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

MilwMark

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I honestly don't quite get what is in in for folks to believe their tone and feel depends on a particular type of technology - or magic glass bottles - depending on your predilections.
Nor to feel the need to assert superiority or purity. Some of the contentions in this thread and appeals to alleged authorities seem like a laughable mashup of confirmation bias, motivated reasoning, misunderstanding of technologies and mixing up of applications. Of course PAs are designed for clean reproduction. That doesn't mean clean reproduction is an inherent limitation of SS. What do you think all those fancy dirt boxes do exactly?
 

KC

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Question: why do people get so worked up about this? There's a lot of strong opinions, it seems like, reading through this thread. But what you choose to play through makes NO difference to me. Knock yourself out. Solid state is definitely a practical choice if you don't hear a difference between that & tube amps. I've been playing for a [email protected] time and I use tube amps because that's what I'm used to, especially on stage. I have a Fractal FM3 that's a great practice / recording tool. Horses for courses.
 

Hoodster

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Appreciate your effort here but the amps are obviously eq'd differently, and have different speakers, so it's not really a valid comparison. For what it's worth I disiked the sound of the Traynor a lot.
Umm, I clearly state at the outset that all three amplifiers will be played through the exact same cabinet and speaker.

Sorry you didn’t like the Traynor. You must not like classic Blackface clean tones, because that amp sounds as good as the best Princeton Reverb I’ve played (which was a very good one I owned for several years).
 

Hoodster

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Great video, and I appreciate your analysis at the end. I think this video is in some ways Exhibit A for what drives a lot of the disagreements I'm hearing in this thread:

1) All three tones sound quite good through my computer. It is hard for me to detect dramatic differences. Some folks may say, "aha, there is no difference". But until you actually try amps side by side in a room you really haven't had a chance to hear the true differences.

2) Even if you do the side-by-side test, some people will find the differences to be quite dramatic, while others will barely notice them. The "cork sniffer" analogy to wine snobs is an apt analogy. Wine aficionados are absolutely shocked when the hoi polloi suggest that maybe there isn't much difference between a $20 bottle of wine and a $10 bottle. However, in blind taste tests where labels cannot be examined, it is actually quite often the case that a bona fide wine snob will select a $10 or $12 bottle over a $20 or $30 bottle. Sometimes the dollar value is indicative of quality, sometimes it isn't.

3) Part of this thread has talked about it not being a fair contest when you pit a more expensive tube amp against a cheaper SS amp. In this case you picked three amps that are all relatively inexpensive, and you used the same high quality speaker in all three demos to help level the playing field. Take home message for me: the speaker and cabinet matter A LOT.

4) Use case really matters. You acknowledged that at gig volume, for example, the Quilter might really shine. This also depends on the gig, however. Nowadays I find myself having just enough amp volume so it serves as a monitor for me on stage, with most of the FOH sound coming through the PA. So even the little Champion 20 would suffice for my gigs if I made sure to point it right at my head and mike it.

5) One advantage of SS that people tout is that they can get a consistent tone at a wide range of volumes. But I believe that this can also be the case for many tube amps, depending on the actual level of gain you are seeking, and what is an acceptable volume level for you in your home or bedroom. I love how my Super Reverb sounds in my bedroom, even with the volume knob super low. It would probably be still too loud if I lived in an apartment, but at the level most people play their home stereo systems I think it sounds fantastic.

I actually played a ToneMaster Twin Reverb side by side against a Twin Reverb Reissue in a music store, as well as against a Katana 100. For my ears, the TR Reissue had a much richer sound and 3D quality...it wasn't even close. Furthermore, the Katana to my ears sounded just as good or better than the TMTR. But that's just me and my own personal opinion. Before anyone tells me I'm crazy or cork sniffing or need to do it in a blind test, don't cast that stone unless you yourself have actually tried them side-by-side in a room, live, rather than listening to a YouTube video and making your decision on that basis. We might still disagree, but I don't even want to have the discussion unless you've also collected some real world data first.

