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Any famous guitarists use solid state amps?


mbengs1
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are solid state amps generally weak in midrange? I listened to dimebags tone and the guitar tone doesnt cut through that much (not enough midrange)

 

The 'Modern Metal' guitar tone dialed in that way on purpose. it's often called "scooped mids". Any "how to set your tone knobs" website will show that - bass knob turned up high, mids turned down. It doesn't have anything to do with solid state vs. tube amps.

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I'd say many older ones are stronger in mids and highs but its hard to qualify anything new these days because designs and components have gotten so much better. There's very little differences you can hear by just listening to them, especially when run clean. Driven it depends on the design.

 

There is still a big gap when it comes to Dynamic range and string String Touch Response.

Solid State has gotten allot closer in the past 25 years but its still got a way to go.

 

The raw facts are transistors are low voltage devices. Early amps couldn't produce the big bass tones as well because Bass requires a whole lot more power to push the speakers. The biggest enemy to SS is heat. You try and create too much bass response and you got problems.

 

You need more SS devices to create a bigger/better bottom end and then the quality of the audio image diminishes with each stage of gain, and the dynamic response goes down. Transistors cant produce gain increases as well as tubes so you need allot more stages to get to the same wattages levels. And because these gain steps are small, the dynamic headroom is smaller.

 

A Typical clean Tube amp may have three gain stages. Two preamps gain stages, and then a power tubes. If its push pull you use an inverter tube to split the positive and negative going waves to drive independent power tubes. That's it. Very simple, wham bam thank you man.

 

You want overdrive you can add another gain stage. You want distortion add two stages. If the caps are good this is a short clean accurate low noise path. A small change in pick response makes a huge response change at the speaker and because the path is short and clean, what comes out is nearly identical to what's going into the amp.

 

Three gain stages in solid state? Its barely has enough balls to drive headphones in many cases so you have to use more gain stages to get to the same wattage levels of a tube amp. You're mixing and matching many SS devices together as well so something may look great on paper but in a working amp can cause all kinds of weird problems.

 

Transistors are (were) very noisy. Silicon devices use a method called doping in their manufacturing. Impurities are added to the different layers to get electrons to pass electricity through its layers.

 

The white noise hiss you hear from transistors is the electrons colliding with impurities in the layers and bouncing around colliding with other electrons instead of passing straight through like you'd want them to. Tubes have some of this too (actually quite a bit in fact but the ratio of hiss to maximum signal levels is still pretty good, plus there's many things that can be done to clean up the signal path (Stuff CBS did to Fender for example which allot of guys have removed to get sound quality back)

 

In order to get better SS quality, the basic elements used in SS devices have to be highly refined and quality tested. They may throw out 90% of the duds that don't meet the highest specs building high end gear. This of course runs the cost way up and you pay for what you get.

 

The chemical process of making them is a key factor too. This is all chemistry when it comes to SS.

 

In the past few decades the improvements in SS has leaped way ahead. They did their best using raw math and testing to figure out the best formulas. Once the Nuclear Microscope was invented and used to view electron movement through chips, the whole ball game changed. They could actually see the electrons moving through the layers and saw which impurities were making noise and creating heat.

 

This technology first went to making faster computer chips. It was adapted by other industries of course to where today you have much quieter SS audio gear. This meant you could have your extra gain stages to boost the signals up to match tubes and do it in smaller packages because these devices drew less heat.

 

SS still doesn't have as much gain per stage however in most amps so it will tend to break up easier and when they do that breakup is sharper and harsher to most peoples ear4s when they compare them to tube breakup. Like I said, they have gotten much better. they use tricks to mimic tube and transformer response so they sound more like tube saturation. I record all the time and I honestly couldn't tell you which is which if you were to A/B most recordings, but I can tell a difference when I'm playing through them

 

When it comes to tubes its all about "even harmonics" Accurate Overtone recreation and compression which influences String Touch Response.

 

In older SS gear you had allot of Odd harmonics when you pushed them into saturation which sounded awful. You'd hear it allot when your strings weren't quite in tune with each other, you get this string beating and the noise between the two strings sounds harsh and with tubes it sounds transparent like two independent strings. The overtones are not reproduced well and the touch response was much more limited.

