Are High Powered SS Amps the Way to Go?

TMB1956

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I agree and I don't understand why some companies making solid state amps limit themselves to "tube amp" wattages (looking at you, Roland). Solid state power is cheap and lightweight.

Fender seemed to get the clue with the Tonemasters. The "22 watt" Deluxe Reverb is actually a 100 watt solid state power amp, if I remember right.

And, yeah, the dominance of 30-60 watt guitar speakers is a limiting factor. It took some work to find a 200 watt speaker that sounded good with guitar. On the other hand, I'm not sure speakers voiced for tube amps are the best-sounding choices for solid state anyway.
If I remember correctly the custom CELESTION in my GTX100 was specifically designed for that amplifier (with lots of headroom) which is also why I chose the GTX100 over the GTX50. The headroom! I've never had to turn it past 6 live ever, especially with stereo DOs to feed the sound board.
 

Jbnaxx

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I think there is a big gap in what we (amp consumers/makers) call watts. If I understand correctly, the tube amp manufacturers rated their amps according the rated power of the output tubes. It would be nice if there was a good standard when it comes to power ratings.
I suspect there is quite a bit of power at the speaker terminals that is not accounted for in the watt rating on tube amps since tube circuits operate at such high voltages compared to SS amps.

It seems to me that higher powered SS amps tend to act more like tube amps.
 

radiocaster

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Here's the thing... That wonderful niche amp tone is almost always achieved at a volume that is too loud for a small environment, or for a practice situation. But, when that tone is accurately recorded (aka modeled) you now have 100% control of how loud you make it because it's a "snap-shot" of that actual perfect tone. Digital Modeling technology gives you the ability to manipulate that "snap-shot" in ways that you could never do before. :)
I know what you're getting at, but I really don't buy it. That slightly crunchy sound. Classic Fender amps are popular, but I think if you don't want clean, you need a master volume amp. I don't think power amp distortion is that important or even attainable at levels below 7 or so. But that's like my opinion.
 

11 Gauge

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I agree and I don't understand why some companies making solid state amps limit themselves to "tube amp" wattages (looking at you, Roland). Solid state power is cheap and lightweight.

Fender seemed to get the clue with the Tonemasters. The "22 watt" Deluxe Reverb is actually a 100 watt solid state power amp, if I remember right.

And, yeah, the dominance of 30-60 watt guitar speakers is a limiting factor. It took some work to find a 200 watt speaker that sounded good with guitar. On the other hand, I'm not sure speakers voiced for tube amps are the best-sounding choices for solid state anyway.
Well, the divergence mainly occurs because you don't want a (traditional) SS power amp to clip, but a tube power amp can go well into clipping and sound fine.

Having said that, some companies like Quilter use tricks to make their SS power amps behave like tube ones, with high impedance out, and low damping. Traditional SS has the opposite - low Z out w/high damping, so it simply cannot be relied on as part of the dynamic signal processing (at least not in a way that's really similar to a tube output section).

...So if a really high powered and 'colorless' power amp is being used, that means that everything that would otherwise happen at the output of a tube amp needs to be simulated prior to the power amp. This is where all of the modeling/IR stuff comes into play.

Regarding speakers - where it gets kind of weird for me is using a traditional popular speaker from the past, with what is essentially a colorless sort of flat response (e.g. linear with nothing dynamic) PA-type power amp - I'm still not grasping how they actually can work in conjunction with something where there's sort of a 'gap' in the signal chain, if you will.

...Or put another way - if all the tube power amp stuff is indeed being handled by modeling/IR, shouldn't it also include the dynamic response of a specific speaker? If so, then why not just use really any high powered speaker with minimal or little coloration? I guess I'm mainly thinking of the Tonemasters in this scenario. Why not utilize neo speakers that don't have the cones and voice coils of Jensen C12Ks or Celestion Creambacks? Fender could still have the baskets painted so that they look like something from the 60's.
 
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printer2

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I think there is a big gap in what we (amp consumers/makers) call watts. If I understand correctly, the tube amp manufacturers rated their amps according the rated power of the output tubes. It would be nice if there was a good standard when it comes to power ratings.
I suspect there is quite a bit of power at the speaker terminals that is not accounted for in the watt rating on tube amps since tube circuits operate at such high voltages compared to SS amps.

