SS amps; anything I'm missing out on?

MagusFaerox

Member
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980
Given the advances in hybrid amps, modelers, preamp pedals, and other gear technology all really starting to its stride I am curious how solid state technology has grown and where it stands.

Yeah...there are a lot of ways to get the sound in your head out of a speaker. A lot of them are very good.

If the Boss Nextone I had was a head, I'd probably have kept it. I really feel like the thing holding it back is that you're stuck with a bland open back 1x12 with a meh speaker....which doesn't really do justice to what it can do as an amplifier. I changed the speaker at some point, which helped. But, the cab is the reason I sold it. It didn't seem worth transplanting.
 
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2,202
I forgot to mention in my earlier post, the pedal SS amps from Baroni Labs. They make some great 120 watt, 100 watt, 50 watt, and 30 watt mini amps in pedal format. They have one very high gain 200 watt mini amp too - the Hell Raiser. In particular I like the 120 watt Doug Aldrich Signature mini amp. Two channels and does clean, crunch, and high gain well.
 

GerryJ

Member
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5,416
Just curious, 2 huge companies (at least in the music world) in recent past had non-tube amps that no one seems to play or talk about, Fender Cyber Twin and Marshall Mode 4 (or similar name). Anyone familiar with them?
 

Radar

Member
Messages
2,537
Jazz players love the clean headroom of solid state amps. Once upon a time back in the 80s amp makers tried to push SS amps as the next best thing so they were actually made very well. My favorite guitarist (Issei Noro) played a pair of Yamaha G100-115 amps that were actually designed in the U.S. by Paul Rivera. His tone was amazing. And his drive was simply a Maxon OD808.

 
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I own two tube amps and one SS, and I’d use any of the three live.

It could never happen, but I’d love some of these bat-eared purists to do double blind comparisons, tube vs SS, and see how well they do.

My SS head is 4 pounds, can get louder than I’ll ever need and sounds great. “Feel” is a legit concern…sort of.

Usually, the guy making the “feel” statements is the guy who finds it hard to move between Gibsons and Fenders because of minutia like fretboard radius.
 

teemuk

Member
Messages
3,670
Just curious, 2 huge companies (at least in the music world) in recent past had non-tube amps that no one seems to play or talk about, Fender Cyber Twin and Marshall Mode 4 (or similar name). Anyone familiar with them?

Well, both were analog and technically "hybrids". Cyber Twin DID feature a genuine tube distortion channel (along with the "DynaTouch" distortion channel familiar from Fender's solid-state amps) and it's power amp featured low damping factor just like tube amps. I don't think anyone wants to be in the same room with two cranked 65W amps so the SS output section was never even intented to be overdriven.

Cyber series was greeted with utmost bias of Fender making a "digital" amp (which it was not) and at the time market just wasn't ready for such products. The other forgotten Fender "flagship amp", the Metalhead, didn't fair too well either for crowd who thought Fender should just stick to making those vintage amp reissues. (Which was also one reason for poor acceptance of Cyber series). Both Metalhead and Cyber series were great, solid and very versatile amps.

Mode 4 was continuation to Marshall's Valvestate series of hybrid amps, basically a similar design but with four channels. All Valvestate amps - including Mode 4 - had at least one preamp tube and some of them also employed it for producing genuine tube distortion. The most famous ones did not though (and the tube was never driven to clipping in them). Can't remember what Mode 4 did but these were great sounding amps regardless. Alex Skolnick of Testament called them the best amp Marshall ever made.
Power amp - like all Valvestates - mimicked low damping factor of tube amps and the 350W through the oversized cabs was enough of headroom never to distort without causing a small earthquake.

Mode 4 was unfortunately also culmination of unreliability of latest Valvestate amps. They easily overheated and died and proper repair of the blown output was not a trivial or inexpensive task. They are great amps when they work but would have required more efficient cooling than little heatsinks and fans.

Another great, and also reliable, Valvestate amp is 8100 or 8080. They are not as versatile and powerful as Mode 4 but quite similar and a lot cheaper. Definitely loud enough to play with a band.
 

BlueWolf

Mutations Expert
Platinum Supporting Member
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1,504
Jazz players love the clean headroom of solid state amps. …
Absolutely! I have a Henriksen SS amp that is perfect for jazz. It has a beautiful, warm, perfectly clean sound even at high volumes that is hard to beat when I‘m playing an archtop or a semi-hollowbody. I use it for about 90% of my jazz playing.

SS amps are also desirable when playing amplified acoustic guitars. You usually don’t want any of the breakup or sag associated with a tube amp when you’re playing an acoustic. SS amps like those made my AER are typically the way to go for acoustic amplification.

