Considering a return to tubes...

Discussion in 'Amplifiers' started by Aahzz, Jul 18, 2021.

  1. Aahzz

    Aahzz Bluebeard Member

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    *sigh* such is life.

    I adore my Helix LT. So many tones, and they sound so good. It records FANTASTICALLY well.

    That said, we auditioned a new lead player tonight. He had a Bugera head, so not top of the line, but tubes. What I've noticed is that every time I play with another guitarist using a tube amp, the Helix just doesn't cut. I've gone direct, I've used a Headrush FRFR, and most recently, have gone into the power amp in on a Katana MKII. The Katana MKII comes closest, but whatever tones I dial in, when put next to an amp with actual tubes, just seems to fade into the background. Playing with another guitarist using a modeler? Works fine. Put it next to tubes? Just doesn't sit as well in the mix.

    I'm hoping the guy from today comes back - we all liked each other, but it's a bit of a drive for him. If he does, I'll probably try some more tweaks before selling the LT to finance a replacement...but something grab and go with tubes like a DSL 40CR is starting to look like a really good option...especially since I have Native for recording.
     
  2. CandidPicker

    CandidPicker Energized

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    Gonna suggest a Mr. Obvious...try bumping up your mids in certain areas to cut through the mix.

    I've got Fractal's FM3 & FC12 Foot Controller, and the computer OS software makes tweaking a breeze. That being said, HUGE learning curve. Takes 2 or 3 weeks to find what you like, and build your own presets/scenes. There are 2 front-runner modeling camps these days, Kemper and Fractal. Either will get you there, just takes the desire to learn, spend some time with, and finding time in your schedule.

    Fractal's amp library produces realistic tones (I prefer a 1987X Marshall and Pre-Rola 4x12 Greenback cab for 2 of 3 current presets). And there's a lot to choose from.

    If you need some encouragement, visit YT and check out Leon Todd's G66 channel. Here's something to get you started...

     
    #2 CandidPicker, Jul 18, 2021
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2021
  3. dmatthews

    dmatthews Dave's not here...

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    I bet you're not playing through a PA. That would even the playing field (if you both were).
    So he's getting that amp in the room feel and you are not.
    Or maybe you need a bit of mid boost.
     
  4. CandidPicker

    CandidPicker Energized

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    I'd agree that a mid boost might help cutting through the mix. Not sure why else @Aahzz isn't putting forth enough to be heard. FRFRs on speaker stands rather than the floor? That might help solve this.

    It'll also save cash before you consider selling your Helix. My stereo HR FRFR108s own speaker stands produce enough volume even at lower FM3 levels. I think I've got my FM3 volume set at 8:30 from 7 o'clock OFF.
     
  5. AP515

    AP515 Mostly Normal

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    Return to tubes? I never left, but I'm old school.
     
  6. CandidPicker

    CandidPicker Energized

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    Kind of like saying: No questions or questions. You can stick to one, but darned if there isn't what you think.
     
  7. DISTORT6

    DISTORT6 NJ Devil

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  8. RickP

    RickP Established 1960, Still Not Dead

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    As I recently commented on the Fractal Audio Forum, most pro guitarists making today’s music are using tube amplifiers. So it’s pointless to deride it as old tech when tube amps are making the hits today. A small, and growing, group of pros are using modelers, though as many for the effects as for the amps so far, but it’s the coming technology and may one day become the dominant pro choice. I think that’s likely, but your guess is as good as mine when that’ll be!

    I had a really long reply here, but deleted it. The point is simply this: a real tube amp, especially a quality one, has the goods for live, full band mixes. In my experience, a very few modelers can make that claim and back it up. The rest leave you feeling like you’re wearing “The Emperor's New Clothes” when in a big, full band environment.

    YM, of course, MV.
     
  9. Aahzz

    Aahzz Bluebeard Member

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    Thanks for the replies so far, all :).

    I am playing through a full PA. I have plenty of mids, and volume isn't an issue, it's more the way the tonal quality is so...polished. Processed, produced, perfect - I miss some of those jagged edges you don't necessarily care for when playing alone, but just sit right in a full band mix.
     
  10. Drew

    Drew New Member

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    My Helix as trash compared to a tube amp. So, I went back to tubes and sold the Helix.
     
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  11. Em7

    Em7 deus ex machina

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    The problem with most modeler + solid-state setups is that they do not feel the same as a tube amp, nor do they change operating class under heavy load like a tube amp. A tube amp is a very primitive thing and how we use them is not how they were originally designed to be used. I mentioned this reality in the HX thread. A tube amp is poorly damped compared to a solid-state amp. What this means in layman's terms is that a speaker being a reactive magnetic transducer not only consumes an electrical signal that energizes the voice coil and creates a magnetic field that either attracts or repels of the magnetic field created by the permanent magnet on the back of the speaker, it is also generates an electrical signal as the turns of wire in the voice cut magnetic lines of force created by the permanent magnet. This signal is known as back EMF. Most solid-state amps are highly damped, which means that the generated signal does not interact with the power stage. That is not true with tube amps. Techniques such as global negative feedback were created to improve a tube power amp damping factor, but it pales in comparison to that of a normal solid-state amp. What happens is that this signal is fed back through the output transformer into the power tubes where it combines with signal coming from the phase inverter, causing something known as voltage overshoot to occur. The result is that there are temporary increases in power amp power and well as power amp distortion artifacts based on a guitarist's touch, making the amp feel like it is alive or breathing. That is why tube amps are more sensitive to the actual loud speaker(s) employed in one's rig. It is also the reason why tube amps sound louder than solid-state amps of the same power rating (tube amps are stated in RMS wattage, not maximum achievable wattage). Voltage overshoot causes a tube power amp to change operating classes in a musical way. Pat Quilter does a very good job of demonstrating the phenomenon in the video linked below. When the amp is connected to dummy load that is purely resistive and the amp goes up to clipping, one can see the crossover notch in the middle of the waveform form. That is the amp switching from class AB to class B. A tube amp circuit is capable of producing more power in class B than class AB, but the cost is increased distortion. As the amplitude of the input signal increased on a purely resistive load like a dummy load, the signal becomes more distorted, but the distorted waveform is fairly predictable. However, when Pat switches over to using a loud speaker, which is a reactive magnetic transducer, interesting things happen. That is the result of back EMF. I have not read the patent, but Quilter has figured out how to make a Class D solid-state power react to a speaker much in the same way as a tube power amp.



