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Would someone please explain tube warmth?

Member for

21 years 3 months
I have been playing guitar/using audio equipment for about 21 years. I have been recording (in some form) for about 14.

The only tubes I have ever had any experience with were the ones in our TV's when I was a kid. Our cat slept on top of the old console RCA because of tube warmth.

Everyone drops the term "tube warmth". Every maufacturer hypes it as the Holy Grail to fix all "character" issues.

I really can't afford tube warmth. I love the idea, though. I keep old vacuum tubes in my studio because they look cool and remind me of lost era. The word "valve" is in my name.

Some clean-o-philes deride tube warmth as a synonym for distortion.

Why can't I just be happy with SS? Tell me what I'm missing.


p.s. Wait--Once I also had a crappy 12 watt Silvertone amp that had, like, three tubes hanging upside down in it. I used to turn it all the way up. Whatever "warm" sound it was giving me was due to speaker distortion. On the sensory front, other than that, all I can say was that it smelled like a hot clothes iron and that one day it stopped making sound forever and simply produced a useless hummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm



Member for

20 years 5 months

audiowkstation Sun, 02/23/2003 - 19:52
Damn dude, I wish tonight I had the time to lay into this one...but I dont, so I will be brief.

Valves do not sound ugly in odd order harmonics where transistors do.

Valves produce even order harmonic distortion (pleasing to the ear) and not a "sand" application can do what a valve does.

Remember, transistors are switches, valves are valves.

Also remember, tubes are live, in a gas vaccum state, transistors are frozen in a solid state.

The above should explain your joy of valves.

PS, I am working with your product..getting amazing...hang in is close.

Member for

18 years 10 months

aloomens Mon, 02/24/2003 - 08:14
Bill, correct me if I am wrong, but I feel that (from a guitar amp standpoint anyway) much of the tube sound (feel really) is due to the way the amp is connected to the speaker using a transformer. Using a transformer give the amplifier a lower, I think the term is 'damping factor'. Most solid state amps have a high damping factor. This means that the amp closely controlls the motion of the speaker. Well, it just doesn't feel the same playing through an amp like that. There are some SS guitar amps made with a lower (or switchable) damping factor that do have a really nice feel (for clean playing, no tube overdrive :-). I suspect this plays a fairly large role in most tube gear. Would this also be a factor in say tube mic's?

Member for

20 years 1 month

Matt Hepworth Mon, 02/24/2003 - 12:33
Warm to one person is dull or grungy to another. To sum up what I call a good tube sound - Subtle DISTORTION. A mild, very subtle drive that tricks your ear/brain into thinking louder, fuller, warmer, whatever. Colored. Larger-than-life. You get the point. Technically explained in the above posts. I just like to call it as I use it.