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

Call Me Al

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I’ll catch up on the recent replies in a bit, but first:

I went to the store today! Tried the AC4- incredible! No headphones, but extension cab out is nice.

They also had the vox MV50 hybrid head. On an 8” cab and sounded absolutely massive. This one is appealing to me because of the headphones out, and the option to run a bigger speaker.

They are using the Korg NuTube for the preamp. 50w SS power amp.

Any opinions on the NuTube?? The amp sounded fantastic, but I’m really looking for “the experience of owning tubes.” Will this come close enough? Sure felt fun to play it!

Or, stick with the AC4?
 

Call Me Al

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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.
The most compelling argument for tubes yet! I’ve really been focused on left hand (mapping the fret board, learning all my triads, etc) but this makes sense. Build from the ground up so I don’t have to go back and relearn .

stick to the used market so you can take stuff home and live with it for a while
Definitely my approach. I’d say 80% of my gear has been bought used. I only buy new if I know exactly what I want and can’t find it used.

I did buy the Champion new, even though I coulda bought cheaper… I overpaid at the local guitar store cause I want to support them, and that’s where I demoed it. 😁
 

JustABluesGuy

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I’ll catch up on the recent replies in a bit, but first:

I went to the store today! Tried the AC4- incredible! No headphones, but extension cab out is nice.

They also had the vox MV50 hybrid head. On an 8” cab and sounded absolutely massive. This one is appealing to me because of the headphones out, and the option to run a bigger speaker.

They are using the Korg NuTube for the preamp. 50w SS power amp.

Any opinions on the NuTube?? The amp sounded fantastic, but I’m really looking for “the experience of owning tubes.” Will this come close enough? Sure felt fun to play it!

Or, stick with the AC4?

If you like it, you like it.

I’m not sure if I would call the NuTubes valves, or the amp a “hybrid” amp. NuTubes are solid state emulations of tubes if I understand correctly.

Depending on your available funds, I would recommend getting a used 15 watt or smaller tube amp to try out, since already have at least one solid state.

Remember, you can’t ever have too many amps, and of it sounds good, it IS good!

Good luck with it!
 

Call Me Al

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I’m not sure if I would call the NuTubes valves, or the amp a “hybrid” amp. NuTubes are solid state emulations of tubes if I understand correctly.
I’ve been spending the past hour reading about these things! 🤣

Apparently they are analog, vacuum tube; but don’t provide the power output that a “classic” tube does. So they’re inserted into preamps and pedals for tone shaping… I think 😜
 

Call Me Al

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If you like it, you like it.
And that’s the rub! Frankly I like the champion. Buying the MV50 really feels like “buying something just to buy something”. Even though the demo was great.

The AC4 was equally great in terms of tone and feel. Just less features. My mission in buying anything else was to get “the tube experience” so I don’t think I’ll get that with the MV50.
 

JustABluesGuy

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I’ve been spending the past hour reading about these things! 🤣

Apparently they are analog, vacuum tube; but don’t provide the power output that a “classic” tube does. So they’re inserted into preamps and pedals for tone shaping… I think 😜

I didn’t realize there was any “vacuum” going on. You obviously know more about them than I do, and you like the amp.

Get advice, but trust your own ears as much as possible. They will let you down sometimes, but not as often as all of us internet randos will! 😜
 

JustABluesGuy

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And that’s the rub! Frankly I like the champion. Buying the MV50 really feels like “buying something just to buy something”. Even though the demo was great.

The AC4 was equally great in terms of tone and feel. Just less features. My mission in buying anything else was to get “the tube experience” so I don’t think I’ll get that with the MV50.

So just get yourself a tube amp then. You want one, and there’s no reason NOT to, right?

You are going to eventually have several amps of various types and wattages anyway, so quit wasting time and get going! 😜

My apologies if I am enabling you in any way whatsoever!
 

VonBonfire

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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.
Seconded. I don't always use an amp at home but when I do it's a twin and it's still set to 10 and I just roll my guitar volume off. Sounds and works great for home and gigs. No new-improved stuff necessary. Don't even need to re-adjust my settings.
 

middy

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I’ll catch up on the recent replies in a bit, but first:

I went to the store today! Tried the AC4- incredible! No headphones, but extension cab out is nice.

They also had the vox MV50 hybrid head. On an 8” cab and sounded absolutely massive. This one is appealing to me because of the headphones out, and the option to run a bigger speaker.

They are using the Korg NuTube for the preamp. 50w SS power amp.

Any opinions on the NuTube?? The amp sounded fantastic, but I’m really looking for “the experience of owning tubes.” Will this come close enough? Sure felt fun to play it!

Or, stick with the AC4?
Stick with the AC4. A lot of the magic is in the power tubes and phase inverter tube. I’d rather have a tube power amp and solid state preamp than vice versa.
 

