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Your opinion wanted...Your love for ALL Tube heads

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Sundogue, Mar 6, 2014.

  1. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    So..what is it about all tube amps that trips your trigger?

    For over 35 years I've owned and played through a variety of all tube amps, but I've also been mainly a SS guy. Mostly due to weight and cost, but I have owned an SVT in the early 80's and I've also had a Mesa 400 long ago, but I've never gone back to all tube since.

    It's not for a lack of wanting. Just never worked out to be able to get one. But I'll be getting a Peavey VB2 soon (in trade for artwork, so there's no out of pocket expense, just my time and I'll get money to boot, so I can't pass it up).

    I don't really know how to describe it, although I'm sure someone can give the more technical reasons for it's tone, but to me "all tube" amps just seem to breathe with the music, as if the amp itself is as alive as the playing, in a way that SS amps (even with tube pre's and todays technology that just don't quite do, close as they may come).

    I didn't start this thread as a debate between SS and Tube as I'm well aware of just how well technology can cop it fairly well.

    Just want some input as to what "all tube" users seem to love about their amps and why. In this thread, perception is just as valid as facts for this discussion as why you like/love them is just your own personal opinion, which is what I'm after.
  2. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    There's just a richness of tone that I don't get out of SS and hybrid amps. There's also a refreshing lack of compression when you run them clean that I really dig. That said, give me anything and I'll find a way to make it rock. But left to my own druthers, t00bZ.
  3. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Well, there is clearly more harmonic content. This can be easily measured, and our brains definitely receive this information (and seem to enjoy it - at least mine does!). Tube heads also employ output transformers (so do a limited number of solid state heads), and this also has a tonal impact.

    To paraphrase the oft-cited paradigm, "Talking about what makes all-tube amps great is like dancing about architecture." :cool: :D

    All I know is, playing through a nice all-tube rig makes me very happy. :bassist: :bassist: :bassist: :bassist::cool:

    That being said, I am fairly easily amused, and I like my solid state gear, too. But I do get a different "feel" when playing through my tube gear, and I dig it.
  4. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    I can, and have, made SS amps work for me for decades. I would say that out of 35+ years of playing, all but maybe 2 or 3 of those years have been spent enjoying the hell out of SS amps. ;)

    So long as I can get adequate volume for a given situation, I can make any amp work for me.

    But...every time I've ever plugged into an all tube amp I've just had that "Oh damn! That's what I've been wanting!" reaction.
  5. BassmanPaul

    BassmanPaul Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2007
    Toronto Ontario Canada
    I still have a soft spot for tubes. I don't use full tube amps anymore, but for the first 25 or so years of my career, tubes were what I used. Even though SS power sections give me my power I do like to have a few tube sections in the signal chain.
  6. AlexanderB


    Feb 25, 2007
    I really want to "see the magic" that is often referred to by TB:ers and other fellow musicians, but have little success so far. However, I have not tried THAT hard to try out what's availale.
    Aside from hearing (close up, while I was doing sound) other people gig with tube amps, I have also gigged the SVT as provided backline, briefly owned the VB-2, jammed through a couple of vintage Fenders as well as many hybrids.
    Neither of those did really "do it" for me, even if the SVT was the best so far. I feel they were all low on power, noisy (ground and "white"), shy in both the very lows and highs and never sound really clean.
    It also seems the majority of the tube amps use eq designs that I do not like.

    Actually, I do not mind the weight and higher prices THAT much, but of course, it does not help.

    Still I have not ruled put owning a big tube amp, preferrably the SVT CL and I intend to rent one to see how I like it at home and at rehearsals/gigs.
  7. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    I've played through tube and through solid state heads. I don't hear a lot of difference.