When it comes to rock and pop, there are also some excellent SS choices. While there are some brands of straight up SS amps that many rock players swear by, e.g. Quilter, I think that when it comes to SS amps for rock you have to look at modelers. I know some people will quote the adage “Why use a modeler to emulate the sound of a tube amp when you can just buy a tube amp,” but that is discounting the flexibility of a modeler. You don’t just have the ability to emulate a tube amp, you have the ability to emulate many different tube amps. You can even emulate a variety of speaker cabinets and configurations. And these emulations are not bad. When you also consider all the additional effects that a SS modeler can add to the mix, you have a pretty compelling SS platform.

Just to be clear, I’m not advocating for SS amps. I own both tube amps, a Two-Rock CLRS and a Tone King Imperial Mark II, and a SS amp, a Henriksen Bud 10. I’m just pointing out that SS technology has indeed improved immensely over the last 20 years, leaving us with lots of good SS amp choices. I’m not trying to settle the question of whether a tube amp or SS amp is better. There is no right or wrong answer to that question. It’s simply a choice, and it depends on the type of music you are playing, the type of guitar you are playing, the specific sounds you are after, and your personal taste. In answering your question, though, I personally think SS technology has made massive strides since you made the jump to tube amps 20+ years ago.
 

Golem

Silver Supporting Member
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2,384
Someone mentioned the Rivera Yamaha EG. I had the 50 watt version. That Parametric EQ is incredible and the Yamaha speaker is basically an EVM clone. It's heavy but it's a fantastic amp. It's distortion isn't great, but it's got a wide variety of fantastic clean tones and I found it responded well to many pedals I had. If you're willing to use it as a clean base, get dirt with pedals, and learn to use that EQ, it's a fantastic amp. It's not heavy though.

I know there are some metal players that use SS amps. And there's some players Alternative and Doom who swear by old school Sunn amps. Obviously Solid State has been popular in Jazz and Acoustic music for quite a while.

Modelers are pretty good too, but even with a Helix I still love my Quilter.
 
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905
Well, how about....

Variety: Classic tube amps A, B and C can each produce that specific archetypal revered tone each one is famous for, but will not likely excel when you want to use them differently. A solid-state amp can produce tones of amps A, B and C and a bunch of other tones of other amps. They are extremely versatile.

Manageable loudness: The tube amp sounds glorious, but only at volume level that doesn't work in bedroom, rehearsal space, stage and et cetera. The band, soundmen, neighbours, everyone, complains you are too loud so you have to spend extra cash to solutions that allow you to sound good at lower volume levels. This usually compromises your tone and dynamics and forces you to drag in additional equipment like dummy loads or re-amps. With SS amp you turn volume or power reduction dial and get "tube amp cranked" tones at every volume level and at level of realism that beats your average "PPIMV" or "Power Scaling" stuff.

Weight & size: A modern 100watt SS amp can beat your 100-watt tube amp in headroom but is packed in enclosure half of its size (or less) and weighs three times less.

Solid-state goodies: How many tube amps you know include a built-in compressor, limiter, echo? How about chorus or maybe a phaser? Can they cop the revered Jazz Chorus series tone? How about cutting down your pedal board because the amp itself can offer 50% of the effects in it? These all are beginning to be more or less "standard" solid-state amp features.

Reliability: You don't have to worry about changing tubes that wear out or tubes dying if your amp happens to vibrate too much in the trunk.

Bonus: You can spend all the time you would waste in chasing dragons in the form of tube swapping to actually playing the guitar.

But the tonez

I can see how those upsides can benefit other people. But I have all of those upsides in my boss katana and I hate it. I hate built in effects because I want my effects to sound good. I'd rather have a compressor I like on my pedalboard than a compressor that's good enough in the amp.

I have 1 high gain tube amp that has a really nice clean channel. Between it and my pedalboard I get every tone that I want. Other people might want more tones than me, but I would rather have 4 tones that I love (crystal clean, light breakup, rhythm crunch, high gain) than 40 tones that I like. I can get my 4 tones with my amp plus 2 overdrive pedals. My setup feels extremely versatile to me. (I have other pedals on the board to give different flavors, but there are 4 foundation tones that I use).

Since it's a high gain amp, it's all about preamp gain. Power tube breakup isn't necessary for amazing tones. It sounds amazing at all volumes.

100w SS does not beat 100w tube in volume or headroom ever.

I've had my tube amp for over a year, I bought it used, and the same tubes in it are going strong. I've put at least 700 hours on it. I've been meaning to replace the tubes just to try it out, but I haven't had any problems with what's in there. I mostly play at low volume, so I'm not making the power tubes work at all.

