james david low

live / work / play / worship

Why Tube Amps Are (Seem) Louder Than Solid State amps

Much has been written and said on this, and what I have to say is by no means authoritative, but I thought I’d write a quick summary of the various info I’ve found while reading:

1) Soft vs. Hard Clipping
The number one reason why tube amps seem to be perceived louder in volume for the same wattage seems to be soft vs. hard clipping. When companies rate amps for power that rate the wattage where the total harmonic distortion (THD) of the power section is below a certain threshold. This is generally not for the amp as a whole, but the specification of the power tubes or transistors in the current configuration and supply voltages.

Now the difference between tubes and solid state is that after that threshold tubes have soft clipping and solid state has hard clipping. As illustrated in the figures below, tube amps will still get louder above their rated power, while having less noticeable, and even desirable distortion and compression. Solid state in contrast will hard clip and sound nasty, and not be any louder.

Now it is true that you can achieve soft clipping with various solid state components, but that will be limiting the total volume of the system, not pushing it above the rated specification for the power amplifier transistors.

2) Tube Amp Variations
Adding to the confusion there also seem to be variation in how loud two tube amps with the same power tubes or power rating can be. This can be down to a large number of factors, power tube supply voltage, transformer efficiency, speaker sensitivity, or technologies like Mesa/Boogie’s Dyna-Watt. Phillip McKnight has an excellent video showing different perceived volumes from similar wattage amps, and even how a higher rated solid state amp doesn’t sound as loud.

3) Logarithmic Volume Controls
A third possible reason for differences his how the volume controls are configured. Some solid state amps may tend to have linear volume controls, meaning the volume increases evenly over the entire sweep of the volume pot. Some tube amps may tend to have logarithmic volume controls, meaning the volume increases more at the beginning of a potentiometer’s sweep. This means a tube amp on 2/10 or 3/10 may be really loud, and still feel like it has a lot more volume to give, when in practice you may almost be at half volume. Of course if it goes to 11 it must be even louder!

Further reading:


6:04pm / Nov 9th / 15 Comments

Gear Tube Is Live

If you’re looking for the best and latest guitar gear demos, make sure you check out geartube.net and stay tunes for the mobile app which will be launching soon!


3:40am / Oct 31st / 15 Comments

Rocksmith 2014 without Real Tone Cable

There’s a link on reddit that shows how to get Rocksmith working on a Mac without the real tone cable:

I’ve got screenshots of how to do it, but after doing it the sound produced is pitch and distortion artefacts and is basically unplayable. I tried with both the built in audio interface and my Presonus Audiobox USB, and neither worked. Some people have managed to get it to work though, so maybe some interfaces work better than others. I did however, managed to get the Rocksmith cable to work recording into both my Mac and iPad:




2:27am / Sep 15th / 15 Comments

Pedalboard Panel Mount USB With Hub

I installed a USB hub in my pedalboard because I was sick of having to remove pedals to get to the the USB sockets on the pedals. The hub I used is non-powered, I’m not sure if some other pedals might require a powered one. I got some cheap short right angle USB cables off eBay to make the wiring really neat.

This video shows it working with:
– TC Alter Ego V2 (Flashback / Toneprint Software)
– Neunaber Slate (Pedal Customizer Software)
– Fishman Aura Spectrum DI (Aura Gallery Software)

1:18am / Aug 15th / 15 Comments

Hybrid Special & S-Bucker 5-way Switch

Just got Jon Press Guitars to route a 5-way switch for my Michael Kelly Hybrid Special. Makes it much easier to access the coil tapping options of the Catwhisker S-Bucker and made me realise that apart from on traditional Gibson instruments, all humbucker guitars should come with a 5-way switch rather than 3 position and separate coil tap switches. There is now an unused switch that I’ll probably remove and find a cover for.

Here’s the wiring. The S-Bucker has quite a different coil tap setup.


8:16pm / Aug 8th / 15 Comments

Guitar Amps In A Pedal And Other Micro Amps

Just a quick list because I was bored and thinking about it. I’ve owned a Diago Little Smasher and EHX Caliber 22.

Electro Harmonix Magnium 44/Caliber 22 44 Watt
Traynor DH25H 25 Watt
Diago Little Smasher 5 Watt
Bluguitar Amp1 100 Watt
Ethos Overdrive Amp 30 Watt
Quilter Toneblock/Quilter 101 Mini Head 200 Watt
ZT Amps Lunchbox 200 Watt
Orange Micro Terror/Micro Dark 20 Watt
Create PowerBlock (Discontinued) 150 Watt
Randall RG13 1 Watt
Taurus Stomphead 70 Watt
Hotone Nano Legacy Amps 5 Watt

12:46pm / Aug 4th / 15 Comments

Fender Blues Jr. Presence Mod

Just recently did this is a common mod for that people do for the Blues Jr. On a Blues Jr. III it’s replacing R25 with a 25K pot. It’s basically an implementation of the Blues Deluxe presence control on the Blues Jr. Billm uses a shielded cable when he wires it in, so that’s what I did. Makes quite a special amp with the other Billm mods, a Warehouse Guitar Speakers ET-65 and salt and pepper vintage grill cloth.

