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Thread: Valve pedal?

  1. #1

    Valve pedal?

    Hi guys, I want a Mambo but am at least a year from being able to shell out for one. I like the clean tones of valve/tube amps with loads of headroom but don't want to schlep; am a refusenik on the present generation of cheap 'modelling' amps. For the meantime I'm on an 80s Bandit or (if I'm lucky) a 70s Cube 60.

    Recently, I've seen renewed interest in the old idea of 'starved cathode' preamps, pedals with one or two valves run at low voltage but still delivering pleasing sounds. Instructables.com has posted a couple of circuits and the pedals are turning up on eBay.

    Distortion pedals sell to rockers, so I imagine that most of these are designed to scream. Does anyone have experience of using one *not* to scream, but to warm up a clean or sterile amplifier? Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Best, W.

  2. #2
    Check out Jack Zucker's "found my sound" thread, he's just done exactly this and he knows his stuff.

  3. #3
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    Funny/cool-looking, and great sounding: frenzeltubeamps.com - Hot Rod Preamps

  4. #4
    also has anyone tried the art tube mp v3
    12ax7 based pre-amps

    they're a bit cheaper
    only preset eq curves tho

    dunno

  5. #5
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    Sarno makes tube preamps based on the Fender circuit, not cheap though,

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by niftyprose View Post
    Hi guys, I want a Mambo but am at least a year from being able to shell out for one. I like the clean tones of valve/tube amps with loads of headroom but don't want to schlep; am a refusenik on the present generation of cheap 'modelling' amps. For the meantime I'm on an 80s Bandit or (if I'm lucky) a 70s Cube 60.

    Recently, I've seen renewed interest in the old idea of 'starved cathode' preamps, pedals with one or two valves run at low voltage but still delivering pleasing sounds. Instructables.com has posted a couple of circuits and the pedals are turning up on eBay.

    Distortion pedals sell to rockers, so I imagine that most of these are designed to scream. Does anyone have experience of using one *not* to scream, but to warm up a clean or sterile amplifier? Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Best, W.
    By schlep you mean carrying a heavy tube amp?
    You want light, cheap, and sounds great but won't try modelers.
    Good luck with that.

    Use the triangle principal for amps.
    Imagine a triangle with each point labeled: cheap, light, sounds great.
    You can have any 2 qualities on a side of the triangle but not the third. So light and cheap but not sounds great; light and sounds great but not cheap; cheap and sounds great but not light.

    I think my Fender Mustang IIIv2 breaks the triangle rule but you won't try a modeler.

    I know other guys who have used tube preamps in front of SS amps for a warmer sound but the better preamps are all $200-700. You could try a cheapo like a Presonus. Even a compressor like a Boss can warm up a SS amp. But ultimately, you r limited by the SS amp. Chances are the preamp is not going to make a crappy SS amp sound warm and rich. It could make a good sounding SS amp sound better but it won't change the fundamental tone of the amp.
    Last edited by DRS; 05-08-2014 at 10:48 AM.

  7. #7
    Thanks for all the responses, guys. Lots of good stuff here. I'm shelling out for an old Cube 60, a 'jazz-approved' amp which I respect rather than like. When I've dialled it in, I will experiment with a tube preamps and post findings here. Best, W.

    PS Jack Zucker does indeed sound amazing.

  8. #8
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    Build your own?

    Using the schematic below, for less gain/overdrive, just change the 50K Gain pot (VR1) to a 10K linear pot.



    For more info, just search for "valve caster" on google.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by pingu View Post
    also has anyone tried the art tube mp v3
    12ax7 based pre-amps

    they're a bit cheaper
    only preset eq curves tho

    dunno
    they're horrible IMO. Starved tubes does not give you the big , open headroom. You need HV for that.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by DRS View Post
    By schlep you mean carrying a heavy tube amp?
    You want light, cheap, and sounds great but won't try modelers.
    Good luck with that.

    Use the triangle principal for amps.
    Imagine a triangle with each point labeled: cheap, light, sounds great.
    You can have any 2 qualities on a side of the triangle but not the third. So light and cheap but not sounds great; light and sounds great but not cheap; cheap and sounds great but not light.

    I think my Fender Mustang IIIv2 breaks the triangle rule but you won't try a modeler.

    I know other guys who have used tube preamps in front of SS amps for a warmer sound but the better preamps are all $200-700. You could try a cheapo like a Presonus. Even a compressor like a Boss can warm up a SS amp. But ultimately, you r limited by the SS amp. Chances are the preamp is not going to make a crappy SS amp sound warm and rich. It could make a good sounding SS amp sound better but it won't change the fundamental tone of the amp.
    Depends on what you mean by cheap.

    Carvin BX-250 - $199
    Custom tube preamp - $175
    1x12 open back cab - $199

    Pretty cheap , pretty light, sounds great.

