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

MilwMark

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Edge of breakup dynamics are absolutely possible with many solid state amps. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t use them.

The reason is because circuit designers have spent the last 40 or so years getting solid state amps to respond and sound like tube amps. Try comparing a tube and solid state amp from the 70's or 80's and you'll probably have a different opinion.

Every time these threads come up I get to see how many people obviously haven’t played a solid state amp in 30-50 years, yet are totally convinced they know what they sound like and what they will and won’t do.

It’s always fun.

My JC77 is 40-50 years old. My whole playing style relies on true dynamics (not the fake, squashed, cooking tube kind). But real dynamics: clean-to-distorted AND quiet to loud. The JCs smaller than the 120 do it all. For me, the dynamics chain is guitar volume/right hand, amp, and one OD. Our songs range from clean to distorted. I only use the OD for lead/lift. All other dynamics and shades of dirt come from my hands, guitar volume and the amp. I also use delay and chorus. I'm not some sort of purist.

I think there is a lot of truth to the post that said you can either dial gear in or you can't. And if you can most gear works honestly. A quality SS amp with a quality MV works better for me than tube because I don't want squash. I want dynamics. Good SS gets in the way less for me and is less "goldilocks" to sizing the amp to the venue.
 
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24 track

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Every time these threads come up I get to see how many people obviously haven’t played a solid state amp in 30-50 years, yet are totally convinced they know what they sound like and what they will and won’t do.

It’s always fun.
I agree full heartedly ,
although there are sonic differences,
SS clean is Killer , Tube cleans are Killer but different SS distortion is different than over driven tube distortion , but this is all irrellevent as soon as you step on a pedal infront of an amp .
all the finess goes south and and the sound becomes an accumulation of the amp and what ever preamp the signal is slathered with .you either like it or not ,

If I want to record the guitar straight in I will use a tube pre direct to the conosle if thats what I am after .

these threads are fun , because all the sonic diferences dont matter if you use a pedal board in front of your amp . I always start a project with a guitar into an amp no pedals , just to hear the guitar then model and sculpt the sound to what I want it to be
it might SS it might be tube it doesnt matter because the end product is what I am after
 
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Endless Mike

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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.
Am I understanding you correctly that you're using the ADA MP-1 as your reference point? If so, that's part of the problem. If memory serves, there's not nearly enough plate voltage on that for it to do what a pre-amp tube would do in an amp. That was the case with most of those tube bearing devices in the 80s and 90s, except, I believe, the original Chandler Tube Driver (the one without the wall wart). As well, it's diode clipping in the ADA that is then run through a tube if my memory is correct.

I also wouldn't use clipping/distortion via diodes, transistors or op-amps as a frame of reference. I would instead use a solid state and a tube amp set up for clean sounds, at a reasonable, but not over the top volume. Loud enough, but not stage volume. That would tell you much more. A slightly broken up sound would be my second point of comparison, assuming the amp isn't using clipping diodes.

For the record, I'm not a tube snob. I do use primarily tube amps, but have used solid state in the past, and will again at some point. I was completely ready to change my live rig over to two Tech21 Trademark 60 1x12 combos. I stopped short (after buying both amps and making other changes) because those amps will not allow you to replace the speakers without some serious re-working the front of the amp where the speaker installs. Even then, due to limited space, you're limited to the size of speaker that will go in there. So I dumped the idea and went back to my tube amps.

Solid state can be *great* and some of those SS amps truly are. Having said that, try doing a comparison based on two amps, one of each, SS and tube, that you think sound good, set for clean sounds. See if you don't hear a difference then.

Even if you don't, no big whoop. What's it matter as long as it sounds good, or preferably, great. I've heard a number of great guitar players through SS amps who sounded fantastic, and it wasn't until later that I found out that were using SS at some point. BB King and his Norland Lab amp, Allan Holdsworth and the Hartley amps he used for a while, and Andy Summers through the Pearce amps he used in the late 80s and early 90s. Jack Pearson is known for using SS amps regularly.

I like tubes, but I'll never defend the indefensible by saying only tube amps sound good. (now back to my Mesa Mark V...)
 

The Angle

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I'm thinking that the whole "tube vs. solid state" thing resulted from the fact that solid state is cheaper technology to produce, a lot of really low-quality budget gear (beginners amplifiers, etc.) we're/are produced this way. So most people's experience with solid state gear is at the very low end of the price range. Most tube gear is more expensive, so even the cheapest (aka, budget, e.g. Bugera, etc) tube gear is more expensive than a lot of solid state gear.
The speaker alone in a good tube amp can cost more than many solid-state amps in their entirety (and even low-end SS amps can often be improved dramatically by putting a $150 speaker in them).

It's really a self-driving cycle. If your tube amp costs five times as much as your SS amp, then the tube amp damned well ought to sound or feel better or no one will buy them. Yet when someone puts out a high-quality, glorious-sounding SS amp like the Tonemasters or Blues Cubes or Aviators, the biggest complaint against them is "why aren't they cheap?"

I prefer SS amps. I have two low-watt tube amps, a couple hybrids, and half-a-dozen SS amps. I prefer SS because the way I play - moderate volume, clean to edge-of-breakup - SS and a pedal gives me everything I want with no downsides. If I spent my musical time in the thundering wheelhouse of big tube amps, I'd probably prefer them. But I have a hard time buying anyone's argument for tubes over SS in the small-and-clean world. Are they indistinguishable in that realm? Probably not to the top 5 or 10 percent of players, but to the rest of us, I'd say they are for all practical purposes.
 
