“This is not even a topic for discussion as far as I’m concerned… there is no substitute for tube electronics in the hearts and minds of pros.” – Ritchie Fliegler, Vice President of marketing, Fender Musical Instruments Corp.
Fliegler has hit the nail on the head – given the subtleties in guitar tube amp circuit design and the fact that tubes and transistors are radically different technologies, transistors certainly do not sound like them – there is no substitute for tubes. But, it’s perhaps more interesting to ask, “Why would we even think that transistors could sound like tubes?”. I reckon it’s down to the same people who once had me believing that margarine tastes like butter – it’s ‘them’, the marketing people.
A solid-state transistor, FET or digital stompbox that could accurately emulate the tone and feel of a tube amp would be a very desirable thing for musicians and manufacturers too as their marketing team can tap into all that fantastic tube marketing kudos, warmth, clarity, richness of tone, etc without actually needing to understand the idiosyncrasies or having to deal with the expense and hassle of hot, high voltage, thermionic technology. It’s a win-win situation for them – the ease of solid-state manufacture means bigger profits, however it leaves the poor musician seriously short-changed on tube tone.
But don’t panic: there is a simple solution if you want tube sound – use tube gear! Effectrode have worked with this fabulous glass bottles for decades, we understand what makes good tube tone, and although we don’t claim to have all the answers, one thing’s for sure – if Effectrode builds a ‘Dumble’ style preamp then it will have tubes in it. Or if we build an LA-2A style compressor, it too will have tubes (and photo-optical gain attenuator) and rest assured that our designs will be the result of years of meticulous research and development to authentically capture these great circuits in pedal form with absolutely no corners cut, period.
To find more about the fabulous tone of tubes then do take a look at Eric Barbour’s excellent article, The Cool Sound of Tubes