I play quietly: what's the point of having a tube amp?

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by Steven72, Jul 15, 2019.

  1. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 21, 2003
    Near BWI Int'l
    When we say we love the sound of tube amps, it's typically not just limited to the tubes. It's most likely in many cases to also be the output transformer, and obviously the speaker.

    At low volumes, the effect of the output transformer and speaker are basically negligible, IMO. You could basically end up with similar performance from a SS power amp.

    If you really want to exploit something sounding good specifically at low volumes, it will require that every part of the amp be designed differently from a standard amp design, which would probably also obviously include the speaker.

    Well, the other obvious missing part of this conversation is, what does it mean to sound good at low volumes? Some folks might think that your typical master volume amp, regardless of power, might sound good with the master cranked way down. Personally, I've never experienced one that I liked, unless the master was typically conservatively used. And IME, this stands for all of the typical flavors of pre-phase inverter, post-phase inverter, and the "cross-fade" MV.

    ...I've heard that power scaling can potentially sound really good at lower volumes, but I haven't experienced it myself. IMO, it's still probably a moot point, given that it costs more and is less common. You could probably get similar results using some other technology that is readily available and cost effective.
    SolidSteak and Steven72 like this.
  2. Steven72

    Steven72 TDPRI Member

    Jun 15, 2019
    East Tennessee
    So, I take it you're a "teeth optional" kind of guy?
  3. SolidSteak

    SolidSteak Friend of Leo's

    Apr 27, 2016
    This one goes to 11:
  4. keithb7

    keithb7 Friend of Leo's

    Jan 9, 2010
    Western Canada
    If you have been playing guitar for a while, and you’re really into it, you’ll crave more gear. You may go on a guitar binge for a while. Maybe years. After you find the guitar(s) of your dreams, you may move on to pedals. Then you’ll go crazy for a long time trying everything. Getting “your sound” dial’d in.

    Then darn it...The amp virus called gas starts to develop. Maybe it came first. Maybe last. It got to you one way or another. Either way you’ll highly likely end up owning tube amps. Loud ones too. Maybe you’ll start with little ones. Then ask yourself, “Gee I wonder what all the Twin Reverb fuss is all about?”. By now you’re all-in and doomed.

    Play quietly at home? Ya me too. Play acoustic? Yes quite often. How many guitars? A little embarrassing to admit. Got any tube amps? Oh a few. Tonight these are staring me in the face. Ever daisy chain a Twin R and a BF Bandmaster? I never did before either. Sure is awesome.

    No I don’t need tube amps. Sure is fun though. All we really need is food shelter and coffee. Everything else is wants

  5. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Apr 29, 2013
    near Arnold's
    I bet this is Why my 1w Marshall’s sound so great.
  6. KnopflerStyle

    KnopflerStyle Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 22, 2005
    I have tried several amps, for home use and for gig. According my experience, classic amps didnt work for me.

    Fenders and vox are very powerfull at home, and i found them very hard to load.

    I have tried another brands, like Blackstar. Artist series rocks, 15W and master volume. I thought the master volume could help me at home... no... it didnt work. But those are 6l6, so its very fenderish although the cab is huge, and very heavy. Forget it. Also at home, is hard to find a good volume.

    I really liked the sound that the artist create, so i went with a Blackstar HTR1. Its a 1W valve head. 1W and still find it a little bit loud. Yes loud for home and cleans. Overdrive... is worst...

    So ive realized that the W that i need at home is 0.5W or 1W as max. nothing more. My artist doesnt work, htr1 is ok, but i cant gig with it. SS doesnt inspire me, 1W valve amp sounds to me way better.

    Bottom line: there are amps with W selection that works very good. To me those are the right selection if you dont like ss sounds or digital staff (my case).

