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

littlebadboy

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I may be different... would you consider a modeler? The new mid to high-end ones now are incredible! It will give you all the effects, amplifiers, cab, and mic placement simulations. They're also a great interface when you start recording on your computer. If you don't gig, playing through studio monitors is still awesome! In stereo too! For more fun, invest in a FRFR cab, or get a second for stereo! They would make you gig-ready too!
 

telemnemonics

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Funny, new player used to SS amps wonders about getting a tube amp.
Meanwhile many of us more experienced players have had multiple examples of both tube and SS amps but still choose at least some if not all tube amps.

Players that prefer SS amps primarily fall into the "I always had SS amps" camp, the "close enough" camp or the "tubes are too expensive, heavy, and unreliable" myth promotion camp.

Relatively few of us moved from tubes to SS because we felt that SS amps were actually better, and those of us who made that shift because we felt that SS was "as good" without spending even more than typical tube amps cost, are a very small minority.

Commenting about being practical with your hobby?
No I'm sorry that's just tragic!
Hobbies are exempt from being practical, have fun, try the stuff you want to try!
Playing Blues guitar you are not required to have your new tube amp running above clipping volume, tube amps sound great clean too.
So much comparison discussion is just riddled with ridiculous myths that get repeated by hobbyists who read on the internet that tube amps are heavy, unreliable, too loud, have to be cranked, cost way too much, then on into arguing over spec details you only need to consider when buying your seventh tube amp.
Buy a few smaller cheaper ones used, sell the ones you don't like that much and buy others until you have an actual tonal understanding of what a tube amp means to you, how you use them, what your own guitar sound even IS TO YOU.

Sadly right now gear is in a shortage and over priced.
Monoprice might not be a bad start, I'm not buying those sort of cheap amps but the 15w that's basically a Laney is well regarded by a good number of more experienced players.

As for using an OD pedal to make a 15w tube amp distort at apartment volumes?
Claims that it's pointless overlook iconic guitar sounds like say Gilmour, SRV, even Hendrix.
As for depending on line in on a guitar amp?
Let go of that, just move past the idea that you need that feature.
Habits can be changed.
If it's your hobby, move forward with it, don't put a cap on your fun.
 

moosie

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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.
Or another option: get a bigger tube amp now, and use it at home.

I'm a home player, and my go-to is a Twin. #2 is a 35W Allen Encore. They both sound glorious at low volume.

If that sounds too much, just get a Deluxe Reverb. You can't go wrong there.
 

Maguchi

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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!
Yeah I started on electric in 1985 and got a new Peavey Bandit 65 on sale. Went tube a year later and got a1987 Fender Champ 12. The Fender Redknob Champ 12s have headphone jacks and the all the Marshall DSL combos from 1watt to 40 watts have a speaker emulated out which doubles as a headphone jack. Both are good sounding tube amps and sound good with Headphones too. The Fender Redknob Champ 12s were made in the late 80s and early 90s and I see them for sale used pretty regularly.
FenderRedknobChamp12.jpg
MrshlDSL1C.jpg
 
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D_Malone

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If you’re strictly playing at home I think you’re better off with a SS solution. Definitely more flexibility and bang for the buck.

Just my personal opinion, but I don’t feel low wattage tube amps are a good option if volume is an issue. Even a 5 watt tube amp can be loud as hell. A master volume helps, but still, what’s the point?
 

Si G X

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I have both, I play small SS amps at home but take my valve amp to the rehearsal space.

I way prefer playing through the tubes, the way it reacts to being pushed is just something else. I really love it when it's essentially a clean sound but it reacts and sustains like it's overdriving... it's so cool.

But at the end of the day SS for home is just more practical for me, it doesn't stop me working on songs or practicing, or writing... so I don't worry about it. I don't really even care what it sounds like, nobody is listening.
 

Call Me Al

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would you consider a modeler?
I feel like the Champion does a pretty darn good of emulation. I’m GASing for the real deal! 😜

but still choose at least some if not all tube amps.
Definitely the theme on TDPRI. Making me wonder what I’m missing, what I would gain.

Hobbies are exempt from being practical, have fun, try the stuff you want to try!
And this is the core of my desire. Life life to the fullest!

Interesting story: I recently got a Ibanez Artcore (Gibson Style semi hollow) after starting on a Tele. I was feeling the Tele wasn’t fitting me. But it was describable: neck dive, too bright, string spacing too tight. The Artcore fits me like a glove, and I knew in my first 5 minutes of the demo.

OTOH, I really like the champion. I can’t really fault it, other than “it’s not a tube amp.” After some tube experience I would be able to define the difference, but at this point it’s my only frame of reference. And I know nobody can tell me exactly; ultimately I have to find out for myself. The question is: how curious am I?

