#1
so i live in an apartment with a 20 watt tuber. ive been constantly tweaking everything trying to find the best tone and i have made some findings.

my v22 which i have for apartment practice (still overkill) has many ways to tweak it, but i just found running my master on about 4-6 with my channels down to about 0.5 or 1 has a DRASTIC effect on tone.

my amp seems to open up, get brighter, less, fuzzy, and has a LOT more bass response. the same thing happens by switching from triode to pentode.

so, does utilizing my power tubes more bring all of this about? what happens when we rely too much on our preamp to do all the work while barely opening up th master (it was set at like 2-3 before)?


especially in the context of home playing, are power tubes the best way to go? im not talking about getting tube ovrdrive, im still not playing loud enough. im talking about relying more on your power section than the preamp section and what happens to the overall tone.
#3
It depends what type of sound you want. Preamp gain will give you a tighter, more focused sound, whereas power gain is looser, sometimes muddier, more middy, 'creamy' sound.

Typically, if you want it cleaner, then run the preamp volume (preamp gain) knobs low and the master high, but if you want it dirtier, turn the preamp gain high and the master lower to compensate for overall volume.

Nothing 'happens' per se if you use too much preamp gain, it's just a different sound. It really varies from amp to amp, some amps like a lot of preamp gain, some don't.
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#4
well i know that but does the power section in gneral allow for more bass response?

if you run your power section too low does the amp "not open up" per say? does it make the amp darker?

does it depend all on the power tubes? in this case, el84s?
#5
it really depends on how the amp was designed to be played.

el84s do tend to be a bit thin at low volumes at well.
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#6
I've mentioned this before, but this is generally the reason I don't recommend low wattage amps for home use. Nearly all the sub 30 watt amps I've played do exactly what you're describing. There is this "minimum volume" that is required to get a proper tone and until you hit that minimum volume you'll be left with a muddy fuzzy sound that it completely lacking in top end.

Now since most low wattage amps use EL84 tubes I would guess that it's got something to do with the way those tubes operate.

Either way that's why I usually tell people not to rule out high wattage amps for bedroom play. I've never run into anything above 50 watts that had that minimum volume problem, and you can get good tones out of many 100 watt amps at even a whisper.

I've said this many many many times. A low wattage amp is NOT for home use. It's meant to be on a stage turned to 10. They're designed specifically for creamy tube breakup, and that creamy tube break up comes at a volume far too loud for the home.
#7
true. but then again, price and size is a factor because half stacks are crazy big for home use and generally higher wattage amps have a higher price tag for all that extra stuff in there.

and i think it depends. if we are talking about under 10 watts, that will pribably do it. 10-30 is obviously getting a bit much in your scenario.

the perfect example are those 1-5 watt amps out there that sound fantastic at low volumes.
Last edited by ikey_ at Dec 11, 2011,
#8
There are a few things that are going to determine whether or not you'll get a good sounding tone at low volumes. Let me start by saying that wattage isn't as important as one may think.

First and foremost, the speaker has to be moving sufficiently in order to generate what we would perceive to be a good tone. Speakers obviously vary greatly, so for some you may not need to be playing loudly in order for the speaker part of the equation to sound good. For others, you may have to be pushing them pretty well and thusly this means it has to be loud.

That said, what is important in the amp is two major things: the power supply design and the output transformer. The power supply needs great filtering, that's one part. What is even more important is that the output transformer needs to provide a consistent load to the power tube(s) across a broad range of output levels.

A properly designed OT will allow the power tube(s) to function optimally at virtually any volume level. In other words, the signal translates to the speaker accurately (via the OT which essentially should "get out of the way") even at low signal amplitudes. This correlates to more punch, detail, and frequency response at the speaker at low volumes than the same amplifier with a lower quality, less consistent OT.

Like I said, there are other variables at play, but these are the big hitters. And because of this, just because an amp is low in output power doesn't mean that it will sound good at low volumes. And conversely, just because an amp is high in output power doesn't mean it won't sound good at low volumes.
Last edited by CECamps at Dec 11, 2011,
#9
well about the speaker, if your driving the master harder, doesnt that mean more wattage (not volume) and thus the speaker is driven harder?

wouldnt master at 8 drive the speaker harder than master at 4 at the sampe volumes (by using the channel?)
#10
Nope, not that I know.
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#11
it really depends on the type of music you play whether you really want the speakers to be moving really really hard or not.

if you're hitting more then about 80 percent of a speakers rated wattage its gonna be breaking up as well which definitely contributes to a certain type of sound.

a normal speaker should be moving pretty freely already with a few watts through it.
Prs se Holcomb is the answer
#12
yeah thats not happening. a 70 watt speaker in a 20 watt combo. nope. not unless i max out the amp maybe i would get some speaker breakup.

im just talking about getting the speaker moving in general. technically doesnt more master volume mean more wattage ultimately going to the speaker?
#13
sure. ya it does.

so it sounds louder.

i mean you really just need to figure out what kind of sounds you really and dial it with a combination of the pre gain/post gain/master volume controls.
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#14
Quote by ikey_
true. but then again, price and size is a factor because half stacks are crazy big for home use and generally higher wattage amps have a higher price tag for all that extra stuff in there.

and i think it depends. if we are talking about under 10 watts, that will pribably do it. 10-30 is obviously getting a bit much in your scenario.

the perfect example are those 1-5 watt amps out there that sound fantastic at low volumes.


