#1
I've heard this term being thrown around primarily amongst tube amp aficionados, and always wondered just what it was. I vaguely know that it's described as "When the tubes begin to break up" or "When you crank an amp REALLY loud" and whatnot, but I have next to no idea what that actually sounds like. At least not without examples.

I guess I'm thinking some form of overdrive and/or distortion here, but apparently that's different. There seems to be such a thing as "pre-amp distortion" and "power tube distortion", which confuses me. Don't you just plug in and play these days?

Hence, could somebody please post some YouTube links or general song recommendations from which I could get an idea of what this particular tone is supposed to sound like. Is it a very highly saught-after tone, or just something that works for certain genres? Will I ever want or need it? Is it possible with a generic amp such as a GH50L?

All answers much appreciated.
#2
uh well tube saturation is gain/distortion/overdrive, what ever. a lot of people consider the distortion you get from the power amp to sound better than the pre-amp. you have to crank it really loud to the the signals amplitude large enough (make the signal loud enough) so that it becomes to large for the tubes to handle, so they clip or compress the signal.

any amp can distort in the power amp. it's just general census that SS break up in the power amp is ****ty, and power tube break up is awesome. you could do it with a gh50l easily, it's an amp right?
Quote by ClassicAxe

consider anything derek suggests, He IS a gain VVhore you know
Quote by jj1565
derek, will you go out wt me?

President Gain Whore -group on profile
#3
its like sex for your amp!!
Epiphone Les Paul Custom
Fender Ash Lite Stratocaster
Ibanez ac70 acoustic
Ovation Celebrity
Fender Blues Jr
planet waves tuner-ts9dx tubescreamer-metal muff-boss ce-5-delta labs dd1 delay
#4
Quote by DaFjory
I've heard this term being thrown around primarily amongst tube amp aficionados, and always wondered just what it was. I vaguely know that it's described as "When the tubes begin to break up" or "When you crank an amp REALLY loud" and whatnot, but I have next to no idea what that actually sounds like. At least not without examples.

I guess I'm thinking some form of overdrive and/or distortion here, but apparently that's different. There seems to be such a thing as "pre-amp distortion" and "power tube distortion", which confuses me. Don't you just plug in and play these days?

Hence, could somebody please post some YouTube links or general song recommendations from which I could get an idea of what this particular tone is supposed to sound like. Is it a very highly saught-after tone, or just something that works for certain genres? Will I ever want or need it? Is it possible with a generic amp such as a GH50L?

All answers much appreciated.


Okay, I'll summarise briefly on the pre and power amp/tube thing:

Pre-amp distortion: Think modern high gain tones like Mesa.

Power amp distortion: Think a cranked up Marshall AC/DC style.

Of course, amps have both pre and power tube distortion, but one is more prominent than the other depending on what kind of amp you're using or what kind of sound you're after.
A dwarf might hear you. What then?

My Music
#5
Kinda getting the idea. Thanks.

Which type would be more desirable for a lead tone, though? It has to have flavour, character, subtle nuances and flourishes. I don't just want a sustained note that sounds empty and does absolutely nothing (i.e. my Spider II crapbox). It would have to be very 'soulful' and deep-sounding. Plenty and plenty of sustain, though.

Rhythm tone I don't care about much. If it sounds vaguely as harsh and cold as Dimebag, I'm for it.
Last edited by DaFjory at Aug 8, 2007,
#6
Quote by timi_hendrix
Okay, I'll summarise briefly on the pre and power amp/tube thing:

Pre-amp distortion: Think modern high gain tones like Mesa.

Power amp distortion: Think a cranked up Marshall AC/DC style.

Of course, amps have both pre and power tube distortion, but one is more prominent than the other depending on what kind of amp you're using or what kind of sound you're after.

actually mesa relies heavily on power tube distortion tim.

peavey would be a better example for pre-amp distortion.
Quote by ClassicAxe

consider anything derek suggests, He IS a gain VVhore you know
Quote by jj1565
derek, will you go out wt me?

