#1
I've been listening to audio clips of guitars and amps, and I currently have a Fender Mustang amp, which is a solid state.

I've also looked at research online which says most musicians cannot tell the difference between tube or solid state unless it is in "soft clipping overdrive." Then musicians could tell a difference.
I have no idea what that term means.

Basically if there is little distortion, if it is "clean," I could not tell the difference, but when there is gain, or distortion, the solid state amps sound fuzzier. They sound like the guitar in "Spirit in the Sky" by Kentucky Headhunters if you will, whereas tube amps sound cleaner, more crunchy, for lack of a better term. Or is this all in my head?
#2
It is all in your head. That's what hearing and subjectivity is. That said, your observation is fairly common, and reflects the idea that tube amps often distort ("clip") more smoothly, or at least differently, than SS amps.


Your ear will change, amps will sound and feel a lot different when you play them in person than they do on youtube clips, so try not to get too much of your information by reading other people's opinions and listening to other people's gear demos. You'll be able to form your opinions just fine when actually playing these amps, and getting too wrapped up in what the internet thinks about amps isn't particularly useful. We all talk too much here
#3
In the soft clipping stage the amp is more responsive to your touch because you are in the transition between clean and distortion. Pick a little easier and it cleans up. Pick a little harder and it distorts.

Versus hard clipping being completely distorted no matter how easy you pick, or a clean tone no matter how hard you pick. It's generally considered that tube amps exhibit the soft clipping characteristic better than SS amps or multifx. I get that feel sometimes when playing straight into the tube amp but since most of my playing is through multifx, I'm not as qualified to argue the finer points of this.
Last edited by fly135 at Jun 20, 2014,
#4
Not even the top end modelers have truly mastered that playing on the edge of distortion thing yet.
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#5
I would say tube amps are usually of better quality, nut require more care. As for sound, thats all dependant on how many effects you are using, cables, guitar, pickups, and playing style. But on average, tube amps tend to give better cleans and distortion in general.
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#6
The usual explanation has to do with the way that tube amplifiers and solid-state amplifiers accentuate harmonics. Tube amplifiers accentuate even harmonics, whereas solid-state amplifiers accentuate odd harmonics. Since the human ear is able to better perceive even harmonics, tube amplifiers appear to sound louder and more "pleasing;" particularly when the element of distortion is introduced. After a certain volume level (usually in the ear-shattering range), both amplifiers tend to even out that accentuation of harmonics, but in many cases this happens at a volume level that is genuinely painful to the human ear.

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#7
Tube amps have more oomph and flavor. If you've got the gain dialed in just right, a tube amp will "growl" at you. I've never heard a ss amp growl (though I've never spent all that much on mine). I tend to strum with a lot of emotion so I had some growing pains but once I learned to control the amp with my picking dynamics it made a drastic improvement in my overall sound. Scratching, digging and growling, thats what tubes have over ss imo. (All very technical terms of course)
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#8
solid states just have way more tone and feeling and generally sound better

they just have more emotion than tube valves
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Last edited by deadsmileyface at Jun 21, 2014,
#9
Quote by Cathbard
Not even the top end modelers have truly mastered that playing on the edge of distortion thing yet.


is it possible? even two different tubes same brand same batch can audibly sound a little different. would the software have an option to (pseudo) bias for powertubes? and the degree of picking sensitivity?

i guess the variax kind of does but its a synth guitar (probably not correct term) designed for that.

i am no expert in computers, but i do think some is not possible.

however maybe it would sound 'close enough'

my 18w is so good on the dynamics, sensitivity or edge of breakup, i couldn't imagine that being dublicated digitally.

