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Are tube amps dead yet?

rsm

Senior Member
Messages
14,081
I think this is subjective, for some tube amps will never die, for others they'll use tube and digital, while others will move into only digital.

I still have a few tube amps (4 total) that see little use these days, same with the pedals I use with them, and even my hybrid direct system (G-System+TriAxis+CAB) is seeing little use these days.

If I find buyers, my tube amps, old preamps and pedals will be gone.

Yes, for me tube amps are dead. I've moved to all digital over the last few years. For what I do / need / want, it's what works best for me.

Now, I'd like to see digital guitar processing move forward, and drop the modeling of tube / analog gear completely. Stop modeling the past, become the future, be digital and take advantage of all that means.

While I wait for this next gen of "digital guitar processors" that are not modelers of the past, I have my Ableton Push to learn...
 

dazco

Member
Messages
15,692
Are tube amps dead yet?

To the world, not. To me, yes. This is gonna be long because it's the #1 most important thing to me gear wise in my entire playing life since the early 70's, so i have a lot to say. It occurred to me recently how one sided we can be. Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth. But think about it...we praised tube amps for years till came the generation of modelers that finally cracked the code, mainly in the area of dynamics or "touch". Still we constantly compare them to tube amps and feel cheated when our modelers aren't exactly the same. When i say how one sided we can be, what i mean is we look at the differences between them only in what tube amps do BETTER. But heres the thing.....they really don't do anything better, just different, and sometimes that difference is the MODELER'S advantage !

In fact, if looked at from a unbiased perspective, if that were possible, of someone who has the playing experience to understand whats important, I think most people would not even think about tube amps anymore. I won't say which modeler i have because i don't want to start a debate about which is best, but it has all the dynamics of a tube amp that i have always felt was the most important and desirable aspect of a good tube amp. Is it exactly the same as say a mashall JCM 800? No, but neither is a JMP or a DSL or etc etc. See what i'm saying? All tube amps sound and feel different, and the modeler could be considered another "tube amp". Because there are tube amps that feel and sound different than others too. If the basics are there it's just another variant of the tube tone and feel.

But heres where it REALLY gets one sided. We concentrate on the differences in tone but the other details get left out. How about this one....my modeler sounds and feels almost the same from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, room to room. Exactly the same, no. Far far far closer to that perfect consistency than any tube amp I've owned? Oh hell yes !!!! To vastly understate that adavantage, it's HUGE ! I would plug into even the best tube amps i've owned one minute and the next i'd be wondering what the hell happened to my amp. Thats one thing about tube amps that has always been a thorn in my side, often leaving me with crap tone at a gig even tho the amp is a high end otherwise killer sounding amp. Talk about frustrating. Modelers don't do that ! At least mine doesn't and i'm sure any good one doesn't. How about this one....built in effects. How many killer tube amps have dozens and dozens of mods, delays, reverbs, and stompbox effects built in all programmable with a great tuner thrown in to boot? How about weight. My combo weight about 30 Lbs. The transformers in many tube amps weight that much ! How about maintenance. I have not bought tubes yet for my modeler. :D Sometimes tube amps end up costing you 1/2 as much as the amp itself over the amps life or your ownership of it. How many times has a tube gone out at a gig? Cost? Mine was about 1/10 as much as the most expensive tube amp I've owned. I won't even go into the fact that if my tone isn't particularly inspiring me at the moment (tho thats rare) I could select any of 100 patches and change my tone to something entirely different, all my own concoctions if i wish or stock presets if i happen to like any of those.

So what i'm getting at is were seem to forget the incredible amount of important advantages of them all for one difference between tube amps and modelers....tone/feel. But what so ironic is that different doesn't exist anymore! Like i said, no two tube amps sound and feel exactly the same either so why doesn't a modeler sound/feel the same when it too has good tone and dynamics? I think people compare them to thier fav tube amp without realizing that while it's different, so are the tube amps he sold to arrive at his "final" fav. So if you find tube amps better than modelers, i think in many cases it's not tube amp vs modeler you are seeing, it's one amp vs the other. You just happen to like that tube amp more because it's tone and feel is more to your liking. The modeler didn't fail you because it's not tubes, but because of the same reason you like the jcm 800 over the mesa bogie or fender over the ampeg, etc etc.

