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SVT-CL: Using "Gain" as Volume?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by AndyChandy, Jan 28, 2014.

  1. I've got an SVT-CL on the way in the mail. I'll admit I don't know too much about the functions of tube amps; I'm new to the game. I'll try this when I get an opportunity, but I'd like to know: what is the difference in sound when diming the master knob and using gain as the volume control, as opposed to the other way around? I suppose there are also ways to adjust volume in-between those two extremes. The main question I have, though, is: am I putting more strain on the amp by doing one or the other? i.e. if I dime the master are the tubes going to need to be replaced sooner?
  2. vbchaos


    Sep 5, 2011
    Groningen, The Netherlands
    Uncompensated endorsing user: fEARful
    Many tube-amp users do this. With master on full, you get all the tub-ish sound from the power tube and a more clean signal from the pre-amp.
    Back in the days when amps had no master knob, the volume was adjusted with the pre-amp gain only.
    More gain from the pre-amp usually (not necessarily) adds overdrive to the signal that will be re-produced by the power amp section.
    I did this with my fulltube amp, too. Master to max and use gain to adjust volume.

    don't believe the myths - it won't harm the amp nor is it better or worse. It is just different.

    Wait until jimmyM chimes in - he is far more advanced (especially in ampeg) in tube amps.
  3. Korladis

    Korladis Supporting Member

    It's a way of somewhat working around the master volume, making the amp behave more like an older amp without a master volume knob.

    It's also how you get the maximum clean headroom. Hence why I avoid it.
  4. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    When I run into a CL, I crank the master pretty good and control volume with the gain as this makes it behave more like my '76 SVT . I have pedals for distortion. :bag:

    No right or wrong answer here - experiment and do what works best for you.
  5. ultra60

    ultra60 Supporting Member

    Sep 16, 2010
    Herndon/Chantilly Va.
    I recently picked up a CL. Have not aired it out at a gig yet. But at home levels you can here what others are describing.. turn up the master all the way and the tone is clear. Gain all the way up, and master set lower, is noticeably darker.
  6. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    I tried this and didn't quite like it. It's a different sound alright but to my ears it added some tonal qualities to the top end I'd call 'fizzy' for a lack of better terms. I prefer the preamp to color my sound, but ymmv. Gotta try it after all.
  7. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2008
    On the CL the master is right before the preamp out. So the master is acting like a pad. Turn it all the way up and the full preamp signal is going to the power amp. Turn it down and you are attenuating the preamp output. If you want to minimize the extent of the pad affecting your signal, turn up the master. It is a linear pot so the position of the knob is proportional to the amount of attenuation.

    The gain is located at the input stage of the amp. Turn it up and you are increasing the amplification. When cranked you are pushing the preamp tubes into distortion. The master regulates the overall volume level by padding and therefore lowering the signal level. The two work together to balance dirt and volume.

    Using the gain and master is about getting the sound that you want. If you want maximal clean, crank the master and use the gain to regulate the overall volume level. If you want dirt, crank the gain and use the master to control how loud the rig is.

    By cranking the gain, you are putting more strain on the preamp tubes. This will wear them down faster than if you were to turn up the master and control the level with the gain. But this is a minor issue. You aren't going to kill your preamp tubes by cranking the gain. The amp was designed to this. Besides, preamp tubes are relatively inexpensive. I'd be more concerned about running the amp so loud that you wear down the power tubes which cost more to replace. Having said all this, tubes last quite a while.
  8. StuartV

    StuartV Finally figuring out what I really like Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2006
    Manassas, VA
    What beans said.

    Remember, there plenty of old SVTs around that are still using original tubes. They didn't have a Master volume, so the power section was running full on all the time - just the same as what you're talking about if you run the Master wide open all the time.