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Tube vs Solid State


ne14t?

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Ok boys and girls, lets bury this hatchet for once and come to a final conclusion why tube amps are not the same as solid state. Now I do not want this turning into a hardcore debate or flame war I know we all have personal preferences. Some people like solid state and others like tube, some people like myself will make do with whatever is available at the time. I am just sick and tired of constantly hearing or reading debates on why solid state or tube is better then the other and how the unliked one is just garbage, its starting to make me want to hit people over the head with a cast iron frying pan. I had this argument again over the weekend with a buddy, which spurred me to start this thread, so don't think it's aimed at you.

 

Let start with some history:

Thermionic Valve (Vacuum Tube):

 

Scientists started experimenting with them in 1904; however thermionic emission was first discovered in 1873 and Thomas Edison's spurred future research in 1884. It wasn't until the 20th century that physicists/scientists realized the rectifying properties of tubes and started using them to detect and demodulate radio signals using a Diode tube. Soon after the development of the Triode tube which arguably sparked the electronics revolution of the 20th. The earlier Diode tubes as most electronic diodes only allowed electrons to flow in one direction, this was due to the anode having a higher voltage and pulling the electrons across from the heated cathode; however since the anode plate was not heated itself it was not capable of thermionic emission and electrons could not travel from the cathode back to the anode. Lee De Forest is credited with the creation of the first Triode tube in 1907 while he was working on his own Audion tube (Radio Tube) by placing the second heating filament between the cathode and anode Lee discovered the ability of the tube to amplify signals of all frequencies. Triode tubes had a stability problem when running high gain, they would tend to oscillate there amplification this is due to the Miller effect and was later fixed with the creation of Tetrode and Pentode tubes these still had some issues at the time but were slowly worked out into what we use today. (Info from Wikipedia, condensed and rewritten in my words)

 

Transistor:

 

Texas Instruments produced the first silicon transistor in 1954, it was the work of a man named Gordan Teal. Transistors can pretty much be used in every application they act kinda like a switch there is either a NPN or PNP transistor. The transistors low cost, flexibility and reliability have made the transistor a ubiquitous device and possibly the greatest invention of the 20th century. This factor also brought the transistor into the amplification world as transistor amps of up to a few hundred watts are pretty common and fairly cheap. Other then that there really isnt that much history on the transistor that pretains to amplification so I will leave it all out. (Info from Wikipedia, condensed and rewritten in my words)

 

Transistors in comparison to Tubes:

 

Advantages:

 

-Small size and minimal weight, allows for smaller lighter electronics.

-Automated manufacturing process

-Lower operating voltages, allowing the use of smaller batteries

-No warm up time

-Lower power dissipation

-More reliable, not prone to physical damage

-Extremely long life

-Insensitive to mechanical shock and vibration, thus eliminating micophonics.

 

Limitations:

 

-Low operating voltage, generally not higher then 1000V whereas thermionic tubes have been developed that can operate at tens of thousands of volts (in amplifiers the voltage determines your headroom)

-High power, high frequency operation, such as over the air T.V. broadcasting is better achieved in vacuum tubes due to improved electron mobility inside a vacuum.

-Silicon transistors are much more vulnerable to an electromagnetic pulse (funny story for this*)

-Silicon transistors when amplifying near the saturation point typically fail and create distortion, this is clipping not the good distortion. Tubes under the same stress conditions fail more gradually and do not clip.

 

Personal Belief:

 

Ok, I personally believe that the tube amp does sound better due to the preamp being tube driven, there is not a whole heck of a lot going on in the power amp section to make me think otherwise, yes you can crank the bajebus outta your JCM800 and the power amp will start to distort but your ears will also start to bleed too! I tested this out when I still had my Mustang III and POD, running the pod into the front of the Mustang while it was modelling a "80s British" amp (Line6 didnt want to get sued :P) and it worked but sounded a little off, after thinking "well the POD is supposed to be a preamp modeller" I took it out of the front of the amp and plugged it directly into the return of the effects loop completely bypassing the premap in the Mustang all together and there it was nice tone, forever changing as I messed around with the POD.

 

This audio clip was recorded via my POD using a Slayer model, forgive the horrible playing I was learning the song at the time :) (All solid state)

Raining Blood via POD XT Live

 

This is obviously the album version of the same song, Kerry King used a JCM800, its not identical but its pretty close (All tube)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SurqXyOjLxE&feature=related

 

Besides the ultra crappy playing feel free to dissect these two clips without going nuts on you, that's not my style. I feel the one I recorded probably could have used a bit more highs, but I did not make that model it was one I download off the Line6 webpage and didn't even edit or change. I was going to use my first take at the SCOM intro on my Marshall as a tube example but after listening to it again after a month I had to delete it off my soundcloud it was just too horrible even for me, like utter poo! When I get home tonight I will rip the slayer riff off really quickly on my Haze and post it into here to give another perspective on the same riff played by the same guy with the same guitar on a different amp.

