#1
I'm looking for a new amp, and tons of people have suggested tube amps. I don't have a huge amount of cash (up to $300) and I want something that's durable; the amp also needs to get rather loud, as I will be playing with other people. I'm not sure what's I should look for in a tube, so if someone could give me some links/recommendations for either tube amps, or something that helps describe how tubes work/replacing tubes, that would be great. Now for the questions:

Most of the tube amps are a lot lower in wattage than similarly priced SS, so how much of a difference does the wattage mean in tube amps?

How durable are tube amps/how often do the tubes need to be replaced?

Should I mike up a small tube amp, or get a really loud one?

Should I get one with just a clean channel and get pedals, or should I get one with distortion too?

What's the deal with hybrid amps (tube preamp/SS speaker)? Do they sound the same as a tube, or are they more like a SS?


I'm sure I'll come up with more questions, so I'll post them up here if I need to. Also, any recommendations for certain types of amps I should look for/ websites that give a general FAQ on tubes would be great, too.

Thanks,

Virx67
The guitar makes music. The man makes the guitar.

Gear:
Epiphone Junior
Crate GX-15
Deltalab chorus pedal


Money sucks.
Last edited by virx67 at Oct 25, 2009,
#2
as for the basic tube amp questions, there are like a bajillion articles on UG explaining how tube amps work and why they are generally better.

As for the other questions, i suggest getting a small and simple tube amp and micing it for gigs.

As for what amp, go to the "tube amps for beginners" forum for a list of good ones
#3
In my experience, a 50w tube sounds better and louder than 100w ss. Tube life has to do with how much playing time, and how you treat the the amp, and the amp itself. Not sure of what you can get for 300, I'd suggest used gear @pawn shops, craigslist or the best place, gear ads here on UG.
#4
For $300 you could maybe find-
-Bugera V22
http://www.guitarcenter.com/Bugera-V22-22W-1x12-Tube-Guitar-Combo-Amp-887213-i1470775.gc

-Used Peavey Classic 30
http://www.guitarcenter.com/Peavey-Classic-30-112-Tube-Amp-Combo-104003132-i1171332.gc

-Fender Superchamp XD
http://www.guitarcenter.com/Fender-Super-Champ-XD-120V-Guitar-Combo-104494281-i1371514.gc

Tube amps are going to be perceived alot louder that SS amps. My 20 watt tube amp can easily keep up to a 75 watt SS amp in volume. Tube amps also cut through alot more.

Tube amps are generally made of better components and therefore are more durable.

Really, If you play ~1hr a day I can't see you needing to change power tubes for 2-3yrs, preamp tubes for 5yrs. If you play more than that per day, Don't let the tubes warm up, it could be a shorter time than that. It also varies per amp.

Miking a small tube amp can get expensive if you don't already own a mike and a PA. Its usually alot easier to get 10 extra watts and not have to buy a PA.

There is no tube amp with JUST cleans as far as I am aware of. There are amps with no gain knob. This means that you have to crank the Volume knob, allowing the tubes to breakup, giving you lots of distortion. The only downside is that sometimes this can be very loud.

imo amp distortion is better than most pedal distortion. You could look into buying a nice Overdrive pedal to help though.

From the stickies-

Amps 101 (Dave MC)

This is a very basic introduction to amps, if you?re totally new to guitar . For more in-depth info, read D man?s excellent amp article, underneath.

First of all, most guitar amps either come as ?combos? (amp and speaker cabinet all in one), or as heads (just the amp) and cabs (the speaker cabinet)- collectively known as a stack. YOU NEED A SPEAKER CABINET OF THE CORRECT IMPEDANCE IF YOU BUY A HEAD, OR YOU WILL NOT HEAR ANY SOUND, AND PROBABLY FRY THE AMP IN THE PROCESS. ALSO, NEVER RUN AN AMP (EITHER TUBE OR SOLID STATE) WITHOUT A SPEAKER OR DUMMY LOAD CONNECTED- YOU'LL FRY YOUR AMP.

What?s in an amp?

Amps can be split into 3 sections, for handiness. These are the pre-amp, the power-amp, and rectifier.

The pre-amp amplifies the very small signal coming from your guitar?s pickups to ?line-level?- a level large enough that the power amp can work on it. This is where most of the EQ controls (treble, mids, bass) and pre-amp gain/distortion controls on solid state and master-volume tube amps are based.

The power amp amplifies the signal to a high enough level that it can drive the speakers, to produce sound. In all-tube amps, the power amp influences the overall tone of the amp, especially at higher volumes when they start to overdrive.

The rectifier is present in all amps, and converts AC current from the mains into DC current to be used by the amplifier. Confusingly, a Single/Dual/Triple Rectifier is the name of a type of amp made by Mesa Boogie, but all amps have rectifiers.

For an amp to be considered ?all-tube? it is necessary for the pre-amp and power-amp to be all-tube, but the rectifier may be either tube or solid state.

