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Tube Vs Solid-state Power


ceve4life
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I was recently told by someone that a 15w tube is about as loud as a 60w solid-state. Are the tubes louder than solid-states with less watts? If so, then that means I can spend less money on a less expensive amp because I thought if I wanted a loud tube amp, I'd have to get a 100w one. Thanks.

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Use the search function as this has been done to death a million times before. The difference is in apparent volume, but the size and dynamic response of speakers comes into play a lot also. Your mileage - as always - will vary whatever you choose.

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With the same speakers, in terms of absolute, scientifically measured loudness, 15W of output to the speakers is 15W of output to the speakers. The tube amp may sound a little louder based on the differing character of the tube amp vs. solid state amp, but in terms of decibels, it's not.

Of course, this all goes out the window when you start changing speakers. Changing from the least efficient commonly available 12" speakers (at 92-94 decibels sensitivity) to the most efficient commonly available 12" speakers (102-104 decibels sensitivity) would be the same as using 10 times as much output power with the low-efficiency speakers, and will sound twice as loud. So a 92 decibel sensitivity speaker and a 150 watt amp would be about the same volume as a 102 decibel sensitivity speaker and a 15 watt amp.

Edited by jnewman
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it's the auditory perception that is greater with a tube amp...the sound is much more complex...and it cuts through the mix alot better

This is true...solid state just seems to get lost in the mix, even when its turned up really loud (and ends up just sounding really harsh when it's loud, at least to my ears), but a tube amp just cuts right through--and doesn't even need to be that loud to do the job.

I use a 15-watt tube amp, but I've recently learned that it's important to have at least a 12" speaker in there. I have a second 15-watter with a 10" speaker, which I use for practice, but it tends to lose its low end with the band (that is, the low end gets cancelled out by the other instruments).

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Thanks. I think I might buy a Fender Blonde Blues amp. If anyone has this one and feels that it has some pro or cons worth mentioning, please do-but from what I hear It's a really awesome amp.

Are you talking about the blues junior or the blues deluxe? I've played the junior in a store and it was amazing. If I had $400 I would have taken it home. I've never played the blues deluxe so I can't help you there.

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it's the auditory perception that is greater with a tube amp...the sound is much more complex...and it cuts through the mix alot better

I dunno about that at all. I've played in bands where my solid state cuts thru no problem and the tube head that the other guitar player was using keeps getting swallowed up.

That and I've had the honor of seeing Pantera live 5 times. Trust me, solid state cuts thru without an issue.

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pantera had everything miked and was able ti control the volume of the entire mix.i am talking about a small situation...say an unmiked drum set...

but whatever works for you.if you take a tube amp and set it up wrong(turn the prescence or mids down too much)it will still get lost.

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Thanks. I think I might buy a Fender Blonde Blues amp. If anyone has this one and feels that it has some pro or cons worth mentioning, please do-but from what I hear It's a really awesome amp.

Are you talking about the blues junior or the blues deluxe? I've played the junior in a store and it was amazing. If I had $400 I would have taken it home. I've never played the blues deluxe so I can't help you there.

I was actually considering them both depending on what people had to say about them. If one is generally considered by most people as a better buy then I swing towards that one. But I'm sure that I'd be happy with either.

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Ah the tube or solid state deal, i have found it hard to use a tube amp in the studio because they just sound better loud IMO they seem breath better and oversaturation is an issue with the condenser. So i use solid state where lower volume is needed and the tube amp for pleasure playing and jamming with the boys. But I like the tube amp the most.

I have recorded with the tube amp with the mic farther away and got good sound but the mic placement has got to be just right and tends to be touchy.

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My guitar teacher has a couple of those Fender FM amps --he plays through the 100, and students play through the 65. And I have to say, they really do sound great ---of course, we're playing at really low volumes. But I always have the feeling that with these amps I'm hearing the guitar as it truly sounds, no matter what guitar I'm playing on.

Problem is that even the bigger amp just doesn't cut it loud-- especially if the other guy is playing through tubes.

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Thanks. I think I might buy a Fender Blonde Blues amp. If anyone has this one and feels that it has some pro or cons worth mentioning, please do-but from what I hear It's a really awesome amp.

Are you talking about the blues junior or the blues deluxe? I've played the junior in a store and it was amazing. If I had $400 I would have taken it home. I've never played the blues deluxe so I can't help you there.

I have a HR Deluxe and a Blues Jr. To me they sound completely different. Both great, just different. Is it the difference between 6L6s and EL84s? I'd think so, but I know very little about that stuff. What I do know is the Jr. is LOUD for a tiny little thing.

BTW Godin, I got the Jr on ebay for $250. :D

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...i had the 100 watt frontman for like a week. i hated that amp so much... i got the 30 watt vox hybrid modeling amp. it sounds great. i'm now working on getting the bigger more complicated, ad120vt. i feel that people are just too stuck on the word 'vintage' to give hybrid amps a fair chance. that's where my recommendation lays

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Thanks. I think I might buy a Fender Blonde Blues amp. If anyone has this one and feels that it has some pro or cons worth mentioning, please do-but from what I hear It's a really awesome amp.

