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Volume difference between tube and solid state amps.

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by fireincairo, Aug 10, 2008.


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  1. fireincairo

    fireincairo

    Jul 8, 2008
    I came across this statement in a review for a tube bass amp. I'm just curious what your experience has been and how true you find it to be:

    "Tubes are awesome. While 100 watts doesn't sound like much, it is likely equal to a 400 watt solid state amp in terms of usable volume."

    Does this statement sound reasonable? If not, do you agree with it at all? If you were to frame the statement in terms of wattage (and difference in volume) would you use different wattage levels? For example, is there any standard of ss wattage equivalent to tube wattage and relative volume?

    As a guitarist, I've noted a substantial difference in volume between tube and solid state guitar amps. This was likely why I assumed (falsely it seems) that tube watts were different than solid state watts. I'm sure engineers have been rolling their eyes at such statements for years. Regardless, there does seem to be a big difference in volume.

    Someone also said that it's merely because the tube amps can be pushed harder and clip without sounding bad allowing them to attain more volume. Do I have that right?

    I noticed that this topic can be a hot-button one, so I ask that we all maintain our composure and just share our ideas in a nice way.

    thanks!
     
  2. GregC

    GregC Johnny and Joe Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 19, 2007
    Chicago
    No offense, but this is very heavily travelled and dicey territory in this forum. Is it really useful to do it all over again, especially when a flame war is almost inevitable? Here's a thread linked in the Amps FAQ.
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=167074
     
  3. fireincairo

    fireincairo

    Jul 8, 2008
    I understand, but I'm really asking about a very specific aspect between the two types of amps: volume.

    I'm not interested in a tone war. We all know that's subjective. I'm really just interested in people's perspective on volume.

    Also, it's a bit immature, don't you think, to simply ban the discussion of a topic? Especially when it's so on topic? Can we not handle a discussion like this?
     
  4. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    It's not that we can't handle it, it's that it's been done enough that the more "mature" people speaking on the subject feel like they've already said what they had to say a few times already. :)
     
  5. RickenBoogie

    RickenBoogie

    Jul 22, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    Volume is a thing unto itself. Many factors come into play, the wattage of the amp being 1. This much is truth- watts is watts. It's a measurment of power. Doesn't matter how the power is generated, 1 watt= 1 watt. Period. Anything else is pure conjecture, and some urban myth for good measure. The perception of volume has more to do with the number of speakers than almost anything else.
     
  6. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    FWIW my contention is that the compression and "musical" clipping range of a cranked tube amp (including preamp tubes, power tubes, and output transformer) are the complete and exclusive source of the idea that tube amps are louder than solid state. That said, those are real and audible effects, so if you like the sound of a cranked tube amp then yes it can get "louder" (while still sounding good) with less wattage.
     
  7. GregC

    GregC Johnny and Joe Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 19, 2007
    Chicago
    And I'm saying, that very question has been addressed many times, as bongo just said, too.
    Volume is pretty darn subjective, too, actually. Read a few of the other threads on this topic and you'll see what I mean.
     
  8. mvw356

    mvw356

    Mar 2, 2006
    Brussels
    in a nutshell: a watt is a watt. valve amps are perceived to be louder because you can (or want to) use them when they break up. ss braking up sounds like farts or worse.
     
  9. SwitchGear

    SwitchGear Formerly "LAG"

    Mar 23, 2005
    Wisconsin
    I had a like new V4B 100 watt tube head that was nowhere near as loud as my 180 watt SS head, through the exact same cabinet. My Son, whom is a bass player and myself, AB'ed them side by side at our home and both agreed the 100 watt V4B was not enough for our needs. I sold the tube amp but still have the SS head. It was a sweet 100 watts though.

    My Experience folks.
     
  10. fireincairo

    fireincairo

    Jul 8, 2008
    But volume is measured in decibels. You can't really argue against decibels. I don't have the means to put it to the test, but I'm sure it could easily be proved or disproved.
     
  11. fireincairo

    fireincairo

    Jul 8, 2008
    Really? Interesting...
     
  12. fireincairo

    fireincairo

    Jul 8, 2008

    One of the problems with directing people to massive threads is that the time it takes to sift through all the stuff that isn't relevant makes it way too tedious. Even then, you may not even find what you're looking for, which means your effort was not only tedious, but pointless as well.
     
  13. fireincairo

    fireincairo

    Jul 8, 2008
    I've also read that there can be a substantial discrepancy between SS amp makers and what they regard as a "watt," further confusing the wattage/volume issue.
     
  14. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    [​IMG]
    Manufacturers being creative with their ratings is not a tube vs. ss issue though. It's endemic to all audio gear categories.
     
  15. The truth be told, I skip 50% of the posts because they have already been discussed repeatedly. I think the OP was just asking for some type of scientific answer to the question; "Why do tube watts sound louder than SS watts?" And they do sound louder. Everybody has the same reaction the first time they play a 20 watt tube head. "Wow, that is really loud for 20 watts!" I have never heard the opposite response.
    And I do not think it has been discussed all that often in comparison to other topics. Well, that is my humble opinion anyway. Gotta go now. there is a super interesting 20 page thread that I want to get in on. Some guy asked if two 1x12's are louder than one 2x12. :meh::meh:
     
  16. fireincairo

    fireincairo

    Jul 8, 2008
    Yeah, I also wanted to hear people's experiences between SS and tube amps and volume. Thanks for your input, it's appreciated.
     
  17. amper

    amper

    Dec 4, 2002
    US
    Fact. Tube watts do not sound any louder than transistor watts.

    Now, two given amps of the same power rating, one of tubes and one of transistors, all other things being equal may have differing volume characteristics. The primary reason for this is the less linear response of thermionic valves as compared to transistors, and the resulting harmonic products produced when the two different types of amplifiers reach the point in their operation curves where they begin to produce distortion.

    The end result of this, without going into more detail, is that frequently, the tube amplifier will sound louder than the transistor amplifier while still not producing audibly unpleasant distortion artifacts, even though when viewed on an oscilloscope, the tube amplifier is actually in technical terms distorting quite heavily, while the transistor amp is squeaky clean.
     
  18. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    toms_river.nj.us
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    in a nutshell... if something is perceived in a way, then it's a safe assumption that it is that way :D

    but yeah, it's a clipping thing that causes the perception.
     
  19. Kindness

    Kindness

    Oct 1, 2003
    Chicago
    How did it sound after it had been serviced by a qualified tech? :ninja:

    But seriously, there were very likely problems with that particular amp that needed to be addressed.
     
  20. GregC

    GregC Johnny and Joe Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 19, 2007
    Chicago
    And who does have the means to test the actual volume, as well as the actual output (as opposed to rated wattage, which some companies tend to over- or understate) of many different tube and SS amps in identical conditions? Right, that's why this topic tends to devolve into an argument involving perceived volume.

    And there are many posts addressing that in the thread I linked.:eyebrow: My effort is only pointless if you're lazy. Oh well.
     



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