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why are tube heads louder?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Aenema, May 3, 2005.

  1. Aenema


    Apr 18, 2001
    my fender 300 ps with a passive bass thru a 1x15 was wayyyyy louder then my swr bass 750 at 8 ohms (425 watts) with an active bass thru a goliath III. why are tube heads so much louder watt per watt?
  2. Transverz

    Transverz believer of the Low End Theory

    May 3, 2004
    Los Angeles, CA
    I believe this topic is covered lots in past threads and by others far more knowledgable and eloquent than me so a search would be in order.

    But I'll give it a shot anyway because...well, I can :D

    In short, power deriving from a tube section has the type of harmonics that give a more dramatic perceivable sound, leading to more volume, watt for watt. So it's not really that the watts are any different, just heard differently. Also, as you turn up a tube amp, it overdrives very nicely and musically, giving you way more usable power. A solid state power section needs far more watts to stay clean and avoid the dreaded SS clip which is very NOT musical at all.

    I've probably mangled the explanation trying to keep it as short as possible so apologies. I will be straightened out very soon by the gurus. :ninja:


    *edit - Isn't it strange how the difference out there in the world and the stuff we create is more dependent on US and our perception capabilities, or rather our limitations of it? Limitation being a relative word as all our senses are actually quite amazing to begin with in general but certainly aren't limitless. Just some stupid dreamy thoughts... :meh:
  3. I think its something like this:

    Tubes distort more, thats what gives them that tone, and the distortion is percieved to be louder
  4. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    No difference in volume when running *below* rated power level.

    Tube amps distort more gradually when running *above* the rated power level. That's why tube amps can *seem* louder.

    Do a search for details....
  5. Aenema


    Apr 18, 2001
    maybe not just the fact they distort... but the fact they have "usable" distortion? im sure thats part of the puzzle at least.
  6. Im not talking about distortion like in an effect pedal way

    A) it can be through the tubes overdriving (very useable)
    B)the seeming "warmth" you get from them, are all forms of distortion of the signal due to most all tube amps being relatively lo-fi
  7. PB+J


    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    they are not louder--a watt is a watt. also--did you notice you used two different cabs?

    Assume a couple conditions
    1. Two amps, one tube and one solid state, both honestly rated at 200 watts--no manufacturer's hype
    2. an indentical cab for both amps
    3. a decibel meter

    They will produce the same apparent volume, but the tube amps will probably sound more pleasing when it begins to "clip" (distort) at the top of its maximum range. Probably. In practice, not all amps are honetly rated, and not all amps clip the same way

    Also, as everyone is always pointing out, it takes TEN TIMES the wattage to sound twice as loud. The difference between a 300 watt amp and a 450 watt amp is very slight, in terms of volume. Three decibels is a noticeable volume increase, ten decibels is perceived as "twice as loud."

    But cabs make a big difference. Cabs have a sensitivity rating , which is the decibels they produce at a given distance with a given wattage applied. A cab rated at 103 db (like the aguilar 1x12) will be twice as loud as a cab rated at 93 db (like the portabass 2x12). You need to use the same cab to really tell.
  8. just to say, yes, a watt is a watt, and this can be used between similar amp types and brands, but every amplifier and cab arent as efficient as each other, also, alot of manufacturers have different ideas about how much a watt is or what wattage one of their amps is putting out
  9. disregard my last post completely
  10. Why? You're dead on. If EVERY manufacturer used the same standards for rating output power, you'd see why those ultra-cheap amps that boast unreal power are lying.

    As far as tube vs s/s volume, ... do a search. A watts IS most definitley a watt, but there's a WHOLE lot of oversimplification in between to try and explain why what you can patently hear doesn't exist. Tube amps sound louder because they ARE louder.
  11. I just thought it was covered enough in the post above mine
  12. JBalloonist


    Apr 16, 2005
    Franklin, OH
    The above posts are on the right track. The truth is they're not louder watt per watt. However, they sound like they are. But before I say anything else that might be wrong, save yourself from searching and check out this thread:


    I think that should clear everything up.
  13. Sound IS volume. Think about how silly it is to say something is not as loud as it sounds...You need to re-read the thread you just referenced.
  14. Willie_the_Pimp


    Apr 19, 2005
    okay, but what about differences in peoples individual hearing? A thirty year old that has played in bars since he was 21 without earplugs would have a significant difference in hearing compared to a 17 year old that's been jamming in his room for two years. so really, who can tell? you'd have to have a decibel meter to truly find out
  15. I think this is back to percieved volume, it is physically the same amplitude, but the ear drum is basically rattled more violently by the tube "warmth" (well distortion), so it reacts more to it, so the signal sent up the line is percieved to be louder, so it sounds louder than it is

    *wow, actually learned something from uni, mon the biochem!*
  16. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    MIDRANGE...our ears are most sensitive to midrange so even if SPL is the same, the rig with more midrange will always sound louder.

    Every component of your old rig (including the bass) had a strong midrange focus. Your new rig is designed to be more full range with less midrange emphasis.

    So you're comparing apples to oranges even before you bring tubes vs. transistors into the equation.
  17. Aenema


    Apr 18, 2001
    are you sure about that? the goliath III is known for having more mid range than most 4x10s and my cirrus... thing just loves to dominate the mix with its very punchy mids. its the most "mid" sounding setup ive ever owned. 4x10s in general have more mids then 15s. especially the goliath III. and my cirrus has way more mids then my fender ever did. the fender was very background sounding and blended in more then it fought with the other instruments. i always thought this was due to a lack of mids.
  18. Dan1099

    Dan1099 Dumbing My Process Down

    Aug 7, 2004
    Given two amps, one solid-state, one tube, you can run the tube amp MUCH closer to full out than the solid-state one. As you start clipping tube amps, they naturally compress your sound. Solid states dont. The start to sound bad as you turn them up, because the peaks in your signal clip the amp hard. Try running a compressor before a solid state amp, with a relatively high ratio, and then see how loud it gets.

    An oversimplification, I'm sure, but to me, its always made a lot of sense.
  19. IME. I had an SWR 750+Goliath SR(6x10), of course not a 4x10, but all my experience w/SWR has left me hungry for mids. I am, BTW, big on mids- my EQ is usually upside-down compared to others. Ampeg(SVT-3pro/PR-410hlf)seems to have more mids available, for me.
    As for something 'sounding' louder than it really is seeming silly, try comparing your ears/opinion with what a decibel meter says.
  20. lerxst


    May 4, 2005
    Being a SWR owner myself... Your SWR does have a tube in it that you should replace once a year (IMO). Another thing you should try is get the manual, or download it http://www.swrsound.com/ and try the "Rock" settings that the factory suggests. It really makes a difference.

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