but again i am not and expert, maybe something could do it
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#10
Well, as you know, I've issued the challenge to AxeFX and Kemper owners to match my 18
Wer's dynamics more than a few times and nobody has come even close to replicating it yet. Of course though, the 18W'er is about the most dynamic amp ever made by anybody anywhere so it's a pretty hard target to hit.
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#11
Tubes aren't magic. A competent engineer should be able to replicate everything a tube amp does. The problem is that there aren't that many competent engineers in the MI industry, and most of them don't deal with guitar gear, or are more concerned with hitting a price point than delivering excellence. The latest Axe firmware is killer, though it's been killer since I had one with FW11. No, it doesn't nail 18W Marshall, bit that's more a function of your typical Axe owner not really giving a shit about 18W Marshalls. Dunno about the Kemper since I haven't played one, but owners are pretty enthusiastic.
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#12
Well a JTM45 has about the same dynamics as an 18W'er, just at a higher volume. If the JTM45 was modeled properly it would be capable of similar tone/picking dynamics and would be able to rise to the challenge. You telling me nobody gives a shit about JTM45's? Every modeler out there tries to do JTM45 and they get the base tone pretty close but they never get the picking dynamics right.
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#13
Everyone is being so civil... guess the SS diehards are still asleep... storm is coming though..
#14
Quote by Cathbard
Well a JTM45 has about the same dynamics as an 18W'er, just at a higher volume. If the JTM45 was modeled properly it would be capable of similar tone/picking dynamics and would be able to rise to the challenge. You telling me nobody gives a shit about JTM45's? Every modeler out there tries to do JTM45 and they get the base tone pretty close but they never get the picking dynamics right.


+ i built a JTM45, again louder yes, but it sound so sweet and raunchy dialed up with the volume. and the roll off on the guitar changes everything.

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#15
Quote by 7thString
Everyone is being so civil... guess the SS diehards are still asleep... storm is coming though..

yup. this thread will be catted by the third page.

my opinion? i say if EEs put enough effort into it, they could eventually hit tube tones and dynamics with solid state. whether anything like that exists right now is debatable though. except maybe the kemper. but haven't played that or an 18 watt marshall, so .
#16
Quote by trashedlostfdup
is it possible? even two different tubes same brand same batch can audibly sound a little different. would the software have an option to (pseudo) bias for powertubes? and the degree of picking sensitivity?

i guess the variax kind of does but its a synth guitar (probably not correct term) designed for that.

i am no expert in computers, but i do think some is not possible.

however maybe it would sound 'close enough'

my 18w is so good on the dynamics, sensitivity or edge of breakup, i couldn't imagine that being dublicated digitally.

but again i am not and expert, maybe something could do it


You're right. They're actually called MODELING guitars, because it uses no form of synthesis or sampling.

That would be like saying a modeling amp is hearing your guitar and replacing it with recordings of distorted guitars.

Modeling means it's actually your signal, your strings vibrating, but processed through algorithms and coding to change the sound of the signal to what it's supposed to be modeling.
#17
Why did you resurrect this thread? Now we are just gonna have to cat it like all the other threads like this.

Or did you just want to see funny cat pics and was disappointed that this one didn't get the treatment?

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#18
Of course it uses sampling dude. That's how A/D/A conversion works. Modeling is just applying DSP to a signal to match the response of some other piece of gear. That's usually sampling and converting to digital, then applying appropriate filters, various effects (time delay, convolution, whatever) depending on what you want it to do, then converting back to analog and then amplifying if necessary. It's not synthesis, but it sure as hell uses sampling. That's part of the very definition of DSP.
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#20
Quote by mmolteratx
Of course it uses sampling dude. That's how A/D/A conversion works. Modeling is just applying DSP to a signal to match the response of some other piece of gear. That's usually sampling and converting to digital, then applying appropriate filters, various effects (time delay, convolution, whatever) depending on what you want it to do, then converting back to analog and then amplifying if necessary. It's not synthesis, but it sure as hell uses sampling. That's part of the very definition of DSP.


I meant audio clip sampling, like on a keyboard, not audio signal sampling.
A Synth Guitar or Midi Guitar would instigate that it's only reading the notes and replacing it with prerecorded audio clips or generating a new sound via synthesis.

The Variax uses convulsions on your actual input signal to emulate the pickups.

And the last reply wasn't even a week ago.
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Last edited by Clay-man at Jun 27, 2014,
#21
Quote by dspellman
I'd have to say that the top end modelers have done that and more. I don't think that's even on the table any more.
The challenge still stands. Do it and show me. Here's the clip again. Match it for picking dynamics. I'd be happy to see it.

http://cathbard.com/files/sibly.mp3


There's a short passage at the end of the intro where I kick in a tubescreamer, you'll hear it, not that; the rest of it. There's no tricks there. It was a one take thing. I wasn't trying to accentuate the dynamics, I just threw it together quickly while stoned (hence the mistakes in the playing. ) and kept it because it showed off the amp so well. It's one of the 18W'ers I've built and sold.
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#22
Quote by Clay-man
I meant audio clip sampling, like on a keyboard, not audio signal sampling.
A Synth Guitar or Midi Guitar would instigate that it's only reading the notes and replacing it with prerecorded audio clips or generating a new sound via synthesis.