The Angle

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I’ve been spending the past hour reading about these things! 🤣

Apparently they are analog, vacuum tube; but don’t provide the power output that a “classic” tube does. So they’re inserted into preamps and pedals for tone shaping… I think 😜
That's the gist of it. Their gain is too small for efficient amplification, so they need to be paired with a SS amp for volume gain. They're used as tone shapers because they share many tonal qualities with traditional vacuum tubes. Here's the rub: what we think of as "tube sound" and "tube response" has as much to do with the transformers and overall electronic architecture in a tube amp as with the tubes themselves. Just putting a few nutubes in the circuit gets you only partway to emulating a tube amp.

Without pointing fingers at anyone in this thread (honestly, this has been one of the most civil and least contentious discussions on this topic I've seen), but the web is filled with misinformation and myths about what tube amps do and don't do. Even playing a tube amp and a SS amp side by side won't automatically dispel those myths. The amp is a black box; we move our fingers and sound comes out. To anyone who's really interested in this topic, I recommend reading sections 1.5 ("Tubes vs. Transistors") and 1.6 ("Amplifier's Tone--Or Is It?") of Teemu Kyttälä's book Solid-State Guitar Amplifiers. All of chapter 1 is excellent and easy to grasp even if you know next to nothing about electronics. Also, Chapter 3 of the Hartley Peavey Papers, "Transtube," is another good resource for sorting fact from fiction regarding tube and SS myths. (Both links are to legally-distributed free PDF versions.)
 
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BrettFuzz

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@Call Me Al , if you buy another amp and it's not a tube amp you will always have that "I wonder what this would sound like on a real tube amp" in the back your head until you get a tube amp. Ask me how I know ;)

Also, I would advise against buying one of the first two amps you test. I would go and play more amps to get a better idea.

Finally, if you are happy with what you have but are itching to spend money on your guitar playing experience maybe it would be better to spend it on lessons. No matter how good we are there is always room for improvement. That is true for everyone. Also, once you get into completing specific exercises you will pay less attention to the tone. I believe that greater satisfaction comes from being able to play new things than from achieving tone.
 

Sconnie

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That's the gist of it. Their gain is too small for efficient amplification, so they need to be paired with a SS amp for volume gain. They're used as tone shapers because they share many tonal qualities with traditional vacuum tubes. Here's the rub: what we think of as "tube sound" and "tube response" has as much to do with the transformers and overall electronic architecture in a tube amp as with the tubes themselves. Just putting a few nutubes in the circuit gets you only partway to emulating a tube amp.

Without pointing fingers at anyone in this thread (honestly, this has been one of the most civil and least contentious discussions on this topic I've seen), but the web is filled with misinformation and myths about what tube amps do and don't do. Even playing a tube amp and a SS amp side by side won't automatically dispel those myths. The amp is a black box; we move our fingers and sound comes out. To anyone who's really interested in this topic, I recommend reading sections 1.5 ("Tubes vs. Transistors") and 1.6 ("Amplifier's Tone--Or Is It?") of Teemu Kyttälä's book Solid-State Guitar Amplifiers. All of chapter 1 is excellent and easy to grasp even if you know next to nothing about electronics. Also, Chapter 3 of the Hartley Peavey Papers, "Transtube," is another good resource for sorting fact from fiction regarding tube and SS myths. (Both links are to legally-distributed free PDF versions.)
Well said and thanks for the links! I'll give those a ponder over some coffee this weekend.

I'm glad this thread stayed in the realm of what and why people like what they like, rather than what they like is "better" than what others do. We're all here for the same reason after all :)
 

Happy Enchilada

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OP: Here's a solution:
Buy a Peavey Bandit. One of the good ones.
Or a Quilter Aviator Cub.
Or a Quilter Reverb 101 head and a cab with the speaker of your dreams (say, a Texas Heat).
Then drag this rig around to jams, rehearsals, gigs, worship services, weenie roasts, Burning Man, bar mitzvahs, etc.
Jam it into the trunk of your car. Repeatedly.
Let the drummer stumble into it and knock it over. Just don't let him puke on it ...
With no fear whatsoever.
And it'll always sound great.
And I personally GUARANTEE you that NOBODY in the audience will ever know what kind of rig you're running.
They're more concerned with impressing The Hot Chick or Dude ... and how they're going to get home at the end of the night when they're drunk as the proverbial skunk.
And then there's me, the guy in the back who gets sloshed and halfway through the third set yells "Free Bird!" or "Sweet Jane!"
Why you ask? Because ... THE TONE IS IN YOUR FINGERS AND PEDALS. Really.
Then mail me a check for the difference in price between the rig you choose and the overpriced Fender or Marshall or Mesa or whatever tube amp that everyone tells you is The Holy Grail.
Misery, it is often said, LOVES company.
And fruit flies LOVE a banana ... 🚀

Are we done yet????
 

MilwMark

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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.

What is the "real thing"? And were do people find these SS or digital amps that are not responsive to volume knob or touch? The list is relatively small in my experience (even including pedals) and tends to involve devices that are designed not to be responsive (like the Big Muff). Volume is the number one thing IME. At 90+ dB guitar is a symphony of dynamics. Below that (ironically?) and especially at low home volumes, digital solutions do a better job at replicating those dynamics than tubes. IME. YMMV.
 

