Anyone use a tube pre/drive with a solid state?

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Anyone use a tube pre/drive with a solid state?

Post by jorri » Sun Sep 27, 2020 5:48 am

Looking for recommendations. It would be cool to have a jazz chorus clean sound with Vox or Fender dirtiness. Dont wish to carry around two amps. And that's about it!

Usually after something I would run verbs into and strange broken up silky lofi sounds (Grouper springs to mind) rather than a search for classic tones or anything. I liked what my vox did (and didnt necessarily care for its power tube dist, what it did was nice even with a headphone attenuator) but couldnt justify keeping it. It is a way to use so many effects as that saturation doesnt work for me on everything, sometimes clean Slowdivey sounds needed (by bypassing such preamp).

Seen some boxes like the Orange terror preamp or EBS tube drive or those Bogner transformer pedals but i need a few pointers, i know nothing and always assumed it was a metalhead kind of way to go.

I dont really need a full on amp/cab sim but why not if i can turn it off then any direct writing demos( that dont get released) i do will sound better.

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Re: Anyone use a tube pre/drive with a solid state?

Post by s_mcsleazy » Sun Sep 27, 2020 8:29 am

yeah. kinda. i have a dean markley overlord i run into my soundcard for recording bass and sometimes into an old solid state ross combo i converted to a head.
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Re: Anyone use a tube pre/drive with a solid state?

Post by øøøøøøø » Sun Sep 27, 2020 1:23 pm

I wonder whether a better move might be a convolution-based device like the Kemper? I never much cared for tube-based overdrive/distortion pedals as a means to get "tube sound."

Experience has led me to believe that much of the sound we associate with tube equipment results from the transformers (more-so than the tubes themselves) in the signal path.

Transformers, especially the middling-quality ones used in most guitar amps, introduce a fair bit of phase shift especially in the lower part of their band, and this is where I've come to believe a lot of "tube amp sound" comes from.

There's always a bit of a low-pass filtering effect with transformers as well, as this is a reality of transformers in audio (though it can be engineered to have minimal consequence).

Very often the top end roll-off occurs above the range a guitar amp speaker can reproduce, but sometimes phase artifacts exist within the passband. Some very expensive transformers can minimize this as well, by engineering the transformer's inherent low-pass behavior to have a corner frequency above 20kHz and a gradual Bessel response curve. But most guitar amp transformers are inexpensive steel-core devices... and that's generally a good thing (for us), as those tend to be less-transparent and provide more "tube amp coloration."

That's already too much detail, but suffice to say that a stompbox that uses a small-signal tube (often with a starved plate voltage) and no output transformer won't really sound very much like a tube amp. Even when driven to distortion, it won't sound very much like a distorting tube amp, in my experience, in most cases!

A good convolution-based device (as mentioned above) is probably a better (if less-exciting) way to get closer to the sound of a good tube amp.

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Re: Anyone use a tube pre/drive with a solid state?

Post by mbene085 » Sun Sep 27, 2020 2:03 pm

Thanks for that explanation. It beats what I was about to say - which is that precisely none of the things that make a tube amp fun can be injected into the front end of a SS amp via a "tube" pedal.

There are definitely pedals that capture some of the fun characteristics of tube amp distortion, but they tend to be solid-state. Back in the day, I had quite an obsession with tube-driven pedals, and spent a lot of money and a lot of time coming to the conclusion that they didn't sound or feel any better than other pedals.

As was already suggested, a modeling device does the job better than a tube pedal + SS amp. I started out with a Kemper and eventually got an AxeFX3. It sort of takes the fun out of gear hunting (patch hunting doesn't have the hands-on dopamine rush of retail therapy and GAS), but I can get any tone I desire out of it with the satisfying feel of a tube amp.

If your JC is one of the models with an FX loop, you can use something called the 4-cable method to rout a modeler such that you can switch from your amp's tone to a modeled amp running through its power amp via the modeler's patches.

There are simpler modelers like the Iridium, working up through the HX stomp and Fractal FM3, then on to full-scale models like the Helix, Kemper, and AxeFX3.

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Re: Anyone use a tube pre/drive with a solid state?

Post by jorri » Sun Sep 27, 2020 4:56 pm

That could be something to try.

Im just entertaining the idea of transformers: https://www.andertons.co.uk/bogner-wess ... EsQAvD_BwE

Or not quite wanting accuracy, other than in the texture of distortion type really. If modellers can do that then maybe. If tubes can do it but lack some tranformer equalisation response that may do too.

But the part i do not understand is that solid state has transformers too? Is this not also a part of their sound? I am assuming there is inherently a different role if its a part of 'tube sound'. Some in my solid sate collection HH have lots of weird colour and saturation too..I dont tend to use DI recording (even on bass) unless it really suits an ambient part.

Another i sas was an AMT Vx-clean. It looks truly ridiculous enough to work.

