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Gain versus Volume versus Pedal Boost

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by cc50fralin, Sep 19, 2018.

  1. Modman68

    Modman68 Tele-Holic

    609
    Mar 27, 2011
    La mesa
    Before we get too far in the weeds...

    consider that what is written on the front plate was put there by the marketing dept and not the electrical engineers responsible for the circuit.

    Volume, input gain, drive... what they mean is going to be dependent on the circuit, they are not always used consistently.
     
    Silverface likes this.

  2. Henry Mars

    Henry Mars Tele-Holic

    877
    Jan 17, 2014
    Bucks Co. PA
    This is a very GENERAL explanation.
    Gain is the sensitivity to a reference signal input say 1mv ... it is defined as vout/vin. So that an amp with a gain factor of 10 will produce an undistorted output signal of 10mv if Av = 100 then the undistorted out put would be 100mv. when the input signal is to much for the amp to handle the amp is over driven and clipping and compression occurs ... in a tube amp guitarists like it ... this is overdrive not gain ... a sensitive amp can be over driven with a lower input signal .... there are amplifiers with variable gain, which is often confused with volume ... it isn't.

    Volume is the amount of signal ( clean or over driven) that the power amp sends to the speaker. Some amps actually have power stages that can be over driven. Some will over drive the preamps and use a linear pwr amp to send the signal to the speakers ... volume is not gain, it is controlled by the amount of full gain signal from the preamp stages that end up being amplified by the pwr amp.

    In a tube amp the OT is the determining factor as to what it is all going to sound like. If you change the OT to one with differnt specs the overdrive ( which is the more term for what most guitarists call gain) characteristics that one hears will change.
     

  3. cc50fralin

    cc50fralin TDPRI Member

    Age:
    61
    89
    Sep 5, 2018
    Queens, NY
    No, you guys are not scaring me off, MilwMark; the fact that this thread is getting so many intelligent responses proves it's a valid thread.

    I'm digesting all these posts, and will probably come back with a question later.

    The schematics...they're scaring me! :eek:

    Thanks,

    Mike ;)
     
    JustABluesGuy likes this.

  4. cc50fralin

    cc50fralin TDPRI Member

    Age:
    61
    89
    Sep 5, 2018
    Queens, NY
    By the way, this is my amp.

    marshall-avt20-8567.jpg

    Mike
     

  5. JL_LI

    JL_LI Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    68
    May 20, 2017
    Long Island, NY
    Different posts here seem to express the same general ideas from different points of view and different amps respond to changes in settings differently. With my Mesa Boogie Express, gain operates in the preamp section. Raising it above 2 o’clock adds crunch or distortion depending on the channel. The volume control works on the power section to increase or decrease loudness. Turned past 2 o’clock in increases volume and hiss. I use my Keely compressor pedal as a clean boost to increase loudness without increasing hiss or distortion. Controls and pedals are interactive so it is impossible to get the best settings one control at a time but I generally adjust the level control on the compressor last. This is a good thread and even conflicting opinions will be helpful.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2018
    PBO Blues likes this.

  6. peteb

    peteb Friend of Leo's

    Apr 25, 2003
    Cascadia

    thanks Clint, that's what I have been saying.


    to add on, a volume control is a gain control
     

  7. cc50fralin

    cc50fralin TDPRI Member

    Age:
    61
    89
    Sep 5, 2018
    Queens, NY
    Hey, everyone.

    I just wanted to thank eveyone who responded to this thread; there is so much good, technical info here, it really impressed me. ;) It's almost a reference thread.

    And, armed with this new found information, I experimented with my guitar, amp and Blues Driver pedal tonight, and I was getting some tones I'd never heard before.

    Some background: I bought my amp in 2003, but never used it that much being mainly a bass player. Now, with a new guitar, that sounds fantastic, and a determination to get good at guitar I am surprised at how clean or dirty a Marshall amp can sound.

    I'll post some of the settings tomorrow. I have them written down, but don't have the notes with me right now.

    By all means, please keep the info, explanations and opinions coming.
    Thanks,
    Mike. :)
     
    peteb likes this.

