Question: Tube or Solid State?
has the debate raged over what type of amplification sounds better:
tube or solid state? Well, the Virtual Musician thinks this to be
a question of apples versus oranges! Personally, I have always thought
of tube and solid state amps to be two different types of amplification;
not different facets of the same thing but two entirely different
amps are like watches with self-winding movements, technically archaic
and prone to being problematic. But the really good ones produce a
gorgeous, full bodied sound. And they have a certain cachet and mystique
with a lot of guitarists. Lets face it, as guitarists, most
of our heroes use/used tube amps. So, there is always that draw: "Man,
Hendrix got a killer sound out of these Marshalls. If I could just
get that sound
state amps are more like watches with quartz movements. They tend
to be more workmanlike and reliable. Much more consistent, much less
likely to exhibit a particular personality. With, say, 3 Fender twins
sounding 3 slightly different ways, solid state amplifiers will sound
the same from amp to amp.
characteristics of both amps vary greatly. A good tube amp should
give a full sound, with clarity and definition. My best example of
what a great tube amp should sound like is a Fender Twin Reverb, also
my favorite tube amplifier. It produces a sound with great bite and
clarity from the lowest bass notes to the stratospheric reaches of
the treble register. I love the definition it produces with the bass
notes of a guitar, which can get muddy with a lot of amps. But, with
a Fender Twin each bass note is clearly articulated and very round
and full. Another thing I like about the Twin Reverb is that the sound
it produces has what I call a "hollow middle". It doesnt
make a lot of mid range punch, it accentuates the lower and higher
registers. This is why it is not a good amp for heavy metal type sounds.
Also, in order to get a decent distorted tone, you need outboard gear.
It wont do it on its own. For tones like that, Marshall and
Crate make great amplifiers. However
state amps can give you the best of both worlds. The solid state amp
I like is also a Fender, the "Deluxe 112 Plus". This is
what I use, but I am only using this as an example of a good solid
state amp. There are many good ones available. What I like about solid
state is that with a little fiddling about, I can get a real good
tone for any musical genre. It has a great clean sound, almost as
crisp and biting as a Fender Twin. Its distortion channel is blistering
and with a slight manipulation of the gain and contour controls, I
can achieve a wide range of distorted tones from a soft and fuzzy
fusion-y sound to a full bore maniacal metal screech, with all the
pick harmonics at my disposal. It can give you very punchy mids,
so you can metal or grunge out to your hearts content. But what I
really like is that with a little playing around, I can get a lot
of tones that I have heard and loved, all out of this one little amp.
I can go clean and cop a great Robert Cray sound. Also, that great
clean tone Stevie Ray gets on Lenny? Been there, done that! You got
a Strat and you want to sound like Jimmy? No problem. You got an ES335
and you want to sound like Robben Ford/Larry Carlton? And, hey, if
you just want to sound like yourself? Solid state amps can be very
versatile. If you like to play with a wide range of sounds, solid
state can do it for you.
in the end, the debate still rages on. Tube or solid state? The beauty
of sound is in the ear of the beholder.