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Tube Watts vs Solid State Watts?

Discussion in 'Amp Input - Normal or Bright' started by MetalPedal, Jul 5, 2017.

  1. MetalPedal

    MetalPedal Senior Stratmaster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Oct 22, 2016
    Auto-Wah, Canada
    For sure, tube amp watts output more sound pressure than solid state amps but what is the amount? My experience seems to show that it's at least twice as loud at similar volume settings or the same volume if the tube amp wattage is double that of the SS.

    I think tube manufacturers should market this. A sticker or tag on the amp that says "20W nominal equivalent to 42 Solid State Watts".

    abnormaltoy likes this.
  2. Stratoskater

    Stratoskater Senior Stratmaster

    Feb 8, 2011
    Raleigh NC
    Really a watt is a watt is a watt. There are no tube watts vs Solid State watts. A 30W tube amp will be as loud as a 30w Solid State amp in true dB's. The difference is that a tube amp distorts at high volumes in a way which we don't perceive as distortion but as an increase in volume whereas a Solid State amp will produce very ugly sounding distortion (breakup) at high volumes. This leads to the perceived notion that Tube watts are louder than Solid State. Because of this I doubt Mfg would put any label on an amp comparing them as each person perceives the volume difference in varying degrees. To your ears 20 tube watts may sound like 42 SS watts but to me it may sound like 60 SS watts.
    Electgumbo, davidKOS, Rockape and 9 others like this.
  3. henderman

    henderman Most Honored Senior Member

    Dec 4, 2013
    All I know is my kid's friends think my 20 watt guitar amp is a joke compared to their 300 watt car stereo amps.

    That is when I have Joey stand next to my "outdated old man tech" and watch his teeth chatter at about 4/5ths volume.

    It is not scientific, but Joey now has a clue.
  4. Stevem

    Stevem Strat-O-Master

    Sep 3, 2014
    Watts are watts, weather its tube amp output , or SS amp output, period!!!
    It's like trying to find premium air to put in your car's tires becauce it might be better, air pressure is air pressure!

    What your likely noticing is the resistance of the amps volume control.
    A linear taper pot will apply volume faster then a audio taper pot , this can make one amp set on 4 of the volume pot 35% louder then a amp without that taper pot, be it a SS amp , or tube.

    Another common effect of a tube amp that is not high gain is that a tube will compress slower on average then a Transistor , or IC chip will, and this makes for a tube amp sounding louder for a given volume setting.

    Another effect is for the most part the harmonics a tube makes when over driven does not offend our ear like SS distortion does and our ears hear this harmonic distortion as being louder
  5. newplayeroldguy

    newplayeroldguy in the wind

    May 12, 2015
    north and east
    I know my 40 watt tube amp has much more useable volume than my old 80 watt modeler did- I'd guess it has more to do with what @Stratoskater said than with an actual measureable power output difference
    abnormaltoy and Tube ToneChaser like this.
  6. wildhawk

    wildhawk Most Honored Senior Member

    Feb 12, 2014

    Headroom has been the issue with solidstate amps not watts.

    Companies have realized this and improved the efficiency so that they can sound loud and proud with their tube cousins.
    abnormaltoy likes this.
  7. Robins

    Robins Dr. von Loudster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Dec 22, 2010
    Easy test.
    Crank your 50w transistor amp - neighbour will call the police.
    Crank your 50w tube amp - neighbour will call the police and the ambulance if you are lucky(because your ears are bleeding).
    Why is that?
    The transistor keeps the signal as a sine wave but the tube amp doesn´t stop and compress even the low(er) volume parts of the signal to a flattened sine wave - the flatter the more distorted it sounds. That is way more than 50W then.

    Metallica used this to an extend to make their recordings "louder"

    All the best,
    billybuck, mabley123, The-Kid and 6 others like this.
  8. Textele

    Textele Senior Stratmaster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Oct 10, 2009
    Tube watts seem to have more Dynamics.

    The way it feels when you play it.

    Tube watts sure seem louder to me, maybe just more musical.

    The crowds you play in front of and the casual/normal listener could care less though.
  9. MetalPedal

    MetalPedal Senior Stratmaster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Oct 22, 2016
    Auto-Wah, Canada
    Cool responses. Learned a bunch.
    abnormaltoy and Stratoskater like this.
  10. Dadocaster

    Dadocaster Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Tube watts are 2.5 times more expensive than SS watts.

