What is a tube amplificator for guitar ?

The tube amp :

Tube ? Wait, why tube ?

Back in the days where digital and micro technology didn’t exist, the first amplificators where made with tubes. Beware, here we don’t speak about the geometric figure, not at all. Here, we speak about this device that some engineers compare to a lamp bulb. As seen below. You’ve understood well, this tube will heat up like a bulb and its wire will shine bright like a diamond… wait.. not exactly like that. The aim is to generate power and thus, sound. Nowadays, you can find amps without tubes but with transistors (less expensive) or with modelling technology (digitaly calculated sound). There are also hybrids amp crossing those different technologies.

lampe amplificateur de guitare
Here’s a tube… a glass tube


Thus, a tube amp is constituted of … tubes !

amplificateur à lampes
A tube amp, rather pretty isn’t it ?


Advantages and inconvenients of a whole tube amp :

The advantages

  • A very typical sound under the influence of each of the tubes. There are many series of tubes. Warmer sounds, more round, etc.. Each tube have their own sonic signature. Thus you can play and affect your sound by changing your tubes.
  • A more ” powerful ” sound : warning, a tube amp does’t have a higher sound a transistor one. 1 W is 1 W, nothing more. Tube amps are just enjoying better quality speakers. What can make it feel louder and more powerful than transistor ones.
  • Overdrive and flexibility of the tubes. If you drive your tube amplificator to the top, the tubes will handle it, where the transistor would break.
  • The seducing “old school machine” style : the fact you need to pre-heat the tubes of your amp before using it, looking at them lighting up, it has a peculiar effect on the guitarist. Here we find it charming !
  • Higher dynamics and amazing harmonics : be aware that we don’t mean a transistor amplificator would make honnor to your play. Just that you have higher chances to spread a rich sound on a tube amp than on its counterparts. A quality transistor amp might after all equal a tube amp easilly, if you put the price in it of course.

The inconvenients

  • Fragility : tube are very weak, they don’t like to be carried ! Careful of chocs and trips if you don’t wanna spend your savings changing them.
  • the price : tubes are expansive ! Count a minimum of 40€ per tube. Quite a high sum knowing you have on average 8 tube in a tube amplificator.
  • Yield rate and volume : you’ll obtain better resultats by pushing your aplificator to two third of your volume. I’m afraid your neighbors won’t appreciate it !

Few complimentary informations on the tube amp for guitar

We observe here the power stage of the Amp with the tubes. Those are the ones boosting the volume of your sound. The second stage is also composed of tubes, but special ones. Those to shape the type of sind you’ll hear. Don’t forget to pre-heat the tubes before each use. To do so, activate the POWER button 5 minutes before deactivating the STAND BY. Do the same to turn off your amp. Be careful, tubes are made of glass ! A sudden change of temperature or a heavy choc could damage them, along with your amp.

peavy valveking à lampes

Anyway, whether you own a tube amp, transistor or modelling one, only you ear is the judge. There is no secret method or special formula to chose which amplificator is the best. A transistor amp is not necesserily worse than a tube one. And a modelling amp can be as useful as a tube one to your eyes. Trust yourself and try as many guitar amplificators as you can 😉 !

On my side, I play with a all tube combo, a modelling one and a hybrid transistor/tube. They complete each other and have all their advantages and inconvenients 😉

Wanna know more about modelling amp ? How fitting ! We’re speaking about it in this article !




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