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

beyer160

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One thing I don't really understand is why, in most tube vs solid state discussions, the quality of a solid state amplifier is measured by its ability to sound like a tube amplifier.

Isn't that funny?
I don't think I've ever seen a tube amp designed to sound like a solid state amp, I wonder why? Maybe because the benchmark electric guitar tones all come from tube amps?

Am I speaking blasphemy at the altar of tone? Maybe… but I can’t help thinking we can fuss an awful lot about “tone”, as being an intrinsic quality of the amp, rather than ”the ability to get the tone I want”, as a function of the amp.
Because it often is, rather like the ability to drive nails is an intrinsic quality of a hammer, that a screwdriver does not possess.

Glad you can but the audience won't.
Cool, sell off all your gear and replace it with a Hello Kitty Strat and a Gorilla amp, since the audience won't know the difference.
But I care and it/the sound/tone begins with me. If I'm not happy, the audience won't be either. ;)
Often times I find that at the point where I'm happy with my guitar tone, whatever unfortunate bastards wandered into the skid row bar that demonstrated a profound lack of judgement by booking my band are not.
 

Kasperovich

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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.
What ever makes your ear feel good and inspires you is the best amp.
 

drumtime

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I like amps because they make my guitar sound louder.

I have both solid state and tube amps. They both accomplish the aforementioned quite well.

If I want any of it to sound different, they all have knobs, and I even have more boxes with knobs I can attach for even more different sounds.

It's all so much fun. I don't have the time or inclination to care which things are which.
 

Brent Hutto

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I like amps because they make my guitar sound louder.

I have both solid state and tube amps. They both accomplish the aforementioned quite well.

If I want any of it to sound different, they all have knobs, and I even have more boxes with knobs I can attach for even more different sounds.

It's all so much fun. I don't have the time or inclination to care which things are which.
Yeah, if I ever figure out what all the knobs on my boxes do maybe I'll be ready to start worrying about what's inside the boxes!
 

Endless Mike

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Okay, I wasn't familiar with how the MP-1 achieved the overdrive, I just remember seeing two tubes in it. I had a Chandler Tube Driver in a rack unit, there was one 12AX7 in that. I don't remember that sounding anything like what I perceived to be tube-like through my Peavey Bandit. Or really, any different than normal overdrive pedals I had at the time.
Right. The only tube based OD that actually uses the pre-amp tube at the correct plate voltages was the original Chandler Tube Driver, the one with the transformer inside, as opposed to the wall wart. When it was produced by tube works, it was even worse. I had an original Chandler with the transformer inside. I later had the rack unit. Sadly, it was *not* the same. I sold the rack unit later. I eventually sold the pedal version when I went to rack gear, and how I wish I hadn't. I think there's a reason David Gilmour and Eric Johnson still have theirs.

I wonder if running a correctly operational tube driven unit would really come across through a SS amp. Some of those Bandits are GREAT. But they do color the sound of things in their own way. Not necessarily in a bad way either, but would it still keep the audio elements of being tube driven? I don't know.
 

twotone60

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i had a fender super champ xd...very nice amp that i liked alot...bought a supro blues king and sold the fender 2 weeks later because i had'nt turned it on for 2 weeks...the tone difference is night and day
And then on the other hand, I liked my Super Champ XD a lot and found it recorded very well. The lower gain ss preamp voices were very useable for me. I bit on the Supro and could not get rid of it fast enough - harsh.
 

twotone60

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I have a silverface Princeton, a ‘66 Ampeg Jet, and an Allen Chihuahua, which gets most of the gig time. I use my Katana 50 1st gen as a clean pedal platform in a 13 piece wedding band (mic’ed) and love it for that.

A couple years ago we played a corporate event and had to let the company band, which was pretty darn good, use our back line for a 20 minute set. Sitting in the audience, I certainly could not tell that the Katana was ss as opposed to tube.

They were playing loudish country rock and blues rock and the lead player, using my pedals, was very good.

I believe a lot of cork sniffers would fail a blindfold test miserably.
 

ChicknPickn

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I have a silverface Princeton, a ‘66 Ampeg Jet, and an Allen Chihuahua, which gets most of the gig time. I use my Katana 50 1st gen as a clean pedal platform in a 13 piece wedding band (mic’ed) and love it for that.

A couple years ago we played a corporate event and had to let the company band, which was pretty darn good, use our back line for a 20 minute set. Sitting in the audience, I certainly could not tell that the Katana was ss as opposed to tube.

They were playing loudish country rock and blues rock and the lead player, using my pedals, was very good.

I believe a lot of cork sniffers would fail a blindfold test miserably.
My wife is a car girl and is proud that her Mustang GT has three pedals. I like to tease her by saying that the high-performance cars of today have automatic transmissions. She gets a tad defensive and replies that she likes shifting. She feels more in control. Whatever. I have similar feelings about tubers, as I call them. Feeling the heat rise off your amp, seeing the glow, just gives you . . . . . that feeling.
 

Mowgli

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I played a Mesa Roadster for a while that had the “sag” feature that really made the sound, for lack of a better descriptor, “chewy.” It was a great feature which added something to the distorted tone that I found amazing; more than most tube-rectified distortion tones I have encountered over the years; this one seemed more pronounced. I suspect many of you are familiar with this.

So the question is, “Is there an analog solid state amp that can replicate this degree of “sag”???

As for hearing the difference…

When clean tones are played I can hear a difference - on occasion - in the higher frequencies. To me, the perfect clean amp would be SS lows and low-mids coupled with tube mids and highs.

I know a lot of people assert the even vs. odd harmonics argument when discussing distortion tones but I can’t reliably tell the difference all the time; sometimes it’s quite obvious and other times it isn’t. There are some great SS od/distortion pedals out there that sound great through both SS and tube amps! The SS Peavey and Quilter amps I own take my OD/distortion pedals really, really well.

Regarding Hi-Fi, tubes definitely color the sound and impact the “warmth” of the sound. Once you hear the difference it changes your whole view. I thought it was bunk until I heard different tube amps deliver “glassy warmth” again and again. It was lacking in the SS amps. That coloring and warmth was quite appealing.

Many Hi-Fi people assert that it’s largely due to the tube preamp. I don’t have enough experience to weigh in on that. But A/B’ing SS and tube Hi-Fi amps made a believer out of me!
 

twotone60

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My wife is a car girl and is proud that her Mustang GT has three pedals. I like to tease her by saying that the high-performance cars of today have automatic transmissions. She gets a tad defensive and replies that she likes shifting. She feels more in control. Whatever. I have similar feelings about tubers, as I call them. Feeling the heat rise off your amp, seeing the glow, just gives you . . . . . that feeling.
Absolutely, which is why when I’m playing in my funk ‘n roll band, I use my tube amps.
 




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