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Senior Member
Username: funkyjazzjunky

Post Number: 536
Registered: 5-2007
Posted on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 - 12:25 pm:   Edit Post

I want to experiment using two amps, one solid state (Carvin BR 1200) and one tube amp. I cannot afford a boutique tube amp and I do not want a Peavey.

I play jazz/instrumental funk and I use a Carvin 6 string fretless in passive mode and a Carvin 6 string fretted active with lots of snapping. 4x10 + 18in cabs.

Any recommendations on a good value tube amp?
Username: ed_zeppelin

Post Number: 5
Registered: 1-2010
Posted on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 - 1:15 pm:   Edit Post

You may not like the tube amps. (especially if you have to haul them any distance.) Unless you're running true stereo - with each pickup having its own amp - you're probably better off just running one bi-amp rig in mono. After all, bass sound waves themselves are enormous, and nobody will even distinguish something so subtle, especially with drums and guitars bashing away.

I've been using an Alembic Series I through two amps for nearly twenty years. By coincidence, I also use Carvin Bass amps. (I even named my Golden Retriever "Carvin," I swear.)

I love Carvin amps. They're tough, and sound fantastic. The price is great, so what more could anyone ask for? I have a RL618 for the neck pickup and a RL410T for the bridge pickup.

After hauling around everything from Ampeg SVTs, Gallien-Krugers, Fender Bassmans and umpteen others, I switched to a Carvin Pro 500 in the early 90's (it's still my practice amp) and have never looked back. They simply give me everything I want.

Besides, after working in music stores for nearly 40 years, I've heard side-by-side comparisons of bass through tube amps and solid state, and I defy anyone to tell the difference blindfolded.

Come third or fourth set, and those tubes are going to be horribly mushy and flabby sounding, especially at the wattages we bassists use.

Just listen to any guitarist running 6L6s or EL34 power tubes and by the end of the night they sound awful. Imagine that twenty times worse, for an idea how even a hand-wired boutique amp will sound with bass pumping through it all night.

If nothing else, your back will thank you.
Intermediate Member
Username: the_jester

Post Number: 118
Registered: 12-2009
Posted on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 - 2:32 pm:   Edit Post

"Come third or fourth set, and those tubes are going to be horribly mushy and flabby sounding, especially at the wattages we bassists use."

I totally respectfully disagree Ed, but then again you could be right depending on who's operating on the rig.

For me bi-amps from my rig is very distinguishable and with 24 tubes in total, I had never felt a smoother tone at high volumes and low in my life. Mesa Boogie Tubes are the best!

(Message edited by the_jester on January 21, 2010)
Advanced Member
Username: jbybj

Post Number: 259
Registered: 6-2006
Posted on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 - 8:28 pm:   Edit Post

For 35 years I have been a big fan of Traynor amps. I have a Bassmaster (40 watts, early 70's) and a Bassmaster Mark II (80 watts, late 60's). There is something about the sound of my mark II. I get a physical reaction when I hear any bass through that head, my lower gums itch, my sternum vibrates, and my buttocks transform. It speaks directly to my reptilian brain.

I also play the same basses through the same cabinets with a Solid state preamp and a QSC solid state power amp. Both the Solid state and the Traynor Tube sound awesome, but COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

Bassmaster Mark II, also designated as YBA-1A, can still be had on ebay in the $400-600 range. I scored mine about 6 years ago for $270. Just had the original caps and some resistors replaced. This amp is to my bass tone, as dark chocolate covered caramel is to my tastebuds.

oh yeah, it's heavy. It has huge trannies, but since I'm only taking it to jams about once a month, I can live with the weight. Besides, all my speakers are now neodyns so that helps...

FWIW, I have personally never experienced the mushy/flabby tube syndrome described above. Our jams will usually go between 3.5 and 5 hours, and the Traynor, Fender, Mesa Lonestar, Snyder, Metropoulus, Dr. Z, and Victoria amps have always been very consistent, and kickass til power down.

(Message edited by jbybj on January 20, 2010)
Senior Member
Username: hydrargyrum

Post Number: 744
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Thursday, January 21, 2010 - 7:10 am:   Edit Post

I also must respectfully disagree with one at least one statement here. Our band routinely practices up to five hours, and I've never noticed any mushiness in my amps. I've played through ampegs, fenders, and soldanos, without ever having experienced this. I'm not sure what the electronic basis for such a phenomenon would be, since tubes normalize once they've warmed up, as far as I've ever read. I also will admit that I might have a hard time telling a really good solid state clean tone from a really good tube clean tone blindfolded. But as far as distortion goes, there's no contest. Granted, I'm playing guitar, not bass.
Advanced Member
Username: eligilam

Post Number: 231
Registered: 2-2006
Posted on Thursday, January 21, 2010 - 7:28 am:   Edit Post

"...and my buttocks transform." Sublime.
Senior Member
Username: fc_spoiler

Post Number: 1053
Registered: 5-2006
Posted on Thursday, January 21, 2010 - 8:22 am:   Edit Post

My Amps are sounding best when we finished our set, if possible I let the support act use my rig so it's warmed up when I hit the stage :-)

If these 6L6's ever sound awful, it's time for the amp doctor...