    As an aside, I have mentioned that impedance is not a synonym for resistance in other threads. Resistance is the opposition of current flow in a DC circuit. Impedance is the opposition to current flow in an AC circuit. Impedance is frequency dependent because reactive loads contain inductive and capacitive components. The formula for calculating impedance is impedance (Z) = square-root(R^2 + (Xl - Xc)^2), where R = resistance, Xl = inductive reactance, Xc = capacitive reactance, and the symbol "^" denotes raised to the power of. Xl and Xc are both frequency dependent; therefore, they change with respect to frequency.
     
    #11 Em7, Jul 18, 2021
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2021
  12. CandidPicker

    CandidPicker Energized

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    No way. But thanks for the noisy "heads-up", Miss Elephant. o_O
     
    #12 CandidPicker, Jul 18, 2021
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2021
  13. DISTORT6

    DISTORT6 NJ Devil

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    From my experience, being in a band with 2 guitarists, playing live, using the same “type” of amp just works. Mixing them threw the balance of the sound way off.
    I’m all for good tone and have used everything from plugins and modelers to full blown 100w tube amps. They both have their pluses and minuses. Just not together, as Ahazz is pointing out in his post. I’m pretty damn sure that if the auditioning guitarist was using a HelixLT, there wouldn’t have been any issues.
    Side by side - from MY experience - a tube amp has always exposed a modelers weaknesses.
     
  14. CandidPicker

    CandidPicker Energized

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    That I can agree with. But let's not point out weaknesses not related to our discussion. Differences? Let's not get too crazy.

    It may be possible that @Aahzz can add mids or put his FRFRs up on speaker stands to level the playing field with his other guitarist's tube amp. We've not seen any results of that yet, so I reserve judgment regards comparing tube amps to the Helix.
     
  15. DreamTheaterRules

    DreamTheaterRules Invisible Member (TWSS)

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    uh… if it’s a comparison of the two, what strengths or weaknesses would not be related to our conversation?
     
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  16. Fro

    Fro New Member

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    The guitar player at church plays through a Helix. He sounds good just noodling by himself before church starts but like you he cannot be heard through the mix while they're playing.
    He does have a couple of presets he switches to every now and then where he cuts through and can be heard just fine, but most of the time the preset he's playing through cannot be heard through the mix.
    I suspect he tweaked his normal preset at home alone and the other presets he tweaked with the band onstage.
    He's up there with an acoustic player, a bass player, a drummer and a keyboard player.
     
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  17. dmatthews

    dmatthews Dave's not here...

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    Not trying to sell anybody anything, but I've never gotten lost in the mix with my Kemper. Yes I'm a lowly rhythm player, and the lead player is using tubes.
    Whether I've used a DXR10, XiTone MBritt, Bose L1 MII, or now the Kabinets I'm always heard well, often to the point of needing to turn it down a bit.
    With the Kabinets I get the AITR thing back as an added bonus.
    So... I have not experienced this discrepancy.
    I hope you find the answer.
     
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  18. dmatthews

    dmatthews Dave's not here...

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    One other thing...
    I think it's more about dialing in what works as opposed to what you might want to hear. Two guitarists occupying the same sonic space is going to cause issues.
     
  19. Herr Squid

    Herr Squid I was severely impressed

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    The Stuff That Moves The Air makes all the difference in the world. As Em7 points out above, there's no comparison between the way your Helix/PA setup is putting sound into the room and the way that Bugera head is putting sound into the room (Other Guitar Player is using a guitar cab, right?). The tube power amp/guitar cab is going to be a complete bully, and the PA speakers are going to be comparatively polite and constrained. The fact that his preamp is tube-based and your preamp is digital is going to matter... not very much really.

    So if you've got your old tube amp and play with this other person again, try this: Run a feed from the Helix into your tube amp, preferably into the effects return. If it allows you, turn off any cab or power amp modeling in the Helix. Can you compete with the Bugera that way? If so, victory can probably be achieved by running: Helix -> tube power amp -> guitar speaker cab. Best of all worlds if you can dial it in to your liking (aside from schlepping the extra stone-age stuff again...).
     
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  20. DISTORT6

    DISTORT6 NJ Devil

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    I have hade similar scenarios as Ahazz.
    Just giving my real world results on the SAME issue.
    We sounded best with either tube amps or modelers at the same time.
    If we tried to mix the two, one was exposed and couldn’t be tweaked to match the other.
     
    #20 DISTORT6, Jul 18, 2021
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2021

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