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Gain question

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by rtslinger, Oct 29, 2018.

  1. I had not seen this in the amp FAQ,
    When setting gain many, many YouTube videos I have come across talk of correctly setting gain with the use of your clip light with the volume off and you bring the gain up till the clip comes on and then you back it off, so it is just about coming on. Now for my question and I found nothing about this online. Not all amps have a clip light, so how does one "correctly" setup the gain on an amp that doesn't have one? I am sure many new and old bassists would appreciate some tried and true method as the "clip light" for amps with gain and no clip light.
    thanks RTS
  2. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    For me, it's a "by ear" adjustment (even on amps with a clip light--I'm not going to let some tiny light bulb tell me what to do ;)).

    If I want a cleaner sound, I decrease gain and increase master volume.

    If I want a dirtier sound, I increase gain and decrease master volume.

    There is no "right answer" in my opinion. Depends on the song and the genre of music. Heavier rock genres often call for higher gain, etc.
  3. Rick James

    Rick James

    Feb 24, 2007
    New Jersey
    That's how you get the maximum signal to noise ratio along with maximum headroom for the cleanest possible sound with a PA or recording board. If you want the maximum S/N and headroom you can do that with a bass amp, but most of us don't. Set the gain to get as much or as little dirt as you want in your tone, then set the volume for how loud you want to be.
  4. Coolhandjjl

    Coolhandjjl Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    Some amps have a clip light. If it's solid on, you will have lots of grind and crunch.
    If it's mostly on, and flickering just a bit, the resulting tone will still have some grind or crunch.
    If it just flickering a bit, you are sending mostly clean tone.
    If it's never on, and you have to crank the master to get enough sound, you risk not getting enough signal into the head.
    HawldieMPB likes this.
  5. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    Use your ears. Always.

    Clip lights make for a good reference, but on some amps (GKs), it's actually on the input and not even on the first gain stage.

    Even then, it isn't so cut and try as bring it up until you start to hear distortion and then then turn it back. Some people like the way some amps sound with some preamp distortion imparted.

    To make it even MORE complicated, some amps sound not so great with preamp distortion on its own, but that same distortion sounds pleasing or alive when it's filtered through other filters/gain stages.

    Anyways, use your ears, and set it to what sounds good to you, at at the volume level you're playing at. :)
    ObsessiveArcher and HawldieMPB like this.
  6. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Make it sound good.
    JMarkD, HawldieMPB, dbsfgyd1 and 2 others like this.
  7. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2008
    The clip light is simply a tool that is used to set the input stage up for clean operation. Without a clip light, listen for distortion as you are increasing the gain. Dig in as much as you would when playing live as you make the adjustment so that you are sending the strongest signal from the bass.

    If there is a clip light and it is on, the amp is not being harmed. It will just sound distorted.
  8. Roland GR 88

    Roland GR 88

    Sep 16, 2013
    I've always set the master at full and used the gain for volume on SS amps that have no tubes in the preamp.
    For tube amps - hybrid or otherwise - I set the gain for tone and use the master for volume. YRMV
  9. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa, Product Support-Genz Benz
    That's how to set for maximum signal to noise but MINIMUM headroom.

    Headroom and signal to noise are reciprocal tradeoffs.
  10. Very generally, you'll turn the gain up until it sounds bad and then back it off a little until it doesn't, then adjust master volume to taste.

    As you learn what gain stages do on each piece of equipment you own, that question becomes a lot more complicated to answer.

    If it sounds good it is good.
    SouthLatitude likes this.
  11. Okay, thanks everyone for your response, and yeah I already know what everyone has mention so far, but the newbie bass player looking to set his amp that has no clip light getting advise from bass amp manufacturers reps telling you this is the " correct" way to set your gain. has to be confusing for someone starting out trying to do it correctly with no first hand knowledge of setting gain levels on a bass amp. Any video I have hunted speaks of the clip light method. is what I am trying to get across. Not that I need you to tell me how to set my gain tell me why manufacturers that chose to leave the clip light out of their design but still include a gain knob don't offer this (a gain setting method) for there bass amps. Hopefully this will clear up the confusion after 50 years of playing I should know how to set up my gain if not I should just quit ha ha ha.
    But like the rest who have purchased a bass amp that has no clip light to work off are flying blind. I will give you a perfect example and this happen to me I have a Peavey Max that has speaker protection for amp clipping the problem is the amp clips out and then the power button which is normally blue gets a red circle which is great your amp shuts down to protect your speaker only problem is it only shuts down when you have pushed it too hard and when you are at a gig and find out the hard way when you have disappeared from the mix! This is way too late to find out you may be pushing your amp too hard. Had this amp had a clip light for setting gain this could be avoided.
  12. Think of your gain as an extra volume knob on your bass. Its input strength. Volume is then the volume of your total set up. There is no right way to set the gain, and it changes with everything you plug in, and how you play. If you're slapping, or picking decently hard, chances are you want the input strength a little lower. Finger play, set it a little higher. If you want to distort your signal, crank the gain. If you want it nice and clean, back it off. It's pretty easy man. I never pay attention to the clip light on anything but my recording interface...at all. It does nothing for me. I keep my gain lower than half just about always. If I really do need to get louder, which never happens, I'll move it up one more knotch. Just so I dont have to open the master, and have more control.
  13. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru.......... Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2006
    Traffic Light.
  14. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2008
    Also, if there’s a normal and padded instrument input, try the normal first for an instrument with either passive or active pickups.

    If the gain is set low and the amp is distorting, try the padded input.
  15. The gain sets the signal level hitting the preamp. Unless the signal you give it is ridiculous (ie, from a power source and not a signal source), you aren't going to damage the amp, so a clip light as a safety tool isn't necessary. It's just a handy guide.

    As to why users guides suggest the clip light, it's an easy to understand thing that is pretty common to find on amps and experts aren't always great at conveying high level understanding to lay users of equipment.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2018
  16. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2008
    Those lights, like posted speed limits, are just a suggestion.

    Unless my wife is in the car with me. Then they are apparently written in stone.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2018
  17. To be fair, that's a a huge light bulb telling you what to do.
    HawldieMPB and Jeff Scott like this.
  18. basscooker

    basscooker Commercial User

    Apr 11, 2010
    cincy ky
    Owner, ChopShopAmps
    I'm in the "clean" camp with my preferred tone. I usually just leave the master wide open or like 3/4 then use the gain as my volume. If I'm loud enough below about 8:00 on the gain, I will back off a bit more on the master.

    This is basically the same as using a pre/power amp setup, or an amp with only a single volume control.
    juancaminos, Roland GR 88 and Sixgunn like this.
  19. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Almost every audio tech I have ever observed sets up up all the inputs to max out S/N ratio...except me.

    I usually leave a bit of headroom and also like to set the trimmers so visual references can be used to help manage various mixes more effectively. I guess an easier way to explain is to say I set all instrument channel faders at the same level and mix off the trimmers at first. The vocal faders are set about 3dB higher than instrument faders so the stand out.

    If the gain structures of all channels are balanced this way, then when I have to manage the monitor mixes I have visual cues to help understand what is going on.

    A problem with this approach is I have to get the mains dialed in before I can fine tune and stabilize the monitor mixes. I typically work with the same people repeatedly so it's rare to have to setup the board from scratch. There have been a few occasions where the talent has become frustrated because they want immediate satisfaction.
  20. Rick James

    Rick James

    Feb 24, 2007
    New Jersey
    That's how to set for the best balance between maximum S/N and maximum headroom. You can get more headroom by reducing the gain, but it you're not hitting the red lights you've got enough.

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