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Overdrive a SS amp?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by H3R3T1K, Dec 2, 2013.

  1. Is it bad for the amp? Does it sound good? Because every manual tells you to check when the clipping LED flashes and then back it off a little.
  2. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    Clipping and 'overdrive' tend to be similar yet different things. Overdrive is a pleasant form of clipping...but all clipping isn't 'overdrive' And what and how you introduce that clipping is very important to the end tone.

    For the most part it sounds pretty ugly in solid state amps.
  3. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    There are some SS amps where overdriving sounds great and some that sound god-awful.
  4. Steve Dallman

    Steve Dallman Supporting Member

    Overdriving the preamp won't hurt anything. Different amps sound differently. An Acoustic 370 for instance has an FET input, but sounds pretty awful overdriven.

    Overdriving the power amp will create heat and could, under sustained conditions, cause heat related failures.
  5. The manuals say that since most solid state amps (especially the ones that say that in the manual:)) are designed to run relatively clean at the preamp stage (that is what the 'clip light' they are talking about is measuring typically... input level clipping.

    There are some solid state and or hybrid heads that sound great when pushed an are designed to do that (and they won't even have an input clip light typically... examples, Aguilar TH500/350, Mesa Walkabout (which has a couple tubes in the preamp section, etc.).

    Either way, you won't do any harm overdriving the preamp, you just might not like what that does to the tone in many cases.

    Power amp clip indication is a different thing, but even that is variable. For example, the Genz 'power clip' indicator is just a signal that you have reached the power management limiting, which is designed to continue to sound good, and provide a simulation of a tube power section driven to its limit.
  6. will33


    May 22, 2006
    Depends on the amp.

    GK's have a "thing" happen when you really open them up....some like it, some don't. Older Acoustics, Peaveys and TubeWorks amp are SS's that can get grind some like.

    I've also heard a couple tube amps where I didn't like the clipped tone, namely ultra-linear designs like my old Bassman 135.

    In general, you'd think SS clipping = bad and Tube clipping = good, but there are exceptions.
  7. Really depends on the amp design. G-K's RB series "clip light" is to signal of you approaching clipping. SS amps using discrete front ends (such as discrete FETs) are pretty robust. An amp using a JFET opamp may exceed the breakover voltage and wind up with noise troubles to distorted sound or no sound.
  8. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Not all clip lights are the same. Some are just simple voltage comparators, some are actual limiters, some like on high end class-d measure the percentage of modulation. You never know exactly what the clip light is measuring. Some amps may be clipping well before the clip light even lights. Some amps are just about to shutdown when the clip light light. Some amps are never near clipping when it lights.

    Up to 10% clipping is hard to hear. Clipping distortion is high frequency. Cheap tweeters get affected the most. Of a bass signal, probably anything you ever hear from a tweeter is just the distortion from circuitry, not from the bass itself.
  9. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    I honestly don't pay much mind to that light, and my amp (Crate) works fine despite. Sounds great too. Though recently I've changed up my EQ a bit so there are fewer frequencies super-boosted, which might help.
  10. mpdd

    mpdd neoconceptualist

    Mar 24, 2010
    vintage acoustic 140 - awesome overdrive
    vintage marshall ibs - scary vacuum cleaner overdrive (awesome too)
  11. To the OP

    What kind of amp do you have?
  12. barebones

    barebones Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2005
    Denver, CO
    I've got an SWR Bass 350 (chrome version), and I sometimes enjoy the sound of it with the gain cranked. Of course the clip light is on the whole time when running like this, but I don't think there's any harm to the amp, and I always leave the output limiter on. Granted, I don't know a single other solitary person who overdrives an SWR preamp on purpose. That's not the sound people usually want from that kind of amp. I'm kind of weird like that.
  13. Agreed. I never really liked the sound of my SWR Redhead or SM-400 (both of which have tubed front ends) having their preamps overdriven. I used a pedal instead to add grit, and let the amp run clean.

    Now, regarding my Aguilar TH350, I drive the heck out of that thing, and it sounds glorious. :D
  14. I'm in the process of getting a new lightweight Class D amp. I'm trying out the Kustom KXB500 right now. But I'm eyeing a Ampeg Portaflex 500. I've seen videos where people overdrive it. Check out 2:55:

    So the most important part of my question: I can't hurt my amp when clipping? Doesn't seem to be easy to answer. I mean I got the pedals to do just that but I prefer to use as few effects as possible. Little bit of dirt and a compressor is all I need.

    Another question: When I use my overdrive pedal it boosts the signal as well so of course the clipping light flashes. Do I turn the gain down, do I leave it, does it matter? Just asking because I was told clipping is bad.
  15. It really depends on the amp. I've played through a Peavey Mark IV, which is solid state and has great overdrive. Or at least, I thought so.
  16. Bassmec


    May 9, 2008
    Ipswich UK
    Proprietor Springvale Studios
    It should also be noted that Richie Blackmore of smoke on the water fame, favoured the Marshall Major which was also a humdinger of a sweetly overdriving Ultra Linear Tube amp.
    The also, applies to Simms Watts AP's certainly not Fender who managed to cock up an otherwise excellent Fender bassman 100 amp, by simply bunging an ultra linear output trans and associated circuit change to obtain as much additional clean RMS output as possible, without giving a thought to what the amp actually sounded like doing it.:bassist:
  17. H3R3T1K
    I'm not to familiar with Kustom amps.

    I have the Ampeg PF500 and really admire it though.
    Has Ampeg tone and plenty of volume.

    The only thing I can suggest if you buy this amp, push the gain knob while striking the E string until you clip the red light where it's just flickering.
    You can either leave it there, or add a little compression.
    The compressor on this amp is a simple knob but pretty nice for what it does. Just add small amount to get rid of harsh peaks. But keeps the tone. Then you add volume for room presence.

    There are some amps that can push really hard, but then you have to be careful with your speakers, or overheating the circuit on the amp which goes into protect mode. Your best bet is to figure out how big of crowds you play in front of, go with an amp that has enough wattage + some.

    Personally, I favor the GK 400RB growl over my Ampeg PF500.
    I can dig into that amp and it just puts a smile on my face.
    I also hear good things about the Aguilar tone hammer amps and Mesa Boogie.
    This will come down to flavor of overdriven tone. If you liked that video because of the tone, more than likely you will love the Ampeg PF500.
  18. I forgot to mention pedals.
    I don't mess with too many pedals, but when I do, I usually try to match volume with it on and straight bass. If it's for solos or lead, I usually dial out some lows and add mids for better projection.
  19. Projectile


    Feb 5, 2009
    I really like the sound of driving the input of a GK RB series pretty hard. Most other SS amps, not so much. Some sound downright awful if you clip the input (Hartke comes to mind, but I don't remember which model it was).
  20. I have a very early(1st-gen/late-70's)Crate 1B- 30 SS watts into a 12"... Sounds alright for bass but w/the gain dimed, treble at 12 o'clock, bass barely cracked and lower master vol, it distorts nicely. I also like GK's OD'd sound.