Since the advent of the transistor, the vast majority of designers and manufacturers of electronic devices have abandoned the vacuum tube. Compared to transistors, tubes are orders of magnitude larger, more power hungry, more expensive, less reliable, and dissipate much more heat. In short, transistors are superior devices for almost all applications. Despite this fact, many makers of high-end audio and instrument amplifiers continue to base their designs on tube technology.
Given all of their shortcomings, the obvious question is: Why bother with tubes? Proponents of tube-based audio amplifiers cite a certain “warmth” that tube circuitry lends to the sound that is absent when using solid-state amplification. While audio amp designers are looking to get the clearest possible sound reproduction out of their tubes, guitar amp makers, and especially their rock-star customers, prefer tubes due to their unique distortion characteristics. Designers have gone to extraordinary lengths, using complex analog and digital solid-state circuits, in attempts to emulate the so-called “soft distortion” that even the simplest of tube amplifiers exhibit. Despite their best replication efforts, the consensus among performing and studio musicians remains that there is no substitute for a well-designed tube amp. Being a guitarist who shares that opinion, I chose to design a tube amp of my own.