Would you prefer a Tube amp?

Would you prefer a tube amp? Or do you need a solid-state amp? That is the question many beginner guitar players struggle with.
How often do you hear guitar players say that tube amps are better than solid-state guitar amplifiers?
In my opinion most of the guitarists say this. But is it true?
In fact, there are a lot of pros and cons for both of them, so just saying this one or that one is better would be wrong in my opinion.

In short the difference between tube and solid state

You might consider tube amps as better in terms of dynamics. Pleasing to the ear and responsiveness due to the sound quality at higher volumes.
But solid-state amps have benefits where it comes to functionality and built-in effect features, even at lower volumes.
And at least, solid-state amps may be cheaper, have less weight and need less maintenance in most cases.
Both type of amps may be perfect for any style of music.

Would you prefer a tube amp

The main difference between the two in depth

Of course, the “engine” of both amps is totally different.
Tube amps have glass vacuum tubes and solid-state amps have transistors to get the sound of the amp. Period!
A tube amp (also known as valve amp) will distort pleasingly and harmonically at high volumes and solid-state amps won’t.
Please note that when an amp runs at a high level gain or when distorted, other (less) pleasant sounds will be amplified a lot. Think about picking noise, which may occur with a lot of overdrive using the bridge pick up.

Tube amps

Tube amps in most cases have at least 2 different tubes and sometimes 3.

  1. The pre-amp tube; this is mainly the soul of the tube amp.
  2. Power-amp tube; which is mainly the volume of the signal
  3. The rectifier tube; this tube converts the AC voltage from the power source to DC current used in the amp’s internal circuitry.

The last one mentioned does not appear in many guitar amplifiers nowadays. Tube rectification was largely replaced by this diode, after somewhere in the early 1950’s a solid-state diode was invented.

Cranking the gain on a tube amp, depending on what controls you have, an electric current pushes the pre-amp tubes into overdrive. Call it the break-up sound or harmonic distortion.
This is the main reason for guitar players to choose for a tube amp instead of a solid-state amp.

Tubes (or valves) offer a rich and harmonic warm tone quality.

Point-to-point (PtP) vs printed circuit board (PCB)

Within tube amps there a difference between the way the components are connected to each other.
The “old way” is soldering all wires together, which is still used in some extremely expensive guitar amps.

Most guitar amplifiers have a PCB in its chassis, which makes producing easier and cheaper.

This won’t be discussed here because this is way to specialistic. Find more information at Marshall Amplification.

Solid-state amps

In solid-state amps, tubes are replaced by transistors: as simple as that.
Sound wise there are differences compared to tube amps. Regarding to tube amps, solid-state amps tones do not change the sound, no matter how much you crank the volume of the amp.

The sound is cleaner and you will get a more reliable sound at higher volumes, while the amount of distortion is zero.
So, if you have a distortion effect, it is not affected by the volume. So you can also have a fully distorted sound at lower volumes.

You might consider using tube amps for creating those ‘60’s till ‘80’s classic guitar sounds, whereas solid-state amps provide a more modern sound, referring to the ‘90’s and later.
However, both type of amps will be found in any modern studio worldwide.

Dynamic response

Another key difference between both amps is the dynamic response of the tube amp.
A tube amp responds to the way you play, more than a solid-state amp will do.
When you hit the strings harder with a tube amp, the signal is forced through the tubes at a higher rate. This gives you that distorted break-up signal. The other way: when hitting the strings softer, your sound will be cleaner.


In general, solid-state amps weigh less than tube amps; a certain 20w tube amp can easily weigh 30kg/66lbs, while a 120w solid-state amp weigh less than 20kg/44lvs. One of the main reasons for that is the presence of a heavy transformer to drive the speaker.


Tube in a tube/valve amp need maintenance every few years.
When the amp sounds a bit duller or begins to crackle, it’s a sign that you need to replace the tubes.
Tubes aren’t that expensive. But you should consider a qualified guitar tech to replace them. When the valves need to be re-balanced, you also should consider a specialist.
Solid-state amps don’t need that much maintenance. But when a solid-state amp does not sound properly anymore, or does nothing anymore, the trouble shooting is way more difficult.


Well, another important consideration whether to choose a tube- or solid-state amp, may be the price of them.
In general, you may find tube amps at higher price levels than solid-state amps.

The verdict

Would you prefer a tube amp? Or a solid state amp? After reading this blog we hope that you are able to choose whether you like one more than the other. The world of guitar amplifiers is a big world. There is always an amp that suits you. Go and check them out.

Home use or band gig

Solid-state amps are good for both playing at home at lower volumes, as well as when used to rehearse with your band or doing a gig.
That said, as a tube amp will sound better with the volume knob at least on 3 and higher, this may sound too hard for home use. But that is up to you of course.

Pros & cons in a nutshell:

  • Solid-state amps
  • Less expensive
  • Less weight
  • Less maintenance
  • Great at clean tones
  • Additional functionality i.e. internal effects
  • More maintenance
  • Tube amps
  • More expensive
  • Warmer sound at both lower and higher volumes
  • Dynamic response
  • Producing a wide range of sounds in the amp itself
  • Heavier weight
  • More maintenance

Manage your sound

There are many ways to improve your sound, like the type or brand of guitar and amp we use. Besides that, the pedals you’re using may have a lot of impact on your sound as well.
Also think about what guitar pick you are using. Different guitar picks deliver different sounds to your playing.
Thinner guitar picks create a thinner sound, where heavier guitar picks deliver a fuller sound with more mids- and bottom-end tone.

Guitar essentials

In guitar essentials we will write about interesting things every guitarist should know a bit of, especially when you’re new to (electric) guitar.
We definitely don’t dig deep into theories or technical aspects.
You will find many scientific documents about anything somewhere on the internet.