Solid State Vs Tube Amplifiers (What’s The Difference?)
All major guitar amp manufacturers assemble amps using either vacuum tube technology, solid-state technology, or a mixture of both. Some amps incorporate digital technology as well, which is often used to imitate the sound of other amps, either tube or solid state.
However, not all amps are created equal and there’s usually one you'd prefer over the other. At least from my experience. You can find some of my favourite amps in this guide.
Difference between Tube Amps and Solid State Amplifiers
Whether you’re a guitar noob or you consider yourself a professional, even someone in between, it’s highly important that you get to know which amp works best for your needs as it’s so easy to get lost with the various amps available on the market.
First things first, the nomenclature: a tube amplifier is also called a tube valve, while a solid-state amplifier is what some people call a transistor. Knowing these various terms can help you understand this article better as we go along. Let’s now go into the difference between tube and solid state amps.
The Perks of Using Tube Amplifiers
Tube amps are loud, and most have a propensity to be louder for their indicated wattage compared to solid state amps sporting the same specifications. When it comes to loudness and wattage, it rises over solid state amps. This earned the amp the gold standard in guitar sounds. Legendary rock guitarists like Jimi Hendrix used this type of amp, as well.
These amps also produce a warmer sound and add a natural feel. That said, some good solid-state amps can give tube amps a run for their money.
Tube amps are subtle, and the variances in the signals coming from your guitar are more precisely embodied. How hard a player picks can influence tone more so than in a solid state amp.
The tube overdrive is also much smoother and more responsive compared to solid state amplifiers. To give you more control over the sound, you can simply add high-gain pedals to the signal chain between the guitar and amplifier. This can give the signal a harmonic boost that you can play with.
The Pros of Using Solid State Amplifiers
The sounds produced by tube amps are undoubtedly great, but they can break inopportune times. Solid-state amps are generally a more reliable choice when it comes to this aspect. These amplifiers don’t require any maintenance like tubes amps need. It can live on for years or even decades without you ever having to worry about repairs, maintenance, and what not. Solid-state amps are normally less expensive than tube amps – both purchase and up keep; tube amplifiers will require time and money to keep it in the proper working order.
Solid state amplifiers are pretty much the go-to amp for most guitar players when starting out. It’s an attractive option for most as it provides you with great audio quality, dependable, and most importantly it’s easier to use compared to tube amps minus the cost.
So What Do You choose?
You didn’t read this article just for general information, right? You wouldn’t even be here if you’re not planning to buy your own amplifier. Take our advice and consider your needs realistically when deciding which one to choose. Buying a guitar amp is a serious purchase and you can’t afford to make a mistake by getting caught up mainly in what you “think” you should be playing, or go for what your favorite guitarist is using, or even basing your decision based on the answers you find on forums.
Deciding which amp to purchase is also based on what you can afford. Tube amps are more expensive that sold-state amps so unless you have the funds to purchase one, you’re better off using a solid-state amp without sacrificing the quality of audio and getting the best bang for your buck. This holds true for younger players that go with the hype and buy impulsively just because it’s the current trend, myself included.
If you still can’t decide which one is the best fit for your audio needs and budget, consider the advantages and disadvantages of each amp so you can make a more informed decision. Remember that a tube amp is the ultimate amp for rock, blues and other forms of music. But only look into it if your pocket can handle the hefty price it comes in at and you reasonably think you need it for your playing situation. If you can deal with the cost of maintaining it, then go for it.
Solid state amps are generally great for beginners or the basement and bedroom hobby players, and gigging musicians that don’t want an amp that’s worth more than their bedroom furniture tallied altogether.
Make an intelligent decision and always remember that the tone will ultimately come from you and no one else.