    Check the new Blackstar HTR5W mKII. It has a 0.5W and 5W selector (5W enough for small gigs), so it should work at home, studio and maybe small gigs. You can practice with the amp that then you will play live. To me that is very important. Spend time with the amp. know how it works. Play with the knobs. Some time ago i used a SS at home and then a valve one live, so i spent time with pedals knobs since both were very different.

    There are another brands. I like fender cleans, and this choice to me is the best one although the 5WHTR hasnt 6l6 inside.

    My 2 cents.

    Best regards.
  7. 8trackmind

    8trackmind Tele-Meister

    Oct 10, 2018
    Memphis, TN
    No tubes need be harmed for quiet practice. My 1 watt DIY solution. An old Trademark 10 would be good if you can find one too.
    Yeah, that's a car door speaker in a cigar box cab.
  8. Antmax

    Antmax Tele-Meister

    Jun 14, 2018
    Brit in Sacramento
    My DSL20 sounds much better than my solid state amp, modeling amp and and modeling software. None of my SS amps are premium though and the tube amp has a EQ in the loop with 15db level cut so I can run the volume around 9'oclock to get a nice tone with some body out of it. The modeling amp sounds ok'ish but every little detail is heard at home and often the modelers have some digital fizz in the falloff that drives me nuts, especially if you have a noisegate. Often the analog solid state amps actually sound better to me for this reason. The other thing is that the tube amp is so easy to dial in a tone and you can vary the tone a lot just from how you use the knobs of the guitar and how you dig in to the strings. You don't need presets or many pedals or effects to get quite a lot of versatility. Modeling amps, I often resort to lots of fiddling and never being satisfied. Spend more time fiddling and less time playing.

    One thing about tube amps is that they are expensive. Even my budget head was $500 and even though I don't have many pedals I do like two gain stage pedals, so I have used OD, distortion, Reverb, Delay and a cheap EQ pedal that cost me $30 - $80 each. Even used they all add up to at least double what a half decent modeling amp will.

    At the end of the day, if you can't hear or feel the difference, or the difference doesn't bother you... then you obviously don't need one. Just get whatever works for you and don't worry what other people think.
    JustABluesGuy and tubedood like this.
  9. studio1087

    studio1087 Telefied Ad Free Member

    May 10, 2003
    Near Milwaukee
    Yes. There’s a warmth and a feeling from tubes. The one watt Blackstars are $250. They have Reverb. I paid $119 for mine used. My favorite late night noodler amp.

    Chunkocaster and tubedood like this.
  10. tubedood

    tubedood Tele-Meister

    Sep 25, 2018
    I just finished up my lil 5F2-A build which I gave a run-down build on this fine site. I am not biased either way SS or tube and I fully enjoy my Fender Mustang 1 V2 SS practice amp that the wifey bought me. Very versatile and some great sounds are there.

    But on to the 5F2-A...

    I will never part with this little tube amplifier. At higher volumes it cranks (as all toobies do), at medium volumes it is still loud but totally manageable. But once you tame it down to 2 or maybe 3 it is all articulate... YOU decide how loud each note can be. You want it to bark and drive? DIG IN. You want it soft and some harmonic bloom? Go easy on the attack and maybe apply some finger vibrato to get it to feed back a bit. It plays great with a pick or even better as a finger plucked amplifier.
    Tube amps tend to be this way.
    I love 'em.
    JustABluesGuy, Owenmoney and Antmax like this.
  11. NewKid

    NewKid Tele-Holic

    Oct 30, 2011
    I play at bedroom volume and love my Yamaha THR10C on the Matchless DC30 or Mini Z settings. I could live with just this one amp.

    I also have a 120 watt Henriksen JazzAmp Ten that I’ve only used a handful of times in the last year.

