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What's your favourite Master Volume Amp under 30 watts? Does it give you almost the same tone when the volume is at 9 o'clock or 3 o'clock?

I've never owned one and I am curious. I have also heard a comment, repeated on a few occasions, that with an excellent master volume you don't really need an attenuator. True? Partially True? BS?

Thanks ,... robert
 

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Robert1950 said:
What's your favourite Master Volume Amp under 30 watts? Does it give you almost the same tone when the volume is at 9 o'clock or 3 o'clock?

I've never owned one and I am curious. I have also heard a comment, repeated on a few occasions, that with an excellent master volume you don't really need an attenuator. True? Partially True? BS?

Thanks ,... robert
I assume you're talking tube amps, Robert. Transistor amps are for kids! (that oughta draw some flame!) :)

Like most everything, it all depends. First off it might help if we talk about what a master volume actually does.

Distortion in a tube amp comes from 2 separate areas - the preamp and the power amp. The power amp is the big tube section just before the output transformer. The preamp is in all those smaller tubes that amplify just the guitar signal voltage, put it through a tone control stack and then feed the output tubes.

Preamp distortion is thinner and "fizzy". In its extreme form we get shred metal. Power amp distortion comes from driving the output tubes hard enough to compress the sound and saturate the output transformer. It's more warm and thick. That's the classic rock sound. Jimi Hendrix or the Young brothers from AC/DC.

Master volumes work by putting an extra control after the preamp stages and before the output tubes.This lets you run the preamp stages super hot and then cut it down to a much lower level to feed the output stage. You are controlling the amount of preamp distortion.

If you think about it, at lower master volume settings you can't possibly get any power amp distortion! You've dialed back the amount of signal going in to the output stage and there's no way those output tubes will push hard enough to saturate anything.

There are a number of different master volume circuits and some work better than others at having more effect at lower settings. The effect is only on the preamp distortion, however. The usual problem is noticing the effect at low master volume settings. The concensus is that putting the control after the phase inverter, which is the very last tube before the big output tubes works the best.

Even this approach still won't give you any power amp distortion.

If you play only metal this might be ok. If you want a more classic tone you're outta luck with a master volume. The thing about tube amps is they sound best for that tone if you crank 'em up! You have to be pushing enough power to make the power amp distortion happen.

I've seen a lot of guys take their 100 watt JCM 800 into a small club, telling themselves they'll just keep it below "3". Of course, it sounds lame-ass! So they can't resist cranking it up notch after notch. Halfway through the 1st set they're already pissing off the club owner! They just took too big a hammer to the job.

No carpenter would have only one size or kind of hammer or saw. Experienced guitarists are the same. I tell my customers to have a 20watt amp, a 50 watt amp and not to bother with a 100 watt amp 'cuz there just aren't any gigs big enough for most of us anymore. If you are at the level where you play big concerts you'll likely be miked anyway.

Please don't mention Pod pedals and the like. It's like an "edible oil product" Donald's shake or imitation bacon bits

I've built a number of 20 watt amps using the classic Marshall Plexi circuitry for guys that play mostly small clubs. They run 'em on "9" into a 2-12" or even 2-10" cab with efficient Eminence or Celestion speakers. They then can play "Hell's Bells" full out and still get re-booked.

If you have a master volume amp and still want that classic sound just leave the master on "10" and crank up the input gain control as high as you can. Leaving the master on "10" effectively puts it out of the circuit and lets the power amp start to work. You'll hear what I'm talking about!

---Wild Bill
 

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Wild Bill said:
I assume you're talking tube amps, Robert. Transistor amps are for kids! (that oughta draw some flame!) :)

Like most everything, it all depends. First off it might help if we talk about what a master volume actually does.

Distortion in a tube amp comes from 2 separate areas - the preamp and the power amp. The power amp is the big tube section just before the output transformer. The preamp is in all those smaller tubes that amplify just the guitar signal voltage, put it through a tone control stack and then feed the output tubes.

Preamp distortion is thinner and "fizzy". In its extreme form we get shred metal. Power amp distortion comes from driving the output tubes hard enough to compress the sound and saturate the output transformer. It's more warm and thick. That's the classic rock sound. Jimi Hendrix or the Young brothers from AC/DC.

Master volumes work by putting an extra control after the preamp stages and before the output tubes.This lets you run the preamp stages super hot and then cut it down to a much lower level to feed the output stage. You are controlling the amount of preamp distortion.

If you think about it, at lower master volume settings you can't possibly get any power amp distortion! You've dialed back the amount of signal going in to the output stage and there's no way those output tubes will push hard enough to saturate anything.

