Should I go back to tube amps?

hippieboy

Member
Messages
11,823
I wish I had a nickel for every time I tried to fix live modeler issues by redo'ing presets over the last 15 years.

With that, I might be able to recoup the money I've pissed away messing with modelers.

FWIW I don't like modelers, one of the reasons is this, I've been able to fix it on my end but that plus all the other things I don't like are such a hassle they are not worth it to me.
 

thebard42

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,024
"using the simplest possible setup with pedals to get the job done. Sure it's limiting, but you will find creativity in that." - agree!
I think the OP wants an amp and probably has the scratch for one even if it doesn't make the pit, still great to use on other gigs and at home. And great reason to have a real amp is to "fact check" your digital modeling tones and presets. Do they really sound as good as using a real amp? :dunno
I just got a Suhr Reactive load for this very purpose. I have been using my HX Stomp to load IRs and cabs, and switch between real tubes and various amp models. The results have been fascinating. Taking the variables of the cab, mic, preamp, air, etc out of the equation has helped with that "fact checking."
 

jackwalsh77

Member
Messages
7
I spent many years hard gigging with tube amps. After being all-in on digital for 7-8 years should I try going back to using amps again? Or am I going to find it frustrating trying to go back?

REASONS I'M THINKING ABOUT A TUBE AMP
  • Simplicity of setup/prep for shows
    • My main work is theater. I tend to need to build a set of tones for a show, then that runs for 3-5 months and I move on to the next show. I find an amp + pedals rig allows me to prep the tones for the next show much faster so I can spend more time working through the music
  • Sound/Personal monitoring
    • I really do love the tones in my digital gear, but I'm a bit old school and for my own personal monitoring I miss the 3D sound of the amp sitting next to me for my own monitoring purposes.
  • I'm still a pedal-platform player at heart
    • I love drive pedals and fuzz pedals and layering different drives. I like to "play" my pedalboard and I miss the way tube amps and pedals integrate.

CONCERNS
  • Noise level
    • I need a very quiet amp for theater work. I know a tube amp will inherently have some noise so finding one that has a low noise floor will be important
  • Handling both clean-clean and edge of breakup in one amp
    • Something I struggled with in the past with tube amps was feeling like I couldn't find both in one amp. I live in the realm of an amp pushed to the point where it breaks up when I dig in hard. But I also need the ability to do things like percussive funk strumming where I'm digging in hard and have a very clean tone. This is easy with Digital, I'm worried it will be more of a challenge.
  • Finding the right volume level
    • For house, I'll always be running a mic or a direct signal. For stage volume levels it's all over the place for my situations. Sometimes I'm in a 16 piece orchestra with room for volume, sometimes I'm with just a piano and drums and need to be soft. I need to be able to adapt to what the gig calls for, so I'll need an amp that can sound good at a wide range of levels.
Check out the Quilter Aviator Cub.
 

JosephZ

Member
Messages
4,075
Why not purchase a new tube amp and try it out while also keeping the digital rig around, in case that actually works better.

You could just keep both use one for certain types of gigs, and the other for other gigs.

No need to completely ditch what you got, especially if it works, just to try something else.
 

rs-guitar

Member
Messages
25
With all due respect, it doesn't sound like you have much experience with playing guitar in a theater or orchestra setting.

Here are a few examples from a few of the shows I've done recently:













I also recently did a show performing Bohemian Rhapsody with a full choir, and in a few months I'm booked for a 5 month run of Buddy Holly Story shows where the guitar will be the primary instrumentation.

Some shows the guitar is definitely subtle, either providing supporting chords with the rhythm section, or textures where needed. And a lot of old school shows are sparse with guitar. But there are also a ton of shows that lean heavily on guitar where it is a very prominent instrument.

I have played professionally since the 70’s, music performance degree, collegiate guitar instructor, multiple theater gigs, live shows, studio work…yada, yada, yada. It’s not rocket surgery to know that a guitar sits back in the mix in a 20+ piece orchestral setting, where tube vs. digital will make little, if any, discernible difference to the audience. If the “orchestra” is a smaller group or is performing music that features a lot of guitar, then a tube amp would be good. That’s pretty much what I said previously, and this is the last comment on the matter that I will make. If you want to argue, go find someone else. I have rehearsals and gigs to prepare for.
 

WurWulf

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
70
To me tube amps just sound better for the classic rock genre I've played now over 50 years that said some digital stuff sounds great I have a little Boss Katana 50 that sets in my studio and on the rare occasion I go somewhere else to play it's good enough. If I were on the road again, I would have my Lonestar on board but that's just me. We can all put our 2 cents in but at the end of the day it's what you like best for the tone you want to hear out of your rig. That may sound harsh but not intended to be it's just that you are the only one that knows what you are wanting to achieve with your gear.

Good luck my friend chasing tone can become an obsession.
 