    And I'd put my sound up against any boutique tube or SS amp.

    I can even do a convincing jimi hendrix or SRV with this rig.

    NOBODY would ever hear it and think it's SS. In my mind, i've put the whole "is it the power tubes or the preamp tubes" debate to rest. Might be different if I were playing roots rock but for jazz, country and even classic rock tones, I'm sold.

    Also, it doesn't matter which SS amp I use. Mambo, AI or carvin. It pretty much sounds the same.

    Also, you've hit upon a pet peeve of mine. What does warm mean? Warm means dark and maybe fat to me. All 3 SS amps I mentioned sound warm. What makes the tube preamp different is that it's not warm. It's clean, transparent, and brighter. It has an upper end sheen that is just not possible on any of the SS amps I have. The Mambo has the correct tone controls but the freq curve is just wrong for getting a bright fender clean tone. It's always warm.
    Last edited by jzucker; 06-24-2015 at 02:36 PM.

  11. #11
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    That Ethos Overdrive pedal must be a engineering design master piece, using Transistors, Mosfets, Fets, opamps etc to get a Tube tone has been the holy grail, I'm still using Tubes to sound like Tubes.

  12. #12
    the ethos doesn't quite sound like tubes. The BF fender showman preamp is responsible for the tube tone in my situation. The ethos is a good backup but it's not quite there. I think some of that is the dumble vs the BF fender preamp though. The BF preamp is still the best tube preamp voicing IMO.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by jzucker View Post
    Depends on what you mean by cheap.

    Carvin BX-250 - $199
    Custom tube preamp - $175
    1x12 open back cab - $199

    Pretty cheap , pretty light, sounds great.

    And I'd put my sound up against any boutique tube or SS amp.

    I can even do a convincing jimi hendrix or SRV with this rig.

    NOBODY would ever hear it and think it's SS. In my mind, i've put the whole "is it the power tubes or the preamp tubes" debate to rest. Might be different if I were playing roots rock but for jazz, country and even classic rock tones, I'm sold.

    Also, it doesn't matter which SS amp I use. Mambo, AI or carvin. It pretty much sounds the same.

    Also, you've hit upon a pet peeve of mine. What does warm mean? Warm means dark and maybe fat to me. All 3 SS amps I mentioned sound warm. What makes the tube preamp different is that it's not warm. It's clean, transparent, and brighter. It has an upper end sheen that is just not possible on any of the SS amps I have. The Mambo has the correct tone controls but the freq curve is just wrong. It's always warm. Never bright, clean and transparent.
    What tube preamp fro $175? I see that your tube preamp in your "I Found My Sound" thread was a one-of custom build. You mention the Frenzel but it's $275. What $199 1x12 sounds good for jazz? I can get a Yorkville 1x12 extension cab with either a Celestion 70/80 or Greenback for $300 new but I can't imagine they would sound good for jazz.
    Last edited by DRS; 05-09-2014 at 11:12 AM.

  14. #14
    re Art preamps

    Quote Originally Posted by jzucker View Post
    they're horrible IMO. Starved tubes does not give you the big , open headroom. You need HV for that.
    interesting , whats the rail voltage on your
    one off pre-amp Jz ?

  15. #15
    Hi everyone, thanks for various posts. I'm particularly glad to get responses from Jzucker, to whose bionic tone Mangotango alerted me at the start of this thread, but I enjoyed reading up on ROG (which I hadn't known about). I'm very interested to learn that Mr. Z. believes his tone comes from the preamp rather than the amp -- that's exactly the approach I want to take. I'm guessing that the 'custom preamp' in question is the BF which was referred earlier, and would appreciate a website address if possible.

    I posted this thread after reading the various Instructables schematics on 'starved cathode' (ie cold/low voltage) valve pedals and note that lots of people seem unconvinced by the resulting tone. In searching for 'hot tubes' preamps, I've turned up a few that weren't mentioned in this thread. These were:

    Lehnert GoGo lehnert GoGo pedal pics & information
    Orlando Brilliance Orlando Brilliance Unit overdrive per chitarra un prodotto Nocivelab (well, I think it's hot tubes)
    Siegmund Missing Link Siegmund Missing Link | Guitar Tube Effects Pedal Preamp

    Based on specs and web reviews, the Siegmund would be my fave -- it seems not to be built for skull-crunching distortion, it's only about twice as much as I wanted to pay, and it uses the small military-spec tubes that ZVex use for their tiny valve amps. These seem like a better bet for pedal installation than a 12AX7 or such.

    If anyone knows of other pedals using these tubes 'hot' I'd be delighted to hear.

    Best, W.

  16. #16
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    Correct me if I'm wrong but every website/schemo/blog etc. regarding starved cathode/low voltage tube preamp/pedals has been to achieve a warm distorted tone for rock and blues. Not a jazz sound.

