Solid state vs. tube

Guitar Tricks Forum > Gear Discussion > Solid state vs. tube

Senior Member

Joined: 12/12/02

Posts: 241

hey everyone,
i've been hearing both sides of this argument for quite a while. i'm wondering what the big difference is between solid state amps and tube amps and i want to hear your opinions on what's better. some people say that tube amps sound great but other say solid-states hold up better. and vice versa.
post your thoughts.....
Thanks for listening to this small piece of me.

#1

hey everyone,
i've been hearing both sides of this argument for quite a while. i'm wondering what the big difference is between solid state amps and tube amps and i want to hear your opinions on what's better. some people say that tube amps sound great but other say solid-states hold up better. and vice versa.
post your thoughts.....
Thanks for listening to this small piece of me.

Registered User

Joined: 08/07/01

Posts: 62

Once you go tube you don't want to go back. I much prefer the warmth and punch you get out of a valve amp and the quality of sound. Going from my Marshall tranny amp to a Fender Valve amp was an expensive move but it was well worth it at the end of the day. I'll swear by a valve amp.
"When I was a kid,all I wanted was a red electric guitar.It had to be red,because of Hank and his magical sound." Mark Knopfler on Hank Marvin.

#2

Once you go tube you don't want to go back. I much prefer the warmth and punch you get out of a valve amp and the quality of sound. Going from my Marshall tranny amp to a Fender Valve amp was an expensive move but it was well worth it at the end of the day. I'll swear by a valve amp.
"When I was a kid,all I wanted was a red electric guitar.It had to be red,because of Hank and his magical sound." Mark Knopfler on Hank Marvin.

Gear Guru

Joined: 01/18/01

Posts: 6242

trendkillah nailed the basics. Here's a few subtleties:

The power supplies in most tube amps are 'soft', in that they are poorly regulated. To a typical engineer, this seems like a really shabby way to do things, but what happens, is that notes 'swell' as the initial attack drains off a lot of the energy stored in the filter caps, which is then built up again as the note sustains. Once the technogeeks got put right, (probably over several pints consumed in front of various bar bands), many transistor amps have been designed to reproduce this effect.

That sweet-sounding tube distortion only happens when the power stage of a tube amp is pushed into partial saturation. This causes the even-order harmonic content, and the compression, that characterise this sound. I've seen some interesting work based on FET output stages, but it isn't there, yet. The buzzy, overdive sound that a lot of players use, is generated in the preamp, or even between the guitar and the amp. Obviously, processing in this part of the signal chain does not interact with the speakers, missing an important part of 'the tube sound'. The plus side of that situation is the flexibility in volume level available to transistor amps that don't have to be cranked in order to find that 'sweet spot'. And preamp distortion sounds the same in headphones.

Transistor amps are ideal for accurately reproducing a signal. A signal can be amplified without adding to, or taking away from, the original. Once a sound has been 'warmed up' by a tube stage in the preamp, a transistor amp will faithfully carry that warmth to the speakers. This is why modelling amps work as well as they do. What a transistor amp will not do, is provide that warm, 'springy' touch that (so far, anyway) can only be coaxed out of a transformer-coupled tube power stage, reacting with a speaker cab.
Lordathestrings
Guitar Tricks Moderator

www.GuitarTricks.com - Home of Online Guitar Lessons

#3

trendkillah nailed the basics. Here's a few subtleties:

The power supplies in most tube amps are 'soft', in that they are poorly regulated. To a typical engineer, this seems like a really shabby way to do things, but what happens, is that notes 'swell' as the initial attack drains off a lot of the energy stored in the filter caps, which is then built up again as the note sustains. Once the technogeeks got put right, (probably over several pints consumed in front of various bar bands), many transistor amps have been designed to reproduce this effect.

