Overdriving solid state amps with the gain control yay or nay?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by shoulderpet, Feb 16, 2018.

  1. shoulderpet


    Sep 24, 2015
    Hi all
    Have noticed at the place I rehearse that I can overdrive the amp by turning the gain control up high, its not overdrive from pushing the speakers too much as it overdrives like this even on low volume and there is no overdrive feature on the amp so the overdrive is purely from cranking the gain really high. Have been tempted to do this for some of the rehearsal but never have for fear of blowing something, Just wondering if this is safe to do ?
    BuffaloBill likes this.
  2. Omega Monkey

    Omega Monkey

    Mar 8, 2015
    Perfectly safe. Whether it sounds good is another matter and is basically subjective, and will depend on how the amp is designed.
    BuffaloBill, Tom Bomb, St_G and 6 others like this.
  3. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    I've heard some mixed things about the damage from heat a head can experience when overdriven too much. That may be nonsense.
    Most SS amps don't sound particularly good over driven unless designed to do it. Sometimes they can add a little grit to your attack, but if you saturate the lows, my experience has been it sounds farty, and like a amp going bad. YMMV
    What brand and model head is it?
  4. Omega Monkey

    Omega Monkey

    Mar 8, 2015
    Definitely nonsense, unless you also have the master cranked and wail away for probably quite some time maybe. For a typical bass amp through a cab big enough to take it, that would likely be deafening.
    Bassbeater likes this.
  5. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    What kind of amp?

    Some solid state amps take to it very well (GK 400 RB comes to mind). Some don't.

    Are you able to post sound clips or video? It's always nice to hear another overdrive option.
  6. Bassbeater

    Bassbeater Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    That's part of why you have the gain stage. It sounds great on some amps. The only damage may come if you crank the master and the gain at the same time and push the power stage.
  7. shoulderpet


    Sep 24, 2015
    Thanks for the replies, cant remember what the head is, I remember the cab is a marshall 8x10 (i think these are now discontinued
  8. Rick James

    Rick James Inactive

    Feb 24, 2007
    New Jersey
    It is nonsense. The only difference between creating distortion by cranking the gain and creating it in a pedal is where it takes place. Pedals tend to do a better job of it, because it's a lot easier to make a circuit that's intended to sound dirty than one that's intended to sound both clean and dirty.
    BaltoNealio, SactoBass and McFarlin like this.
  9. basscooker

    basscooker Commercial User

    Apr 11, 2010
    Northern KY
    Cab fan, hobbyist
    Am I missing something? That's how you do that with amps that don't have an overdrive channel. How pretty it sounds is obviously opinion, mine being that usually it isn't pretty. Of course gain wide open isn't something I would suggest trying, but no reason using something north of 2:00 to get grindy is inherently bad. Many guitar amps are designed to be used like this. I would think some bass amps are too.

    The "rules" I always thought were fairly common are (1) when you want the amp providing the tone, dime master and use gain as volume. (2) When you want the bass providing the tone use the gain just below breakup and use master as volume. (3) When you want overdrive, set the amount you want using the gain and use master to set max volume. (4) If you want a pedal to provide the tone, use the effects return or set amp eq at noon; adjust to taste.
  10. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    It's a perpetual set of myths that SS sounds bad when cranked, and overdriving SS blows them up. Maybe your great-grandfather's SS amp, but it's not true anymore.
    AndyLES, Aqualung60 and JRA like this.
  11. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    Doesn't a pedal do it through clipping diodes designed to distort vs pushing a circuit to hard that wasn't meant to be?
  12. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa Boogie, Development Engineer-Genzler (pedals), Product Support-Genz Benz
    On a well designed solid state amp there shouldn't be any problem.

    There are solid state circuits that can sound good overdriven, but some can sound positively awful too. Some circuits do odd m, unexpected things when overdriven.
  13. Bassbeater

    Bassbeater Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    The amp designers were making a gain stage with a sweet spot that is similar to a light overdrive pedal, a distortion pedal is more extreme. It was meant to be. I did this with my Sunn coliseum all the time, it sounded great. Rock out.
    Lvjoebass and DavC like this.
  14. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    I thought the Sunn amps were designed to have a drive channel; sort of an intentional feature. Much like how the new Darkglass mini amps have specific channels for drive.
    I'm guessing a little here. I know Sunn is famous for their SS amps with lots of pleasant gain. Most SS bass heads aren't.
    cheechi likes this.
  15. Bassbeater

    Bassbeater Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    Every bass amp I've ever owned with separate gain and master actually, do as you like though!
    St_G likes this.
  16. blubass


    Aug 3, 2007
    Modesto Ca
    Current: Blackstar, DR strings, Nady. Previous endorsements with: GK, Rotosound, Ernie Ball, Cleartone, EMG, Dean, Dava Picks, Rebel Straps, Dickies
    Sunn beta leads and beta bass heads are climbing in price because stoner rock bands like Red Fang are using them and finding the ss overdrive pleasant.
  17. Spirit of Ox

    Spirit of Ox Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2012
    Chelsea Mass
    Pushing the amp to overdrive is called hitting the rails. The best tone I've heard from a solid state amp hitting the rails, is an Acoustic 220 from the 70's, as used by Rob Wright from Nomeansno. There's also a solid state Traynor that has a good grind and they even made a preamp pedal based on its circuitry called The Rusty box (Bob Weston from Shellac's amp). GKs and old Sunns have a great hitting the rails grind too.
  18. Coolhandjjl


    Oct 13, 2010
    Tina Weymouth had great overdriven tone from her ss Acoustic.
    cheechi and St_G like this.
  19. ThinCrappyTone

    ThinCrappyTone Guest

    Oct 1, 2011
    how it sounds depends in the amp. the mesa boogie d800+ overdrives super sweetly, and it’s ss all the way
    AztecViking and agedhorse like this.
  20. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    The Alpha and Beta series amps used digital CMOS chips operating in their linear range (i.e. between the high and low switching voltage points) to generate distortion. Clever design!
    Zooberwerx likes this.
  21. 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.

    May 16, 2022

Share This Page