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

Madbastard

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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.
Try a real good tube amp! No peavey, no h&k, no rack preamp. Try a jcm800 from 1982 with n.o.s. tubes and a straight 4x12 with g12-65 ! 🤤 Really better than transistor amp!
 

RetiredUnit1

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¡Oy Vey!
Try a real good tube amp! No peavey, no h&k, no rack preamp. Try a jcm800 from 1982 with n.o.s. tubes and a straight 4x12 with g12-65 ! 🤤 Really better than transistor amp!
Or my Hiwatt DR504 with original factor Tesla EL34 and all mullard preamp tubes. BLOWS ss tone out of the water at 1/2 watt and all the way to full volume.

When I started playing, there were no solid state guitar amps. Yeah I'm that old. When SS did come out I bought a sears 100w with 15" speaker.

I loved my SS amp that I bought from Sears because it was "instant on". One day I'm thinking "man the tone from this sucks". So I plugged in my 67 Rickenbacker E12 amp and TONS of beautiful notes rang out from my 67 Rick 420 guitar.

Damn, I couldn't give that sears amp away fast enough.

I've tried modeling, just the same thing. Dry tone. Fizzy fade outs. No "ringing".

I even bought a Marshall 100w with digital effects and a 4x12 when that came out in the late 90's. It was better than the Sears, but just flat and dry tone, no matter how I much I turned the dials and pushed the buttons....

Yeah, gave that one away too.
 

cigarman513

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its not how they sound. Its how they react... I could live with SS and i'm not a tube snob, but i love octal amps and tweeds... I also suck at guitar... But I love how they respond to my attack.

If i'm listening to someone, I can't tell. but if i'm playing I can tell.
 

ChicknPickn

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¡Oy Vey!

Or my Hiwatt DR504 with original factor Tesla EL34 and all mullard preamp tubes. BLOWS ss tone out of the water at 1/2 watt and all the way to full volume.

When I started playing, there were no solid state guitar amps. Yeah I'm that old. When SS did come out I bought a sears 100w with 15" speaker.

I loved my SS amp that I bought from Sears because it was "instant on". One day I'm thinking "man the tone from this sucks". So I plugged in my 67 Rickenbacker E12 amp and TONS of beautiful notes rang out from my 67 Rick 420 guitar.

Damn, I couldn't give that sears amp away fast enough.

I've tried modeling, just the same thing. Dry tone. Fizzy fade outs. No "ringing".

I even bought a Marshall 100w with digital effects and a 4x12 when that came out in the late 90's. It was better than the Sears, but just flat and dry tone, no matter how I much I turned the dials and pushed the buttons....

Yeah, gave that one away too.
What I do is put my dead Vox Night Train on top of the speaker cabinet and drop the Quilter behind it where nobody can see. I believe this is a real option for those of us with dead tube units.

Just funning' with you RU1. No argument from me. I loved tubes, they just didn't love me.
 

Tim S

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Hi guys! I did an Internet search on “bias confirmation” and a link to this thread came up.

FWIW, I love my analog SS amps, my digital modelers and my tube amps. If you can find any true meaning in that, you seriously need to question some of the decisions you’ve made in life.
 

Brent Hutto

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Hi guys! I did an Internet search on “bias confirmation” and a link to this thread came up.

FWIW, I love my analog SS amps, my digital modelers and my tube amps. If you can find any true meaning in that, you seriously need to question some of the decisions you’ve made in life.
I love my acoustic guitar, my electric guitars, my mandolin and my piano. If any of those I did not love, I would not own it. I also love my digital modeling amp and don't own any tube ones but if I found one I liked the way it sounded, I'd fall in love with it too.

I really can't understand how anything as personal and complex as making music can come down to pre-defined rules and prejudices. You might hate THIS guitar or THAT amp, once you've tried them. But to say just based on a brand or label that you know you'll hate them, how exactly is that supposed to work?
 

ChicknPickn

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Honestly, OP, get your hearing checked. I noticed the difference the first time I plugged into a tube amp at my first guitar lesson.
A naughty person would give you a test, telling you there are three amps of which two are SS and one is tube. They would then ask you to pick out the tube amp, not telling you all are SS.
 

47adelynn47

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What I do is put my dead Vox Night Train on top of the speaker cabinet and drop the Quilter behind it where nobody can see. I believe this is a real option for those of us with dead tube units.

Just funning' with you RU1. No argument from me. I loved tubes, they just didn't love me.
lots of non tube amps advertise using the phrase tube amp emulation...if there is no differce in sound between tube amps and the others why try to emulate tube tone?
 

northernguitar

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lots of non tube amps advertise using the phrase tube amp emulation...if there is no differce in sound between tube amps and the others why try to emulate tube tone?
I only have experience with Marshall Valvestate and Peavey Transtube amps. Neither were tube like, with the Marshall having outright brutal distortion. The Peavey crunch was very limited to 80’s Metal tones.
 

Brent Hutto

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I only have experience with Marshall Valvestate and Peavey Transtube amps. Neither were tube like, with the Marshall having outright brutal distortion. The Peavey crunch was very limited to 80’s Metal tones.
Over the years there have been a lot of amps where you wonder if the design geeks doing the circuits just thought "distortion" meant "sounds awful, like something is broken" rather than using a guitar player's idea of the term.
 

notmyusualuserid

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The analogy I've heard is the chef doesn't buy a $1,000 knife for the customer, he buys it because he likes it and enjoys his work with it. That may or may not result in a different taste for the diner.
As analogies go, that's a rather poor one.

The ingredients, their preparation and their cooking make a meal. The knife is merely an aid to preparation.

The amp is the whole meal.

I have quite a few chef's knives, I've quite a few amps too :)
 

ChicknPickn

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lots of non tube amps advertise using the phrase tube amp emulation...if there is no differce in sound between tube amps and the others why try to emulate tube tone?
Because, as others here will attest to, "tube sound" is something people say they want because they have been influenced to want that sound. Marketers understand this.

If players truly were specific and knowledgeable about what they wanted, instead of saying "I feel the difference with tubes," or "it just has that vibe," then their buying options would be greatly expanded. And this is why, instead of saying "I must have the Fender xxxxxx because many others say it's great," one should simply make the decision based on what they've heard when they've played through the amp. And even then, many will have been influenced to think that they can get what they want only through tubes. Which is okay, of course - - tube sellers need to eat, too.
 

Blrfl

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Over the years there have been a lot of amps where you wonder if the design geeks doing the circuits just thought "distortion" meant "sounds awful, like something is broken" ...

Or, the more-likely case, marketing set a price point for the finished product or had some other requirement that came from a fever dream. The engineers did their jobs and designed a product within those constraints.

There have always been amps that sounded awful. Most of what people think of when you say "tube amps" is a result of survivorship bias. The stuff that wasn't good ended up in the landfill. When's the last time you ran across someone pining for a Lafayette LA-75 or a Teisco Checkmate 17?

... rather than using a guitar player's idea of the term.

I was going to say that most guitar players can't quantify what they like, but @ChicknPickn beat me to it and did it better.
 

Leonardocoate

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In the beginning manufacturers used terrible speakers on SS amps and it gave them a bad name. Today with better circuitry and a good speakers SS can be pretty good. I have resurrected many old cruddy solid state amps just by putting in a good speaker (the right speaker for that amp). I put a Rajin Cajun in a cheap Fender 25R and it has become the preferred amp by those who come by to jam. Some like it better than their tube amps. I guess my point is that with all the talk about amps, don't forget to factor in the speakers advancements as well....that's the true delivery system.
 




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