President Gain Whore -group on profile
#7
Tube saturation is when its starting to overlaod on the input power its getting and starting to break up, meaning it can be a very subtle/nuancy character

When you think of distortion - thats what you're thinking of but not to make it easier to get we use pre amp gain and dist pedals etc insteaqd of increading the volume by boosting the power valves
#8
Quote by philipisabeast
Tube saturation is when its starting to overlaod on the input power its getting and starting to break up, meaning it can be a very subtle/nuancy character

When you think of distortion - thats what you're thinking of but not to make it easier to get we use pre amp gain and dist pedals etc insteaqd of increading the volume by boosting the power valves

no, input is pre-amp.

EDIT:
increase signal strength going into the pre-amp for more pre-amp saturation with the gain control (increases input ratio) or an overdrive pedal (beefs up signal).

in crease power amp saturation with volume.
Quote by ClassicAxe

consider anything derek suggests, He IS a gain VVhore you know
Quote by jj1565
derek, will you go out wt me?

President Gain Whore -group on profile
#10
From Jeff Beck's Two Rivers; could this perhaps be an example of power amp distortion...

http://rapidshare.com/files/48249058/two_rivers.mp3.html

Or is it just a pedal (fuzz?) adding that extra... hell, I don't even know what to call it. I mean it's crunchy, but sounds somehow insanely distorted to the point of real choppiness. Whatever it is, that is a seriously gorgeous tone imo. I'd love to have it!

Also, about the two types of gain—power amp and preamp—do you have to plug the cable in separately to either one, or is there like a selector switch to go back and forth between them whilst you're plugged into the jack at the front? (GH50L in particular.)
#11
i couldn't hear the link.

but preamp and poweramp distortion generally go hand in hand. it's just working the power section harder, as in turning up the master volume on a tube amp as opposed to turning up the preamp volume.

back when amps didn't have master volume knobs, like old marshall jtm's or something of the sort, artists (hendrix comes to mind) would get their satisfactory tone from really cranking their amps on stage, which overdrives the poweramp. it doesn't deliver uber metal gain, but it does enhance the dynamics of your playing and... i dunno it's hard to explain.

even with my epi vj, the poweramp overdrive i got is heavenly.
Gibson SG Standard + 18volt EMG-81 & 85
Mesa/Boogie Mark IV + Recto 2x12
Keeley Modded BD-2
Vox V847a
Quote by one vision
Bureaucrats gonna crat.

Recognised by the Official EG/GG&A Who To Listen To List 2008
Last edited by UnsignedRecords at Aug 10, 2007,
#13
Quote by DaFjory
I guess I'm thinking some form of overdrive and/or distortion here, but apparently that's different. There seems to be such a thing as "pre-amp distortion" and "power tube distortion", which confuses me.


No, you're on the right track. It's all overdrive.

Power tube saturation is -literally- when the power tubes are saturated with electrons. This is why you hear that tube amps sound better when they're turned up, and can sound a little thin before that. At the point of saturation, the amp will still be clean, but very full sounding. Beyond that point, the amp starts to clip. It's overloaded (overdriven) with electrons, and thats where that classic Marshall OD sound comes from. You get that only by turning the amps volume up, increasing the power -the flow of electrons- in the power amp.

Pre-amp distortion works the same way, but is achieved by keeping the master volume lower and cranking the gain (or volume) up. This saturates the pre-amp tubes, but leaves the power tubes lower electron levels. This type of gain may sound "thinner." Because the power tubes aren't filled with electrons, the empty space results in somewhat of an empty sound, and probably isn't what you're looking for on your leads. It's fine in the bedroom, though.

This is why it's important to by a size appropriate tube amp. A 100W halfstack isn't going to get to that all important tube saturation level in a small club, but a little 15-22W combo will, and sound great doing it.
You Don't Need a halfstack.