It seems to me that higher powered SS amps tend to act more like tube amps.
You do not understand correctly. Generally tube amps were rated at a distortion level of 5%. Some have been a little more creative in the past but 20% difference will not matter much one way or the other. Tubes operating at a high voltage but then the high voltage signal is stepped down to low voltages to drive the speaker, so the same realm as a SS amp.
 

Jbnaxx

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You do not understand correctly. Generally tube amps were rated at a distortion level of 5%. Some have been a little more creative in the past but 20% difference will not matter much one way or the other. Tubes operating at a high voltage but then the high voltage signal is stepped down to low voltages to drive the speaker, so the same realm as a SS amp.

Okay….. that is critical info. So, the power is rated at a specification, but since tube amps are generally used at some level of distortion, the stated power is a bit conservative.

Years ago, I picked up a 30 watt Crate tube head at a bargain price. It turned out to be punishingly loud and the taper on the volume control was either off or too loud……. Contrast that with the 100 watt Kat Head which is totally manageable at any volume.
 

NoTeleBob

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Okay….. that is critical info. So, the power is rated at a specification, but since tube amps are generally used at some level of distortion, the stated power is a bit conservative.

Years ago, I picked up a 30 watt Crate tube head at a bargain price. It turned out to be punishingly loud and the taper on the volume control was either off or too loud……. Contrast that with the 100 watt Kat Head which is totally manageable at any volume.

Kat as in Katana? I don't think they come near their rated power. At least my Kantana 50 doesn't seem too. I think my Frontman 25 was louder.

RMS Watts is fine, but amp manufacturers should have a rating through the speaker. Like SPL.

The Kat is definitely more "manageable", especially with their ss attenuation control. Also, I think Fender uses a reverse taper pot. But I also feel like the Boss amps have a lot less top end.
 

Jbnaxx

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Kat as in Katana? I don't think they come near their rated power. At least my Kantana 50 doesn't seem too. I think my Frontman 25 was louder.

RMS Watts is fine, but amp manufacturers should have a rating through the speaker. Like SPL.

The Kat is definitely more "manageable", especially with their ss attenuation control. Also, I think Fender uses a reverse taper pot. But I also feel like the Boss amps have a lot less top end.

Yes…. Katana 100 Head. I would tend to agree that 100 watts is probably an optimistic rating. My Quilter SuperBlock US, in comparison, is a very loud 25 watts.…….and it can stay clean. I haven’t had the Katana turned way up, but seems that it wants to get woofy.
 

11 Gauge

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Kat as in Katana? I don't think they come near their rated power. At least my Kantana 50 doesn't seem too. I think my Frontman 25 was louder.

RMS Watts is fine, but amp manufacturers should have a rating through the speaker. Like SPL.

The Kat is definitely more "manageable", especially with their ss attenuation control. Also, I think Fender uses a reverse taper pot. But I also feel like the Boss amps have a lot less top end.
I have a Kat 50 combo, and IMO part of the perceived loudness, WRT other amps, partly comes down to the amp model chosen. Both the really clean and really distorted stuff seem to not be as loud. That's probably because really clean lacks any harmonic distortion, which is generally perceived as being overall louder, and very distorted tends to be so compressed that it doesn't seem to be as loud.

And specifically regarding the 12 in the Kat 50, as cool of a speaker as it is, it strikes me as a bit of a general-duty kind of thing. I like it for rock and stuff like that, but it seems to not really be capable of putting out very strong lows w/o kind of flubbing out, at least in the combo cabinet.

I've occasionally wanted to plug the Kat 50 into one of my 2X12 cabs, just for giggles, but the lack of a speaker out jack has so far stopped me from doing that. I know the output impedance is 4 ohms, hence the desire to try it through a 2X12. IIRC, at least one of the speaker terminals is a little odd, too - it's skinnier, like what you'd find with an automotive speaker.

Also, it looks like some folks have tried replacing the stock speaker with something more stout/efficient/etc., and the general conclusion seems to be that the amp is louder/punchier. But since I didn't do that myself (I couldn't get an Emi Lil Texas in it w/o having to physically alter things), I can't personally make such a conclusion.
 

