What Do You Do When You Realize Your Amp is Too LOUD?

sinecrafter

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Nothing sounds like a real tube amp at 100+ dB. Period. Anyone who says they can get you that tone at home listening levels is lying. Period.

That doesn’t mean you can’t get something that is enjoyable at home, for some value of “enjoyable”.

But, the first problem is, you have to amplify an electric guitar loud enough so that the first thing your ears hear isn’t the acoustic sound of the guitar, which is louder that most people, even most guitarists, realize.

If you think you are going to get great tone at a volume level loud enough not to wake up your spouse in the bedroom or even the baby sleeping in the next room over, I’ve got some really bad news for you, unless you live in a big city right next to an elevated subway line.

”Good tone” in free air starts in the 85-90 dBA range, and goes up from there. The more distortion you use, the louder your average SPL needs to be to have the same impact, because distortion equals compression. That’s the Physics of Reality. Incidentally, the MPAA technical standard for movie theatres is -20 dBFS equals 83 dBA, which means the loud explosion sound effects top out at 0 dBFS, or 103 dBA, in a movie theatre that is correctly calibrated.

103 dBA isn’t actually that loud, compared to a live band, where an acoustic drumset can easily hit 120+ dBA peak SPL.
 

enorbet2

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For live stage work I solved that problem by using a 30 watt Class A 1x12 combo and adding Fender Tilt Back legs. Then I place it in front of me. facing me just like a stage monitor. That does 3 important things:

1] Puts controls at close range and in front of me
2] Angles the speaker right to my ears in line of sight and away from FOH as well as band mates
3] Reduces stage acoustics effects as the distance to my ears is short and constant from venue to venue
 

Swingcat

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What did YOU do when you realized your amp was too loud for your needs/space/situation?

Seriously? Because both my SV20h and my Victoria 20112 are KILLING my ears. I LOVE the sound of these two amps when they are doing their thing, but I can’t stand to be in the same room with them at those volumes. Along with damaging my hearing anymore than I already have, I also don’t want to piss off my family or neighbors (I live in a duplex with great neighbors). I’ve tried attenuators (Ox Box, Marshall Powerbrake, JHS little black box, buffered volume pedal) and they sound worse than playing the amps at low volume. Not only that, but when I play at church (they only place I “play out”) it’s all digital and direct, and I don’t see the digital modeling trend going back to amps-on stage in churches for the foreseeable future.

So, do I sell them and use some of the funds to build the 5F2a I’m wanting to build? Do I play them at low volume knowing full well that the tone I crave is in there, but unobtainable? Do I keep them around because they are awesome amps even if they’re too loud and won’t be used to their potential?

As an aside I have a ‘75 SFPR that is the amp I play most. I love it. I can control the volume, it sounds awesome with either my Tele and LP, and takes any of my pedals extremely well, so I do have a great amp that gets played a lot.
I'm guessing you're cranking those amps up a bit, maybe for some distortion?
I use a Blues Junior and a Tone Master Deluxe Reverb most of the time, and play 99% clean, but of course, you do need a little volume to get your amp sounding nice even clean.
We also play a lot little venues (Brew Pubs, Cider Houses & Restaurants).
When playing those, many times, I use a tiny 10 watt Kustom Dart 10 FX (same as the earlier Kustom KGA 10 FX). I think I bought my first one many years ago for $79 NEW!
These have a really amazingly full clean tone, and the reverb (FX) is very Fender-like.
Yeah, they're solid state, but they actually sound GREAT to this old musician and guitar maker who has been playing and performing with Fender Tube Amps for over 50 years.
You can find them on Ebay for around $50 or thereabouts (I have 2, one for a backup)
As I said, they are great little practice amps and believe it or not, good for our duo (Jill & Kevin on Facebook) in small venues as well!
Should you decide to get one to try, if you like reverb, make sure you get a FX model, as they did make them with no effects as well.
 

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sinecrafter

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So, having said all that, what do you do about it?

Easy. Use IEMs to practice at home, and hear exactly what you would be hearing if you were playing a public gig on a quiet stage or tracking in a studio, and feel terribly cool about it, because you are doing exactly what most pros are doing, in the 2020s.

Personally, my solution is a DSM & Humboldt Electronics Simplifier or Simplifier Bass Station, with a Boss GT-1000Core, and a pair of MEE Audio M6 PRO V2 IEMs.
 

Swingcat

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Nothing sounds like a real tube amp at 100+ dB. Period. Anyone who says they can get you that tone at home listening levels is lying. Period.

That doesn’t mean you can’t get something that is enjoyable at home, for some value of “enjoyable”.

But, the first problem is, you have to amplify an electric guitar loud enough so that the first thing your ears hear isn’t the acoustic sound of the guitar, which is louder that most people, even most guitarists, realize.

