Talk me into, or out of, getting a tube amp

Phrygian77

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In this day and age you can run a full 50 watt head into a reactive load and IR for cabinet and mic simulation, and it sounds really good. That kind of setup can be expensive though, so it's really about what you really want/need and can afford.
 

Jared Purdy

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Just thinking out loud here. Hopefully something will resonate with you from your own journey, and you can shed some light on mine! :)

I've been playing electric for a year now. Started on a bass amp, got a Champion 20 last summer. It's a really great amp, but I'm wondering if I'm missing something by not having tubes. I loved the Blues Jr when I was browsing, but overkill at the time for my needs (and budget!) Im the bass player in a blues trio, and I love playing along to the guitar player's Marshall JCM or Fender Princeton.

Im primarily a home player. I don't see myself gigging (actually leaning towards phasing out the bass gigging, which is what brought me to guitar!) I could see wanting to jam with others down the road.

I use the headphones and aux in a lot; many tube amps don't have these features. Part of me thinks to just stay put and keep practicing!

I see 3 basic pathways ahead of me:
1) get a smaller 1-5w amp. Enjoy life, and explore those tubes!
2) Wait til I'm ready to jam and get a bigger tube amp then.
3) Wait til I'm ready to jam, and get a bigger SS then.

I know "go out and test stuff" is the best option. But I can't find any little amps locally. There is a Vox AC4, but the 12" seems a little loud for home, and IDK if I'm a Vox guy. Generally with gear, I find curiosity gets the better of me and I end up caving to desire. You really learn a lot by having some gear in your life to explore it! But also, I'm looking for the fine line between being practical, and fully enjoying my hobby.

Some amps I'm considering:
1) Monoprice 5w. Cheap way to dip my toes in the pool. I wouldn't mind trying to mod down the line. But least amount of features.
2) Bugera v5. I like the headphone out and reverb. Great online reviews. But I'm hearing some questionable things about the parent company (same as Behringer) and not sure if I wanna support them.
3)Blackstar HT1 1w. Massive bevy of features (aux, headphones, mid shift, 2 channels, reverb, ext cab and usb outs.) great reviews. I guess my hesitation is 1w, if Ill outgrow this too soon. But with an extension, I should be able to have a jam with a drummer, right?

TL;DR Go Tube, or stick with modeling??

Thanks for your time!

With our respective societies already headed towards being totally digitized, I say, go all tube, all hand wired. Totally old school. Solid pine cab. Accept no substitute.
 

Call Me Al

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I've done The tone quest many times, and finally realized that an inexpensive SS amp suits me just fine for what I'm actually going to use it for.
I went through this as a bass player. I found ergonomics to be most important in instruments, and volume/headroom in amps. I’m really not too picky about tone. I have my preferences, but I can get along with a pretty wide range of bass gear (so long as it fits those top 2 criteria)
 

Vocalion

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I think that the Champion 20 is a great amp for home use. See if you can play a few tube amps, preferably in a practice room alongside a Champion 20. The advantages a tube amp might enjoy in an enormous room like a guitar shop vs. your Champion 20 might be minimal or even net negatives for the style you play at home. If a tube amp is better all around or gives you an additional voice you can't get from your Champion 20, go for it, but I wouldn't buy one just to have one.
 

HaWE

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😂😂😂



Ive read through heaps of these Tubes v SS Threads on TDPRI, and the majority of responses sound like this . The minority seem to prefer SS. The sound, the feel… so my mission with the thread was to fish for a “pro tube” response that resonates with me.

At this point, I’m leaning towards waiting, based on my goals, playing level, practicing routine and budget. But happy to keep reading more opinions!! 😄
I have 3 tube-amps (100 , 40 and 1 watt) but all of them only sound great when played at higher volumes.Even the small 1 watt "Palmer eins" is rather loud at full volume.
 

985plowboy

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If you’ve never owned a tube amp, you should at some point.
If that isn’t now, that’s cool.

Have you mentioned your budget? Based on what you list I’d say you are looking at $400 or less. That about right?

Regardless, if I didn’t have an amp that I liked I’d start my search with a Princeton Reverb. I’d want to try one with a 12” speaker.
Again, budget constraints are real but hey…save longer for good gear.
I’d have no problem buying used.
 

teletail

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Oh I should add: playing mostly blues. Love that natural tube OD sound. No pedals ATM.

Also, I know cost and time of maintenance is a consideration. While I’m open to the compromise, it is a factor. I generally like fuss-free stuff in my life. How much time and money would an at-home player spend on maintenance? Is it hard to maintain yourself, should I factor in labor too?
No, no, no, it's not a consideration. I've had my Fender Deluxe Reverb Reissue since they came out in 1994 and it's been in the shop ONE TIME.

Not to beat up on you, but tube amps needing a lot of maintenance one of the most persistent misrepresentations on the internet. I gigged hard and often with an SVT in the 70's, that was in the shop once too. However, my Peavey and Genz Benz solid state amps have been in the shop multiple times.
 

Tele-friend

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I use the headphones and aux in a lot
I also use my amp this way - mobile phone with background music IN and headphones OUT. I use my SS modeler Fender Mustang LT25 this way and everybody is happy - me, because the sound with good headphones is phenomenal and my family and neighbours, because they are not disturbed ;)
My rig for me makes total sense. I might want a tube amp some day, but dont really need it. And tube amp would not be a practical solution - no headphones and aux in.

So I can understand that you want a tube amp, 'just because'. I would wait if something pops up locally for a good price and buy the tube amp with the possibility of attenuating from 5W to 1W or preferably even lower to 0,5W or 0,1W. That is plenty loud for playing at home.
 