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burntfrijoles

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I think I still hear a difference when I'm alone in a room with my guitar and amp. In a mix, not so much.
I have considered buying a new tube amp, a Tone King Imperial, but I'm not sure it would improve my enjoyment. On the other hand I thought about getting a Tone Master Deluxe Reverb and going digital but, again, I'm not sure it's worth the investment.
I think it depends on your needs.
I don't gig so my needs are different. I mostly record backing tracks of covers. They serve as accompaniment for songs I enjoy playing or learning. I can do all of that on my Iridium played through monitors. I suppose I could "upgrade" to the new UAFX pedals but I crossed that off my list.
I still enjoy playing through PRRI but it's getting less and less use.
 

TheCheapGuitarist

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Yet when someone puts out a high-quality, glorious-sounding SS amp like the Tonemasters or Blues Cubes or Aviators, the biggest complaint against them is "why aren't they cheap?"
^ THIS. There's an assumption that tube gear should automatically cost more, when the fact is that they probably all PCB amps, just some have tube sockets and others have ICs (or whatever). I can't see tube sockets and tubes making a huge impact on the price of an amp, simply because they are there.
 

11 Gauge

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The speaker alone in a good tube amp can cost more than many solid-state amps in their entirety (and even low-end SS amps can often be improved dramatically by putting a $150 speaker in them).

It's really a self-driving cycle. If your tube amp costs five times as much as your SS amp, then the tube amp damned well ought to sound or feel better or no one will buy them. Yet when someone puts out a high-quality, glorious-sounding SS amp like the Tonemasters or Blues Cubes or Aviators, the biggest complaint against them is "why aren't they cheap?"
Yeah, what a lot of guitarists probably don't realize is that a lot of the whole classic tone thing has more to do with damping of the power amp into the 'right' speaker(s) (at sufficient volume) than whether or not there's actually power tubes there. It just so happens that tube amps require an output transformer, which means that the damping will almost always be low.

For any 'budget' SS amp, it's typically going to utilize some kind of power amp that will be used for any sort of generic amplification purposes. That equates to a power amp that is typically the inverse of the design that's found in a tube amp - high damping that can drive a speaker in a much more linear fashion, so that you don't have all this horrible coloration when reproducing music (or other sounds) across a wide frequency spectrum, that includes a multitude of sonic sources. And SS power amps don't require an output transformer.

It's a much shorter list of SS amps that have a power amp section with low (or at least lower) damping factor, such as the Quilter stuff, the Blues Cubes, Peavey Transtube stuff, and possibly not that many others. And like you said, the cost of such intentionally-designed amps such as those is considerably more than many other SS amps. What guitarists don't realize is that you're paying for a somewhat unorthodox SS power amp design that's unique to our own desires.
 

aging_rocker

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...If your tube amp costs five times as much as your SS amp, then the tube amp damned well ought to sound or feel better or no one will buy them. Yet when someone puts out a high-quality, glorious-sounding SS amp like the Tonemasters or Blues Cubes or Aviators, the biggest complaint against them is "why aren't they cheap?"...
Yep. Totally agree.
 

Henry Mars

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Reliable is the key thing for me. Field effect transistors have really narrowed the gap between tube and solid state. Are there some differences? Yes, but nothing and audience will detect. I went from tube ( BassMan, and Traynor and others) to solid state (Kustom. Gibson ) back to tube (Ampeg, Fender Traynor) and now I'm looking for a reliable good sounding solid state amp again and I'm going to unload some of the tube amps. Finding reliable, good sounding and reasonably priced tubes is a problem these days. In the old days you could get 5000 hrs out of a pwr tube .... In the two amps I use regularly I have to replace them once or twice a year. Time to move on into the twenty first century.
 

chris m.

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Reliable is the key thing for me. Field effect transistors have really narrowed the gap between tube and solid state. Are there some differences? Yes, but nothing and audience will detect. I went from tube ( BassMan, and Traynor and others) to solid state (Kustom. Gibson ) back to tube (Ampeg, Fender Traynor) and now I'm looking for a reliable good sounding solid state amp again and I'm going to unload some of the tube amps. Finding reliable, good sounding and reasonably priced tubes is a problem these days. In the old days you could get 5000 hrs out of a pwr tube .... In the two amps I use regularly I have to replace them once or twice a year. Time to move on into the twenty first century.
Good point re: FETs.
 

kuch

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I didn't read all of the replies.

I just hope everybody out there goes out and buys SS amps and the tube market collapses. I'll go in and get a few sets of tubes for the amps I have and live happily ever after.

By then I'll probably have a good SS amp and be even happier.

Thanks guys!! :)
 

fretknot

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I definitely hear the difference. For me, the tube warmth and harmonic distortion is discernible and the tone is dreamy. I like push-pull, vs single ended, mainly for the way they behave and a typically lower noise floor. That said, for cleans, I find the difference between tube and high quality SS negligible.
 

Bluego1

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All I know is whether it's tube or digital they both perform better than I do.
Little advice for ya;).

Practice guitar for hours each day. Do that for years on end and one day you will make it look so easy that people who have never done any of that will say that you were blessed with talent.
 

trandy9850

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

View attachment 1034493 View attachment 1034494
Not sure how you’re figuring that as your 1974X weighs 42 lbs…..that almost twice as much as my Tonemaster Deluxe Reverb at 23 lbs.

And the average Tweed Deluxe, regardless of heritage, is in the 30 lb. range.

But thanks for stopping by. ;)
 

Beebe

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I don't have a lot of experience with solid state past my first Laney amp back in high school.

I recently tried an emulator pedal through a 500 watt powered QSC K series speaker. Sounded like 5 watts when in the practice space with the band.

The challenge with solid state is getting a good loud sound.

You would probably need 2000 Watts for useful emulation with a loud band.
 




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