Is there pain in gain, or am I going insane?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by TST, Mar 5, 2018.

  1. TST


    Dec 21, 2017
    Wombat Forest
    Or, why does my amp have gain and volume controls?

    I know I'm being silly, but I've been wondering lately what would happen if I dared to dial in my amps volume to maximum and, like tinkering with a bomb, start playing with my gain control, all the while feeding this experiment with finger picks on my p-bass sporting Quarter Pounders ...

    Or, perhaps, more seriously, ask the question: with all that is asked of my 500c, isn't there a chance I might blow it up? This is coming from someone whose first amp is the very same thing. But this is coming from a guy whose first motorcycle was a Honda CBX 750. Ouch!

    Should I always have my bass compressor/limiter active to prevent pops, crackles and booms?
  2. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Retired Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Uhhhh ... wut?
    Kukulkan61, tommyr01, St_G and 13 others like this.
  3. quickervicar

    quickervicar Supporting Member

    Jul 21, 2006
    Lancaster, PA
    Among the SVT crowd there is a school of thought that says run the power section (Volume) at maximum and adjust output with Gain settings. As i understand it, this replicates the early SVT signal path and tone. I don't think one would gain anything by attempting this on a solid state design.
    JohnPaulSmith and bobyoung53 like this.
  4. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    By running master more or less full and using gain as the master? Some solid state amps benefit from running things similarly depending on how they're designed. "Benefit", of course, is all in the ear of the beholder, but there are valid reasons why both methods (gain as master vs.... master as master) have their fans.

    Probably not much more of a chance of it blowing up than getting the same volume out of it via other knob combinations. Amps are complex, and function as a system. Try thinking of your amp as a series of valves or tubes (like the internet!), or something else that has multiple bottlenecks. Each gain stage on an amp is one such potential bottleneck.

    Just because you have one valve at the end wide open, doesn't mean you're going to get full power out of the system if an earlier valve is restricting things. One of the reasons why this can be desirable on amps is to manage distortion from the various gain stages, as most (if not all) of them can impart distortion (desired or undesired) if asked to do too much - even while safely within their means.

    On many amps, running the master full, or nearly full up, with the gain stages preceding it barely breaking a sweat, is the cleanest way to run the amp.
  5. I'd like to believe that if an amp manufacturer left controls out for the user to use that there is no way any combination of the settings of those controls could harm the equipment. It seems that this would especially apply in a combo amp.

    Now me liking to believe something doesn't necessarily make it true.
    Unfortunately manufacturers, of anything, rely on the end user exhibiting some amount of common sense in the use of their product.
  6. jnewmark

    jnewmark Just wanna play the groove. Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2006
    Stax 1966
    Third St. Cigar Records staff musician.
    Also, add into this mix, not all Gain stages, ( tapers ), are the same. I have three on my Shuttlemax: Gain, Volume, and Master. :woot:
    Al Kraft, eff-clef and agedhorse like this.
  7. murphy

    murphy Supporting Member

    May 5, 2004
    I know you are ok doing that with a GK 800RB and some others....but would not do that with modern amps....although should be ok if you are mindful with your gain and EQ settings
    Don't blow your speakers
    Yes ...leave the limiter engaged
    Mvilmany and quickervicar like this.
  8. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Too much hip thrust
    Just make sure you have cabinetry which can handle it. When I crank to the higher volume levels I like to roll off low bass frequencies a bit (<80Hz).
    murphy likes this.
  9. Your best bet would be not to let the motorcycle run into it.
  10. MrLenny1

    MrLenny1 Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
  11. ThisBass


    Aug 29, 2012
    Proper gain control helps to improve SNR. I'd hate it to have best SNR just at high volume levels but poor SNR numbers at lower loudness levels.
    murphy, eff-clef and yodedude2 like this.
  12. ThisBass


    Aug 29, 2012
    The limiter helps to get more of average RMS at given headroom limit. So an engaged limiter does not protect (nothing at all) from anything.
    Some myth do successfully refuse to die.
  13. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    Is that always the case though? Can a limiter not also be designed to limit amp output in terms of protection - ensuring that a power module doesn't overtax itself? Genuinely asking, I thought that they could also be employed in that fashion.
  14. ThisBass


    Aug 29, 2012
    Limiters are (basically) intended for reduce Peak to RMS ratio numbers just to get more (clean) loudness within a given headroom limitation.
    Limiters are kinda key technology responsible for start up of brodacasting loudness wars.
    They are also responsible for biggest loudness possible with some recordings but (just the same time) also for the drawback of reduced dynamics within a (very loud) produced recording.

    edit, if there is not enough juice limiters can help to get +3dB which is a ton of reserve if there is not enough juice
  15. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    Using Limiters to Help Protect Loudspeakers
    MDBass and Kro like this.
  16. On one of my amps (Yamaha), the master runs the power section and the volume runs the pre amp. On my SVT and PF 500 , the gain runs the power section and the volume runs the pre amp. I think I have an amp that the master runs the power section and the gain runs the pre amp. It's different between manufacturers.
  17. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Bring Back Edit/Delete Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    Almost anything with a volume knob has the potential to destroy speakers. An amp with gain, master, and EQ has multiple volume knobs, so the risk is compounded.
    agedhorse likes this.
  18. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    I did this if I want to play loud & clean, which is nearly never.
  19. bobyoung53

    bobyoung53 Supporting Member

    Before amps had gain and master volume controls all amps only had a pre-amp volume which was just called volume and is the same as gain controls on modern amps, the power amp was all the way up which is why they had no master volume, they didn't need them. This is how all early Fenders, Marshals and Ampegs and any other amp was made until approximately the mid 70's when the amps with pre-amp and master volumes came out so you could distort the signal at a softer volume. This way you could distort the pre-amp not the power amp. It's debatable which sounds better, power amp distortion or preamp distortion but any way if you crank the master all the way up and use the gain (pre-amp volume), you are using the amp just like they all used to be used in the dark ages and you won't hurt the amp and more than you would any non-master volume amp, this is how you get maximum clean volume out them too. An amp with both gain and master can not be turned up any louder than the same amp with only a volume control (gain), the master volume can only be used to back off the power amp volume not make it louder this is so you can crank the gain to distort it without killing everyone if that makes any sense.

    Cage Match: Non-Master Volume vs. Master Volume Amps

    Incidentally, the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2018
  20. crossthestyx


    Sep 16, 2017
    If you've never cranked your gear to the max you're not really a musician. :bassist:

    *Under normal circumstances, if you're getting cracks and pops. You've got cord, jack, amp, or speaker issues. Pray it's just a loose jack or a bad cord.
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