You have me on weight. I'm young and don't mind carrying tube amps around. I don't have to think about a lighter rig for a long time. But SS is way lighter without a doubt.

So basically, all the downsides of tube amps don't seem to actually appear for me and all the upsides of solid state seem irrelevant at best.
 

gonzoknife

Member
Messages
726
I've had great experiences with Quilters. For what I do, the current crop of SS amps is more practical (I'm not even considering modelers) than tube amps. They sound as good as a lot of tube amps and maybe better if you consider the consistency. I've been using Fractal this past year but still own several tube amps and a Quilter head. If I have a need for a "real" amp in the future I'll probably use the quilter. I'm even thinking of selling one or two tube amps because I simply don't need them anymore and would like to use the cash for instruments.
 

teemuk

Member
Messages
3,670
100w SS does not beat 100w tube in volume or headroom ever.

There is a demo video where Quilter compares one of his amps to a Marshall tube amp and when overdriven past same rated output power the Quilter amp produces more output power than the Marshall.

I soon get tired of explaining this over and over again, but the greatest reason why tube amps sometimes are more powerful than equally rated SS amps is not how they clip but what their low damping factors cause when clipping while driving reactive loads: Instead of the waveform top just "flattening" the rising edges actually introduce a transient burst (due to gain increasing at the impedance presented by the waveform "edge"). Peak power of this transient is much higher than peak power of ordinarily clipped waveform.

Watch the video on Quilter's channel at youtube. They show this on oscilloscope screen and discuss what happens.

Generic solid-state audio amps typically have high damping factors so driving them to clipping does not produce these transients. BUT generic solid-state guitar amps are designed to have low damping factors similar to tube amps. At that point the question is not do these SS amps behave like tube amps when clipping (They do) but how much "headroom" they actually have to reproduce the transients when clipping. That depends on design. Some amps are more powerful than others.

For example,
Quilter amps - according to their patent - employ 400W power reserve to create a power amplifier with 100W of rated output power. This means about 600 watts of burst power reserve for reproducing the transients (and yes, as demostrated by the company, it beats the 100W tube Marshall in that).
Fender Tonemaster uses 80W power reserve to produce rated output power of about 20 watts. This means 120 watts of burst power reserve for the transients. (I'm not familiar of demos comparing them to 20W Fender tube amps but they probably hold up well).
Peavey Vypyr 30 uses 60W power reserve for producing rated output power of 30 watts. 60 watts of burst power reserve.
Then again, Marshall Valvestate 100W has no burst power reserve at all. The transients clip at its peak power level of 200 watts. Inputs that do not overdrive the power amp will display the transients caused by low damping factor.

As you see, the characteristic varies from design to design in practice (just like you find variation from tube amps) but overall this isn't even new technology or feature in SS amps. Lately class-D has made huge power reserves more inexpensive and because of that we start to see more SS amps that rival performance of tube amps - or actually outperform them in this regard.
 
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guitarmek

Member
Messages
126
I love tube amps, but the last few years I've been smitten with my Quilter 101R. It's super consistent, dynamic, and weighs next to nothing.

I don't think it's so important whether the amp has tubes or not, but whether the amp delivers on your needs. If you're happy with you current amps then no, you're not missing anything. If you're looking for something that weighs less or offers a different tone... maybe?
 

jellodog

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
665
But the tonez

I can see how those upsides can benefit other people. But I have all of those upsides in my boss katana and I hate it.
So you hate the Boss Katana and you enjoy your tube amp. Fair enough and totally reasonable. That's totally cool, and at least you gave it a try.

It's not like the Boss Katana is the only SS amp currently available, though; there's lots of other excellent choices available that are either different and/or better. Not all SS amps are modelling amps either, and not all SS amps have crummy speakers in them or cheap cabs. Speakers make a huge difference with SS, just as they do with tube amps.

On topic with respect to the original question: Yes, there have been some advances in the last 20+ years and it's well worth looking into.
 
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MagusFaerox

Member
Messages
980
There is a demo video where Quilter compares one of his amps to a Marshall tube amp and when overdriven past same rated output power the Quilter amp produces more output power than the Marshall.

I soon get tired of explaining this over and over again, but the greatest reason why tube amps sometimes are more powerful than equally rated SS amps is not how they clip but what their low damping factors cause when clipping while driving reactive loads: Instead of the waveform top just "flattening" the rising edges actually introduce a transient burst (due to gain increasing at the impedance presented by the waveform "edge"). Peak power of this transient is much higher than peak power of ordinarily clipped waveform.