Bill Rock

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
112
The venue is the deciding factor for the equipment. I play in bars and at a church and have used both tube and digital at them. I also have a hybrid tube amp, the PT15IR. It gives me the best of both worlds. I use the IR output to the house and IEM's, but it has all the desirable characteristics that I love about tube amps. The only thing missing is the feedback loop you get with a cranked amp and cab....

But, I'm going to get a FM9 to replace that at my church gig as it's form factor makes it so desirable. I only use three tones. Clean, edge of breakup, and lead. Effects are ambient type: delay, reverb, trem, freeze, shimmer, chorus, phaser.
Exactly, although I am not all the way there yet. I used my Friedman WW 20 (Wildwood's special version of the JJ Jr.) direct into FOH at church last week for the first time. I thought it sounded and felt very nice, for all tones, clean to crunch, and with all the effects I use on my "smaller" pedal board, controlled by a RJM PBC 6X. It's the first time I thought this method sounded good without mic'ing a cab; I think because it was EQ'd well in FOH. It also gave me (the FOH guys) more volume to work with over a mic'd cab. And I have a Quad Cortex on order to see if I want to use that at church and maybe smaller clubs; but using the Friedman at church direct to FOH successfully last week was an eye-opener. My deal is that I just cannot use my larger, PBC 10-based pedal board any longer. I can't get it up the stairs to my studio by myself, the wife has bad knees so can't help, and It's probably 15 lbs heavier than my smaller, PBC 6X-based board! Life-based choices call!
 

Bill Rock

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
112
Although I have never played guitar in a theater production, I have been to plenty of plays, musicals, etc., local, touring shows, Broadway. I know folks that DO play those, even internationally. It seems to me that the situations you describe as far as wanting easier access to individual tones and sounds, rather than presets for songs, is exactly what the shows you play DO NOT call for! You are playing the same songs the same way every night, little to no variation? Maybe you'd like to use a different drive on one song one night just to stave off boredom, OK, I get that, but presets per song - or more generic presets - can do the same thing.

I am using a large pedal board - about to stop, as noted above - which is RJM PBC 10 midi controller based, and have a smaller version of that controlled by a PBC 6X that I will likely start using more. For church/P&W work, I typically build individual presets for each song - verse, chorus, bridge, etc. - using the delays and reverbs, etc. tied to bpm, as we use a click. For Rock band work, I use a mix of specific presets per song and more "generic" presets I have built for more general tones; nothing profound, I'm sure everyone does this. So for clean, I have a "Clean" song with different effects per preset, not tied to specific (OK, 120) bpm. I have a Clean EFFECTS "song" with different effects, so on and so on. I can access the loops for the individual pedals on the PBC's with one switch press, if needed, but I rarely do that. The whole point of using the midi controllers was to minimize the "pedal dance", and I never have wanted to be tied to my board to be making individual pedal setting adjustments. For shows like you play, if you are in the "pit", you are probably in a chair, so not much dancing around the stage there for sure, andy other than reading the music/charts, you can pay more attention to your board and I'm sure the temptation is strong to "mess" with things!

As I mentioned in the comment above, my most recent experimentation going direct FOH from my Friedman amp worked really well, and one of the other benefits was less amp hiss/noise. I noticed it, and the FOH guy mentioned it to me. That "noise" is always an issue with an otherwise quiet instrument feed and I always pull my volume pedal down between songs. As you comment, that tube amp hiss would be an issue in the shows you play. For Rock band gigs, not so much...

While I have not yet played a modeler, the folks playing with me at church use various modelers (one a Helix floor, the other an FM9), and to my tube amp "biased" (ha ha) ears, actually sound pretty good in the mix. I do hear differences, especially at higher gain (yes, you do use that for some church songs!) settings, but as they spend more time working their presets, it has gotten better - the FOH guys have done a good job EQ'ing them as well.

As a long-time searcher for the "best" tone, I get you want to mix things up; sounds like you are just bored. Many of us are never satisfied, although I will say I have been pretty consistent in my gig rig for the last 4 years or so, which is a record for me. But the Quad Cortex, at least in all the YT videos I have watched, sounds really good to me, so I have one on order, and I shall see, even given all its apparent "shortcomings".

Maybe someone in the pages before already noted this, but this kind of clinched it for me - Pete Thorn using one in a "hybrid" set-up on a UK tour earlier this year.


He didn't fully explain in the video what he was using the pedalboard for vs the QC, but in the comments he does note it was for stereo to FOH, and he used the pedalboard for effects he liked better than what is on the QC. However, the effects he was using from the QC were very good, IMO. I have never run stereo, but the option to do so would be awesome! My impression is also that he wasn't sure this hybrid thing would work well or sound good, so he wanted to be prepared to go either direction!

So I may be going in a different direction as you, or to a modified "hybrid" rig. I enjoy the hunt and the experimenting - to a point - so this will be fun and I'm sure a little frustrating!