In short, there will always be those who find tube amps better not because it's tubes, but it's the better tone and feel for them over ALL other amps, tube or modeler. But modelers have arrived and as more become available and technology gets even better i believe at some point tube amps will still be the one for certain unmovable people to whom tradition is the more important aspect. But at that point tube amps will probably be dead because there will be too few users to support the tube industry. In any case, for me they died when i tried the modeler i own. I disliked the feel of every other one i have played thru to date, but as of now i have never been nearly as happy with any amp, not boutique, not even my own build that i spend 10 years perfecting. The tone and feel are for me improved over every amp i've owned in the consistency and even dynamics, and that alone would have me feeling as i now do. But when you add to that cost, weight, maintenance, built in everything, 100 presets and infinite tonal possibilities at the tap of you foot, and a built in great tuner to boot, tubes aren't just dead to me, they're long forgotten. I'd rather play music than thing about my gear's shortcomings in the middle of a song. I no longer have to do that as i did in the past constantly. That alone is huge.
 

geetarplayer

Member
Messages
1,131
To the world, not. To me, yes. This is gonna be long because it's the #1 most important thing to me gear wise in my entire playing life since the early 70's, so i have a lot to say. It occurred to me recently how one sided we can be. Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth. But think about it...we praised tube amps for years till came the generation of modelers that finally cracked the code, mainly in the area of dynamics or "touch". Still we constantly compare them to tube amps and feel cheated when our modelers aren't exactly the same. When i say how one sided we can be, what i mean is we look at the differences between them only in what tube amps do BETTER. But heres the thing.....they really don't do anything better, just different, and sometimes that difference is the MODELER'S advantage !

In fact, if looked at from a unbiased perspective, if that were possible, of someone who has the playing experience to understand whats important, I think most people would not even think about tube amps anymore. I won't say which modeler i have because i don't want to start a debate about which is best, but it has all the dynamics of a tube amp that i have always felt was the most important and desirable aspect of a good tube amp. Is it exactly the same as say a mashall JCM 800? No, but neither is a JMP or a DSL or etc etc. See what i'm saying? All tube amps sound and feel different, and the modeler could be considered another "tube amp". Because there are tube amps that feel and sound different than others too. If the basics are there it's just another variant of the tube tone and feel.

But heres where it REALLY gets one sided. We concentrate on the differences in tone but the other details get left out. How about this one....my modeler sounds and feels almost the same from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, room to room. Exactly the same, no. Far far far closer to that perfect consistency than any tube amp I've owned? Oh hell yes !!!! To vastly understate that adavantage, it's HUGE ! I would plug into even the best tube amps i've owned one minute and the next i'd be wondering what the hell happened to my amp. Thats one thing about tube amps that has always been a thorn in my side, often leaving me with crap tone at a gig even tho the amp is a high end otherwise killer sounding amp. Talk about frustrating. Modelers don't do that ! At least mine doesn't and i'm sure any good one doesn't. How about this one....built in effects. How many killer tube amps have dozens and dozens of mods, delays, reverbs, and stompbox effects built in all programmable with a great tuner thrown in to boot? How about weight. My combo weight about 30 Lbs. The transformers in many tube amps weight that much ! How about maintenance. I have not bought tubes yet for my modeler. :D Sometimes tube amps end up costing you 1/2 as much as the amp itself over the amps life or your ownership of it. How many times has a tube gone out at a gig? Cost? Mine was about 1/10 as much as the most expensive tube amp I've owned. I won't even go into the fact that if my tone isn't particularly inspiring me at the moment (tho thats rare) I could select any of 100 patches and change my tone to something entirely different, all my own concoctions if i wish or stock presets if i happen to like any of those.

