Am I Alone in the Way I Use My Amp?

Discussion in 'Amplifiers' started by Shane DeBoe, Dec 3, 2019.

  1. Shane DeBoe

    Shane DeBoe New Member

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    Hey everyone!

    I'd like to know if other people use their amps the way I do, or if I'm just special :::)

    About 2 years ago, I got my first tube amp, a Jet City JCA22H. For those of you not familiar with this amp, it's basically a 20 watt, 2-channel Soldano SLO. I had never even played a tube amp before in my life, and I knew this amp was for me the second I plugged into it. For a year I learned how to use it and dial it in for the best tone, jamming with my buddies and such. One time, I can specifically remember thinking, "what is up with this amp? It stops getting louder past volume 5?" I would stop there because it wouldn't get any louder than that (I had just gotten the amp and I wanted to see what that puppy could do volume-wise.)

    Months later when I actually learned how to dial in the amp, I turned the volume knob all the way up. I had a revelation. Past volume 5 it starts distorting the power tubes. It is a completely different sound than just preamp distortion. So much more dynamic, expressive, and powerful. It was absolutely the sound I was looking for and I haven't looked back ever since.

    I also bought a variac to tame the volume a little bit, since I read EVH used one of those with his Marshall. This way I can get that cranked tone at as little as half the volume! (I did a decibel test and I could go from 132 to 122). And BTW, it hasn't damaged my amp at all; I've been doing it for months now.

    My question is, does anyone else love to play at full volume? The tone is night and day for me, and I'd like to hear other people's opinions on it.
     
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  2. CandidPicker

    CandidPicker Feed & Seed

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    Shane,

    No, you're not alone, but you do use your amp in a way that many might think it's being used incorrectly.

    For many amp purists, the sweet spot of an amp is just when the gain and volume are dialed in such a way so as to produce just the verge of amp break-up (read: beginning of tube saturation). Many blues and jazz players prefer this because they can hit their strings slightly harder and the amp overdrives/distorts some more. Lay back on your pick attack, or reduce your guitar volume, and the amp cleans up.

    Other genre guitarists (hard rockers, shredders, etc) might prefer to dime their amp towards full saturation.

    It might be noted that heavily distorted amps cover a multitude of playing errors. That is why you might walk into a Guitar Center and hear a hard rocker with the amp gain dialed up...the truth is, distortion covers up a guitarist's lack of clean picking ability.

    No disrespect intended...if you feel better with your gain turned up, by all means, feel free to play this way. IMHO, what makes the difference between a good player and a great one is his ability play clean exceptionally well, and use overdrive/distortion as an embellishment when playing solos for effect.

    That being said, like others, I strive to play more cleanly just at the verge of amp break-up, so each note rings out clearly, and use overdrive for solos which bumps up the gain/volume when necessary.

    There will be many who will agree with what you prefer to do, there is no rule when it comes to your preferences. However, many may say, do what you like, whereas others may try to steer you towards a variety of different musical styles that many open your eyes to what possibilities exist.

    My reply was to possibly help you see what exists musically, not pigeonhole you into any specific genre.
     
    #2 CandidPicker, Dec 3, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
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  3. goat-n-gitter

    goat-n-gitter Dismembered

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    If I dime my AC-30 or my Mesa MK V at the 90 watt setting, my house would need foundation repair! Even at the 10 watt setting the Mesa gets pretty darn loud. Fortunately, I love the way it sounds when just loud enough to keep up with a drummer.

    Enjoy your rig the way you like to hear it! But do look after your hearing!
     
  4. Collywobbles

    Collywobbles New Member

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    Hi Shane - Even 122 is super loud - as a guess you'll probably destroy your hearing if you keep at it assuming you're not wearing some sort of hearing defenders. I'd also guess a decent attenuator is the way to go if you want to crank your amp but reduce the volume (and hopefully retain your hearing). One of my amps (a Carr) has an attenuator built in and the other (a Mojave) has power-damping so I can't suggest a standalone but I'm guessing lots of people on here will be able to suggest something if you ask. Cheers CW.
     