If you think you are going to get great tone at a volume level loud enough not to wake up your spouse in the bedroom or even the baby sleeping in the next room over, I’ve got some really bad news for you, unless you live in a big city right next to an elevated subway line.

”Good tone” in free air starts in the 85-90 dBA range, and goes up from there. The more distortion you use, the louder your average SPL needs to be to have the same impact, because distortion equals compression. That’s the Physics of Reality. Incidentally, the MPAA technical standard for movie theatres is -20 dBFS equals 83 dBA, which means the loud explosion sound effects top out at 0 dBFS, or 103 dBA, in a movie theatre that is correctly calibrated.

103 dBA isn’t actually that loud, compared to a live band, where an acoustic drumset can easily hit 120+ dBA peak SPL.
Fender's new Tone Master series are indistinguishable from their tube counterparts, and anyone who tells you different either: Has not tried one, or is a lying tube snob who won't let go of their idea that nothing can compare with tubes.
I've performed with and used Fender tube amps for over 50 years, so I DO know what I'm talking about (along with HUNDREDS of comparisons on Youtube)
 

CoolBlueGlow

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OK so I was resisting, but I can't help myself. The lure of providing alternate solutions to seven pages of angst about "too loud" amps is just too strong.

For the road less travelled, how about selecting a different output tube for your Victoria and dumping half your power (or more) that way? There are easy options. Try some 6K6 output tubes. Half the power at the same distortion and plate load as a 6V6. 6K6 are cheap and easy to find.

Not enough? OK, drop 3 more watts when you strap those 6K6 as (sort of) triodes, which anyone with a soldering iron and a brain and a DVM can do, and without doing any harm to your amp's value. Do that and you're down to what...probably less than 6 watts at 10% distortion.

NEED more... er, I mean less?

Wire your existing loudspeaker in SERIES with a wirewound 20W resistor of approximately the same DCR as you measure your voice coil. (NOT the "rated impedance"...the DC resistance) You end up wasting half again your 6 watts of power more or less in this arrangement, AND by raising your secondary impedance you decrease coupling efficiency and increase distortion too. Don't listen to the naysayers and fretting Karen types, either. It will not hurt your OPT one bit. Using a WW resistor in series will affect the tonal response of your speaker, and you may have to (gasp) adjust your tone controls differently than you're used to. You may even have to (ahhh!) do some math to pick a bypass capacitor to offset tone shift because of your loudspeaker's variable impedance/frequency characteristics vs. the (mostly) fixed impedance (at these frequencies) of a wirewound resistor. Or listen to the dark sayings of doom from attenuator manufacturers. "ONLY THE SUPERSUCKER 3000 IS SAFE FOR YOUR AMP! ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES!" blah blah blah.

Just FWIW, I'm not guessing about this. I have a Daven power meter on my bench. It is a device meant to measure power of amps at different impedances. It is a calibrated bench device. I plug all kinds of tube amps into this device all the time and run them at 100% power for many minutes without any harm. I've done it hundreds of times. Hell, I have run the amp you see in my meme - which is a Fender 400PS, a Class AB2 design putting out 415 watts of tube power directly into three pair of 4 ohm 200W wire wound resistors. Why? Because that is how FENDER tells you to test power and bias settings. Dead resistive 4 ohm load. Those resistors get hot enough to smoke, and the amp and output transformer remains perfectly happy.

But...I know. Too scary. OK. Different path.

First, buy some Octal to seven pin miniature adaptors on eBay. Something like these; https://www.ebay.com/itm/2036750557...gEYMyezds4T5VnGhVh+mIs7A==|tkp:Bk9SR9iM_pLgYQ

Now plug in some NOS U.S. made 6AQ5. They're cheap as dirt. They LOVE being run as pseudo-triodes. Look at the GE data sheet. They RECOMMEND and RATE them running that way! See here: https://frank.pocnet.net/sheets/093/6/6AQ5A.pdf

You can find them for 2-3 dollars all day long. Heck, I have a couple I'll send you for postage. :) Adaptors cost you thirty bucks...tubes maybe 10 and now you are down to maybe five triode-ish driven push-pull watts, and all you had to do was plug in some tubes, strap G2 and adjust the bias. Don't sweat the bias either...just set it at the RCA recommended and go with it. -12.5VDC @ 315v plate.

If THAT is still too loud - which i highly doubt - wire a 20W wirewound resistor the same resistance as your OEM speaker's rated impedance - and wire it in parallel with your OEM speaker when using those 6AQ5. (Heck, the 6AQ5 plate load is about half a 6V6 at 315V, so that lower effective load should work better anyway) You'll dump half again your power that way (Depending on the frequency) so get maybe 4 watts of class AB1 beam pentode power applied to an active transducer and the rest dumped as heat by the WW resistor.