Watch the video on Quilter's channel at youtube. They show this on oscilloscope screen and discuss what happens.

Generic solid-state audio amps typically have high damping factors so driving them to clipping does not produce these transients. BUT generic solid-state guitar amps are designed to have low damping factors similar to tube amps. At that point the question is not do these SS amps behave like tube amps when clipping (They do) but how much "headroom" they actually have to reproduce the transients when clipping. That depends on design. Some amps are more powerful than others.

For example,
Quilter amps - according to their patent - employ 400W power reserve to create a power amplifier with 100W of rated output power. This means about 600 watts of burst power reserve for reproducing the transients (and yes, as demostrated by the company, it beats the 100W tube Marshall in that).
Fender Tonemaster uses 80W power reserve to produce rated output power of about 20 watts. This means 120 watts of burst power reserve for the transients. (I'm not familiar of demos comparing them to 20W Fender tube amps but they probably hold up well).
Peavey Vypyr 30 uses 60W power reserve for producing rated output power of 30 watts. 60 watts of burst power reserve.
Then again, Marshall Valvestate 100W has no burst power reserve at all. The transients clip at its peak power level of 200 watts. Inputs that do not overdrive the power amp will display the transients caused by low damping factor.

As you see, the characteristic varies from design to design in practice (just like you find variation from tube amps) but overall this isn't even new technology or feature in SS amps. Lately class-D has made huge power reserves more inexpensive and because of that we start to see more SS amps that rival performance of tube amps - or actually outperform them in this regard.

That's interesting, but I have some questions. Mostly...I'm wondering how the Quilter with 100W rated power with 400W reserve somehow creates 600W for transients. I'd say it seems like there was a typo, but the same disconnect happens with most but not all of your examples. There's something I'm not understanding here.
 

MadAsAHatter

Member
Messages
161
I've seen the quilter amps mentioned several times so I think I'll have to mosey over to their site and see what that's all about.

Class D amps have been making a big push over on the bass guitar side; the Mesa Subway series is stellar. What about on the guitar side? Any movement towards class D?
 

jlectka

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,746
I go back and forth. I owned and used a Trademark 60 many years ago and it was really good. I’ve since moved to tube amps and heads and enjoy them but I did plug into one of the Tonemaster Super Reverbs and it was extremely tempting. There wasn’t a thing I didn’t love about that amp, tube or not.
 

teemuk

Member
Messages
3,670
That's interesting, but I have some questions. Mostly...I'm wondering how the Quilter with 100W rated power with 400W reserve somehow creates 600W for transients.

The 100 watt rating is for sinusoid output at low THD. It does not concern what happens when the amp is overdriven into distorted output.

Quilter uses a 400W amplifier module for amplifying power amp's input signal. Waveform math tells us peak power rating for 400W average is twice as much, 800 watts. Clean sinusoid at 100W average peaks at 200 watts.

Input signal to power amp is peak limited above levels that would exceed the rated 100W output (200W peak). Signal clips but the transient "overshoots" far above the clipping level. Power amp has 800W-200W=600W headroom for producing the overshoot.
 

Al Rose

Gold Supporting Member
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3,005
I'm not trying to compare Tubes vs SS. I'm not even looking to purchase anything.
I've been out of the loop on SS amps for a long while now. Given the advances in hybrid amps, modelers, preamp pedals, and other gear technology all really starting to its stride I am curious how solid state technology has grown and where it stands.

My point was that today's SS is very good, and while I can certainly tell the difference between my Boogie and Quilter, they are more alike than different, and I would gig with the Quilter without hesitation. IOW, SS has moved forward a lot in the last 10 years....

Al
 

Al Rose

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
3,005
...and regarding that thread, you obviously missed the Quilter's video clip that demonstrates that solid-state amps - namely Quilter amp in the thread's case - can actually distort and compress identically to a tube amp (in video clip a Marshall tube amp).
Did you also check out the referred Quilter patent that outlines how solid-state amps and their tube emulations can be designed to feature any type of "sag" characteristics preferred?
This kind of invalidates your, may I say old-fashioned, view of differences of tube vs. SS amps.

And yes, Quilter is not the only amp manufacturer exploiting very advanced tube emulation techniques that narrow the gap between so-called "tube amp" and so-called "solid-state amp" characteristics.

How an amp operates, overdrives, reacts dynamically and so on is, and has virtually always been, amp and circuit- not device - specific. Today generalisations of how device types affect amps apply even less.


I did watch the video when Pat first put it out, but I don't listen with my eyes. When my ears hear it (not on a cheesy you-tube video) I will fully agree with you. I will say that the day is getting closer.

Al
 




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