    SSJR, Davey77, Thrup'ny Bit and 15 others like this.
  11. FormerTeleGuy

    FormerTeleGuy Senior Stratmaster

    Nov 17, 2013
    Oak Lawn, IL
    It's all about distortion. Even a clean little tweed champ that's set low and doesn't sound crunchy or edgy has a lot of 2nd order harmonic distortion (pleasant) that makes things louder and sweeter. This depends on the configuration of the tubes too, not all distortion is the same regarding the order of harmonics. Typically with transistors, they have high order harmonic distortion that doesn't sound so good. So for me they sound sterile until they get pushed over the edge then sound like crap.

    This is all quite subjective of course but for me personally, if it's a guitar amp it better be all tube, if not, I don't bother. Now if you're a hell of a musician you can play through anything and it will sound good but I need all the help I can get.

    There's a certain magic about a tube amp right on the edge of breakup that transistors just can't capture, to my ears anyway.
    abnormaltoy and JustABluesGuy like this.
  12. newplayeroldguy

    newplayeroldguy in the wind

    May 12, 2015
    north and east
    and well worth it to me
  13. CalicoSkies

    CalicoSkies Senior Stratmaster

    Jun 10, 2013
    Hillsboro, OR, USA
    I've wondered about this though.. I'd think a solid-state amp might require less wattage to produce the same volume because it doesn't have the big vacuum tubes.. It seems similar to wattage for a traditional light bulb vs. a compact fluorescent light bulb. A compact fluorescent light bulb requires much less wattage to produce the same brightness. But maybe that's not the case for solid-state vs. tube amps.
    abnormaltoy likes this.
  14. CigBurn

    CigBurn Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jun 22, 2014
    Same Shed Different Day
    Trying to understand this properly so forgive my ignorance. When the solid state amp produces the signal is it removing certain frequencies to keep the wave intact or does it reduce the volume of them to compress them?

    It would seem to me in the case of the former that dynamics are eliminated making for a more one dimensional sound. Whereas the latter would produce a case of diminishing returns as volume is increased.
    abnormaltoy likes this.
  15. JustABluesGuy

    JustABluesGuy Senior Stratmaster

    Sep 3, 2016
    Houston, TX
    For me it has to do with the way tubes clip, compared to SS. When they run out of clean headroom, tube amps clip in a more pleasant, and musical way. Solid state amps decapitate the signal, wereas tube amps "round off" the edges of the wave much more smoothly when they begin to distort giving more usable volume.

    Running tubes at the edge of breakup sounds great (to my ears anyway) while driving a SS amp to the edge of distortion usually sounds harsh because of their tendency toward "hard" VS "soft" clipping.
    Boris Bubbanov and CigBurn like this.
  16. BallisticSquid

    BallisticSquid Senior Stratmaster

    Oct 12, 2016
    The rounding off creates a compressed signal. A compressed signal loses some of its dynamic range, but can give an overall impression of being louder than a non compressed signal. When SS circuits do this, the result is harsher sounding.
    CigBurn and JustABluesGuy like this.
  17. Stratoskater

    Stratoskater Senior Stratmaster

    Feb 8, 2011
    Raleigh NC
    Well the traditional bulb usually gives off a softer/warmer glow. The tubes round the signal off and give it a warmer/fatter sound. The tube amps with big tubes have big transformers to help with power.
  18. Stark

    Stark Ghost of Johnny Thunders Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jul 16, 2011
    Richmond Annex, CA
    I don't give a freddie uncle charlie katie about this ongoing stupid debate or solid state/tube hate. I use Marshall DSL40C and CODE 50 combos and I turn both types up loud. I have yet to hear any tube freaks tell me my tone sucked out loud or any solid state tube hater suckas tell me that tubes are obsolete.
  19. Dr Improbable

    Dr Improbable Strat-O-Master

    Aug 14, 2013
    As always, Stark says what I'm thinking. +1
    Electgumbo and Tone Deaf like this.
  20. BallisticSquid

    BallisticSquid Senior Stratmaster

    Oct 12, 2016
    Traditional light bulbs are very inefficient...the inefficiency is shown by how hot traditional bulbs get. Since CFL and LED bulbs are much more efficient, you can't expect the same power usage/brightness level. That's why you'll see something like "equivalent to a 65W bulb" on the packaging of the newer bulbs.