Some unconventional advice on picking tubes
How’s everybody doing? This month I’ve chosen to further investigate how tubes can affect your overall tone, and how they’ll ultimately play a big part in sculpting your own personal style of playing. If you’re the type that takes music seriously, you’ll most likely aspire to make music with your own inimitable signature on it. The idea here is to look at every angle and peek into every nook and cranny where tone is shaped.
This entire process can take quite a bit of time, given all the variables involved. My goal is to make your task easier, so you don’t have to spend years hunting down your dream tones. Since wonderful tones can come from anywhere in the signal chain—beginning with your fingers exciting the strings into an electronic signal, to the whole array of components it travels through, to the sound radiating from the amp’s speakers—there’s a lot to look at on the way!
The main reason why we guitarists love tubes so much is that they have a big influence on just how we touch our instruments and why. The touch factor involves the amplifier in a critical way, since it is indeed an instrument in its own right. The way you play it is just as important as the way you play an electric guitar—they’re two halves of the same whole, if you will.
A couple of summers back, Björn Juhl (of BJF Electronics, Sweden) and I, along with a couple of close friends, had a rather long and absorbing conversation concerning pedals, amplifiers and guitars. This discussion was focused largely on just how these things affected the creation of a player’s personal style. As most everyone knows, “BJ” makes some of the greatest amplifiers around, and his Mad Professor CS-40 and MP101 models are highly sought-after weaponry for anyone’s tonal arsenal. His knowledge about amplifiers and pedals is staggering.
Our discussion ran to the topic of Paul Kossoff’s own distinctive tone and style. Soon enough we were on the computer digging up YouTube videos of both live and studio clips of early Free songs. Björn pointed out to us that Kossoff would literally (as he put it) “jump for sustain!” I had to admit what I saw was no lie—you could actually see Kossoff jumping as he did that famous heavy vibrato on his Les Paul Sunburst. This is where “BJ” spelled out the whole string of factors that made Kossoff’s sound so unique.
He told us that the Marshall Bass amplifier Kossoff often used had to have fresh tubes installed in it, because if they were old, the tone would be very mid-rangy and have a lot less bandwidth. As a tube ages, the high frequencies are lost first, followed by the low bass frequencies. Then, as these frequencies diminish, the distortion of the tubes actually increases. What you end up with is a Marshall amp that distorts right from the onset of turning up the volume knob (on a non-master volume model). If you’ve ever turned up an old vintage Marshall that has fresh tubes installed in it, you know that the sound is really bright and spanky at lower volumes—it will not distort from the get-go like it will with older tubes. Paul Kossoff generally played with his amp turned up to the halfway mark (or slightly higher). He created his unique sound by using cleaner amp settings and a heavier gauge of string. This combination kept the amplifier “singing” when he applied that heavy finger vibrato.
It has been said that Jeff Beck still has an old Marshall head that has tubes permanently rusted right in their sockets… must be a great sounding amplifier, if he hasn’t bothered to mess with it. I have to wonder if he still fires it up on occasion.
Modern tubes will not last nearly as long as the famous old vintage ones—it’s not even close! I’ve seen old Marshalls that still have their original tubes, and they sound fabulous right now. The point is that many classic rock songs were recorded with old, worn tubes still sitting in the amps. A lot of the time these amps were not even serviced, because they sounded great to those who played them. The particular brand of amplifier isn’t a complication, because any tube amp will sound and react in a similar fashion when the tubes are worn. You might consider locating some old preamp tubes to simulate that old sound, if you’re looking for that type of vibe. However, I recommend that you do not use really worn-out output tubes to obtain these sounds. This is simply because old power tubes can cause damage to an amplifier if you let them go too far.
Try to obtain some “ANOS” (Almost New Old Stock) preamp tubes. You can find them for reasonable prices on eBay, or through various tube-supply houses online. Keep in mind that you can experiment with the tube’s position, but remember to double check a schematic or tube chart for compatibility in your amp’s circuit. Once you gain some knowledge, you can start substituting tubes of various types. Have fun, and see you next time.
is the chief designer of "Snake Oil Brand Strings" (sobstrings.net) and has had a profound influence on the trends in the strings of today.
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Mystery Stocking is coming soon! Sign up for PG Perks below so you don't miss it.
Sign up for PG Perks on the form below to make sure you don't miss the launch announcement!
About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more in value.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. We really did sell out in less than 4 minutes last year. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 10, 2022.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale. Last year we sold out in 3 min 33 seconds.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, so more people can get in on the fun!
Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
Origin Effects introduce the new M-EQ DRIVER mid booster & drive pedal. Based on a vintage Pultec studio EQ, this unique pedal offers a range of mid-focused tones, from a subtle mid boost to thick, resonant overdrive. Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
A choice of three mid-range frequencies ensures that you can boost just the right part of your guitar signal and, when pushed harder, can elicit a range of saturation from a classic “mid-hump” overdrive to fierce “cocked wah” distortion. Thanks to the Adaptive Circuitry, the high-end roll-off of the Cut control is reduced as the pedal cleans up. This allows for a smooth transition from warm overdrive to bright clean tones in response to playing dynamics or guitar volume knob changes.
Introducing... M-EQ DRIVER || Mid Booster & Drive
Built-in the UK to the highest standards, the M-EQ DRIVER continues the Origin Effects tradition of vintage, studio-inspired tones in modern guitar pedals. The Origin Effects M-EQ DRIVER is available now from Origin Effects dealers worldwide.
RRP: 259 GBP (Inc VAT) / 319 USD (Ex TAX)
For more information, please visit origineffects.com.
The new finish, according to Lava Music, is “inspired by the beauty of the golden hour,” a shining time just before sunset and after sunrise when photographers covet to capture stunning pictures.
With bright and warm golden hues, the new finish adds a brilliant metallic glow to the surface of Lava ME 3, complementing its AirSonic 2 carbon fiber unibody which features L3 Preamp with FreeBoost 2.0, delivers industry-leading sounds by breakthrough acoustic technologies, and houses a multi-touch display powered by Lava-developed HILAVA system.
Speaking of the HILAVA system, Lava Music also added four new effects: Nebula, Desert Rose, Cassette, and Edge of Breakup. As unique as their names sound, they are very much different from what we normally know about effects. Programmed into the HILAVA system, each of the four is powered by the company’s latest ArctanDrive algorithm and incorporates effects like Pitch Shift, Delay, and Reverb. And every one of those incorporated sub-effects comes with various parameters that players can adjust to design unique, overdriven sounds by just tapping on the multi-touch display. That said, those effects enable users to play with overdriven tone on an acoustic-electric guitar without even plugging in any external gear.
LAVA ME 3 | Now in Golden Hour | LAVA MUSIC
Lava Me 3 in Golden Hour is now available starting from $999 on LAVA MUSIC, Amazon, and local guitar dealerships near you.
For more information, please visit store.lavamusic.com.