Are Tube Amps History?

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Omsong
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Are Tube Amps History?

Postby Omsong » Mon Oct 09, 2017 4:19 pm

This YouTube Video is an interesting discussion by Andertons & VOX about the demise of vacuum tubes and the future of guitar amps.

Ironic that I stumbled upon this video minutes after Carvin Audio announced their closing!

What do you think?
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Re: Are Tube Amps History?

Postby Cynical » Mon Oct 09, 2017 4:38 pm

Without watching the vid (I'm listening to a friend's weekly radio-show podcast right now), the answer is "no". Most software solutions don't get the transients right. The Kemper comes closer than any other, but it's more expensive than a good tube amp, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. And it's useless without good tube amps to profile with it.

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Re: Are Tube Amps History?

Postby mangdrew » Mon Oct 09, 2017 7:28 pm

Nah. If you get to play a gooood tube amp vs digital? They'll be around.
But I like gas engines too......

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Re: Are Tube Amps History?

Postby Koshchei » Mon Oct 09, 2017 7:35 pm

Tube amps aren't going anywhere.

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Re: Are Tube Amps History?

Postby 2Plus2isChicken » Mon Oct 09, 2017 7:41 pm

I don't think any of it (tube or solid state) is going anywhere. It's all just going to get better. Solid state stuff is as good as it's ever been, especially with the new analog solid state stuff like Quilter and DV Mark make, and of course with digital modeling such as the Axe-FX, Kemper, Headrush, Line 6 Helix, etc.

Basically now is the best time in history to be a guitar player, except for what's popular on the radio now. Ugh. :mrgreen:
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Re: Are Tube Amps History?

Postby Omsong » Mon Oct 09, 2017 8:02 pm

If you follow the video, it's not a question of "Are SS amps going to replace tube amps?". Rather, there is a strong possibility that at some time in the not too distant future, tube production / supply is going to dry up. According to the video, tubes are now only made in Russia and China on equipment that is at least 50 years old. For the most part there is very little automation in tube production so their manufacture is also very labor intensive by skilled laborers. Eventually, the machinery is going to fail and it will no longer be profitable to replace it.

Additionally, tubes are power hogs. In the EU, regulations have already been put into place to replace some consumer electric devices (vacuum cleaners and hair dryers are used as an example) with more efficient designs. The market for vacuum tubes is already small (some communications equipment, high end stereo and guitar amps), so it would not create a big uproar in the public if they were also banned. Who would have guessed that the incandescent light bulb would be banned and relaced witb more efficient, but more expensive newer technology.

I'll speculate to say that the first wave of change will be a significant price increase for tubes, before they are outright banned, as the first of the handful of existing suppliers drops out of that business. There is always a possibility that one (or more) of the current tube amp manufactures could form a partnership to manufacture their own tubes. But that would take pretty deep pockets.
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Re: Are Tube Amps History?

Postby Cynical » Mon Oct 09, 2017 8:10 pm

None of that is likely to happen -- if tube supply was going to dry up, it would have happened a long time ago, when tubes were no longer useful for industrial purposes. A 100 watt tube amp uses less power than a 600 watt Helix. The market for tubes being so small makes them less likely to be banned, not more likely -- they've got no visibility, and thus aren't on the radar of any legislator looking to make a publicity splash.

All of that is just FUD being spread by a company trying to push a product with no real upside.

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Re: Are Tube Amps History?

Postby mangdrew » Mon Oct 09, 2017 8:19 pm

There will be tubes. All those builders just go away due to that? No.

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Re: Are Tube Amps History?

Postby Omsong » Mon Oct 09, 2017 9:11 pm

Cynical wrote:None of that is likely to happen -- if tube supply was going to dry up, it would have happened a long time ago, when tubes were no longer useful for industrial purposes. A 100 watt tube amp uses less power than a 600 watt Helix. The market for tubes being so small makes them less likely to be banned, not more likely -- they've got no visibility, and thus aren't on the radar of any legislator looking to make a publicity splash.

All of that is just FUD being spread by a company trying to push a product with no real upside.


