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Poll Which is more reliable solid state or tubes?

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by warrent, Apr 8, 2021.

Most reliable

  1. PtP or turret Tube amps

    61 vote(s)
    42.1%
  2. PCB Tube

    5 vote(s)
    3.4%
  3. Solid State no digital processing

    71 vote(s)
    49.0%
  4. Solid State with dsp

    8 vote(s)
    5.5%
  1. sudogeek

    sudogeek Tele-Meister

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    True, though expected service life of these devices is much shorter than, perhaps, TDPRI posters expect for amplifiers. In the ISS, Lunar and Mars rovers, etc., the service life is measured in days or months. The Mars rovers were built with a specified 90 day service life but lasted much longer. Many of the parts on the ISS (solar panels, computers, even toilets, and so on) have been replaced. Truly, the ISS is approaching the old USAF definition of an aircraft - a collection of spare parts flying in close formation. Hospital equipment (monitors, pumps, ventilators, and lots of computers) also have defined service life, often tied to service contracts, usually measured in say, 2-5 years. I am most familiar with endoscopy equipment and that had a service life of ~3 years on average, with relatively frequent repairs.

    The OP was prompted, I think, by the thread asking about the expected life and repairability of Tonemaster amps, which is not known. If there are service life specs or estimates, these have not been released by Fender. As for repairability, my experience with SS amps, computer cards and motherboards, etc, is that replacement boards and cards is the norm, not repair of SMD assemblies. And, those replacement boards and cards usually are only manufactured for a short time, defined as less than a decade. I have kept some old school Macs from the 80s and PowerPC machines going for longer than that but eventually, even the spare parts, if you can get them, suffer from capacitor swelling, other SMD failure, and even corrosion of the traces. And, as noted above, the replacement surface mount component, like ICs, may not be available even if you want to tackle desoldering and soldering components on an aged circuit board.
     
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  2. markal

    markal Tele-Afflicted

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    The only amp I’ve had “break” was my Blues Cube, which is SS with some digital tone stack wizardry. No other amp has failed on my. But I still love SS amps. And tubes.

    I don’t think there is any public data on this so it’s forever a debate filled with anecdotes and opinions. And I”m not gonna add my opinion so I didn’t vote. (Also, get off my lawn!)
     
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  3. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Complicated and could mean different things, but I went with option one.
     
  4. Greg70

    Greg70 Tele-Meister

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    The biggest issue I've had with my amps is dirty pots, and that is an issue with tube and SS amps. IMO, tube amps are easier to work on. Part of this is because you can easily swap or remove tubes for troubleshooting. Transistors often have to be removed to test with a meter. They are also heat sensitive and can be damaged by careless soldering. And that's just for discrete components. Once you get into integrated circuits, troubleshooting with a simple meter is difficult.
     
  5. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Poster Extraordinaire

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    The longest service life without significant repairs I've had is my 1987 Peavey Bandit 65 at 33 years before it stopped working. The shortest service life I've had from an amp was a Headrush 108 FRFR that stopped working after 6 months. Both are solid state, non-modeling.

    My oldest amp is a 1964 Champ (I bought it in 1988) that needs to be serviced and upgraded to a 3 prong plug and so forth. It still works, sort of, but I consider it too risky to use due to the condition of the caps and the possibility of electric shock. I've maybe used it 2 times in the past 20 years or so.

    My second oldest is my 1973 Princeton Reverb that just had a $300 overhaul. That was the first repair I have done to it since I bought it in 1988 although it's been out of commission since 2006. So, it too had an in service time of 33 years, if you count my time and the previous owner(s) time using it.

    So, should I pay to have the '64 Champ overhauled or the '87 Bandit fixed first?
     
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  6. Dan German

    Dan German Doctor of Teleocity

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    I’m not even going to post, because someone stole my answer.
     
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  7. northernguitar

    northernguitar Friend of Leo's

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    The Champ!
     
  8. Musekatcher

    Musekatcher Friend of Leo's

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    I can rely on parts and repair of a tube amp indefinitely. An analog solid state *may* be equally repairable indefinitely. Everything else, parts disappear after 10 years from suspended production, which is much more often for non-tube amps.
     
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  9. drumtime

    drumtime Tele-Holic

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    Both
     
  10. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

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    Why is it always tubes v Solid State? That is not the only way to think about amps. High end tube amps might have other features like well designed component layout that make them more reliable than low-end SS amps, and vice versa.
    I have seen a lot of broken, fried tube amps (Fender Blues Jr, Blues Deluxe, etc. mostly) that nobody ever seems to talk much about. And I saw a red knob SS Fender Princeton in my local shop last month, $200 for 30 year old vintage gear. Worked perfectly.
     
