#1
I've heard that some solid state amps have very good clean tones, such as the roland jc, but tube amps are usually always better for gains.


is this true?

does tube circuitry matter less for clean tones compare to with overdrive/gain?
Last edited by musicandthewave at Oct 15, 2014,
#2
Randall has some pretty nice SS stuff that has excellent gain.
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#3
Quote by musicandthewave
I've heard that some solid state amps have very good clean tones, such as the roland jc, but tube amps are usually always better for gains.


is this true?

does tube circuitry matter less for clean tones compare to with overdrive/gain?

It is all personal preference, so no it is False
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#4
Another key point that often is overlooked about the SS v Tube debate when it comes to distortion/gain is that generally (depending on size of the tube head) most of them require that their master volumes are run pretty high to actually get the power tube distortion which is what most tone chasers lust after and are talking about. Many owners/users of tube amps don't get the opportunity or setting often to really crank their tube amps and are hearing preamp tube gain/distortion.

All this being said to say, a good SS amp can sound excellent, just like some tube amps can sound like crap.
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#5
Quote by musicandthewave
I've heard that some solid state amps have very good clean tones, such as the roland jc, but tube amps are usually always better for gains.


is this true?


i would disagree, though i would add i tend to prefer most tube amp's distortion to most of my solid state amp's distortion... but then again i don't really have any high gain solid state amps.

though, i feel i must add many people (including myself) run tubescreamer-style pedals in front of their amps to 'tighten' up the distortion sound. i have no idea what this does to 'tube distortion sounds better than SS distortion' theories, i guess it kinda shows it's not as simple as that.

Quote by musicandthewave
does tube circuitry matter less for clean tones compare to with overdrive/gain?


i think the circuit design is more important than the components (though choosing components is a big part of circuit design). i have both tube amps, solid state amps and hybrid amps that sound great clean and distorted.

so while i may tend to use my tube amps more frequently, i would be hard pressed to say tube amps are better. though i will readily admit a good tube amp responds and sounds differently than a good SS amp.
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#6
it depends on the type of gain you want. A good solid state amp will give you perfectly good distorted tones, but the distortion will more than likely have much more of a gritty texture and will not respond in the same way that a tube amp does.. In fact, it won't respond to much at all - this can be a good thing if you want a very tight tone with a very consistent level of gain.

The area where most SS amps always fail in my experience is that they don't have a smooth transition between clean and overdriven tones, and when you set the gain in the range where it's clean unless you pick hard, picking hard can result in horrible crackling/popping or just otherwise sloppy distortion - the same thing usually happens when you try to clean up the overdrive by turning your volume knob down or picking very gently.
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#7
Quote by Dazzl1113
Another key point that often is overlooked about the SS v Tube debate when it comes to distortion/gain is that generally (depending on size of the tube head) most of them require that their master volumes are run pretty high to actually get the power tube distortion which is what most tone chasers lust after and are talking about. Many owners/users of tube amps don't get the opportunity or setting often to really crank their tube amps and are hearing preamp tube gain/distortion.


I don't agree with this. Power tube distortion is needed if you have a Marshall Plexi (for example) or some other old school amp that needs to be cranked to get distorted sounds.

But modern amps do not require power tube distortion, they are made to be played with preamp distortion and they don't have to be cranked to achieve good sound.
#8
Quote by Blompcube
it depends on the type of gain you want. A good solid state amp will give you perfectly good distorted tones, but the distortion will more than likely have much more of a gritty texture and will not respond in the same way that a tube amp does.. In fact, it won't respond to much at all - this can be a good thing if you want a very tight tone with a very consistent level of gain.

The area where most SS amps always fail in my experience is that they don't have a smooth transition between clean and overdriven tones, and when you set the gain in the range where it's clean unless you pick hard, picking hard can result in horrible crackling/popping or just otherwise sloppy distortion - the same thing usually happens when you try to clean up the overdrive by turning your volume knob down or picking very gently.


This, more or less.
#9
Quote by JackovSlayer
I don't agree with this. Power tube distortion is needed if you have a Marshall Plexi (for example) or some other old school amp that needs to be cranked to get distorted sounds.

But modern amps do not require power tube distortion, they are made to be played with preamp distortion and they don't have to be cranked to achieve good sound.

My amps definitely sound better to me when the volume is higher than bedroom volume. Once you start to turn it up the highs become a bit less brittle and the amps response becomes a little bit more dynamic. It just starts to sound better. This is due to (I'd imagine), the power amp tubes introducing just a touch of distortion.

Whilst the amps may sound good with just preamp gain, when you start to increase the power amp volume the difference between solid state and tube amps becomes more pronounced.

And some tones (including many of the 'holy grail' rock tones) can't be achieved with just preamp distortion.
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#10
With reference to cleans

The main advantage a SS amp has is its ability to produce a crystal clear clean tone at a very loud volume. If you turned it on full it would still be relatively clean.

