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  1. #1
    As a start, I prefer my tube amp because of the extra complexity and warmth it adds to my tone. However, I also know tube amps are heavier, and potentially less reliable, than their solid state counterparts. I have a SS head and cab, which gets me about 80-90% of the way to my tube tone.

    In a live performance context, with other musicians, audience, ambient noise … I feel like that tube goodness gets lost.

    So, I wanted to see what the forum thinks. Is that magical tube tone lost in the mix? Is it worth it to keep lugging a heavy tube amp to gigs? Or is a good enough SS setup good enough?

    Cheers all!

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  3. #2

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    I go back to the signal chain. What does the audience ultimately hear? An amplified mix through a desk and a house PA? If only that, they will not hear the subtlety amongst all the other stuff going on.
    but will you? Will that tactile feedback loop connecting your ears with the input of your fingers make you react and play differently- more engaged, immersed and passionate about the tone and energy you are coaxing out? Because if it does the audience will definitely pick up on that. And that to me makes it worth it.
    my 2c opinion only.

  4. #3

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    My decision which amp I take to a gig depends on this :
    - a small group concert performance ? I load up the trunk with my best stuff + an extra guitar.
    - a corporate gig/restaurant/bigband etc. ? My Bud/Helix Stomp rig, one guitar.

  5. #4
    Interesting point - psychology may play a bigger part of getting you in the best mindset to play/sound your best.

  6. #5

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    From my Burns Orbital Stage One in 1967, I've mainly used solid state amps even without knowing the distinction initially. A Peavey Classic 30 and Fender HRDL in the 1990s were way too loud and heavy to be practical. A Koch Studiotone 20 and a Fender SCXD did replace a Henriksen Convertible for a couple of years until DV Mark, Quilter and other Class D heads appeared from 2016 onwards, to power ultra-light cabs of my own make. All these years I played with several swing jazz bands. Guitar sound was hardly discussed and never an issue. Nor did I ever have reason to comment other than positively the sound of whoever was on the sax or trumpet. They were givens, and so was mine. Some takeaways: 1) Tonal subtleties do get lost in a band setting. Unless you're the leading star of a trio in a concert situation, any decent rig ok for yourself will do. 2) The interaction between the guitar in a comping mode and the bass do matter. The simplest way to stay out of trouble is to stick to a 10" or smaller speaker. Forget Freddie Green and walking bass if you're all amplified and there's a bassist next to you. 3) None of this applies to fusion or other heavily mutilated tones, of which I know nothing. If your floor is crowded with digital stomp boxes, do you really need a vintage guitar to produce the original signal and a vintage amp for one more layer of color?

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Campbell_jazz
    Interesting point - psychology may play a bigger part of getting you in the best mindset to play/sound your best.
    Timely episode of TPS that may help:


    around minute 28 is what I was referring to.

    I know this is about amp vs direct, but in their context it is tube amp vs digital alternative. Not quite tube vs quilter or polytone but I suppose you’ll get the drift.

    also consider- tube vs AER or Hendrickson is apples vs oranges. In this case SS is being its own thing on purpose.

  8. #7

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    Some time ago I ran out of NOS tubes for my Fender Deluxe. I was not about to pay the price of a new tube so I cut down the chassis of a Sidekick 65 bass amp to fit in the deluxe box. It looked like a tube type Deluxe from a distance.

    I played a gig in a pit band for a variety show with my ES175. After the show the sound man (he is also a tube geek) said to me " You just can't beat the sound of a tube amp can you ". I said no you can't. He had no idea it was a solid state amp.

    If it looks like a tube amp then It must sound like a tube amp.

    I sold the chassis on Ebay with worn out noisy tubes for enough to buy my Fishman LoudBox mini with money to spare.

    I find the LoudBox far superior to the tube dinosaur.

  9. #8

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    When I think of great tone, two players come to mind who I've heard live. One played a Twin one played an AER Compact 60 with some additional gear. Both great.

  10. #9

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    years back..FenderTwins were my go to..yes very heavy and I could not use all the power..if I set the volume on 5 that was still too much for most of playing with bands..

    these days I play through a 8" SS mini amp..its enough to fill small rooms and sounds great on demos..

    and my ears dont ring after playing for an hour or so

  11. #10

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    Depends on what gets you the sound you want. I've played through tube amps I liked and tube amps I didn't, and SS amps I liked and SS amps I didn't.

    Jim Hall sounded great with an ES-175 with P90 through a GA-50, and Ed Bickert sounded great with a Tele through a Roland Cube. There is no definitive recipe.

  12. #11

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    Personally I favor my ES-175 through my Laney LionHeart (20w) when accompanying a singer (no other musicians).
    When I get gigs with a band (drums+bass+keyboards), I rely on my quilter Superblock US to do the job perfectly.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Campbell_jazz
    As a start, I prefer my tube amp because of the extra complexity and warmth it adds to my tone. However, I also know tube amps are heavier, and potentially less reliable, than their solid state counterparts. I have a SS head and cab, which gets me about 80-90% of the way to my tube tone.

    In a live performance context, with other musicians, audience, ambient noise … I feel like that tube goodness gets lost.

    So, I wanted to see what the forum thinks. Is that magical tube tone lost in the mix? Is it worth it to keep lugging a heavy tube amp to gigs? Or is a good enough SS setup good enough?