NoTeleBob

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...So if a really high powered and 'colorless' power amp is being used, that means that everything that would otherwise happen at the output of a tube amp needs to be simulated prior to the power amp. This is where all of the modeling/IR stuff comes into play.

Regarding speakers - where it gets kind of weird for me is using a traditional popular speaker from the past, with what is essentially a colorless sort of flat response (e.g. linear with nothing dynamic) PA-type power amp - I'm still not grasping how they actually can work in conjunction with something where there's sort of a 'gap' in the signal chain, if you will.

...Or put another way - if all the tube power amp stuff is indeed being handled by modeling/IR, shouldn't it also include the dynamic response of a specific speaker? If so, then why not just use really any high powered speaker with minimal or little coloration? I guess I'm mainly thinking of the Tonemasters in this scenario. Why not utilize neo speakers that don't have the cones and voice coils of Jensen C12Ks or Celestion Creambacks? Fender could still have the baskets painted so that they look like something from the 60's.

The FRFR is the answer to that question. A lot of folks are running their modelers straight into those flat amps these days. Speaker are spec'ed for lack of color.

On the other side, amp manufacturers with DSP or similar are trying to bridge multiple models. I think they probably should be using thier DSP and then an FRFR power amp, but most seem bent on modeling right out to the speaker. That's prob better for some amp models but fails for others.
 

Fiesta Red

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I don’t think that high-powered SS amps are the only “way to go” but some of them could be a pretty good alternative to my preferred/beloved ‘63-reissue Vibroverb amp.

I was playing my daughter’s bass through her (gen-2) Fender Rumble 150, and on a lark I plugged my Big Ol’ Board of Sonic Bliss into the bass amp with my Telecaster, and I’ll be dang…it was a good sound!

Rich, full, clear and clean…dirtied up nicely with a Tube Screamer or a Dunlop JH-2S Fuzz…after some judicial tone knob tweaking (on the amp), I was more than pleased. I’d use it for a gig if it were necessary for whatever reason.

The only downside: it has a similar weight and has a larger footprint than my Vibroverb, so the big “advantage” of a solid-state amp (lighter, smaller) didn’t apply.
 

pippoman

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I've personally concluded that really the bulk of what I like to hear is ultimately decided by the speaker(s) and cab, and that a lot of the really great tones to be had are when the right speakers are moving enough air.

And at least with many of the tube amps that I use, I'm oftentimes just not getting a ton of power tube distortion, and if I am, it's with a class AB1 power section, so that's mostly odd-order harmonics anyway.

Experiencing a Quilter was perhaps the first time I heard a non-tube power amp that behaved similar to a tube one. While the effect wasn't 1:1, I could still sense that the Quilter had the cool non-linear type of effect happening, either clean or dirty.

That said, my Katana and Vox MV50 Boutique also seem to have more non-linear power sections, too. Maybe I'm just fooling myself, but they just don't seem to sound 'flat/PA-like' like my old SS Peavey amps did. Admittedly, I'm going by memory, and I never used the Peaveys with anything other than the stock Scorpion speakers that they came with.

The right speakers are simply critical IMO, and for the most part, a great many SS amps really cut corners with the speakers they ship with. If Quilter put a $5 light duty speaker in any of their offerings, it wouldn't sound any different than the SS amps of yesteryear that many of us loathe.
I agree, and as far as super cheap speakers such as were offered in the sub-entry level amps of yesteryear, ANY amp would sound horrible. I thought Scorpions worked pretty good, but the Peavey Special 150 watt SS amp I had was pretty bland without effects in front, and it was heavy as heck! I think Pat Quilter has speakers voiced specifically for his amps, but any good speaker sounds good with his products.
 

Blazer

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High power solid state amp?
Fender amp.jpg

Try mine, this bugger pumps out 160 watts and I wouldn't recommand it turning it up louder than 1...

But its headroom is to die for
 

SRHmusic

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I've had great results with a Blues Cube Artist on either its 45 or 80W settings. It's capable of being way louder than ever needed in a small club or on stage, and sounds great, for both clean and higher gain. The higher power settings do have more dynamics.