    I've never owned a head I couldn't get a pleasing sound from, so I don't worry about it.
  8. CL400Peavey

    CL400Peavey Supporting Member

    Nov 7, 2011
    Grand Rapids Michigan
    I like a tube amp pushed right to the limits of its clean head room, or a little past that point.
  9. petergales


    Dec 29, 2009
    Leeds UK
    My Matamp GT200 all valve head has a beautiful warm sound that edges out even the best hybrid or SS amps. It's hard to describe but when I A/B'd them it was immediately apparent.
  10. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Hey Tom, did you do a review of the Peavey VB2 in one of your Bass Gear articles? I did a search and found nothing. If you did, do you happen to recall what issue it was?

    I had an online subscription, but damned if I can recall my login info. I'll have to check on that.
  11. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    ...and your love for all tube amps is because...?

    I reread your post...maybe I missed it. ;)
  12. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    No, we have not reviewed the VB-2 (yet).

    Regarding your login info, hit me up with a PM or an e-mail at tom@bassgearmag.com and I should be able to help you with that.

  13. D.M.N.

    D.M.N. (O))))

    Oct 6, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    When you can find me an ss amp as dynamic and responsive to my playing as any of my Sunn heads, then I'll be interested. It's not that I dislike SS, I quite enjoy Ashdowns and Acoustics, but it's the interaction of my playing, the instrument, and the tube heads that I love and I have yet to find to the same extent in a SS head. What I mean is I can dig in, and the tube heads will drive a little harder, compress a bit, you know, change characteristics, and then I can back off and it'll clean up. That's what I like about them.
  14. AlexanderB


    Feb 25, 2007
    Technically, that is because a tube amp has LESS dynamic range, not more.
  15. glorth2


    Jan 26, 2006
    I hope this isn't considered a threadjack but I have a tube amp question. A couple weeks ago at a Guitar Center I tried an Ibanez BTB Premium through a Markbass Randy Jackson Signature tube amp and a Hartke 4X10 HyDrive. I don't know if it was the 500 or the 800W but, regardless, I couldn't believe how bright and punchy it sounded. Coincidentally, I just bought a used Ibanez BTB off eBay and it sounds great. I've only played it over my Hartke 1x15 combo however. Is it normal for tubes to sound this good? I know that MarkBass makes great stuff but I'm trying to figure out of the key factors in what I heard were the fact that it was a tube, a MarkBass and how much the cab might've had to do with it. TIA!
  16. Alexander

    Alexander Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    I find that tube amps have a 3D quality to the notes I can't get from any SS\Hybrid I've tried. I can also hear the harmonic content that Tom describes, which is hard to put into words, other than very open, musical and dynamic as it gets pushed into overdrive - nothing quite sounds like it. You can get distortion out of pedals and by driving tubes in the pre-amp section of a hybrid, but it's not the same (at least to me). The tube amps I've tried all lean toward the warm side too, which combined with the other qualities above make the tone quite special.

    There are SS heads that are as warm (or warmer) sounding - my Thunderfunks were like that. There are some hybrids (like the Mesa WA) that are very tube-like. I own both but have mostly played SS\Hybrids over the years.
  17. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    The descriptors are all very interesting...and kind of similar in that there is just a unique characteristic(s) to an all tube amp that seems to have a life of it's own. Like it intuitively rides the wave of the player's style and reacts accordingly.
  18. Bassmec


    May 9, 2008
    Ipswich UK
    Proprietor Springvale Studios
    But the lessened dynamic range is beautifully compressed:D mostly by the output trans and HT supply and so it evens out your strikes to a pleasing extent without quite getting too dirty, that's what I love about them you can get something like it with varimu tubes in a pre amp with some heavy iron in it.
    Like a retro sta level or similar studio tool, but it's still not quite the same as an all tube amp given just the right sort of violent abuse.
  19. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    I love tubes, especially for guitar, but I often wish they reacted in the just opposite mode of intuition in bass applications: a little grind at low volumes, then dead clean at higher ones. That'd work a whole lot better for my frequent soloing, I think.
  20. Alexander

    Alexander Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    Yeah - hard to describe tone, I think. They're different animals and not for everyone - but I guess for those that love them and need THAT tone, there's only one way to get it...