If not trying to be a dick, I'd like your opinion.
I’m not trying to be a dick. I apologize if I sounded like one. I have
heard enough of different amps to make up my mind about them and all I
can say about that was already mentioned in my post: The differences
(what ever they are in each particular case) are always case-specific.
There is no universal guideline and you can pretty much expect
anything. Amplifiers are far from being equal or identical and
generalisations really are not that helpful. Take two guitar amps and
the chance is that they both sound and behave differently. If the amps
are designed for linear reproduction of the signal the chance for
having differences is naturally smaller – yet you can still find them,
especially when the range of linear reproduction is exceeded (which
will undoubtedly happen in most cases). All I can say is that if one
amplifier in comparison to another sounds or behaves like [adjective]
it does not mean that the third, fourth or fifth amp you bring in to
the comparison does. If someone is reluctant to try various SS amps
because someone said they do not soft clip or sound anything like tube
amps then he might miss a lot of great amps. Some of them even soft
clipping and some quite “tube sounding” (whatever that latter
characteristic means) - some of them great regardless the lack of
those characteristics. (And for similar prejudiced reasons one should
not be afraid to try tube amps either). However, I must admit that if
one picks a “budget-grade” SS product the chance for it sounding nice
or having those characteristics is not very good, though.
Have you seen the schematic to that 30W Valvestate you mention? I
think I have seen it (VS30R I presume) and from the looks I can tell
that it’s a really basic, cheap solid-state amplifier that does not
employ any technique that could soft clip the output stage (or several
other stages). None of the Marshall Valvestate amps employ something
like that and if Marshall ever claimed so it's just the same thing
that 99% of other manufacturers claim as well.
Like you say, the VS30R does not have the vacuum tube gain stage that
most of the amps in that line up have but even if it had the whole
series of those hybrid amps is a good example that a tube itself does
not create the classic “tube sound”. It’s all about the implementation
of the tube(s) - and certain other things. And when it comes to that
concept… A SE HiFi triode tube amplifier does not sound like a cranked
PP Marshall, which in turn does not sound like a Vox, Hiwatt, Diezel
or whatever. So what the hell is “tube sound” anyway? There is no
archetypal “tube sound” as well as there is no archetypal “SS sound”.
Those things are always case-specific and depend on things such as
circuit architecture and speaker system.Compare that 30W SS Marshall
amp to, say, a 30W Valvetronix, which is a whole different circuit
introducing different characteristics and tones. Then compare it to
third, fourth and fifth 30W SS amp and likely they all have their
differences. Insert more money to equation and audition amps with more
output power and you find out more differences.
So, I’m not trying to be a dick here – I’m just saying that making
generalisations about characteristics of different amps is, in my
opinion, quite meaningless.
Want to know the difference(s) between amp A and amp B? Well, pretty
much the only way to find out is to try those amps. I don’t see how a
generalisation made by comparing amp C to amp D would help at all in
answering that question. At best you can only -assume- that the
difference between amp A and amp B –probably– is characteristic this
and that. That assumption may as well be totally incorrect.