 

Funny thing is SS for bass guitar was actually much better. The waves are long and even if there is allot of loss, the waveform is still very good. The bass uses mostly single notes however so you don't have the same issues you do with distortion playing multiple notes.

 

This is a good depiction of the basics. Which is better depends on the player and the gear choses. I think allot of these have become less of an issue when it comes to SS but again, its still not a perfect science and since Tubes were there before SS, its a tough act to follow up using SS devices because tubes use much higher radiation and can sacrifice higher losses to achieve great results. Transistors are low voltage so they cant afford to loose much power in the filtering process and still maintain signal integrity, so SS must have top design and component quality to compete well.

 

The list of SS disadvantages are longer the Tubes as you notice and this list is far from complete. you add in all the newer modeling and DSP, programing and stuff this list can grow much longer. both are still money makers for manufacturers though, especially tubes. You buy a tube amp you may as well grab your ankles and give them your wallet because the profit markup on those parts in the amp are ridiculous.

 

Vacuum tubes – Advantages

  • Highly linear without negative feedback, specially some small-signal types
  • Clipping is smooth, which is widely considered more musical than transistors
  • Tolerant of overloads and voltage spikes
  • Characteristics highly independent of temperature, greatly simplifies biasing
  • Wider dynamic range than typical transistor circuits, thanks to higher operating voltages
  • Device capacitances vary only slightly with signal voltages
  • Capacitive coupling can be done with low-value, high-quality film capacitors
  • Circuit designs tend to be simpler than semiconductor equivalents
  • Operation is usually in Class A or AB, which minimizes crossover distortion
  • Output transformer in power amp protects speaker from tube failure
  • Maintenance tends to be easier because user can replace tubes

Vacuum tubes – Disadvantages

  • Bulky, hence less suitable for portable products
  • High operating voltages required
  • High power consumption, needs heater supply
  • Generate lots of waste heat
  • Lower power efficiency than transistors in small-signal circuits
  • Low-cost glass tubes are physically fragile
  • More prone to microphonics than semiconductors, especially in low-level stages
  • Cathode electron-emitting materials are used up in operation, resulting in shorter lifetimes (typically 1-5 years for power tubes)
  • High-impedance devices that usually need a matching transformer for low impedance loads, like speakers
  • Usually higher cost than equivalent transistors

Transistors – Advantages

  • Usually lower cost than tubes, especially in small-signal circuits
  • Smaller than equivalent tubes
  • Can be combined in one die to make integrated circuit
  • Lower power consumption than equivalent tubes, especially in small-signal circuits
  • Less waste heat than equivalent tubes
  • Can operate on low-voltage supplies, greater safety, lower component costs, smaller clearances
  • Matching transformers not required for low-impedance loads
  • Usually more physical ruggedness than tubes (depends on chassis construction)

Transistors – Disadvantages

  • Tendency toward higher distortion than equivalent tubes
  • Complex circuits and considerable negative feedback required for low distortion
  • Sharp clipping, in a manner widely considered non-musical, due to considerable negative feedback commonly used
  • Device capacitances tend to vary with applied voltages
  • Large unit-to-unit variations in key parameters, such as gain and threshold voltage
  • Stored-charge effects add signal delay, which complicates high-frequency and feedback amplifier design
  • Device parameters vary considerably with temperature, complicating biasing and raising the possibility of thermal runaway
  • Cooling is less efficient than with tubes, because lower operating temperature is required for reliability
  • Power MOSFETs have high input capacitances that very with voltage
  • Class B totem-pole circuits are common, which can result in crossover distortion
  • Less tolerant of overloads and voltage spikes than tubes
  • Nearly all transistor power amplifiers have directly-coupled outputs and can damage speakers, even with active protection
  • Capacitive coupling usually requires high-value electrolytic capacitors, which give inferior performance at audio-frequency extremes
  • Greater tendency to pick up radio frequency interference, due to rectification by low-voltage diode junctions or slew-rate effects
  • Maintenance more difficult; devices are not easily replaced by user
  • Older transistors and ICs often unavailable after 20 years, making replacement difficult or impossible

 

Edited by WRGKMC
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