Stupid Question...

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Matt Call, May 20, 2005.

  1. Matt Call

    Matt Call Supporting Member

    Aug 1, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    Okay, this question isn't really for me. It's for my band's guitar player. He plays Marshall TSL100 and JCM800 heads. When we play, he usually just mics his cab. The problem is that he's too loud and never actually ends up going through the PA. He doesn't want to turn down because he wants all of his tubes to be activated (?) so it still sounds the same. So how can I quiet him down.

    Would a compression pedal work?

    Again, stupid question... I know.
  2. Plain Old Me

    Plain Old Me

    Dec 14, 2004
    Try taking out his tubes while hes not looking ;)
  3. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    That's a common problem among guitarists with marshalls and other all tube amps. They sound their best when the tubes are cranked to the limit, resulting in guitarists who can't play at less than house shaking volumes.

    Fortuneately some people invented a cure for this...its called a power soak or brake. Basically its a device that sits between the amp and cabs and has a variable load resistor on it. You run the amp full tilt into the brake, but you can control the amount of power that goes from the soak into the cabs by means of a simple device called the volume knob.

    It works wonders.

    Here's a link to the one from Marshal, which is very expensive, I have seen them for much cheaper than this ($200 or so) from other brands.
  4. r379


    Jul 28, 2004
    Dallas, Texas
    There is, of course, the possibility that the guitar player just wants to play loud so he isn't going to want to hear a solution to the problem.
  5. Transverz

    Transverz believer of the Low End Theory

    May 3, 2004
    Los Angeles, CA
    If he really is sincere about wanting the sound of the tubes to be fully used by cranking it, it's a double edged solution to use those power soaks or attenuators:

    Positive for you: They are able to lower the volume while maintaining the cranked sound...its kinda like another master volume.

    Negative for him: The tone is somewhat compromised. Some say even the best ones suck tone out a little bit. Some have presence and contour knobs to compensate, but yeah, it is what it is.

    Another possible solution is to get him to play 50w amps. 100w is CRAZY LOUD. 50w is still loud, but you can crank them to get the best possible sound without getting that 100w ear-killing volume. If he isn't willing to change amps, as is understood, you can pull tubes in a certain fashion with certain amps to lower the tube wattage by half. 100 becomes 50, 50 becomes about 25, or something like that.

    I also suggest he change to either a 50 watter, or even a 25-30 watter. If he is willing to pick up a Mesa Boogie or even a Peavey tube power amp around 25-50 watts, the sound can be cranked up enough to sweeten the tubes but still not be killing yourselves with volume. You'd be surprised how loud a 20 watt tube power amp can get! And with the tubes totally saturated too!

    My only other suggestion is to go on a quest to find another amp that isn't tube based. :eek: I know, I know, it's not the same. But a lot can be said for a sound that is close enough for live gigs but being able to DI it to the board or have it sound exactly the same cranked and at low volume. Line 6's Flextone 3 or Vetta series is pretty well liked by TONS of people. Even people who are tube snobs. You'd be surprised...

    Just my .00000000000000000002 dracmas...

  6. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    Yep it's comon. I spent years upsizing my rig to compete with loud guitarists. At one pount I was having to bring 2 amps and 4 very efficient speaker cabs and I still couldn't hear myself, despite the ear-bleeding leves.

    At that point I threw in the towel and bought some musician ear plugs. They worked for a while but I eventually found a band that understands the concept. They drive their tubes hard, so they use 30W amps that can still put out enough SPL to overpower the PA if they're not careful. We have 2 guitarists and I'm able to hear myself with one cab nowadays - thank God!

    Guitarists don't always understand the physics of it. They see us using 400w+ amps and it sounds like a lot to them, so they think they'll need 100w to compete. They don't realise that to keep up with 100 guitar watts, most bass players will need 1,000w. Why? Several reasons.

    SPL is a function of both wattage and speaker efficienfy. With current technology, speakers can be Loud, Low, small, pick any 2...Guitar speakers don't have to produce anything below 150Hz-ish, so they are very, very efficient. To make it worse they use cabs that use these speakers in multiples of 4, making them more efficient again. Bass speakers, or any speaker that needs to produce low frequencies, are less efficient. IN achieving lows, bass cabs have to sacrifice some of the loud. It's the laws of Physics at work.

    We can show this mathematically. The formula for calculating SPL is :-

    (10 x Log W) + E = SPL,
    where W is watts, and E if speaker sensitivity in dB.

    Lets say you're using say, 400W through a 4x10 that's has a sensitivity rating of 100dB. Using this formula, you're looking at a max SPL of 126dB.

