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An unscientific test of solid state vs power tubes

Posted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 7:09 pm
by Lespauled
I know this is probably a controversial topic, but these are my findings when comparing solid state power amp to a tube power amp.

I have been absolutely loving my Synergy SYN-1, which is a tube pre amp that handles pre amp modules from different manufacturers. I mostly play it through my Seymour Duncan PowerStage into a cabinet. It sounds fantastic. but, I started thinking about how it would sound through a tube power amp. The good news is that the SYN-1 can be used through a head's FX Loop, and completely take over the head. You can use the head preamp, or bypass the amps preamp, and use the SYN-1 as the preamp via the SYN-1's footswitch.

I set up a Shure SM57 and recorded a track with the SYN-1 through a 5150 head with EL34 power tubes. I then changed the setup, and simply went through the Duncan PowerStage. They sounded damn close to my ears.

I then checked the EQ of each of the tracks using Ozone. I set the Ozone EQ points to each of the points on my MXR 10-band EQ. To my amazement, there was very little difference, less than 1db, on each of the points.

MXR EQ Settings to match the PowerStage to the EL34s

31.25: +1.0db
62.50: +0.5db
125: -1.0db
250: -2.0db
500: +0.5db
1000: +0.5db
2000: +0.5db
4000: +0.5db
8000: +0.25db
16000: +0.25db

I then ran the PowerStage with the EQ, and toggled it off and on. You could barely hear any difference in the sound. Minimal at best. In fact, it didn't necessarily make it better or worse. Hardly a slight change at all.

Here is a picture of both EQ lines for comparison.

White: EL34
Yellow: PowerStage



This is far from scientific, but this confirms that I don't necessarily need to use a tube power amp. It's extremely close, and the minimal difference is just that....minimal. I'll be doing more tests, but this opened my eyes to the fact that tube purists (in this unscientific test) can keep their tube amps, and I'll stick with my SD PowerStage.....for now.