Tubes, Wheres the "sound" Apr 7, 2016 11:10:53 GMT -5
Post by copperpipe on Apr 7, 2016 11:10:53 GMT -5
You do need to differentiate WHICH PART of "the tube sound" you're actually looking for.....
* The slight "sparkle" or "shimmer" or "smoothness" is typically considered to be due to the higher levels of second harmonic distortion (and you get that with a preamp or a power amp).
* The gradually increasing distortion (monotonic distortion curve) is present in both, but is more noticeable with tube power amps. That's the part that causes tube amps to seem slightly more powerful than what the specs would indicate - and some people say makes them sound "more dynamic". Unfortunately, the fact that a 20 watt tube amp sounds as powerful as a 40 watt solid state amp must be considered in light of the fact that you can probably get a 100 watt solid state power amp for less cost than a 20 watt tube amp.
* The "smooth" or "loose" sounding bass is a function of damping factor - and so is mostly a characteristic of tube power amps. Most tube preamps won't won't add any of that at all.
Tube preamps are also easier to design than tube power amps, and a lot cheaper to build, which means that they're more likely to work well; and they use cheaper tubes that don't tend to wear out as often (if ever). Incidentally, take all the endless chatter about this or that tube sounding hugely different with grain of salt. Tubes were originally designed as a commodity item - and most of the current attitude towards vintage tubes is... err... somewhere between "highly exaggerated" and "just plain silly". Yes, different brands and even factory runs of tubes can have slightly different electrical characteristics, which can cause them to sound slightly different in a given circuit, and some circuits have clearly been designed to exaggerate the differences, but how that works out is mostly random. (You can easily pay an extra $200 for a vintage tube that, when it was new, sold for 50 CENTS more than another brand, or maybe 50 cents LESS, simply because some reviewer is convinced it sounds better in his amplifier. And the sad reality is that, even if it really did sound better in his amp, and of course according to his personal tastes, it's pure random chance whether it will sound better in YOURS, unless you have the exact same model. Therefore, you might as well try a handful of $10 tubes from eBay - and, with luck, in your amp, one of them will sound better than the $200 one.)
The best place to start dabbling would be a low-cost tube preamp kit from a reputable vendor - and select one that uses commonly (and cheaply) available tubes - like the venerable 12AU7 and 12AX7 and their modern equivalents.
Thanks Keith, that was very informative. Guess I might try a tube pre-amp someday though I'm quite happy with the current Big Ego as well.