There are a number of different master volume circuits and some work better than others at having more effect at lower settings. The effect is only on the preamp distortion, however. The usual problem is noticing the effect at low master volume settings. The concensus is that putting the control after the phase inverter, which is the very last tube before the big output tubes works the best.

Even this approach still won't give you any power amp distortion.

If you play only metal this might be ok. If you want a more classic tone you're outta luck with a master volume. The thing about tube amps is they sound best for that tone if you crank 'em up! You have to be pushing enough power to make the power amp distortion happen.

I've seen a lot of guys take their 100 watt JCM 800 into a small club, telling themselves they'll just keep it below "3". Of course, it sounds lame-ass! So they can't resist cranking it up notch after notch. Halfway through the 1st set they're already pissing off the club owner! They just took too big a hammer to the job.

No carpenter would have only one size or kind of hammer or saw. Experienced guitarists are the same. I tell my customers to have a 20watt amp, a 50 watt amp and not to bother with a 100 watt amp 'cuz there just aren't any gigs big enough for most of us anymore. If you are at the level where you play big concerts you'll likely be miked anyway.

Please don't mention Pod pedals and the like. It's like an "edible oil product" Donald's shake or imitation bacon bits

I've built a number of 20 watt amps using the classic Marshall Plexi circuitry for guys that play mostly small clubs. They run 'em on "9" into a 2-12" or even 2-10" cab with efficient Eminence or Celestion speakers. They then can play "Hell's Bells" full out and still get re-booked.

If you have a master volume amp and still want that classic sound just leave the master on "10" and crank up the input gain control as high as you can. Leaving the master on "10" effectively puts it out of the circuit and lets the power amp start to work. You'll hear what I'm talking about!

---Wild Bill

...what he said!

-dh
 

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At the bottom of the page you'll see "after the JCM800 it was all downhill"
No truer words could be spoken.
Then again,if you take a 2204 circuit and use 6V6's it puts out about 30 watts and sounds fabulous.There you have a 30 watt master volume amp that has it all.
There have been many amp builders that use this design and get a sweet amp at a volume level that doesn't rip your ears off.
JJ-6v6's can handle up to 500 volts and up to 45ma and beyond.

www.claramps.com
 

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I actually have no trouble getting the classic rock sound out of a Mesa Boogie head at low volume. If you run the Simul Class to Class A, it gets the proper tone at any volume. I guess Class B and Class AB react differently from Class A though............
 

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Oh puh-leez...

Accept2 said:
I actually have no trouble getting the classic rock sound out of a Mesa Boogie head at low volume. If you run the Simul Class to Class A, it gets the proper tone at any volume. I guess Class B and Class AB react differently from Class A though............
I was going to take this one on and then I changed my mind. Everybody's entitled to believe any cockamamie thing they want, after all!

Suffice to say that there is more controversy over the claims of Mr. Smith (the designer guy at Boogie) amongst true techies than over 1-900 -PSYCHICS!

There is techie class A, B or AB1 and then there is marketing class A, B or AB1...

And if you truly believe that amp gives a good classic rock tone at low volumes...well, you're entitiled to your opinion! And I'd defend to the death your right to hold it!

Instead let me tell you a story...

Last year I went out to a new club in my neighbourhood to see what kind of "classic rock" band they had been advertising. The band had some members who worked at a local classic rock radio station.

The audience was mostly younger than me and seemed to really enjoy the band. Myself, I was not only disappointed but aggravated! I ended up leaving early.

They played well but their idea of sound and mine was miles apart. The guitarist played through a solid state Peavey Bandit, with about a dozen pedals on the floor. Everytime he did a lead he'd kick a boost pedal. The tone changed but there was virtually no boost! The amp sounded like it had a blanket over the speakers - no dynamic range at all.

They had a house PA system being operated by another guy from the radio station. Everything was compressed and processed. It wasn't at all a "live off the floor" mix but rather a "car radio" mix!

I had to leave because the urge to scoot home, grab a 50w Marshally design and a Celestion 4-12, race back, throw the Peavey off the stage along with all the pedals and just plug his guitar straight into the new amp - cranked up to "7"! was threatening to become overwhelming...

If you never heard live rock in a club during the 70's then you just can't relate! It's like how the playlist on these so-called classic rock stations is lucky to play maybe 10-15% of what my generation actually listened to. Playlists today come from suits who analyze numbers. In the 70's FM radio was a wild free-wheeling frontier where all the DJ's pulled their own playlists and were usually too stoned to keep any records! :) So they use numbers from the AM top-40 stations of that era. Only the American Bandstand singles, rarely the album cuts.