  8. alnicopu

    alnicopu Friend of Leo's

    Oct 3, 2009
    georgia
    Everybody, back away from the internet! I work with melinial aged engineers who would over think and argue for 2 hours on how to change a tire. I am sad to report, I am seeing the same here.
     
    MilwMark likes this.

  9. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Age:
    66
    Mar 2, 2003
    Lawndale CA
    Which changes quite a few generic descriptions (like mine) since the terms as used on the Valvestate are different from what many of were describing in the way of traditional amp operation.

    Have you read the manual and do you understand what Marshall says the controls do?

    Here's the major change from the info in many posts - the only level controls on the amp are in the preamp - which is a bit unusual EXCEPT on smaller solid-state amps. Most amps that have "preamp" controls also have a "master volume" or "loudness", "level" - something AFTER all the other controls that determines the loudness of the amp.

    So yours has an atypical control layout. "Theory" won't help you much with your amp - if you want to learn how different controls work in a more general manner it will take some education in electronics and study of basic amplifier design.

    YOUR amp - YOU have a gain control that could just as easily be labeled "distortion", as that's what it does - controls the level of the signal in part of the preamp , but mostly how much distortion the amp produces.

    and a "volume" control that determines the overall output (loudness) that is not a distortion control except when the amp is turned up beyond what the components can handle to stay "clean".

    Forget all the posts about voltage and such. They are overly complicated in this context and the numbers may be way off.

    Some solid state amps have these two controls only - but not many.

    Virtually no common tube amps have controls set up that way (in the preamp only).

    Does that put it in a neater nutshell for you? Again, it's not typical of 90% of the amps on the planet, so 'm just trying to explain what YOUR amp's controls are for. Doesn't apply to very many other amps at all.
     
    MilwMark and peteb like this.

  10. peteb

    peteb Friend of Leo's

    Apr 25, 2003
    Cascadia
    The main thing to remember is gain is gain no matter what it’s called, it’s an increase of signal voltage, the difference people are describing is where it is in the circuit and what it does.


    Early in the circuit and it “drives” and later in the circuit it “levels”.
     
    Wally likes this.

  11. peteb

    peteb Friend of Leo's

    Apr 25, 2003
    Cascadia

    That reminds me of the “overdrive” control on the PV pacer. If I remember right, it didn’t change the volume, it just made the sound hazy. I had no interest in it. That makes it not a volume or gain control, but a “distortion” control.
     

  12. cc50fralin

    cc50fralin TDPRI Member

    Age:
    61
    89
    Sep 5, 2018
    Queens, NY
    Question section:

    So, in plain English, how does this make my amp sound different, and why did Marshall make this amp like this?

    If you're familiar with the sound of a Marshall AVT-20, what amp would you recommend at the other end of the sound spectrum?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The comment section:

    Yesterday was the first time I really experimented with the guitar, gain and Blues Driver pedal, and I got some nice tones at these settings:

    Amp: Gain 1 o'clock, Volume 12 o'clock
    Blues Driver: Level 1 o'clock, tone full, gain between 8 and 1 o'clock
    Guitar: volume mostly half to full, tone full

    With the Blues Driver shut off, the amp is very clean with gain and volume at 12 o'clock, and guitar volume and tone on full.

    With the Blues Driver engaged with gain 10 o'clock - WOW! Clarity with each note of a chord crystal clear. Nice boost with no noticeable noise.

    With gain at 1 o'clock a moderate amount of dirt very sensitive to picking attack.

    I still have a lot of experimenting to do.

    The other effect I have is a flanger, and to me this sounds best used sparingly.

    I'm going to look into a delay, and a compressor, but that's for another thread.

    Thanks, Silverface, and every one else.

    Keep those ideas and comments coming.

    Mike
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2018

  13. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Age:
    66
    Mar 2, 2003
    Lawndale CA
    First, one note - control settings on pedals - especially those that generate distortion - are irrelevant. There are variations between individual pedals, and too many outside variables to make them useful.

