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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Clean tone – solid state and tube – a very personal estimation

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by nosuch, Jan 8, 2019.

  1. nosuch

    nosuch Friend of Leo's

    Apr 4, 2008
    I'd like to share my experience on this: During like 36 years of playing music I found out that for what I want to sound like *good* tube amps *still* work better. For me the "Fender tone" is what I'm after. A good, nice and balanced clean tone.

    I seem to be unable to get the sparkle and overtones I want to hear from solid state amps. I'd love too, but the tubes seem to add some overtones that solid state technology just doesn't seem to be able to do.

    Don't get me wrong, I used solid state amps from brands like Marshall, Yamaha, Session and Polytone over the years and lately the solid state preamp in my tech 21 fly rig. And I can get decent, good enough sounds that sit in the mix. I also tried the lightweight DV Mark little jazz and the Boss Katana and while I liked the tone I thought it is a bit bland and uninspiring. I also tried a kemper, but only with headphones so that may not be a realistic test.

    Recently we recorded a gig with the fly rig and in the mix the guitar (american standard tele) sounds really good. Only when I listened to the individual track I noticed there is something missing – IMHO.
    The tone is good enough and I liked it well enough while we were playing – there are only like the last five % that are missing (IMHO).

    Same when I did some home recordings lately – I tried the fly rig preamp first because it makes the process so easy. But after messing around with the controls for a while I just plugged into a humble blues jr. – not loud and instantly got something I liked with all the knobs at 12 o'clock except for master and reverb.

    So there still must be a (admittedly subtle) something that tube add to the tone that solid state and even digital still can't replicate. I wish they could but I would just love to go direct or have cheap and light combo that is able to produce the tone I really like - the full 100 %.
  2. Old Tele man

    Old Tele man Friend of Leo's

    May 10, 2017
    Tucson, AZ
    MusicMan Amps (Leo Fender) made SS-Tubes work, having SS front end and output vacuum tubes.
  3. nosuch

    nosuch Friend of Leo's

    Apr 4, 2008
    Yes, but there are still tubes driving the power amp. Unfortunately they are kind of rare now, at least here in Europe. I think I played music man amps only twice in my life. Whish I could more often. The guitarist in our keyboarder's "other" band plays a big old music man and gets great tone from it.
  4. bftfender

    bftfender Friend of Leo's

    Dec 21, 2017
    York PA
    Cool, i am in the same boat. I just cant see wasting time to just be chasing something i already have and just to force an emulation or a copy of the real deal...i dont care about weight..size...who plays what..i got my tone and it works...for me its Marshall JMP50, DSL100h and 6100 and 2 cabs 1 for heavy and 1 for rock. All the pedals are in the closet and they these amps just work with my selection of guitars. They practice-record and go to stage without 1 glitch in tone-volume or 1 issue chasing anything..a true simple plug n play from jazz to metal or what ever i am asked to do
  5. John E

    John E Tele-Afflicted

    Mar 17, 2003
    Honestly I have owned a LOT of tube amps... I just bought a Katana 100 last month and I like this amp as much as pretty much any tube amp I have ever owned, at least for low to mid volume playing.
    Rhyming Orange, Bobbyoso and nosuch like this.
  6. Vintage Fan

    Vintage Fan Tele-Meister

    Sep 10, 2014
    Agreed. Same with me.

    To get that real Fender tone, it ain't gonna happen with any solid state. None. I've bought a dozen SS amps over the last 20 years. Took most back. Always sold off the others. Including a Katana.

    Many SS manufacturers advertise their product sounds like a Fender. It's false advertising, plain and simple. However, most of today's players don't even know the difference between a Fender tube amp sound and a SS simulated Fender sound, because they've never owned a Fender, or played a Fender tube amp enough to know the sound & dynamics.

    There's more between the differences of a Fender tube amp and a SS. The attack and sensitivity is what a tube amp is all about, and the sound of course. Using different tubes & different biasing introduces dynamics SS just hasn't gotten down yet.

    Another factor why the SS amp manufacturers can fool consumers into thinking their SS emulates a Fender is many consumers ears can't hear the difference. It takes good experienced hearing to hear tone differences.....and experience to actually "get it."
  7. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Mar 16, 2003
    Arlington, VA
    Look the fender tone you are talking about is just a massive mid scoop at 800 hz. It's not the magic of tubes. See here


    This is what you get with the controls set to midpoint--a really big bump at about 80hz, (your low E string) and then a deep wide mid scoop at 800hz, and then a smaller but still substantial boost at around 2000 hz. Thats it: Leo just sucked all the midrange out and you get bass and treble and nothing in between. Leo once said it's like lemonade. When you drink lemonade you want the sweet sugar and the sour lemon. antything else is pointless. You get bass and treble and nothing else.

    If you set that profile up in a solid state amp you get the blackface sound. It's not tube magic, it's eq.

    Personally, I've grown to really dislike the blackface mid-scoop. It's a main reason why guitar players are always too loud, because in a mix they don't have any midrange, and they turn up to compensate. It's a pretty sound in the bedroom but in a mix it's thin and lacking, and that's why Ibanez sold so many tube screamers, because they emphasize the missing midrange while boosting volume.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
  8. bftfender

    bftfender Friend of Leo's

    Dec 21, 2017
    York PA
    just get a Marshall and fix the problem... i feel fender could of had the whole market but thankfully Jim was around some English lads in the 60's and the rest is rock History
  9. maxvintage

    maxvintage Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Mar 16, 2003
    Arlington, VA
    Marshall isn't that different. it's sometimes called the FMV tone stack, fender marshal Vox

    here's a good post on it that shows just how unavoidable the mid scoop is on blackface/silverface fenders:
    bftfender likes this.
  10. FenderLover

    FenderLover Friend of Leo's

    Jun 11, 2009
    I thought it had to do with the crystal lattice, or Romaine lettuce, or something like that.
  11. CK Dexter Haven

    CK Dexter Haven Friend of Leo's

    Jun 7, 2017
    I would agree... but.

