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#1
This is sort of a follow up to the question I asked last night. I have a Peavy Rage 258 and am somewhat satisfied but it gets me frusterated sometimes. I play a variety from blink-182 to the used to nine inch nails to metal (all that remains, bullet for my valentine) and then a little bit of other random stuff (couple killers songs, couple of The Bravery's, Jimmy Eat World, etc.). Now I've only been playing for a few months so I don't want to spend a lot of cash. To aid me in my decision I ask the following question:

What are the pros and cons of both tube amps and solid states?

I ask this mainly because I have two friends who have another year and change under their belts and one recomends tube and the other solid state. I'm fairly new to the whole guitar and amp world so I was wondering if someone could just sort of make a guide to choosing between the two so I can make a better decision as to what I'm going to go with next.

Thanks!
#2
tubes.
pros- sounds great
cons-you have to replace tubes every year(actually usually more than a year)

ss
pros- cheap i guess.
cons- in your price range, sounds like ****
#3
In most cases, tube is the better option.
There can be some good SS, but you are better off with a nice tube combo. It'll give you a sound that you'll be happy with.

EDIT: Post above is stupid. Its whenever the tubes die/get old, which varies based on usage, but usually every 2 years.
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Last edited by Simsimius at May 22, 2008,
#4
bullet for my valentine aren't really a good example of metal
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#6
Tube amps require a lot more time and care to properly maintain, can be a pain in the ass, and are way more expensive than solid state.

But they sound so damn good that it's worth it.
#7
Yeah I included bullet for my valentine as metal because i didn't know what else to really call them haha. Anyways, I did read that link that sweeppicker91' posted before I wrote this up. I was more asking this because I wanted to get a more general pros/cons list that sort of just stated this tends to do this, this tends to do that, etc. More of what general characteristics are. I'm not looking for this is better, this is worse, its more just a comparison so I can get my facts straight.

Thanks again
#8
If you don't know what you're doing yet, I strongly advise people to get a cheaper modeling amp (Roland, Line 6, Vox, etc.) and save themselves a lot of time and money trying to figure out amps, pedals, etc. Especially if you're in that stage of "I want to sound like <insert band name here>", that's the fastest way to get "close enough", until you really are used to listening to yourself play and have evolved somewhat.

That said, a tube amp is a better long-term investment if you plan on playing for years to come - they retain their value better, especially if you buy a good condition used tube amp, and a smaller, lower-wattage amp can attain much higher perceived volume than solid state. An Epiphone Valve Junior 5w tube combo probably gets as loud as a 15w solid-state Line6 amp.

Now, I just tried playing a combo instead of a half-stack in the same room as a drummer Monday night, a Mesa Mark I I believe, and this 15w tube amp easily matched the volume of a live drummer playing loud, and I only had it set to around "7", with the volume pedal on my Boss ME-50 almost maxed.

Tube = you have to replace tubes every couple of years or whatever depending how much you play, and get serviced every once in awhile if you get something like a JCM 800 that you'll want to keep for years. I have a Marshall half-stack and a Mesa 2x12, and I'll probably keep both for life, and they basically have held the price value of what I paid for them. The Mesa is what I'm going to start using as I play out more, since it's more portable, and I expect if I get to start actually gigging this year (my personal goal), that I'll have to spend money on it once a year for re-tubes, caps, cleaning, etc.

Solid State = cheap technology, it's like a computer or your stereo so it should last "forever", more or less. Generally not as good tone, although damn my POD X3 Live sounds REALLY good, I'm not surprised that Garbage and U2 and Nine Inch Nails can record with it instead of real amps, and nobody can tell the difference.
#9
Not sure about maintenance on tube amps. Never had to do any on mine. And tubes dont go out all the time. If you crank them alot every day then yea expect a year. But some people have the same tubes in for a decade or more. SS is cheaper and alot easier to carry around. But will not give the tube tone many have tried, ie transtube. If your not going to be gigging alot then there are plenty of low wattage tube amps to be had without spending a ton of cash.
#10
I have a Crate GFX65 (ss) and a Traynor YCV20 (tube), and honestly, I get a lot more use out of my Crate. The Traynor has amazing cleans, but without an OD pedal (I dont have one yet), the gain on it is pretty much unusable. The crate was one of the first flexwave series, and it sounds alright clean, and the distortion is actually very good.