A vacuum tube uses a significant amount of power. To generate 100 Watt output is likely using 3 or more times that much electrical power (watts) (filament current, cathode (if not grounded) and grid bias and a plate voltage of around 400VDC). This is especially true for class A operation as plate current flows all the time.

I don't think anyone will argue that a solid state amplifier sounds better than a tube amp, particularly with distortion. I think the point being made is that it is a strong possibility that eventually tube production will end. When the US tube manufactures shut down there was a shortage until the Soviets and Chinese bought up the equipment and went back into production.

There are also the unpredictable issues of economic and political stability in these countries that could impact global tube availability.

Certainly VOX has a vested interest in pushing the Nutube, but is not just "FUD" if the price of a 12AX7 goes to $100 someday.
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Re: Are Tube Amps History?

Postby Cynical » Mon Oct 09, 2017 9:30 pm

Three or four times 100 watts is *still* less power than a 600 watt Helix. Also, most tube amps are class A/B, not class A.

The Chinese and Soviets buying the tube manufacturing machines demonstrates my point perfectly. Humans don't get rid of tech that's good. Our military runs on computer code that's over 40 years old, that's just updated for new features and new operating systems as required. The gasoline-powered internal-combustion engine continues to be the best way for cars to get around, about a century after the Model T, and they still get made. NASA still uses 386s on any computer that they're going to send into space (the traces on it happen to be the perfect distance for dealing with interference from cosmic radiation). Stradivarius violins are still sought after. Guitar manufacturers still love mahogany. Old stuff doesn't die, as long as it's good. Heck, it's even improved upon, as evidenced by people noting how much better the 9th gen Chinese 12AX7s are.

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Re: Are Tube Amps History?

Postby Doctor Turn » Mon Oct 09, 2017 9:33 pm

Not in your lifetime. Good ol Telefunken just went into a joint venture with excellent JJ in the gloomy Carpathian mountains to produce the new Black Diamond series of Telefunken tubes: http://store.t-funk.com/c/vacuum-tubes_ ... ond-series

If there's money to be made, someone will appear to full the void if someone on the current playing field drops out. I love the way my combo sounds with JJ's.
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Re: Are Tube Amps History?

Postby Omsong » Mon Oct 09, 2017 10:46 pm

Doctor Turn wrote:Not in your lifetime.

That's almost a sure bet! :)

Doctor Turn wrote:Good ol Telefunken just went into a joint venture with excellent JJ in the gloomy Carpathian mountains to produce the new Black Diamond series of Telefunken tubes: http://store.t-funk.com/c/vacuum-tubes_ ... ond-series.

...and that's good news for those of us who love tube amps!
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Re: Are Tube Amps History?

Postby texastoast » Tue Oct 10, 2017 3:57 am

This is like the 1980's all over agian. Back then the term the head is dead is what was going around. Rack gear was all the rage. However this time there is a few ss amps that give tubes a strong run for the money.

As long as there is a market one of the 4 manucfascturers would pick up the slack until there was no more demand. That is my guess anyway. Some of these guys are coming out with new products. That tells me something.

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Re: Are Tube Amps History?

Postby UnexplodedCow » Tue Oct 10, 2017 10:18 am

I think they will eventually be phased out in one way or another, when it's no longer as profitable to repair the machines, or train people, unless really good automation happens. I doubt it'll happen in the next 30 years.

With that said, some designs are coming out and using LCD (liquid crystal display) that are micro tubes. I've seen some demos of guitar preamps working on them, and they sound like an amp should. Plus, they're far more reliable than larger tubes.

Given that what we consider distortion is primarily pre-amp based with a hint of power tube, and plenty of speaker-related distortions (watch a video of a speaker in slow motion; they do not just move in and out), I would not be afraid of a preamp designed around an LCD, with a solid-state power section. Lots of players want lighter rigs for travel. Digital, or a good preamp, allows for that without the bulk of the huge iron in a traditional tube amp. The times are changing, as they always have when it comes to technology.