    I have three amps a 1x8 combo, a 1x12 combo ( W/ EV Force speaker) and a 4x10, all are solid state none are modeling ( which I can work with..I have some multi efx that I often use) for the playing that I do I use all three on a regular basis. My cost for the three amps is just under $100, not each, $100 for all three including the EV..yes a bit unusual but there it is.
    I couldn't retube a DR for much less than $100 nor a SR. The cost of used reissues would be close to 2K., originals would be probably 1/1.5 K more after a service... Thats a significant chunk of change for a semi retired /part time gigger All of my amps are sturdy US made professional work horses, I have used them or similar amps for years and have played many classic tube amps so I have a good point of reference, do they sound the same? No..can I get enjoyable musical sounds that get me paid, & keep everyone happy? Yes. We have threads like this all the time, there are numerous amp options what is important is for each player to find what works for them, no shame in any thing if you can get the job done, poor tone is more often about not understanding your gear, than any inherent shortcoming in it..
  12. schmee

    schmee Friend of Leo's

    Jun 2, 2003
    There is some "depth" or further dimension to the sound with tubes... usually... not always. I would love to have a lighter weight amp than my tubes amps. But have never found it. For one thing, the best SS amps I had were heavy. I think part of it is big transformers create big sound... loud or soft. My SS Marantz stereo amp I finally sold a couple years ago sounded killer for decades, but it was as heavy as a big tube guitar amp!
    SS amp schemes continue to come and go as fads. A couple people I know went to Quilters, one has come back and thank gawd, as his tone became sterile, spikey and flat response... just like the others I know.
    Sometimes I think it's not the output section that's the problem. I have had a couple that I thought sounded pretty good, but there was a tonal part I couldn't get tweaked in. 1/8" move of the treble knob and it goes from "indistinct" to "spikey bright".

    Of course there always are a few situations where someone can get a SS amp to sound killer for their style. But it's not the norm.
    But really, it's all in the player's head, the non musicians out there never know the difference...
  13. aerhed

    aerhed Tele-Afflicted

    Dec 24, 2016
    Boulder, WY
    Face it guys, toobs have spirits living in the gas. Life as we know it. Also, to post a one freq dip on a trace and say that's all there is to it is dense as Ebola wood. There's more.
  14. Manual Slim

    Manual Slim Tele-Holic

    Mar 21, 2017
    I was just thinking about tone the other day.
    What had happened was that I was trying to give a care.
    MilwMark and nosuch like this.
  15. Zipslack

    Zipslack Tele-Meister

    Jun 8, 2011
    Perhaps part of the magic isn't the tubes...

    Have you ever played a SS amp that used an output transformer? Interaction between speaker and OPT is a factor in the tube amp sound.
  16. DHart

    DHart Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 12, 2012
    Scottsdale, AZ USA
    As many of you folks here, tone is really important to me. I don't care how nice a guitar or amp is, if I can't get "the tone" I want to hear... changes will continue to be made to the gear, the pickups, the amp, etc.

    Like you, nosuch, I really take to the classic, clean "Fender" tone that was so well established many decades ago, and that we all know so well.

    An important aspect, though, is playing environment. In that regard, we each have widely varying playing/recording environments and thus very different needs, requiring different gear.

    The vast majority of my playing is composing, practicing, and recording in my small home music room. I don't need, nor want, volume.

    All I care about is tone... and at a low volume. I also appreciate convenience.

    So, while I have and appreciate my mid-seventies Fender Champ (in which I installed a 10" Weber Vintage AlNiCo speaker), and my VOX AC10, I rarely use them. I have been able to elicit a beautiful, clean tone, with some compression and slight reverb, from my Yamaha THR10. It's not an amp that would work for everyone, of course, and it doesn't sound exactly like my Silver-face Champ, but it comes fairly close... lacking, perhaps, that elusive 5% you were talking about. But I do enjoy the 95% of it's solid state goodness.


    If I were gigging or playing in a band, no doubt I'd appreciate my Champ 10", or AC10 more, or much more likely, go with a Deluxe Reverb with all of its Fendery goodness at a significant volume.

    For my needs, most amps are just too big and too loud - I need great tone at a low volume and it seems like tube amps don't seem to be able to do that quite as well as SS?
  17. Lef T

    Lef T Tele-Meister

    Apr 24, 2016
    Ontario Canada
    I've been trying out some SS amps looking for something lightweight that I like.
    It seems that every time I try one,I look over and there's a Mesa Boogie.
    I plug into the MB and start smiling.
    The sonic Gods must be trying to tell me something.
    JL_LI, teleforumnoob and bftfender like this.
  18. bftfender

    bftfender Friend of Leo's

    Dec 21, 2017
    York PA each one of us..we have our special favorite..Fender..Marshall..Peavey.Gibson.Mesa..Soldano..ect..when we find it and matched to our fav guitar we should enjoy it while the mojo is there or before the next GAS attack
    Lef T likes this.
  19. luckett

    luckett Friend of Leo's

    Jun 14, 2011
    I'm glad that you've finally notified us that you prefer tube amps. We've been waiting for this moment for a long time. Everyone feels much better now that you've told us.
  20. teleforumnoob

    teleforumnoob Friend of Leo's

    May 25, 2010
    North Alabama
    Lol. Know the feeling. I went in to get a Quilter Aviator. Came out with a Carr Rambler.
    JeffBlue, Greggorios, Tony474 and 2 others like this.
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