Tube amp stuff.

“Tube amps sound warmer.”

I hear that always when people talk about amps. I think that it’s like lots of things: They just go along with the crowd.

There is most likely a difference, but to be honest, I can’t ever tell. When I listen to a song, weather it be Judas Priest, The Beatles, or some guy on the internet who recorded his solid state amp, the amp sounds don’t jump out to me and say “Tube amp!” So if there is a difference, it seems to be lost in the mix.

Another thing I hear people say is that modeling amps sound “digital.” Which is very surprising. Most, if not all, modeling amps and other related products, like a Digitech RP70 multi-effects processor, are sampled at 96-Khz 24-bit audio. What that means is that there are 96,000 samples every second, with a resolution of 16,777,216.

In other words, when you look at 1 second of a waveform, the X resolution is 96,000 and the Y resolution is 16,777,216. Can people reallytell when 0.01 of a millisecond goes up a step, which would be a 0.000000000000005% difference? It would be like saying that a person can feel the individual molecules when he rubs his fingers across a piece of wood. The resolution is too high to tell, it seems.

However, I simply don’t know enough about these things to say for certain(and I don’t want to think that I couldn’t be wrong, even when the info seems to support my thoughts). That’s why I’m talking here! It’s something that just came to mind to talk about, so I can know.

Well, there is certainly a difference between analog and digital. No matter how finely you slice up an analog sound, digital is just not the same, it loses the “real time” feeling of analog recordings. It goes the same for amps. Tubes are “warmer” so to speak, and can carry plenty of punch if that is what you are after. Sad to say that the older way of doing things are disappearing. I know, one of my monitors is acting weird, no tubes to replace. My only other option I suppose is to get a new one (spendy little suckers). Then again, it is getting more difficult these days to find replacement tubes. Hmmmmm… .

The answer, as it often does, lies in double-blind tests:
And, also predictably, the audiophiles can’t tell the difference.

Remember: Music lovers listen to music, audiophiles listen to stereos.

I would say its more a matter of preference (sometimes extremely opinionated preference)… same with digital cameras. some people hate them and say that you cant get as fine of a picture as film; but digi’s are so hi pixel count, I doubt someone could tell the difference when printed.

The answer, as it often does, lies in double-blind tests:…d-quality.aspx
And, also predictably, the audiophiles can’t tell the difference.

This is interesting. At the end it says:
“Speakers are the device that creates the sound you hear. The room in which they produce sound is almost equally important to the speakers; room acoustics provide reflections or dampen sound, which will make or break many sound systems. The amplifier only powers the speakers to let them do their job.”

That’s so true. I bought a Durabrand(a Wal-Mart brand) sound system for $50. It sounded bad. The problem was that the speakers only shot out mid-range stuff. One day the living rooms sound system broke, so I gave them my amp, but not the speakers, because their speakers are fine. It sounded great. Much better than the old amp he had, which was an old Yamaha from the 80’s, I think. It wasn’t a cheap amp, either.

So, in the end, the speakers made all the difference. That’s why I’m skeptical when people say that tube amps are warmer, because tubes are just one part of the mix. There are transistors, capacitors, diodes, potentiometers, transformers, speakers, the size of the cab, the wood that the cab is made out of, the guitar cable, shielding, and other things. That would be 10 examples, meaning that tubes are 1 part out of 10. And when you add all the multiple transitors and caps and etc. in the mix, tubes are more like, say, 1 out of 25 of the mix. And not only that, but you would think that, as far as guitar amps go, the more expensive amps should sound better, and not just because of tubes/no tubes. Possibly because the design is better.

I use virtual amps.
MAGIX Vandal lately/

Waves GTR3 previously:

No one knows that you are using a virtual amp until you tell. If you do tell them they say “It sounds a bit digital”.
Otherwise they don’t hear a difference.

My music:

No one knows that you are using a virtual amp until you tell. If you do tell them they say “It sounds a bit digital”.

That’s what I’m getting at. If they didn’t know an amp was digital, could they tell? I suppose we may never know…
All i know is that it is difficult for me to tell.

Every now and then I can spot if a solid state amp has been used, most times it’s not possible. But it really depends on the quality of the solid state amp, and also the genre. Solid state amps in bluesy rock will stand out as a little different most bands tend to use valve.

I perfer valve amps myself, I don’t care for the whole ‘warmer’ argument, to me they sound more lively and have a raw kick around the edges that solid state amps greatly lack. I’ve tried a lot of amp modelling stuff and solid state amps but have yet to find one that truely captures the raw sound, feel and power of my valve Marshall. I also think valve amps have a very different bass response to solid state amps. For me it’s always been a matter of personal choice and the sound you’re after. Both have different sounds, neither is actually better just more suited to a task. I often use solid states when recording metal rhythm sections as they’re tighter sounding then on the same track use a valve on the solo for a deep lead tone.

The difference between amp modeling and a valve amp is huge. If guitars are recorded using amp modeling I find it usually stands out. To me it doesn’t sound as big as a real amp. Also the frequency range sounds too tightly controlled, when an amped guitar is recorded the room the mics are in (and anything else in that room) add a lot to the sound and there are a lot of frequencies thrown in that modeling doesn’t capture.

With digital music the sample rate and bit depth that it’s possible to work at makes it pratically impossible to tell the difference between digital and analogue. However, a high sample rate isn’t going to stop a modelled amp sound unnatural as they don’t often include everything else in the chain that affects the sound such as the room, materials the room is made from, everything in the room, quality of cables, mics, mic placement, pre-amps on the mics, the way the amps sound travels and expands in the room, the micro-seconds in difference between the sound hitting each mic (makes a huge difference to the sound!). These days sample rates are rarely a problem it’s the algorithms used to simulate the amp sounds that fail to capture everything involved in the natural sound and so limit the sound let it down, which to me is what that ‘digital’ sound is.