The Variax uses convulsions on your actual input signal to emulate the pickups.

And the last reply wasn't even a week ago.


Fair enough. Though that's not terribly common. Synthesis is much more common for real time processing of a MIDI signal. And technically, the term is convolutions. Convulsions are when your muscles spasm and move violently. Apologis in advance if I'm being a dick. I'm pretty drunk right now and have trouble precossing things.
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#23
Quote by Cathbard
The challenge still stands. Do it and show me. Here's the clip again. Match it for picking dynamics. I'd be happy to see it.

http://cathbard.com/files/sibly.mp3


There's a short passage at the end of the intro where I kick in a tubescreamer, you'll hear it, not that; the rest of it. There's no tricks there. It was a one take thing. I wasn't trying to accentuate the dynamics, I just threw it together quickly while stoned (hence the mistakes in the playing. ) and kept it because it showed off the amp so well. It's one of the 18W'ers I've built and sold.


Pickety pick pickpickety pick pick I win.
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#24
Quote by mmolteratx
Fair enough. Though that's not terribly common. Synthesis is much more common for real time processing of a MIDI signal. And technically, the term is convolutions. Convulsions are when your muscles spasm and move violently. Apologis in advance if I'm being a dick. I'm pretty drunk right now and have trouble precossing things.



Ha, no problem.
I wouldn't have gotten a Variax if the sounds were done through a sampler or through synthesis.

Basically when you're modeling, you want the sound of the strings before it goes through the pickup and electronics. The closest thing to that are piezo pickups, because they're broad and flat on frequency response, kind of like studio monitors, but an input instead of an output.

After that, you pretty much pretend the DSP are the pickups. It just transforms the signal through algorithms of pickups, guitar bodies, as well as pickup positions, pot and tone values, wiring (series/parallel, in or out of phase).

That's why you can do harmonics, pick scrapes, or anything. Every sound you make on the strings will come out of the guitar.

Other stuff like the banjo models and sitar models are just Decay effects and resonator/filter effects.
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#25
youve got to ask yourself whether the 1 inch speaker on your ipad is capable of accurately reproducing a poorly recorded amp sound from youtube
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#26
In theory an electrical engineer should be able to model anything a tube amp could do.

In practice the way tubes operate is pretty different from the way transistors operate. The reason there aren't any perfect models (and may not ever be any perfect models) is because at some point you have to consider the complexity of the challenge and accept that it would be cheaper and easier to just use a tube.

I think that the magic of amplification occurs in the soft-clipping state, and therefore tubes sound way better to me. If you like cleaner sounds or certain types of distortion then it's not hard to understand how you could view solid state as equivalent or superior to tubes.

But i must say that the fact that solid state amps are always trying and failing to sound like tube amps is a pretty big hint about the way most people feel. You won't ever see a tube amp that's trying to emulate a solid state sound.
#27
Quote by Cathbard
The challenge still stands. Do it and show me. Here's the clip again. Match it for picking dynamics. I'd be happy to see it.

http://cathbard.com/files/sibly.mp3


There's a short passage at the end of the intro where I kick in a tubescreamer, you'll hear it, not that; the rest of it. There's no tricks there. It was a one take thing. I wasn't trying to accentuate the dynamics, I just threw it together quickly while stoned (hence the mistakes in the playing. ) and kept it because it showed off the amp so well. It's one of the 18W'ers I've built and sold.

In my experience, the only modeler that gets close to that is the Axe FX, which honestly does crunch tones better than some tube amps I've played through.
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#28
Quote by paul.housley.7
In theory an electrical engineer should be able to model anything a tube amp could do.

In practice the way tubes operate is pretty different from the way transistors operate. The reason there aren't any perfect models (and may not ever be any perfect models) is because at some point you have to consider the complexity of the challenge and accept that it would be cheaper and easier to just use a tube.

I think that the magic of amplification occurs in the soft-clipping state, and therefore tubes sound way better to me. If you like cleaner sounds or certain types of distortion then it's not hard to understand how you could view solid state as equivalent or superior to tubes.