Or, back to my carlsboro stingray, it has its bluesdrivery style drive built in...not quite there, i think that sounds like a pedal. So does my fulltone ocd clone.

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Re: Anyone use a tube pre/drive with a solid state?

Post by øøøøøøø » Sun Sep 27, 2020 7:37 pm

Most solid-state amps don't have output transformers. The output transistors can function at a sufficiently low impedance to drive speakers to acceptable levels.

SOME solid-state amps (particularly very early ones) did indeed use output transformers, but they are in the minority.

The newer convolution-based emulators are quite good, and have come a long way since the nascent "modeling" technology of the late 90s and early aughts.

Distortion in guitar amps occurs from many different sources, and I've come to believe that this complexity (several things each introducing small amounts of coloration/distortion) is the real source of "tube amp overdrive" sound. There's no single magic bullet.

In a typical vintage tube guitar amp, the following things will be going on:
  • A low-tech power supply will dynamically sag under load, introducing compression and softening of the top end under high transient current demand
  • Under high load, slight underfiltering of full-wave rectified DC will cause intermodulation distortion between the signal and 120 (or 100) Hz.
  • In a class A/B amp, some amount of hysteresis at the zero crossing of the output stage may exist, especially at loud levels.
  • The output tubes may clip at elevated levels, obviously... softly at first, and gradually more (negative feedback can impact how gradual or sudden this transition is)
  • The output transformer will tilt the phase response of the low frequencies positive, most likely, and may twist the phase at the top end, as well. There may be ringing artifacts as well that are part of the sauce, depending.
  • The output transformer itself may core-saturate at elevated levels, contributing harmonic distortion of its own.
  • Particularly at elevated levels, the undamped speaker cone will contribute its own harmonic distortions. At extreme levels, it may hard clip as the voice coil reaches the end of the gap.
  • Particularly if the speaker's magnet is AlNiCo, it may degauss slightly under extreme load, which contributes a dynamic behavior that diverts from the theoretical.
  • The phase inverter may contribute distortion depending on topology and how it's implemented. Paraphase inverters add a lot of harmonic distortion. A non-optimally balanced phase inverter of any type can contribute distortion
  • Several elements within the amp will adjust frequency response, including the bandwidth restrictions of the output transformer and the speaker itself.
  • Each preamp stage can contribute its own distortions, obviously, whether audibly clipping or not.
  • Even carbon composition resistors can contribute a slight amount of distortion, at least in theory, when under load at high voltages. Their high voltage coefficients mean that, when hundreds of volts are applied, their resistance value can change dynamically in response to applied voltage, which manifests as second harmonic (we're way down in the carpet now in terms of what's significant, but it's at least theoretically possible).
This is not a comprehensive list, by any means, but off the top of the head these are some of the things that add small amounts of distortion in a typical tube amp.

I strongly believe that the sound of "tube amp distortion" is due to small amounts of many of these things... not due to large amounts of any one thing.

That's why just adding a tube or a transformer to a solid-state circuit isn't likely to get you there.

A good convolution-based emulator, on the other hand, will at least try to represent all of these things in ideal proportions... in the case of the Kemper, it's literally measuring all of these dynamic behaviors with a known signal applied so that it can reconstruct them with your input signal later.

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Re: Anyone use a tube pre/drive with a solid state?

Post by jorri » Mon Sep 28, 2020 3:18 am

Well if that truly be the case, i may just get some tiny head to mess around with. Rather, i could borrow cabs or use the slave input.

And see if the tubey pedals can at least do some experimental garbage somewhere between getting another bluesdriver--and something like taking a headphone tap from an ac30: or something.

I dont believe i would spend that much on the real actual tube amp thing- looking at the price of these modellers. I was trying for used Fenders for <£400before this idea then upon demoing it i felt a hot rod was nice but still not solid enough with extreme looping, fuzz, verb, suboctave all at once....
Actually, i dont think i have ever spent that much on any one piece of gear used for music. And we are talking essentially an 'overdrive pedal alternative' for my use. Theyd sure be useful, to dial in sound without going out and buying more (or to not set up mics?!) but thats a whole other kettle of fish. Imo, i am also quite experimental so seeking the established quality in gear isnt always the best result.

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Re: Anyone use a tube pre/drive with a solid state?

Post by manwithtitties » Mon Sep 28, 2020 10:28 am

Have you thought about getting one of those joyo/harley benton preamps that kind of model the ac30/whatever fender amp? Theyre just solid state but i think they sound pretty nice from what ive heard.

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Re: Anyone use a tube pre/drive with a solid state?

