Why Is a Tube Amp So Special?
There are two words which describe this type of amp: natural and warm. For all the sound nerds out there, there is a reason why top players prefer tube amps over anything else and why they are regarded as the “classic”. Thermionic valves, as technical experts would call them, are made of tubes which heat up when the electric current runs through the amp. The tubes modulate the current and pass the signal to the speakers or cabs of the amplifier, creating an intuitive and pleasant sound.
Nobody really expected that Thomas Edison would have anything to do with music but it turns out he contributed a lot to the modern-day sound of the electric guitar. There is a science behind the signature “warm and natural” tone and it particularly depends on the triodes. They are responsible for modulating the current once the tubes are heated, which allows frequency control with minimal feedback.
This is what allows players to crank up the volume without fearing the feedback will rip off their eardrums. Moreover, a clean tone can be maintained if played lightly whereas hard strums and hits on the strings can produce a well-rounded overdriven sound giving the player an overall broad dynamic range of playing. So for those who want to rock as rock’n’roll legends did, tube amp should definitely be your weapon of choice.
Shopping a Modern Day Tube Amp
The market has blessed us with three primary types of amplifiers:
Pure valve amp
Valve/solid-state hybrid combination
Solid-state/digital amplifier combination
Before you make any decisions, you have to understand how each type works to better suit your music agenda. Every type has its pros and cons and no quality amp is a cheap purchase so give up any notions of bargains unless someone is practically giving it away for nothing on platforms like eBay or some flea market. Bottom line is, not only should you get your money’s worth but you should also strive to find an amp that is ideal with your playing style and the sounds you want to achieve.
The Pros & Cons of Tube Amps
- Warm, natural, classic rock sound
- Ideal for dynamic playing and achieving light overdriven tones
- Detailed, Hi-fi, crystal clear signal
- High maintenance – replacing tubes is costly
- Spare pieces for vintage valve amps are hard to come by