Magazine article Guitar Player

All about ... Power Tubes

Magazine article Guitar Player

All about ... Power Tubes

Article excerpt

UNLIKE TRANSISTORS--WHICH ARE ALL MADE TO very exact specs by computers and robots--vacuum tubes are still hand-assembled in different countries with different metals, and under varying conditions that can drastically affect their sound. This is a boon to tone aficionados, because the organic nature of each tube's sonic characteristics allows you to individualize the sound of your amp by simply swapping out its power tubes. In fact, according to tube guru Aspen Pittman of Groove Tubes, changing your tubes is the most basic modification you can have done to your amp, and, very often, you can get the sound you're looking for without further effort.

Of course, "have done" is a critical phrase in the modification process, because tube replacement can be a dangerous operation for both your lifespan (there's often more than 400 volts DC running through those circuits) and your amp's. This is not something you want to attempt if you don't have the electronics chops, so be sure to call on a qualified amp technician to do the actual work.

As power tubes arguably affect your amp's sound more decisively than preamp tubes, we'll spotlight several power bottles and detail their basic tonal characteristics. Use these guidelines as a basic menu for finding the power tube(s) that might satisfy your personal concept of ideal amp tone.

The 6V6 is known for its sweet overdrive at low volumes, and it can be found in lower-wattage American amps such as the Fender Champ, Princeton, and Deluxe, as well as the Gibson GA6.

At the heart of the revered Vox AC30 is the EL84 (aka 6BQ5 and 7189), which possesses a rich, warm tone with tons of sustain and top-end chime.

A big part of the "American" sound, 6L6 tubes produce a "glassy" or "airy" sound at the top-end, and are found in awide variety of amps from 40 watts on up--including most Fenders. …

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