To try and show that I'm not utterly biased, I will mention that I am the happy owner of a BluGuitar Amp1 Mercury. I tried Quilter and Helix before settling on the Amp1. I think it sounds really, really good-- to the point that I'm gigging with it. Thomas Blug has a great ear and knows what he is doing, in my opinion. It might have something to do with the little tube that's in it, or maybe that's just marketing hype.

Having said that, I am not surprised at all that the Champion 20 has a pretty serviceable Fender sound through a decent cabinet. Fender knows exactly what they are doing. By the same token, Marshall is very good at producing a Marshall-y tone through their entire range of amps, from most expensive to cheapest.
Thanks for your incredibly thorough and thoughtful post!

And by the way, this wasn’t the only time I’ve had that experience. I clearly remember another time about 15 years ago I was in the isolation room at a music store with tons of really good amplifiers. They had one of those solid-state Fender Princeton Chorus stereo amps that I had heard so much about because most people seemed to think they were one of the best solid-state amplifiers at the time, so I was eager to try it. I played it and it sounded great. So to be fair I plugged into an entry level tube amplifier for a comparison, a Blues Junior. I was genuinely stunned by the difference. Again, the solid-state amp was lifeless and one dimensional in comparison.
 

c4ntaro_sinf0nico

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But the main reason both musicians and audiophiles alike love the sound of tubes is their even-order harmonic distortion. The primary difference is even-order versus odd-order harmonic distortion. Perhaps a lesser known type of distortion, harmonic distortion of tubes is what fills out the sound and adds warmth. Without getting too technical, all amplifiers will have sympathetic distortion related to the original signal. Tubes have mostly even-order harmonics (referred to as second, fourth, and sixth). Solid-state devices have more odd-order harmonics (third, fifth and so on). It is the even-order harmonics that will provide positive embellishments to the original signal, making it sound fuller. A technical article written by Russell O. Hamm published in 1973 in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society described this as a choral or singing sound. This is largely what provides the “tubey” sound, the full, deep, warm sound tube amplifiers are known for. The odd-order harmonics produced by solidstate amplifiers produce a edgy or cut-off sound. Often this is viewed as more “accurate” sounding, but the reality is it is also largely the cause of listener fatigue. It is not natural distortion or add to the original signal positively, and good ears with tire of it quickly.

I doubt the harmonic content is the "main reason". If even-order harmonics were the key, the Harmonic Percolator fuzz (which is a solid-state distortion device that filters out all the odd-order harmonics and outputs almost pure even-order harmonics) should be like a "holy grail" for great tube-like guitar tones and it would be used by almost everyone. And I think we all know how nasty that beast sounds like (and how "unknown" it is).

On the other hand, I think odd-order harmonics are as important as even-order ones. They're part of the tonal identity of many wind and reed instruments like flutes or clarinets, which are used regularly in a conventional orchestra. Even more, they're integral part of the clean guitar tone itself! Specially when playing near the mid part of the fretboard to the last frets and using the neck pickup. If you don't believe me, just use an oscillator and a spectrometer. So, I think blaming odd-order harmonics as "unmusical" is a complete nonsense.

"Full", "deep" and "warm" are just very subjective terms to use in a myth-busting context. For instance, I can say there is no fullest simple tone to me as a raw sawtooth wave, as it features all the possible even-order and odd-order harmonics in their right frequencies.

To be honest, my pragmatic sense tells me the cab and the loudspeaker (and more broadly: filtering and EQ'ing) have way more impact on the final tone than the technology used in the preamp and power amp sections. I don't say solid-states or digital modelers sound like tubes or something like that, but if you record your beloved all-tube preamp and/or power amp direct to a console, without any kind of processing, you'll probably sound as bad as you're using a crappy solid-state amp.
 

WalATX

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OP can’t hear the difference between a solid state power amp and the exact same solid state power amp, even with different preamps.

This is more alarming and, perhaps an even better indicator than the original claim, that op can’t hear.

I play tube amps and CAN tell the difference blindfolded. That said, I don’t think that means “better.” My next amp purchase will be a Roland Blues Cube, when I can find one locally.
 

brookdalebill

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I wonder what percentage of the equation is affected by speaker cabinet type.
Closed vs. open back.
Open back tube amps fill the room, IMO.
Closed back tube amps are directional, and don’t fill the room as much, again just my opinion.
I now gravitate to closed back cabinets.
They seem to be easier to control.
Anyways, I’m still looking for the right British tube head.
 

