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Tube vs. Solid-State Amps
Contributor: TC Staff    Rating: 4/5    Views: 107830

Q: Are tube amps louder than solid-state amps of the same wattage?

I see tube amps like the Fender Blues Jr. (I think) that have 10" or 12" speakers, while solid-state amps of the same wattage never have more than 8" speakers, it seems.

Also, people here seem to talk about playing clubs and such with the 15-watt Fender tube amps, which I don't think they'd be able to do with the 15-watt solid-state amps I've tried?

I don't know what "clip" is so the first explanation didn't make much sense to me.

What gives?

Thanks. I think this might be a pretty elementary question, but I can't find an answer in any book or the few guitar players I feel comfortable asking.


A: JL, I think we are talking about percieved loudness -- Amplifiers will "clip" at some point. It simply means they have no more headroom left and running out of steam. It's when the signal starts to distort. It can't go higher no matter what you push into it. No more comes out, what comes out ain't nothing like what went in... the pretty sine wave looks like an ugly square, because the top has been "clipped" off.

Some of it's a rating game, and some of it's "perceived" loudness. Ears ain't perfect either... some of it's a difference between tubes and solid state.

Solid state amps (in general), are clean up to a certain point, but when pushed beyond this point, the clipping increases relatively quickly until it's maxed out. Tube amplfiers clip more gradual. An example might help.

Lets say 50 watts gives a 5% distortion figure with a solid state amp. Maybe push it up to 55 watts, and you have a 50% distortion level.

Tube amps are a little slower to max out their clipping... Lets say we have 50 watts at 5% distortion from a tube amp. If we push it until we achieve the same 50% distortion figure as the solid state amp, then we might be at 70 watts.

70 watts is louder than 55 watts. Watts are watts... regardless what type amp produces them.

Your receiver at 100 watts, is 100 watts at some distortion figure, probably .01 percent distortion or below. This represents the power versus distortion figure that the manufacturer decided was usable.

- TC Staff

Contributor: TC Staff    Rating: 4/5    Views: 107830

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