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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know that in the preamp, tubes make a noticeable difference. But here's dilemma...

About 4 months ago, my beloved Rocktron Velocity 300 poweramp finally died. I then purchased a Mesa 2:100 200w all-tube poweramp. At the time, I was floored it. Perhaps, it was because it was new gear and we all get euphoric when we buy something new. Now that I've had some time with it, I'm not really noticing anything new with my tone. To me, I could just get another Rocktron SS amp & get the same tone I'm getting now with the Mesa. The only thing I notice with the Mesa is that it's it got TONS of volume wise, but I'm never going to go louder than I am now.

So here's my questions...Is there really that big of a difference between the tone of POWER TUBES and a SOLID STATE POWER section? With the cost of tube amp being substantially higher than SS amps, does the difference justify the cost?

Here's how I run my rig:
Rocktron Chameleon volume is at 3 (roughly 9-10 o'clock position)
Mesa 2:100 poweramp volume is maxed out w/ the presence knobs set to the 10-11 o'clock position.

Am I missing something?
 

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Well, if you don't notice much of a difference in tone other than volume and you have your tube amp volume up (which you do) then, maybe you should switch back to a solid state amp. I too used a Roctron Velocity amp (120) for a while and got a good deal on a new 2:90 so I bought it and switched amps. I, on the other did notice a tonal difference (more bass immediately comes to mind) between the SS & a tube amp. I have to adjust my TriAxis' settings to compensate for the added bass I'm getting. As I turn up the volume the better it gets (can't turn it on 10 though)... I don't know how you can crank your 2:100... mine doesn't go past 10 o'clock. I got lots of comments thru the years regarding the fact that I didn't use tube power amps with my tube power amps (also had a Carvin ss amp too). None of the comments were negative, just questions as to why I didn't use a tube power amp. I usually answered light weight and that the preamp gave the majority of the tone anyway and I long as I was at half volume or lower on a SS amp my sound was great. I'm keeping my both Velocity 120 and my 2:90. I'm not sure that I would stay using the 2:90 as my main amp if I didn't hear a tonal difference though. If you're fine with SS amp too (which I am too)... maybe you could sell you 2:100, get another Velocity (and another guitar with the difference left over).
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Robotechnology said:
Well, if you don't notice much of a difference in tone other than volume and you have your tube amp volume up (which you do) then, maybe you should switch back to a solid state amp. I too used a Roctron Velocity amp (120) for a while and got a good deal on a new 2:90 so I bought it and switched amps. I, on the other did notice a tonal difference (more bass immediately comes to mind) between the SS & a tube amp. I have to adjust my TriAxis' settings to compensate for the added bass I'm getting. As I turn up the volume the better it gets (can't turn it on 10 though)...
I run TONS of low end on my rhythm distortion & I get the same bass response with an SS or tube amp. For you, going to a tube amp yielded better sounds. For me, I'm pretty much getting the same tone as I did with the SS. Granted, my tone is killer, so it's hard for me to justify using a tube amp. Why have tons of money tied into a tube amp & the cost of upkeep if I'm get the same killer tone with the SS amp? Ya follow me?

I don't know how you can crank your 2:100... mine doesn't go past 10 o'clock.
See my initial post. I maxed out the poweramp, but I only run my preamp about at about 3 (on a 10 scale). That's stage/rehearsal volume.
 

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I think a tube poweramp is much more important to the sound than the preamp. Ive played some solid state preamp and Tube poweramp hybrids and the sound was great (old Peavey Heritage, Marshall Artist)

But the whole "tube preamp-ss power" isnt any fun. The Marshall AVT's sound like little practice amps to my ears.
 

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If you can't hear the difference, then just stick with solid state. But, IMO, nothing will ever sound better than a good tube power amp. (Gex, I LOVE my Artist!)

I do have to admit though, that a kid was using a Marshall AVT150 at our show last night, and it really impressed me. He had a really nice sound.
 