Are you talking about the blues junior or the blues deluxe? I've played the junior in a store and it was amazing. If I had $400 I would have taken it home. I've never played the blues deluxe so I can't help you there.

I have a HR Deluxe and a Blues Jr. To me they sound completely different. Both great, just different. Is it the difference between 6L6s and EL84s? I'd think so, but I know very little about that stuff. What I do know is the Jr. is LOUD for a tiny little thing.

BTW Godin, I got the Jr on ebay for $250. B)

Thats a darn good deal.

The simple answer to your question about tubes is no, your not hearing just the sound difference from the tubes. It's mostly the circutry in the amps being *completely* different and the amp cab/speaker situation. when I was messing around with my VJ I put EL84, 6v6, and 6l6 tubes and the sound difference was *very* slight between all the tubes. The 6l6 was barley cleaner than the el84 which seemed to have smoother mids. The 6v6 sounded just like the el84 but with slightly crisper highs. The difference in all three tubes was almost nothing and I forgot which tube I had in plenty of times during the testing. Once I said to myself, "yeah that el84 really -does- sound smooth" only to look behind and see I had the 6l6 in there. :D

So yeah, it's the amps being completely different, not just the different tubes. :D

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I've never owned a tube amp (although I use a 30W Peavy tube amp for about 50% of my rehearsals)...I do all my sound mods on the floor, and use my solid-state amp clean for volume.

So educate me....when you drive the tubes hard, which tubes are we talking about? The preamp tubes? Or the power amp tubes?

What I'm wondering is, could you get the same tube saturation effect by driving a tube-based preamp hard (think Rocktron Piranha) and running the signal to a solid-state power amp?

Edited by erikbojerik
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I've never owned a tube amp (although I use a 30W Peavy tube amp for about 50% of my rehearsals)...I do all my sound mods on the floor, and use my solid-state amp clean for volume.

So educate me....when you drive the tubes hard, which tubes are we talking about? The preamp tubes? Or the power amp tubes?

What I'm wondering is, could you get the same tube saturation effect by driving a tube-based preamp hard (think Rocktron Piranha) and running the signal to a solid-state power amp?

The thing is power amp and preamp tubes act very differently and produce different kind of tones when driven hard.

If you have just preamp tubes and solid state poweramp (ala vox models and marshall AVT) I doubt you would be able to distinguish it form a nice solid state amp. Also if you have an all tube amp running clean it would not have that much difference from a good solid state amp, definitely nothing anyone in the audience would care about. The only place where a tube sounds much better than high end solidstate is when your pushing the powertubes into full saturation. This happens when you turn the poweramp volume all the way up (usually labeled master volume) and bring the preamp volume up just enough to where you get really thick smooth distortion.

It's because preamp tubes distort not that much differently than solid state, the distortion is very "hard". But it still starts distorting smoother so it's better for those lightly overdriven tones than solid state. The real magic of a tube amp is in the power tubes. Who's distortion is described as "smooth".

But the real kicker is some people prefer the sound of hard preamp type distortion to the smoother poweramp distortion.

So what does this all mean? Basicly it means if you have a tube amp try putting the gain way down and the master volume way up and see if you like it. If you don't have a tube amp just use what works for you. Many people are happy with solid state amps, many are not. Just try out tons of setups and see what you like most.

Plus when you add pedals into the mix things get messy and egos get hurt. A lot of people buy really expensive tube amps to get "that sound" and run them very low and clean and get all there tone/distortion from solid state pedals. Very ironic if you ask me. I think the mostly stems from too many marketing campaigns making us as guitarists believe that we will never be happy unless we own a 100% tube 200w monster.

Enough mindless ranting, back to your original question. I would not recommend running a preamp tube pedal really hard, that will not give you the "saturated" poweramp sound. For that you have to have a real tube amp. All you will accomplish is overloading the input of your pedal and it will sound like crap (I think)

EDIT: I forgot to put in the page I always link to :Dlink It's a little basic, but still an interesting read if you don't know all that stuff already.

To further prove the irony of thinking you need a good tube amp for good sound check out these sound, samples we recorded. link It was done with a $65 behringer piece of crap solid state amp and a digital boss GT-3 pedal. (it was recorded with the GOTM winner this month)

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I kind of look at the sound of tubes vs transistors in terms of the difference between analog and digital synths.

Analog synths, like tubes, kind of have a life of their own --they're far more random and variable, which comes in large part from their inaccuracy. The sound of a tube amp, like an analog synth, will change over the course of an hour, or two hours, or three, etc. Oscillators drift, tubes heat up, cool down, etc.

Digital synths and transistors don't, by nature, have this type of behavior. They're predictable and inflexible. Which has its own uses.

Personally, I prefer the sound of tube amp, even clean. And as stated, tube amps are much more able to cut through the mix than a transistor, partly because of their analog nature.

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