  11. Milspec

    Milspec Poster Extraordinaire

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    Solid state is more reliable, but not as easy to repair. So, if we are talking about which will be iron clad reliable for 10 years...go Solid State. If we are talking about which will still in use 50 years later....tube.
     
  12. IMadeYouReadThis

    IMadeYouReadThis Tele-Meister

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    Aight, just place my order for a Furman power conditioner. Should arrive next week. :eek:
     
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  13. EsquireOK

    EsquireOK Poster Extraordinaire

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    Reliability is all about well built and well outfitted amp vs. poorly built and poorly outfitted amp. It's not about tube vs. solid state.

    If maintenance-reliant is what you really meant, as opposed to "reliable," then the solid state amp is less so. Solid state amps have fewer parts that suffer enough routine wear to require periodic replacement.
     
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  14. beagle

    beagle Friend of Leo's

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    Well made amps last, poorly made ones don't.
     
  15. maj34

    maj34 Tele-Holic

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    This is the correct answer IMHO.

    You can design for longevity. How that design is executed and whether a particular design achieves it is another question.

    A PCB socketed tube amp or even a DSP amp COULD be made as reliable as anything on the market. It's just an engineering (i.e. a cost) problem.

    But if we're talking about "what's generally on the market", I think it's between non-PCB tube and solid state no dsp.

    Biggest threats to an amps longevity? I'm going with electrical, mechanical, thermal, environmental, in no particular order. All design issues. All can be handled cheaply in solid state should a manufacturer decide to do so. Less so in tube amps in my opinion.

    TLDR: I voted solid state.
     
  16. jkingma

    jkingma Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Well I've owned several of both over the years and have never had any problems with any of them. So I'm not in a position to pick one over the other.
     
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  17. Musekatcher

    Musekatcher Friend of Leo's

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    I just realized, although I think I subconsciously knew, we are confusing mean time between failures (MTBF), with reliability, with maintainability which is more related to mean time between failures. And this is why cost may be a factor, in providing the least mean time between failures.

    Reliability is the measure of consistency. A battery that fails exactly at 2000 amp hrs is more reliable than a battery that fails at 6000 hrs plus or minus 3000 hrs. The second battery has 50% longer life at 3000 hrs with the same reliability, but costs 300% more, because you are paying for the 6000 hrs. So the 2000 hr battery is both more reliable, and cheaper to operate. You know exactly when to replace it, to get your entire money's worth. I could make up another scenario where the less reliable battery is advantageous, probably with a camping scenario, and limiting to having one battery.

    A lot of members ditched tube amps exactly because they got tired of low MTBFs, complaining of having more than one breakdown a year, during gigs. Others get lifetime use with little issue. Some users ditched solid state, because when a failure occurred, parts weren't available, and the miniaturized surface mount boards aren't tech serviceable, so the entire amp had to be replaced.

    As you can see, cost is very much a factor in reliability. A lot of folks manage a tube amp infinitely reliable, by taking it in for maintenance once a year. If a component is deteriorating or drifting, it can be replaced before failure. A solid state amp is not as conducive to improve reliability with annual maintenance. And there's less warning or indication of a surface mount IC going bad. You might hedge a failure, by owning a second exact copy amp, and be prepared to hot swap when it fails. But then, shelf life may be a factor, and both solid state amps fail in the same year.

    Folks really don't care, because we've been trained to just replace durable goods like fruit - perpetually want the new improved version anyway, lol. Otherwise, makers would design for longer life, extend warranties to 10 years and longer, forcing them to design better MTBFs. We will never see that again.

    I'd theorize, service life and MTBF is a function of how long corporate leadership and ownership plan to hang before cashing in to the next leadership and ownership.
     
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  18. codamedia

    codamedia Poster Extraordinaire

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    That is a common assumption because the EL84 is a common choice in cathode bias circuits.
    It is the circuit that is relatively "plug and play", not the tube they chose for the circuit.

    There are plenty of amp series using EL84's that are not cathode bias.
     
  19. northernguitar

    northernguitar Friend of Leo's

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    Rephrase...in my EL84 amps, it’s plug and play.
     
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  20. tanplastic

    tanplastic Tele-Holic

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    I have an old Trend labelled Pine amp. I'm surprised to see Pine still very much active.
    What was the product you bought to mod your amp?
     
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