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That quest for "clarity" (here we go again)

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by the engine, Mar 19, 2009.

  1. the engine

    the engine Guest

    So I've read a lot of posts lately about "clarity" when it comes to tube amps (and any other amp for that matter). Well, I think I've hit on something. I did a lot of experimenting lately with different amp/cab combinations. I borrowed gear from all of my friends just to bring it home and try it out. I think I have finally realized what a lot of you already knew. For those of you (like me) who didn't listen to the advice of others, here goes. The single largest factor that I found that will add "clarity" to your tone is....wait for it....HEAD ROOM! (What the heck are you talking about?) I've noticed for years that the best sounding PA systems that I played through had a lot more watts worth of amps in their racks than the speakers were rated for. Well now I know why. I recently (yesterday) bought a new rig. The amp is rated at almost 1 1/2 times what the cab is rated for. It has a tube preamp and solid state power. As I found during my experiment, the "clarity" is amazing! No mud! Even when I dial in the warmest, fattest tones the amp will get, still clear (and trust me...it will get warm and FAT). Every time I hooked up gear during the "lab testing" I did, that ONE FACTOR did more to clear up tone than any tweeking of the knobs, combination of speakers, even new strings! I'm assuming (and hoping) that somebody really smart is going to swoop in and tell me why this is the case. I'm not saying that if you put a really craptastic 2000W amp on top of some really craptastic 20W speakers that you will have created a tone beast. But after trying 11 different heads and 17 cabs in almost endless combinations, I feel like I've really picked up on something. I hope this will help some of you so that you won't have to drive your friends (not to mention your wives) crazy bumming gear and killing the chance of any real dinner conversation for months. Cheers!

    P.S. Using speakon connectors rather than 1/4" also made a difference in high powered amps. But that's a topic for another day .
  2. the engine

    the engine Guest

    I almost forgot! Noobies! If you take this theory and run with it, be careful! I don't want the blood of your speakers on my hands! Know the limits of your gear. If you don't know, ask somebody! Please! Just trying to help.
  3. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    The way I would say it is this: for clarity, use a rig (amp and speakers) that is louder than you need. Both amp and speakers can be limiting factors to clarity: i.e. either component will distort when pushed beyond its normal operating limit.
  4. +1 and that could be a 50 watt 110 combo, or a 1000 watt 412 rig depending on the context and requirements.
  5. What so many people define as that "tube" sound is overdriving (specifically) the power tubes in the power section.

    It stands to reason that the higher power the amp, the less chance you have of overdriving the power section. That knob labeled "volume" is really handy, and as elementary as it seems, some people haven't quite figured out that it goes down as well as up.
  6. El Tookay

    El Tookay Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2008
    +1! Old SVT's sound godly, but you gotta crank the sh*t outta them to get that sound, because it comes from the saturation of the power tubes. A 6146-equipped SVT can be really clean at lower volumes, and same goes for Marshall Superbass/ Major heads. Watage does NOT equal SPL, but in tube amps, wattage equals headroom.
  7. the engine

    the engine Guest

    I agree with what you guys are saying. I'm not saying that you have to have a bazzilion watt rig with a few dozen 15's and 45 10's to get clarity. And (as we have all debated to no end) "clarity" is not a definitive. I'm just saying that all other things equal, head room seemed to allow me to find clearer versions of the same tones. I LOVE the warmth a "gooeyness" of tubey tones. I'm not trying to get rid of that by any means. It's tough to describe what I found. I guess trying to describe a tone that's "tubey" and yet really clear and focused is like trying to describe the ocean to someone who's never seen it. Anyway...cheers to all. Good to hear your input.
  8. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Ha. I agree with you that "tubey" tone and clarity are not mutually exclusive! I run a high-power rack rig and big speaker cab (6x10), but my tone comes from SansAmp preamps, which are solid state but desinged to emulate the sound of tubes.

    With that rig, my desired amount of tubey (emulated) goodness happens at any gig, quiet or loud! I used to love my vintage SVT head and cab back in the day, but the problem was that in small rooms my sound would be too clean, and at big gigs (outdoors) it could get too dirty.

    *Note to tube aficionados: I'm not saying my SansAmp rig sounds as good as an old SVT, but it's close enough for me, and as noted, a big advantage is not having to worry how much my tone will change as my volume changes (and it weighs less, too).

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