In my opinion amp modeling is fine for playing in the bedroom, you’d probably never notice the difference, but I’d never record or play live with them again.

When recording bands in our studio we use both solid state and valve amps and have gotten great results with both, but we never use amp modeling. We also have a couple of Art valve pre-amps for mics and they sound soooo much better than the expensive transistor Focusrite pre-amps and Mackie pre-amps we’ve got (though the Mackie pre-amps have a little more headroom I find). I always use the valve pre-amps when doing soft vocals or acoustic guitars.

So to you, it’s a matter of stick with what you know works, because your money is involved?

If you could, I wonder what you would think of this amp modeling software of a JCM 900, it’s freeware. It’s some academic project.

I don’t have the sound card to really hear what it’s supposed to sound like. They’re VST plugins.

I’ll have play with that when I get chance and let you know. I love collecting as much music equipment as possbile, so an extra VST plugin is always welcome. Cheers! :smiley:

For me it’s have as much choice as possible, that way you remove as many sonic restrictions as possible so you’re free to explore and you’ve also got gear to deal with as many situations as you can think of. I always go with what sounds good to me and typically use a mix of analogue outboard gear and VST stuff as well. I’ve just never heard a simulated amp that can compete with how a real amp sounds (or have the infinate ways you can alter the sound before it hits the DAW) so I rarely, if ever, use amp modeling.

Amp modeling is a cheaper way to get a range of sounds, but it doesn’t cut it, in my opinion, compared to the real thing, it doesn’t sound natural. You wont find an amp modeller that can simulate any head running into a home made cab mic’d with an AKG D112 (a kick drum mic). Modeling software only focuses on attempting to reproduce common setups so in that way can actually limit you more. There’s no end of ways to set up a single mic and an amp, but modeling is restricted to the parameters of the unit.

I’ve got a battered Sennheiser mic that they don’t make any more, due to years of abuse it’s frequency response has dulled and sometimes the sound distorts on the edges. However, there are some guitar tones that mic picks up better than the new-ish SM57’s we’ve got (particularly good at micing solid states). Also some metal vocals sound fantastic through it compared to a much pricier condenser mic. You could never find an amp model that would include the tone of a mic like that.

Just bumping this thread so maybe you won’t forget about that VST plugin. Just in case.:smiley:

You can actually quantify what it is that you “hear,” and it consistently comes down to the speakers … and the room. As long as the amplifier has adequate power and is impedance-matched to the speakers (which are connected using suitably “beefy” speaker wire), the entire perception of sound will come from the speakers and the room.

And exactly where you sit in that room. In my audio “man cave” :wink: I have (two!) comfy chairs positioned just so… (We have a library with hundreds of books, hundreds of recordings … and no TV.)

When I bought my first stereo system (which I still have, 25 years later), I spent 3/4 of my budget on speakers and an equalizer. I spent a lot of time working with the equalizer to get the sound that I wanted, then attached numbered strips of labeling material beside each slider upon which I carefully marked the “sweet” position according to my personal taste.

Incidentally, sound software such as iTunes does have a “mixer” control, and equipment like an iPod also has several presets. These can make a considerable difference in playback… again, according to your personal taste.

Some recordings are rather doomed to sound better or worse than others, because of the modern practice of “compressing the hell out of it,” a practice that was started by Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” experiments. And of course, to me, “MP3 sounds like crap, and M4A is not far behind.” But it’s a trade-off, y’know. Do you wanna listen to it in your “man cave,” or do you wanna stick it in your pocket and use (yeech…) earbuds?

You can actually quantify what it is that you “hear,” and it consistently comes down to the speakers … and the room. As long as the amplifier has adequate power and is impedance-matched to the speakers (which are connected using suitably “beefy” speaker wire), the entire perception of sound will come from the speakers and the room.

From my limited experience, it sure seems that way. I haven’t messed with my room, because I really can’t, but the speakers seem to be the most significant factor, after you get a good amp, which, from what it seems, doesn’t have to be that expensive, either.

as a musician, I fully appreciate the difference between tube and solid state amps. the sound is indeed warmer, but the real difference is only apparent when the amp is overdriven, and set to a considerable amplitude. like comparing a howling banshee from hell to a squeaky toy imo. However, modern technology has given us ‘amp modelling’ which closely emulates this sound, and can be accomplished at low amplitude levels, making it more practical in many respects. For a good modelling device, I recommend the Line6 Pod. There are various versions, probably the most notable is the podX3, and just out is the podHD which improves on tube modelling with higher resolution than the previous model. Sorry if I sound like an advertisement, but I really like the pods.

I haven’t had very many amplifiers in the past, but I’ve played a lot of them. My favorite out of the ones that I’ve played was the Marshall MA50C, and it is a tube amp. I have a small Fender G-Dec currently (yeah, I know, I really badly need a better amp), so I guess just about anything would sound better then what I have. I think it also depends on the quality of the instrument you plug into it. I have a PRS SE Custom, and it’s my favorite guitar that I’ve ever played. So, I guess I’d prefer tube amps, but that’s just my opinion. Different people have different tastes :smiley:

but the real difference is only apparent when the amp is overdriven,

That seems to be the case. I remember plying a Ampeg tube guitar amp, and the big difference was the was the overdrive/gain channel. The clean channel sounded the same, to me. I wouldn’t say the tube overdrive is neccecaraly better than solid state, but I wouldn’t be surprized if it was different, because solid states are small silicon peices and tubes are big vacume tubes witch get really hot. Dunno, I’ll have to experiment.