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tube vs solid state amps

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Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 8184
Topic starter  

i have a solid state marshal combo amp (2x15 watts) and a carvin tube 100 watt amp with a 4x12 speaker cab. i've been practicing through the marshall for a few years, and just recently got the carvin.
here's my problem. side by side at the same volume, there's a major difference in tone. the marshall has a very clean attack, good sustain, but next to the carvin, it sounds artificial, obviously electronic, two dimensional. the carvin, on the other hand, has a very full, heavy sound. BUT, it "pops" the notes. the note rings out very loud when you play it, followed by a much quieter sustain. i believe it's because of the lack of compression on tube amps.
after playing through the carvin for a couple hours, it doesn't seem to be as noticable, but i'm not sure whether it's because my attack changes, or whether my ears just adjusted. i play a les paul, and have one pedal, a boss ds1 distortion pedal, and i beat the crap out of it on some songs, and on others i play very precise figures. the marshall seems to be more forgiving for both these extremes, in that you get a much smoother tone, but you really don't get the feeling of riding a bull that you do with the carvin rig.
anyway, i just needed to get this out there. if anyone has any suggestions about getting a smoother tone out of the tube amp, i'd like to hear them. right now i'm contemplating playing through both, with the marshall on top of the carvin, which is how i've been practicing.

Trusted Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 53


Its quite possible your pickups are too close to your strings, and the marshall didn't quite reproduce that. The Carvin amp being a much higher quality amp will make much more of your guitar come alive. Specially on a les paul being made from mahogany gives the guitar a more full range mid-tone, and on many can become a bit muddy. I would try lowering your pickups a bit away from your strings and see if that helps.

Another way to go is a compressor, but I do not use them very often so I couldn't suggest any for ya =). I generally try to clean up my tone in every aspec of the chain I can, so the overall tone is good.

Last but not least, IMHO Gibson is terrible at matching up good pickups to their guitars, or lack decent pickups on most of their guitars. If you have the means, try throwin some decent Seymour Duncans on there (no they aren't the only or 'best' pickup maker, but they have a good array of pickups for different varrieties of music, and seem to match up well in les pauls).

Hope that helps =).

P.S. What are your EQ settings at?

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Honorable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 530

I'm no expert at all, but I had the same touble when I bought my all tube marshall combo. Tubes are definately more sensitive and I essentially had to clean up my playing a bit. I do know that tubes will make you a better player due to the increased sensitivity, but you may (and probably are) be having a different problem which has nothing to do with your attack. Try what Havocdragon said, eq may have a lot to do with it.

Also, I know Carvin amps that ship with the 5881 Soviet Power tubes are known for not being that great. That variety of tube seems to generate lots of negative feedback, but everyone who has then gone and changed the tubes out seem very satisfied. I don't know about EL-34 circuits...

Also, try really cranking the sucker up and using an attentuator or power brake. Tube amps don't really sing until they are pushed, and I find things tend to even out a bit when I have it maxed out.

By the way, I play a carvin guitar, what model amp did you get? The new V3? :twisted:

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Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 6348

I am a tube amp lover. for the very reasons you state that is why I like tube. nothing like that big warm tone.
my amp, a Fender Vibrolux Custoom, is very sensitive to attack. I love it.
I can do a soft appeggio and then dig in and the amp responds. it gets louder; adding character into my playing.

perhaps you need to get used to that difference.

since I have a strong pick attack when I play I do notice on recording the intial moment of my note. I'll pick softer.
as for sustain, my amp has a natural compression. I use only a little with my MXR comp pedal...when I do use it.

stick with your Carvin. being a better amp you will begin to hear good things in your playing.

well, and bad things to .dang it.

Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5582

You might have your pickups too close to the strings, this can cause a popping or boom especially on the bass E string. Try lowering your pickups if this is a problem. You might also notice a little increased sustain by lowering your pickups a bit.

But I am with dogbite, you want articulation and dynamics. Have you ever known someone who spoke in monotone? Everything they say is BORING.

And it is the same with guitar. If you are going to compress every note where it sounds the same, it is just going to be boring. It has no heart and soul, it has no feeling.

And you have already heard the big difference. I agree with you, solid state amps tend to sound artificial. They also sound harsh IMHO. This is not to say some solid state amps do not sound good, some are pretty great. And some tube amps do not sound that good.

But generally speaking, a good tube amp will blow away a solid state when it comes to tone.

Learn to play with dynamics. BB King says playing guitar is like a conversation. Think about how you talk to your girlfriend. :D Sounds stupid? Not really. When you see her you talk all soft and sweet. Then she says something funny and you laugh. When she gets you mad you lower your voice and get dark.

Play guitar like that. 8) And a good amp with dynamics will bring that out.

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis

Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 8184
Topic starter  

it's a carvin x100b. it has an eq which is only on the rhythm channel and the regular low-mid-high knobs. i keep the eq flat, then boost the bass a little on the knobs. i keep the reverb to a minimum and the presence around 7. the distortion is much grindier on it than on the marshall, which comparatively is more of a buzz, like a finer grade of sandpaper.
also, it's loud. i keep the volume around 1 at home. stuff shakes at 3.
i doubt that it's the pickups, but i may fiddle with them a little bit. i think it may just be that i'm not used to moving that much air. the problem seems to be less noticable each successive time i play it.

Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 1128

tube amps are alot less forgiving than solid state amps, i got my hot rod deville about 3 weeks ago and you seem to notice your mistakes alot more, but the tone man is what its about, tubes are the way to go

even god loves rock-n-roll

Reputable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 199

>> it "pops" the notes. the note rings out very loud when you play it, followed by a much quieter sustain.

This may be the "bloom" that some refer to when speaking of higher quality tube amps.
It's hard to tell, since there are so many factors involved, including your amp, guitar, settings and playing technique.

Having the volume set to 1 may also have an effect ... more so if this is input volume instead of master volume.

There may also be an issue with the output tube bias.
With the bias set too high, the amp will have little clean headroom and will distort easily.
With the bias set too low, the amp will be very clean. The power amp tubes are "off" when you're not playing.
This is similar to the idle speed on a car. Set the idle too low and the car will stall and not accelerate smoothly.

What you describe may be the bias set too low.

When was the last time you had your amp serviced?
It might be worthwhile to have someone check the tubes and adjust the bias.
I highly recommend that you search for a good tube tech in your town, not just the local guitar shop
(although they might have someone good).

1 watt of pure tube tone - the Living Room Amp!
Paper-in-oil caps rule!

Noble Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 2337

Does the it sound like the poping sound when you switch the standby on? There are a number of things that can cause a popping sound, most of them are not good. if your describing the sound right popping is almost always an arcing problem. Which there could numerous things from tubes themselves, B+ may be arcing across the surfaces of the output tube sockets, standby switch, can develop internal arcs, intermittent breakdown of a coupling cap, Resistors, breakdown of output transformer, the breaking down wire insulation, bad joint solder joints. This just a few thoughts.

Does the carvin have a polarity switch to reverse the electric's polarity. Are you running the the tube amp at its saturation point. Think about adding an equalizer and a attenuator.


Reputable Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 336

I'll take tube over solid state every time. So much so that I run my acoustics trough a tube preamp prior to the mixer or the acoustic amp.

Here's a suggestion that "might" work with that pop and quite sustain. Turn the guitar down and turn the amp up.

E doesn't = MC2, E = Fb

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