David Lamkins picked up his first guitar a long time ago. As best he can recall the year was 1967: the year of the Summer of Love. Four decades later David has conjured up an amalgam of folk, rock and jazz solo guitar music for the occasional intimate Portland audience.
location: Portland, OR USA

Facets: amplifiers, digital, loudness, power, sound engineering, tubes, @musings info

Are tube amps right for small venues?

With the proliferation of modern sound-reinforcement technology, more and more guitarists hear those dreaded words over the sound guy's talkback microphone: "You're going to have to turn your guitar down." This leads guitarists on a merry chase: they want the sound of hot tubes at a volume that tube amps were never meant to operate.

I'm sure the situation varies with locale, but around here most venues have a decent house PA operated by a hired sound guy. Most of these are very small venues, so there's always the issue of the stage volume competing with the FOH sound. Guitar players bring tube amps with pedals or attenuators or baffles -- all means of getting a decent sound from the tube amp in a situation where it has to be played much quieter than it's meant to be played.

More recently, vendors have started to introduce very low-powered tube amps in an attempt to get cranked tube sounds at volumes that are friendly for small stages. This might work for those cranked distortion tones, but if you want decent clean sounds at a usable volume you're going to need another, larger, amp and an A/B switch.

It seems like these small venues would inspire more guitarists to look into modelers. If you have to choke your amp anyhow, maybe it doesn't make sense to lug a complex, heavy, multi-component rig when you could instead walk in with your guitar and a board and plug into the house system... I'm starting to see local players who have adopted this approach. They're still in the minority, but they're doing just fine from a musical perspective.

In the end, it's all about the music.

April 04 2007 04:35:21 GMT