If you put a tube amp on full volume you do get a more gritty OD tone, even on the clean channel. It also depends on the wattage of your amp. A 100w has more 'headroom' compared to a 30w. So the 100w sounds cleaner when the volume is 5/10 than the 30w.
#11
Quote by mulefish
My amps definitely sound better to me when the volume is higher than bedroom volume. Once you start to turn it up the highs become a bit less brittle and the amps response becomes a little bit more dynamic. It just starts to sound better. This is due to (I'd imagine), the power amp tubes introducing just a touch of distortion.

Whilst the amps may sound good with just preamp gain, when you start to increase the power amp volume the difference between solid state and tube amps becomes more pronounced.

And some tones (including many of the 'holy grail' rock tones) can't be achieved with just preamp distortion.


Look up Fletcher-Munson curves (Equal Loudness curves).

Music seems to sound better as it gets louder because to our ears, it actually is better...
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#12
I think solid state distortion can get pretty damn good. I think the one area solid state amps truly fall short is the warmth of the power amp. Even the most revered solid state amps (high gain Randalls and the Jazz Chorus) are usually considered a bit "cold" or "sterile". I think if you took the preamp from any good SS amp and paired it with a nice tube power amp, it could sound pretty good. Conversely, if you took a nice tube amp's preamp and plugged it into an SS power amp, I'm sure most people would find it lacking.

This is the part where I make a disclaimer that these are all generalizations and not true 100% of the time. Also, does anyone have some nice SS and tube amps with effects loops and feels like some experimenting?
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#13
Music seems to sound better as it gets louder because to our ears, it actually is better...


Pretty interesting stuff here.

Also, while so many players are seeking tube amps, it is normal that the industry keeps on researching and producing tube amplifiers. Tube amps do sell better than SS amps. Most players discard SS amps right away without even trying them. If it was the other way around, there would probably be a heck more good SS amps out there.

I wish there was some sort of very popular artist and "tone maker" like Bonamassa or Mayer that uses an SS amp. This would probably help the SS market. Hopefully to the point where you truly ask yourself if you buy a tube amp or a solid state amp.
#14
Quote by Taz9
Pretty interesting stuff here.

Also, while so many players are seeking tube amps, it is normal that the industry keeps on researching and producing tube amplifiers. Tube amps do sell better than SS amps. Most players discard SS amps right away without even trying them. If it was the other way around, there would probably be a heck more good SS amps out there.

I wish there was some sort of very popular artist and "tone maker" like Bonamassa or Mayer that uses an SS amp. This would probably help the SS market. Hopefully to the point where you truly ask yourself if you buy a tube amp or a solid state amp.


There's always Dimebag. I know some Death Metal bands use them, but I don't really listen to the stuff so I don't know any specific examples.

And most of us have played and tried SS amps, we just always go back to tube. Of course, I've never played a Pritchard
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#15
Solid states are better at solid state cleans and solid state gain, tubes are better at tube cleans and tube gain... Seriously.
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#16
Quote by tas38
I think solid state distortion can get pretty damn good. I think the one area solid state amps truly fall short is the warmth of the power amp. Even the most revered solid state amps (high gain Randalls and the Jazz Chorus) are usually considered a bit "cold" or "sterile". I think if you took the preamp from any good SS amp and paired it with a nice tube power amp, it could sound pretty good. Conversely, if you took a nice tube amp's preamp and plugged it into an SS power amp, I'm sure most people would find it lacking.

+1, This is another "shortcoming" with SS amps that I forgot to mention. (Note: I don't really consider it a shortcoming, but I think there are perfectly valid reasons for considering it as such, which don't apply to me personally)

I don't claim to know the technical reasons why (In all honesty I'm pretty much clueless about electronics), but tube power amps tend to interact with the speaker in a much more musical way somehow. SS power amps tend to have a very stiff feel that seems like you're less in control of what comes out of the speaker. This is why hybrid amps with a tube or two in the preamp and a fully SS power amp totally fail at sounding like tube amps, but a good solid state preamp and a tube power amp often sounds as good as any full tube amp, especially at stage volumes.

The amp I use on stage the most is a Musicman HD75 - the preamp is 100% solid state, but it has a tube power amp driven by 2 6L6GCs - at bedroom volumes it sounds mostly solid state, but at stage volumes it blends solid state transparency and clarity with the warmth and response of a tube power amp working hard. I think that in that configuration, the SS and tube components compliment each other perfectly.

This is the part where I make a disclaimer that these are all generalizations and not true 100% of the time. Also, does anyone have some nice SS and tube amps with effects loops and feels like some experimenting?

The only tube amp with an FX loop I have is my Laney VC30, but I have experimented with this a little, as I have a few SS amps which have completely dry, non-speaker emulated line outs which I have connected to the FX return - The tube power amp doesn't hide the "gritty" character of the preamp's distortion but it does feel like the speaker is a lot more responsive and the tone seems a lot more warm and lively.

