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what is the relationship between gain, volume, pre amp, and guitar volume?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Whippet, Mar 27, 2015.

  1. Whippet


    Aug 30, 2014
    I can not seem to understand the relationship between gain, volume, preamp of the amp and guitar volume.

    I was told to crank up the volume on the bass to 85-90% of the maximum output because this where the bass is at default setting and you get the full effect of the pickups.

    1. Do I crank up the volume to 8/10 of maximum output then adjust the gain to desired output with the bass volume at 85-90%, then tinker with the bass, mid treble of the amp, then tinker with the bass preamp?


    2. Do I keep the volume at 20-50% and then crank up the gain to get desired output, with the bass volume at 85-90% then tinker with the bass, mid, treble of the amp, then finally tinker with the bass preamp?

    3. In which order do most people adust? The amp`s volume, gain, amp`s preamp, then bass preamp?

    Thanks for all information and advice in advance.
  2. I take it you have an active preamp in your bass. You can tweak the output down a bit so that you can run it on full for a solo, otherwise you may as well run it on full to keep everything simple.

    Then you set your gain on your preamp. If you keep some on board gain in reserve do this on full. Give it your slammingest on the bass while checking out your input level indicator. Raise input level until it clips and back off until it doesn't.

    Tweak EQ. Ideally you want a long cable or wireless, and the rest of the band playing.

    All that assumes you have available headroom for the gig at hand. You may need to compromise EQ for volume, commonly reducing the bassy bass in favour of low mids so you don't blow speakers.
    TheRealKong and Whippet like this.
  3. GBassNorth


    Dec 23, 2006
    I have the best luck with most of my passive basses by taking the following steps...
    Plug into passive port on amp
    Turn instrument volume up to max
    Turn instrument tone pots to max
    Turn amp volume off
    Strum strings hard (dig in as hard or harder than you will when you play) and turn the amp gain knob up just to the point that it begins to clip
    Back bass volume down to about 75% (this give you a bit of extra room to increase volume to 100% during the gig if needed without having to touch the amp)
    Set tone knob on bass at favorite setting
    Slowly turn amp volume up while strumming until desired room volume is reached
    Tweak amp bass and treb settings as necessary to finalize tone

    Edited for clarity
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2015
    TheRealKong, Jamvan and Whippet like this.
  4. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I use passive basses, not active, but I've got a Tech21 VT Bass Deluxe preamp, so in effect I've got a preamp/EQ there rather than in the bass. I generally run the bass full on so as to give my pedal board the most signal to work with: the VT Bass has 6 EQ presets but there are just 2 I use 99% of the time, a beefy clean tone and a more middy, gritty tone. I keep its output at unity with the input so that I can turn it off if I want and run a clean signal without a volume drop. At the amp, I keep gain fairly low (about 9:00 or 10:00), the EQ fairly flat, and use the master volume to adjust my overall loudness. I'll tweak EQ at the amp to adjust to the room if I need a little more bass or mids or whatever. For any dynamics mid-song, I usually just try to do it with my hands, but I do have a compressor (Boss LMB-3) that is not always on, and I set the output on that a little higher than unity so that I can kick it on for a boost if I need it.
    KickingBass and Whippet like this.
  5. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    On a passive bass i run on full because the pot can kill frequencies when turned down.
    On an active bass without pedalboard i run about 3/4 so i have a little boost available if needed.
    When having the pedalboard i run every bass on full because my OD pedals and the compressor are sensitive to the input.
    On the amp i set the sound first - and that includes the gain. If it is a clean amp like the markbass LMII i use sometimes, i set the gain so the clip light goes on when i dig in really hard and turn back a tiny bit - i try it with the effects on and off and use the strongest signal i get for that. In my case that is with one of my OD pedals engaged because that signal is midscooped and the output is turned louder to make up for the lack of mids. If the amp is capable of dirt like my Tonehammer 500, i adjust the gain to my liking. Don't forget the EQ section because that also messes around with the strength of the signal. Last comes the master - this is where i adjust how loud i like the bass.
    Whippet likes this.
  6. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    To understand that better, it helps to know how a modern amp works. On a Class D amplifier, the powersection is always running at 100%. The master does not set the power that comes out, but the power that goes in.
  7. Whippet


    Aug 30, 2014

    Ok trying this right now, one thing I dont get is, I set the gain, where should the master volume of the amp be at this initial point? Full out blast or closed off totally?
  8. Whippet


    Aug 30, 2014
    Will do this later this week when I get my passive bass back. One thing I want to make sure, if I run the active bass as passive by using the active/passive switch, I can get the guitar to respond 100% as passive right?
    GBassNorth likes this.
  9. At the preamp gain setting stage the master can be off on most amps. Full blast would be quite antisocial.
    Whippet likes this.
  10. Whippet


    Aug 30, 2014
    Great! I have the VT Bass Deluxe and was wondering how in the world I would set this up when I set up the amp. Will try out your method! Thanks for the information. Much appreciated.
  11. Whippet


    Aug 30, 2014
    OK thanks, got it.
  12. Whippet


    Aug 30, 2014

    Ok, now I get it, clean and dirty tone from different amps. Mine is a tecamp Puma and gets no distortion. After reading your post, I am just going to have to get yet another equipment, an amp that makes dirty tone with a twist of the gain! LOL

    Anyway will try this method with pedals attached. Thank you very much.
  13. Whippet


    Aug 30, 2014
    So long story short, gain controls the output/ how loud it is? Master only controls the input. When I turned up the gain and turned the volume, for some reason some frequencies seem to be cut. And vice versa, when I turned down the gain, and turned up the volume, same kind of thing happened.

    There must be an optimum sweet spot for every amp where the amp is doing the best job in terms of mixing gain and volume?
  14. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    The general idea is to run each stage of the chain relatively hot, say 75-80% of the way up until reaching the master volume which sets the final level.

    What to avoid is running one stage very low and another very high which leads to issues with noise, clipping and limited headroom.

    This gets super important as signal chains get very long, as in recording or live sound. Mixing engineers refer to it as gain staging.
    cfsporn and Whippet like this.
  15. Whippet


    Aug 30, 2014
    Thanks for clearing this up. Off to tinkering the amp!
  16. pnchad


    Nov 3, 2005
    In pro audio you are taught to set the power 'master' to 90% or full

    Then adjust the input 'gain' to get to the volume you want

    When that is in place you balance that input with your 'source' (preamp etc.)
  17. Joce


    Jul 20, 2005
    This has basically been answered, but I'm not afraid to quote my own post from another thread:
    On the Bass, I typically run the volume full up and use it to adjust overall volume quickly without having to fiddle with the master on the amp (which theoretically would be the better approach, I guess).
    GBassNorth and maevinj like this.
  18. GBassNorth


    Dec 23, 2006
    Different bass preamps work slightly differently when putting them in passive mode. But generally speaking, if your on board preamp has a passive setting you can use the passive input jack of your amp just the same as you would any other completely passive instrument. The watch out is if you ever accidentally flip the on board passive switch to active you stand a good chance of significantly boosting the volume and possibly clipping the amp. Your sound engineer won't be happy but its not the end of the world either.
  19. KickingBass

    KickingBass Look into it

    Really close to what I do, it works for me too.
  20. monsterthompson

    monsterthompson The Eighth Note Wonder Of The World Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2008
    What bass, and pickups/onboard preamp?

    What pedals?

    What amp?

    What are you trying to achieve?

    Solo, band, live, recording, jazz, rock, doom, funk?

    What are you currently unhappy with?

    There are so many ways to skin this cat.
    hrodbert696 likes this.

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