Maybe I’m just trying to recapture some of that joy, the dopamine, of getting the Artcore

But at the end of the day SS for home is just more practical for me, it doesn't stop me working on songs or practicing, or writing... so I don't worry about it. I don't really even care what it sounds like, nobody is listening.
This rings true for my Bass experience. I have pretty great gig and rehearsal rigs (Markbass, Ampeg) but for home I play a Rumble 25. Many on the bass forum would say 25w for bass!? Tisk tisk! But it works for me. Very utilitarian, but I actually do enjoy the tone and it’s plenty loud for woodshedding.

I guess the difference with that is: with bass, I’m getting ready for the gig. With guitar, home playing is the gig.
 

basher

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Just my opinion and my experience, YMMV, etc., but I think in order to really master the electric guitar, you need to learn how your hands and guitar controls can change your dynamics and tones, and to do that you need a more responsive amp than current SS or modeling technology can offer. Modeling technology has certainly come a long way in sounding like tubes, but I've yet to play a modeler that gives the same experience to the player as a good tube amp. You may find that you prefer solid state, and that's totally fine, but IMHO every guitarist should at least have the experience of playing the real thing.
 

pippoman

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I stayed away from SS amps when they first started catching on because in the late 60s through the mid 80s, they sounded too clean, tasteless, and didn’t have the warmth I was accustomed too. I started hearing about Quilter amps about 6 years ago, the Aviator I think, and wound up with a 200 watt pro-block and Frontliner cab. I was spoiled quickly! I use good quality pedals and can easily approximate the sound of cranked tube amps with that and my Quilter at low volume. I’ve gigged exclusively with a Quilter rig ever since, but I’d love to jam with my DrZ Z-Lux cranked up. My conclusion: I still love tube amps, by all means get one! But a smallish SS is really all you need for most local gigs because everything winds up in the PA anyhow. If you can’t get great tone from most modern SS amps, the problem ain’t the amp.
 

captain_jack

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I may be different... would you consider a modeler? The new mid to high-end ones now are incredible! It will give you all the effects, amplifiers, cab, and mic placement simulations. They're also a great interface when you start recording on your computer. If you don't gig, playing through studio monitors is still awesome! In stereo too! For more fun, invest in a FRFR cab, or get a second for stereo! They would make you gig-ready too!
It's funny, these are the reasons I want to move away from a modeling amp :lol:. My problem is that because the amp has so many tonal options, I constantly find myself thinking, oh let me tweak this, let me try this other voice, etc. As a result, When I do plug in my Tele, I end up spending more time fielding with the amp then playing the guitar.

This is certainly no fault of the amp, it's my personality. And it's also not really relevant to the ss vs tube argument, I could get a non modeling ss amp. But I just sort of want a tube amp, and if I'm going to get a new amp, might as well kill two birds with one stone =).
 

markal

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I’ve been through this tube-vs-SS process over and over. And over. And again. I came back to guitar in 2012 after 15+ years away and have the good fortune to buy pretty much whatever I want. I’ve had multiple SS amps and tube amps, and still have one of each. Amps I’ve owned: Roland Blues Cube Hot and Artist, older Peaveys (bandit etc.), Orange Crush, Peavey Classic 30, Laney Lionheart 5w, Mesa Boogie Express+ 5:50 and others. A few things I’ve learned.

Not all tube amps are alike, not all SS amps are alike, so to some degree the general comparison is not all that helpful.

For me, cab size (probably relative to speaker size) is usually a big deal. I find most 12” speakers in small-ish cabs (e.g., the Blues Jr) to sound “boxy.” This goes for tube or SS.

SS or digital will usually give you more flexibility and features at a given price (e.g., power scaling/attenuation, connection/recording features, built-in effects).

A high quality SS amp is USUALLY much better than a cheap SS. A high quality tube amp is USUALLY much better than a cheap tube amp. Your champ is pretty entry level - a Blues Cube, NexTone or Quilter would probably be a significant improvement.

Tube amps often sound crappy when you starve the tubes (i.e., volume way down). This is mitigated somewhat by having a low watt amps (or attenuator, though I’ve never tried one). Even on my 5 watt Laney, it doesn’t sound very good till the volume is up at 3 or so, and then I”m pushing 85db, which I would say is way too loud for regular apartment use.

SS amps are less prone to sounding anemic at low volume. I can play my Blues Cube at 70 db and it’s very quiet, but doesn‘t sound weird.

I love my Blues Cube (which is all SS/digital, no tubes) and will never part with it, and I am very much in the SS is close enough camp, but there is something ”extra” when you get tubes cookin. It’s just hard to get tubes cookin at home, when you share living space, and if you value your hearing.

Finally, experimenting is fun. Some people find what they want and never change. Most of us try new amps/pedals all the time. It’s fun, as long as it doesn’t break the bank or get in the way of actually learning/playing your instrument.

I’d recommend you try some nice SS/digital amps and see what you think. Good luck!
 

MilwMark

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I went from tubes to SS. I've played thousands of shows.