BrettFuzz

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If you like the Champion 20 you can get anything and it'll be better than that. I know, I had one. :p

For home use/practice I would get a Katana 50. That would give you a few more options, headphones, line out, built-in effects, etc. And it will sound way better than the C20. And zero maintenance - you can leave it on forever (not something that is recommended for tubes).

If you go budget tube I would go Monoprice 15W over the 5W one because it has a separate gain and master volumes (comes in handy for that breakup and normal levels), decent EQ, reverb, FX loop, speaker out, etc.
 

darkwaters

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I say find a good 5W tube amp in your price range and discover what you’ve been missing. I refuse to recommend any one in particular. What you’ll love I might hate, but I can say from experience that tubes make everything sound better!
 

Call Me Al

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No, no, no, it's not a consideration. I've had my Fender Deluxe Reverb Reissue since they came out in 1994 and it's been in the shop ONE TIME.

Not to beat up on you, but tube amps needing a lot of maintenance one of the most persistent misrepresentations on the internet. I gigged hard and often with an SVT in the 70's, that was in the shop once too. However, my Peavey and Genz Benz solid state amps have been in the shop multiple times.
This is great. Thanks for speaking up, and I don’t feel attacked at all. ;) I don’t know, that’s why I asked!

Honestly I was fishing for this response. Pricing tubes, adding in tech fees (my local guy who works on my bass amps is very quick and reasonable) and I’m not gigging so…. I don’t see a huge expenses but thought I should ask!
 

JL_LI

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Most of the comments were pro-tube; but the other comments about not needing it, not noticing the difference, seemed to resonate more with me. I’m very practical, love my features and simplicity (of the Champion) and really don’t think I could tell the difference either! I definitely feel the urge to just own some tubes, but wonder if that honeymoon will fade and I won’t feel much of a difference.

I should be practicing anyway! 😂
It’s interesting that you talk about a honeymoon. The honeymoon lasts until you start to notice that you can’t do everything with the amp you bought. Then marriage begins. You learn each other’s quirks and you get to know the amp well enough to coax what you never expected out of it. Then after you’ve been married a while your eye wanders. You walk into the bar and notice one with bigger speakers or a great head. And before you know it you want to have that other one on the side. That’s just the way it works.

A modeling amp, on the other hand, is just porn. It’s not the same as the real thing.
 
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Alex_C

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In my limited experience, most low wattage tube amps have a 'boxy' sound. I have the Laney Lionheart L5s. It sounds phenomenal, like a big tube amp not 'boxy' at all.
Features:
2 Channels
Reverb
Built in load box, no speaker required
Headphone jack
USB audio interface with switchable cabinet emulation
Re-Amp input
XLR out with switchable cabinet emulation
5watt/0.5watt speaker out

It costs $900USD, speaker cabinet not included. Worth every penny, imo.

I also use modelers, I've owned a Helix LT, currently own a Headrush large board (for sale), and my newest acquisition is the Ampero II Stomp. It sounds fantastic out of the box, but I can't get the Lionheart sound which is OK because I have a Lionheart. ;)

Get an inefficient speaker (95db or less), this will allow more power at a lower volume regardless of the type of amp you get.
 

teletail

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This is great. Thanks for speaking up, and I don’t feel attacked at all. ;) I don’t know, that’s why I asked!

Honestly I was fishing for this response. Pricing tubes, adding in tech fees (my local guy who works on my bass amps is very quick and reasonable) and I’m not gigging so…. I don’t see a huge expenses but thought I should ask!
I bought a Fender Princeton Reissue. I use it for practice 7 days a week. I usually practice 3+ hours every day, when I was unemployed for 6 months it was usually 4+ hours a day - ALL through that Princeton. Two years later it's still working flawlessly.
 

Killing Floor

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Here are some options to consider:

Don't do it. I heard a tube amp was trying to date your cousin. But what my neighbor heard is the tube amp is only using your cousin to try to get invited to dinner at your house and when he excuses himself to use the restroom he's going to pilfer through your drawers to steal pills.

Do it because there's nothing exactly like the sound of a couple tubes on the limit.

I find I can get pretty close with any number of tube preamps when I can't go loud enough to kick the amp. I'm looking at a local hot rod company who makes really low wattage combos for that reason. There's no best amp.
 

loopfinding

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i have a styrmon iridium for home playing and recording. i am thinking just a tube power amp (like the mooer tube engine, but probably build it myself) for small gigs, and a 1000W SS behemoth for punk gigs if that ever happens again. tbh a lot of the reason i still mess with all-tube (pre+power) stuff is because i can build it for myself easily and affordably.

i wouldn't worry about the pre being tube. the compression of the power amp is really the thing, and you need an attenuator to get it at home levels...but even still it's not viable at apartment levels, just house levels.
 
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Dacious

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Buy the Vox. A 5 watt tube amp can be freakin' loud esp with a 12" speaker. .

Two tubes, three controls, a bit of Vox jangle but you can dial natural overdrive. No onboard reverb but not much sounds worse imo than cheesy cheap artificial digital verbs.

Cheap, cheerful little amp that you can take to a jam, stick a mic in front of through the pa and off you go.

 

jays0n

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it’s fun to have both. Keep the SS amp for headphone and line-in jammin and get a small <=5 watt amp for some tube experience. The ones you are looking at all all very reasonable.

I’ll say though that a 5 watt through a 10” or 12” speaker is really nice if you can swing it. Supro and Vox have some nice options like that I believe.
 




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