    Now lets look at your guitarist using 100W through a speaker cab with a 110dB efficiency. He's already up to 130dB.

    You're probaly thinking "that's only 4dB more". So lets work out how many more watts you'll need to get that extra 4dB using the same 100dB bass cab -

    500 watts = 127dB
    600 watts = 127.8dB
    700 watts = 128.45dB
    800 watts = 129dB
    900 watts = 129.54dB
    1,000 watts = 130dB.

    So you need 1,000 watts, more the double your initial power, and 10 times more than what your guitarist is using.

    The other way to get more SPL is to keep your wattage the same and increase the sensitivity of your speakers. So how do we do that without losing lows? You add more speakers. Lets say you get a second cab the same as the one you've already got (assuming your amp can handle the lower impedance). Your 100dB sensitivity is now 103dB. Doubling the speaker cone area increases sensitivity by aprox 3dB.

    So 400W onto a cab that 103dB sensitive is 129.02dB. Your guitarist is still louder than you - and he's probbly making noises about buying a second cab............... it's a problem.

    Print this and let him read it. If he doubts any of it, there's lots of stuff on the net about this subject, or either of you can PM or email me.
  7. My daughter plays a 1985 JCM-800 and 4x12 half stack with her band (

    The Marshall Power Brake is the answer, especially for the 100w JCM heads. Hers is 50w (intentionally) and ferociously loud as it is.

    I understand the Marshal product offers superior loading and protection for delicate/expensive output transformers, than do the cheap brands. There are power brakes on eBay all the time, but never under $200.

    For a real Marshall, get the real power brake. All the grind, and less noise.
  8. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    You could always get him a Fender Blues Jr. for his birthday.
  9. cb56


    Jul 2, 2000
    Central Illinois
    Power brake and one of those plexiglass walls to go in front of his cab
  10. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    most guitar players really don't get it. the groove tubes guy wrote a book on amps and in one section said something like "when i walk into a club and see a guy with a 100 watt head i know his tone is going to suck AND it's going to be too loud".

    guitar tube power section shave this sound that most players look for that happens when the tubes just start to distort. the higher the wattage of the amp, the louder it is when this happens.

    the power brake is an exellent idea. still, in most cases the cat is still using 4 or 8 12" drivers. Nuts, just plain nuts.

    know what sounds good in clubs? Little 20 watt 1x12 all tube guitar amps. The guys gets his "brown sound" tone at a volume that is reasonable.

    Sorry if it sounds rude, snobbish, or whatever, but a guitar player using a 100 watt head with one or two 4x12 cabs in any but the largest (and i mean BIG) clubs is STUPID. sure it looks cool, but it's rude and obnoxious, and shows just how little they understand how to use a tube amp.
  11. popinfresh


    Dec 23, 2004
    Melbourne, Aus
    Ivan ^ I agree.

    Last night I went to a gig in a small-medium sized hall and one guitarist had a Mesa 50-50 power amp into a 412. The other had a triple rec running into 612's. The band after them also had a 100 watt marshall (Duno model names with marshall's..)

    And in that hall they were ridiculously loud, yet the sound still kind of sucked. To make it worse the two bassists were using an Eden rig (500, into 2x410XLT's) and an lab systems (aussie company, they had two 410's) plus an Ampeg SVT for the other rig. And BOTH of those got lost so easily in the mix. I couldn't beleive it, even with the PA support it was just a bunch of noise coming from the guitars..

    To answer the threadstarters question. Ask the guitarist if he'll get a smaller amp (Most likely make money off this too) or get a power breaker.

    Is it possible at all with those guitar amps to pull a couple of the power tubes out?
  12. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Yes, but you need to make sure you have an A/B pair. Some amps are paired right next to each other, some are paired outside/inside, some are paired in an alternating pattern. The best way I've found to test this, without staring at schematics, is to simply pull and replace tubes until you hear what you like.
    I do this to turn my Seymour Duncan into a 60w amp, and it works fine.

    In guitarists' defense, I STILL think it has to do with the player. A full stack in a small club is fine, so long as the guitarist isn't cranked wide open, IMO. More speakers=more moving air, even at lower volume levels. Most bassists don't appreciate being told they have too many speakers, and I wouldn't want to do it to a guitarist. I will cheerfully tell them to turn it the @#$% down, though ;) . Again, it depends on the player. A 20 watter will blast your ears if it's class A, and even the loudest Mode Four full stack has a volume knob that starts out at 0.

    What kills me about the situation is that, based on listening to guitarists play with their tone, I don't believe they really want power-tube distortion. I don't even trust your average guitarist to know what it is, who uses it, or what it sounds like. I think they just do it because somebody in a magazine told them it sounded good.

