Solid state has its place. Solid state is very good at reproducing the sound you put into it. If you play a note, the note will sound
exactly the same at the output as it did at the input; it's just amplified. This makes it a good choice for Hi-Fi applications where
accurate sound reproduction is a must.
As musicians, we make the music. 100% accurate sound reproduction is not the goal. This is the downfall of solid state in a guitar
amp application. Solid state does not add anything to the tone. Clean notes sound thin and lifeless. Solid state distortion sounds
piercing and brittle.
- Tubes are not perfect devices. They don't amplify everything the same way. Certain frequencies will be amplified more than others.
There isn't enough of a difference to be noticable, but it's enough to change the tone. Tubes have a natural compression to
their operation as well. This is the cause of the perception that 10 tube watts is louder than 10 solid state watts. The simple
fact is that 10 watts is 10 watts, but due to this natural compression, tube amps sound louder. With these imperfections, tubes
add their own unique touch to the sound.
- The tone for a given tube can vary from one manufacturer to another due to materials, production methods, or design differences.
Changing to a different brand of tube can change the tone of the amp.
- Distortion in solid-state devices, such as transistors, generates odd order harmonics, which cause the tone to sound thin
and piercing. When a tube distorts, even order harmonics are generated, producing that warm, full tone.
- Tube amps give the guitarist a sense of touch. Dial the gain right at that point where any more starts to crunch up just a bit,
then play soft or turn the guitar volume down, and the amp produces its sweet clean tone. Now dig in a bit harder or open up
the guitar, and the tubes start to crunch up, pushing the tone over the top. Digital modeling does not respond with this touch
sensitivity. It simply adds its own thing to whatever signal is applied, regardless of the input level. The tone doesn't change
as the input level changes. It just gets louder.