    And amp control settings may be significantly different yet provide the same sound in a different situation (more on this below)

    There's no answer to the first part of your question.

    Different from *what*? There are SO many differently voiced amps with varied amounts of headroom, most with no variable "preamp distortion" that you'd need to set two amps side-by-side and use them the same way - then your amp would sound different from the other amp in some specific ways.

    Change the other amp to another model, or even similar but a different brand, or change the speaker, or change the variables (see below) and "how it sounds different" could be described in totally different terms.

    Hybrid designs (like yours) operate/sound different from most fully solid-state amps, and very unlike the hundreds of approaches in tube amp design. With no one specific amp to compare "how does mine sound different?" is an incomplete question.

    A few of the variables that affect how each amp works in a given situation are room size, shape, construction (wall types, ceiling height etc), furniture, floor coverings, where and how high the amp is positioned and several other factors - some specific to particular amp types or unique designs. Then the overall tone is heard differently depending on loudness level and context (playing alone or with a band...and bands create a whole new branch of variables); and amp tone-shaping controls function differently at different volume levels.

    Every gigging player I know, for example, has several different amps with different output levels (and often speaker size/number/type) in order to optimize their sound in any venue or situation - one amp doesn't fit all situations.

    Even for home players a particular model may fit the situation well, or be total overkill ("too much amp", with a thin sound at low volume), or sound great only with certain settings to one player and sound like crap with ANY settings to another player - in the same room.

    So as far as the second part - there IS no "other end of the sound spectrum" because even knowing your control settings, guitar settings and pedal settings nobody can know what it sounds like in your setting or what your perception of "sound spectrum" is.

    So I will try to provide some VERY general, rough descriptions and comparisons of amp types - these are my opinion of course, but also similar to what you'll find if you do some reading about guitar amplifiers - and I HIGHLY recommend buying or borrowing a few books that focus on overall guitar tone - guitars and how they are set up, effects types, and amplifiers. Manufacturer's literature are marketing pieces meant to get you to buy something, and their "educational content" is slanted or nonexistent.

    So - just as generalities: Inexpensive hybrid amps with a single-tube preamp and solid state power amp (like the Valvestate line) have what many consider a rather "clinical" clean tone and a buzzy, nasal distortion tone. The type of power amp governs (potentially) a type of distortion unique to each design (tube or solid state); in the Valvestate the solid state power amp is meant to serve only to increase the level of what comes out of the preamp and tone controls. If turned up to the point of internal (not speaker) distortion it probably won't sound great (more on this follows) - it's at a volume level beyond the manufacturer's design intent. Note - I'm leaving digital amps out of this as they don't have any "sound" - they emulate something else.

    Much of this thread is FAR too technical yet missing essential information,. It takes electronics knowledge to understand gain described as voltage and you don't need to know that stuff at this point.

    In layman's terms, all audible distortion is a mix of several types that are "numbered". Solid state distortion (the type the Valvestate line produces at highest volume levels) enhances the distortion numbers that are the least pleasing to the human ear (often described as "gritty" or harsh"); tube amps do the opposite, and enhance the "pleasant sounding" numbers (often described as "smooth" and/or "thick/fat"). Although a tube preamp enhances some "good sounding" distortion it's not significant enough to make the amp sound "tube" - power amp distortion (which involves tubes, output transformer and several other factors) is the "tube amp distortion sound" most players think of as typical.

    Most don't feel the Valvestate design (or most other one-tube designs with solid state power amps) sounds anything like a typical "tube amp"; while the tube itself can be changed to "tweak" the sound a small amount the amp sound overall like a typical solid-state amp.

    And again, just in general terms: compared to a tube amp (just about ANY tube amp with comparable clean volume), the Valvestate will sound brighter, focused, and "narrow";a tube amp will sound more "open" & "round/full", or "fat". (PLEASE folks - can we not debate this? -It's not etched in stone, not true in every circumstance and obviously my perception - but based on over 50 years of gigs and over 40 of tech work and aligns with most pubslished "amp generalities".

