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

Boomhauer

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I'll second the opinion - blind test with high quality headphones, where many variables are accounted for, yes I can hear a difference between a tube and a solid state amp. In my basement with my shifty playing and my cheap guitars, any difference I hear doesn't really matter and can be overcome by moving a few knobs around somewhere in the signal chain.
 

ChicknPickn

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Why do I respond to this thread, even though I know it will go as they always do?

Because I've had enough of tube amps' persnickety little ways, their promise of greatness and fizzle of defeat, their pops of death.

Do I sound bitter? Yes. But I have attained the victory. It comes in a small box with the name Quilter. My dead Vox collects dust, waiting for the day when I will think fondly of it again and take it to the technician. But for now, the thought never crosses my mind.
 

Nick Fanis

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In my basement with my shifty playing and my cheap guitars, any difference I hear doesn't really matter

Yes but in my recording studio , my great guitars (some of them are expensive too) and my playing (which ain't so bad after 35 years of recording and producing professionally) it DOES matter.
 

beyer160

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At the end of the day, whatever works for you works. If you can't hear a difference, enjoy all the benefits your amps provide over the dinosaur technology us tube guys deal with. In my applications though I can tell a difference, and it's usually pretty obvious. There will probably come a day when the technology gets to a point where I can't, and honestly I look forward to that day, but it hasn't come yet.


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.
One of the great marketing scams in MI equipment history was convincing the public that clipping a 12AX7 was "tube sound", and you didn't need all those hot, heavy, expensive output tubes and their associated circuitry. You do, though.

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

arlum

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For listeners in the audience I kind of understand but for players who have to work hand in hand with the guitar and amp I don't. A tube amp played straight by a beginner with no knowledge of touch or feel will probably sound much like a solid state amp. All that's happening is amplification. As a player develops along side a tube amplifier they find than certain techniques, volume or tone knob adjustments, differing levels of pick attack, etc., etc. will all develop certain amp responses. When the guitarist learns all the ins and outs of how their tube amplifier reacts to what they're inputting into it the amp changes from just amplifying the instrument to actually becoming a part of it's voice. Tubes react to touch, feel, pressure, attack, etc. Solid state does not. The amp I owned for the longest amount of time was a solid state Kasino Fever from the early '70s. As far as delivering a loud and fun guitar voice it was excellent. As far as reacting to / reflecting my improvement as a player it did nothing. I was learning all of these special techniques and gaining nothing for the effort. It wasn't till I added a rather average Peavey 2 X 12 combo 120 watt tube amp to my gear that I heard a true reaction to the things I was doing with the guitar. After going through a couple of more tube amps I settled on the Mesa Boogie Mark III, (blue stripe), and that became my main amplifier. The amp was no longer just an amplifier. It was part of the instrument itself. Today all of my amps a pure tube amps. No solid state. No hybrids. No modelling. I use a Mesa Boogie Mark V:35, Two Fender Concerts, (a 2 X 12" and a 4 X 10"), Two Bruno Underground 30s and a Cornford Hellcat. I own a few others that are all tube but don't really use them anymore. I owned that Kasino Fever solid state amp for 25 years. It was fun and loud and could really stand out in an outdoor venue. It just didn't contribute anything other than amplification.
 

Killing Floor

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I convinced myself I can tell a tube preamp, especially the way I tend to dial my gear. But I cannot tell if an amp has a tube power section unless it is completely blowing out, all knobs a row of dimes.

Being fully transparent, I love my Plexi and that’s that but I hardly ever use it. I have spent a lot of money on preamps and devices to try to get the sound I like from my combo so I can not be as loud so my screeching sounds don’t disrupt bird migrations.

I know full well I can’t tell the amp type on any recording. I admit it.
 

Brent Hutto

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One of the great marketing scams in MI equipment history was convincing the public that clipping a 12AX7 was "tube sound", and you didn't need all those hot, heavy, expensive output tubes and their associated circuitry. You do, though.
And then that clipping 12AX7 sound launched a thousand pedals with (solid state) diodes to clip without the pesky tube in there at all. Virtually an entire industry evolved around providing every possible minute variation in diode clipping.
 

ChicknPickn

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I convinced myself I can tell a tube preamp, especially the way I tend to dial my gear. But I cannot tell if an amp has a tube power section unless it is completely blowing out, all knobs a row of dimes.

Being fully transparent, I love my Plexi and that’s that but I hardly ever use it. I have spent a lot of money on preamps and devices to try to get the sound I like from my combo so I can not be as loud so my screeching sounds don’t disrupt bird migrations.

I know full well I can’t tell the amp type on any recording. I admit it.
The black SUV's are on their way . . . . .
 

bowman

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This dead horse has been beaten so many times that there’s nothing left of it. I’m amazed that otherwise rational people can get so riled up about something to which the only answer is completely subjective. You like what you like. I’ve heard plenty of crap coming out of tube amps, and it’s not the amps fault. And I’ve heard lots of good sounds from digital amps, but it’s not because they’re great. Players that know what “good” sounds like seem to be able to get it from any piece of hardware - or software.
 

klasaine

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I think I can tell the difference 'live', in a room, playing or listening to a solo electric guitar and amp. In a full band, at a club or on a recording - I can't anymore.
The tech has gotten scary good.
I still have and use all my tube amps but for recording at home, I now primarily use amp sims and IRs. I was a complete skeptic - until I wasn't.

Here, you tell me. This is a mix of real tube amps, sims, IRs as well as combinations of both ...

 
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Papanate

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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.
You should probably have your hearing checked.
 




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