tube amplification

Illustration by Kate Koenig

Relief for the tube shortage is ahead, but it’s happened before and could happen again. Here’s the practical—and geopolitical—long view.

“Think about the American and British rock bands trying to get into the Cold War Soviet Union to play rock music that Soviets had never heard—through their British tube amps, with tubes manufactured in Russia.”

That quote, from Sweetwater Senior Category Manager for Amps and Effects Darren Monroe, sums up how much culture and politics can impact every note you play. And that’s especially true regarding tubes. Let’s start with some deep background.

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How preamp and power tubes interact with wattage and speaker ratings to yield the glorious tones of yesterday and today.

Famous tube amps from companies like Fender, Marshall, Vox, and others have come to define the sound of virtually all electric-guitar music. To varying degrees, we know that these amps sound different from each other—and we might even know some basic specs, like what kind of tubes different models use, and maybe some details about stock speakers. But it can be hard to understand some of the finer reasons why these amps sound different from each other.

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