Good amps are good amps. What's under the hood is irrelevant to me. For live use until the Tonemaster Fenders I hadn't found a digital amp that could match the punch and dynamics of a good tube or SS amp. For home? Digital does better - especially digital with small speakers tuned for home volumes, IME.

My three biggest concerns live are:
1. Dynamics
2. Gain structure/character
3. Inherent EQ

Honestly after being up, down, over and around, from starting with tubes (SF Vibrolux in fact) the best solution I've found that matches my concerns is my trusty Roland JC-77. Analog SS
 

Chiogtr4x

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No more CHEAP tube amps for me....some are just a problem...starts with Mono....ends with P👺rice....
What's the issue?

Just asking, as just got the 5-watter ( will use on gigs, but right now at very clean, quiet volume in our apartment), and I'm loving it- real detail in tone/sensitivity with any guitar I've used.

* could not afford a Champ, and wanted a small tube amp, that's the right volume for my small gigs. This seems perfect if it holds up
 

Sconnie

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OP if you're still reading, stick to the used market so you can take stuff home and live with it for a while and be able to recoup essentially all your money if your purchase doesn't work for you. I don't have much experience with 1-5W amps, 15-20W is what I've spent most of my time playing on. A Fender Hot Rod Deluxe Reverb will give you a taste of the classic fender sound for a couple hundred bucks, but it's rather powerful and isn't ideal for home use (although I don't let that stop me). An AC15 will do the same for Vox, that's a great blues amp loaded with features that make it great for home use. A used Marshall Origin 20 combo might set you back about the same amount and get your feet wet with that sound, that's another amp loaded with features that make it a practical 20W. The 12" speakers in the Fender and Vox will bring the bass that the 10" in the Marshall might not. I've always wanted to play that Marshall but haven't yet, so that's speculation about the EQ.

The tube amp that "did it" for me was the Peavey Classic 20, basically a tweed-ish blues junior. I'll never get rid of it, even though I have most of the aforementioned amps plus some. The classic 20 is, as you might have guessed, 20W. With the small cabinet and 10in speaker, it makes a boxy little compressed sound when pushed, it has a master volume and gain to dial in your sound, but no onboard reverb with is the biggest pitfall. It sounds great with single coils or humbuckers, it's a very usable amp!

Only you can decide if you want a tube amp. I find the touch-sensitivity is the most inspiring aspect of their sound. SS amps used to struggle with that, I don't know if they've gotten better cause I haven't tried any to be honest.
 

Chicago Slim

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I hate to see anyone buy a cheap tube amp, thinking that it will automatically be good, because it has tubes. Cheap amps are generally poorly made, whether they are tube or solid state. If you are trying to save money, buy used. But you have to demo amps and learn the differentiate between good and warn-out amps, that are in need of Maintenace.

Modeling amps are capable of some good sounds. But they are also easy to mal-adjust and I often have to stop playing and get back to better sounding, settings. I have found the NexTone Stage to be simpler and easy to use. Plus, it feels and responds more like a tube amp.
 
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JustABluesGuy

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Ha, this is true! with Covid stuff and all the downtime, I found playing bass alone a little… depressing. That led me to online lessons on guitar and I’ve really been enjoying it. This journey is less about “what will get me into jams?” but more about “which instrument is bringing me joy?” And right now it’s guitar.

Plus, I’ve been realizing with the time off I really like that; the gigging was/is a strain on work/family life. I’m less motivated to hustle, and just wanna focus on fun for a while.

But I’ll never give up bass, always have that skill in the back pocket!

I picked up bass so that I could play in a band. I was offered a spot playing bass in a gigging band, before I even owned a bass! 😜

They were desperate, but still!
 

Stubee

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Don’t drive yourself crazy over it, it’s not a big deal. Plenty of good sounding tube & SS amps around and most listeners won’t know WTH you’re playing anyway, except you and perhaps a few real gear heads. I’ve played with a couple superb guitarists and one prefers tube amps but either can make about anything sound tremendous.

I’d keep it simple: get a Fender Pro Jr and don’t look back. If you’re convinced you want reverb and more EQ twiddling get a Blues Jr. You don’t need low power settings, just learn to enjoy the amp at home volumes.
 

JustABluesGuy

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Ha, this is true! with Covid stuff and all the downtime, I found playing bass alone a little… depressing. That led me to online lessons on guitar and I’ve really been enjoying it. This journey is less about “what will get me into jams?” but more about “which instrument is bringing me joy?” And right now it’s guitar.

Plus, I’ve been realizing with the time off I really like that; the gigging was/is a strain on work/family life. I’m less motivated to hustle, and just wanna focus on fun for a while.

But I’ll never give up bass, always have that skill in the back pocket!

Yeah, solo bass isn’t much fun is it. I did see a guy (forgot his name) play a solo version of Bowie’s Space Oddity on bass at an open mic.

If I could play bass like THAT it would be fun!
 




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