Never said anything about a half stack. You can get plenty of 100 watt amps as a 1x12 combo. Even if you get a head, there are still 1x12 and 2x12 cabs that you can pair them with.

Price is another factor, but I've seen plenty of bigger amps for $800-$1000, which really isn't any more expensive than a GOOD low wattage amp. Sure, if you want a brand new Mesa you're going to pay through the nose, but there are plenty of other options.

5-10 watts generally won't do it at home. 1 watt might, but honestly I've yet to hear a 1 watt amp that sounds even remotely appealing. Try a Marshall Class 5... It doesn't even break up until it's loud enough to actually hurt your ears, and at bedroom volume it suffers from the same problems you described.

As for speaker breakup... That's not what people are talking about... Speaker breakup is actually a somewhat unpleasant sound. What produces that great tone is actually large quantities of air being pushed from the speakers, which is something that has absolutely nothing to do with wattage and everything to do with volume.
#16
Seems to be a lot of good advice here, but I'll give my two cents-

Using more of your power section gives you the classic "tube" sound. Warm, creamy, lots of midrange, and less focus. So if you're going for that sound, you should be pushing more power section and less preamp.

As for the fuzzy, buzzy, nasty "minimum volume" type deal, that's solved similarly. Of course, my thought on home practice amps has always been that if you're not playing with other people, a good solid state amp is probably better- it doesn't have nearly the same relationship between volume and tone, if any, and usually they're a pretty solid base. I use a Roland Micro Cube, with the Blackface clean channel and my pedal board. Not quite the same tone as the real thing, but I've even mic'd it up for performance, and it's passable.
#17
Get yourself another cab to use at home. A 1x12 with something small like a greenback. They are only 25W. Should help enormously.
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#18
Quote by ikey_

wouldnt master at 8 drive the speaker harder than master at 4 at the sampe volumes (by using the channel?)


No. If you're getting the same output volume, your power tubes are seeing the exact same amplitude signal at the grid (as long as they're within their linear range, i.e., not cranked to 10). If you're hearing an improvement in tone, it's most likely psychological unless there's another stage after the channel volumes (they're usually not).
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#19
Quote by ikey_
yeah thats not happening. a 70 watt speaker in a 20 watt combo. nope. not unless i max out the amp maybe i would get some speaker breakup.

im just talking about getting the speaker moving in general. technically doesnt more master volume mean more wattage ultimately going to the speaker?


A speaker will sound great long before it breaks up. What we're talking about here is low volume playing, and in order for low volume playing to sound good there are a number of factors that need to be in good shape--factors which include the speaker(s).

When I talk about getting a speaker moving, I'm talking about enough excursion to where unpleasant artifacts are minimized.

Example: One thing that happens when playing distorted tones at very low volumes is the presence of fizziness is in much greater proportion to other frequencies. When you turn the volume up, this proportion changes to a much more favorable one and the distorted tone sounds better.

In reality, a speaker can sound great with less than a watt being delivered to it. So bear that in mind.
#20
i was recently thinking of what the new eminence FDM speakers will do in my situation.

given this discussion, if i could attentuate my speaker to -9 DB, i couls crak my amp and acheive all the harmonics, tonal changes, sustain, etc you get with a cranked amp and a more reasonable volume.

will it be overdriven, probably not, but it will definitely be run hotter. 9 DB is a LOT.
#21
ya but those speakers dial down from 100db efficiency to about 91.

if you're speakers are under 100db already then you'll have less attenuation.
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#22
pretty sure the stock speakers are 98. but that is a good point...so its 7 DB. still a lot. definitely a lot to run the amp harder.

or...crank it and make my amp louder?
#23
Call bullshit on me if you'd like, but this is just from what I've tested and found myself (chances are tubetime86 is going to jump in and continue to say I know 0% about tube amps, despite owning 2 of them, anyway).

I used to believe in the whole "shining point" thing, but I have found that my amp when mic'd up(Jet City JCA100h) hardly has ANY tone difference whether it's turned as low as 1 or as high as 6. I found this out one day while I was looking for perfect mic placement:

I propped my Krank 1x12 up on a desk, hooked to my Jet City, and I sat in front of it with earplugs on. Main intents were to not just find the best mic placement, but find the best settings. But I noticed that adjusting the master didn't change the core tone of the at all. I had to move my head a bit further from the cab as I turned it up to hear the same tone, but only because the speaker was vibrating more.

From what I, and I mean ME, found with this experiment was that it's really our ears perceiving the sound as different, and really when the sound is mic'd the tone is no different (I even made a quick wank recording after the experiment to prove it). Though personally, I like turning my Jet City to around 4, just so the mic picks up more from the amp and less of the crap in the room (string clicking, my breathing, cats, etc), but honestly, an amp sounding better to the ears at 4 than it does at 1 is just an illusion, at least from what I've found. Now when you crank it to the point of driving the power tubes, however, then yes, it's obviously going to sound different.
Last edited by Ian_the_fox at Dec 13, 2011,