Today, tube amps are associated with every genre of music and most are voiced with a particular sound in mind. Jazz, Blues, Rock, Heavy Metal, Shredding all have fans of particular brands, sizes and capabilities. For the most part they are the desired sound of guitar players. These have all tube preamps and power amps delivering a warm, rich sound and, when wanted, great distortion. However, watt for watt all tube amplifiers are very heavy, fairly large, and more expensive than solid state models. In the 70’s and the 80’s these almost became extinct due to tube manufacturers going out of business and the improvement of solid state technology. Now tube amplifiers are more popular than ever. Brands like Fender and Marshall lead the pack and new comers like Blackstar are well worth a look. You can get Tube Amps from 3 watts to 300 watts (try lifting one of those, I dare you).
Tubes are the major problem with tube amps. They are made of glass and if not handled right can easily break. That is why most big groups go one tour with several backup amplifiers. They also get hot so you have to change them every once in a while. Depending on usage tubes can last from 6 months to 60 years (we have seen some very old vintage amps with the original tubes still in them), but we recommend changing your tubes every couple of years. When you re-tube an amp you bring back the old sound and volume, you can also try a different brand of tubes and get a very different sound if so desired. Types of tubes will produce different voicings as well. The most popular for preamps is the combination of 12AX7’s and 12AT7’s. The most popular power amp tubes are 6L6’s by far but some manufacturers use KT88’s, EL84’s or something else depending on the type of sound they are trying to produce. Sam Ash carries a wide variety of tube styles and brands including Sovtek, Groove Tubes, and JJ (formerly Tesla). These brands are all durable and cost effective and come in singles, and in factory matched duets and quartets.