    #4 Collywobbles, Dec 3, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
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  5. Boogie

    Boogie Zombie Two, DFZ

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    My old a Boogie MkIII in class A mode (25w) will blow the windows out! My other 50w amp with a 2x12 will level people in my living room at gig volume but in the correct size venue, it’s wonderful. Size the amp for the venue, as well as the cab. But by all means, push the amp so the power stage can breathe and contribute to the harmonic content. You are seeing the results. Welcome to the club!
     
  6. DreamTheaterRules

    DreamTheaterRules New and improved member

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    Yeah, homey would like to play that in a big space and with ear protection, but otherwise, NFW. (freaking)

    My Archon has a great volume taper. I've turned it up half way (which is as loud, or close to as loud as many amps get) and thought "this isn't really crazy loud. But it gets louder and louder all the way to 10. I had the bright idea that I'd be able to turn my Mark V up all the way in tweed, 10 watt mode for a "deluxe" type tone. Ha, that thing at 10 watts would break windows! Easily louder than ANY 15-20 watt amp I've ever owned. I hear people talk about "Dr Z watts" and how loud they are per wattage. They said the same thing about Budda, and I had an SD18. I "might" have been as loud opened up as the Mark V in 10 watt mode. 45 watt mode would blow the Budda through the wall. Those Mark V's are crazy loud. One time I turned the V up to 5 in Mark IV, 90 watt triode mode, with the gain about half, channel maxed, master at half. Within 10 seconds I hear "boom" behind me and multiple items have fallen off the shelves just that quickly. The same thing happened the day I turned my Archon up to 7.

    Yeah, it's fun for a few seconds, and I love to do it with lower powered amps, but no way I get away with that at home with the big boys.
     
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  7. DreamTheaterRules

    DreamTheaterRules New and improved member

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    WHAT??? SPEAK UP! CAN'T HERE YOU!!!

    (Sorry Shane, I do impressions on the side. That was you in a few weeks. Did I get the accent right? :D:D)
     
  8. Tucson Thump

    Tucson Thump Mint Heavy Relic

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    I know this may open a can of worms, but I thought the real value of a variac was matching the voltage to what the amp was designed for.

    Example, current here is steady 120v and occasionally a few over.

    Whenever I plug in one of my Fender amps from the 50s or 60s I always run a variac in between to lower the voltage to 110v because that is what they were designed to work with.

    I was under the impression that lowering the voltage was to change the sound of the amp, not the level of the output. You hear it referred to as "Brown Sound" and I've heard 100v is the minimum to use without transformer issues.
     
  9. HANGAR18

    HANGAR18 What Would Evel Knievel Do?

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    If I use an 1980's are Peavey amp as a boat anchor, would that make me a bad person?
     
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  10. Shane DeBoe

    Shane DeBoe New Member

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    WHAT DID HE SAY ABOUT AN IMPRESSION?

    Lol I absolutely do wear hearing protection. And just to clarify, that’s 122 dB about an inch from the front of the speaker. It’s really not that loud in the room.
     
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  11. Tucson Thump

    Tucson Thump Mint Heavy Relic

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    Only if the guitarist is still attached to it.
     
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  12. Shane DeBoe

    Shane DeBoe New Member

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    No
     
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  13. DreamTheaterRules

    DreamTheaterRules New and improved member

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    CONFESSION? NO, THAT’S FOR THE CATHOLICS.
     
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  14. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    Every amp design is different. Amps with more headroom (many 100 Watt amps are designed for this) often do get louder, even when the tubes begin to saturate. others, mostly lower power amps, are designed to saturate quickly and push the power tubes without wreaking too much havoc with the volume.

    An SLO is a high powered amp, A 20 Watt, low power version of it is purposely designed to enable power tube breakup at lower volume levels.

    Once tubes saturate and clip, the signal becomes very compressed, and it’s the compression that helps keep the apparent volume at a certain level.

    There’s nothing quite like power tube saturation. Preamp tube saturation gets fizzy, but power tube saturation is a different beast.