7:10pm / Jul 28th / 15 Comments

Ultimate Strat / Gibson 5 Way Pickup Switch Wiring

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, my ultimate 5 way pickup switch wiring. They both require the 5 way double XL super switch, 4 poles, double wafer. They’re done in such a way that both a 2 humbucker guitar and a strat style guitar (SSS or SSH) sound as close as possible in each position. I like a 5 way because its faster than having to switch your main pickup selector and a coil tap at the same time.

Strat Style 2 Humbucker
1) Bridge Pickup Bridge Humbucker
2) Bridge/Neck Bridge/Neck Humbucker
3) Neck/Middle Series Neck Humbucker
4) Neck/Middle Parallel Neck/Bridge Coil Tap
5) Neck Neck Coil Tap


– The humbucker coil taps work best with something like a Lindy Fralin Unbucker.
– On the Strat style I recommend a bridge humbucker or hot single coil
– The single coils in series is an interesting mod to approximate a humbucker. I’ve also thought about adding a 1M trim pot (with treble bleed) if the increased output is too big compared to the single coils on their own. You can get a taste of what it sounds like here:

7:54am / Jul 27th / 15 Comments

Pedaltrain Mini/Nano/Metro Power Supply Options

Cioks DC5 This is the first isolated power supply design to fit under a Pedaltrain Mini (or nano or metro).
True Tone One Spot I had one of these, but I found it passed noise back when my computer was on the same power supply.
Diago Micropower9 I currently daisy chain with one of these. The cable is starting to wear already though, so I may go back to a One Spot. They also have the Diago Powerstation which can output 3000mA! This might even fit under a pedaltrain mini, will try and let you know:
Diago Isolator If you’re daisy chaining and need just one or two pedals isolated, this can be a cheap addition.
Mooer PDNW/PDNT Similar to the Diago, I haven’t tried one yet, so I don’t know how good it is.
Mooer Micro Power 93.5×42×36 (mm) These outputs are independently filtered outputs, but not transformer isolated I believe. Here’a a pic on a Pedaltrain Nano: https://osiamo.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/bruceb_mooerboard.jpg
Mosky DC-Tank 95×38×29 (mm) Overall slightly smaller than the mooer, and according to the manufacturer isolated outputs. Super cheap at US$35.
Mosky Nano Power Station 93×38×31 (mm) Pretty much the same size as the DC-Tank, but doesn’t say the outputs are isolated.
One Control Micro Distro 98x48x35 (mm) Another non-isolated solution. I’ve seen people fit these into Pedaltrain boards here and here. It’s not isolated though: http://www.thegearpage.net/board/index.php?threads/new-mini-power-supply-for-pedaltrain-mini.1177229/
Pedaltrain Volto Battery powered solution that fits under newer Pedaltrain Minis and original ones if you’re willing to cut away part of the bottom.
T-Rex Fueltank Junior Pretty much the largest that’s worth considering. Takes up quite a lot of space on top, but you can fit it underneath if you cut away and added higher feet: http://www.tdpri.com/forum/stomp-box/296043-pedaltrain-mini-has-no-room-power-supply.html

2:34am / Jul 12th / 15 Comments

Klon vs. Wampler Euphoria vs. Mad Professor Sweet Honey

Ok, so not quite, it’s actually an EHX Soul Food/Wampler Euphoria Clone/JOYO Sweet Baby, so take it with a pinch of salt. I wanted something to pair with my Lovepedal Eternity Clone (tube screamer, with more gain and high end). I didn’t have time to do a comparison video, and it was more I just wanted to write down my thoughts on these much hyped pedals for myself as much as anybody else.

EHX Soul Food
This is the Electro Harmonix’s affordable version of the Klon Centaur, one of the pedals to start the “transparent” overdrive craze. I’ve never played a Klon, but from the Soul Food, I see why people say it’s transparent. It feels transparent, which is hard to explain, but some pedals feel “in the way”, maybe its too much compression or too much mids and high end roll off, but the Soul Food doesn’t have that feel. EQ wise though it’s not that transparent. The high end is transparent, the mids have a slight emphasis that gives it a vocal quality and sings on the high B/E strings, and has quite a bit of bass roll off. Gain wise, low gain is definitely where this really shines, but because of the mid range I liked it better with front single coils than front humbucker, and the bass roll off made my bridge humbucker sound thin. I see why people like it, it does a similar job to a tube screamer pushing a overdriven amp, though different and more refined. On my limited size board though, it wasn’t versatile enough for me.