    Cheers all!
    When I was playing jazz regularly (gigs, jams, and daily practice) I used my DRRI to amplify my ES-175. I kept handy a Jazz Kat amp for back-up, which was, at jams, frequently used by a concert violinist. It had plenty of power for the rooms we played, served as a chair for me on the smaller stages, and effortlessly produced the tones I sought. A small luggage cart (yard sale special) sufficed to haul it about, and it was perfect for it's purpose.
    Just before the crash of '07-'08 I invested in an Acoustic Image Corus Series III combo -300 watts of Class D clean in a 22lb package. Again, great tone at any reasonable volume, very modest stage foot print - but then of course the price of tomatoes went from $20 a bushel to $40 and upwards and poof! went our steady Saturday night jazz gig.
    Sic transit gloria, etc.
    My point? play with the stuff that gives you the most joy and dig it while you can.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by EastwoodMike
    Timely episode of TPS that may help:


    around minute 28 is what I was referring to.

    I know this is about amp vs direct, but in their context it is tube amp vs digital alternative. Not quite tube vs quilter or polytone but I suppose you’ll get the drift.

    also consider- tube vs AER or Hendrickson is apples vs oranges. In this case SS is being its own thing on purpose.
    Excellent episode fro Dan and Mick, as always. A footnote, if I may, on the "silent stage" thing: In 1982 I got the first Rockman in our area, to be followed in turn by the first Rockmodule. Our bass player, hitherto lugging around an SVT head through an 18" EV speaker cab knew a good thing when he saw it, and got a Bass Rockman asap. We played as a trio + vocalist for years in clubs, up and down the river circuit, indoors and out, for years on end from a stage devoid of amplifiers - just the drums - and not one single person of the collective thousands for which we played ever seemed to notice and certainly never remarked upon, except to say how good we sounded.

    Audiences Do. Not. Care. They just want to hear music. Please yourself.

  15. #14

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    I use everything, tubes, analog solid state, digital, or direct to console with a digital or analog effects unit. I will enjoy the playing anyway, all of these solutions can produce a working good sound. But for me tube amps are the real thing, what defines guitar sound for my tastes. I can hear a clear difference when i'm playing, in sound, in feel, response, in projection in the stage and in the club, how they blend with the rest of the band. Same with most other instruments, piano vs digital piano, hammond with a leslie vs nord, etc. Same with recordings and cds made on an analog console vs all digital ones (or vinyl records), i prefer their sound.

    I 'm really happy these options exist. I love my ZT lunchbox as much as i love my princeton, i'd buy both again if needed. And most (not all) modern tube amps are of lesser quality than fifty years ago, whereas solid state and digital amps are getting better and better.

  16. #15

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    Good tube amps are heavy.
    Good solid amps are light.

    I use both.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Campbell_jazz

    So, I wanted to see what the forum thinks. Is that magical tube tone lost in the mix? Is it worth it to keep lugging a heavy tube amp to gigs? Or is a good enough SS setup good enough?

    Cheers all!
    My modeling amp is good enough for my gigs. My tube amp sounds better, but it also has to be turned up louder to sound its best, which can be too loud for some situations. Plus it's heavier and takes up more room on a cramped stage, so I wind up using the modeling amp more. Those are the main factors in how I decide what to bring.

    I doubt an audience would notice the difference. It makes some difference to me in terms of the way my playing interacts with the amp. But (especially for clean tones) it's not a big enough difference to bother me.

  18. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by citizenk74
    Audiences Do. Not. Care. They just want to hear music. Please yourself.
    What a true statement — please your ear with your tone, and you will be happy. The audience will be happy just to be at the venue. Win — Win.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by BBGuitar
    Some time ago I ran out of NOS tubes for my Fender Deluxe. I was not about to pay the price of a new tube so I cut down the chassis of a Sidekick 65 bass amp to fit in the deluxe box. It looked like a tube type Deluxe from a distance.

    I played a gig in a pit band for a variety show with my ES175. After the show the sound man (he is also a tube geek) said to me " You just can't beat the sound of a tube amp can you ". I said no you can't. He had no idea it was a solid state amp.

    If it looks like a tube amp then It must sound like a tube amp.

    I sold the chassis on Ebay with worn out noisy tubes for enough to buy my Fishman LoudBox mini with money to spare.

    I find the LoudBox far superior to the tube dinosaur.
    I don't know about the Loudbox Mini being superior to a tube amp - that's a matter of perception (since it is considered an acoustic guitar amp), but it is a great amp. I've have the Charge version of the Loudbox Mini (which has a built-in Lithium Ion battery pack), for almost 3 years, and it's been great for my church band gig with acoustic guitars - especially since it's problematic finding a place to plug in an amp on the small raised stage at church.

    Oh, and I'm not a tube snob - I buy amps based upon how they sound. I've had and played amps of both type (tube and solid state) that were good, and just plain awful. My current amp is a Fender Tonemaster Deluxe Reverb. It sounds good, is light weight (thanks to its Neodymium magnet speaker), and takes pedals very well.

  20. #19

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    A viable alternative to an amp with a built-in battery is a power station. I have a Beaudens, but there are other brands which seem pretty similar. it will run a solid-state amp with Class D power amp for hours, in addition to powering other stuff, both AC and DC. Very handy for places with no AC power, as well as at home when the power goes out for hours or days. Down here in Texas, that happens with annoying frequency, usually at the worst possible times.

  21. #20

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    If your after a basic Fender Blackface Clean without the weight or tube issues get a Quilter Aviator, or at least their 100 watt equivalent or more like the TB202 or new Mach series.

    Fender also offers a solid state Deluxe and Twin Reverb model.Either way much better choice than the old tube amps. Plus they have a great line out compensated for direct. Never need a microphone again.

    At the end of the gig you’ll be way happier as well!

  22. #21

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    The big difference to me is that tube amps have a certain volume range where the tubes make a difference and sound amazing, i hate the sound of a fender blackface breaking up... so for me, if a drummer plays a little louder, if the room is a little bigger etc... the tube amp becomes a liability and a solid state amp will sound basically the same as you get louder or softer... i prefer tubes, but they are less forgiving