MilwMark

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OP: Here's a solution:
Buy a Peavey Bandit. One of the good ones.
Or a Quilter Aviator Cub.
Or a Quilter Reverb 101 head and a cab with the speaker of your dreams (say, a Texas Heat).
Then drag this rig around to jams, rehearsals, gigs, worship services, weenie roasts, Burning Man, bar mitzvahs, etc.
Jam it into the trunk of your car. Repeatedly.
Let the drummer stumble into it and knock it over. Just don't let him puke on it ...
With no fear whatsoever.
And it'll always sound great.
And I personally GUARANTEE you that NOBODY in the audience will ever know what kind of rig you're running.
They're more concerned with impressing The Hot Chick or Dude ... and how they're going to get home at the end of the night when they're drunk as the proverbial skunk.
And then there's me, the guy in the back who gets sloshed and halfway through the third set yells "Free Bird!" or "Sweet Jane!"
Why you ask? Because ... THE TONE IS IN YOUR FINGERS AND PEDALS. Really.
Then mail me a check for the difference in price between the rig you choose and the overpriced Fender or Marshall or Mesa or whatever tube amp that everyone tells you is The Holy Grail.
Misery, it is often said, LOVES company.
And fruit flies LOVE a banana ... 🚀

Are we done yet????
I'd say the tone is in the volume but I largely agree with you. And it's not just a matter of what the audience hears. At volume, I'm almost always happy with whatever rig I'm playing (unless it has no master volume and is just way too clean - like a Twin).
 

moosie

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Seconded. I don't always use an amp at home but when I do it's a twin and it's still set to 10 and I just roll my guitar volume off. Sounds and works great for home and gigs. No new-improved stuff necessary. Don't even need to re-adjust my settings.
Twin on 10 in the house? That sounds dangerous. One false move and I'd kill the dog.
Mine is a 69, so no MV. Vol on about 2. I dial it to be as loud as I'd ever want it, and then play the guitar dialed back to 8.

The Allen has a MV, and it's always dimed (essentially out of circuit that way).
 

Ronzo

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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!
Of the amps you’ve listed, I wouldn’t choose any of them.

What is your budget? This is the first question. Second question: Do you use pedals to get your preferred sounds?

“Low wattage” tube amps can be uncontrollably loud in a home setting. Tube amps can also be initially expensive, and expensive to maintain for those players who aren’t interested in working on them to whatever extent they are capable. Even 1 watt, when pushed, is quite loud.

As for me, I have four tube guitar amps. (All my bass amps are solid state.) in order of increasing power, they are:
- Epiphone Valve Junior Combo. Modified with the 18watt.com “Marshallesque” mods, Hammond 125ESE output transformer, a Jensen MOD 8” speaker, plus some other tweaks. 5 watts RMS.
- Epiphone Valve Junior Head + LopoLine 12” speaker cab loader with a Fender speaker. Modified with the 18watt.com “Marshallesque” mods, Hammond 125ESE output transformer, a Master volume/preamp gain control structure, plus some other tweaks. 5 watts RMS.
- 1974 Fender Musicmaster Bass Amp, slightly modified for guitar use. 6AQ5 power tubes, stock speaker, recapped electrolytics. 12 watts RMS.
- Egnater Tweaker 15 head + Tweaker 112 semi-open back Celestine-loaded cabinet. My workhorse for gigging and home use. Set up to resemble a Deluxe Reverb in tonality; a wonderful pedal platform. 15 watts RMS.

Before modifying them, both the Epi VJs were very disappointing. Dark, dark sound, as though a comforter had been taped around the cabinets. Now, they are much more clear in tone. The biggest change came with the much bigger output transformer, in both cases. They easily drive a 2x12 PLUS a 4x10, and even a loud drummer is unlikely to drown them out. Not clean, but surprisingly full and ballsy with larger cabs. The smaller cabs tame them somewhat, but they are NOT a low volume pair of amps.

The Musicmaster Bass amp is, for me, an ideal tube amp for home use. Fender cleans to almost 4 on the volume with single coils and 3-3.5 with humbuckers. Turning it up further doesn’t increase loudness much; it just gets creamier and more saturated, but it’s not bedroom volume by any means. Very good pedal platform for lower volume dirt sounds.

The Tweaker is a hidden gem. It does it all for me. Extremely controllable. I get a wide variety of tones with pedals, which in turn are further varied with the Tweaker’s onboard voicings and gain structure.

None of these are inexpensive. It’s possible that a PRRI might be a good choice for you. Lot of bucks, though. If I were in your position…

A ToneMaster Deluxe Reverb.

Sacrilege, I know. But, on paper, it ticks a LOT of boxes, for me.

I suggest you try it, and see what YOU think. Blind test a DRRI and a TMDR, if you can.
 




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