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What Does That Rectifier Do Anyways?

Do you feel like your sound is a little squashed and lacking definition? Or perhaps it is to tight, or “perfect" and could use a little "natural compression"? Sometimes it isn’t the amp’s pre or power section, sometimes it’s your rectifier that is effecting your definition.

An amp's rectifier is there to convert the AC (alternating current from the wall) into DC (direct current that the amp needs to operate). The key to a rectifier working is a little device called a “diode”. A diode is a gate or “valve” that only allows current to go one way; without a rectifier, your amp would cease to work. But, what rectifier to go with? We a don’t believe there is a better rectifier choice, just some differences that make each rectifier (tube or solid state) stand out and define the tone you are looking for.


Lets take a look at the two different types of rectifiers we find in a guitar amp and their characteristics:

Tube Rectifiers - Think classic compression, think “amp sag”, Think warm, squishy low end and smooth highs. Tube rectifiers are the original and not just as a rectifier but as a tube in general. Yep, the Tube rectifier was the original vacuum tube which only shows the preeminent necessity of a rectifier in the first place. Probably the greatest reason for having a tube rectifier in your amp is the “vintage tone” that a tube rectifier provides. For example, just look at the Fender 57 Tweed amp or as most call it, “the 5E3” circuit. What is that 5E3? it is the rectifier. Yep, the amp’s tone is known by its rectifier, not its power amp or its pre amp. A tube rectifier has a natural internal compression, this causes your amp to sag or have "voltage drop" when signal is pushed through the amp. Some players don’t like this, complaining that they are lacking definition from there amp and that their clarity isn’t quite what they are wanting. That’s understandable and most likely what that player needs is a solid state rectifier.

Solid State Rectifiers - Think tight, think clarity and definition, think punchy lows and crisp highs. Solid State technology came about in the 50’s and many amplifier manufactures prefer the consistent response that a solid state rectifier provides. Unlike a tube, the solid state rectifier has absolutely no internal compression, whatsoever, making your amp sound crisp and defined when it’s quiet and super tight when pushed. Because solid state is so stable you get a higher head room and tighter low end from the rectifier. This is most likely the reason why modern amp builders choose a solid state rectifier for their tonal platforms. However, one down fall to a solid state rectifier is lack of “vintage” tone or coloration that a tube can provide. 

Think carefully about your choice! there’s no going tube if you get an amp with a solid state rectifier. However, our friends over at the Ted Weber Company (along with a few others) makes a great little device that we love... and sell; it’s called the Weber Copper Cap. The Copper Cap is a tube sized solid state rectifier that can plug right into your amp’s tube rectifier slot. Now you can have the best of both worlds. For instance, wish your blackface amp could have a little more clarity, punch and still maintain that classic fender chime? Get a copper cap! 

Well, that about raps it up for the rectifier talk. Have more questions about rectifiers, differences in tube brands, or even questions about your amp? Feel free to call or email Nate - and he will make sure to hook you up!