Wait a sec...What about a DIFFERENT tube amp?! Tech guys are you out there?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by JubileeMan 2555, Jun 21, 2006.

  1. JubileeMan 2555

    JubileeMan 2555 Member

    Dec 12, 2005
    Minneapolis, MN
    Hey... just sitting here listening to amp clips and something made me wonder:

    I've seen those walls of old Vacuum tubes in this world. The Thousands of tube varients and numbers and makes....

    ...so why are guitar amps pretty much 99% 6v6, 6l6, el34 or el84?

    What if an amp company started to get wild and started experimenting with the tonal variations of some crazy power tubes numbers?

    Just a thought from a NON-tech guy.

  2. noises ten

    noises ten Member

    Oct 25, 2005
    Charlotte, NC
    I think some tubes are just simpler.. 6v6 6L6, EL84, EL34's all distort fairly easily, desirable in a guitar amp, not so much in a TV or old radio..

    I have an old '67 guild amp that has ECL86's in the powertube section. The tube is a triode/pentode design with the phase inverter built in to each tube. The circuit is an old tube radio circuit and stays very clean all the way up to 10..
  3. electronpirate

    electronpirate Member

    Jul 27, 2005
    The Jewel of the Rockies
    It was my impression that those tubes were the major 'grouping' of tubes built for a particular purpose. All others were minor variations on these themes.

    More learned may chime in here.
  4. drbob1

    drbob1 Silver Supporting Member

    Aug 9, 2004
    The tubes that were built for sound reproduction were primarily from those families. There's a lot of other tubes out there that could be used, but not being built for audio they don't necessarily sound great and it takes a lot of research to find one that does. then you have to have OTs specially built-big job. Zvex's Nano used some wierd tubes, and there's the Smicz TAD adapters, plus the few old amps with the ECL86 or 6AQ5 tubes. That's all I can think of right now.
  5. 908SSP

    908SSP Supporting Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Do you honestly think that an amp from a manufacturer who used some odd tube and came up with a unique sounding amp would sell? I don't.

    Guitar players suffer from "Grandma's apple pie syndrome" if they have haven't heard it before when they were young they won't like it. Only if some new "guitar hero" used it would they give it a second look and then it would take a ten years for the kids who heard it to demand they want that sound.
  6. cleansed leper

    cleansed leper Member

    Feb 23, 2005
    Lockhart, Tx
    Surprisingly (or not), guitar players are a consernative lot when it comes to their tube preferences. I just finished an amp with 807's in the output. They're a very handsome tube! A very viable audio tube to boot. But if guitar players can't buy a replacement tube at Guitar Center, they're lost!
  7. Softpaw

    Softpaw Member

    Apr 26, 2002
    Ventura, CA
    Straub is working on a 2A3 based amp.
  8. willhutch

    willhutch Supporting Member

    Feb 1, 2006
    Like 998SSP said, there are probably stong market disincentives for doing anything radical in the area of guitar gear.

    That said, I came across a wierd guitar amp at a local guitar store. This amp builder was in the store trying to get the store to carry his product. It looked unusual so I asked some questions and got a demo from the builder. See this link for an image:

    Here's examples of the uniqueness of this amp:
    1) It is an 8X8 speaker arrangement. Wired in series for 32 ohms.
    2) No output tranny! The speakers couple directly to the power tube.
    3) Big power tube. Don't know what it was, but it was about 7" tall and about 3" in diameter at its widest point.
    4) Master volume amp with no negative feedback
    5) It used about 10 12AX7s preamp tubes

    The tone of the amp was, unusual. The cleans very clean - the guitar sounded just like it did unplugged, just louder. You can crank the gain and the amp gave you a very strange, though not unpleasant distortion. It was again like you were hearing the sound of you guitar unplugged, but louder and with distortion!

    I was told that the builder's main business is building $30,000 hi-fi power amplifiers. This guitar amp seemed to represent everything, good and bad, contained in the term "hi-fi".

    Story number 2: I went to an estate sale a few weeks back. The deceased was an old audio engineer with a studio in his basement. Most of the useful and valuable gear had already been sold to people in the business. What was left was a whole bunch of miscelleaneous stuff like cables, patchbays. I noticed a big steel box on the floor and asked what it was. It turned out to be a 250 watt tube amp! It was a power amp for PA gear run on tubes. It even had a pair of replacement tubes. They were mongo tubes like the one I described abouve. 2 tubes delivering 250 watts! I would have loved to hear that amp. The problem was it weighed about 100 lbs. Or maybe more - I wanted to see how heavy it was, so I squatted down to heft it and it didn't move much.
  9. rmconner80

    rmconner80 Cantankerous Luddite Silver Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2005
    Clifton, VA
    Economics, pure and simple.

    There are tons of great, widely available, inexpensive yet high quality "oddball" NOS tubes that could be used for guitar amp design with wonderful tonal results.

