Tube amps are also known as “valve amps”, and to clear things up, they are the same exact thing .

Tube amps were the first type of guitar amplifiers and are the preferred choice of many guitarists for their warm tone and smooth distortion sounds.

When you overdrive the pre-amp tubes or the power amp tubes, you create very pleasing distortion sounds and tone. Furthermore, the distortion sounds created is also related to how hard you play.
Most tube amps have separate channels that can switch from clean to distortion sounds instantly.

There are numerous types of pre-amp and power tubes, and each type has their own unique sound qualities. You will need to use your ears to find the tube amp that sounds best to you. Tube amps are more fragile than solid state amps due to the fact that tubes are made out of glass.

Tube amps need maintenance, changing tubes occasionally, always keep some spare tubes on hand.

Many studios prefer tube amps for their rich, warm tone. Likewise, most high-end studios use tube microphones for the same reason. As a general rule, solid state amps sound very very good. Tube amps sound better.

Tubes and transistors work in essentially the same way but with slightly differnt methods.

The Rectifier tube was the first to be invented, where Thomas Edison stumbled across the realisation that electrons will only flow in one direction from an anode to a cathode within a vacuum – whilst trying to invent a longer lasting lightbulb.

Later, the triode was brought in, where the idea was that electrons will only flow through the tube if a voltage is applied to a centre grid. This voltage is called a bias. However, not only does this bias
voltage trigger electron flow, but it was also found to trigger a large increase in the signals strength, due to a phenomonena known as gain. Tubes make the most of of this gain phenomonena, where a signal strength will be greatly increase when passed through an amplifying triode.

Transistors (transient resistors) work in the same method. A voltage is applied at the Collector, a signal and a bias voltage is applied to the Base and the resulting signal from the Emmiter will be increased due to gain.

However, instead of relying of electrons jumping acroos two plates from withing a vacuum to do this, they work by electrons running through positive and negative doped pieces of silicon.
Because of their construction, a transistor would work like a digital switch, having just two states, fully on and fully off.
A tube would still act like a switch essentially, although sometimes this on/off state will be blurred between partially on and partially off states.

Think of a tube working kind’ve like a water faucet – not just on or off. But sometimes a bit more and sometimes a bit less. This may contribute as to why Tubes sound ‘better’.

Then of course you’ve got the other factors as to why people think they sound ‘better’. Tubes naturally distort across their full operational range, with a very subtle harmonic distortion. This is a pleasant sounding distortion, and something that solid state amps just cannot replicate.
Then you’ll hear people say that tube amps sound better cranked. This is true, once again due to the fact that whereas a Transistor would work as a switch (fully on/off) a tube would have periods in which it is not fully on or off.

So if a transistor amp is cranked up louder than what it can handle, the signal will cut out and ‘clip’ in an upleasant sounding distortion sound.

A tube signal, when pushed up very loud, will compress and give a very thick and tonefull distortion sound. This is called saturation, and the proccess of doing this is also known as overdriving.

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