The Tone King’s Tip of the Day – In search of a new tone – Should I change my tubes?

a Tone King Tip of the Day

A lot of you write in about swapping tubes in search of a better or different tone. Here’s my .02 on that topic. If you are looking forsomething different – investigate a speaker swap before swapping tubes.  Swapping tubes will give a less noticeable difference than swapping out or upgrading your speakers. Speakers have a huge impact on tone, and can either make an amp sing or choke. I personally look at tubes like a battery. There are good batteries, and there are crap batteries – but they serve a very particular purpose. Save your $$, and change your tubes when they need to be changed – don’t change them in search of a new tone. If you are dying to understand the nuances of tube tones – go on eBay, pick up a used THD Univalve – and you can swap till your hearts content. You (like me), may get very bored after a while, in that there’s better, more effective ways to change your tone. Just my .02. And, to be clear – I am not saying that different tubes don’t change your sound … they do. But, the sound (to my ears) is less noticeable than other things you can swap out.

Remember – a POWER tubes purpose is to amplify the preamp signal. The fact that you get warmth, added harmonics, etc. is a side-effect. The goal of the power section is to amplify the preamp section. Period. Think of it like this. Assuming you drink coffee – you clearly know the difference between Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. However, whether you use skim milk, whole milk or cream – you’ll still be able to tell what kind of coffee it is. Now – translate that into amps. A Marshall will always sound like a Marshall, irregardless of what kind of power tubes you use. A Fender will always sound like a Fender, and a Boogie will always sound like a Boogie. That’s your coffee. The creams you use are subtleties. You want to change your sound – like a battery, wait until the power tubes die – then fiddle. Don’t waste your hard earned bucks on swapping tubes thinking you’re gonna find the holy grail of tone. The holy grail of tone starts with YOU, not the gear. Remember – it’s always the wizard – not the wand!!!

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