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My rack is a modded ADA MP-1, Rocktron Intellifex, and BBE 482i into a MosValve 962, it sounds good and I'm not pushing the MV that hard. I've thought about getting a tube power amp, I've used lots of tube amps in the past, but really can't justify the cost, weight, or maintenance. The MV sounds good, I've also used a Carvin F600 that sounded as good or better but I blew it up (my fault, they are great amps). The only way I could justify using a tube power amp is if I was on big stages pushing multiple speaker stacks and needed lots of volume. Running a high power tube amp at lower volumes is not going to get you the "tube goodies", the tubes are still running in their linear range so they won't sound that much different from a well designed SS power amp. The tube advantages really start to show up when you are pushing the tubes hard, which is really hard to do on a 200W amp.

Has any one done any blind testing to compare tube and SS at reasonable volumes?

The Mesa 20/20 sounds interesting though, tube tone at a reasonable volume.

$0.02,
Roger
 

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Most of the difference will come at the end of the volume window. So when the tubes are working really hard, there will be a difference in the dynamics. You can't really make a judgement on "tone" if by that you're referring to "more bass" etc. Any amp can have a sonic character built into it-and EQ "footprint" so to speak. So when you're not pushing it hard, it's a lot more like a SS amp. It's kind of like clean sounds. Sure the Fender/Boogie tube clean is rich and full, but not that different from SS when run softer. But a loud clean tube amp really sings. It's all happening in the dynamics, and how they respond to the different frequency ranges. So while you might not hear more lows, they could "pump" more with a cranked tube power amp. You might not hear more highs, but there could be some "crackle" in the highs with a sharp pick attack, that gets softer and rounder when you aren't picking hard. The SS amp will be more linear.

So if you're already using a heavily distorted (therefore compressed) sound going in, even a cranked tube amp will have less of an effect, because you've squashed the dynamics at the preamp. You need a clean or half-drive sound with no compression to really be able to feel and hear the difference. I'd say for you (revsharp) you could go back to a SS amp and it'd be no big deal. You'll get a more consistent sound across the whole volume range, too. But if you're running an SRV style sound through a cranked 1x12, you'll get hooked on the tube power.

My rig is powered by an old Fender tube head to a 2x12, AND SS power to both a 1x15 and a 2x10. So you could say that my fat dynamic mids are all tube, while my highs and lows are a cleaner, more linear SS. Although it seems to be the best of both worlds, I still would prefer tube power to the 10's and 15. I mostly record at medium levels with various degrees of half-drive tones. For a totally saturated lead sound sometimes I'll even go direct. Dare I say for a total saturated mega distorto sound even preamp tubes are less necessary. I hear tracks all the time that I know were layed with a Dual Recto. And by the time they get to "tape" it could've been anything, even a multi-processor. BUT to actually play one loud is a great experience. I'd love to record with one because the feel would make me play differently, and respond to the amp.

To recap, tubes are less necessary when you're doing all the dynamic and tonal processing at the preamp level. Why couldn't I have just said that instead of this huge rant?.....
 

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Gex said:
I think a tube poweramp is much more important to the sound than the preamp. Ive played some solid state preamp and Tube poweramp hybrids and the sound was great (old Peavey Heritage, Marshall Artist)

But the whole "tube preamp-ss power" isnt any fun. The Marshall AVT's sound like little practice amps to my ears.
I have never played a solid state preamp and tube poweramp combo, but I bet they sound better than the other way around. When power tubes compress, they sound great.

Rules for getting a good tone out of a preamp - back off on your preamp gain and up the master volume as loud as you can stand it.

revsharp777 - the reason you arent getting a killer tone is that poweramp is a 200 watt Mesa. Mesas poweramps tend to be a bit cleaner for one, and second you're going to have to turn the preamp up a bit louder so you actually push the poweramp a bit so with 200 watts, that's going to be very loud, trust me I own a 1969 Marshall Major!
 

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"When power tubes compress, they sound great."