If THAT is still too loud, which seems impossible to me, but hey let's go really crazy and put in a 16 ohm loudspeaker like this; https://www.ebay.com/itm/3347993223...Fp01hgzMLdhCrVcmLZIkEEQA==|tkp:Bk9SR_y815LgYQ

(20 bucks, and there are dozens of choices just like this one if you look around. These are not "cool" speakers...so they are cheap.)

So, use the above speaker or similar and keep the 6AQ5 strapped as triodes and that 8 ohm wire wound power dump resistor setup but wired in PARALLEL. Now you're sending 75% of your power to waste heat and getting maybe a tone bonus of a sweet sounding low power vintage speaker. (16 ohm 1" voice coil vintage alnico 12's are common on eBay - no one wants them... too fragile for modern amps)

In this setup, IF the amp sounds too thin, or too boomy, Tweak around with a crossover capacitor/inductor on the load resistor/speaker wiring arrangement to adjust the LF/HF balance. Costs you a 2 dollar capacitor and a cheap inductor which you can steal from old dead bookshelf loudspeakers.

Lots of clever ways to make a "too loud" amp softer besides using an traditional attenuator.

Any of the above costs you less than 75 bucks, can be great fun, and is completely reversible, and is the definitely the road less travelled. But remember, you will NOT be able to crank it up in this arrangement. It will be growling away in distorted touchy tonal heaven, at about 80-85db max. So stick a half-circle of absorptive foam in front of your amp to take care of the rest of the stage spill and you're golden.

Or just follow the pack and do what everybody else said.
 

Timewarp Guitar

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Pawtucket,RI
What did YOU do when you realized your amp was too loud for your needs/space/situation?

Seriously? Because both my SV20h and my Victoria 20112 are KILLING my ears. I LOVE the sound of these two amps when they are doing their thing, but I can’t stand to be in the same room with them at those volumes. Along with damaging my hearing anymore than I already have, I also don’t want to piss off my family or neighbors (I live in a duplex with great neighbors). I’ve tried attenuators (Ox Box, Marshall Powerbrake, JHS little black box, buffered volume pedal) and they sound worse than playing the amps at low volume. Not only that, but when I play at church (they only place I “play out”) it’s all digital and direct, and I don’t see the digital modeling trend going back to amps-on stage in churches for the foreseeable future.

So, do I sell them and use some of the funds to build the 5F2a I’m wanting to build? Do I play them at low volume knowing full well that the tone I crave is in there, but unobtainable? Do I keep them around because they are awesome amps even if they’re too loud and won’t be used to their potential?

As an aside I have a ‘75 SFPR that is the amp I play most. I love it. I can control the volume, it sounds awesome with either my Tele and LP, and takes any of my pedals extremely well, so I do have a great amp that gets played a lot.
You have one of the most recorded amps in the music world. The Princeton Reverb has been the tone monster for just about every guitar player. You could leave the other amps in your music room and just play the Princeton. If you need more volume, an SM57 into the board will take care of all the front of room volume you need. ( And you won't get a hernia moving it!!)
 

SteveK2112

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Sometimes it's not just the amp. It's you. Turning it down...OF COURSE doesn't sound as good! That's why we turned it up in the first place.

You just have to get used to playing quieter.
 

willsonline

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Maryland
What did YOU do when you realized your amp was too loud for your needs/space/situation?

Seriously? Because both my SV20h and my Victoria 20112 are KILLING my ears. I LOVE the sound of these two amps when they are doing their thing, but I can’t stand to be in the same room with them at those volumes. Along with damaging my hearing anymore than I already have, I also don’t want to piss off my family or neighbors (I live in a duplex with great neighbors). I’ve tried attenuators (Ox Box, Marshall Powerbrake, JHS little black box, buffered volume pedal) and they sound worse than playing the amps at low volume. Not only that, but when I play at church (they only place I “play out”) it’s all digital and direct, and I don’t see the digital modeling trend going back to amps-on stage in churches for the foreseeable future.

So, do I sell them and use some of the funds to build the 5F2a I’m wanting to build? Do I play them at low volume knowing full well that the tone I crave is in there, but unobtainable? Do I keep them around because they are awesome amps even if they’re too loud and won’t be used to their potential?

As an aside I have a ‘75 SFPR that is the amp I play most. I love it. I can control the volume, it sounds awesome with either my Tele and LP, and takes any of my pedals extremely well, so I do have a great amp that gets played a lot.
I’ve been using a Bad Cat
What did YOU do when you realized your amp was too loud for your needs/space/situation?

Seriously? Because both my SV20h and my Victoria 20112 are KILLING my ears. I LOVE the sound of these two amps when they are doing their thing, but I can’t stand to be in the same room with them at those volumes. Along with damaging my hearing anymore than I already have, I also don’t want to piss off my family or neighbors (I live in a duplex with great neighbors). I’ve tried attenuators (Ox Box, Marshall Powerbrake, JHS little black box, buffered volume pedal) and they sound worse than playing the amps at low volume. Not only that, but when I play at church (they only place I “play out”) it’s all digital and direct, and I don’t see the digital modeling trend going back to amps-on stage in churches for the foreseeable future.