Wampler Euphoria Clone
I built my clone using a high quality kit from Fuzz Dog Pedal Parts. Yes it’s a clone, but despite being a clone it’s one of the pedals that I’ve owned that has sounded most like the demos when I played it person. In my opinion, this pedal is much more transparent EQ wise than the clone, it really has a very flat frequency response. The clipping options and large usable gain range give a wide range of tones, though they are all grittier than the Soul Food. The bass control I found didn’t really cut any bass, but can boost as well as add fuzz, making this one of the most versatile overdrive pedals around. The transparency makes it work well with humbuckers and single coils, although some more mids would help for single coil solos. This is what I’m sticking with along with my Lovepedal Eternity clone.

JOYO Sweet Baby
Like the Soul Food, this is supposed to be pretty close to it’s original, The Mad Professor Sweet Honey. It really does have a sweet high end and was very dynamic in response to picking. It didn’t have enough gain for me though, and with the dynamics I had to go rear humbucker and hit pretty hard to get much dirt. It had more bass but less high end compared to the Klon. The sweet attack worked better at taming single coils. I could see how it would work really well for certain situations, but similar tones can be achieved rolling off the tone (or even volume knob) or a mellow front humbucker, and I found it not as versatile for more aggressive tones. I also installed a WGS ET-65 speaker in my Blues Jr, which gave it a sweeter high end, so having an overdrive leaning that way as well was overkill.

Lovepedal Eternity Clone
I like a tube screamer-like pedal for basic drive and a slight mid range hump. I chose the Eternity clone for more gain and it seems to have more complex sounding harmonics than a standard tube screamer. It has too a lot of gain though and is very bright, so I changed the tone control value. I also added a bass boost switch, great for low volume practice or fatter power chords. I also added an asymmetric/symmetric clipping switch to switch between Eternity and Eternity Boost circuits. The Eternity drive does have a mid boost, but not as much and at a different frequency than a tube screamer.

1:16pm / Jun 13th / 15 Comments
« Previous Next Page »


Live / Guestbook / Ikea Hacks / Photos / Play / Bass / Dumble / Fuzz / Jazz 101 / Music / Quartet / Work / AirShow / Firstline / JabberSkype / Juice / Limelight / Limelight / FAQ / Limelight / Version History / Misc / Onoko / Wordpress / Zest / Worship


