Tube amps...why?

Discussion in 'Amplifiers' started by Boogie, Jul 6, 2019.

  1. Bill SAS 513

    Bill SAS 513 Just another old guy in a T-shirt

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    Great write-up, Les...And I will second the notion that they just sound better (kinda fuller, to my ear, anyway.)
    It's definitely a preference thing, so play 'em all, and enjoy whatever you want to enjoy.
     
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  2. Boogie

    Boogie Zombie Two, DFZ

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    Bumper sticker. Want one when they’re printed. Truth of truths.
     
  3. Mozzi

    Mozzi https://imgur.com/user/BAMozzy/posts

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    Do you know if there is any difference in the materials and build of a Solid State amp? Things that are purposefully 'cheap' to keep the cost low to fut into that gap in the market place. Is it like the 'ceramic' magnets in PU's - used in very cheap build guitars and as such, got a reputation for being 'bad' but the reality is that they were used in 'cheap' Pick-ups on Cheap guitars and therefore sound bad - even the AlNiCo magnets would sound bad if your swapped out the ceramic.

    The point I am making though is that are Solid State amps built cheaply to sit at that budget price point rather than built to be the best they can but would put the price up into 'valve' territory? I can understand why Valve amps cost more in general because the cost of Valves themselves aren't cheap let alone having to mount them and build in heat resistance as well as consider the ventilation, size (Valves are bigger), power etc. I just wonder whether they could build a solid state amp for around the 'same' cost that could give the same feel, the same sound, the same reaction etc but don't because the target market wouldn't pay the same money for a Solid State amp.

    I know the Kemper is relatively expensive but that also can be 'every' amp - at least a model of every amp but I wonder if the technology exists to build a Solid State amp that can not only sound the same but also deliver the feel, also react the same too. So much so that even you yourself would not be able to tell the difference regardless of how you play to try and see if it reacts and/or feels any different at all, even any little nuances you are listening out for.

    I certainly do not have the experience or ear to be able to tell the difference - even if I was to use a model of my Valve amps. The only way I may tell is the sound at low volume where I the Valve amps would not sound quite the same as they do when played loud. That's perhaps what I perceive to be the tell anyway. I don't own a Kemper myself but in the demo's I have seen its incredibly difficult for experienced musicians to tell the difference in a blind test, even trying to feel how they react to playing dynamically, rolling back the volume until the amp is on the verge of break-up and trying to see if the Kemper will play clean with softer playing and crunch up when you dig in a bit.

    I am not that experienced myself certainly nowhere near as experienced as yourself and with the ear you have but it seems that we are on the verge of digital technology being as good as 'valve'. Maybe they aren't quite there for yourself with your experience and ear, but they certainly seem 'good enough' for an increasing number of artists to use - not just live for convenience and cost for transporting gear - but in the studio, in the home etc too. I know that some famous Guitar piece was recorded going through a Roland cube in the studio (I can't remember which now but I remember hearing that from a producer - it wasn't a big brand valve amp head into a big cabinet with great well known speaker. Again an example of an artist using whatever fits the sound they want/need. Digital allows that artist to take that sound on the road, as well as all the other sounds that were recorded on a variety of different amps, cabs, mics that are just a stomp away - go from that Roland to a Mesa Boogie Mk 5, to a Fender Bassman, to a Matchless etc etc all without having to carry all those Amps. In the studio or home, you can create a rig for a specific song, even different rigs for different parts of the song and then take all those rigs as patches, with all the settings and run it through a PA and have your exact sound. Only really needing an Expression pedal or two and a control stomp box to switch between patches and to do any Wah or whatever you want your expression pedals to do.

    Again, not saying that digital is as good or even better than using a Valve amp. I do think though that the digital technology that can simulate a valve amp into whatever cab with whatever mic is 'good enough' for a LOT of professional musicians and offers a lot more versatility. Maybe its that 'versatility' and ease that offsets the difference between playing through a Valve amp, the feel, the way it reacts and difference in sound. Boss, with their GT1000 and the AIRD (Augmented Impulse Response Dynamics) technology is supposed to close that gap, supposed to make it feel much more like playing through a Valve amp with the same dynamic response you expect. I personally haven't tried one BUT if it works as its supposed to, then maybe Digital could actually be much more difficult for even you to tell. If not this generation, the next.
     