    Yesterday I was passing by a guitar store and tried a Vox AC10C1 and I’m trying to forget how great it sounded. I don’t need another amp for sure but this one is on my list for when I lose self control again.
    jannodude and tubedood like this.
  12. Fretting out

    Fretting out Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 13, 2019
    Land of Mary
    I didn’t read all the post but the boss katana mini(solid state) is perfect for the volume you describe. They sound really decent for the size and can even run on batteries .they have a clean crunch and EVH brown sound setting.
    I even use mine for my early morning playing to not disturb anyone.
    I’d recommend trying one and their pretty cheap
    DougM likes this.
  13. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

    May 9, 2008
    We? I do this for a living, so I need to pay the rent, and I need to practice besides doing shows, so "we" out here in TDPRI-land aren't all hobbyists. Food, shelter, coffee, and gigs.
    tubedood and keithb7 like this.
  14. Nick Fanis

    Nick Fanis Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Mar 3, 2003
    Nothing beats the CLEAN sound of a tube amp at low volume.

    For home use there plenty of fantastic 4-12 watt tube amps to choose.
  15. alnico357

    alnico357 Tele-Holic

    Jun 2, 2015
    I have a Roland Cube 01 amp. The cleans are as good as I could ever imagine. My DRRI cost 13-14 times more. The Cube is definitely the winner in the cost/ clean sound equation. My answer to your question is no, you do not have to have a tube amp for musical enjoyment.
  16. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Poster Extraordinaire

    Aug 10, 2018
    In space with Ziggy
    Just buy a Blackstar fly 3 stereo pack, plenty loud enough for what you want and they sound great at low volume. Plus your TV, laptop, tablet and phone will sound great through it too.

    I have 5 tube amps and I play through the fly 3 most of the time at home.
  17. RadioFM74

    RadioFM74 Friend of Leo's

    Apr 10, 2015
    Italy and Switzerland
    It’s such a subjective question that it’s impossible to answer. Are you more of the “nostalgic/purist” bent? A tweed champ will bring you hours of joy (and I guarantee, it sounds awesome at home volumes). Do you need 4’565 footswitchable presets, full FX array, phone out for quiet practice and an USB out to record your latest creations? Well, a tube amp ain’t for you.

    I have both, and I end up ALWAYS firing up my tube amps even for practice at home. The small (tweed champ) and the big one (30W Blackface amp). So clearly there is something going on sonically or at some other level that makes me prefer my tube amps. But I love my THR10 as a travel amp and as a “late night phones amp”, so there’s definitely a point in having both even for me.

    For recommendations: the overall best home amp I’ve ever had (and one that you can use fully without plugging into a computer) is the Fender Super Champ X2. It’s hybrid (digital preamp with various amp models and effects, tube power section). It’s got an USB out for recording (no phones, no aux, sorry), and you can buy a footswitch for channel switching and FX on/off. And it’s got plenty of great clean and dirty tones. It’s the one amp I would fire up even with the Tremolux in the house sometimes …

    The “more digital” alternative with aux in and phones out is the old humble Mustang I. Another winner, but a lot more computer-dependent (including because many of the factory presets are horrendous).

    And as said, the THRs are also very nice. But FWIW I like Mustangs and SCX2s better.
    tubedood likes this.
  18. ricknbaker

    ricknbaker Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 12, 2014
    Watford, UK
    Surely sir, your question should be
    "I have a tube amp. What's the point in playing quietly?"
  19. intensely calm

    intensely calm Tele-Meister

    Apr 1, 2019
    Like it!

    I got a cigar box amp (originally for the office, but it was too "noisy").
    It doesn't sound like any other amp, but that is what I like about it.
    I think it cost me like $30 to build at the time.

    It makes me play differently, and maybe opens my mind to other sounds.
    Excellent for the house... only problems are, I keep tipping it over and the price of 9V batteries, lol.
  20. DFB1

    DFB1 Tele-Meister

    Nov 27, 2018
    I bought one of these 2 weeks ago.
    It is great for low volume playing,nice cleans,and has a few effects. $99.00 and worth it imo.

    I get good low volume tones with my Zinky Blue Velvet,so that will be my tube amp for a few more years.
    wtk0315 likes this.
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