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Thread: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

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    MoneyForNothingologist PoorMan's Avatar
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    Default Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    I've always been a tube amp guy, but recently some Randall solid-state gear has piqued my curiosity. I'm hoping we have a resident SS expert that can help answer some questions.

    Bear with my generalizations and lack of knowledge of SS amps...

    Do solid state amps have to be run at high volume like tube amps generally do to "sound good"?

    I've read that volume for equivalent wattages differ between solid state and tube amps (i.e. a 100 watt SS amp is about 1/3 the volume of a 100 watt tube amp). True?

    Thanks.
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    Senior Member bigcupholder's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    To some extent it's true that they sound better when louder, just not to the same extent as tube amps. There's four factors (3 apply to both tube and ss):
    1) we perceive sound differently at higher volumes
    2) the guitar resonates with the sound in the room
    3) the response of the speaker is different at really low volumes
    4) tube amps sag, compress and distort at higher volumes

    The wattage vs loudness issue is never clear because the wattage rating is inconsistent in meaning. What you heard is a general rule of thumb but there's tons of exceptions. It also depends on the speaker efficiencies.

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    Administrator Mincer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    As someone who probably uses SS amps as much or more than my tube amps, I think a well designed SS amp sounds good at any volume. They don't compress or distort like a tube amp at a loud volume- they should have that sound and feeling 'baked in' at any volume. It sounds good for amps to be loud in the room, but outside of that 'playing a loud amp' feeling, playing loud shouldn't be a necessity for a good SS amp to sound great.

    Wattage figures are all over the map. I think you can make generalizations within 1 company...like a SS Deluxe should be 100-150 watts to be the same volume of a tube Deluxe. But across companies, it gets much harder to apply rules.
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    High Voltologist Wattage's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    My main amp for the late 80's thru the early 90's til I quit was a Randall RG100ES head (black tolex).

    It was LOUD, toneful and rock solid, it sounded great at lower volumes as well. Really I could still use it today if I could find one that didn't have the **** kicked out of it.

    This is it thru a Laney 4x12 with 25wt Fanes (LP Custom w/A2P's and an LP Jr. with an SP-90-3b). Recorded in late '91/'92

    Last edited by Wattage; 02-26-2020 at 01:28 PM.

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    Mojo's Minions LLL's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    I always thought SS amps sounded better at lower volumes.

    Then again, the times I used SS amps, they weren't of high quality.
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    MoneyForNothingologist PoorMan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    Quote Originally Posted by Wattage View Post
    My main amp for the late 80's thru the early 90's til I quit was a Randall RG100ES head (black tolex).

    It was LOUD, toneful and rock solid, it sounded great at lower volumes as well. Really I could still use it today if I could find one that didn't have the **** kicked out of it.

    This is it thru a Laney 4x12 with 25wt Fanes (LP Custom w/A2P's and an LP Jr. with an SP-90-3b). Recorded in late '91/'92

    I have that CD

    Good info, Scott. Think a 100 watt Randall would be usable in the bedroom? Or is it too much?
    Last edited by PoorMan; 02-26-2020 at 02:47 PM.
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    PenultimateTone Member Demanic's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    Quote Originally Posted by PoorMan View Post
    I have that CD

    Good info, Scott. Think a 100 watt Randall would be usable in the bedroom? Or is it too much?
    That depends on how big your bedroom is.
    I'd do it.

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    Mojo's Minions devastone's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    Quote Originally Posted by PoorMan View Post
    I have that CD

    Good info, Scott. Think a 100 watt Randall would be usable in the bedroom? Or is it too much?
    That's kind of the beauty of SS, you can turn it down and it sounds pretty much the same, although there are reasonable limits, i'm never sure if it's the amp or the speaker just isn't moving enough at that point.

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    High Voltologist Wattage's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    You can use it anywhere, might not want to push it into a 4x12 in your bedroom though LOL

    You might have some luck finding an RG75 combo, they were pretty great and would be alot more bedroom friendly IMO

    btw Moonlight Serenade is also that rig and LAMF if you can find it is as well

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    Toneologist JamesPaul's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    Lots of great info already in this thread.

    Check out the second bullet here

    http://www.geofex.com/tubeampfaq/TUBEFAQ.htm#basics

    for why (all else being close to equal) same power tube amps sound louder than solid state amps.
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    Mojo's Minions dave74's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    Quote Originally Posted by LLL View Post
    I always thought SS amps sounded better at lower volumes.

    Then again, the times I used SS amps, they weren't of high quality.
    Most often it's their junk speaker/cab that makes it sound so worthless cranked-up.

    My opinion of solid-state power has really been modified since snagging these cheap old silver-stripe peaveys and running them through the mesa cabs.