  4. DreamTheaterRules

    DreamTheaterRules There will never be another

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    It has been documented before, that a high end SS guitar amp costs as much, or very close to as much, to build as a high end tube amp. I'm not talking the brands of tube amps that charge more for a name, but the ones that are really great but not super expensive. Also not talking about the extreme thngs like MM transformers that are double and triple the price of other high end transformers. The article written by an amp designer said for him to build a high end 2-3 channel 100 watt SS amp it would retail around $2K just like his similar tube amp. And that is why there are none, or at least very few. Because the market will not pay that much for an SS amp.

    Several amp designers have even done high end hybrids (both ways: SS pre/ tube power and Tube pre/SS power) for clients and artists who wanted them and said even hybrid designs will run into the same price as all tube IF done the best way possible. So, like Mozzi said, most SS amps are "budget" on purpose, not because SS is cheaper to build, but because nobody will pay high end prices for SS so they design to a price point and that price point is usually "cheap." I paid $89 for an Epi Valve Jr, so tubes can be done cheaply as well.

    There is some great SS stuff around, but most of it sold in such limited quantity that finding it used is tough. In fact, some of the high end SS designers went the modular or rack route because they knew they couldn't sell enough full amps to sustain the business... so they'd design a pre-amp, then maybe an amp later but focus on the pre-amp. Still most either didn't last long or were small specialty shops that sold low volume units.
     
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  5. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    There’s a lot to unpack here, but in general I’d agree that digital is fine for most players who aren’t cursed with having to sit in front of studio monitors all day like me.

    And maybe they’re fine for others stuck in my profession, too.

    Everyone’s got their own opinions, and there isn’t a “best ears” contest out there.
     
  6. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    Hey! I paid $299 for one when they came out! Where’d you get an $89 deal?

    Yes, tubes can be done cheaply overseas, something that also helps explain the bargain price of the MT15, so comparing prices for overseas manufacture isn’t an apples to apples comparison vis a vis US or UK amp builds.

    And remember, the Valve Jr wasn’t heavy on features or controls.

    I don’t claim to know what PRS paid for premium Heyboer and Cinemag transformers that were made for their US amps, but both of those companies make premium stuff.

    Certainly transistor gear can be made to a very high standard; I used to run a solid state Krell power amp for my studio monitors before the day of powered monitors, and I’m pretty sure I paid 4 grand in 1990s dollars for it. The thing weighed way more than any of my tube gear, too.

    But I wouldn’t want to use it as a guitar amp. Horses for courses, as they say.
     
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  7. CandidPicker

    CandidPicker Open-Ears / Zippered Lips

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    Perhaps not. Yet, I think we're all just folks sitting behind keyboards tapping on them trying to either 1) make music, or 2) write something worthwhile. If that makes us all like Schrodinger's cat, yes, I (think) I get the joke.
     
  8. DreamTheaterRules

    DreamTheaterRules There will never be another

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    Oh man... you had me, right up until some dudes cat. Sorry bro, not a cat person. :(
     
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  9. Wiebuschk

    Wiebuschk New Member

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    Hey I once owned a JC120 in the 80s and was damn proud to jangle on it. Paul Thorn's guitarist, Bill Hinds is is one of the finest I have ever seen. He has mastered the modeling amp. There is no way he could sounds so good at low volume listening rooms as he does on high powered amps. Maybe through a miced Fargen Microplex or something. I don't know what he plays through but it is very organic out front.
     
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  10. Mozzi

    Mozzi https://imgur.com/user/BAMozzy/posts

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    After saying about the digital vs valve, costs and performance, Fender bring out a Digital versions of their Deluxe and Twin Reverb. Costs are different in this case as is the weight of each combo but I still found the video of these amps compared to the valve versions very interesting.