Types of amp

Generally, amps can be solid state (ss), hybrid or all-tube/valve; there are also so-called ?modelling? amps, which model the tone of classic amplifier tones . Solid state amps use transistors, hybrid use a combination, and all-tube/valve use tubes/valves for the amplification of your guitar?s sound (tube is the American term, valve is the British term- they?re the same thing). Modellers are normally either solid state or hybrid, and frequently contain computer chips as well.

All tube amps

As a general rule, all-tube is the best. Tubes are old technology (1930?s and 1940?s) and have been superceded by transistors almost everywhere, except in audio applications, where they sound more ?natural?. Pretty much all all-tube amps have to be cranked to a loud volume (not necessarily full power, but pretty loud) to sound at their best. This is because they get a lot of their tone from ?power-amp overdrive?- that is, the power-tubes being worked hard at, or close to, full volume. However, it is NOT, in my experience, true that if you can?t play at a loud volume that you shouldn?t buy an all-tube amp (unless you want a non-master volume amp). Most all-tube amps I?ve tried sound AT LEAST as good as SS amps at low volumes, and MUCH better at medium to high volumes. Also, you can buy an attenuator, to connect between your amp and speakers, which lets you get power-tube overdrive at lower volumes.

Master volume versus non-master volume: most old amps (and new ones designed to be vintage-correct) didn?t have pre-amp gain/overdrive controls. The only way to get overdrive was to crank the amp to full volume, or plug an overdrive pedal into the front of the amp. Master volumes have a volume or gain control for the pre-amp, that allows you to get preamp distortion as well. A lot of tone hounds say this doesn?t sound as good, but if you play any kind of modern music that uses overdrive or distortion (basically, rock or anything heavier), you pretty much need a master volume amp.

Another handy trick is that you can use an overdrive pedal to boost the overdrive channel on an all-tube amp. This increases the gain and sustain, but still sounds natural and tube-like- especially if you keep the gain/drive on the pedal low, and the level high.

What the knobs on the amp do

These are the knobs generally found on most amps:

Treble: This affects the high frequencies in your sound. Turn it down for a softer, warmer sound, and up for a sharper, more piercing/cutting sound.

Middle: Affects the mid range in your tone. Turn it down to ?scoop? your mids for a hollow/metal type tone, or turn it up for a fuller tone. (Note: some amps have a ?contour? knob, rather than mids- this is sometimes (but not always) the inverse of the mid knob- I.e. Mid=10 = Contour = 0 etc.- you need to use your ears in this case)

Bass: Affects the low frequencies in your tone. Turn it up for more ?oomph? in your sound, or turn it down for a more trebly tone.

In most amps, these 3 control are interactive- turning down the treble can have a similar effect to turning up the bass, for example, and you have to balance all 3.

Gain/drive/pre-gain: Controls the amount of overdrive or distortion in your sound.

(Master) Volume/Post-gain: Controls how loud you are. Some amps also have channel volume controls, where you can independently set a volume for each channel.

Depth punch/depth boost/resonance/deep etc.: Increases the bass response in your sound.

Presence: Increases or decreases the frequency range of the treble knob- basically, low presence sounds like you have a blanket over your amp, and increasing the presence will sound like you?re gradually removing it.

Bright: increases the treble frequencies, to give a more ?sparkly? tone. Normally found on clean channels.

Scoop/Tone Shift/Contour (all push-buttons): Normally presets the mids to a very low level, to give you an instant metal tone.

Boost: Normally either increases the overdrive/distortion or volume by a preset amount.

Reverb: Controls the amount of reverb in your sound- mimics the small echoes of being in a room/hall/cave where the sound REVERBerates around the walls.

Note that not all of these might be on your amp, or your amp may have a different name for them, or indeed, you may have more knobs on your amp.

The best way to discover what your knobs do, is to tweak them.

Dman-


What are the differences I need to know about if I?m going to use valves?

Well, there are a few drawbacks to using this archaic technology.

Valves have to be heated up to work. If you put the high voltages of an amp across cold valves you?ll damage them and they?ll wear out faster. For this reason valve amps have an extra ?feature?. The standby switch.

?Standby? is like idling over an engine. Its running but its not going anywhere. So a valve amp has two different kind of ?on?: ?on standby? (idling) and ?on? (screaming ahead with blistering solos and skull crushing riffs?or not, as the case may be).

You should let your valves heat up for at least a minute before switching the amp fully on. To do this you switch it on to ?on standby?, and wait. Then switch it ?on?. Off --> On standby --> On.

You can keep the valves hot (say, in a break of a gig) by switching the amp from on to standby. BUT leaving the amp on standby for extended periods will burn out the valves just like playing it will. Leave it on standby only if you know you?re going to be playing it again in the next few minutes.

When switching off just reverse the process; on --> on standby --> off. There?s no need to wait here, either, just knock it off.

How often should I replace valves?

It depends. Power amp valves will need replacing every now and then. How often depends on your amp and how you use it. If you use it at low master volume and not very often (only at the weekends, say) then you may get up to 4 years out of a set of output valves. At the opposite end of the scale, if you practice at respectable volume every day and gig every weekend you?ll get a year or two out of them.

Pre-amp valves last donkeys years. It should be at least 3 or 4 years even on an often-played amp until they go.

