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  1. #1

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    For many years I had cheap SS amps. When I started earning reasonable income I got tube amps and got rid of the SS amps. Of course my EXPENSIVE tube amps sounded much better than CHEAP SS amps.
    Until recently I've never owned a good SS amp. I did use Henriksen's and Jazz Chorus's for rehearsals. They sounded great. But I never owned one until last week when I got a Traynor mini bass head (SB200).

    I A/B'd the Traynor with my Deluxe Reverb and Champ by plugging the head into the cabinets of the amps. I'm extremely happy with the sounds I'm getting. Warm and clear. Honestly the only difference I hear is a slight EQ variation which can be matched with some pedantic tweaking. I did put a mojo mojo in front at times in order to compare with the Champ better as it starts breaking up a little even at 1!
    Note I'm only comparing the clean and very slightly dirty sounds, not cranked full overdriven sounds (that wouldn't be possible with Traynor anyway without pedals.)
    The point is not that cabinets powered by tube amps vs the Traynor sound identical. The point is that the differences are like differences between any two good tube amps. There is a slightly quicker response by the Traynor perhaps. That's all I can tell. Note though I haven't played the SS setup loud yet.

    So the question. A good SS amp and a tube amp using the same cabinet played clean. Is there really identifiable difference between the tube paradigm vs SS paradigm design? Well aside from the increasing sag and bloom of tube when pushed harder vs the more linear response from SS amps. Note we are allowed to use a good "tube-like" OD pedal to get the slight warm break up when digged in.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 06-09-2019 at 04:28 PM.

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  3. #2

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    Tubes and SS do sound different even when there is no break up. In guitar amps. In high end stereo gear. There are some very good emulators. And some very good SS amps. But they are not the same. And for me, tubes sound warmer and better. I realize that sounds like a pronouncement and who am I to say.. but thus far, for me, I've found it to be true.
    Hell is full of musical amateurs - George Bernard Shaw

  4. #3

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    A great compromise amp is the Quilter Aviator, for great Clean tones. No doubt small tube amps that includes Princeton, Deluxe, ssnd a couple of older Gibson GA models are the ideal choice.
    But given their limitations, the Quilter Aviator is the way to go.

  5. #4

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    I have a Katana 100 that I’ve gigged with and use a Marshall Bluesbreaker pedal with it - sounds quite good. (Some of my other drive pedals don’t sound as good with that amp.) I do have a nice tube amp (Fender Custom Vibrolux Reverb) as well, but either amp is fine for me depending on the gig.


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  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spook410 View Post
    Tubes and SS do sound different even when there is no break up. In guitar amps. In high end stereo gear. There are some very good emulators. And some very good SS amps. But they are not the same. And for me, tubes sound warmer and better. I realize that sounds like a pronouncement and who am I to say.. but thus far, for me, I've found it to be true.
    For clean jazz sounds ....
    although the amp can make a small difference tube vs SS vs class D

    the speaker and cab choice makes a MUCH larger difference ....

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Spook410 View Post
    Tubes and SS do sound different even when there is no break up. In guitar amps. In high end stereo gear. There are some very good emulators. And some very good SS amps. But they are not the same. And for me, tubes sound warmer and better. I realize that sounds like a pronouncement and who am I to say.. but thus far, for me, I've found it to be true.
    If you don't mind me asking, what are the quality SS amps you compared tube amps with for clean sounds? Were the cabinets similar?
    I'm asking because you said tube amps are warmer. There are a lot of quality SS options today that can get warm tones. What are other differences you notice? Again for clean tones only.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 06-08-2019 at 11:22 AM.

  8. #7
    For clean sound, yes - tubes are warmer and more sorta lively. But the other hand, I've played with a few SS amps and if not caring about the tube strengths too much, they can actually have a surprisingly sweet tone. Don't even remember.. I think it was an old beat-up Fender Stage 100 or something similar, and a complete newbie amp from Behringer that did just that. Not warm, not "tubey", but very very pretty. Most of the SS amps were not so good though. But they were cheapos.. so.

  9. #8

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    High quality solid state amps have gotten very good at emulating the sound of clean tube amps. No doubt about it. I still don’t think they’ve quite arrived when it comes to the sound of a cranked Deluxe Reverb, but they’re closing the gap. When you consider weight, maintenance and reliability you’ve gotta go “hmmmm.”

    So says the man with the Evans and the AX8.

  10. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan0996 View Post
    I still don’t think they’ve quite arrived when it comes to the sound of a cranked Deluxe Reverb, but they’re closing the gap.
    To be fair though I wouldn't consider cranked Deluxe Reverb clean sound

  11. #10

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    I don't hear any difference.

    Price and weight, mostly weight does it for me.

    Digital is my choice.