MilwMark

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Question: why do people get so worked up about this? There's a lot of strong opinions, it seems like, reading through this thread. But what you choose to play through makes NO difference to me. Knock yourself out. Solid state is definitely a practical choice if you don't hear a difference between that & tube amps. I've been playing for a [email protected] time and I use tube amps because that's what I'm used to, especially on stage. I have a Fractal FM3 that's a great practice / recording tool. Horses for courses.

Ironically, I suspect statements like this are a large part of the reason folks get worked up.
 
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Buzzgrowl

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It's the smell of hot tubes burning fine dust inside the amp - irreplaceable! Can someone make a bottled scent with that, like that "new-car-perfume" 2nd hand car dealers use?

Been trying forever to get a custom tube amp built from scrapped parts from the local physics lab accelerator/collider - siemens tubes as big as beer kegs. My conspirator is unwilling, says something about space-time ripples blah-blah.

I love tubes. I'll play anything though.
 

11 Gauge

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Although does anyone know of a high end solid state amp that goes for similar money as a boutique tube amp?
Eric Pritchard apparently doesn't make them any more, but Pritchard amps used to sell for thousands of dollars.

Something like the Gold Estoc was apparently ~$2.5K brand new.

Apparently, the vast majority of what he built was basically built to order, is my understanding.

Word has it that they sounded not fully like either tube or SS, but had their own thing going on. Pritchard clearly understood the importance of speaker and cabinet design too, and apparently what he implemented made the amps sound much fuller/bigger than what you might expect, just by looking at them.

Also, there were Pearce amps, but IDK what they sold for, or if they could really be classified as boutique amps, per se. I know they weren't really cheap, because Pearce insisted on the best materials, components, and building techniques he could utilize or get his hands on.
 

maxvintage

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Umm, I clearly state at the outset that all three amplifiers will be played through the exact same cabinet and speaker.

Sorry you didn’t like the Traynor. You must not like classic Blackface clean tones, because that amp sounds as good as the best Princeton Reverb I’ve played (which was a very good one I owned for several years).
No need to be sorry!

No, I don't like classic blackface clean tones, as it happens. No midrange.

Classic blackface clean tones are exactly why Ibanez sold a million tube screamers
 
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PhoenixBill

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Audiophile: Man this $500 receptacle and $4000 power cable really made my stereo sound better!
Me: But the power supply to the amp is exactly the same, an oscilloscope shows there’s no difference.
Audiophile: Bah! Human ears are better than an oscilloscope and anybody can hear the difference, it’s like night and day it’s so obvious.
Me: I can’t hear a difference.
Audiophile: Bah! You obviously don’t have good ears.
Me: But you just said anybody can hear the difference, it was like night and day. How about double-blind testing to see if you can hear a difference?
Audiophile: Bah! You can’t apply double-blind testing to audio, it would be flawed.
Me: But DBT is the gold standard and…
Audiophile: Be gone, you heretic!
 

buster poser

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I'm about a month out with a Revv D20, my Mk1 Katana 100 having given up the ghost prematurely.

Better? Magictone? I dunno, I just practice a lot and these are subjective terms, but it certainly sounds different to my ear and I'm hardly some corksniffer.

My place is too small to really push loudness with either setup and even when it was still living I ran the Katana to my IO and out to a pair of JBL monitors, but here's the Revv on the de-badged/de-amped Katana cab (and it sounds pretty great through the 12"); looks like it was made for it and a nice little option if I ever need to play 'out' somewhere.

1664563173917.png
 

telemnemonics

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I honestly cant hear a difference between tube and solid state amps is basically saying I honestly cant hear a difference between one amp and another.

Unless you mean you cant hear a difference between a tube version and a SS version of the exact same amp?
So you must be comparing a Twin Reverb to a Tonemaster Twin Reverb?
Are those really the same if they are also different?

I actually seldom if ever find two amps that sound the same.
You say every tube amp and every SS amp, all of them sound indistinguishably the same?

Wow!
 




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