What did the guitarist do when his teacher told him to turn his guitar amplifier on?.......He caressed it and told it he loved it!
Only a joke yes, but there is a lot of sentiment expressed about guitar amps, especially the tube variety, which have been knocking around (and knocked around) since the 1950s. Ever since Leo Fender designed the first commercially available power guitar amplifiers, guitarists have developed a love affair with tube /valve guitar amps, which on the face of it appears to defy logic or reason, but why should logic or reason apply to artistic expression. The basic design of tube amps has evolved very little since those early designs in the fifties and sixties, enhancements yes but the basic principles are the same.
As one article put it:..."So how is it that a 1950's design got it so right that it is still relevant today? Was it luck? Or were they designed by geniuses of the day? I like to think it's a bit of both...the vast majority of players prefer valve designs for their guitar amplifiers, and there are some good reasons for this"
Is it really so black and white, did they get it right first time and haven't been able to improve on it since or are there other aspects worth considering. What they did was build amps using the only technology available at the time. The guitarists of the time pushed the technology to the limits and beyond, developing their SOUND. When the guitar amp didn't meet the guitarists expectations they modified or added enhancements to achieve their sound (such enhancements including making holes in the amp speakers) So when the electronic revolution that was the solid state amp arrived in the late sixties, there was no competition, the warmer richer sound of the valves was preferred by the serious guitarists to the "harsher" or more "brittle" sound of the transistor guitar amp.
It's well recognized that there was still a definite audible difference between tube amps and solid state amps, especially when a tube amp was pushed hard and being played by a blues guitarist. The soft clipping overdrive "tone" of a tube amp was most noticeable with a blues guitar players' particular style of playing. Although it can be next to impossible to differentiate the clean setting of a tube guitar amp (with no overdrive) over a solid state amp, or the high gain setting of a tube guitar amp with that of a solid state amp.
Audible differences apart is it also not the case that most serious players developed "their sound" on a tube guitar amp and unless something came along which sounded better than a tube guitar amp their preference would always be for the tube amp. These guys could afford the additional expense and therefore the sentimental attachments. Considering the rate of advancement of the microelectronic industry (they can put 2 billion transistors into an area smaller than a guitar pick) has the time not arrived when the tube amp might might finally be superceded.
Talking to the younger emerging players of today there appears to be a preference for the latest modelling guitar amps. Of course expense is always a consideration and emerging artists are always strapped for cash, but just like their guitar heroes of the sixties and seventies, they'll improvise, develop their sound, but unlike their heroes they'll be able to store that sound and maybe a few others at the press of a button. The modelling guitar amp enables the guitarist to create multiple sounds replicating the sound of a variety of different guitar amps. One guitar amp can now be made to sound like any vintage tube guitar amp and the setting save and implemented at the press of a button. The article quoted earlier also stated:
"When a new design becomes available that sounds better than a good guitar plugged direct into a good valve amplifier, guitarists will buy it and move on"
Is that time now upon us??