  12. #11
    I could not shut up about this.. derail. I've already posted here somewhere but I think it's still worth...
    I have a RNP (FMR audio really nice preamp) that sat in my closet for 10 years unused. Bought it for classical guitar>mic>computer.
    Never needed it for anything else but for some reason I checked its features online and eh.. there was 2 other inputs for "you can plug your guitar in there if you want". So I did and bam!, got entirely new, fresh good(better for a few reasons) and usable tones from guitar>preamp>amp "high gain input". I think it's something everyone should try - using good quality preamp before anything else. Never heard about this before that so I had to post again

  13. #12

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    I think it depends. Just clean with no breakup I have a hard time telling the difference sometimes between the very high end modelers and the actual amp they are based on. Not all the time - sometimes I hear the difference and can pick the amp certainly, but others I would just be guessing. On the cheaper side I’ve gotten comments that people listening can’t tell that I’m using a modeler when I was using my Mustang GT100. I think from the audience it’s very hard to tell the difference.

    That is all listening. Playing I think the difference is more notable. The nicest ss amps I’ve had in the past were both Henricksen, a Convertible and a Bud. Both sounded good enough that students and colleagues bought them after hearing mine and seeing how small they were. But now, of all things I’m using a Monoprice 15w amp. The Convertible was long gone and the Bud has to go due to finances but even if I still had them I’d be playing the Monoprice. I had used ss only for a long time, last tube I had was a Twin but that was at least 15-20 years ago now. The Monoprice just has a response that I had never gotten from any ss amp. The way the notes respond is something very apparent and I can tell the most difference there, but the breakup, or edge of it is another big difference. I was always looking for that by getting some device to put in front of my amp. Some things came close but never exactly there with that sound we are used to hearing on old records. The first minute of this cheap amp and there it was, before even getting to tube swapping or anything.

    So yes, for me there is a difference. However I don’t think that is very important info for others because it all comes down to each person individually since the listener will likely not be able to tell the difference if someone is trying to emulate tube sound. The technology has gotten very good.


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  14. #13

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    I'm convinced now tube amps have no place in hi fi sound reproduction regardless of what audiophiles tell you (for background see audiosciencereview.com for instance).
    In the guitar world there seems to remain a dense fog of superstition and unscientific BS about tube amps. I wish traditional manufacturers were more innovative. Today's Leo Fenders seem to be in the digital realm for the most part.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tal_175 View Post
    If you don't mind me asking, what are the quality SS amps you compared tube amps with for clean sounds? Were the cabinets similar?
    I'm asking because you said tube amps are warmer. There are a lot of quality SS options today that can get warm tones. What are other differences you notice? Again for clean tones only.

    I have quite a few SS amps. Acus 350 is a gem for a great many things. Also a pair of Schertler Jam 150 ext's. When you are going after an acoustic sound (several of my archtops are set up as acoustics) they can't be beat. Probably apples/oranges to this conversation since they are higher fidelity. And then there is the old Lab Series L5. 2X12, 100 watts. A little noisy now but a very solid sound with a great deal of headroom. And a Henriksen jazz head with a Redstone 12 nice for that midrange jazz sound I don't care for. Better with a Joyo American in front and the mids scooped out. And finally, a Roland Blues Cube Artist which is actually a very good alternative to the weight of a tube amp. They put a lot of effort into making it a tube alternative, and they did quite well.

    None sound as good, warm, round, rich (language isn't so great for describing sound differences) as my Fender Concert. And the hifi stuff sounds quite a bit better if I front them with a Palmer PD1-CTC tube preamp. Makes everything sound so much more.. organic?

    As for speakers and cabinets, they do matter quite a lot. But once I ran the Lab Series, Henriksen, and Fender Concert all to a 2X12 closed back with Celestions for a side by side comparison. The Concert was so much better than the rest I went out got an EV speaker for it because the OEM Fender speaker was holding it back. If we're talking guitar speakers and cabinets and all things are equal, for me, tubes win. And, if some of that is psychoacoustic.. I'm OK with that. I play better notes when I like the sound I'm getting.

    All that being said, technology marches on. The Roland Blues Cube Artist is a really good amp. And then there is the world of higher fidelity speakers (powered PA speakers, Schertler, Clarus, et al) with an emulator in front of them. They can sound really good and offer flexibility guitar amps can't. I'm thinking the next generation solid state will be as good or surpass tubes in all the things tubes do well.
    Hell is full of musical amateurs - George Bernard Shaw

  16. #15

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    I recently did an A/B test of my new Little Jazz against my beloved 66 Ampeg Reverberocket. ME80 adding reverb in front of them, but also using the amps' reverbs.

    Changing the EQ of either amp made more difference than switching from one amp to the other.

    Once they were both adjusted to "my sound", my wife couldn't tell which was which (that was the blindfold part of the test).

    I thought the Little Jazz was a little cleaner when I hit a chord hard.

    But, really, not that much difference in sound. The Little Jazz weighs about half as much and is much smaller. Usable volume may be roughly similar. The old Reverberockets aren't all that expensive (I see them on CL from time to time anywhere from $600 to maybe $1000 or so), but the LJ is only $359.

    I have played through and HRD which I thought sounded amazing -- better than the Reverberocket. I'm guessing I might prefer the HRD to the LJ, but then it's not simply tubes vs SS, it's this particular amp vs that one.

    And, now on the opposite side of the argument, I have a friend who is sort of a classic guitar gear cork sniffer. Boutique tube amps, various pedals, various guitars with expensive setups and so forth. In a way