I honestly can't hear a difference between tube and solid state amps.

TheCheapGuitarist

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I thought I could, and spent years in a "tube only" phase. But this past week or so, I've come to the realization that it was all in my mind. Now, I can tell the difference between a good and a bad amplifier, regardless of technology. And I have owned bad tube amps and bad solid state amps; however, as far as tube "warmth", "dynamics", etc., I simply don't hear it. The seeds of doubt began a few years ago when I had a Fender Frontman with a built-in LED distortion circuit. I also had an ADA MP-1 which was the rackmount tube preamp of the late-80's into the early 90's. Anyone who was anyone had one of those. I plugged that MP-1 into the Fender Frontman clean channel, A/B'd back and forth between that and the Fender's distortion channel (with the MP-1 bypassed), and with a little gain and EQ tweaking, both sounded identical. The LED distortion of the amp sounded exactly the same as the MP-1.

"Dynamics" is one element that tube amplifiers supposedly excel in (responsiveness to picking), but every single amp I've played through, tube or solid state, would respond dynamically if the gain knob was set right. "Warmth"? I've been fooled plenty of times by what I thought was a tube amp that turned out to be solid state. I thought I got a fantastic deal on a Hughes & Kettner tube rack preamp when I was stationed in Germany. The price was great for what (I though) I was getting based on the tone I heard in the store. I opened it up to see how many 12AX7's were in there and all I saw was a circuit board...

Of course, there are things like tube rectifier "sag" that is exclusive to tube amps, and that is something I've never really had a thing for, though I understand some people love it. But as far as tone itself and dynamics, no - I can't hear the difference. Odd and even-order harmonics? Can't hear the difference.

I'm open to the possibility that if I sat down with one good example of each, and spent some time going back and forth, there might be something I'd notice, but that "something" just might be the difference between two different amplifiers anyway.
 

bottlenecker

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There's a little ugly thing solid state amps do on a clean note attack that I can't seem to get rid of. Quilters are pretty good, but it's still there. That's just clean.
That ada preamp is not a "tube amp", it's just a preamp, and people stopped playing them for some reason. If you have any desire to know what people are talking about when they talk about dynamics, play a simple tube amp on the edge of breakup. Turn up a champ until it just starts to get a little gritty. That may not be your thing, but that's where all that dynamics talk is coming from. Edge of breakup dynamics are not offered by solid state amps, but high gain master volume type tube amps don't really do it either.
 

markal

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Nobody will be able to tell which is which most if not all of the time..

A big (common) mistake is to assume we hear the same things in the same manner constantly... psychology & other factors play a big role in what & how we hear.

Nothing is constant in acoustics, except guitarists insecurities.
I agree 100% with this, at least for my own experience. A sound that is amazing and gives me goose bumps one day might sound pretty uninteresting a week later.

As for tube vs SS, I’ve owned several of both and do not notice any systematic differences between the technologies. Since some people are so passionate about tubes, I accept the possibility that it’s something about my ears or my playing tastes that prevent me from experiencing a difference. Fine by me.
 

Brent Hutto

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I can't say I know enough about dialing in an amp to say for sure what's a difference in the type of amp versus a difference in the settings I'm using at the moment. There are certainly amps that sound like crud (any guitar amp with a 6" speaker, most guitar amps with 8" speakers, amps that won't clean up or amps that sound muffled when played at low volumes) but about all I can say is whether an amp sounds good or doesn't.

The finer details that supposedly separate "tubes" from "solid state" to "digital" are far beyond my playing ability or amp knowledge.
 

Hey_you

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I thought I could, and spent years in a "tube only" phase. But this past week or so, I've come to the realization that it was all in my mind. Now, I can tell the difference between a good and a bad amplifier, regardless of technology. And I have owned bad tube amps and bad solid state amps; however, as far as tube "warmth", "dynamics", etc., I simply don't hear it. between two different amplifiers anyway.
That's so sad.
 

archtop_fjk

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For me, amplifiers are going to be a compromise between tone, weight, reliability, and features. My experience over the past 25 years is that solid state amps (specifically the Roland Blues Cube line) are the most optimal compromise and fit my playing style best. Fortunately, in recent years the weight issue has improved greatly as well as tone and reliability. In terms of features, I don't really need a lot except a good sounding reverb and reasonable tone controls. But I've really enjoyed the power scaling in modern Roland solid state amps too, which means going from practice room to a gig volumes is no longer a problem!
 

msalama

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I am sure you WILL hear the difference

Phah. Well yeah, you may be able to, but said difference doesn't matter one iota.

I've had in my possession all kinds of vintage Fender amps and they were good. Now I've only got a modded Super Twin, a Crate VC3112 and a Roland Cube 80X COSM, and the latter sounds just as good as any old tube behemoth I've ever owned, even if it's not an exact facsimile of anything particular. So whaddaya think; would I rather take that one out on a gig, or break my back lugging some beat-up old POS heavie around?

Seriously, all this muh-t00bs-über-alles sniffery / snobbery has got to go. It had its time and that time's up.
 

Bendyha

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I have the capability to change the things in a tube amp, to change & modulate things until I am happy with getting the best out of each one, I can't do this with a SS PCB amp.
I like the way all the tube amps I own have their own character, just like acoustic instruments, and that this character can affect what and how I play. Maybe I have not tried enough SS amps to appreciate their individualism, but they have, up to now, seemed to be either bland, or in the case of modelling amps, have so many voices, that I cannot communicate on a "get to know you" basis.
I still have lots to discover in the vacuum, to keep me fascinated.
 

Nick Fanis

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break my back lugging some beat-up old POS heavie around?

Break your back?
Both of my tube amps (Marshall 1974x and Tweed deluxe) are featherweight , in fact lighter than your modeling amps.

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jrblue

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I'm a little surprised that you can't hear and feel some differences in the response because with the possible exception of some really well-developed and high-end SS rigs, there are slight differences that the human ear, fingers, and brain (which are super sensitive and can be highly developed) can sense and process. I'm fine with almost any workable amp, and have had both, but generally can tell them apart. That being said, there's no reason why differences have to mean "better" and "worse" because that depends on what you want. Since tube amps shaped what we think of as conventional, good guitar tone, I suppose we reflexively tend to think they sound right, but with all the processing going on now, including all kinds of amazing effects, and changes in musical styles, I suspect we are hitting a generational change in which what was once considered ideal is no longer really even a thing. I'm not sure the world really needs toxic tube factories at this point.
 




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