The fate of tube amps: By Squiggly Meyers
We are facing the extinction of an era my friends, and there seems to be no stopping it. Ever since 1947 when Fender made the first commercially produced guitar amplifier, followed closely by Gibson, Dan Electro, Marshall, & Vox to name a few, which all ran on tubes in the beginning, before transistors. There are transistor run amps today called, “Solid State”, but it’s not the same. Just ask any guitarist. The vacuum tube has been an integral part of our musical history. Their warmth and character are sought after by musicians worldwide.
The manufacturing of vacuum tubes has over the years been mostly produced in the past few decades by China and Russia. However, in 2019 the factory in China which produced vacuum tubes suffered a fire and was forced to shut down. Now as far as we know the factory in question has not come back online, so we don’t know whether they plan to do so or not. Now this leaves us with Russia, but with the turmoil in the Ukraine, with the invasion of Russia, and the sanctions placed upon Russia for its conduct. Russia has cut its import of goods to the world community. This includes vacuum tubes.
What does this mean for the world in general? Well, not much really, but for us in the music industry it’s a low blow. Why you ask? Well, simply because most Amplifiers such as Marshall, Vox, Orange, Fender etc., that run on tubes will no longer be attainable. Their unique tone and character are what made Rock music for over 60+ years. Now like I mentioned there are Solid State Amps, as well as modeling amps out there not to mention plugins for recoding that are readily available, but that one element that made an industry, I fear is going to become a thing of the past.
Now there is a celebrated old phrase that says, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I believe the landscape is opening up for new innovators to fill in the void here. Whether it’s building tubes or inventing a substitute for existing tubes. You know we, “America”, used to be at the forefront of industry and invention, but sadly over the years, we’ve slowly transitioned into a nation of dependency rather than one of productivity. I think the time has come for us to become innovators again.
Please don’t misunderstand, my heart goes out to those suffering in the Ukraine, and I’m not saying, in any way, that their plight is overshadowed by what seems to be an inconvenience to a mere handful of people, but you know war has a way of being a catalyst of innovation. So, let’s get to inventing America. For what it’s worth that’s my two cents. Our prayers for peace in the Ukraine. 🙏🙏🙏