So IMO, it really depends on what kind of stuff you are going to play and what venues (volume wise). If your budget is really small (<$300 to me is small) and you only play metal, I wouldn't recommend going out and buying something like a blues junior just because its tube. If its just for playing at home, a versatile ss or digital amp might be a better choice.
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#11
tube
-sound amazing
-high maintenance
-expensive

but i'd say its worth it

go for a nice ss though. i played guitar for 7 years before i committed to a tube amp.
i know im going to play for life.

if u are sure this is for a lifetime, go for it.
#12
Especially if you're in that stage of "I want to sound like <insert band name here>"

It's not so much that I want to sound like certain bands, that was just an example of the stuff I play to sort of get a general idea of what sorts of different sounds I'm looking for (I forgot to mention Saosin in that list by the way). I may be approaching a stage where I'm working with some of my friends on our own stuff so I don't wanna only be able to sound like one certain band.

Sorry if I sound really picky, it's more that I don't know exactly what I want, I'm just trying to establish a general idea. I'm starting to get a better idea though, this stuff is helping guys keep it coming.
#13
Sweeping, massively simplified generalizations, assuming a good quality SS amp and a good quality tube amp:
Tube amps tend to have little idiosyncrasies which make them a little more variable- for instance, they are more sensitive to picking dynamics and input volume, etc. The best description I've heard is that tube amps remind you that it's an electric guitar.
Tubes do need to be replaced once in a while- about every year or two, or more with better tubes. Solid state amps generally cannot or are not worth repairing if something major goes wrong. Tube amps are generally easier to repair. Many better tube amps are handwired, which makes them extremely easy to service and repair.
Other than that, there are so many variables that it doesn't make much sense to describe them as being characteristic of one type or another.
Except...
Solid state amps will also not survive an electromagnetic pulse, so if you are playing on or near a nuclear testing facility you will want a tube amp.
#14
...tube amps can survive an EMP?
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#15
Yep. The Russians specifically still use a lot of tube technology in their military programmes. I remember a story about a Russian plane crashing in US territory, and they dismantled it to find a ton of tubes, because they withstand EMP.
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#16
Tube amps:
Pro's
Generally more reliable: Sice most of them require more work, generally more work is put into them and especially on higher end ones.
More "powerful": A tube amp is generally percieved as louder compared to an SS amp, since they can cover more frequencies, causing them to saound louder.
Better dynamics: Tube amps resond more to your playing, hence you can get cleans just by playing softly!
Smoother distortion, better crunch: Tube amps sounds much more smooth and "pleasing" to the ear with distortion. Crunch is generally only possible with tube amps, since they require a lot of dynamics.
Better poweramp distortion: They have a nice and smooth distortion when the power amp breaks up.

Cons:
More maintenance: A tube amp requires more maintenance, more parts to change.
Heavy: Since they demand more power, they have HUGE transformers, so tube amps can be almost unbearable to carry.

Solid State:
Pros:
Cleaner: Why do so many bass amps use solid state technology? It's cleaner and better at being transaperent. Almost every jazz guitarist uses solid state amps for an example.
Lighter: Solid states require small transformers and so on, meaning less weight.
Durable: These amps can handle a beating.
Better at lower volumes: Sure, some overstate it, but solid state amps (like say a good modeler) is often a better practice amp than said tube amps.

Cons:
They die: Basically, when a tube amp gets problems, it ussually fixable (most techs can do it, but a lot of the times when a solid state amp gets broken, it's sometimes unfixable and not a lot of techs are experienced with them.
Poweramp distortion is horrible: Basically, when the power amp starts to distort, it's muddy and just awful. Hence the high headroom.
No crunch: Unless it's a modeler, crunch on solid state amps are not a good idea...

It's up to you but I have two tube amps and I prefer them.
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#17
yeah I'm really torn since I don't wanna spend too much because I'm assuming I'll play for a while but I can't be totally sure. The things is that I don't just play metal so I want a decent mild distortion sound for my other stuff (blink, saosin, some used stuff) and a good clean aswell for it's occasional use. I still want to be able to play metal though so I'm not sure if tube is the best thing now.