Never tried the VC30 FX send into the FX return on one of my SS amps, as it wouldn't mute the VC30s output because it's an older model with a parallel FX loop, but it might be worth a try at some point if I connect the VC30 to a dummy load or something so I'm only hearing the output from the SS power amp.
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#17
I've now got a Fender Mustang amp after years of various valve amps. The overdrive tones on it are fantastic to my ears. The response to dynamics is surprisingly good for a SS digital amp as well. I have the 100w version for the extra features it has but I basically use it for playing in the house so don't need it cranked but I feel I won't need another amp again now I have this.

The only amp I miss not having is my handmade 1974x clone but tone as ever is subjective so you might find people are happy enough with solid state overdrive.

If anyone checks out "intheblues" on YouTube you'll see the guy Shane who demos his gear is as happy with his Mustang as he is with his all valve Fenders, Two Rocks etc.
#18
I've never heard a solid state amp that truly rivals the clean tone of a Fender Deluxe Reverb.
#19
Quote by Taz9
Pretty interesting stuff here.

Also, while so many players are seeking tube amps, it is normal that the industry keeps on researching and producing tube amplifiers. Tube amps do sell better than SS amps. Most players discard SS amps right away without even trying them. If it was the other way around, there would probably be a heck more good SS amps out there.

I wish there was some sort of very popular artist and "tone maker" like Bonamassa or Mayer that uses an SS amp. This would probably help the SS market. Hopefully to the point where you truly ask yourself if you buy a tube amp or a solid state amp.

Lots of guitarists have used SS amps, at least at one point or another- besides Dimebag, there's BB King, Albert King, Ty Tabor, Wes Montgomery, Andy Summers, Robbie Krieger...

The Beatles.

Lots of jazz guitarists.

And as to which sells more, I bet that if you looked at current sales, SS amps outsell tube in units moved and $ spent. They're cheaper.

The thing is, the pros using SS amps generally aren't using the lower end SS amps, they're using the best ones out there.
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#20
Quote by Taz9
Pretty interesting stuff here.

Also, while so many players are seeking tube amps, it is normal that the industry keeps on researching and producing tube amplifiers. Tube amps do sell better than SS amps. Most players discard SS amps right away without even trying them. If it was the other way around, there would probably be a heck more good SS amps out there.


Not even close. A couple of years ago folks were stunned to find that Line 6 had the largest market share of any manufacturer (something like 38% at the time). They've sold well over a million of those little Spider amps. Fender scrambled to catch up; the Mustang series is the result and is likely head and shoulders the best seller they have over anything tube.

There's simply not much research to be done regarding tube amps. Aside from bolting a tube power amp to the back end of a modeling preamp, the future isn't particularly bright for tube amps. They're too loud for bedroom use (despite the runaway popularity of the Epiphone Valve Junior at 5W) and the small ones aren't loud enough for the garage bands who gig with a vocals-only PA system. The larger amps (50-100W) are heavy, bulky and fragile and at venues with large FOH systems, guitarists are being asked to turn them down and/or face them backstage. Venues are trying to keep stage volume as low as possible with most sound coming through the FOH.

Tube preamps are being replaced rapidly by modelers, and those run best with full-range speaker systems (ala PA-type speakers); and since all the distortion effects are being done in the preamp stage, there's little reason for tube power amps.

Bass players have happily and rapidly been abandoning the old 300W tube heads and 8x10 refrigerator-sized cabinets (not enough power, heavy as hell) for 1500W bass heads that weigh 10 lbs and 30-50 lb cabinets that can handle 800-900W and go lower and higher than the fridges without farting out. The old tube stuff is both heavy and delicate.

The modelers can run directly into a mixer and into the FOH, with monitoring taking place via powered wedges or In Ear Monitors. If you've got a drummer with an electronic drum set, it's possible to blast the whiskers off an audience while maintaining a nearly silent stage. Why would you want to do that? It helps keep all that extraneous noise out of the vocal mikes, for starters, reducing unwanted feedback and allowing cleaner sound.

Even the garage band folks are in on the deal. For a couple of grand they can have a pretty healthy PA, some modelers and run everything into it. Spending the same amount on a couple of "good" tube amps doesn't get them very far.
#21
And as to which sells more, I bet that if you looked at current sales, SS amps outsell tube in units moved and $ spent. They're cheaper.


Yea I meant, in the niche market of established guitar players if I may precise.
#22
I have no problem playing cleans on a SS. Any type of crunch to heavy gain is another story on any SS amp I've used. I'm sure there is some great modeling stuff out there, but it's easier for me to just turn on a tube amp and have that instant predictable tone, not hours of fiddling with knobs
#23
Well; if you have the cash to drop on a Pritchard Sword of Satori, you would probably be impressed by how good a solid-state amplifier can do both cleans and gain. But we're talking about US$2,000.00 for the head and about US$500.00 for the 1x12" cabinet, or about the same for the amp as a 1x12" combo, so you would have to truly want one to drop that much on it. But they do seem to have succeeded where so many others in the solid-state world have come up short.
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