Clean tones: tube vs. SS

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by cwcowell, Nov 15, 2009.

  1. Jimmy WebPage

    Jimmy WebPage TDPRI Member

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    Maybe try some acoustic guitar amps out just to hear what tones they offer.
     
  2. cucurrucucu

    cucurrucucu TDPRI Member

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    Being a bassist, I can say that although there are discussions about tube vs. SS amps, they don't care about it as much as guitarists do. Some of the most popular bass amps are solid state (Gallien Krueger, Genz Benz) as they're cheaper and much lighter, while sound quality is good enough.
     
  3. garytelecastor

    garytelecastor Poster Extraordinaire

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    I am kind of wondering what you are doing to your amps that is causing them to breakdown so much?
    I have played FT for about the same time period, and my amps, both SS and tube, and as long as I keep my maintenance up they are both reliable genres.
     
  4. mattbastardson

    mattbastardson TDPRI Member

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    That was kind of my point. I think guitarists are generally predjudiced before they even hear the amp or better yet, the guitar/amp combination. The intention of my comments was to steer cwcowell toward the amp that may work for him regardless of what's under the hood.

    Having said that, I'll again recommend trying as many amps as you can with your own guitar.

    That sounds like a lot of breakdowns to me too:lol: I'd love to come out and see you play!
     
  5. Nick5150

    Nick5150 TDPRI Member

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    I have a friend who built and bench tested fender amps for years and while were both tube fans there are some other elements your missing here. Tube amplifiers can be hooked up to various speaker cabs with little regard to OHMS and wattage ratings in fact my friend showed me old fender tube heads that had an OHM selector switch on the back that read Low, Medium, High instead of the typical 4, 8, 16 selections because they believed as he explained it was a tonal characteristic more than something detrimental to the amps operation itself.

    Solid state amplifiers on the other hand must be handled with greater care because they will simply overheat and blow transistors if they are put under the wrong speaker load. Not sure if were talking heads or combos in your case but perhaps that explains your bad luck with Solid State amps?

    I think Mr. Barta at Tech 21 has found the ultimate compromise with his trademark series after using Lee Jackson modded tube amps I switched to the trademark 60 because of its amazing ability to trick just about everyone into thinking its a tube amp, Tons of clean headroom with only 60 watts and affordable! I get blackface and AC30 sounds easily and I like the gain channel as well everything from mesa mk series or Van Halen 1 and the thing CRANKS!
     
  6. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

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    I don't feel like looking for a calculator or having any coffee this late, so I won't demand much of my brain cells by doing arithmetic, but around a dozen amps having bad solder joints, succumbing to iffy power or surges at generator gigs, rough handling from stage hands, and miscellaneous other problems in almost 35 years of 5-7 night per week of use doesn't sound like a lot of failures to me. No more than I see with my colleagues who are out on the road or traveling abroad. In thousands of gigs, that's way less than a one % breakdown rate at all sorts of stressful and exotic venues. I thought I was doing OK. The only one or two impedance issues were damaged speaker leads, not speaker mismatches.
    The techs I know get amps from the same players on a regular basis, so I think guys who work them hard get a few more break downs than the average. They get tipped over, dropped by roadies, rained on, plugged into faulty AC converters, fed by unregulated power, every weird thing you can think of out in the trenches. For me, tube amps (old Fenders all except two MusicMan amps) hold up better under heavy use.
     
  7. Nick5150

    Nick5150 TDPRI Member

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    It makes more sense in that context... My live gigging has been up until this point exclusively on tube amps and have had a couple breakdowns here and there nothing ever that serious. Now that I'm doing the solid state thing I get to do some real life comparison in durability.:twisted:
     
  8. hannigan

    hannigan Friend of Leo's

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    I will often run a tube amp and a ss amp at the same time.
    I hope this does not mean I am wishy washy.
     
  9. bradpdx

    bradpdx Friend of Leo's

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    A couple of things from an old Electrical Engineer...

    1. Modern SS designs SHOULD be incredibly durable AND very forgiving of load (2 ohms - 16 ohms, etc.). Power amps have come a long, long way in the last 15 years or so and are darn near bulletproof IF they are well built.

    2. The reason we love tube amps for guitar is because we are not interested in high signal fidelity (which a good SS amp can certainly do) but rather the generation of tones with very subjective behaviors. That is why we want silly things like 12" speakers (which are horribly directional) and compression/distortion, etc. Hardly the stuff of transparent, accurate sound. More like the stuff of historical artifacts from the 1930s and 40s.

    Imagine, if you will, that tube amps never happened for guitar, and that history had allowed the guitar to evolve with SS amplifiers. Our preconceptions of "tone" would be entirely different, because it has EVERYTHING to do with history.