So what i'm getting at is were seem to forget the incredible amount of important advantages of them all for one difference between tube amps and modelers....tone/feel. But what so ironic is that different doesn't exist anymore! Like i said, no two tube amps sound and feel exactly the same either so why doesn't a modeler sound/feel the same when it too has good tone and dynamics? I think people compare them to thier fav tube amp without realizing that while it's different, so are the tube amps he sold to arrive at his "final" fav. So if you find tube amps better than modelers, i think in many cases it's not tube amp vs modeler you are seeing, it's one amp vs the other. You just happen to like that tube amp more because it's tone and feel is more to your liking. The modeler didn't fail you because it's not tubes, but because of the same reason you like the jcm 800 over the mesa bogie or fender over the ampeg, etc etc.

In short, there will always be those who find tube amps better not because it's tubes, but it's the better tone and feel for them over ALL other amps, tube or modeler. But modelers have arrived and as more become available and technology gets even better i believe at some point tube amps will still be the one for certain unmovable people to whom tradition is the more important aspect. But at that point tube amps will probably be dead because there will be too few users to support the tube industry. In any case, for me they died when i tried the modeler i own. I disliked the feel of every other one i have played thru to date, but as of now i have never been nearly as happy with any amp, not boutique, not even my own build that i spend 10 years perfecting. The tone and feel are for me improved over every amp i've owned in the consistency and even dynamics, and that alone would have me feeling as i now do. But when you add to that cost, weight, maintenance, built in everything, 100 presets and infinite tonal possibilities at the tap of you foot, and a built in great tuner to boot, tubes aren't just dead to me, they're long forgotten. I'd rather play music than thing about my gear's shortcomings in the middle of a song. I no longer have to do that as i did in the past constantly. That alone is huge.

Yeah, I had an amp like that once, too.
 

Gearzilla

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,363
dazco-- "In fact, if looked at from a unbiased perspective, if that were possible, of someone who has the playing experience to understand whats important, I think most people would not even think about tube amps anymore."

@dazco

Maybe I'm missing something?

Isn't what's important is how it sounds?

I don't think someone even has to play an instrument to have the experience to understand whether or not they like what something sounds like.

More power to you if your happy with your rig
 

dazco

Member
Messages
15,692
Isn't what's important is how it sounds?

Of course thats important. But to me and many others the equally, or in my case, MORE important thing is the way it responds to your input. Touch, dynamics, etc. My modeler does that as well as any tube amp i've owned and better than most of them WHILE maintaining sound thats as good as any. If i didn't make that clear i'm sorry. The point is we focus on something that is the same as mesa vs marshall or whatever amps you wanna compare, because the modeler is just another flavor of a tube amp just as each of those is. But if someone prefers thier tube amp over a modeler, instead of realizing it might be because they just like that tube amp better the same way they like it better than tube amp brand X, they blame it ion the fact it's a modeler. The other point is while obsessing over that they neglect all the other huge advantages.

On a side note concerning the importance of things like touch sensitivity and consistency from minute to minute, room to room, note that i have actually sold amps that i felt had better tone than another yet kept the other instead because it responded to my playing better and sounded and felt good in every room i played. While the "better' sounding amp left me with having bad notes every other gig and the touch response had me working harder to get what i wanted out of the rig. So if the tone the audience heard is a touch better who cares? Nothing is more important than how well you play, and if the amp allows that and allows it all the time then thats IMO infinitelty more important than the tone you hear.
 

dazco

Member
Messages
15,692
Yeah, I had an amp like that once, too.

I never did. I see your sarcasm but understand this....after about a year of ownership i have not had one day where this amp made me anything less than extremely happy and have ZERO desire to look at other amps. In 40 years of tubes amps not one had me there more than a few weeks before i began twiddling with knobs in the middle of songs all the time. I haven't done that for a year. So believe what you will, but no amp has ever took me to this place before.
 