 

The only place were I can see tubes coming down to a deciding factor is in the preamp, you get some of these hybrid amps that have a tube preamp section with a solid state power amp section and they sound mighty fine to me. I know this debate has been brought up a few times and it generally turns into a pretty big flamewar and stuff which I would really prefer not to happen I would like to break this enigma down before I get fed up and call mythbusters! If the thread starts getting out of control I give any moderate full right to lock it immediately, I wont even feel bad :)

 

Thanks for taking the time to read all this, and I will definitely read every reply made.

 

-Lucas

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Solid State all the way. Who would want to use some old technology - blahhh.

 

Oh crap I forgot my redundancy story!

 

So ok in school I was a huge fan of doing projects on the Cold War as it was a very aggressive arms race that we all know could have ended the world if it actually amounted to a war. During the war the American's moved to a transistor based redundancy system for all there fighter jets, meaning they replaced all the old backup tube computers with fancier, lighter transistor computers which was awesome for allowing longer flying times, more payload and all that good jazz; however the Russian did something a little smarter with the MiG's they kept the tube redundancy system in there planes which was a fabulous idea during the cold war as Nuclear Bombs produce HUGE electromagnetic pulses and had the Cold War gone hot, American planes would have literally fallen out of the sky like stones as both there main flight computer and redundancy computer would be toasted.

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Oh crap I forgot my redundancy story!

 

So ok in school I was a huge fan of doing projects on the Cold War as it was a very aggressive arms race that we all know could have ended the world if it actually amounted to a war. During the war the American's moved to a transistor based redundancy system for all there fighter jets, meaning they replaced all the old backup tube computers with fancier, lighter transistor computers which was awesome for allowing longer flying times, more payload and all that good jazz; however the Russian did something a little smarter with the MiG's they kept the tube redundancy system in there planes which was a fabulous idea during the cold war as Nuclear Bombs produce HUGE electromagnetic pulses and had the Cold War gone hot, American planes would have literally fallen out of the sky like stones as both there main flight computer and redundancy computer would be toasted.

 

I was just messing around.

 

I build tube amps as a hobby - would be a nice business venture too.

 

However, I have to disagree with Dem00n on the tube for clean sounds. I used a SS amp for years when I played in an acoustic jazz band. I used a Fender M80 combo and loved it - only used it for the cleans.

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i love tube amps they help me stay warm in the winter time. i love the smell of those glass bottles heating the dust and lint on them until they almost burst into flames. if i get hungry i can heat myself a t.v. dinner on them. so.....s.s. for metal and tubes for everything else. i don't play metal and i fear tech. i only own two pedals and i rarely use them. i think they both are here to stay and each have thier uses. i would love someone to come up with a s.s. amp that totaly reacts like a tube amp (think jtm45 or a fender deluxe, no modeling crap)the overdrive and compression when hit hard. i would be the first to buy one but it will have to fit those characteristics. amp companies take note.

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I was just messing around.

 

I build tube amps as a hobby - would be a nice business venture too.

 

However, I have to disagree with Dem00n on the tube for clean sounds. I used a SS amp for years when I played in an acoustic jazz band. I used a Fender M80 combo and loved it - only used it for the cleans.

Forgot about the Jazz tones, yeah i have to correct my self. I had a chance to play roland cube 30x with my ES-125T, it was very very nice.

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I was just messing around.

 

I build tube amps as a hobby - would be a nice business venture too.

 

However, I have to disagree with Dem00n on the tube for clean sounds. I used a SS amp for years when I played in an acoustic jazz band. I used a Fender M80 combo and loved it - only used it for the cleans.

 

I figured as much, as soon as I read the old technology part I remembered the redundancy computer story I wanted to include with my inital post. I honestly think tubes are the only old technology still used for audiophiles/musicians today, I could see some musicians still be using some form of tape delay but that would probably be far and few between.

 

i love tube amps they help me stay warm in the winter time. i love the smell of those glass bottles heating the dust and lint on them until they almost burst into flames. if i get hungry i can heat myself a t.v. dinner on them. so.....s.s. for metal and tubes for everything else. i don't play metal and i fear tech. i only own two pedals and i rarely use them. i think they both are here to stay and each have thier uses. i would love someone to come up with a s.s. amp that totaly reacts like a tube amp (think jtm45 or a fender deluxe, no modeling crap)the overdrive and compression when hit hard. i would be the first to buy one but it will have to fit those characteristics. amp companies take note.

