“The message for tube nostalgists is clear: enjoy today what may not be here tomorrow”: Can the tube amp survive in the digital era?

Preamp Tubes
(Image credit: Future)

While amplified guitars were around as far back as the 1920s, it was the early K&F designs made by Clayton ‘Doc’ Kauffman and Leo Fender, followed by Fender’s original ‘Woody’ series of combos in 1946, that paved the way for the guitar amplifier as we know it today. 

Back then, all amplifiers used electron valves (known in the USA as vacuum tubes) – because if you wanted to amplify a signal, there was no other option. The arrival of rock ’n’ roll in the late 1950s produced an explosion in popularity for electric guitars and amplifiers, coinciding with the peak years of valve production.

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Jamie Dickson

Jamie Dickson is Editor-in-Chief of Guitarist magazine, Britain's best-selling and longest-running monthly for guitar players. He started his career at the Daily Telegraph in London, where his first assignment was interviewing blue-eyed soul legend Robert Palmer, going on to become a full-time author on music, writing for benchmark references such as 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and Dorling Kindersley's How To Play Guitar Step By Step. He joined Guitarist in 2011 and since then it has been his privilege to interview everyone from B.B. King to St. Vincent for Guitarist's readers, while sharing insights into scores of historic guitars, from Rory Gallagher's '61 Strat to the first Martin D-28 ever made.