If anyone has any amp suggestions (preferably under 200, yes I know that's cheap but like I said, I dont wanna spend too much just yet) that'd be really great (if there are any pedals that would work well posting names of those would be awesome aswell).

thanks
#18
And oh wow, I just realized I forgot to say what guitar I have incase that'll affect anyone's comments. Ibanez GRG170DX
#20
I heard those would be good, any pedals that would be good or channel shifters?
#22
Tube Pros: Better tone, easy to fix, loud.
Tube Cons: Require more mantainence, heavy, generate heat, less tonal range, more expensive, usually don't have a head phone jack, loud.

Solid State Pros: Greater variety of tone, more effects, cheaper than comparible tubes, less maintainence, light.
Solid State Cons: Sterile tone, harder to fix, doesn't take pedals well.
#24
Tubes are awesome for what they do, but they aren't always the best choice. In some scenarios such as extreme high gain or cleans an SS amp is a better choice, especially an analog SS amp. I don't see how anything but a tube amp could be the best choice for a dirty/crunchy/partially broken up tone however. As far as differences:

TUBE:
Pros - Better sound in most cases, particularly for medium gain blues & rock tones. Due to the way the signal breaks up in overdriven tubes, tube amp output tricks the listener into thinking the decibel level is higher for a given wattage compared to SS power. Arguably more granular control over your tone in an amp that has multiple tone controls. Sounds better and better the louder they are cranked.

Cons - More expensive, use more power, generate more heat and tubes can get hot enough to melt and burn stuff that touches, many of them hiss & hum acoustically when the gain is turned up, tubes require maintenance/replacement every now and then, heavier than equivalent SS amp, have to be played cranked up a bit to get the best tone out of them, warm up and cool down period on the tubes before and after playing, arguably more fragile for transporting, easier to damage.

SS:
Pros - Use less power, run cooler, typically not as expensive, basically no maintenance, many are very acoustically quiet, lighter weight, no warm up & cool down period, often have extra features or built in effects that tube amps don't have, can often get significantly higher wattage or more speakers for the same amount of $$$. Most SS amps can easily do good cleans without much tweaking of the settings or tone controls, and most readily take pedals.

Cons - Don't sound as good as tube amps for most applications, usually sound bad when they are cranked above a certain level (although to be fair this is only a problem with amps that are pushing the limit on needed headroom), many of the cheap ones are poorly built with plastic corner protectors and cheap speakers and low grade wiring and stuff like that.

These are all generalities though, and all amps are not created equal regardless of whether they are tube or SS. If comparing pros/cons on a spreadsheet or something you might think an SS amp is a better choice, but tone is the most important thing to lots of folks and they are willing to put up with a lot of inconveniences for great tube tone. I think good SS amps work fine for clean tones and some hi gain situations. I like em' both and am not a tube snob like a bunch of people on these boards. Good luck.
#26
Quote by forsaknazrael
^They don't really more maintenance...Not really. I don't know why everyone keeps saying that...


Well a couple of reasons, the first is that tubes require a tube change ever couple of years or so, no big deal. But people need to be aware of when their tubes start to go bad and need to be replaced. Second, there's the whole warm up period etc. Again not a big deal but these are things one doesn't ever think of with a solid state.


Quote by forsaknazrael
^And solid states only have more "variety of tone" if they happen to have modeling..


Seems like the majority of solid state amps are modelers these days, or at least the more popular ones. Beyond modeling, there are effects like delay, phaser, tape echo etc that many solid state amps include that vary the tone.
#27
Quote by forsaknazrael
^They don't really more maintenance...Not really. I don't know why everyone keeps saying that...


They do to a certain extent, but nothing that's very big. But the good thing with the miantenance is that unlike most SS amps, you can generally fix a tube amp...
Quote by stratman_13
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#28
Yeah, I mean obviously I'll need to test some stuff out but it's one of those things where there's almost too many options
#29
Gabel: Right, right. But no more maintenance than say, you would need to do to keep your guitar operating optimally. You know? It's the same kind of thing.

Quote by rhettro
Seems like the majority of solid state amps are modelers these days, or at least the more popular ones. Beyond modeling, there are effects like delay, phaser, tape echo etc that many solid state amps include that vary the tone.

