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  #1  
Old 2008-09-16, 05:23
Carbonized Carbonized is offline
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Question Solid-state amps sound tighter than tube amps?

I'm in the process of getting a new amp and I'm currently doing as much research and trying out as many amps as possible.

I came across some comments and reviews where people argue that solid-state amps sound tighter than tube amps. I don't know what this means. Does 'tighter' refer to a faster attack or something?

This is making me consider getting a solid-state amp 'cause I know bands like Suffocation, Dying Fetus, Death and of course Dimebag have used solid-state amps and got quite heavy and tight sounds from them. Of course, a lot has to do with the playing. Some argue that it's all in the player's hands, but I was just wondering about this "solid-state amps sound tighter than tube amps".

Any opinions? Thanks.
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  #2  
Old 2008-09-16, 07:20
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Its true that SS are tighter than tube amps. What is meant by tighter is that the attack is sharp, fast, and at full peak power every time. SS amps recover from voltage sag fast ( especially bass frequencies ) when compared with tube amps due to transistors being far more power efficient. It makes SS amps very reliable, consistent, and cheaper to maintain when compared with tube amps. The cons of SS amps is that they do not handle being over loaded, meaning that at higher volumes if the signal is pushed and begins to clip it will REALLY clip hard. You got to make sure you have a high enough wattage overhead to prevent this with SS. It will sound harsh and shrill and produce more heat when clipping begins which only makes the problem worse and will eventually cook the transistors. All your tone and distortion must come from the preamp before the power amp. Tube amps clip also but its very soft and adds a positive quality to the sound. You get a combo of preamp and power amp distortion from tubes at high volume at the expense of tube life. Its very hard to over load them but its required to buy new tubes in time.

Conclusion. There is nothing wrong with SS but some brands sound better than others. A great example would be Randall amps but there are others that sound great. There are even some SS amps that slay tube amps in regards of tone.

I use both a SS and tube amp in stereo ( Both Randall ). It's a way for me to get the best of both worlds.
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Last edited by Soulinsane : 2008-09-16 at 07:25.
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Old 2008-09-16, 15:58
Carbonized Carbonized is offline
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Soulinsane: Great post. Lots of useful info there. I just remembered that a friend of mine had mentioned something like what you said. Him and his band had recorded in a professional studio, and he had told me that the producer had remarked about my friend's solid state amp.
He said the engineer showed him the wave forms on the monitor screen. Solid state amps sound the same and the more you crank them, the more degradation occurs to the sound. Tube amps on the other hand, sound better when cranked. It's like the opposite.
He said something like "The wave form of solid state amp remains the same unless you crank the amp, whereas that of tube amps changes." (what you said about full peak power every time.)

Anyway, so we can say that the signal is more consistent on solid state amps and hence is perceived as tighter.

I think that's why some bands favor solid state amps over tube amps then. I think I'll seriously look into Randall solid-state amps. Thanks for the suggestion. Incidentally, I'll most probably go for one of those XL cabs with 2 x 12" + 1 x 15" speakers (I'm currently playing a 7-string). Apparently, the 15" speaker handles the lower frequencies and retains the bottom end better.

So, since SS amps do not handle being overloaded, you're saying it's better to get a high-powered amp? (Loud) So as not to have to crank it too much?
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Old 2008-09-16, 16:46
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With SS amps, higher wattage rating= more overhead room= greater volume before the signal starts to degrade= better. You get more overhead wattage from SS amps pushing lower Ohm speaker loads to. Like my Randall Cyclone has 300W overhead but only when a 4Ohm speaker load is being pushed. With a 16Ohm speaker load I get less overhead wattage so my signal will degrade a little easier at higher volume levels. Not that I have ever been able to get the volume pass 6 ( I tried ) before paint is really to blow off the walls. It remained insanely loud, stable, and smooth at volume level 6 driving a 4x12 8OHM cab. 300W for a SS guitar amp is enough for even down tuning with a 7 string.

I love my Cyclone so much that I kept it and decided to run it in stereo with my RM100 tube amp. The results are incredible.
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Old 2008-09-17, 09:21
Carbonized Carbonized is offline
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Thanks again, Soulinsane.

You know, it sounds tempting for me to get a SS amp 'cause with tube amps, you have to crank them and they get too loud, so you have to either back down the volume (at the expense of not getting the full sound) or else to use an attenuator, which in some subtle or not so subtle ways degrades the sound. Not to mention the costs of getting a tube amp and an attenuator.

I remember reading an interview with the Morrisound Studios producer where he mentioned using a Marshall Valvestate 100W amp for recording. At the time, I thought it was kind of weird but now I can understand a bit better why he used them.

And I'll mention Dimebag again 'cause he used Randall SS amps on the Pantera albums and frankly, to me his tone is one of the best and heaviest Metal tones I've ever heard. Suffocation on "Effigy..." and Dying Fetus also are worth mentioning, in my opinion.
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Old 2008-09-18, 01:11
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You are on top of this issue Tubes sound great but again you are right in that they sound best when cranked loud enough to start clipping or are saturated. One could always to use a 50W tube amp and reach saturation a little faster but its still very loud.

Watt/volume ratio is about 10:1. That means at max volume a 500W amp will be twice as loud as a 50W amp. A 500W amp would be three times as loud as a 5W amp at max volume. So watts isn't important when it comes to volume because you will most likely never max the volume on any amp. What is important is that lower watt amps will saturate and clip at lower volumes. Great for tube amps but bad for SS amps. Its really a waste of tubes if a class AB push-pull amp uses more than 4 power tubes unless you need super clean tone at high volume with no distortion. 100W is about the max any tube amp should ever need and that's still a colossal amount of head room.

SS amps can also sound absolutely wonderful and its a complete myth that tubes are always better. Like you said, Dime got awesome tone out of his old Randall RG's. He won his first Randall RG at a guitar contest at age 16, if I remember right. He didn't have anything else so he made SS tone apart who he was. That just goes to show that it isn't the gear that makes a musician great. I have always preferred SS tone myself. I have owned several tube and SS amps in my life and both have pros and cons. I can't live without having both at my command lol.

If I could only have one of my personal amps I would keep my RM100 tube amp as long as I could get tubes for it. It sounds good even when not cranked. Other wise I would keep the Cyclone. Its the best SS amp I have ever played. It has the same circuit PCB's as the Dimebag War Head amp but without the effects module. The Titan is the same way but without the 9 band EQ and effects modules. All killer SS amps.
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  #7  
Old 2008-10-05, 09:57
Carbonized Carbonized is offline
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A small update on this thread...

From http://users.chariot.net.au/~gmarts/amptypes.htm

"Valves are noisier (both hiss and microphonic components)"

Now I'm starting to understand why bands like Suffocation and Dying Fetus used AmpegVH140c amps for recordings.
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