 

Love it, great post, made me chuckle and thats always great! I am with you too I enjoy the smell of my amp after its been on for a couple hours. I feel you may be onto something with the modeling amps too, most cheaper solid state amps (not the $60 practice ones) but like the $300-500 mid range guys are all a modelling amp of some kind as if the amp HAS to be a modeller. Sure these guys are catering to the guys/gals just getting into playing who are not concerned with tone but just want a flexible amp to play all there fave songs on, which is more then acceptable because I am willing to bet this is the best crowd to make money off of. I dont know how many ads I have seen on craigslist where the guy went out and spent $1000 on a decent Epi Les Paul and some kinda little amp and has it listed for dirt cheap because they bought it two years ago and havent touched it in a year and a half. But the perfect marketing ploy is to suck in all the impulse buyers!

 

Edit: Forgot to mention I really enjoy some S.S. amps for clean signal use, I find its a bit easier to get a bright crisp sound out of them with relative ease, getting the same sound out of the Haze is tricky have to fiddle with the knobs a bunch to either dial out bass or dial in mids/highs. Since I mentioned that has anyone else noticed that tube amps seem to react WAY more to adjustments on your volume and tone knobs on the guitar itself, on my Mustang III the tone did nothing and the volume wouldn't do anything till you cut it completely and the pickups would just go silent. On my haze adjusting the volume drastically changes the gain/distortion and the tone will darken the sound when rolled off.

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People should play what they want and not give a flying **** what other people think

 

Perfect world right there :P But I agree so much, I got into a metal debate on Ultimate Guitar one time about this they were saying you HAD to use tube to be successful, and I trolled them with the fact that Pantera used Randall solid state amps for all there albums and it wasnt till Damageplan that Dime went over to the Krank amps. In blunt terms Fred you are right its all on personal preference, I never give a crap what I play personally nor will I ever judge anyone for what they play. I never could never figure out why it was such a big deal *shrug*

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i was very lucky to grow up around my uncle, who back in the 50s and 60s had a radio and tv repair business. he was THE tube tech guru. when i first started playing guitar he took me to see a good friend of his who had a vintage purest dream of guitars and amps from back in the day. i knew right then that my little pathetic s.s. amp and crap guitar was just the first step. the sounds that came from that vintage equipment would forever be a part of my soul. those guys are gone now but what they tought me will always shape the way i play and the equipment i own. my uncle said to me after the visit "solid state is nice but nothing beats the sound of a good tube amp". god bless them.

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Lucas, you forgot to add that in 1885, Thomas Edison said,

 

" You can have any color tube, as long as it's black. "

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vh-Vi-Ue0So

 

And that is my retaliation!!!

 

No problem Demon, I mostly played acoustic before this and well learning the stuff was easy but somethings just don't translate the same from acoustic to electric, then you get fancy work like tapping and legato that I never really bothered with. For some reason I never really bothered playing metal when I had my M.I.M strat it was mostly classic rock as I have always been more of a fan of rock then the metal. That slayer riff was like my second or third attempt at it and was PRETTY bad. I am trying to get away from just learning songs that I like hearing and moving towards actually learning to fully use scales and modes to my advantage, its just a shame it took me this long to think that way, I am sure some lessons somewhere along the way would have gone miles too :P

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No problem Demon, I mostly played acoustic before this and well learning the stuff was easy but somethings just don't translate the same from acoustic to electric, then you get fancy work like tapping and legato that I never really bothered with. For some reason I never really bothered playing metal when I had my M.I.M strat it was mostly classic rock as I have always been more of a fan of rock then the metal. That slayer riff was like my second or third attempt at it and was PRETTY bad. I am trying to get away from just learning songs that I like hearing and moving towards actually learning to fully use scales and modes to my advantage, its just a shame it took me this long to think that way, I am sure some lessons somewhere along the way would have gone miles too :P

 

That's OK, though--just keep working on it. The most important advice I can give you is that getting the timing right is infinitely more important than getting the notes right. If you flub a note, you flub a note, but if you screw up the timing it's going to hurt. Because of that, it's a good idea to practice riffs against a metronome--and, if need be, to start ridiculously slow and to build up in speed.