Note (as far as I can find) these have discrete ss power amps. The Fender Tone Masters use an outsourced class D amp. (See the Pdionic Audio video on YT about them. )
 

Twang-ineer

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I am a mostly solid state guy, I play around with bits of gear chasing tone as a hobby.

I play a lot of lower volume stuff and through headphones, for a variety of reasons. Because of that I like setups that I can easily scale from very quiet to very loud. When I am making things loud, clean headroom is king, as I can hear any distortion in the signal that I did not put there. For that purpose the DV Mark amps cant be beat. Their 250 watt head is crazy loud without coloration.

Tube amplifier modeling can be analog (Sansamp) or digital (helix). The objective is the same, both have their advantages.

FYI... the Vox Valve Energy pedals are amazing. Very much like a smarter version of their mini amps. 3 band EQ and active cabinet emulation (all analog). These pedals will really get you that all analog, tube tone joy through clean solid state power. If you approach them as an modeler you will not be disappointed. In distortion box mode they are "meh" or "meh+" at best, but when you feed dirt pedals into them and make them the center of the board, oh wow. I bought them all, but for almost everyone the Silk Drive is the most flexible of the lot. It is like the clean channel of a Laney Ironheart in a box. The high gain Mystic Edge pedal does an amazing job of sounding and feeling like my old Mesa Boogie .50 Caliber. I mean, you need to turn the gain knob all the way down, but where it is cleanest the hair and edge of breakup is awesome. Hit that with a Fuzz pedal and it is joyous!

As for the comments about what speaker on the to use when modeling a tube amp through a solid state amp, I find it helpful to just think of the speaker as a "final filter" that goes at the end of a signal chain. I have a few IR's that to my ear, sound very similar to the speakers that I use. That way I am in the ballpark when I move from headphones into the real world.

I go through closed back 12s with either a Maverick, Reignmaker or V30.

When you start trying to consider the complex interactions of the tube power section and the dampening of the speaker, reactive loads yada, yada... that is just a bit too cork sniffing for me as a guy pushing 50 with 35 years of hearing damage and constant ringing in the ears. The law of diminishing returns kicks in real fast.
 

NoTeleBob

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High power solid state amp?
View attachment 985849
Try mine, this bugger pumps out 160 watts and I wouldn't recommand it turning it up louder than 1...

But its headroom is to die for

Fender uses reverse log pots in their SS amps. By 3, you're at almost maximum power. Sales trick for them: people turn it up to 3 in the store... "Wow, this thing is super loud!"... and buy it because if it's that loud on 3, then on 10 you can play MSG! But not really, because 3 is already near the top. I had a Frontman 25 and I couldn't turn it up to 2 in an apartment setting. Ridiculous.

Some guys have taken to putting a volume pedal or a small box equivalent of that in the effects loop just to tame them and make the volume control useful.

FWIW, these older Fender SS amps are good for a clean modeling / pedal platform. You sometimes have to search for EQ settings that work (they tend to be heavily mid-scooped), and some need a better speaker, but they do a good clean sound.
 

TMB1956

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At this point I don't even care about watts (tube or solid state). I care about the modeled sound, and how closely that matches what I'm looking for, and how easy it is to get that sound I need at the level I desire, at any given time. For a "Fender'ish" sounding modeling combo, I believe the GTX100 I have is superb! I've A-B'd it to a Twin Tonemaster, and a Vintage (real) 1966 twin. The difference between their warm (light gain) tone is literally splitting hairs. Plus, that custom Celestion in the GTX sounds better, the louder I turn it up! I don't care if it can't perfectly replicate a Supro, or a VOX AC, or a Marshall Plexi. A good Twin has always been my personal Mendoza Line (aka measuring stick) for a combo (aka pedal platform), so I'm really happy with what I'm getting from my lowly GTX100. (especially at 22lbs, bluetooth enabled, with Tone App control, a Stereo DO, multiple digital effects, and a 5 way foot-switch). :)
 
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Tele22

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My lightweight DV Mark FGC121 has 120 watts. I got it to keep up with a loud drummer. Sounds good at any volume. I've never had to really turn it up.
 




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