Andy / Anna / Dad / Dawen / Matt Low / Nate / Sayling


43 Things / Facebook / Google+ / Linkedin / Old Webpage / Runkeeper / Twitter / YouTube


Why Tube Amps Are (Seem) Louder Than Solid State amps / Gear Tube Is Live / Rocksmith 2014 without Real Tone Cable / Pedalboard Panel Mount USB With Hub / Hybrid Special & S-Bucker 5-way Switch / Guitar Amps In A Pedal And Other Micro Amps / Fender Blues Jr. Presence Mod / Ultimate Strat / Gibson 5 Way Pickup Switch Wiring / Pedaltrain Mini/Nano/Metro Power Supply Options / Klon vs. Wampler Euphoria vs. Mad Professor Sweet Honey / Mount MacBook Pro Underdesk / Best Solid State Guitar Amps 2015 / Fender Blues Jr. Standby Mod - International 230V Models / Pedaltrain Mini Built In Jacks / Cheap China Pedal Clone Comparison List / Michael Kelly Hybrid Special Mods / Fishman Aura Spectrum DI Preset Footswitch Mod / Humbuckers with good single coil split sounds / Fender Blues Jr. Fat Footswitch with LED / Custom Neunaber ExP (3 Switches and other variations) / Fender Superchamp XD Line In/Mute Switch Mod / Changing Batteries on a Mobee Power Bar / Custom Neunaber ExP Controller / World's smallest true bypass looper / Western Digital Black² in a Apple Macbook Pro 13" / Third Culture Parent / Presonus iTwo with Garageband on iPad / Dumble in a box pedals list / Low cost made in China pedals / Small single-pedal sized multi effects / Pedal and amp list / Fulltone Fulldrive 2 Circuits / Ikea Standing Desks / Who I'd like to see in the dunk competition / Top 10 things I am missing about HK, enjoying about the UK / Simultaneous MIDI/Audio with Apogee ONE for iPad / iPhone Repair Bristol / Disable Git in Eclipse / A New Language for App Engine / iPhone Push Notifications with JavaPNS on Google App Engine / Midi Keyboard Velocity Curve Calibration With Pianoteq / Top 10 things I will and won't miss about Hong Kong / List Apps To Update After Moving iTunes App Store Countries / DynDNS via curl on Apple TV 2 / iOS-WebStack with Apple TV 2 firmware 5.2 (iOS 6.1) / Fast Track Ultra 8R in Mountain Lion / Google DFP with Appcelerator Titanium / Alternatives to Google Apps / Digitech iStomp and the new iPhone 5 lightning connector / The case for wired keyboards / Cornerstone vs. Versions vs. SmartSVN / Use of Foxconn and other manufacturers / iPhone Screen Setting / Pedal Board / New Family Friendly Homepage / Tip for efficient living / Detecting Quercus / Amazon S3 for WordPress with CloudFront / Database Read Replicas / Force User Login Multisite / Moving Church / Top 10 things I love about living in Ocean View / My Paper / iPhoto '11 No Place Smart Album / Creed / Random OSX Hacks / Getting Married :) / Diddy Feet / Very helpful error message / Apple LED Cinema Display with a PC / Simply Christian - N.T. Wright / Some things need to be said again / G. K. Chesterton - Orthodoxy / What life in heaven is like... / Cut & Paste and Tabs in Finder / Titanium Autocomplete Eclipse / <3 Adobe / Must listen to / Number 5 UK Social Networking Apps / OpenTerminalHere and AntHere / Two Excellent Podcasts / Grrr Apple / Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven / From The Lord's Prayer / Writing Word/RTF Docs In Java / CarbonHomepage.com - One up on blackle / Manifesto - The goal theory of motivation and the circle theory of value, security, Sin and repentance / Chrome my firefox / iPhone Apps / On not having energy to explain depression because you're depressed / Windows Live Fail / My official (only?) post on the iPad / Stop blaming the investment banks / 2010 / Thoughts On Keyboards / Guitar History / Good Idea / Can I lose my need to impress? / Some Images / The Things That Will Destroy America / HTTP headers and raw POST data for PHP-CGI / Mail.app RSS Smart Mailbox / iSync icon after iTunes sync / The New Cosmology: Theistic Implications / A Guitar Story / A slow miracle is as incredible as a fast miracle / Prayer - Ravi Zacharias / Dismantle.Repair. / Great Ravi Zacharias Talk / Top 5 Pet-Peeves / Top 5 Books / iPhone Idea / Top 5 Movies / Dawen - American Me / Great new homepage / US$150 Off Dreamhost Promo Code / Songs I wish I wrote / Apple Remote Control / Worship slides on an iPhone/iPod / 50 Things To Do Today / Back on form / iPhoto -> Wordpress / Emoji on iPhone / Friend's Music / Reverse Sabbath Ends / Very Happy / Nick Pitera / Dream Impossible / Lost in 8:15 / Reverse Sabbath / Awareness / How He Loves / Upgrade IE / The God Delusion Debate / Gibson ES-175 Reissue for sale / Shabbat / Random Things / Make your google look gorgeous / Competition / The best video EVER! / Games / Icebreakers / Inconsistent Messages / Spanish Proverb / I think you're wrong about this one / Hugs / Ravi Zacharias - The Existence of God / Life Story / Mission Statement / God Rock Music / Why I'm in counseling / Wordpress Bible Gateway / More Ideas / Imago Dei / Only in Hong Kong / Limegreen Autoupdate / Wordpress Backup / App Ideas / Spreadsheet Widget / RandR REST Library / BufferedReader / Regular Expressions / fishnchips.hk / Number 352 / YouTubeApp.com / My new favourite store / Post ToDo / 3rd Party Authentication / Sound Interfaces / Computers Again / Google Spreadsheet to iCal / Shouting Match / More Dawen / Dawen @ A-List TV / YouTube Feed / Limegreen Released / Creativity / Nice Blog / Podpress and Wordpress 2.6 fix with revisions / MySQL BIT in PHP / Life Matters / Love the iPhone / What we all should be / No I will not fix your computer / These Pages / Obama Endorsement / Business Ideas / Jesus And Domitian / Tuesdays / Thank You / The philosophical implications of stepping on that crunchy looking leaf / Pointless Sites / iPhone HK / Private Files / Dawen Wang / T-Shirt Gifts / Allow Categories / Remedy / Alter Ego / Hey! Get My IP / Facebook Comments / Donald Miller - Story / Play - update / Fresh Look / Limelight Released / Random / Updates Galore / Most Amazing Blogger Ever / Just LOVE / The Lark Ascending / Time To Blog / Still catching up / SYATP / Here To Eternity / 2006 / 2005 / FINALLY


500GB Storage / PHP / MySQL / SVN / Webdav / SSH / $5.95 month