#1
Im currently on the lookout for my first new amp and I was googling some info. I noticed that many amps share the same type of tubes, for instance ECC83/12AX7 pre amp tubes are used on nearly every amp I looked up the specs for (Marshalls, Oranges, Mesa Boogie, ENGL, Fender).

Power amps sometimes differ, some use 6L6 others EL34, 5U4, ECC83.

My question is: do pre amp tubes not matter? Where does the sound of a tube amp come from? Would putting Fender tubes in a Marshall make it sound like a Fender?
#2
Fender doesn't make tubes and no it wouldn't make it sound like a Fender because the difference between something like a Fender Twin and a JCM 800 isn't just tubes.


Power amp tubes vary because they have different characteristics that make them sound a certain way. That's why certain people use EL34s over 6L6 tubes etc...


Could be wrong though.
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#3
The preamp tubes matter more than the poweramp tubes. That's where most of your flavor is coming from.

ECC83/12AX7 is a single type of tube that 99% of amps use in their preamps - but different brands sound different. It's also worth noting that they are almost always interchangeable with other types such as 12AT7 or 12AU7 or 12AY7. 12AX7 is just the most common and easy to get, which is why they're there stock.


EDIT: Not to disregard the importance of poweramp tubes. But it's the type of thing where having a good tube is what's important, rather than worrying about flavor difference between brands. That and the nature of the poweramp, it doesn't affect your surface tone outright all that much, it's more a subtle thing like feel and sag - and even then, it's important not to attribute to tubes what is actually just the amp's design.
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#4
A crude way to see what different power amp tubes do is to try Amplitube and say select a JCM800 setting, then load different power amp tubes and power amp types. Power amp tubes for the most part have been designed to be as reliable and as tansparent as possible, but regardless of that there are certain colorations but by no means they are the main sound of the amp.
#5
Different makes of 12AX7 tubes (JJ vs ElectroHarmonix vs Sovtek ect...) will have different sounds. Preamp tubes are where the main drive of metal amps comes from. So different tubes give you different amounts of gain and different amounts of distortion in your high gain sound.

The power tubes are where the voicing and volume of the amp comes from. EL34s tend to give a more smooth, vintage Marshally sound while 6L6s are more searing and American sounding, think a 5150 or similar.

So no, putting "Fender tubes" in a Marshall will not make it sound like a Fender. It will change the sound a bit, but in the end it will still sound like a Marshall. It's all about picking tubes suited for your amp and the sort of sound you want. There's great breakdowns of tube sounds all over the internet and if you are getting a tube amp and have questions about tube selection you can ask in the quick questions thread.
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#6
circuit makes the biggest difference.
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#7
A lot of Marshalls had different power tubes in the US than everywhere else, they still sounded like Marshalls. The difference is pretty subtle really.
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#8
Thanks everyone for the helpful replies!

If the difference between different brands tubes is subtle then where is it? Why does a DSL40 not sound like a JCM800 despite having the same tubes? (according to Marshall website) Why does it cost three times as much? Is it just the 3/4 channels with separate EQ for each? Is it the bigger footswitch?
#9
Quote by tappooh
Why does a DSL40 not sound like a JCM800 despite having the same tubes?

they are different amps. they will sound different regardless of what tubes are in them.
#10
Quote by tappooh
Thanks everyone for the helpful replies!

If the difference between different brands tubes is subtle then where is it? Why does a DSL40 not sound like a JCM800 despite having the same tubes? (according to Marshall website) Why does it cost three times as much? Is it just the 3/4 channels with separate EQ for each? Is it the bigger footswitch?


The tubes don't determine the sound, the circuit design does. Tubes can make differences in your sound, but you have to understand how subtle they are in the grand scheme. They will never make an amp sound like another amp.
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#11
Yeah exactly. they sound different because the circuit is different. if you put ferrari tyres on a yugo you still basically have a yugo.
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#12
Quote by Offworld92
The tubes don't determine the sound, the circuit design does. Tubes can make differences in your sound, but you have to understand how subtle they are in the grand scheme. They will never make an amp sound like another amp.


+1

Its all to do with the circuit design. Tubes do make a difference such as 6l6 will give more bass, and el34 more mids and highs, but what gives a brand a characteristic sound is the entire circuit design. The tube biasing, EQ circuit and power supply design, phase inverter tubes; all contribute to the overall sound. - The tubes alone will only make a very subtle change. - that goes for both preamp and power tubes.
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Last edited by HVTubeMaker at Aug 22, 2014,