You Don't Need 100W.

Quote by jj1565
i love you slats.
#14
This is why a little 5 watt jobbie I built sounds better than anything else I've ever heard. I don't think I've ever used it below 8 on the gain and 9 on the MV.

A large part of it is how preamp and poweramp tubes distort. When tubes distort, clip, saturate, whatever, they create harmonics, which are basically repeats of the fundamental frequency...ie, for a 1kHz fundamental, the 2nd harmonic is 2kHz, the third is 3kHz, etc.

Preamp tubes are normally triodes. Triodes distort pretty much entirely even order (2nd, 4th, etc). These harmonics give a "full bodied" sound to the sound coming out, and are also classified as "warm".

Power amp tubes are normally pentodes or "beam power tetrodes", which are pentodes of a different style. When these distort, they distort primarily odd order (3rd, 5th, etc). These harmonics are usually a little more "grating" on your ears, but having them there is a good thing, as it creates sonic variety and complexity (but, an amp that created all 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th harmonics would sound like fingernails on a chalkboard). Now, in push-pull amps (pretty much every amp out there other than the EVJ), any even order harmonics created in the power amp are cancelled out in the output transformer. So, you get your odds from the power amp.

Adding these together creates a nice complex sound.

Summarizing:
Preamp: Even order harmonics, "warm"
Poweramp: Odd order harmonics, "edginess"
Both together: Bliss
Quote by kcdakrt
DLrocket89 makes my ug experience better!


Member of the official GB&C "Who to Listen to" list

Kit Amp Building Tutorial
#15
for lead, i'd say a healthy mix of both pre- and power-amp distortion would be best.
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#16
^ I thought that you can't get poweramp distortion without preamp distortion. Am I wrong?
I'm dancing in the moonlight
It's caught me in its spotlight
Dancing in the moonlight
On this long hot summer night


Martin D-28
#17
Quote by DLrocket89
Summarizing:
Preamp: Even order harmonics, "warm"
Poweramp: Odd order harmonics, "edginess"
Both together: Bliss


surely if it's single ended, the power amp will also add even order harmonics?


Quote by Chips-
^ I thought that you can't get poweramp distortion without preamp distortion. Am I wrong?


not sure.
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#18
Quote by Chips-
^ I thought that you can't get poweramp distortion without preamp distortion. Am I wrong?
Hmm well the poweramp needs a large supply of current to be overdriven wheras the preamp needs a little which can be controlled by the master - really you need to have it loud or attenuated to get poweramp distortion. So it's all a bit of an unknown quantity...
The Laney Thread are big and clever. No exceptions.
#19
Quote by gpderek09
actually mesa relies heavily on power tube distortion tim.

peavey would be a better example for pre-amp distortion.

LOL!!! Okay there dude... Everyone knows Mesa made its name off their cascading preamp gain circuit when no such thing existed before. That's such a crock of shlt and it's hilarious how you say it so self-assured and condescendingly, which I have to say is an aura I've been feeling around a lot of your posts lately. Mesa is the pioneer of preamp distortion.

Plus you are retarded to generalize an entire brand (Peavey) like that. Peavey makes a lot more than just high gheyners like the 5150, JSX and your beloved XXX.
Last edited by electrik at Aug 11, 2007,
#20
Quote by electrik
LOL!!! Okay there dude... Everyone knows Mesa made its name off their cascading preamp gain circuit when no such thing existed before. That's such a crock of shlt and it's hilarious how you say it so self-assured and condescendingly, which I have to say is an aura I've been feeling around a lot of your posts lately. Mesa is the pioneer of preamp distortion.

Plus you are retarded to generalize an entire brand (Peavey) like that. Peavey makes a lot more than just high gheyners like the 5150, JSX and your beloved XXX.

every time i've played a recto, not much gain has come out of it with out it being fairly loud. maybe the once at my local gc are faulty then?
Quote by ClassicAxe

consider anything derek suggests, He IS a gain VVhore you know
Quote by jj1565
derek, will you go out wt me?

