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Vacuum Tube Triode Nonlinearity as Part of the Electric Guitar Sound

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For many years manufacturers have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to market solid state amplifiers for use with the electric guitar. To this day the majority of electric guitarists continue to use vacuum tube amplifiers. Some of the most popular amplifiers used by today's guitarists are old designs, or are copies of some of the old tube amplifier designs. Inspection of the circuit diagrams of many of the most popular electric guitar amplifiers reveals the presence of a common preamplifier stage, namely a class A triods amplifier directly coupled to a cathode follower. In this paper we examine the distortion characteristics of this configuration. It is shown that grid limiting of both the positive and negative sides of the guitar waveform is responsible for the desirability of this configuration for use in electric guitar amplification.

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AES - Audio Engineering Society