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    Super Moderator Simon_F's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    Quote Originally Posted by Mincer View Post
    As someone who probably uses SS amps as much or more than my tube amps, I think a well designed SS amp sounds good at any volume. They don't compress or distort like a tube amp at a loud volume- they should have that sound and feeling 'baked in' at any volume. It sounds good for amps to be loud in the room, but outside of that 'playing a loud amp' feeling, playing loud shouldn't be a necessity for a good SS amp to sound great.

    Wattage figures are all over the map. I think you can make generalizations within 1 company...like a SS Deluxe should be 100-150 watts to be the same volume of a tube Deluxe. But across companies, it gets much harder to apply rules.
    I agree with all of this.

    I've been using a Roland Blues Cube Artist combo for pretty much everything the last 4 years, while my tube amps have mostly stayed at home. The Blues Cube sounds consistently great at any volume. It is 80 watts and it is a LOUD 80 watts. I've never needed to run it at anywhere near full volume, even playing with a loud drummer and wall-of-sound keyboards! But it sounds great at bedroom practice volumes too, and everywhere in between. And it is so easy to lift in and out of the car.

    I think the wattage vs. loudness issue has arisen from many SS amps being designed and marketed as a cheaper alternative to a tube amp. Cheaper speakers and cabinets, less efficient designs, not as well made as flagship tube amps. Roland's current Blues Cube range has been criticized for being expensive, with people saying "For that money I can buy a good tube amp". Fair point, but for that money you are getting a GREAT solid state amp!

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    Underglazed Hair Metalologist 80's_Metal's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    I'd mimick most of everything said here, but would add:

    Those Randall ss heads sound the same at every volume.

    As far as volume goes, I think that 1/3 seems way too low.... I would say with my experience, more like 85-95% of the volume of tube amps on some/most amps....
    My boss Katana at 50w was measurably 7-10db louder than both my Marshalls at full crank.... With new tubes.

    I've used a ton of ss amps and their volumes were somewhat variable as to their wattages.

    A half stack in a bedroom will sound fine, it's not too much.
    Last edited by 80's_Metal; 02-27-2020 at 04:18 AM.

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    Administrator Mincer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    In the 80s, I had an SS Ampeg half stack in my bedroom. I loved it at the time, but my playing is much different now. It did sound the same at any volume, though.
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    Ultimate Tone Slacker Dave Locher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    I still have my 1978 Randall RG100es head that I bought in 1987 or '88.

    It is an exaggeration to say it sounds exactly the same at any volume, but it does sound like the same amp.

    I run mine through a 2x12 with the master volume OFF for "bedroom" (basement) playing. When no one else is home I turn it up to 1 or 2, which brings in some warmth. From that point on it is more-or-less the same sound although it gets more roar above three.

    However, that is ONLY true for the left channel. The right channel is voiced very differently and it sounds terrible with the master below 2 or 3. But that is the Ampeg-ish, bottom-heavy cleaner channel that most people ignore anyway.

    But yeah, they rock. Used mine heavily for years and years and never had any trouble. I rehoused mine a year or two ago just to make it smaller and lighter, never plan to sell it. I have plugged into quite a few other amps over the years but I haven't really shopped them since I got this and I have never tried anything I liked a lot better. This is my amp.

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker Dave Locher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    Quote Originally Posted by PoorMan View Post
    Think a 100 watt Randall would be usable in the bedroom? Or is it too much?
    Great for bedroom volume. (Is what I meant to say)

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    Solid state amps are typically designed around preamp gain. So are a lot of tube amps. If your amp sounds the same at higher volumes and just stops getting louder at some point, there you go.

    I use a 150W Randall solid-state 2x12 combo in my living room. It does what I want at next to no volume.

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    mild old man perv Aceman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    Tubes generally have a lot different sound depending on the volume.

    Solid state is definitely more consistent.

    I have use Modellers, Solid State, Hybrids, and Tubes. Honestly, the most important thing is to KNOW the amp. Every one is different. I have rarely ran into ones I could not get a useable sound out of. It might not be the best sound for what I want though.
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    Slutbucker Pimpologist ArtieToo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    Part of the SS power vs tube power debate is that transistors don't usually have a pleasant clipping tone. The general rule is you'd want 3db of clean headroom. That's double the power. So you'd want to run your 50 watt SS amp at no more than 25 watts. A tube amp, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. They start to come alive as they're driven into clipping, which can easily be twice the power. So your 50 watt tube amp sounds like 100 watts. Since both SS and tubes use the same power rating system, the 50 watt tube amp seems louder than the 50 watt SS amp. And in fact, it is, unless you like SS clipping distortion.

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    PenultimateTone Member Demanic's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solid State Experts - I have questions...

    A well designed, well built ss amp is preferable to a cheap tube amp. Probably as good as a good one depending on what you are playing. The Roland JC120 and Randall RG-120ES are classic ss amps.

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