Short for Vacuum Tube, a device used to drive amplifiers until the advent of transistors. A tube works like a flood gate, except with heat. A small heater in the base warms up, while a gate like mechanism opens and closes depending on the input signal. As heat goes through the "gate", it is turned into electrical energy. Tube slots must be biased, which determines the voltages seen by the tube. Only guitar amps still use tubes (as well as some bass amps, mic preamps, and other pro audio devices.)
Though a true discussion of tubes is enough to fill a large book, let alone a short definition, but here are some more common types of tubes.
Preamp: American name (European name) Other name
12AX7 (ECC83) 7025
The Ampeg STV had a whopping six 6550 tubes, producing 300w @4 ohms!"
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