#1
Hi,
I wondered does playing a loud tube amp add more gain than if you turned it down?
Thanks!
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#2
Louder amps don't equal more gain.

Most of what we call "gain" happens in the preamp stage of an amp, and in the smaller 12AX7 (or ECC83) tubes. From there, the size of the power amp stage really doesn't matter much.
#3
Quote by dspellman
Louder amps don't equal more gain.

Most of what we call "gain" happens in the preamp stage of an amp, and in the smaller 12AX7 (or ECC83) tubes. From there, the size of the power amp stage really doesn't matter much.


Although, when tubes are pushed you get that overdriven sound at high volumes.
#4
Quote by julianjannetta
Although, when tubes are pushed you get that overdriven sound at high volumes.

That's more an issue of headroom and breakup though really, rather than a higher gain tone I think.

*preparing to be corrected*
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#5
depends on exactly what you mean, as everyone else has said, but yeah probably. you probably don't need to use as much gain when you turn up a bit.
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#7
Quote by Tony Done
Yes, if you are playing loud enough to overdrive the power tubes. As I understand, many older amps designs produced their best sounds that way.


As long as you have an amp with a master volume, you can overdrive the power tubes at low volumes pretty easily.
#8
Quote by slapsymcdougal
That's more an issue of headroom and breakup though really, rather than a higher gain tone I think.

*preparing to be corrected*


Yeah it is headroom! I was just referring to the natural way to get some overdrive/fuzz..
#9
Quote by Jeffh40
As long as you have an amp with a master volume, you can overdrive the power tubes at low volumes pretty easily.


I get confused by this, maybe you or someone else can put me straight.

I thought that in a gain/master system, the gain controlled the input into the preamp, and the master controlled the input into the power amp. IOW, high gain/low master was using preamp OD, and you need high gain/high master to OD the power amp.
#10
Quote by Tony Done
I get confused by this, maybe you or someone else can put me straight.

I thought that in a gain/master system, the gain controlled the input into the preamp, and the master controlled the input into the power amp. IOW, high gain/low master was using preamp OD, and you need high gain/high master to OD the power amp.

This is my understanding too.
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#11
Quote by Tony Done
I get confused by this, maybe you or someone else can put me straight.

I thought that in a gain/master system, the gain controlled the input into the preamp, and the master controlled the input into the power amp. IOW, high gain/low master was using preamp OD, and you need high gain/high master to OD the power amp.


Understand that with a master volume, you have a separate volume for each channel and a master. Put the gain where you like it on your dirty channel and turn down that channel with the channel specific volume. Crank up the master and the power tubes will start to break up.
#12
Quote by Jeffh40
Understand that with a master volume, you have a separate volume for each channel and a master. Put the gain where you like it on your dirty channel and turn down that channel with the channel specific volume. Crank up the master and the power tubes will start to break up.


that would be a 'global master'

a master volume amp simply has separate gain (preamp) and volume (poweramp) that comes after the preamp section
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#13
Quote by julianjannetta
Although, when tubes are pushed you get that overdriven sound at high volumes.


Preamp tubes are generally referred to as gain stages (except where they're used for something else). I have a rack-mount preamp with four channels that will give you up to 11 gain stages from nine 12 AX7 tubes.

Those tubes don't produce any sound through a speaker, but they do produce what we call gain.

It's possible to overdrive power tubes, and that's a different sound altogether, but given the different kinds of power amplifier sections available (from about 1/8th watt to 300+watts, you may not have a particularly loud amp when you're overdriving those tubes.
#14
Quote by Jeffh40
As long as you have an amp with a master volume, you can overdrive the power tubes at low volumes pretty easily.


I think we're talking about different things...
#15
I know people will hate this but if you want high gain at low volume then you are looking at solid state or even digital not tubes. I have screwed with every configuration you can imagine over the years and to me digital is the way to go if you are wanting low volume high gain out of an amp.To my ears a tube amp needs pushed and no master volume tube amp I own comes close to the digital amps for low volume playing.
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#16
Quote by Jeffh40
As long as you have an amp with a master volume, you can overdrive the power tubes at low volumes pretty easily.


no you can't

you need a certain amount of signal to make the power tubes overdrive (much like the preamp tubes)

that doesn't happen at low volumes

you can crank the master volume way up and keep the gain really low, but the power tubes won't be seeing enough signal to make them distort (or anywhere close). if you listen to the tone when you do that the amp will be clean (or if not it's a high gain amp where you're getting some preamp distortion even with the gain control low).

EDIT: With the master volume up full, it's sort of a bit like it's out of the circuit, and then the gain control sort of works like the volume does in an amp which doesn't have a gain control. and in those amps you have to turn the volume up a fair bit until the power tubes start to distort, and it's the same with master volume amps.

That's a bit of an oversimplification, but as a very rough illustration it should work ok. It's also worth noting that most amps which do have separate gain and master volume controls normally have more preamp distortion available than amps without separate gain and master volume controls, so as you turn the gain control up, even if the master volume is maxed, you may well be getting a fair bit of preamp distortion too in addition to the power tube distortion. (You probably are getting some preamp distortion even with lower gain non-master volume amps, just not as much.)

All of the above "to the best of my knowledge". Just in case I'm wrong. Hopefully some of the amp experts can confirm what I've been saying.
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Last edited by Dave_Mc at Mar 28, 2016,
#18
You also have the speakers breaking up in addition to pushing the power amp into overdrive when playing loud. But I think gain is the wrong word here. I think you mean distortion. You can max the gain knob on some amps and not have a drop of distortion. When talking about distorted amps, there's a few things going on. You'll mainly get compression from the power amp and speakers which makes it feel like there's more distortion. You probably won't get into power amp distortion since it's unrealistic in most playing situations.
#19
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In the technical sense, I'm pretty sure that does constitute "more gain", but you aren't likely to get much distortion out of those tubes in a normal playing situation.
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#20
Quote by K33nbl4d3
Likewise mine

In the technical sense, I'm pretty sure that does constitute "more gain", but you aren't likely to get much distortion out of those tubes in a normal playing situation.


Yep. A gain stage is a gain stage, whether clean or distorted. I suppose technically even the power end is a gain stage, but not in the way we normally use the term. In the simplest of terms, Preamps provide voltage gain, power ends provide current gain.

Quote by Jeffh40
As long as you have an amp with a master volume, you can overdrive the power tubes at low volumes pretty easily.


Nope. The only way to overdrive any tube is to feed it more signal than it can cleanly handle, and for the power tubes that takes a good bit and thus WILL be loud.

You can overdrive your pre's into a clean gain stage, which is most common, and it still sounds good but it's not quite the same.
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Last edited by Arby911 at Mar 28, 2016,
#22
if you take an amp like a Vintage Fender Champ amp and crank the volume all the way up, you'll get tube distortion, that's what Master Volume vs. Channel Volume is all about... you can crank channel volume to 11 and then hold Master Volume at 3 & it will have completely different characteristics as if you had the channel volume at 3 & the master volume at 3 or if you reversed it & had the master volume at 11 & the channel volume at 3...
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