    I can hear a difference but I am not 100% convinced that some of that difference isn't down to Mic placements. Its not easy to see exactly how the Mics are placed but they don't look to be in the exact same spot too me.



    I am certainly not going to say that Digital has finally caught up and can not only match the Valve amp on sound and feel, but actually beat it on weight, price and versatility making it the 'better' choice for everyone as I would still expect that some would still say the sound and feel is still not quite there yet - not enough anyway to get rid of their Valves and swap to digital.

    I just found this interesting and thought it was worth sharing. This is a great comparison in my mind because both are made by Fender and the 'Tonemaster' version is meant to be the 'same' as its Valve version. Both are built at least to look the same too. I would find it very interesting too see someone with a LOT of experience and a great ear to blind test these and see if they can accurately determine which is which on sound and feel. Until it becomes a 50:50 guess, then people will still look down on Digital options.
     
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  11. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    Why do we play music in the first place?

    Parlor tone contests aren’t the point of playing music. Creating an experience is the point, and the question is how one chooses to do that. I’ve always felt that giving an audience my best shot created a better artistic experience for the audience (or the person listening to a recording), and I’m sure most here feel that way.

    It’s not difficult to imagine a player saying, “The best way for me to create an experience and communicate with an audience is with a modeler.” That’s an artistic choice, and a perfectly valid one regardless of the other factors leading to that choice.

    Other players might say that the best way for them to create that experience and communicate with their audience is with a tube amp. Again, it’s an artistic choice, and it’s pointless to argue about artistic choices.

    “They can’t tell the difference,” is not an artistic choice. It’s a convenience choice, a “what can I get away with” choice. It becomes an artistic choice only if the player adds, “and it’s how I do my best work.”

    I don’t choose a guitar to have something cute to put on my wall. I choose it to express my best effort artistically. A zillion personal preferences may factor into that, including inspiring myself and the audience with something beautiful, but the bottom line still needs to be how I express music.

    I’m guessing this is why most of us who call ourselves musicians play the instruments we play. Same with amps.

    Granted, some of us are more passionate about our artistic choices, and come off as strident, but since a few here have devoted their lives to music and artistry, the passion is the why and how of it. It’s why some of us are endlessly picky about the little details, as we should be if we aren’t hacks. (I’m not implying that modeler users are hacks; I’m saying musicians who don’t sweat the details regardless of their tube vs modeler amp choices might be in the wrong business. PS, I realize maybe 90-95% of us aren’t in the music business at all, which is fine, please ignore this post. ;))

    That doesn’t mean someone else’s artistic choices are wrong. Different is perfectly fine. And other limitations, such as budget and portability may make “highest and best outcome” more difficult, if not impossible. But even then, there’s a ‘best outcome’ goal, and no need to make excuses. Just my ‘art opinion’, YMMV.
     
    #71 LSchefman, Jul 18, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2019
  12. Mozzi

    Mozzi https://imgur.com/user/BAMozzy/posts

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    @LSchefman I completely understand. However I am sure you can see the benefits of a modeller IF and when they actually deliver the exact same sound and feel. Its not stopping you (or anyone) from doing their best work and all I see is it opening up far more options to enable the musician to do their best work without some of the drawbacks with owning valve amps - such as weight, heat, cost etc. If all you need is one amp head, something small and relatively lightweight with all the connections you need, something that can match a 100w (or more) headroom and still be played at bedroom level or with headphones, something you can easily carry anywhere, from bedroom, to rehearsal, to studio, to hotel, to back stage, to live gig with ease, Something that can hold every amp, cab/speaker, mic etc inside, something that as a highly skilled musician with an incredible ear cannot tell the difference in sound or feel isn't that a good thing?

