1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

I am confused about gain and volume.

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Mike Money, May 20, 2003.

  1. Mike Money

    Mike Money Banned

    Mar 18, 2003
    Bakersfield California
    Avatar Speakers Endorsing Hooligan
    Gain seems to be a volume control.

    On my TNT, I just always have it centered.

    What is the gain actually their for? If it is just for volume, it seems unneccesary.

    Unconfuse me, all you people who are already not confused :p
  2. BryanB

    BryanB Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    According the the Yamaha Sound Reinforcement Handbook:

    Volume is defined as power level. Gain is usually the transmission gain, which is the power increase of the signal expressed in dB. They mention that this usually refers to voltage increase, but that can be decieving since it doesn't take into consideration the load on the output signal. In other words you could have .775V into 600 Ohm input, and .775V into an 8 Ohm load on output. That would yield 19 dB gain.

    We tend to associate volume with loudness since there is a relationship between how much potential power the amp has and how loud the music is that we here from it.

    Gain occurs anywhere you are increasing power, such as the bass output, a distortion or boost pedal, the input gain of the pre-amp, or the master volume of a power amp.
  3. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    Think of it this way. The best sound and loudest overall volume happens is your input signal (gain)is nice and strong, giving the amp something that's nice and easy to amplify (volume).

    Too much input gain is bad because your amp is being sprayed with a voltage cannon. In fact, it clips the end of your sine wave and sends an dirty nasty signal to the amp. The amp amplifies it and the result if a fried speaker.

    Not enough gain is also bad. The amp has nothing to amplify. So the overall volume suffers.
  4. Ziggy


    May 9, 2001
    Orange County, CA

    As Josh has mentioned; -Gain is 'amount' or intensity of the signal going 'into' the channel or amp.
    -Volume is how much of that 'signal' you send out to the cabinet/s.

    Ideally, or "optimistically", the input should have as much saturation of the signal as it will comfortably handle... the typical setup, with the 'volume' down, is to play your bass and bring up the gain until the overload / clip light starts to blink. That should give you the highest level of 'input' for the signal coming in.

    NOTE: this setup is slightly different w/SWR amps looped through effects, compressor, etc.

    Hope this helps, and doesn't make it all just that much more confusing,
    michael s.
  5. Blueszilla

    Blueszilla Bassist ordinaire

    Apr 2, 2003
    The Duke City
    Everyone here has given solid information. If your amp is like mine, then you might have a 'Gain' knob (most likely a pre-amp level control) and a 'Volume' knob (power amp control). If indeed this is what you have then, as the others have posted, set the 'gain' where you have a strong signal but are not distorting ( a clip LED is a great tool here). Make sure you play your bass at 'normal' levels. Once the gain is set at this point you probably won't have to adjust it much unless you change basses or your touch. Adjust your volume with the 'volume' control. I leave my bass on full all the time so I don't worry about adjusting volume in two places.

    BTW, loved how everyone modified the photo you posted of yourself. JT's head on you just about killed me!!:D
  6. Gain is another way of expressing an amount of amplification.

    Ignoring dBs and stuff, if (say) a preamp receives an input signal of 1 Volt, processes it, then sends out 10 Volts at the other end, it's amplification factor = 10: it has a gain of 10 and always has a gain of 10 whether the volume control is off or flat out. Usually, of course, preamps have frequency dependent gain; that is, tone controls. It may well also have a separate gain contol.

    Therefore, gain is the amount by which some section(s) of a signal chain make the output signal bigger than the input signal.

    A volume control is a bit like a tap (fawcet). You can use it to regulate the amount signal that passes to the next stage. In a complete amplification system, in practice, the 'audio tap' lives between the preamp and power amp stages. You allow as much signal as you want to pass through, by turning up the volums.

    Gain and volume are two entirely different concepts. However, it's kind-of possible to get a gain control to reduce the volume, simply by turning down the gain and I can see how it's possible for confusion to arise.

    Does that make things clearer, or are the waters muddier by far......?

  7. Scott D

    Scott D

    Apr 21, 2003
    Minneapolis, MN
    i Know it gets confusing at the start, but its easier once you get used to adjusting the gain control. Im 99 percent sure you have a Pre-amp clip LED. when that lights up, it means that you are overdriving the pre-amp, and it won't go any louder. its not a huge deal, but it is just better to work with it. When my band plays gigs, during soundchecks i set the gain. i hit my lowest string as hard as i play and adjust the gain until there is no clipping at all. then you just set the master volume. But if you have an Active bass, its all different. You'd want to use your -15 DB pad or input, because active basses run hot and require you to turn down gain. the -15DB is sometimes -12, or-10. it just keeps everything down. If your using an Active bass and not using the -15 DB pad/input, your gain will have to be set at around .5 to not clip the Pre-amp. so use the pad. All this was extremely confusing to me when i first started playing when i was like 11. Now i'm 16 and everything makes sense.
  8. Dude, that's priceless!