 

http://www.metronomeonline.com/

 

Just keep trying--practice will only make you better. [thumbup]

 

And...um...back on topic: I have never owned a tube amp. I have played through tube amps (of several varieties--my favorites have been the Carvin X100B, the Marshall JCM 800, a big Music Man tube amp and the Mesa Dual Rectifier Solo head, but I've played through more than that) and solid state amps and, to me, at least, the tube amps do seem to carry more presence.

 

Also, a Boss DS-1 can get you a pretty convincing Slayer tone.

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All it comes down to in the long run is tone and that mainly comes from the hands.Some people sound great no matter what they go through but some will still sound like garbage through a $50,000 Dumble OD Special.I own tube,solid state and hybrid amps and I can get a satisfactory tone from all of them.I bet most people couldn't tell the difference in a blindfold test in a good setup of all 3 types which is which.With the ever expanding advances with today's electronics the line between S/S and tube and hybrid is becoming finer and finer.There are some very convincing S/S amps that have amazingly tubelike properties like the early '80s Traynor TS amp series and my Vox AD 120 VTH sounds so tubelike that it's uncanny how much I can get it to sound like my JCM 800s or even n AC 30.There is no such thing as better-B.B. King has been getting some of the smoothest tones known to man with Solid state amps for decades yet I have yet to hear anyone accuse him of having poor tone.Some amps for whatever reasons may be better suited to some players moreso than others but in the end it boils down to what you're comfortable and satisfied with.

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I think this is just one of those things that, like a guitar, it is whats best for you. I know personally, I cant afford a nice tube amp. So I have a solid state that gets the job done. We cant all afford nice guitars, but we all have one that gets it done.

 

Whats good for one person, may not be the same for another. Its like anything else in life.

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I have, and have had, both.

 

Honestly, I don't care one way or another.

 

I'm about to retrieve an old black 60s or 70s Bassman head from my baby bro loaned to him some 20 years ago and hope that the cab is there somewhere - but ... for bass.

 

Anyway, I've seen it go from guys getting what was loud and relatively reliable that they could afford to the arguments not just over tubes vs. ss but also this speaker or that...

 

I dunno. I can say that the old tube radio transmitters paired with a good tube radio gave nice sound. I wonder about listening to music over various sorts of equipment that is chosen for max capacity of digital tunes or off computer speakers...

 

That said... I think you can get the sound to the audience that you think you're trying to get to the audience with a number of rigs. For me, doing mostly solo stuff, it really doesn't make that much difference to me. I've used different guitars on a gig like that using the same amp and had one referred to as sounding cleaner... I dunno.

 

m

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You guys have MUCH more experience with this stuff than I, but I do have an opinion. All I really know is based on the equipment that I own and the music I play. I own a Fender Princeton Chorus SS amp and a Mesa Express 5:50 tube amp. I've played Blues Rock most of my life, but in the last ten years have started playing jazz. I love my Fender for clean jazz tones played with humbuckers, and I love the creamy overdriven tones from tubes and single coils. I love what tubes do with single coil pups.

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Ziggy...

 

Hey, no argument on your choices. I really wish I had my old DR back, etc., etc.

 

But as an old guy who literally has done live music over tube-transmitter radio... That was a lot warmer sound too. The "radio voice" was almost created by it.

 

Yet... I keep coming back to the question of what audiences hear. Those old live radio mikes, etc., brought a warm sound that crystal and tube radios turned into signals folks could hear through earphones, good and cheap speakers... Nowadays... Naaa. Even boosting your high quality TV's bass and mids, it ain't gonna happen.

 

Don't get me wrong, I have certain criteria I prefer for my guitars' sounds - but I think "we" also need to think more of what the listener is hearing and whether that's what we want them to hear.

 

m

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You guys have MUCH more experience with this stuff than I, but I do have an opinion. All I really know is based on the equipment that I own and the music I play. I own a Fender Princeton Chorus SS amp and a Mesa Express 5:50 tube amp. I've played Blues Rock most of my life, but in the last ten years have started playing jazz. I love my Fender for clean jazz tones played with humbuckers, and I love the creamy overdriven tones from tubes and single coils. I love what tubes do with single coil pups.

 

I think Fenders are pretty unrivaled for cleans out of all the "mass produced" amp I am sure there are probably expensive boutique ones that are better, but why pay more for something you can get for less.

 

I am really surprised at the lack of bias between people I really think this is the only musical forum where nobody is really sided against something [thumbup]

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My Hughes & Kettner Matrix 100 combo is great. Four channels. Effects. I recently ran it though a Marshall 1960 cab. It was great. My son videoed me recently practicing at home without me knowing. It was a nice sound. I've bought a tonebone aby box now so I can run it alongside my Grainger hammerhead. It should be good. I'll post a video of it one day.

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