I can highly recommend the Mesa Strategy 400, more than enough pressure and great clear highs - serious tone.
I use them with EV loaded Mesa cabs, also the best stuff available imho.
The only complaints I get is that it's (way) too loud :-)
Advanced Member
Username: jbybj

Post Number: 260
Registered: 6-2006
Posted on Thursday, January 21, 2010 - 8:31 am:   Edit Post

"I use them with EV loaded Mesa cabs, also the best stuff available imho. "

One of the cabinets I refer to above, (the only holdover that is not a neodyn), is a custom single 15 that I've had for about 32 years, that is loaded with an EVM-15L. I agree, that speaker is most definitely part of the glory.
Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 690
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Thursday, January 21, 2010 - 9:35 am:   Edit Post

The timbral or response characteristics are not a mystery regarding audio circuits employing vacuum tubes. Much research has been done in this field.There are many factors that cause mush. You might hear mushiness if the output tubes are not properly biased. All tubes are not equal in timbral aspects . There is a big distinction between the sound of a tube with a hard vacuum within the envelope versus a soft vacuum. The soft vacuum tube producing a more mushy sound then the hard vacuum that gives you a more defined transient attack that to my ears is more suitable for Bass playing. I have been told by a leading tube technician and tube amp manufacturer that the sound of the Chinese tubes with the soft vacuum is appealing to many guitar players that like sound of an overdriven tube.
Currently most of the Chinese tubes produced have a soft vacuum within the envelope and the Russian tubes have a hard vacuum.
There have been some beastly awesome All tube Bass amp kits that I think REALLY sounded good such as the MESA 400+ and the KING OF ALL TUBE BASS KITS might be 2 Mcintosh 3500 mono units with an ALEMBIC F-2B !

Personally I like the sound of a tube preamp such as a ALEMBIC F-2B or F-1X and a solid state Power amp with a HIGH DAMPING FACTOR. NO MUSH with that combination if coupled with the correct speakers for the situation. And the weight factor might also be a consideration .
Also to consider is the fact that you can avoid mush by considering all the many playing style, acoustic and electronic variables that contribute to a classic case of MUSH CREATED BY STANDING WAVES.

MY 1/2 of a Cent worth _____


(Message edited by sonicus on January 21, 2010)
Username: ed_zeppelin

Post Number: 6
Registered: 1-2010
Posted on Thursday, January 21, 2010 - 11:06 am:   Edit Post

Uh oh, I feel an attack of humility coming on... Man, I enjoy learning from other pros. A little preamble before I stuff my foot back into my mouth; someone said in another thread: "there's no money above the fifth fret," and I damn near got a cramp in my neck from nodding so vigorously in agreement.

In case you're wondering what that has to do with this topic, I mean that my whole career has been marked by hard-won lessons in simplicity and humility, where I learned the most not by playing, but by LISTENING. This thread is an example.

When I was a kid, I had a '62 P-bass and a Vox Super Beatle amp. Then a guy named Stanley Clarke showed up and tore me a new orifice. I HAD to learn to play like that, so I got an upright and studied theory, and practiced 'til my fingers bled. Then a guy named Jaco showed up, and I built my own fretless from a '70 Jazz Bass body, Chandler neck and EMG pickups, and pounded "Teen Town" into my skull until I could actually play it. By that time, I was using an Ampeg SVT with both 8x10 cabs.

Now here it is... way too many years later... and I'm babbling on about tube amps, based on that amp. I couldn't play like Stanley or Jaco if my life depended on it.

One night, when I was filling in for Pinky in Roomful of Blues, I was stuck overnight at the Red Arrow diner in Manchester, New Hampshire during a nasty blizzard. The drummer (I forget his name now) kept razzing me, asking; "why do you play so many notes?" and "why do you go for the high notes every time you solo?" over and over and over, until I was ready to heave him in front of a snowplow.

Finally I got really angry and screamed at him; "...because I want people to know what a great bassist I am!" He just smiled and walked away.

That turning point was the best thing that ever happened to me, musically. There's an old joke that goes;

"Q. How many bassists does it take to change a lightbulb?

A. One. (Five... One. Five. One. Five. One. Five...)"

Ever since, I see bass as a FUNCTION. The music is what matters, not the players. I also started getting many, many more gigs, and enjoyed them infinitely more.

I've been reminded of that in this conversation. The last time I did a true "blindfold" comparison of a tube amp and a solid state, it was when I traded in that SVT... back in the late 80's. I was comparing it with a Gallien-Kruger 800-something, which I didn't buy. (I went with a Hartke cab and Carvin Pro 500), so basically I'm admitting that what I know about tube amps could be stuffed in a gnat's butt and it would rattle around like a BB in a boxcar.

Thanks for your patience, and reminding me that even an old musical whore like me can still learn something. I'm going to check out the Mesa/Boogie, that looks incredible!
Senior Member
Username: cozmik_cowboy

Post Number: 643
Registered: 10-2006
Posted on Thursday, January 21, 2010 - 12:47 pm:   Edit Post

"The drummer (I forget his name now)..."

John Rossi?

Senior Member
Username: edwin

Post Number: 486
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, January 26, 2010 - 3:27 pm:   Edit Post

Nice 3500! I just hauled out my 2105 for a few gigs and I have to say that even though it's not a tube amp, it's got a magical tone that no other power amp I've used has had. With a 12" JBL and a 15" McCauley, the low end sounds like a pipe organ (with my modified '67 Starfire). I think it needs some updating in the cap department as it tends to run out of steam a little quicker than the last time I ran a bass through it (probably more than 20 years ago), but the distortion is pretty cool, too. I'd love to get a 2300 but 130lbs is more than I can handle at this time.

I'll take a picture of my rig this weekend.

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