    Just sayin'.
     
  10. Nick5150

    Nick5150 TDPRI Member

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    I'm just saying your completely right on the money. Good insight!
     
  11. Tele-phone man

    Tele-phone man Tele-Afflicted

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    I have a Fender HR DeVille 4-10, a Peavey Classic 30, a Yamaha G100 112III, a red-stripe Bandit and a Bandit 75 (with an EV Force 12 speaker). Although I have used all of them in a variety of settings, and could use any of them in a pinch, I choose to use the Bandit 75 most of the time because it lives in the garage ready to throw into a car, and it will ALWAYS work. And always sound good. And always sound the same.

    I've had tubes fail in every tube amp at some gig somewhere. Even with replacements at the ready, it still interrupts the set and detracts from the show. Reliability is very important to me.

    In terms of quality of construction, my solid-state amps are the equal of both my tube amps. In terms of quality clean tones, they are all in the same ballpark, although the Fender's 4-10s makes a noticeable difference. I think the speaker choice is more important to the overall tone than whether the amp is tube or solid-state, at least when considering completely clean sounds (no grit or clipping at all).
     
  12. franchelB

    franchelB Friend of Leo's

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    What others have said...

    I played a Fender solid-state amp for years, and it was a fine amp at a low price. It was my first "real amp", and I was pleased with its "sound".

    But the more I heard the other guys' tube amps, the more I felt I was missing "something"...call it "3-D sound", "soul", "roundness", or "fullness" that my solid-state Fender can't reproduce...no matter what efffects I hook it up to.
     
  13. Will Chen

    Will Chen Tele-Holic

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    Not picking on you, but I've never understood the aural depth comparisons between tube and solid state amps. I often find many which make that comparison were in the end comparing a small 15 watt ss practice amp with a small speaker to a 30 to 50 watt tube amp with multiple speakers. Just curious what tube amp you went with and what Fender model you were using.
     
  14. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

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    I'm using SS amps less. Except for my Polytone and the rare Powerblock in a danger zone, 90% of gigs are Tube. Most of those SS failures were either a component itself dying, or a big capacitor getting loose on the PCB from a bad solder joint. I've soldered a lot of PCBs back to usefullness. The only similar issue on a tube amp was my one PCB model tube amp, a MusicMan.
    In my experience, over 50% of failures are PCB related, so if my tube amps were mostly PCB, they'd likely have a bigger failure rate. But those old Fenders are tanks.
     
  15. nosuch

    nosuch Friend of Leo's

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    I am OK with a nice solid state amp but still prefer a tube amp for clean ...
    Had a Polytone, still have a sessionette (nice and punchy), both sound fine, but somehow my bjr. sounds better ...
     
  16. Hiker

    Hiker Poster Extraordinaire

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    If I could turn back the clock, I'd have first-bought a non-beginner axe, AND a tube amp instead of SS!

    Tube cleans, that's what I want!
     
  17. nosuch

    nosuch Friend of Leo's

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    that's only when you talk to guitar players, they care about the gear. never a girl coming to our gigs asked me about my amp. but then, how often do you ask your singer which mic he uses.
    I am not a tube snob, not at all, get along well with a good solid state amp, but still a tube amp (if not a dog) sounds and feels better to me.
    I play with two keyboard players depending on the gig. one has a nord electro something and plugs into the PA, the other one has a hammond with a leslie (it's tube isn't it) and honestl the hammond sound so much better ...
     
  18. franchelB

    franchelB Friend of Leo's

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    No prob. I use to use a Fender M-80 combo from 1989. It had a solid-state rating of 90 watts. Now I use a Peavey Delta Blues "15" with a tube rating of 30 watts.
     
  19. 3 Chord

    3 Chord Friend of Leo's

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    The more I read this thread the more I realize why I play tube amps. Are they better, no.

    Take the 60's muscle cars. Loud, heavy, old skool, can break down, go up in value, inefficient, fun to mod and cool. A tube amp.

    Sure a new Mustang is a cool ride too , just as fast, more reliable, more options, fancier and so on. But where is the mojo? More like a solid state amp.

    The fact is some of us love tubes and all their quirks and some of us love SS and all their reliability. It's a trade off. Neither is better and both can leave you stranded at the gig or smiling once the gig is over. More importantly, both can deliver great tone.

    It's just nice we have choices. Everyone wins. And we all know the real ingredient for a great clean tone, technique.
     
  20. Tele-phone man

    Tele-phone man Tele-Afflicted

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    +1
    The player makes the tone, first and foremost. The amps just make it loud.
     
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