But i must say that the fact that solid state amps are always trying and failing to sound like tube amps is a pretty big hint about the way most people feel. You won't ever see a tube amp that's trying to emulate a solid state sound.


It isn't necessary for a model to be perfect, because the ears aren't perfect. Also there is a huge variation between different ears, and the response of the same ears in different situations. Also an engineer would tell you that you don't have to simulate an entire system if you can simulate it's black box, or external behaviour. Soft clipping isn't really a complicated behaviour to model, especially with a modern DSP. You don't have to model every part in the amp to do this, because most of the relationships are either linear, or don't contribute to any difference in the response. There are some other components like the output transformer response that have to be considered, but it's still not that implausible.

You're trying to say, "I prefer tubes" and "simulation doesn't work" at the same time as if there is some kind of connection, but it only is for those that are of that opinion. You can mix opinion and facts, but you can't combine them. You state that SS amps are "failing" without giving any evidence. They certainly aren't failing in the marketplace. If there is a difference between theory and practice, you need to specify it, to make a convincing argument.

You won't see a tube amp trying to sound like a SS amp because it wouldn't be economical. They are already more expensive as they stand. Actually, it would be nearly impossible because of the higher impedances and the lack of complimentary polarity devices. But before there were transistors, there were efforts to make the tube perform more like an ideal device, for example the pentode. Maybe not in guitar amps, but in hifi amps, engineers of old were trying to get a more linear response out of the tubes.

It does seem that tubes dominate the higher end of the market. What motivation would a manufacturer have to break into it with a really adequate SS modelling amp? They know very well the biases and strong opinions of their customers. To try to overcome those strongly held opinions would not be profitable, or at least a huge risk. So such an amp never gets built. Instead they focus on smaller and cheaper amps, where cost and carrying weight are more valued by the user. So it's possible that there has never been a fair fight between a tube and a transistor.
#29
It's a hell of a lot cheaper to make a solid state device.
http://runoffgroove.com/littlegem.html

This little thing for example. It's simple, cheap to make. It has a lot of advantages but sound quality isn't one of them.
One device passes signal that is amplified in proportion with the bias, the other device passes an amplified signal or it doesn't pass a signal. They are not in any way equivalent devices.

There was a device that we used to use in the power plant that I worked in called a commutator inverter. It was a rotating device with a series of segments and brushes. The purpose of the device was to create a stepped AC signal. It created a step AC signal that looked about how a sine wave would've looked like if you'd drawn one using an Atari 2600. That was a good solution for the particular type of motor that was being driven by it but the ears are more sensitive.

I'm not aiming for condescension here - i'm not impressed with any of the existing solid states. If you like solid state sounds then i'm fine with that. In the meantime please feel free to suggest solid state amps. I'm not closing the book on anything. Just give me something i can live with. No super-clean or heavy-metallish stuff. I'm fine with some of the solid-states for those sorts of sounds.

If you can find me a solid state amp that can match this
http://youtu.be/BKeMpPEWIyo

Then that would be a good start.
#30
Pritchard amps are solid state and supposedly match or exceed tube amps. Anyone tried one?
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#31
Quote by The Judist
Pritchard amps are solid state and supposedly match or exceed tube amps. Anyone tried one?


i have heard that as well, i have never seen one in person though. pricey though. at that rate may as well go tube
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#32
They cost more than a Road King don't they?
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#33
Quote by Cathbard
They cost more than a Road King don't they?


no idea. none on ebay to compare to either. they are far from cheap.

the way i see it is this: play what makes you happy. i know what i like. some of you know what you like some may not yet (got through over 60 guitars and a lot of amps).

i like my tube amps. they sound good to me, they are relatively simple i can fix something if it breaks in most cases. and i think people tend to overstate the cost of tubes. in the last two years, i only had a quad of 6L6's die on me and a 12ax7. not a big deal.

i won't be very happy though when i have to replace the KT88's in the splawns and fryette.
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Quote by trashedlostfdup
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Quote by andersondb7
youre just being a jerk man.



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#35
That Pritchard sounds really good but it still doesn't sound as good as the one that I put up.

There are certain sounds where solid state is absolutely fine, and that was about what I would've expected from a top-of-the-line solid state effort. A variety of really nice cleans and distorted sounds but not enough of the soul that lies in between those extremes.