When's the last time anyone heard Foghat on "classic rock" radio? Or Captain Beyond? Cactus? Moxy?

Oh dear, I'm geezer ranting again...
 

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If you are in a situation where you need an amp that has to be played at bedroom levels, and you need to gig I find it way easier to just buy 2 amps. For my practice use I have a Vox Pathfinder that I am extremly happy with and it only cost me $80 (US) used. There are also a ton of builders who make Tweed Champ clones. And the cheapest option out there is the Epiphone Valve Junior head at $99. With all the affordable options, it's a much easier solution than trying to find one amp that will do it all.
 

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Well said,torndownunit,
It seems that a lot of amp companies these days try to get too many sounds out of one amp and usually only succeed in one or two good sounds.The rest end up falling far short of the mark.I like small amps at home and save the big ones for gigs.
A champ or single EL-84 amp is the ticket for home use.You cannot beat the sound of a JCM800 master volume amp at full song.
 

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torndownunit said:
If you are in a situation where you need an amp that has to be played at bedroom levels, and you need to gig I find it way easier to just buy 2 amps.
That's exactly what I ended up doing after a long time time trying to get decent tones with amp modeling, attenuators and such. It's really quite unfortunate when I realise how much money went into different amps and multi-effects before I realised that I was NOT going to get the sound I was after that way.

So, my current amps are 1) Electrosonic amplifier Solaris Head 7-watt, single 12AX7 and 6V6 w/ solid-state rectifier, for home use, and 2) Winfield Thomas amplifiers Brat 22-watt head w/ 6L6's and 5AR4tube rectifier, for live work. Both run through a custom 1x12 cab.

In response to Wild Bill, as much as I respect his opinion and understand what he's saying, I personally don't think that the amp modeling devices are all that bad. I personally am fortunate enough to be able to afford somewhat "decent" gear, but you must be quite lucky indeed to be able to play, let alone own, any of the fine boutique or vintage amps which are our reference points for good tone. The amp modelers are also IMO useful (if a little crude) learning tools to hear the differences between different types of amplifiers. I'm sure that there are lots of dedicated musicians out there who would certainly trade their PODs or Peavey bandits for a blackface Super Reverb or Dumble, but just can't afford it, and it doesn't diminish their value as musicians in my eyes.
 

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No money - part of being Canadian!

---"I'm sure that there are lots of dedicated musicians out there who would certainly trade their PODs or Peavey bandits for a blackface Super Reverb or Dumble, but just can't afford it, and it doesn't diminish their value as musicians in my eyes."

Hey, being rich enough to buy expensive gear isn't the most important thing to me either!

I notice you're from Montreal. Surely there are tech guys there who can take a Silver Face Super Reverb and for a couple of bills convert it to Black Face specs. It won't have the same Ebay value but it will have the same sound!

I convert Traynors and old PA amps into vintage Fender or Marshall "clones" all the time, and sell them for around $500, if I get them cheap enough. I'm "Dumble-izing" an old SF Pro Reverb right now. Final cost will be not much more than $1000. One of my Ebay "favourite sellers" for old Bogens or whatever to convert is based in Montreal!

It IS possible to have great tone for less than that Bandit/POD combination! As long as you don't care if the nameplate is original with high Ebay value. Most of the guys with the vintage collector pieces never seem to actually play them anyway! They just drag them out to show them off.

Check around your town. Guaranteed there's a few local guys around who can help you out. You have more options than just buying a new brand name product at your local music store.
 

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I agree with Bill. It took me a long time and a lot of research, but there are options out there that are affordable. And when I finally got some older amps, I realized the work was well worth it.

Both my 1975 Traynor YGM-3 (which is very similar to a Deluxe Reverb) and my modded 1970 Traynor YBA-1 (almost identical to a Marshall JTM45) cost me under $600 combined and that is INCLUDING tech tune-ups and mods.

My Princeton Reverb is a silverface converted to a blackface and I got it for about $700 Canadian with shipping. I'd rather spend $700 on that amp than on any $700 tube amp being made right now.

I am currently having a clone of a Tweed Fender Champ made for me, modded to run 14 watts for $399 US.

I used to automatically associate hand-built and vintage with high prices and figure I'd never own either. Now I know differently.

If you like modelling amps that is great. Play what you like. I don't get the same dynamics or feel as I do with a single channel tube amp cranked. I like one really good tone.
 
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