Bottom line, IMO, you are bored and looking for a solution that may not work as well for what you do. And as others have said, maybe you don't need an either/or, use both and pick for whatever the situation calls for. And have the other as a back-up! Maybe you need a new modeler; and that's a whole 'nother thing! :rotflmao
 

DonaldR

Member
Messages
234
Late to the party...
OP, I'm using an Avid Eleven Rack for when I want to use a modeler and go direct to FOH (same as your Helix/Fractal solution).
I'm also using an Atomic Firebox for when I want to go direct to FOH but travelling REALLY light (or jams/band practices) as I just slip the AFB in my gigbag and use a usb battery+9v converter. I'm now building a very compact pedalboard (Temple Audio Solo 18) where the AFB will be in the effect loop of a Line 6 HX Effects (which is as simple to use than analog pedals). I will be able to to use the pedalboard with a regular tube amp in 4CM or with the AFB (if I want to go direct) simply by plugging/unplugging the cables on the side of the pedalboard.
IMG_3399.jpeg

IMG_3418.jpeg

Best of both worlds (tube amp or modelling direct to FOH).
 

DonaldR

Member
Messages
234
I'm also using a Rocktron Voodu Valve preamp and a Peavey Classic 60/60 tube power amp, mounted in a 4U SKB case. I'm using a very small midi pedalboard (Tech21 Midi Mongoose) to recall patches. I can play everything with that setup, from clean to blues to pop to rock to metal. It can go LOUD but also as quiet as my Katana 50w on 0.5w setting. When I play quieter, I enable the cab sims on the preamp.

At home I'm using a 4x12" but I'm shopping for a good 1x12" for gigs/jams. So a cab in one hand, the case in the the other hand, and the guitar/accessories in the gigbag on my shoulders.

So maybe of using a tube amp combo/head, maybe have a look at a preamp (+ cab sims pedal) and a tube power amp.
 

ssolo8

Member
Messages
27
Is it common practice to run sims thru the head and cab of one's favorite tube-amp?
That would seem to be an important aspect of 'feel'
I do all the time! It's the very voice of God! Purists won't think so, but some people just like to walk up and down the same street. ‍♂️
 

harvey j

Member
Messages
1,832
I spent many years hard gigging with tube amps. After being all-in on digital for 7-8 years should I try going back to using amps again? Or am I going to find it frustrating trying to go back?

REASONS I'M THINKING ABOUT A TUBE AMP
  • Simplicity of setup/prep for shows
    • My main work is theater. I tend to need to build a set of tones for a show, then that runs for 3-5 months and I move on to the next show. I find an amp + pedals rig allows me to prep the tones for the next show much faster so I can spend more time working through the music
  • Sound/Personal monitoring
    • I really do love the tones in my digital gear, but I'm a bit old school and for my own personal monitoring I miss the 3D sound of the amp sitting next to me for my own monitoring purposes.
  • I'm still a pedal-platform player at heart
    • I love drive pedals and fuzz pedals and layering different drives. I like to "play" my pedalboard and I miss the way tube amps and pedals integrate.

CONCERNS
  • Noise level
    • I need a very quiet amp for theater work. I know a tube amp will inherently have some noise so finding one that has a low noise floor will be important
  • Handling both clean-clean and edge of breakup in one amp
    • Something I struggled with in the past with tube amps was feeling like I couldn't find both in one amp. I live in the realm of an amp pushed to the point where it breaks up when I dig in hard. But I also need the ability to do things like percussive funk strumming where I'm digging in hard and have a very clean tone. This is easy with Digital, I'm worried it will be more of a challenge.
  • Finding the right volume level
    • For house, I'll always be running a mic or a direct signal. For stage volume levels it's all over the place for my situations. Sometimes I'm in a 16 piece orchestra with room for volume, sometimes I'm with just a piano and drums and need to be soft. I need to be able to adapt to what the gig calls for, so I'll need an amp that can sound good at a wide range of levels.
Sounds like a Suhr Bella, to me. 44w/22w. Clean tone with built in boost for edge of breakup tones. Nothing takes pedals better. Quality build, and a low noise floor. Available in combo and with/without reverb.
tube are getting harder to find and exspendsive. look at a quilter amp, more reliable.
 

ccc

Member
Messages
424
The same reason some men stop wearing jeans and a cool tee, and start wearing a sweater-jacket with sensible shoes... they get old.
Nonsense , doesn't matter how old you are we all wear jeans and a tee if possible . Only time we wear a jacket and sweater with sensible shoes is when we're forced to .

I think the older you get the more likely you're to have a tube amp , you become much wiser and often have the money which is the exact opposite of being a youngster.
 

Derrick111

Member
Messages
154
Nonsense , doesn't matter how old you are we all wear jeans and a tee if possible . Only time we wear a jacket and sweater with sensible shoes is when we're forced to .

I think the older you get the more likely you're to have a tube amp , you become much wiser and often have the money which is the exact opposite of being a youngster.
Yep, nonsense... who's forcing this guy then? Whatevs, you may have misses actual the point. Old is an unavoidable mindset you eventually grow into, where practical wisdom outweighs youthful edge. Look for this guy to be selling reverse mortgages any time now...

Eric clapton.png
 




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