Gearzilla

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,363
C'mon nothing sounds better or responds to the player like a classical guitar with nylon strings...
 

lspaulsp

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
5,891
OK, here's the issue that our lead singer and keeper of the PA system that refuses to mic anything doesn't understand along with a lot of guitar players -
Sure your amp sounds good on stage blowing pants legs around
Sure when you stand at the mic it sounds great every night NOW - walk out 50 feet every night and see where that gets ya. It's not 1973 anymore.
 

dazco

Member
Messages
15,692
OK, here's the issue that our lead singer and keeper of the PA system that refuses to mic anything doesn't understand along with a lot of guitar players -
Sure your amp sounds good on stage blowing pants legs around
Sure when you stand at the mic it sounds great every night NOW - walk out 50 feet every night and see where that gets ya. It's not 1973 anymore.

theres yet another advantage of modeling amps. They aren't nearly as directional. If you didn't notice that, test it out if you have one.
 

Guitar1969

Member
Messages
2,246
With the digital keyboards that are out now and the sounds they can produce, why would anyone own a traditional piano?

Same argument.

I am not selling my tube amps anytime soon. In fact, I have owned a Zoom G5 for a number of years and love it, use it live, but recently picked up a few analog pedals running through my Fender Twin Reverb or my little Fender Champion 600. There was life and "realness" to the sound that I had forgotten - now I am in the process of building a new analog (with some digital effects) pedalboard. My G5 is way more versatile and easier to use, but love the sound of the new pedalboard running through a tube amp.
 
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rdamato

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,080
For me, It's a matter of simplicity and weight. I'm 57, gig 4X/month and have a not so good back. I have a Shiva which, to me, is the best sounding piece of gear on the planet. It weighs 80LBS.!!!! I no longer can carry it in to a venue. I bought a Kemper, profiled my Shiva and am 95% there. More than good enough for live use. Through my in ears, they sound identical. Yes, tube amps ARE more alive or organic (Insert Adjective), but the ROI in lugging a heavy amp around diminishes each time I use it.

Best
Ron
 

PaisleyWookie

Member
Messages
9,824
I kind of see tube amps and modelers as having different purposes that often overlap. One doesn't need to replace the other, necessarily. As a lover of both technologies, I'm just glad we're seeing such advancements as the Amplifire and soon the AX-8 in the more affordable realm. I love the AxeFX II, but unfortunately I'd have to sell my beloved JVM to get one. With the newer, cheaper stuff, I won't have to.
 

metropolis_4

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,991
OK, here's the issue that our lead singer and keeper of the PA system that refuses to mic anything doesn't understand along with a lot of guitar players -
Sure your amp sounds good on stage blowing pants legs around
Sure when you stand at the mic it sounds great every night NOW - walk out 50 feet every night and see where that gets ya. It's not 1973 anymore.

Exactly. The day I decided to ditch my tube amps was the day I heard first hand how much better my mix in the house sounded without an amp on stage.
 

DivineTones

Member
Messages
1,421
Exactly. The day I decided to ditch my tube amps was the day I heard first hand how much better my mix in the house sounded without an amp on stage.

You don't need to ditch tubes for that. Just pick up the Two Notes Torpedo Live, and you'll get a super clear replication of your head/board through the PA w no muss. Backup cabs are still great, too. Like when the house sucks, or the tech sucks, or your digital junk goes down.
 

rsm

Senior Member
Messages
14,081
tubes are dinosaur food. IMO. when they run out, the dinosaurs will adapt or die out
 

RocksOff

Member
Messages
7,456
tubes are dinosaur food. IMO. when they run out, the dinosaurs will adapt or die out
That would imply some massive change. To use your dinosaur comparison, digital tech doesn't seem to have the immediate effects of a gigantic meteor from space I don't think. Digital tech has been slow to compete with analog tech in the music world as a whole. MIDI has existed for 35 years already and still hasn't achieved market dominance in several aspects of musical production. That accounts for almost half of the existence of tube guitar amps.
Granted, digital tech is continuing to evolve whereas analog tech has ceased (for the most part) to do so. Even then, the market demand for tubes has probably increased to some degree. Despite the disappearance of golden age tube manufacturers, the price of tubes doesn't seem to have substantially increased which would indicate scarcity. This tells me that are plenty of tubes both already in existence and being produced. It's impossible to predict if that will change, but I'm guessing it won't anytime soon.
 




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