So you found yourself puzzled with a decision that still makes many musicians scratch their heads with questions. Should you go for a tube amp or a solid-state one? There is a lot of information about it, so let’s briefly expose the general aspects of both worlds without being too technical, and based on our own experience so that you have a general vision and can make a good decision before the purchase.
The Scientific Background Behind the Choice
David Keeports, a physicist at Mills College (USA) was the only credited physicist who studied the differences in sound between a tube amplifier and a solid-state one. He scientifically proved something that popular wisdom has always known. Valve amplifiers add harmony to the signal input, while transistor amplifiers produce an irregular harmony that generates dissonance. The results of this research were published in the journal Physics Education.
The electronic amplifier is a device that increases the current intensity. This happens thanks to a specialized mechanism that acts on it, such as transistors and vacuum tubes. These mechanisms are capable of modifying the electrical conductivity by the action of a control signal which, in the simplest example, activates the “on” and “off” functions of its current. The control signal can become quite weak if we compare it with the current that passes through the device. Therefore, it is possible that a weak signal with low voltage peaks produces a high power alternating current, high enough to, for example, reproduce sound or activate the detector.
Tube Amplifier – an Old Fashion but Harmony-Rich Choice
Let’s start by pointing out that both choices have advantages and disadvantages. The first thing that will capture your mind is power. And we all know that a solid-state amp has more power than the tube amp and that they are much easier to maintain. Another advantage that can easily be seen is that solid-state amp has less weight and take up less space than the tube one. Needless to say that just by looking at the selection at the music hardware store you will see that they are a lot cheaper solution.
And you will be wondering what is the inconvenience? After all, no one wants something that is expensive, hard to maintain and takes a lot of space for something that isn’t intended to be stationed in one place for a lifetime. Well, one of the things that most guitarists agree on is, among other things, is the sound. It is true that we have to wait for it to warm up so that it sounds really good, but as for sound, there is no doubt.
And you should also be careful if after a rehearsal or concert you are going to move it, it won’t go as easy as it is with a solid-state amp. You will always have to wait until it cools down in order to avoid damage and prolong its life as much as possible. If it is still hot when you are going to transport it, the great chances are that it will be damaged during the movement and your pocket will be affected as much as the cost of some low-end solid-state amp.
Remember that when buying a tube amp, you will need replacement material, since the tubes suffer from usage and you will have to change them regularly. When it is time to change them, it is very important that the new valves are equal. This means that if the ones you have purchased do not have the same characteristics as the one you are going to replace, you will have to adjust the amplifier.
One of the things most of us like about the tube amplifier is that the more you use it, the better it sounds. It’s something that every musician loves. Maybe it sometimes does not sound perfect but it provides you with a sound you would never get with a solid-state amplifier.
It is true that a tube amplifier is more expensive, but unquestionably its sound is fantastic, much warmer and natural, clearly defined, with a distortion that you will never get from a solid-state amp.