas I don't have enough money to own my Alembic/QSC setup and the DB680/DB728 that I would want.

  19. Now that's a good example of the overgeneralization I was talking about.
  20. The 0x

    The 0x

    Aug 24, 2003
    Timonium, MD
    Sorry. Should have put IMHO or something.

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