President Gain Whore -group on profile
#21
Quote by gpderek09
every time i've played a recto, not much gain has come out of it with out it being fairly loud. maybe the once at my local gc are faulty then?


I think it is safe to assume that you didnt crank a 100-150 watt amp in a GC enough to get power tube break up. Mesa and other high gain amps do actually get most of there gain before the power section. If you couldnt get alot of distortion out of a recto, you need help eqing your sound.
#22
Quote by gpderek09
every time i've played a recto, not much gain has come out of it with out it being fairly loud. maybe the once at my local gc are faulty then?

Even with the volume way down low you still get a ton of preamp fizz. It evens out and the sound gets bigger as you turn the volume up to the sweet spot, which is natural for all tube amps, but that has little to do with the power tubes actually distorting and clipping into heavy saturation. The sound would still be very clean if you took out all the preamp distortion. I think theres a fairly big misconception of what power tubes actually sound like when saturated, because even with the volume up to about 9 oclock, and becoming "fairly loud", the power tubes are not really distorting much at all.
Last edited by electrik at Aug 11, 2007,
#23
Quote by electrik
Even with the volume way down low you still get a ton of preamp fizz. It evens out and the sound gets bigger as you turn the volume up to the sweet spot, which is natural for all tube amps, but that has little to do with the power tubes actually distorting and clipping into heavy saturation. The sound would still be very clean if you took out all the preamp distortion. I think theres a fairly big misconception of what power tubes actually sound like when saturated, because even with the volume up to about 9 oclock, and becoming "fairly loud", the power tubes are not really distorting much at all.


I agree with the last point, on a lot of amps (especially more modern ones) if you turn down the preamp volume and crank the poweramp up it's still a relatively clean sound.
A dwarf might hear you. What then?

My Music
#24
Damn I was editing to add to my post but it got quoted, so heres the extention.

For example, if you've ever played an Epi Valve Jr, you'd know you only start achieving a bit of overdrive (which is all from the power amp) when you get the volume to about 1 oclock or so. Obviously this varies from amp to amp depending on the design and kind of tube or whatnot, but it seems that a lot of people think that youre distorting the power tubes just by running the amp on more than whisper volumes, which is really not true at all. 6l6s, in the case of the Recto, have quite a lot of clean headroom, and don't distort much until fairly driven, so even with the amp at fairly good volume, what you're hearing isn't "mostly poweramp distortion" whatsoever.
#25
^ i disagree that the VJ is all power amp distortion, but i agree with most of the rest of your points.
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#26
Quote by Dave_Mc
^ i disagree that the VJ is all power amp distortion, but i agree with most of the rest of your points.


I suppose with the VJ, you can't really tell unless you have a master volume control. Maybe Jack might come in useful for once
A dwarf might hear you. What then?

My Music
#27
^

just based on some of the things I've read, you can definitely tweak the thing to emphasise pre- or power-tube distortion. Just because it doesn't have a pre-amp gain control doesn't mean you can't get pre-amp distortion. Also, if you try it with really hot pickups, it distorts before you get to power amp breakup volumes. and it sounds more like preamp distortion.

so, er, yeah. Wholly unscientific, but close enough.
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#28
Quote by Dave_Mc
^

just based on some of the things I've read, you can definitely tweak the thing to emphasise pre- or power-tube distortion. Just because it doesn't have a pre-amp gain control doesn't mean you can't get pre-amp distortion. Also, if you try it with really hot pickups, it distorts before you get to power amp breakup volumes. and it sounds more like preamp distortion.

so, er, yeah. Wholly unscientific, but close enough.

Ah yea, that is true enough heheh, wan't thinking of that, I was mainly refering to what you get when you turn the single volume knob up past halfway and get power tube distortion. Of course every complete guitar amp has a preamp, and as long as you have a preamp you will have gain coming from it.
#29
^
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?