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.
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location: Portland, OR USA

Facets: amplifiers, technology, comparison, @musings info

Tubes vs. transistors

What's the better amp - one with tubes, or one with transistors? I have and use both kinds. They both have assets and liabilities.

The Cyber-Deluxe is a solid state amp. Unlike modelling amps, it gets all of its distortion from analog circuitry. The digital signal processor is used for tone stack emulation and effects. The C-D can get a wide variety of sounds over a wide range of volumes, and it has all those built-in effects. To my ear, and for my playing style, it doesn't sound quite as complex nor does it respond as well to touch as my Vibro-King. However, it weighs 25 pounds less and can deliver its best sound at volumes that don't require hearing protection. I use the C-D for rehearsals, because we don't have a lot of space and high volumes don't work well. When I play live, I pick either the C-D or the V-K depending on what kind of stage volume I need for a venue.

Now for reliability: I've had the V-K for about a year, and I've had to do the normal maintenance things... replace a couple of microphonic tubes and a failed output tube. As far as I'm concerned, it's no big deal - that kind of work goes with the territory. But I do all my tech work myself. I can see how it would be annoying if you had to lug your amp to a shop and leave it for a week or two every time it hiccuped. The only advice I can give would be to learn to do simple maintenance items by yourself, and to have a second amp to use when the other has to go into the shop.

Solid state gear is generally thought of a more reliable, and - assuming that it's well-designed - it is. However, solid state gear isn't bulletproof, either. And the failure modes are different. Whereas a tube amp often starts sounding "a bit off" when it fails, a solid state amp will more often just stop working completely. Point is, you can often make it through a gig with a failing tube amp - especially if you carry spare tubes and fuses - but you're probably going to have to go begging if your solid-state (or digital) amp fails during a set.

April 05 2004 01:51:34 GMT