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Getting Saturated Tube Amp Sound at Low Volume

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Spectre Gunner, Nov 12, 2018.

  1. I'm in search for a tube amp that will give me that vintage distorted or saturated tube amp sound but I have to keep the volume at a low to medium level. While I would love to crank it up I don't think my neighbors would appreciate it. So would a lower wattage tube amp be the way to go which in theory would allow me to increase the gain and lower the output volume? Or do you need to crank the volume as well?

    I currently using an Epifani 555 (550 watt D-Class amp) into an Epifani D.I.S.T. 112 cabinet. It's a sweet sounding setup and very clean but I'd like to have a second amp that will do tube distortion without having to getting loud. Will something like an Ampeg Portaflex PF-20T do this? How about a vintage Ampeg B-15. Is it a myth that it has to be loud to get tube saturation?
  2. MrSidecar

    MrSidecar Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2008
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Spectre Gunner,

    While I must admit I’m far from being an expert on this- there’s two kinds of distortion, or better, two origins of distortion involved as I always understood folks going for this.

    The preamp tubes can be overdriven and the overall volume can be tamed with a master volume.

    Overdriving the power tubes, you’d need a power soak/variac between your amp and your cab, to turn the energy of the output signal (which is going to be “loud”) into heat and dissipate it.

    That’s what I know guitarists do- and that would give you a pretty high degree of the actual thing you’re looking for, maybe minus cone distortion in the speakers at such high levels (although this really is just guessing, I don’t know if cone distortion is desirable).

    Spectre Gunner and eriky4003 like this.
  3. Alexander


    Aug 13, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    Lower watt heads through smaller cab configurations will let you get power tube distortion at lower volume. An Ampeg PF20t through a 112av cab would fit the bill, I’d think...
    Zbysek, Spectre Gunner and Wisebass like this.
  4. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    I find that my Ampeg PF-20T is really quite clean at home-practice volume. It's much cleaner than either of my solid-state heads (Quilter BB800 and 101 Mini).

    Probably not the answer you were looking for, but I use a Fairfield Modele B (always-on Barbershop) pedal to achieve "saturated tube amp sound at low volume." :)
    Zbysek and Spectre Gunner like this.
  5. Wisebass


    Jan 12, 2017
    Lost in Space
    hi Spectre Gunner :)

    Yes it can! But forget about hooking it to a cab. That little fellow will get loud!!!

    The good thing about the PF20t (and PF50t) is, that you can run it without a cab.

    You can use its XLR out (which is post powertubes) and send the signal to another amp.

    Use the main volume of your other amp to keep the neighbours happy.


  6. H&K Bassmaster/B.A.T.T.
    Wisebass likes this.
  7. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2008
    A pedal driving the input of a tube amp provides the classic saturated sound. A Portaflex can do that, but the price of admission is high.
    Spectre Gunner likes this.
  8. Balog


    Mar 19, 2009
    Everett, WA
    Depends on what cab it’s hooked up to and what you consider loud. Are you using a high efficiency super cab with multiple 15’s or an old sealed 1x10? Are you playing in the basement and just need to keep the neighbor across the street from calling the cops, or are you in an upstairs apt with thin walls?

    Something like an Epiphone Valve Jr or similar 1-5w amps into an inefficient cab with limited speaker surface area would probably work in most situations.
    Spectre Gunner likes this.
  9. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013

    Are you trying to record and need that tone?
    Or is it just for your practice entertainment?
    Not that there's anything wrong with either scenario, but sometimes we become so fixated on a solution that we lose sight of the original requirement...
    I use a DarkGlass Vintage when I want that tone at any volume level; I use the Ultra version with the cab sim when I want that tone in the PA or headphones.
    I almost never use it for practice, and I rarely use it for rehearsal.
    Distortion hides a multitude of technique flaws, which practice is intended to minimise.
    If I can't hear it, I can't fix it.
    Zbysek and Spectre Gunner like this.
  10. I didn't consider that but unfortunately, my Epifani Piccolo amp doesn't have XLR in. Only XLR out for using as a DI as well.
  11. I agree that it's best to practice with a clean sound but mainly just for my own entertainment. I like to play classic rock. The bass from "Grand Funk Railroad Live" is a good example of the sound I'm looking for but not necessarily that extreme.

    I have an Aguilar Argo pedal (distortion) that I've been using recently but it's not quite the same.
  12. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    You would be amazed at how loud 20 watts will get. I have an Ashdown LB30 (30 watts) and it gets ridiculously loud. I use it for gigs al the time.

    For low volume, I would head over to the effects section and ask those ridiculously smart and incredibly helpful weirdos to get you in the same ballpark with your current rig. There's a pedal out there (or 50 pedals) that will make you smile.
  13. BadExample


    Jan 21, 2016
    Be careful 2F, some of them may object to being labeled "helpful."
  14. Wisebass


    Jan 12, 2017
    Lost in Space
    Hi Spectre Gunner :)

    Does your Epifany have an effect loop (send/ return)?

    You won' t need an XLR in!!!

    A simple instrument cable with XLR on the "Ampeg side" and a Jack on the "Epifani side"will do the job!

    Ampeg XLR out to Epifani Effect return should work.

    That way you will only use the poweramp of the Epifany.


    Zbysek and Spectre Gunner like this.
  15. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    They're gonna have to own it.

    Between the Luthier's Corner guys, @agedhorse , and the effects crowd, if you can't find the info you need here, you ain't tryin'.
    Spectre Gunner and BadExample like this.
  16. Yup, it has an effects/return feature and that should work. Once again, why didn't I think of that? I might give that a try if I can try out an Ampeg.
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2018
    Wisebass likes this.
  17. Zbysek


    Mar 23, 2017
    Czech Republic
    Do you do this? I am considering to sending the XLR output on PF20T to XLR input on my MB LM III...
    Wisebass likes this.
  18. somebrains


    Feb 7, 2017
    There are some really amazing sounding tube clone pedals out there you should try.
    Take a deep dive into what the Diy pedal crowd has published on youtube.

    You could always just buy your way to a sound:

    Rumble + DG Vintage Ultra is solid.
  19. Wisebass


    Jan 12, 2017
    Lost in Space

    Ampeg PF-20T to (power) amp

    Come over to your thread! :D


    Zbysek likes this.
  20. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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