With that said, software will eventually catch it all and likely replace amps in general. I would say the industry is pretty close with the latest iteration of processors. Interestingly, Peavey's Revalver software has a section to change the bias point of the virtual tube, or various resistors/caps in the virtual circuit. It has a distinct effect on the sound, and I've used it as a tool to benchmark modifications to a circuit in a more applied circumstance. It's surprisingly (and scary) accurate, and has been a good tool for learning about, and testing ideas for tubes, beyond just the mathematical stance.

I'm sure people felt weird when electric guitar started to become a thing, and the solid-body took over. Change does that. However, I'm not giving up my heavy amps anytime soon...and will just use 'em for weight lifting practice if nothing else.
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Re: Are Tube Amps History?

Postby hallwayminstrel » Tue Oct 10, 2017 5:19 pm

Time for me to stock up on 12AX7's and EL84's. But no, I don't think tubes are an endangered species yet.
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Re: Are Tube Amps History?

Postby MatiasTolkki » Wed Oct 11, 2017 6:22 am

texastoast wrote:This is like the 1980's all over agian. Back then the term the head is dead is what was going around. Rack gear was all the rage. However this time there is a few ss amps that give tubes a strong run for the money.

As long as there is a market one of the 4 manucfascturers would pick up the slack until there was no more demand. That is my guess anyway. Some of these guys are coming out with new products. That tells me something.


You know, Carvin audio, since they are going to do pedals, might be wise to expand R&R into this market. They could be the catalyst for real change in the industry.

I think the end of Tube amps SHOULD come sooner rather than later, just because of the weight and expenses involved with them. SS is still not perfect and I have gone to a Kemper demonstration before and the gain channels didn't impress me at all.
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Re: Are Tube Amps History?

Postby UnexplodedCow » Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:21 am

Here's an interesting read, about an unrelated field (computers) where vacuum tubes may replace the silicon transistor.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/06/tech ... gy%29&_r=0

Another, supporting article: https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/185 ... licon-fets

Interestingly, there is a basic how-to for creating a simple low-power tube amp from the liquid crystal display from an old VCR. They're also called Vacuum Fluorescent Displays (VFDs), and operate exactly how a triode does, because they are. This is what I'd mentioned in my earlier post. Fun little project.

Anyway, here's the DIY link: http://www.instructables.com/id/VFD-Amp ... R-Screens/

Also, Korg makes/markets their "Nutube" which are custom VFDs on a DIP chip, so this kind of tech actually exists today, and I can imagine that it will take way off for guitar amps to lighten them up. Now, to make big versions that can push some power, but I honestly think a good solid state power amp will do the trick.

Here's the link to Korg's stuff: http://korgnutube.com/en/

After finding all this, my thought is: the tube is going NOWHERE! It's only going to change packaging.
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Re: Are Tube Amps History?

Postby DesmoBob » Wed Oct 11, 2017 12:47 pm

UnexplodedCow wrote:However, I'm not giving up my heavy amps anytime soon...and will just use 'em for weight lifting practice if nothing else.


Well... amps, and Ford CVH engines. :wink:

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Re: Are Tube Amps History?

Postby hallwayminstrel » Thu Oct 12, 2017 10:42 am

Well, I placed an order for tubes. Six various and sundry 12AX7's, and four matched EL84's. Not going to put them in an amp yet, just keep'em in the storeroom. All current production.

I have decided I'll order a batch of sundry tubes every 6 months or so just to build up an inventory.
2011 V3M412 - GT12's
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Re: Are Tube Amps History?

Postby hallwayminstrel » Thu Oct 12, 2017 10:45 am

MatiasTolkki wrote:I think the end of Tube amps SHOULD come sooner rather than later, just because of the weight and expenses involved with them.


My V3M weighs 19lbs. A full retube, top-to-bottom, costs less than $100. Lasts for years. Just sayin' :wink:
2011 V3M412 - GT12's
2012 SH550CE - S22's
2012 VT16 Vintage 16 Head
2013 Bolt V - S60A's
2013 212E 2x12 Vintage Cab - GT12's
2013 Son's Bolt Kit - S60A's
2016 VT50 Vintage 50 Head
2016 TLB60 - AP11's
2016 1983 Used X60B - 6L6's
2016 Used VT16 Combo - Spring Reverb
2017 MB15 Bass Amp


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