2010
02.14

I will be discussing five common amplification choices: American Tube, British Tube, Hybrid Amp, Solid State Amp, and Digital Simulation Amplifiers.  Each one of these amps is capable of producing great and usable tones.

Tube Amps: These amps use vacuum tubes to amplify the sound coming form your instrument.  This technology was commonly used the old tube radios of the mid 1920s.  Today’s tube amps use same technology as those old radios.  They produce a warm sound that compresses and changes character as the player increases the volume or plays harder.

A Word About Maintenance: Tube amps need regular maintenance to perform their best.  Make sure your tube amp has tubes less than two years old and has been checked by a qualified maintenance tech.   If your amp has never been to the local shop, get it checked out now.  You should hear a noticeable difference with some fresh tubes and adjustments!

American Tube Amp

This type of amp is common to the sounds of early Rockabilly, Country and Rock and Roll music, and the little amp that really produces the crushing rock sound behind all those silent stacks at the arena.  This amp has a bright and dirty sound that accentuates midrange frequencies and adds a characteristic chime at the end of the notes.

American Tube Amp, Amplifier

American Tube Amp

British Tube Amp

The British Tube amp was introduced in the 1960s in the United Kingdom.  An American tube bass guitar amplifier provided the design foundation behind the British tube amplifier.  Many 60’s British guitarist found the American Tube amplifiers too harsh and slightly annoying. This amp is common to the sounds of post-British Invasion blues influenced bands.  This amp produces a full range clean sound that accentuates the high and low frequencies.

British Tube Amp, Amplifier

British Tube Amp

Hybrid Tube Amp

Hybrid Tube amps are a large category of modern amps that are designed to combine the several amp qualities into one amp.  These designs often combine British and American tube amp designs others will combine vintage and high gain recipes.  These amps are useful as so many sounds can be dialed in from one unit.

Hybrid Tube Amp, Amplifier

Hybrid Tube Amp

Solid-state Amplifier

The solid-state amplifier is has no tubes and is powered by transistors.  This style of amplifier excels at clean unaltered tones.  This amp is also a great platform for players that use multi effects units.  Solid-state amplifiers are commonly used in jazz, R & B, and in live and recording situations when the sound needs to be clean and clear.

solid-state amplifier

Solid-state Amplifier

Digital Simulation Amplifiers

Computer technology drives this design.  These amplifiers can simulate all the classic amps and create some that never existed.  The best of these amps come close to sounding like the real thing.  More pros are using digital simulation amps while on tour so they don’t need to carry many expensive and fragile amplifiers.

Digital Simulation Amplifiers

Digital Simulation Amplifiers

  1. I gotta say, my favorite flavor is on the british side. The old Marshalls and Voxs’ sound best to me.

  2. While my Marshall Jubilee 2555 is my favorite, the pre 1968 piggy-back Bassman with the smaller 2×12 cabinet is certainly my next favorite, followed by the 4×10 version and then the venerable AC-30.

  3. This is a great review of amps. I found it very useful with the photos you’ve also included, so thanks very much for your post!

  4. I have found that a guitar with single-coil pickups sounds better through a valve amp.
    And a guitar with humbucker pickups sounds fine with a solid-state amplifier.
    I’ve tried several digital amplifiers and have not yet found one that satisfies my ears.