    Whether its a 'model' of a valve amp or not, if you cannot tell the difference regardless is that a 'bad' thing? If it has no impact on your job as a musician to do the work you do because its not affecting the feel or sound then what's the problem? Surely its much more enabling to a musician to have that convenience and access to far more Amps, Cabs, mics. Surely its more inspiring for that reason as well as the fact they can literally take the Amp anywhere and plug in. You don't have to go to the studio to play on the Valve amp and can even play on the tour bus or hotels. Its also saving on the storage, having 30+amp heads a variety of cabs and mics as well as mic holders take up a lot of room that can be used to have a few more guitars - and all the money you can save by not having to replace and bias tubes, not having to spend hundreds (if not thousands) on a new Amp Head, not having to lug heavy amps around (if you are touring).

    Your point about the musician giving his best can apply to digital Amps too - You can use multiple amps, cabs and mics in a studio to make the track but on tour, you probably have to use one amp and probably the Amp you are endorsed by - but you could take all your amps, cabs and mics - no need to ensure the Mic is set 'just right' and isolated to cut out any additional room noise. Probably have to stick the amp on a fixed setting for the whole gig and maybe can only switch channels but otherwise limited.

    I do not see why a digital amp cannot be a valid tool to allow a musical artist to produce their best work - it is a tool just like a Valve amp is and if a Digital amp can deliver the exact same feel and sound to the point where the artist cannot tell the difference at all leaving them free to fully express their creative musical voice rather than feel or hear that something isn't quite right that has an impact on their playing. Does it matter whether the Amp is Solid state or valve - IF everything is the same?

    I can agree with you up to a point. Maybe Digital isn't quite there yet where you, someone far more experienced and with a much keener ear than myself, can feel and hear the difference and that difference, however small, is a valid argument for picking valves - that difference matters enough to you, the way the guitar feels and the way the amp reacts and sounds - that's not just an artistic choice but a Valid argument as to why you prefer a valve amp, that difference can be quantified and whilst there is a 'difference', that can also be an Artistic choice too - prefer the way an amp sounds or feels whether that's a digital or Valve amp.

    However, if there ever comes a time when you cannot tell the difference at all, not in the way it sounds, feels or reacts, then it can't be an artistic choice - there is no difference to say one sounds better, one feels better to play through, one reacts differently. Its not having any impact on the musician to do their best, to express themselves and have their voice, their sound. Not impacting on the way the instrument feels and reacts because al of those things are the same. They can take that sound anywhere easily - even as hand luggage on a Plane because its small and light enough to do so. It takes away a lot of the worry, the concern and adds to the flexibility and variety of rigs they can have.

    I am a 'musician' too and one that has always said 'it must be valve', I would welcome the day that I can have a small, lightweight amp head that can give me a massive range of Valve amps, as well as the variety of cabs, speakers and mics, so I can expand my Amp collection as well as eliminate the need to carry a Heavy Marshall JVM410c 2x12 without feeling like I am compromising on tone or feel, not feeling that something isn't quite right and the amp isn't reacting quite the same, then I welcome that day. I wouldn't need a cockpit like Tim Pierce or have to go to a studio to try 30+ amps to find the right one for the Job. If you, your client and your audience cannot tell, even if they can name the Amp of the digital model you used, then I struggle to see what the issue is. Surely it doesn't matter if the guitarist cannot tell or feel the difference and the end results are identical
     
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  13. CandidPicker

    CandidPicker Open-Ears / Zippered Lips

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    It's OK. You'll note we're not sitting 'round the poker table tossing chips into the pot, playing out our hands, hoping to win. That would be the world just messin' with us. My reality is sitting at the computer, logging in, and tapping on the keyboard. But hey, who isn't going to try to tell you otherwise? Schrodinger's cat was merely a metaphor for the first part of my illustration for playing keyboards or typing on a keyboard. Don't forget about moving that mouse around...o_O
     
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  14. DreamTheaterRules

    DreamTheaterRules There will never be another

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    Well that should be ok then, as I don't think I'm allergic to metaphorical cats. :)
     
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  15. CandidPicker

    CandidPicker Open-Ears / Zippered Lips

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    Good, but don't limit yourself to using a computer and being online. Countless home users and business execs use computers and mobile devices daily, but seldom realize that it's what they share online that often becomes fodder for public discussion and news reporting. It's because some folks take away from their online discussions and speak about it IRL, then that becomes mainstream. Just like opinions sometimes become believable until they're verified for factual accuracy. Some views are blatantly "fake," while others retain a modest amount of truth.