So, do I sell them and use some of the funds to build the 5F2a I’m wanting to build? Do I play them at low volume knowing full well that the tone I crave is in there, but unobtainable? Do I keep them around because they are awesome amps even if they’re too loud and won’t be used to their potential?

As an aside I have a ‘75 SFPR that is the amp I play most. I love it. I can control the volume, it sounds awesome with either my Tele and LP, and takes any of my pedals extremely well, so I do have a great amp that gets played a lot.
I’ve been using a Bad Cat Unleash V2 attenuator for years. I have a 1964 Fender Deluxe with a mod that Ken Fischer did. As soon you pass “2”, it’ll blow you out of your shoes. Add an 8 ohm Rola Celestion 12” speaker and you’ve got one loud amp. The Bad Cat gives me full control of my volume, and has a built-in effects loop. One of the most useful pieces of gear I ever bought. Yes, I understand the school of thought that an amp needs to be fully cranked to sound its best, though I don’t necessarily agree. Unless you’re playing on big stages, volume can become problematic—hearing loss, complaints from the management, reduced tube life, blown speakers—you name it. This is the best solution for me. I’m able to conjure up a great tone for any situation.
 

Galen1960

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Your Princeton is a great home amp. I use a Tube Screamer when I cannot open it all the way to the break-up point. You should get a Deluxe Reverb for gigging. It is very similar in sound to the Princeton and takes pedals well. It is only 22 watts and not too heavy. There are currently two tube versions a 65 Blackface reissue and a 68 Silverface reissue. Go and check them out. They aren't too loud but loud enough for rehearsal and most gigs. If you need a bigger amp for a large venue they will probably mic you anyway, so you are set. Keep your loud amps if you can just in case you are fortunate enough to play a venue or rehearse in a space where you can really open them up to the sweet spot.
 
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crissmichaels

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I'm probably gonna catch some flak for this suggestion, but get the Joyo version of the amp you're liking. I got the Meteor (styled MeteOR on the front, as it's going for that Orange Amp sound). I believe they've got a Tweed copy that's pretty decent. Best part? They're 20W hybrid amps (tube preamp, solid state power amp).

My plan is to eventually get all of them (I play a variety of genres, so having the high gain ones is a goal as well). For now, I've got the Meteor, Zombie, and Bass.
 

GearGeek01

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First... remove 30 of the drummer's 60 cymbals might help... and make the drummer use something for sticks besides 3 drumsticks duct taped together in each hand... its always the drummer's fault, LOL...
 

Tim S

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I'm probably gonna catch some flak for this suggestion, but get the Joyo version of the amp you're liking. I got the Meteor (styled MeteOR on the front, as it's going for that Orange Amp sound). I believe they've got a Tweed copy that's pretty decent. Best part? They're 20W hybrid amps (tube preamp, solid state power amp).

My plan is to eventually get all of them (I play a variety of genres, so having the high gain ones is a goal as well). For now, I've got the Meteor, Zombie, and Bass.
I have 3 of them (Jackman Ii, Meteor Ii & Tweedy). I found the Tweedy too gainy for me, so I tried replacing its only tube — a 12ax7, with a 12au7 and there was no discernible sonic difference. The amps aren’t bad, but I question what the single tube in those amps is really doing (it’s doing something because they go silent if you remove it).

For home use, I think I prefer the tubeless Hotone Nano Legacy heads. Less than half the price (more like 1/3), Class AB power amp (only one channel & only 5w though) and, unlike the Joyo BantAmps, you can use a 4 Ohm cab with them. Also unlike the Joyo, probably only giggable if you mic it.
 

VintageSG

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For home use, I think I prefer the tubeless Hotone Nano Legacy heads. Less than half the price (more like 1/3), Class AB power amp (only one channel & only 5w though) and, unlike the Joyo BantAmps, you can use a 4 Ohm cab with them. Also unlike the Joyo, probably only giggable if you mic it.
I have the Hotone Purple Wind. It's giggable if you use a 1x10" as your personal monitor and a DI with cab emulation to the PA.
Does it sound as good as a valve amp?, no. Does it sound really good, offer good feedback and feel and sound good to the audience?, hell yes!
At home volumes, it does sound as good as my little Marshall at an equivalent volume. Neat trick by Hotone! It responds well to tweaking the guitar volume. Its pre-stage clipping is as smooth as a 12AX7 ( FETs for the win ) and its power stage, while lacking a transformer to compress, does compress nicely when pushed hard.
Tiny, cute, fine sounding and inexpensive.
 
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