Everything you wanted to know about preamp tubes but were too afraid to ask

Preamp Tubes
(Image credit: Future)

In previous decades, transistors offered guitarists cheaper and lighter amplifiers, and today digital amplifier modelling technology can achieve astonishing sound quality. But huge numbers of guitarists remain addicted to the bottle – or thermionic tube, if you prefer.

Thermionic tubes come in many forms and their names tell us how many working parts are contained within that glass or metal enclosure, not including the heater. The simplest form of tube is the diode, which only contains an anode and a cathode. 

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Huw Price

Huw started out in recording studios, working as a sound engineer and producer for David Bowie, Primal Scream, Ian Dury, Fad Gadget, My Bloody Valentine, Cardinal Black and many others. His book, Recording Guitar & Bass, was published in 2002 and a freelance career in journalism soon followed. He has written reviews, interviews, workshop and technical articles for Guitarist, Guitar Magazine, Guitar Player, Acoustic Magazine, Guitar Buyer and Music Tech. He has also contributed to several books, including The Tube Amp Book by Aspen Pittman. Huw builds and maintains guitars and amplifiers for clients, and specializes in vintage restoration. He provides consultancy services for equipment manufacturers and can, occasionally, be lured back into the studio.