RockmanCentralBob wrote:RBC makes good points, but I would say most of them would affect more of how the amp responds and colors the signal depending on how hard you drive it and such.
I think they all come together to make a special musical stew. The way I see it, each part of the "tube setup"contributes to the tone and overall sound. And each part is also a bit "sloppy", "saggy", "warm", "brown", "loose", (and whatever other terms you can think of) that contribute to that "tube atmosphere". Can it truly be heard of discerned? I don't know. That would make a groundbreaking study.
Something else to think about that can not be argued with: different voltage/amperage on tubes makes them sound totally different. There's tons of recordings with Marshall amps recorded outside the country. A world of difference to the US recordings. And then there's the infamous Van Halen variac yielding the landmark 'brown sound'.
Can all these sounds be recreated with solid state? I agree with Bob that, yes, more or less, it can be done. Given that there are so many fluctuations in other areas - guitars, pickups, cables, microphones, EQ settings, recorders, mixers, rooms, bands, mediums, mixes, speakers..... It's a musical stew, and people fight if there's 3 grams of salt in it or 4 grams. I like being able to count on my solid state remaining exactly the same take after take, and year after year, and performance after performance. When you pile on hundreds of tracks, mixed, with effects.... what brand of string you use matters less and less.
I also think tubes vs solid state is much like the battles between Ford and Chevy, Coke and Pepsi, Burger King and McDonalds, etc. It's more of a personal choice.
But whatever it is, tone inspires. And that's where great songs start, I say.