Valve guitar amplifier enthusiasts believe that tube guitar amps produce a “warmer” sound and a more natural “overdrive” sound. You will often hear guitar players talking about tone and this refers mainly to the sound from a valve guitar amplifier. From the 1930’s onward a number of companies began manufacturing small portable combo guitar amplifiers. These early amps featured valve circuit design technology for converting the small voltage that was generated by a pickup, or microphone, in the guitar body and amplifying it into a larger voltage that could drive a speaker cone and allow the sound to be heard.
These first amps were very basic by today’s standards with a single volume control, one or two inputs, a single speaker and a thin wooden cabinet. There were no tone controls or effects to shape the sound, just the sound generated by the valves being driven by the input. Early valve guitar amplifiers that we launched in the 30’s were manufactured by companies like Dobro, Audio-Vox, Rickenbacker and Gibson (1934).
Valve guitar amplifiers comprise of two distinct circuits. The pre-amplifier circuit which has the tone controls and and any added effects plus a power output stage. The pre-amplifier stage is where the unique valve guitar amp tone is created and shaped. The output stage is where is is amplified to greater levels. To learn about how the different sections work read out technical guides below. Since the 50’s valve guitar amplifier design and manufacture has changed dramatically and there are many standard and boutique valve amplifier models to choose from and buy.
Choose the Type of Valve Guitar Amplifier
Use the links below to visit pages where you can buy the various styles of valve guitar amplifier you are interested in. A valve head guitar amplifier is just that an amplifier in a box that needs a separate speaker cabinet. A combo valve guitar amplifier has the amplifier circuit and the speaker inside the same wooden cabinet.
The Creation of the Unique Valve Guitar Amplifier Tone
In the 50’s, guitarists experimented with distortion produced by deliberately over driving their tube guitar amplifiers creating a unique blues, crunch, tone. In the early 60’s, Dick Dale, the creator of the surf rock sound worked with Fender to produce the first 100-watt valve guitar amplifier, developing new clearly defined tones and volumes. Distortion became more popular from the mid-60’s by connecting the already distorted output of one amplifier into the input of another. Valve guitar amplifiers were then developed to include a functioning pre-amplifier section with tone controls and additional effects like tremolo, reverb and vibrato. While tube or valve technology is, in many ways, outdated, tube guitar amps remain popular with many guitarists, especially professional guitarists, who prefer their sonic sound qualities and tone.
Old valve guitar amplifiers from the 60’s and 70’s are now collectors items and can change hands for many thousands of pounds. This has led to many new guitar amplifier manufacturers creating clones and in some instances taking the original valve guitar amplifier circuit to another level and creating a boutique valve amplifier.
Valve Guitar Amplifier Technology Explained
Listed below are a number of guides to guitar amplifier technology. Learn about the different types of guitar amplifier on the market and how the different technology shapes the signal from the guitar and decides the type of tone you can expect to at the speakers. There is also in-depth guides to valve guitar amplifier technology, the valve amplifier circuits used, how guitar amplifier valves work and how to maintain and repair your valve amplifier.
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- Valve Guitar Amplifier – Output Tubes Explained (11/5/2017)
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- Valve Guitar Amplifier – Pre-Amplifier Valves Compared (3/27/2018)
- Valve Guitar Amplifier – Technology Explained (11/11/2017)
- Valve Guitar Amplifier – Tube Amp Basics Explained (10/8/2017)
- Valve Guitar Amplifier – Tube Maintenance and Care (9/19/2017)
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