    EDIT--er, make sure the guitar player has his amp off before he pulls or replaces any tubes. You know, shock hazard and such.
  13. popinfresh


    Dec 23, 2004
    Melbourne, Aus
    ^^ You can still get shocked (and killed) by fiddling inside power amps when they're turned off ;)

    Whilst they usually want to crank those stacks to get the tube distortion, I agree half probably couldn't tell the difference between tube o/d and a nice o/d pedal.. Then again, that's just me, as I can't :p
  14. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    well yes and no.

    most don't want full on distortion, but tube amps tend to sound the best to most people at the point where they produce the mystical "brown sound"

    essentially its where the power tubes just start to break up at the attack of the note and as the note decays there is an undescribable blossoming of the tone. (very voodoo sounding huh?). I've read some great articles on it none of which i recall the urls for at the second, but it all jives with my experience.

    my gp is a tone nut and in all of his tube amps there is this one spot on the volume knob where the tone just opens up almost magically. too much above that and it turns into dirt, under that and the amp sounds lifeless. on his 20 or so watt 1965 deluxe reverb, this happens at a reasonable volume, but even then i'm usually running at least 400 watts into a couple of cabs to be on a par with him. on his 80 watt '67 twin it occurs at a painful volume, and on any of his 100 watt marshal/clones, even with just one 4x12 this magic spot happens at a point where ear plugs are mandatory

    same tone, different volume levels. period.

    why do tons of guitar players cart out 100 watt heads with 4x12 cabs to clubs? It looks cool, they have some idea that high volume makes them cool, or just plain ignorance.

    i really have nothing against guitar players at all so don't take this the wrong way, but in this case i have no tolerance for that kind of narcissism, blatant disrespect for all other people (band members, audience, club owners, etc), and idiocy.
  15. Ha, my physics teacher last year built a really simple capacitor in front of the class as a demonstration. He charged it up using only static from a glass rod and a piece of fur (this was done several times). Right after saying that he would need to be really careful with it, we all saw him grimace. It took him at least ten seconds to even say "ow." The moral of the story is: electricity is not a toy. Even small currents can kill you.
  16. Matt Call

    Matt Call Supporting Member

    Aug 1, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    What kills me about the fact is that, when he bought the JCM, the other amps he was looking at were a Vox AC30 and an Orange AD30HTC. Both of which are 30w tube. Of course, neither were "loud enough." :rollno: . So he got his JCM800, on top of already having the TSL. Dude's just ignorant. He thinks he knows everything (imagine a guitar player thinking that...) and therefore cannot take anyone's advice. I've offered to build him a plexiglass sheild of some sort, or even buy him a sealed, mic'd cab... I just don't know what to do. He just doesn't get it.

    On a side note, I went to a local show last night. Both the guitarists were using 100w Marshall heads, and the bass player was using an SVTCL/810 setup. It was a relatively small show too. Maybe 200 people, max. It sounded like crap. Don't get me wrong, they're a good band... but have been on tour for the last 6 months or so and have been playing for rather large crowds. When you come back home though, you gots to turn that down. It was cool though, I digged it (or would "dug" be the proper way to put it?).

    Any ideas of a "subtle" way to tell the guitar player that he's too loud, needs to turn down, and nobody want to be deaf?
  17. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Usually, printing up signs warning the audience about excessively high volume levels and offering earplugs to them before the show works. After the 2nd or 3rd song, when audience members come up to grab earplugs out of a large bag of them, the point is made. Unless, of course, the guitarist in question just doesn't care at all.

    As a part time baritone player, I end up playing through a 120w full stack in small clubs. My master volume doesn't go past the 9 o'clock position, but I get plenty of bass response, and that's why I like the higher wattage amps for either guitar or bass. It's not deafening, and I wouldn't want it to be. I get plenty of distortion out of the preamp, and that's what I hear most guitarists using. The power tubes in a tube amp need to be drawing more current than they're strictly rated for in order to get power tube distortion, and it's not a tone I hear most guitarists going for.
  18. billfitzmaurice

    billfitzmaurice Commercial User

    Sep 15, 2004
    New Hampshire
    Owner, Bill Fitzmaurice Loudspeaker Design
    Have him play through a Fender Deluxe or Princeton cranked full, mounted on a stand at his ear level. He can play as loud as he wants to satisfy his tone jones and the PA can actually do what it's intended to. Once upon a time PAs sucked and your stage amp had to push the whole room. No more. The only person who needs to hear what's coming from his amp is him. The audience hears him through the PA, the rest of the band through the monitors. That's the way the real pros do it. The trick will lie in convincing him to leave his big rig and his ego at home and do what's best for the band. Good luck.