The leap that made modern music
Jimi Hendrix, iconic rock figure of the 60s, was one of the most renowned and innovative guitarists of his day. His innovation was made possible by the development of the guitar amp.
In fact, the progression of rock music as a whole was enabled by production of the valve amp and Edwards was involved in producing valves from a very early stage (1930s). Valves (or vacuum tubes), were by far the dominant active electronic component in most instrument amplifier applications until the 1970s, when solid-state semiconductors (transistors) started taking over.
Jimi Hendrix loved the depth and warmth that transistor based amps couldn’t deliver. In fact, nothing screams audiophile authority like a valve (or tube) amp, and even today there is a niche of purists who continue to specialise in building them.
It’s nice to know that Edwards contributed to the revolution in music, in our own little way.
In audio applications, valves continue to be highly desired by most professional users, particularly in recording studios’ equipment and guitar amplifiers. There is a subgroup of audio enthusiasts who advocate the use of tube amplifiers for home listening. They argue that tube amplifiers produce a “warmer” or more “natural” sound from the valve set up. Companies in Asia and Eastern Europe continue to produce valves to cater to this market.
Many professional guitar players use ‘tube amps’ because of their renowned ‘tone’. ‘Tone’ in this usage is referring to timbre, or pitch color, and can be a very subjective quality to quantify. Most audio technicians and scientists theorize that the ‘even harmonic distortion’ produced by valve tubes sounds more pleasing to the ear than transistors, regardless of style. It is the tonal characteristics of valve tubes that have sustained them as the industry standard for guitars and studio microphone pre-amplification.
Tube amplifiers respond differently from transistor amplifiers when signal levels approach and reach the point of clipping. In a tube amplifier, the transition from linear amplification to limiting is less abrupt than in a solid state unit, resulting in a less grating form of distortion at the onset of clipping. For this reason, some guitarists prefer the sound of an all-tube amplifier; the aesthetic properties of tube versus solid state amps, though, are a topic of debate in the guitarist community.