  17. #17
    Yep indeed, hence my interest in 'hot tubes'. But worth mentioning that there's some variation between tubes here, too -- as I understand it the little ones used in Zvex amps and the Siegmund run cooler than the older, bigger designs even when you aren't 'starving their cathodes'. Best, W.

  18. #18
    Yep indeed, hence my interest in 'hot tubes'. But worth mentioning that there's some variation between tubes here, too -- as I understand it the little ones used in Zvex amps and the Siegmund run cooler than the older, bigger designs even when you aren't 'starving their cathodes'. Best, W.

  19. #19
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    This is an interesting 12volt circuit from tube amp guru Merlin Blenclowe.
    (Obviously don't forget the heater circuit.)

  20. #20
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    I have an older Mesa V-Twin which has a really great clean side. Can't say I've tried it with any of my SS amps yet, but I think I'll give 'er a whirl tonight

    The V-Twin clean side into a cheapie Berhringer Ultra-G DI box is my favorite DI recording rig. Better than using my Princeton speaker out through a THD Hotplate into the Ultra-G. The V-Twin is not made anymore, so it might be a bit difficult to track one down...

  21. #21
    Hi guys, thanks for all the suggestions. I turned up a page which seems to be the motherlode for high-voltage valve preamp pedals. It's here...

    Preamplifier pedals to push your guitar amp to that tone 56 Inc Tubestation | AMT SS20 | Mesa Boogie.

    As a couple of people pointed out already, these devices have an overwhelmingly rock bias. But a scan down the list reveals a couple of 'clean valve' pedals among all the heavy metal thunder. I also spotted a couple of gaps in the Jedi's Googled collection. If anyone can suggest any others (V-twin noted, thanks DG) I'd appreciate, especially if, like JZucker's, your box is jazz-friendly.

    Best, W.

  22. #22
    Kingsley Squire.

  23. #23
    I have a Quilter Aviator 1x12" combo that I love the clean, but am not as enamoured by running pedals through it. I just traded my Roland Cube 80X in for a brand new Cube 80XL. I actually like both the clean and pedals through it as well. I'm not sure what they've changed but no matter what type of guitar Johnny Smith, Gibson 339,Fender 54 Strat,Tele, etc. they al sound great to my ears! About $400-$450 new.

  24. #24
    Hi guys, especially Insufferable_Rhythm -- I hadn't known about the Kingsley clean(ish) preamps, and these are definitely the closest thing out there to what I had in mind. I wrote to Simon at Kingsley to discuss the merits of the Page vs. the Squire for my application and got a reply in <12hrs at the weekend -- top marks for that.

    I'm havering about choice of amp so won't be able to post findings for a while, but I'll update when I have something. Meanwhile, keen to hear about other 'hot tubes' preamps, ideally small & well-behaved...

    Best, W.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by niftyprose View Post
    Hi guys, especially Insufferable_Rhythm -- I hadn't known about the Kingsley clean(ish) preamps, and these are definitely the closest thing out there to what I had in mind. I wrote to Simon at Kingsley to discuss the merits of the Page vs. the Squire for my application and got a reply in <12hrs at the weekend -- top marks for that.
    .
    What was his reply?

  26. #26
    note: I've owned several Kingsley pedals and none of them get the bright, clean transparent tube tone that the fender gets

  27. #27
    Thanks, guys.

    Insufferable: he said the Squire, because it has independent bass and treble controls

    Mr. Zucker: noted on the Fender tone. 'Bright' doesn't describe what I'm after, but I'd certainly appreciate details of your preamp. It's for my files...

    Best, W.

  28. #28
    Sorry, pkirk, confused in complex thread. But he said the Squire, because it has independent bass and treble controls. W.

  29. #29
    various damage control pedals (now strymon) were of the giant 12ax7 variety. they served as preamps, direct out boxes or distortion pedals, depending on how you set them up and which tubes you went with. i use an old liquid blues primarily as a preamp, to keep my solid state amp from sounding like a robot. awesome overdrive, but its size is an issue. i forget the exact voltage they run at, but they require their own adapter as its much higher than the norm.

    i believe it was the womanizer and demonizer that had the direct out feature, if you're into that. they are supposed to be quite good, despite the names.

    mind you, i wouldn't expect any of these to sound like a fender, but its something. and the ability to play with tubes gives you a lot of control.

  30. #30
    whey I say bright clean, I'm talking early benson, early martino, deluxe reverb era wes. To me, most SS amps are dead and sterile. Adding a fender preamp to them gives them life. I've played through SS amps for almost 10 years without a tube preamp and prior to that used exclusively vacuum tubes so I've got a lot of experience in both areas.

    The preamp I use, like a fender has close to 300v on the rails.

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