Note, though, that any given valve can blow at any given time.

Can I do it myself?

Yeah, sure. But you?ll have to learn how first. New power amp tubes have to be biased (I promised minimal electronics; google if you?re curious), which isn?t rocket science but you have to know what you?re doing. Take it to a shop and get a pro to do it.


I hope this all helps. Take the time to read everything!

-Gibson LP VM
-Silvertone Kentucky Blue
-MXR CC Delay
-Ibanez TS-9
-Egnater Rebel 20
-Avatar 1x12

My rig is simple
Haha. UG's Chuck just said chuck. haha
You're not truly playing guitar unless you know theory.
#5
Quote by virx67
I'm looking for a new amp, and tons of people have suggested tube amps. I don't have a huge amount of cash (up to $300) and I want something that's durable; the amp also needs to get rather loud, as I will be playing with other people. I'm not sure what's I should look for in a tube, so if someone could give me some links/recommendations for either tube amps, or something that helps describe how tubes work/replacing tubes, that would be great. Now for the questions:

Most of the tube amps are a lot lower in wattage than similarly priced SS, so how much of a difference does the wattage mean in tube amps?

How durable are tube amps/how often do the tubes need to be replaced?

Should I mike up a small tube amp, or get a really loud one?

Should I get one with just a clean channel and get pedals, or should I get one with distortion too?


I'm sure I'll come up with more questions, so I'll post them up here if I need to. Also, any recommendations for certain types of amps I should look for/ websites that give a general FAQ on tubes would be great, too.

Thanks,

Virx67

1. firstly a 5 watt tub amp is loud it is equivilent to a 15-20 watt ss amp. it shouldnt matter getting a low wattage amp.

2.it depends on how much you play, they can last from a few weeks to years.

3.you shouldn't need to but if you play large venues then you probably will have to.

4.it's entirely upto you, but if you use pedals you're going to have to use the clean channel anyway
#6
Quote by britishsligean
1. firstly a 5 watt tub amp is loud it is equivilent to a 15-20 watt ss amp. it shouldnt matter getting a low wattage amp.

2.it depends on how much you play, they can last from a few weeks to years.

3.you shouldn't need to but if you play large venues then you probably will have to.

4.it's entirely upto you, but if you use pedals you're going to have to use the clean channel anyway

1. No, not necessarily. You have to take into consideration speakers, etc. There is no real set rule.

2. True, but they should last at leasta year unless youre doing something wrong.

3. Didnt answer the question

4. not necessarily

-Gibson LP VM
-Silvertone Kentucky Blue
-MXR CC Delay
-Ibanez TS-9
-Egnater Rebel 20
-Avatar 1x12

My rig is simple
Haha. UG's Chuck just said chuck. haha
You're not truly playing guitar unless you know theory.
#7
What's the deal with hybrid amps? They seem like they would be a great in between.
The guitar makes music. The man makes the guitar.

Gear:
Epiphone Junior
Crate GX-15
Deltalab chorus pedal


Money sucks.
#8
Quote by virx67
What's the deal with hybrid amps? They seem like they would be a great in between.

they're solid sate amps with a valve in the preamp
#9
yeah, but are they better than just solid state, or tubes? Are they more durable? Louder? Etc.
The guitar makes music. The man makes the guitar.

Gear:
Epiphone Junior
Crate GX-15
Deltalab chorus pedal


Money sucks.
#10
Quote by virx67
yeah, but are they better than just solid state, or tubes? Are they more durable? Louder? Etc.

they're bassically solid state amps that have sound more like what they're supposed to especially in the modelling amps
#11
On the subject of hybrids, I am looking into a peavey vypyr tube 60 but I'm not sure whether to go for this or the valve king 112 or even the full ss Spider III.
I play in my bedroom a lot but will begin gigging soon, plus I jam like once a week with friends.
I play about 3 hours a day, so with a tube how long would that last approximately before I had to change the valves?
Any and all answers appreciated
Thanks, PL
#12
Quote by Papa Luigi
On the subject of hybrids, I am looking into a peavey vypyr tube 60 but I'm not sure whether to go for this or the valve king 112 or even the full ss Spider III.
I play in my bedroom a lot but will begin gigging soon, plus I jam like once a week with friends.
I play about 3 hours a day, so with a tube how long would that last approximately before I had to change the valves?
Any and all answers appreciated
Thanks, PL

do not get the spider III, with the valves you would probably get about 8 months to a year out of them
#13
Hybrid amps can be just about anything. Most newer ones just have a single preamp tube stuck in there as a sales gimmick, but there are some really great hybrid amps like the Roland Bolt.
#14
Quote by britishsligean
do not get the spider III, with the valves you would probably get about 8 months to a year out of them


okay, thanks very much
Would you suggest the vypyr or valve king. The valve king is cheaper but I'm thinking the vypyr sounds better...?
#15
Quote by Papa Luigi
okay, thanks very much
Would you suggest the vypyr or valve king. The valve king is cheaper but I'm thinking the vypyr sounds better...?

if you want the effects get the vypyr, but if you don't get the one that you think sounds better