    I play loud. I want to hear the power tubes do their thing, I want to get the speaker cone distorting a bit, and I enjoy seeing paint peel off walls in my studio. ;)
     
  15. DreamTheaterRules

    DreamTheaterRules New and improved member

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    case in point: (sorry, I know I've said this before). When I was modifying Valve Junior amps, I had one that had the "champ" vibe going. Small OT that 'ran out of gas" at about 5-6 and it just got more saturated and compressed after that. When I replaced the OT with a 15 watt hammond, it completely changed the character of the amp. It got louder and louder as the volume went up. You did hit tube compression and overdrive, but had OT power to push it so you weren't getting as much sag and compression. When I "M'd" the amp, this worked better. Gave it more guts and punch and allowed it to kick harder. For the M voice, it worked better. But when you wanted F Champ, the small OT had the vibe that you want for that.
     
    #15 DreamTheaterRules, Dec 4, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2020
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  16. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    Interesting, and kinda goes with what I know about Fender Tweed amps. The relatively small output transformers limited the volume, which is why you can crank the old Deluxes to 10 and get that distinctive wild man sound.
     
  17. DreamTheaterRules

    DreamTheaterRules New and improved member

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    That, and that the tweeds have the mids pushed forward, vs. scooped on the Blackface amps, so they are louder and go into overdrive sooner on the volume knob.

    That old classic Champ "amp about to explode" tone that so many love is a combination of a small low powered speaker, a small SE low watt output stage, and a small OT. They all sort of run out of gas together in a magical way that gives the amp its tone. When I hung out in the tube amp building and modding forums, I can't tell you how many guys would want to take their Champ, Valve Jr, or other small SE amp, and give it "more" of something, and would then be running to put back the old stuff. A high powered speaker, more filter cap capacity in the power supply, bigger OT... all worked GREAT if you were trying to make a Marshall voice amp. But do any of them, even just adding bigger filter caps in the power supply, could "ruin" the Champ magic. So you have do decide what you wanted. And, as here, the answer usually ended up be "more!" Keep one stock. Marshallize one and put a big OT, more supply cap, bigger brit voiced speaker, etc. Then Voxy one and go slightly bigger OT, slighlty more supply cap, upward tilt freq. response, alnico speaker... Then of course you move on the more preamp stages for more gain (Like my High Octane build) etc.
     
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  18. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    I dunno, man, the BF Twins my band used back in the day were freaky loud compared to Tweed versions. They didn’t break up early, but they were certainly louder than Tweed Twins I’ve played through.
     
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  19. Boogie

    Boogie Zombie Two, DFZ

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    I’ve got to agree. The Tweeds compressed over a certain level and sounded fantastic in their own right, but for sheer SPL, nothing challenged our Twins...except a Boogie MkIII Colliseum (which was in the 80s). But comparing 105w to 180w is a little unfair. Once your eardrums pop, can you tell the difference between 140 dB and 150 dB? Do you start to go blind, too?
     
  20. DreamTheaterRules

    DreamTheaterRules New and improved member

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    Ok, another "too quick" explanation. What I meant was, if you take two versions of the same amp, the tweed version will sound louder (at any lower volume settings) and hit OD sooner simply because the mids are pushed forward, vs. the blackface version of the same amp. When I'd mod a SE amp, it would stay clean longer with the mids sucked out. but would be louder at any volume setting (until compression set in) and overdrive sooner with mids pushed forward. And, this matches the few fender amps I've heard both or more versions of. But tweeds are made to compress sooner so even with the mids cut, the blackface version of many of the amps will get louder when cranked because the tweed is compressing by 5-6 on the knob and the blackface gets louder and louder.

    With many of these, the power supplies (OT and caps) were bigger on the blackface to give more headroom, while smaller on the tweed to give more compression and sag. But if you take an amp and don't change those at all, put one with a mids forward Tweed tonestack and one with a scooped Blackface style tonestack, the Tweed will be louder at any volume setting because the mids are broad in scope and pushed way up. So nothing else changed,it's louder up to 5-6 than the blackface, but then compresses. But when you add more supply capacitance and bigger OT then even when you scoop some mids, and rate them the same amount of watts, the blackface gets louder.
     
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