An amplifier is one the most important pieces of equipment a guitarist has besides the actual instrument. When choosing your amp, you should ensure that you like the sound of your amp and that it has enough power for your usage.
One of the first things you will consider when purchasing an amp is what type of amp you want. The two types of amplifiers you will encounter are tube amps and solid-state amps. If you are unsure of the differences between the two, you have come to the right place! In this article, I will go over some key differences between tube and solid state amps.
Tube amp vs solid state amp: what’s the difference?
Tube amps have been around for a very long time. The technology used in the amps has been around even before electric guitars were invented, so it is no wonder musicians love the vintage sound of tube amps. On the other hand, solid state amps have only really been in circulation since the 1970’s, so they are relatively new. Here are some of the main differences between the two types of amps.
The main difference between tube amps and solid state amps is their construction. These 2 amps work quite differently from each other.
Tube amps have vacuum-sealed cylinders inside the amp that electrical currents are sent through. The electrical currents cause the cylinders to heat up and even glow. When you plug your guitar into a tube amp and play, a rush of electrons flows through the tube, emulating the guitar’s sound.
On the other hand, solid state amps use digital technology to pick up the signals from the electric guitar and translate them into sound waves.
Both amp types function similarly but use different technology to produce sound.
Tube amps are generally more accurate representations of the guitar’s sound than their solid state relatives. This is because guitarists can manipulate the sound from a tube amp by picking differently or using a gain pedal. In addition, tube amps are louder because the tubes produce a lot of power. While guitarists with a solid-state amp may need 70 to 100 watts to play live shows, a small tube amp with less than 50 watts of power will probably be powerful enough for most guitarists. So, if you are looking for an amp that can pack a punch and be used for live shows, a tube amp is definitely the best way to go.
For these reasons, most professional guitarists prefer vintage tube technology over solid state amps. The sound you get is more authentic and clearer.
Musical equipment can get very expensive. For example, a good quality, high-watt tube amp can easily cost over $1,000. So if you are on a budget, it is important to consider the cost of tube amps vs. solid state amps.
Generally, solid state amps are more affordable than tube amps. The hardware used in tube amps is more complex, expensive, and fragile than solid-state amps. Each tube can cost as much as $50, so it is nearly impossible to find a tube amp for less than $500.
On the other hand, solid state amps do not require complex or expensive hardware, so you can easily find a cheaper solid state amp for less than $500.
Tubes break easily and will need replacement. Think about it. Multiple glass tubes inside your amp are heating to up to 300 degrees! They definitely are not the most durable pieces of equipment out there. The louder you play, the more likely you are to break a tube. Professional guitarists who use tube amps accept that these amps need more maintenance as a tradeoff for better quality sound. Tubes may last some guitarists for a decade, while others will replace them every year.
Solid state amps have a much more durable design, making you less likely to need repairs.
Are tube amps better than solid state amps?
So what is the consensus? Are tube amps inherently better than solid state amps? The answer depends on what you are looking for in an amp. If the overall sound quality and tone are the most important thing to you, then a tube amp will be the best choice. If convenience, price, and low maintenance are the factors you are looking for, I recommend going with a solid state amp.
Tube amps have a better and more authentic sound, while solid state amps are cheaper and more durable.
How often should you replace your tubes?
The tubes in tube amps need to be replaced a maximum of every 10,000 hours of play time. While this may seem like a lot, a guitarist who plays consistent live shows with the amp turned up high will have to replace tubes more frequently. Tubes do not come cheap, so be careful with your amp and maintain it well to prevent breaking the tubes.