Tubes, also known as valve amplifiers, are audio processing devices that are praised for their unique sounds associated with the vacuum tube components that they contain. The first electronic amps used vacuum tubes. The combination of an electronic guitar with a tube amp is a perfect example since It revolutionized the peculiar guitar sounds.
Tubes need electricity to work appropriately. An electron, known as a negatively charged subatomic particle, will fly thru space if attracted by a sufficient positive charge. In a vacuum, electrons flowing from a heated metal element (the cathode) and being pulled toward a positively charged element (the anode) can be deflected by a magnetic field.
Tubes are capable of distorting when they are pushed to the edge, producing a natural sound. Producers often describe the tube sound as warm and rich. The sound generated might be due to the nonlinear clipping. This can happen either with its amplifiers or due to the higher levels of second-order harmonic distortion.
Valve amplifiers have more sound distortion than solid-state amplifiers, but this distortion is considered second-order. It’s worth mentioning that a second-order distortion, also known as harmonic distortion, is perceived as natural and pleasant rather than artificial. The second-harmonic distortion is exactly the same note, an octave above or more than an octave above. Because of the harmonic distortions that the Aphex Aural Exciter produced, it was a frequently used device for both recording and broadcasting around 1970.
In musical performances, tube amplifier distortion produces a harmonic effect that increases as sounds get louder. Instruments generate a more harmonic effect as they are played louder or hit more strongly. As notes decrease, the percentage of harmonic content tends to drop. Tube amplifiers mimic this effect. It’s worth mentioning that a good tube amp increases its distortion within a one-million-to-one power range.
Tube power amplifiers sound their best at the volumes that are frequently enjoyed. In contrast, solid-state amps measure and sound their worst at low levels. Also, solid-state amplifiers perform best at close to their maximum output levels, where no one ever actually plays them.