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Amps. And Guitars. The possibilities are endless, and mind boggling. Since I am a person who isn’t happy until I think I understand every frickin thing, I want to find out from someone who “actually knows” how close I am to actually knowing this stuff

Okay – So I have been reading, as I am inclined to do on subjects that interest me, and I want to see how well I’ve done at parsing out truth from all of the various sources I have spent time going through.

Some facts:
1. I have been playing for exactly 1 year (as of last Saturday). I practice with my acoustic every day without exception unless I am physically out of town. I do this because I want to. I practice with my electric at least 4 times a week, sometimes more. Whenever I can. I can play about 15 songs well enough to play along with the radio/cd/mp3 and not make any glaring acoustical errors.
2. I have very simplistic taste in music. I am power-chord junkie. I like Green Day, The Offspring, Buck Cherry, Jet, and all of the 80’s hair-metal bands (GN’R, poison, Motley, etc) as well as the classic stuff (AC/DC, Black Sabbath, etc.) My Acoustic tastes are much more diverse, but irrelevant for the purposes of this conversation (as I have no need for mic’d acoustic sound).
3. I have a Peavey Vypyr 75 which gets louder than I should ever effectively require – but I do sometimes turn it up to irresponsible levels. It’s fun, and sounds ‘effin awesome. I don’t care who says different (or complains). I got it because I wanted a modeling amp. I don’t have enough experience to know what “my tone” is yet – also, I didn’t want to start buying a bunch of pedals at $50-$100 a pop when I was going to have an SS amp already. Oh, and because they guy who loaned me the first amp I had took it back 
4. Having a 75w combo SS modeling amp, I would now like a tube amp and given what I have recently read about actual volume output, I am disinclined to get anything larger than about 15w. (Maybe a 30 but that’s what, a 3dB gain – just barely noticeable at full volume?) For what it is worth, I am leaning toward either a Fender Excelsior or a Vibro Champ XD – but that’s a hybrid – see confusion below.
5. I have talked about building a half-stack, but that is because I am an idiot. I just want one cause they’re cool. I have no practical use for it. I’d end up buying an $800 stack and then plugging my headphones into the head every night to practice. What an ass. I am hoping to be able to restrain myself from this wasteful desire and put the money into a bunch of guitars that I don’t really need or fully understand instead.

Here is what I think I know….
• Volume doubles only when am amps output wattage is increased tenfold. ie. A 15w amp is 50% as loud as a 150w amp (not 10% as loud).
• Doubling an amps output in watts generates an additional 3db of volume, whish is just barely noticeable at the highest levels.
• The result of overdriving a tube is natural (not digitally created) distortion so you don’t want too large a tube amp or you’ll have to play at ridiculously loud volumes before you get into the distortion range – which is why the smaller wattage amps were made for practice in the first place.

There are Hybrids in 2 flavors:
• Pre-amp tube, power-amp valve. – this is supposed to give you the “tube tone” while using SS circuitry to amplify the sound between the amp and speaker. How well is accomplishes this is the hottest debate in the universe, just ahead of “why are we here?”
• Pre-amp valve, power-amp tube – this is a digital pre-amp signal but tubes are used to amplify the sound to the speakers so the natural distortion can occur (??? I couldn’t really think of an advantage to this kind of hybrid if the desirability of tubes is all about an irreproducible tone, I knew this was wrong when I typed it. I just don’t know in which way it is wrong).

Here is what I still don’t feel like I know…and can’t seem to find an answer to
Do all the same mathematical and volume level rules apply regardless of whether the amp is powered by tubes or SS circuits, or does the math change when tubes enter the equation?

I have read a lot of people who say 3w tube is equivalent to 30w transistor – but are they really talking about discernable volume, or just distortion? Or are they just tubes purists who have never done or refuse to acknowledge the math?

Nearing the end now….attenuators. They baffle me (and the sound apparently?) – I am moderately versed in the terminology. I know what frequency and impedance are – but not necessarily in the context of a guitar signal passing through the various stages of amplification. Some body asked me why guitar amplifiers are so much louder than car amplifiers at similar ratings – I said I thought it was because they operate at higher Ohms, which I know has something to do with decreased resistance, but again, context.

And to top it all off – the friggin cab. I can unplug the same 15w amp from an 8in speaker and plug it into a 12 in speaker and it is louder? Huh? Oh no, it has more “headspace” – Ok, well now you guys are just making shit up. Headspace? Really? The acoustical “room” above which the frequency peaks is my best guess on that one.

Lastly – almost all of this is subjective – so go play something and pick what sounds good to you. Yeah, I get that, but some of this is math, and the rest is about why a market exists and certain products were created– what makes them desirable in theory, and those are the things I am trying to understand.


Just wondering out loud – feel free to address any of all of the above – or to flame me mercilessly – soon, I won’t be able to hear you anyhow.

(no seriously, this is confusing and I actually care, do I actually know anything about this yet?)

Before posting I read these:
Official Amp Forum "Want to Buy" thread. (not a discussion, a wishlist)
http://www.sweetwater.com/shop/guitars/guitar-amps/buying-guide.php
http://www.guitarnuts.com/amps/myths.php
http://www.oldtonezone.com/2010/01/understanding-tube-amps-the-distortion-chain/
And several pages from here: http://www.amptone.com/
As well as many others and forum posts from most of the popular sites – lots of opinions, simultaneously interesting and confusing.
 
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