Right, but still, not all solid states, and I wouldn't even say a majority, have modeling/effects built in.
#30
not all ss amps are bad though. i played one a few years ago, i have no idea what it was but it was better than most tube amps i have ever played even at a pretty high volume. i dont remember the brand but it was extremely expensive, but it had amazing cleans and distortion and could do everything inbetween
#31
dude if your playing in your bedroom or garage, and it sounds like your just starting out, you dont need to worry about such things right now, go ahead and get your self a nice lil solid state combo, like vox, roland, crate; and learn how to PLAY the guitar before you go spending all this money on something you have yet to be able to make and educated decision on. Theres too many people (especially beginners) who want this colossal marshall super stack and dont even know what a arpeggio is.

but since you asked.
TUBE PROS: ULTIMATE TONE
CONS: NONE

SOLID STATE PROS: VERY RELIABLE, STURDY, QUIET ONE AMP CAN BE USED FOR A VARIETY OF GENRES.
CONS: DONT WORRY ABOUT IT THEY DONT CONCERN YOU RIGHT NOW!
"People worry too much about tone instead of just rocking out"
#32
honestly with your budget and what you want out of it maybe try getting a used pod and running it through computer/stereo. Will sound better than most cheaper modelling amps (IMO at least..) and I think a good multieffects pedal like podxt can be more fun when your starting out and youll have stuff to play with. Of course some would say a basic amp would be better to learn on. Cube or valvetronic worth a look.
#33
Okay, these are the actual differences...

Tube:

Pros:

No filters cutting off top & bottom frequencies, different tubes can change tone (bright, dark), warm, high gain clarity, sweet overdriven tone from the power tubes when cranked.


Cons:

Maintainence (to some degree), less clean headroom at amp of same wattage (SS).

Solid State:

Pros:

Little to no maintainence, reliable, lots of clean headroom (depends on amp), nice distortion crunch (personal opinion).


Cons:

Somewhat sterile tone, hard to fix, filters in preamp cut off some of the top & bottom frequencies - doesn't catch all nuances & the like, sounds like ass when the power section is overdriven/cranked.

Feel free to add on/correct my post .
Last edited by DiMeTiMe at May 22, 2008,
#34
Quote by JWD32792
Yeah, I mean obviously I'll need to test some stuff out but it's one of those things where there's almost too many options


Always try before you buy, but to simplify matters $149 Valve Jr combo + $50 Bad monkey will just about destroy any SS amp for tone that i have yet to plug into for the same price.
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#35
Quote by scott58
Always try before you buy, but to simplify matters $149 Valve Jr combo + $50 Bad monkey will just about destroy any SS amp for tone that i have yet to plug into for the same price.


Yeah I've heard fairly good things about this combo, if i were to go with it though, would it be able to pull off anything metal or would i need to get a metal muff pedal or something as well?
#36
Quote by hunter33
Tubes are awesome for what they do, but they aren't always the best choice. In some scenarios such as extreme high gain or cleans an SS amp is a better choice, especially an analog SS amp.

disagree, I don't think SS is a better choice for extreme high gain at all. Preference for sure, but no way is it a flat out better choice. The best extreme high gain amps are all tube amps IMO, and the majority of br00tal extreme high gain albums were done using tube amps. There are a couple exceptions, but there are in every genre. TBH, I don't think it's a better choice for cleans either, just preference.
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#37
Quote by JWD32792
Yeah I've heard fairly good things about this combo, if i were to go with it though, would it be able to pull off anything metal or would i need to get a metal muff pedal or something as well?


You'll need pedals, but it's well worth it.
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Wampler Super Plextortion
Line 6 Pod HD
#38
Tube amps DO require a bit of mainteniance, but I almost think that it is a good thing. When broken a tube amp is usually pretty easy to fix, but a SS amp quickly becomes a paperweight.

Changing out tubes can be a good thing, I swapped out the tubes in my Blackheart, and it sounds even better. I got more distortion out of it. I like having that option and the sound is oh so sweet.
#39
Quote by Fama
...tube amps can survive an EMP?

Quite easily. Actually, the surge caused by an EMP would be very similar to you just cranking the volume- all it does is run the tube over spec. Tubes usually survive this without harm, but the crystal lattice structure of a transistor will break down almost immediately during a surge such as an EMP. You can test this, if you dare, with a handmade mini-EMP generator (made out of a disposable camera) - but it's probably best to just take my word for it. Keep in mind that many "all tube amps" nowadays have some transistors in them.
Last edited by Roc8995 at May 24, 2008,
#40
tubes are better sounding but they can be a pain in the ass. and theyre more expensive
that's why they make half-tube amps(not all tube): vox valvetronix is a good cheap modelling halftube amp.
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