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Guitar Tone: Pursuing the Ultimate Guitar Sound by Mitch Gallagher

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Chapter 7. Vacuum Tubes

THERE’S A LOT OF MYSTIQUE SURROUNDING VACUUM TUBES—especially considering that they’re really pretty simple devices designed to perform basic electronic functions. There are just three main components in a tube: the cathode, the grid, and the plate. The cathode is heated up using a filament or “heater” voltage—this is why tube amps have to warm up before they can be used. Once the cathode is red hot, it starts to emit electrons; they boil right off of the cathode’s surface. All of the air is sucked out of the tube when it’s made (that’s the “vacuum” part) so those loose electrons are free to fly where they will. The cloud of boiled-off electrons is attracted to the plate, where the electrons are absorbed and flow out of ...

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