Post by jorri » Mon Sep 28, 2020 4:45 pm

manwithtitties wrote:
Mon Sep 28, 2020 10:28 am
Have you thought about getting one of those joyo/harley benton preamps that kind of model the ac30/whatever fender amp? Theyre just solid state but i think they sound pretty nice from what ive heard.
Certainly more the price range and hear those AMT solids are good too, but not a lot of info on the strange looking ones with tubes. They are at least run hot biased unlike many at worst case it just is like their acclaimed solid state version with a lightbulb-like glowing thing attached.

Can put this in the effects loop for a more drastic change of amp. No worries if imprevcisely the "the thing that makes tube amps what they are" which turn out to be "my dislike of tube amp".
Seriously i just like the tonal response and silky saturation, but i remember advice of "always leave the master up full so power tubes saturate" and thought it sucked balls like that. Removed tube rectifier. Decided it was prob the preamp tubes doing it as changing them to alternative versions caused different responses (5751 etc.) with a headphone tap. So i like its basic tonal response and style of saturation on the edge of breakup. Im not sure what else produces it really, although i have faith in my plugins. But the modelling systems recommended...well i could then buy an AC30, AND A TWIN, and attenuators to record, maybe throw in a small ampeg for bass for the £.

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Re: Anyone use a tube pre/drive with a solid state?

Post by Unicorn Warrior » Mon Sep 28, 2020 5:16 pm

I’ll say this..

Strymon Iridium into a Roland JC and Roland Cube can sound pretty convincingly Vox.

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Re: Anyone use a tube pre/drive with a solid state?

Post by jorri » Mon Sep 28, 2020 6:41 pm

I should list a budget i suppose...no more than half the amount an AC30 is and definately more around the price of a drive pedal; 100 or so.

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Re: Anyone use a tube pre/drive with a solid state?

Post by ElephantDNA » Mon Sep 28, 2020 9:40 pm

Prince of tone or clone or some type of bluesbreakery thing can fit into that price range. I feel like anything that claims to add a real tube sound is just marketing.

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Re: Anyone use a tube pre/drive with a solid state?

Post by cestlamort » Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:43 pm

A smaller Jazz Chorus (JC77, etc.) + Fender Pro Jr can be fun. (yes, two amps. But: lighter than a JC120).

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Re: Anyone use a tube pre/drive with a solid state?

Post by jorri » Tue Sep 29, 2020 4:35 pm

cestlamort wrote:
Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:43 pm
A smaller Jazz Chorus (JC77, etc.) + Fender Pro Jr can be fun. (yes, two amps. But: lighter than a JC120).
Good idea.
Wonder also about Orange tiny terror etc. They have some small varieties (and a tube pre pedal actually) . That said i know little about Oranges! Fuzzy, Marshally but low mids not high mids?, boomier? Variable across models? Could fit the bill i guess if i have the clean solid state..

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Re: Anyone use a tube pre/drive with a solid state?

Post by fuzzjunkie » Wed Sep 30, 2020 9:21 am

There as a time when touring musicians would use clean power amps with another amp acting as the preamp, or a dedicated preamp running into them. Sometimes the power amps were SS for more headroom.

Andy Summers did this with Pearce(?) amps and Robin Guthrie used one of those programmable Marshall tube preamps into power amps during his Heaven or Las Vegas days. I don’t remember if they were SS. The A/DA MP-1 was a popular programmable preamp designed for this. This was late 80s - early 90s when people were using rack effects and didn’t want a cheap distortion or fuzz pedal mucking up their tone. They wanted the sound of the amp.

Before that Hendrix and Townsend were daisy chaining amps for more volume and tonal variety when PA sound systems were too deficient to keep up.

TLDR: I wonder if you could do a mini version of this? Instead of using a pedal, what about the Z-Vex mini tube amp, or there are other 1-5 watt choices, and putting it in front of a SS amp? That way you get the tube, and the transformer to color the sound, while still having a clean tone when it’s out of the signal path? You would probably need a A/B box and possibly a speaker load box to make it work though.

The best way to do it would be to have a separate power amp that was SS and then 2 mini-amps. One clean and one dirty.

Read more if you want to: I used to have one of those Seymour Duncan convertible amps endorsed by Jeff Beck. It was marketed as the perfect recording amp.

It’s a very nice 100 watt combo amp. 12” speaker with spring reverb. It had a Variac style power reducing control that could go from 5-100 watts. There were 2 preamp channels with their own volume and tone controls and you could switch the power amp section from triode to pentode. What really made it versatile was the preamp sections each had 2 replaceable tube or solid state modules. I think there were 3 tube versions : clean, crunch, and hi-gain, and 2 solid state, and you could put them in any combination. That was what made it a good studio amp.

The standard setup was basically a Fender Channel and a Mesa Boogie style hot rod Fender Channel. I got a decent clean/dirty Vox sound out of the setup I used until I finally got an AC-30 and sold it to finance a Fender Bassman.

It could be set up to do a Roland/Marshall configuration too. They were expensive amps back around 1990, but I think they go for @ $500 as an almost vintage amp these days.

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