    If you wanted to buy a cheap tube amp just for home use that would provide some of the general differences a 15-20 watt Monoprice amp will get you a quite different tonal framework, and can be "tweaked" quite a bit just by changing tubes. I DO NOT recommend these for anything other than home use for an alternative to solid state - they are inexpensive because they are cheaply built and not durable enough for gig use. The build quality is very poor IMO, but they sound like a tube amp and are the cheapest way to get something comparable in output yet distinctly different from the Valvestate. It would not be an outstanding example, but it would be in the ballpark.

    None of that is "the main thing to remember", because none of it is relevant to the OP's question!

    IMO this is just more confusing, unnecessary information - and irrelevant. The OP's amp has no "drive" control and "voltage" just piles on unneeded terminology. What "gain" is called? Seriously, NOBODY cares in the context of this thread?

    These out-of context posts are off-topic and contribute zero towards answering the OP's questions.
     

  14. peteb

    peteb Friend of Leo's

    Apr 25, 2003
    Cascadia

    yes, an understanding of what gain means is essential to understanding the difference between what gain and volume controls do,





    not sure I understand the point of arguing against plain simple facts.





    but hey, each to his own.



    i'm not going to argue about it. I'm not going to argue with you about it. I'm not going to argue with anybody about it.
     

  15. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Age:
    66
    Mar 2, 2003
    Lawndale CA
    Pete, what you seem to often miss - and I don't mean this to be unkind - is the *context* of the thread and understanding the OP's question AND knowledge level. And/or perhaps you didn't read his other amp-specific post.

    He want to know about his specific Marshall amp. Not theoretical terminology - what the "Gain" and "Volume" controls do to the sound (not the electronics) of HIS amp.

    And that Marshall Line has some amps with slightly weird control layouts. This is one, where "Gain" and "Volume" are marked as "preamp" controls, the tone controls follow, and the final control is reverb. There's no typical "volume" or "Master Volume".

    What gain means in theory and that it involves voltage is irrelevant. Or that it is a "level" control in theory.

    It's an "application" thread - not an electronics theory thread. Previous mixed-up technical information that was off topic was already discussed , and "Gain is gain no matter what it's called" isn't remotely part of what was asked.

    All he wanted to know is what those controls do to the sound ON HIS AMP, and then asked for an example of something different-sounding. Not whether gain is voltage or level or if it's the same if you call it a "peanut butter sandwich".
     
    peteb likes this.

  16. peteb

    peteb Friend of Leo's

    Apr 25, 2003
    Cascadia
    I understand and agree with what you are saying.


    Do you see what I am saying?






    if some one wants to understand what 2 + 2 is, and they don't know what a + is, well, then, you are doing them a disservice to just blow past the +, say its not important, and then expect them to understand what 2 + 2 is.
     

  17. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Age:
    66
    Mar 2, 2003
    Lawndale CA
    Yeah - but irrelevant.

    In the context of the thread, that's not the question. There's no math, no technical data, nothing but descriptive language needed - he was asking what "A" and "B" DO, in layman's terms, to affect the sound of the amp.

    Answering in "electronics terms" is as useful as answering in Chinese.
     

  18. peteb

    peteb Friend of Leo's

    Apr 25, 2003
    Cascadia
    Thanks Silverface, that’s cool!
     

  19. cc50fralin

    cc50fralin TDPRI Member

    Age:
    61
    89
    Sep 5, 2018
    Queens, NY
    The internet is amazing!

    I searched for Marshall AVT-20 owner's manual, and there it is!
    https://www.manualslib.com/manual/5...ication-Valvestate-2000-Avt-Avt20.html#manual

    If anyone's interested.

    On page 4 it says that each tone controls is dependent on the position of the other controls; I've never heard this.

    Back to my tone drawing board.

    I must play with the guitar, and just the amp, then bring the pedal into the mix.

    This amp sounds very good! ;)

    Mike
     

  20. PBO Blues

    PBO Blues Tele-Meister

    492
    Jan 15, 2016
    Chatham County, NC
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2018
    JustABluesGuy likes this.

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