    However, if a guitar player can't go buy an 83 or a 5V6GT or a 6SJ7GT or ___ at his local Guitar Center, tubestore.com, or Groove Tubes, AND if the tube is not currently manufactured by Reflektor or SED or in China, then that will factor into his decision on whether to buy the amp or not.

    Regardless of how great said amp sounds, or how brilliant the design, if tube availability (or percieved availability) puts said amp at even a slight disadvantage in the eyes of the buyer, it makes it harder to sell.

    Most boutique amp manufacturers don't want to voluntarily build amps that sell less sucessfully than a counterpart using common Western Electric circuit / guitar amp tubes.
  10. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

    Mar 17, 2002

    And anyway, the real tonal differences in amps come from the circuit design, not the tubes. Certainly different tubes do have something of a 'typical' sound, but it's far from the most important factor, and you can still make one type of tube 'sound like another' by changing the circuit design, up to a point. I wouldn't have thought there was much point in purposely designing an amp around a non-standard tube to achieve a particular tone, unless (like the direct-coupled single-ended amp described above) there was some very different principle involved - since you could achieve much the same result with a standard tube and a slightly different circuit.

    All the broad variations are fairly represented in the 'common' types anyway - Beam Tetrodes, high and low power (6L6, 6V6) and very high power (6550), and true Pentodes, high and low power (EL34, EL84). I don't know of a commonly-used very-high-power Pentode (KT88s are Beam Tetrodes too), but that's about it. All the others (5881, KT66, 7581, 6CA7, KT77, 7189 etc) are variations on those, and although there are a few that aren't (eg 7591) that have been used in amps in the past, and don't really sound like any of the common tubes, the amps that used them weren't exactly very popular in the first place.
  11. AL30

    AL30 Member

    Jul 20, 2005
    I've got two working (and one not working) old Ampegs. SB-12 uses 7868 power tubes and the Gemini 1 uses 7591's. I just finished doing some maintenance on a Gibson GA354rvt that also uses 7591's.

    I love 'em. They do have a unique sound. But, in reality, the average listener won't be able to tell the difference. It's noticeable to me but it's not extreme. There still are some similarities.

  12. LaXu

    LaXu Member

    Apr 22, 2004
    Well said. In my experience with amps that take multiple tube types (or even combinations of them), the end result is usually the same amp with more or less of this and that frequency. Like with preamp tubes it's just fine tuning the sound instead of vastly changing it.

    It would be hard to come out with truly unique sounding amps or amps with really different features. Guitarists are just too conservative and would consider the amp weird since it doesn't fall in the Marshall/Mesa/Fender/Vox ballpark most are familiar with. If you look at bass amps there seems to be more variation in those at least in terms of features.
  13. minesaguinness

    minesaguinness Member

    Jun 13, 2006
    +2 - look at it another way - there's a whole bunch of amps out there which have EL34's in them, or 6L6 or EL84 or whatever... and so on. yet a guy who buys a Marshall EL34 amp is going to get something pretty different to an Orange EL34 amp....
    One of the "nicest" amps I owned was a Selmer Treble'n'Bass 50 watter (2xEL34 output).

    I've got a box and a half full of old valves of all sorts and conditions - some to keep my old valve radio going, others for various amps over the years.
    Including some I'll probably never use e.g. and old PZ30 dual rectifier... nice to look at though... bottle of Newcastle "water" for size comparison..

  14. thesedaze

    thesedaze Member

    Jan 21, 2002
    Bakersfield, CA
    Siegmund Diamond:
  15. myles111

    myles111 Member

    Nov 19, 2003
    Los Angeles CA

    Two things ....

    First ....The tubes commonly used in guitar amps were cheap and easy to procure and did what was needed for them to do. Ampeg built a lot of amazing amps that used tubes other than 6L6 and EL34's as an example. But today they are harder to replace.

    Second .... Your pie analogy is right on the money.
  16. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Member

    Dec 26, 2004
    Really, how much more tone is there once you have a balanced guitar sound at an adequate level?
    Stick in an active eq and you can take your tone from the sublime to the ridiculous but who needs it? If you can't make good music with current or vintage guitar amps you should move to synthesizers. Now, there's a world of tone!

    (this is not a knock on innovation but more of a reality check on hair-splitting gear evaluation)
  17. willhutch

    willhutch Supporting Member

    Feb 1, 2006
    yeah really
  18. baald

    baald Member

    Dec 15, 2004
    west side of the east bay
    hey! so am I!
    2A3 = :drool
  19. pbass2go

    pbass2go Member

    Jun 14, 2006
    the Twin Cities ya know...
    Once again we bass players have it all figured out....

    6550.. end of story....:BluesBros

  20. bluesgeek

    bluesgeek Member

    Jun 12, 2006
    Auckland, New Zilland
    As fascinating as this thread is, my eyes were drawn to the Nuclear Broon, its been over 5 years since I last had a decent bottle :( You can get it down under, but it doesn't travel well...

    God I miss 'real' pubs!

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