No doubt about it, but where are you running a 200W tube power amp hard enough to get the power tubes to clip (compress)? The Mesa 20/20 sounds like a good choice to be able to use without getting thrown out of clubs. My old 50W Marshall head was too loud according to some of the sound guys we had.

Roger
 

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I've notice the main difference for my sound using a Digitech Valve FX on a tube amp,,it seemed a little dirty, I use a Carvin DCM 1000 and wow I noticed the difference there, head room ( duh ) and tons of clean tone I mean crystal clear. But really it's hard for me to tell the difference or a noticable difference anyway between the 2. Rev it's funny you stated that question, cuz last night I was looking at the Marshall poweramps, the big boy EL34 100/100 http://marshallamps.com/images/products/rack/el34100100.html
Then I saw the price,,,, It ran down my leg man! 1700 give or take. It was then that I thought back on how big of a difference does it really make in tone? Heads are a different thing in my opinion tube and SS are obvious,,but when your tone is being made by a preamp I really think that is what is going to dictate the sound the tubes in the power amp may warm it some. Volume is a true test,,, but I have to believe Rev has played it loud ;)

Well that my 2 cents and a soiled pair of shorts....

~A
 

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Good thread RevSharp. I have 2 rigs:

1) I have a Marshall AVT150 head going through a Marshall 1936 2-12" cab.

2) I also have a BUDDA boutique 30 watt class "A" point-to-point handwired combo with 5 12AX7 preamp tubes and 4 EL34 power tubes and a rectifier tube with a single 12" speaker.

When I'm playing alone the AVT sounds great- full and warm with the single 12AX7 preamp tube- but with the band it washes out and really has trouble competing- I keep the volume around 7-8 just to hear it (that's 150 watts of SS), but the 30 watt all tube combo is NEVER over 4 on volume and cuts right through the band with FAT, WARM harmonic distortion.

I believe there is a MAJOR difference between SS watts and tube watts.
I also have a MG 15 "transistor radio" combo which sounds really great in my bedroom for practicing at low volume by myself. Digital effects sound great on that thing too!

Just some observations I've made and others may disagree........
 

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rgr said:
"When power tubes compress, they sound great."

No doubt about it, but where are you running a 200W tube power amp hard enough to get the power tubes to clip (compress)? The Mesa 20/20 sounds like a good choice to be able to use without getting thrown out of clubs. My old 50W Marshall head was too loud according to some of the sound guys we had.

Roger
This is so true, and exactly why I love my 30 watt Artist so much. I still can't turn it way up, but I can get the tubes working at least a bit harder, and it sounds great. When I used 100 watt Marshalls, the sound guys would almost always make me turn down to the point that a good solid state amp probably would have sounded, and suited, the situation better.

I've even thought about getting a THD Univalve. 15 watts CRANKED though a 4x12!
 

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That is totally correct.. The power amp section has to be cranked to the max and you have to get the speakers moving, etc.. to get the liquid sound and sustain, etc.. The power amp in my opinion and experience is much more important than the pre amp, so I personally am convinced that a power amp is much better tube, than SS. For the reasons above.. The reason the original poster said he coudln't notice a difference is probably because he can't crank it.. If they make a power brake for the thing, I'd try that and see if you like it before you go back to SS.. But, if you like SS, then go for it.. but I can't see how it would be better all things being equal unless you're never going to get to crank it to the max..

Tim

rgr said:
My rack is a modded ADA MP-1, Rocktron Intellifex, and BBE 482i into a MosValve 962, it sounds good and I'm not pushing the MV that hard. I've thought about getting a tube power amp, I've used lots of tube amps in the past, but really can't justify the cost, weight, or maintenance. The MV sounds good, I've also used a Carvin F600 that sounded as good or better but I blew it up (my fault, they are great amps). The only way I could justify using a tube power amp is if I was on big stages pushing multiple speaker stacks and needed lots of volume. Running a high power tube amp at lower volumes is not going to get you the "tube goodies", the tubes are still running in their linear range so they won't sound that much different from a well designed SS power amp. The tube advantages really start to show up when you are pushing the tubes hard, which is really hard to do on a 200W amp.