    Sometimes I feel like an older father who is working in his backroom toward paying his bills, and my imaginary toddler son holding his teddy bear sees me anguishing over my budget for this and next month. The boy stands in the doorway, and I look toward him, seeing him outlined in the light from the outer room. The boy nervously looks worried as well. Then, I outstretch my arms, the boy comes running up to me, and we hug. Just as any loving father would do for his child.

    Except, I am single, was never married, and have no children. Although my thought was purely imaginary, this represents how I might view countless other families who may be in the same position, working on their computers, and facing financial troubles just like every other person who is trying to make ends meet.

    We're not poker players just "Sittin' In," we're real people that recognize the world is messin' with us daily, and we need to see things as they are, not as the world supposedly represents itself in the newspapers or subsequent media.
     
  16. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    I thought I made it clear in my post that choosing a modeler can be a perfectly valid, professional artistic decision. Choosing a tube amp isn’t a ‘better’ decision, because what works for one artist isn’t what works for another one.

    I hope I’m clear on this: what works for me may not work for someone else. I understand that, and I hope everyone else does, too.

    When I talk about artistic decisions in conjunction with tube amps, I’m talking only about my own artistic decisions. Everyone else, born or unborn, alive or zombies, has the right and obligation to make their own artistic decisions, Mine may not be valid for them. Especially zombies, because their ears tend to fall off.

    So a modeler on the market today, that may not perfectly replicate a tube amp, can still be a valid artistic choice.

    The only things that bug me are when people assert things like “cannot hear the difference.” I’m sitting there with a lousy iPad listening to a tiny pair of ‘speakers’ and I can hear the difference when someone is asserting that I can’t? That it sounds the same, but maybe a different set of tubes? Come on, that’s a sales pitch.

    One other thing’s out there that i also disagree with: the idea that technological change is necessarily an improvement.

    I remember when the art world was first into having acrylic paints replace oils. They dried fast, they had vibrant colors, etc. At some point after time passed folks realized that acrylic wasn’t necessarily better in any way than the oils that had been used for more than a millennium. It was...different.

    So today, artists work in a variety of media. Nothing wrong with that!

    If we think about an amplifier as a big part of the media through which we create electric guitar musical art, then it makes fine sense that there will be people working in a variety of media.

    Consider me the guy working in oil paints. Oils are a pain. They take forever to dry, they’re perishable once the colors are mixed, and you have to use solvents to clean up after you’re done painting. Acrylics are fast and easy, and the brushes clean up with plain water.

    But oil paints have an interesting way they reflect light, almost a luminous quality when done well.

    What’s better? Neither. It depends on the painter’s intentions, i.e., what the painter wants you to see.
     
  17. DreamTheaterRules

    DreamTheaterRules There will never be another

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    I feel... a bit confused... and...
     
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  18. CandidPicker

    CandidPicker Open-Ears / Zippered Lips

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    Although I didn't view the YT video, your confusion is understandable. Sometimes worldly wisdom is mere foolishness, and not the best example for one to believe. While this sounds like pontificating, it is not. If one falls for worldly wisdom, they're likely also to suffer the consequences of their errors.

    My point is, if one is working online, they should not be thinking about a plate of hot wings at their favorite sports bar. Trust me on this.
     
  19. Steve's addiction

    Steve's addiction New Member

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    I feel strongly both ways
     
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  20. DreamTheaterRules

    DreamTheaterRules There will never be another

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    What about strips? I hardly eat wings anymore. Too greasy, and I like white meat. I get chicken breast strips instead. Can I get a ruling on that?
     

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