Can somebody explain....GAIN

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by oldscarrow, Jan 15, 2009.

  1. oldscarrow

    oldscarrow Guest

    Nov 22, 2008
    Here I am asking for help again....can somebody please explain the GAIN function on an amplifier to me please, I have read somewhere in my research that you should set your volume, and then increase the Gain until the sound just starts to distort, and then back it off a bit to get the best signal to noise ratio. Am I kidding myself or not, as some of the sample settings I see in the handbook that come with the amp I just bought, have the gain equal to the volume, and when I do this it just sounds too distorted, and can the battery in the guitar have an adverse affect on sound. ?
    My thanks to the knowledgeable ones,....
  2. pbd

    pbd Guest Commercial User

    Jul 17, 2003
    Metro Detroit
    owner Procables N Sound
    Not knowing what amp you are talking about I'll say this. The gain is very useful and help you dial a nice sound. Play with it until you find what you like. The pickups in your bass will affect how the gain reacts too so the sample settings may have the gain set too hot for your guitar.

    To add to it, if you battery in your bass guitar is dying that can contribute to an overdriven type of sound. Batteries are cheap and you should have a spare with you anyway so replace it just to see if that is creating a problem.

    hope this helps,
    Todd :)
  3. Amp companies label their volume nobs in different ways. I turn the one closest to my instrument cable input (in my case gain) at about 3/4 (or 3 o'clock if you prefer) and then adjust my master volume according to how loud I want to be, but some people have a completely different philosophy than I do, try out different things and go with what works for you.

    With most amps you have 2 input jacks, one for passive guitars and one for active (with batteries in the guitar) sometimes it is labeled -18Db if you are using an active bass and are plugging into the passive input you won't hurt anything in the amp that I am aware of, but you will likely distort much earlier in turning up your settings, try to plug it into the active jack and see if it sounds better to you. Hope this helps. All the best.
  4. With a solid state preamp, gain is primarily used to get the optimum signal into the amp, regardless of the output of the bass (which can vary a lot from bass to bass). Gain should not be used to adjust volume (that's what the master is for on an integrated bass head). Most amps with solid state preamps (that typically sound bad when clipped) have 'clip lights' that will tell you the optimal setting (just below clip). The 'optimal setting' will result in the best tone and best signal to noise ratio.

    For a tube preamp, it's a more 'use your ears' type thing, since the tone and feel will change pretty dramatically as you crank that gain and push that tube. And, a little bit of 'clip' in a tube preamp can be a pleasant thing. So, in a tube preamp (like in hybrid heads like the Mesa heads), you would set the pre gain to the sound you prefer (lower for clean, higher for a bit of grit and warmth) and then again set your volume with the master.

    The best way to get a feel for this is to set your master volume level at a low level and then play your open E as hard as you ever would, and slowly crank the gain control (turn the master down a bit if it starts getting too loud to deal with as you crank it). Even without a clip light on a SS pre, you should be able to hear the 'sweet spot', just before it starts to sound compressed and 'dirty'.

  5. To your specific question... the 'example settings' are just 'averages', and don't take into account the output level of the bass (which again can vary widely from bass to bass). So, with those example settings, you need to pretty much ignore the exact gain setting and use your ears!