Has any one done any blind testing to compare tube and SS at reasonable volumes?

The Mesa 20/20 sounds interesting though, tube tone at a reasonable volume.

$0.02,
Roger
 

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If you're playing very different sized venues, and your live stage volume fluctuates, you may still prefer SS because you know what you're going to get regardless of volume. Sure the speakers will break up and the cabinet will start purring, but the basic footprint of your tone will remain intact. If you go from raging dirty to crystal clean in the same set, then a tube power amp pushed hard will loosen up your "hi-fi" clean sounds, and that could be a bad thing. It's like you'd need a 20/20, 50/50, and a 2:100 ready to go, depending on the situation. Still, if you're getting the tone you want out of your preamp/processors, a cranking tube power section (no matter how "good" it sounds) will alter that sound.
 

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Not sure I followed that post very well Tim... My point was that at low volumes there probably isn't much difference. There is really not much call anywhere for a 200W tube power amp, a Mesa 20/20 is supposed to be plenty loud and you can run it hard enough to get the "tube goodies". To me, putting a power brake on a power amp is kinda silly, first of all, you need 2 brakes, one for each side, it would be cheaper to get a lower powered amp. The good Rev is also using a Chameleon which does quite a good job of not only emulating (not modeling) a tube preamp, but also a tube power amp so running it into a SS power amp would be fine.

<$0.02,
Roger
 

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Hi Roger,
Sorry, Didn't mean to be confusing, I was actually doing about three things while posting.. What I was trying to say is that if you have that huge power amp, UNTIL you crank it and get the tubes to compress as someone else said, you don't gain the benefits..

The power brake would be silly if one has to do it like you say.. I didn't realize that.. I just thought it may be a good way to keep the power amp, but I see now what you're saying, and I totally agree..

I think the Mesa 20/20 is probably the way to go as Roger has said here.. It's at least a power rating that you can probably crank in all but bedroom size venues and not kill hearing, and yet get that killer sound.. I saw somewhere that some company is selling a Power Amp that will hold like a POD or VAMP to use as the preamp. I thought that may be a great idea.. I love my Tech 21, but I'm still going to find a good Tube amp to use.. I'm really wanting an amp that will do the Marshall Mk2 thing like Yngwie gets..
Tim
 

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revsharp777 said:
I know that in the preamp, tubes make a noticeable difference. But here's dilemma...

About 4 months ago, my beloved Rocktron Velocity 300 poweramp finally died. I then purchased a Mesa 2:100 200w all-tube poweramp. At the time, I was floored it. Perhaps, it was because it was new gear and we all get euphoric when we buy something new. Now that I've had some time with it, I'm not really noticing anything new with my tone. To me, I could just get another Rocktron SS amp & get the same tone I'm getting now with the Mesa. The only thing I notice with the Mesa is that it's it got TONS of volume wise, but I'm never going to go louder than I am now.

So here's my questions...Is there really that big of a difference between the tone of POWER TUBES and a SOLID STATE POWER section? With the cost of tube amp being substantially higher than SS amps, does the difference justify the cost?

Here's how I run my rig:
Rocktron Chameleon volume is at 3 (roughly 9-10 o'clock position)
Mesa 2:100 poweramp volume is maxed out w/ the presence knobs set to the 10-11 o'clock position.

Am I missing something?
I got your set up (chameleon and Velocity 300). Try to find another velocity :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
UPDATE: So, I did some fiddling with my rack the other day & I finally discovered that pure tube tone goodness.

First, I lowered the input level on my preamp. That got rid of the feedback problem. I no longer have to run my Boss Noise Supressor (aka the sustain-sucker).

Secondly, I bought a simple Roland on/off switch so that I could turn on the "Modern setting" in the Mesa 2:100. HOLY ****! What a difference! The amp is so aggressive now, it'll peel the paint off the walls!

OH YES, I KNOW HEAR THE DIFFERENCE!
 
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