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tube vs. solid state bass heads

lpdeluxe

Member
Messages
1,532
The choice isn't as straight forward as for guitar amps: the attractive voicing that makes vacuum tubes work so well for guitar doesn't fall in the register of most basses, but some like distortion.

Tube heads can be ridiculously heavy for the power, while solid state amp are generally lighter. Some like the grind of the tubes, but I greatly prefer the tight bottom of solid state.

The usual compromise is to use a tube in the preamp stage to drive a solid state power amp. That's how my Mesa/Boogie Walkabout Scout is set up, and it has killer tone, with the additional option of dialing in some grit in the pre, while only weighing 17 lb for the head.

My first serious bass amp was a '63 Ampeg B15N, which was almost 100 lb with 40 watts (naturally, an all-tube design); I replaced it with a B100R (all solid) that had 100 watts and weighed 65 lb. My current M/B is 300 watts and 56 lb.

My recommendation is to go solid-state or hybrid. There are some killer bass amps around now that weigh under 50 lb (they are also pricey).
 
Messages
20,134
lpdeluxe just about covered it all.

For everything I've wanted in a bass sound- it's the sound of a SS head. Each have their applications, but I prefer the sharp crispness and "immediacy" of attack that you get out SS amps. There's too much "pillow" around the notes on tube amps for me. Some people like that, I don't.

You want to try something- get an amp that has a tube/SS preamp fader- it'll give you an idea of the differences (albeit, just in the pre stage) between tube and SS.

There's always going to be someone saying "tube amps are best." I'll say for guitar I would only want a tube amp. For bass, I only want a SS amp.
 

DavidLopezJr

Member
Messages
484
Tubes are great but unless you got some strong people or (are strong yourself) then it's going to be a pain to move around heavy tube equipment. I prefer to use tube amps for home/studio work.
 
Messages
301
I love the sound of all-tube bass rigs, and I own a Ampeg V4BH 100w head and a '67 Ampeg SB-12 35w combo. The former has enough power for some situations I play in, whereas the latter is a great recording amp.

When I need headroom or am competing against loud stage volume, I use my tube preamp/solid state power amp rig (Alembic F1-X into QSC PLX1804), which gives me 2x900w up my sleeve and only weighs 30lbs. I warm that rig up with a pedal to get me very close to the all tube sound that I love.
 

torquil

Member
Messages
1,636
The choice isn't as straight forward as for guitar amps: the attractive voicing that makes vacuum tubes work so well for guitar doesn't fall in the register of most basses, but some like distortion.
A solid state amp will be able to behave more linearly, but I don't think that the nonlinearity introduced by the tubes are more suited for guitar than bass.

And as regards to additional voicing in the form of frequency response shaping, this is done exactly the same as in solid state amps.

Tube heads can be ridiculously heavy for the power, while solid state amp are generally lighter. Some like the grind of the tubes, but I greatly prefer the tight bottom of solid state.
The only additional limiting factor at low frequencies in a tube amp (vs solid state) would be the frequency response of the output transformer. This can be easily overcome by using a properly spec'ed OT. The frequency response of the Partridge transformer in the classic Hiwatt DR103 is around 4Hz - 100KHz (-3dB), according to:

http://www.hiwatt.org/tech.html

As solid state amp will also be able to react faster (larger slew rate), although the difference might not be significant for bass guitar. I haven't tried to find out, but I'll try to find some specs for this. It is of course very dependent on the power supply of the amp.

I quite enjoy my Hiwatt-clone, which has been modified for bass use, by increasing the values of a few capacitors. A very pleasant sounding bass amp. And the power section is well suited for this. I play a six-string bass through it.

I think you would have to try different amps for yourself and decide.
 

testing1two

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
2,477
Playing a great tube bass amp is a religious experience and you owe it to yourself to hear & feel it personally. Whether you like it enough to deal with the added size & weight is a matter of personal preference.
 

LarryNJ

Senior Member
Messages
181


Amen!

Now this hideous piece of equipment weighs about an over-whelming 45 lbs. 4x KT88, the TONE! The Tone! Very loud too, more than I've ever had to call on.

It's far easier to load in/out my 6 lb. LMII or Ibanez Promethian or Tec Amp Puma 500 around, and they sound excellent, as does my ThunderFunk 750 at 25lbs.

So I have no arguments with SS or Hybrid amps.

Still, there is something about the resonance from an all-tube circuit that can't be duplicated by other means; and it's not just tube overdrive- I'm rarely going for that sound myself.

It's the PHAT, thick, rich and round overtones that glass tubes create when they're all lit up.....

 
Messages
8,095
In most cases I like the tonal characture imparted by a good tube amp for Fndr bass. My favorite is a Showman with it's matching single 15" tone ring cab. More volume? Get more Showmans. I like SVT's plenty too.

For upright I like a little more "hi-fi" transparency and strong fundamental, preferring my Thunderfunk ss amp into Accugroove or Aguilar cabs. I have played the upright through two SVTs, though, and that's fun too.

When it's backline, I just hope it's not that pre-emphasized Eden or SWR stuff. If I've gotta carry it myself, it's the T-Funk and 28 lb Accugroove.
 

2 Loud 4 You

Member
Messages
2,687
For me it's tubes for guitars and SS for bass. I don't like how quickly tubes break up on bass because I like a crisp, clear tone. Some guys go for that "grind" but it's not my style.
 

TheMutt

Member
Messages
89
Personally, I'm a big fan of solid state bass amps. My Little Mark II amp weighs about 6.5 lbs and puts out more than enough power to make me not miss lugging around a 75-80 lb rack.
 

derekd

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
41,815
For me it's tubes for guitars and SS for bass. I don't like how quickly tubes break up on bass because I like a crisp, clear tone. Some guys go for that "grind" but it's not my style.
I am the same. I love the size and sound of the Markbass.
 

ABKB

Member
Messages
3,167
With unlimited funds there's no question I would go for tube in the studio and SS live. Tube just has THAT sound I like, especially a good all tube SVT. But lugging one of them around from gig to gig? NO thank you. The audience can't tell the difference live anyway.
 

Ephi82

Member
Messages
2,577
For me, a classic rock, R&B, roots lover, there is just nothing that replaces a Fender Bassman, an Ampeg flip top, an Ampeg V4B or for major volume and power, the Ampeg SVT.

High quality solid state amps, of all powers, are lighter, quiter and more reliable, but they don't dont quite have the tone that "sings" like tubes
 

Jerryr

Member
Messages
187
I think a compressor is a must with a SS amp. It smooths out the sound and also helps make sure you avoid clipping which is a sick sound with most SS amps. The dynamic response (compression) is what makes tubes so great to play through. The tube amp responds to your playing were SS just passes an amplified version to the speaker.
 
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strike771377

Member
Messages
85
awesome thanks so much everyone. you've been much help. so i think i'm gunna go with a ss amp with a tube pre. I cant spend too much so could you give me some specific models that would be good? max of $900 for head and tube pre...
 
Messages
301
awesome thanks so much everyone. you've been much help. so i think i'm gunna go with a ss amp with a tube pre. I cant spend too much so could you give me some specific models that would be good? max of $900 for head and tube pre...
Another option if you are going down that road is a rack mount tube pre and a lightweight SS power amp (eg. QSC PLX series). Plenty of nice rack mount tube (or tube sounding) preamps available - Alembic F1-X, Demeter VTBP201S, Tech 21 Sansamp RBI, Fender TBP1, BBE BMAX-T etc
 




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