"Cheating" extra volume from a SS amp using a "tube" overdrive

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by eicca, May 10, 2015.

  1. eicca

    eicca Member

    Dec 2, 2014
    I've heard that the reason a 50W tube amp outdoes a 50W solid state is the shape of the distortion from tubes plus the harmonics and stuff is perceived as louder. They don't distort in plain ol' square waves like a solid state. Or something like that.

    I noticed this with my sister's 20W Cube when I was playing on the Tube Driver sound. The amp, though not really all that loud, was cutting through my backing track extremely well.

    So if I ran my amp (solid state) clean at max volume with a tube simulator overdrive like the Boss ST-2, in theory I would have more perceived volume because of the distortion characteristics.

    Does this idea hold water?
  2. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Member

    Dec 26, 2004
    You are always limited by the max power of the output stage regardless of the type of preamp/fx.
    However, an outboard od that you like into an amp set up for max headroom is a thoroughly useful way to achieve highest possible volume.
    The internal od may impose headroom limits that are difficult to dial out.
  3. GLB98

    GLB98 Member

    May 6, 2012
    To my understanding it's actually like this: the 50W SS amp sounds like crap at 51 watts because of the ugly distortion. The 50W tube amp can be pushed to say 75 watts, and while it is distorting, it is the good kind.
    Obviously my numbers 51 and 75 are just made up to illustrate the point.

    I don't know that a nice tube distortion tone at some dB level is perceived as louder than a clean tone at that same level. And I would guess that an ugly SS distortion at that same sound level (measured in dB, not watts) would be perceived as even louder, because of its unpleasantness.

    If this is correct, and I won't argue with lots of conviction that it is, I would not expect that a distortion pedal would allow you to get more perceived volume out of 50 W. Anyway 50W is pretty damn loud.
  4. eicca

    eicca Member

    Dec 2, 2014
    ...That awkward moment when your mom hates you for almost destroying the house with your 100W all the way up... And you still want it louder.
  5. rumbletone

    rumbletone Silver Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2013
    Vancouver BC
    The timbre affects the perception of loudness, for sure. You can likely get more perceived volume out of a midrangy fuzz than out of a scooped clean sound, all other things being equal. That said, I don't own a single amp that I wish sounded louder - almost always the opposite!
  6. J M Fahey

    J M Fahey Member

    May 22, 2009
    Sorry but not much.

    The last distortion in an audio chain is the one which rules, for better or for worse.

    But .... I said "run amp clean at max volume"

    Ok, let's analyze that:

    Running at max volume means *just* reaching clipping with a sinewave.
    At least that's the classic definition.

    Now you plug your Tube distortion in, its waveform will be different from the earlier sinewave (or it couldn't be called "distortion"):

    a) if any part of it rises above the clipping level, you will have a nice squarewave ... "SS distortion" in anybody's book ... so we are back to square one.

    b) if none goes higher, only other way to go is down.
    You might end up with a very interesting looking waveform, but it will be lower than the clean SS one, don't know how that could be called "getting louder".

    Personal opinion, others may dissent: the best way to make a hybrid amp is to get a very good tube distortion, and boost it with an oversized SS amp, which never ever distorts by itself.

    In that case, the Tube sound will be reproduced flawlessly, only at higher power.

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