While digital modeling has caught the attention of many players today, tubes and tube amps are far from dead. And even with the new digital modeling technology, which indeed is designed to try and emulate the sounds of world-famous tube amps from the past and present, there seems to be a resurgence in the number of tube amp options that are out there. One of the strengths of a good tube amp is its ability to respond to the dynamics of a guitar player’s picking attack when a tube is being overdriven. In addition, no solid-state or digitally modeled amplifier sounds as good as a tube amp when played over a loud band. In fact, it is at loud volumes where tube amps really come alive, while solid state and digitally modeled amps will often become thin and have harsher high-frequency emphasized tones.
Since tube amps and tubes themselves are certainly here to stay, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about vacuum tube basics. This article’s purpose is simple: to discuss what tubes do, describe the different tube types and how they each sound. Afterward, we’ll discuss briefly about what to look for when shopping for tubes and getting them installed.