That sweet-sounding tube distortion only happens when the power stage of a tube amp is pushed into partial saturation. This causes the even-order harmonic content, and the compression, that characterise this sound. I've seen some interesting work based on FET output stages, but it isn't there, yet. The buzzy, overdive sound that a lot of players use, is generated in the preamp, or even between the guitar and the amp. Obviously, processing in this part of the signal chain does not interact with the speakers, missing an important part of 'the tube sound'. The plus side of that situation is the flexibility in volume level available to transistor amps that don't have to be cranked in order to find that 'sweet spot'. And preamp distortion sounds the same in headphones.

Transistor amps are ideal for accurately reproducing a signal. A signal can be amplified without adding to, or taking away from, the original. Once a sound has been 'warmed up' by a tube stage in the preamp, a transistor amp will faithfully carry that warmth to the speakers. This is why modelling amps work as well as they do. What a transistor amp will not do, is provide that warm, 'springy' touch that (so far, anyway) can only be coaxed out of a transformer-coupled tube power stage, reacting with a speaker cab.
Lordathestrings
Guitar Tricks Moderator

www.GuitarTricks.com - Home of Online Guitar Lessons

Registered User

Joined: 01/12/02

Posts: 1563

I agree that tube amps sound better generally, but there are a couple of brands that pull it off with solid state. Randall and JJ Labs to name two. Dimebag Darrel has one of the best tones in the business, and he uses solid state amps.
"I'm playing so fast, the tubes can't reproduce all the notes!"
- Marcus Paus

#4

I agree that tube amps sound better generally, but there are a couple of brands that pull it off with solid state. Randall and JJ Labs to name two. Dimebag Darrel has one of the best tones in the business, and he uses solid state amps.
"I'm playing so fast, the tubes can't reproduce all the notes!"
- Marcus Paus

Senior Member

Joined: 12/12/02

Posts: 241

holding that thought...
which artists use solid-state and which artists use tube? i'm talking about metal here. oldies to now really.
Thanks for listening to this small piece of me.

#5

holding that thought...
which artists use solid-state and which artists use tube? i'm talking about metal here. oldies to now really.
Thanks for listening to this small piece of me.

Registered User

Joined: 07/01/02

Posts: 1612

Tube always
You cant beat a tube sound, even with digital tube modellers, the sound of a real tube is amazing.
Andrew

#7

Tube always
You cant beat a tube sound, even with digital tube modellers, the sound of a real tube is amazing.
Andrew

Senior Member

Joined: 12/21/02

Posts: 103

Simply put...tube amps blow SS amps away for tone/drive/sustain. I'll never get another SS amp, even the Marshall trans-tubes suck. Go tube dude !
-Bob
http://guitar-pedal.com
...another toy, to help destroy, the elder race of man

#8

Simply put...tube amps blow SS amps away for tone/drive/sustain. I'll never get another SS amp, even the Marshall trans-tubes suck. Go tube dude !
-Bob
http://guitar-pedal.com
...another toy, to help destroy, the elder race of man

Senior Member

Joined: 12/12/02

Posts: 241

this stuff is great. thanks to everyone who contributed. i'm planning on a Marshall tube amp but i want to try both tube and solid-state before i make a final decision. just to make sure that tube is best of course.
Thanks for listening to this small piece of me.

#9

this stuff is great. thanks to everyone who contributed. i'm planning on a Marshall tube amp but i want to try both tube and solid-state before i make a final decision. just to make sure that tube is best of course.
Thanks for listening to this small piece of me.

Gear Guru

Joined: 01/18/01

Posts: 6242

[QUOTE]Originally posted by canuck7
...but i want to try both tube and solid-state before i make a final decision. just to make sure that tube is best of course. [/QUOTE]Yes! The only way to shop for gear is with your eyes closed, your ears and mind open. Happy hunting! Smilie
Lordathestrings
Guitar Tricks Moderator

www.GuitarTricks.com - Home of Online Guitar Lessons

#10

[QUOTE]Originally posted by canuck7
...but i want to try both tube and solid-state before i make a final decision. just to make sure that tube is best of course. [/QUOTE]Yes! The only way to shop for gear is with your eyes closed, your ears and mind open. Happy hunting! Smilie
Lordathestrings
Guitar Tricks Moderator

www.GuitarTricks.com - Home of Online Guitar Lessons