What Makes a High Gain Amp Sound Clear?

Discussion in 'The Squawk Box' started by Caoimhin, Sep 21, 2017.

  1. Caoimhin

    Caoimhin Senior Member

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    I have a few tube amps and one sticks out because with the gain maxed there's still a lot of clarity. All of the amps have EL34s and 12AX7s and I played them all through the same cab. What actually makes an amp sound "clearer"?
     
  2. Cjsinla

    Cjsinla Premium Member

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    What brands are we talking about? I know that my 100 watt Marshall has more clear headroom than either of my 50 watters. I've also seen that output transformers can be different. Some tube amp kits give you a choice of an OT with a saturated sound or one with more clarity and punch.
     
  3. NewDayHappy

    NewDayHappy Senior Member

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    This may sound odd but on my DSL I crank the gain to 2 o'clock and then adjust the volume to the desired level and I noticed way more clarity in the sound. Try it. I don't know why it works that way, I picked it up from another musician. Most of the time my volume isn't even turned up a quarter of the way and it sounds awesome.
     
  4. LPV

    LPV Senior Member

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    Dumping bass early in the preamp helps allot. Like allot.
     
  5. mmd

    mmd Senior Member

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    EQ placement in regards to gain staging can make a difference too.
     
  6. Caoimhin

    Caoimhin Senior Member

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    Friedman BE
    JCM 800
    OR50
    Rockerverb
    Thunderverb
    Ironheart
    Dark Terror
     
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  7. northernguitarguy

    northernguitarguy SWeAT hOg

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    I wonder this myself. Both my VOX and Orange are 15W amps, but for some reason, the VOX has much more clean headroom (and a far sweeter clean tone, the Tiny Terror is not pleasing when clean-at all).
     
  8. Soul Tramp

    Soul Tramp Speaker Snob V.I.P. Member MLP Vendor

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    I'm confused by the question. Are you asking why one amp may have more clean headroom than another amp? Or are you asking what's involved with designing a circuit that retains articulation, note separation, and harmonics when pushed into high-gain/distortion? Many high-gain amps become a hissy mess when cranked up.
     
  9. Caoimhin

    Caoimhin Senior Member

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    This.
     
  10. Soul Tramp

    Soul Tramp Speaker Snob V.I.P. Member MLP Vendor

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    High-gain is produced by cascading gain stages in the preamp. There are a lot of factors involved. The better the circuit designer addresses each one, the better the results.

    A couple have already been offered up.
    • LPV's comment about dumping bass is important
    • MMD's comment about tone stack placement

    A few other Factors to consider:
    • Waveform coming off each gain stage plate
    • Bias setting for each gain stage
    • Grid impedance for each gain stage
    • Oscillation filters
    • Signal path clarity
    • Tone stack design
    • Heater noise
    • Stability of power supply
    • Quality of transformers
     
  11. kiko

    kiko Senior Member

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    As a rule, as you go up the volume, you go down on bass, up on treble and mid range. Adjust to taste of course!
     
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  12. Classicplayer

    Classicplayer Senior Member

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    I'm curious. Where about do you typically run your gain? I find it interesting that my 20-watt Orange Micro
    Dark (hybrid) and my new 15 watt Dark Terror (tube) seem to have the best "clear" sound when their volume and gain knobs are at about the same level. That being I set them at say 10 or 11 o'clock. I'm not talking about ear-tiring loud either.


    Classicplayer
     
  13. Classicplayer

    Classicplayer Senior Member

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    Don, you listed 9 factors in amp design considerations. Do designers of mass-produced amps pay attention to all, or even a few of those factors?

    Classicplayer
     
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  14. LPV

    LPV Senior Member

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    Yes anode follower too.
     
  15. northernguitarguy

    northernguitarguy SWeAT hOg

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    I run my Orange purely as a gain amp. I use both amps with a Radial Headbone VT so I can use one cab while switching between the two.
    My TT is always set to volume between 10-12 o'clock, depending on the venue and the gain is always set to high noon. When I want more dirt, I kick in either my Bad Monkey or Soul Food pedals, depending on the song. When I want a heavier gain, I use my clean VOX with a Cornish G2 clone I scored off of member Batman.
     
  16. Soul Tramp

    Soul Tramp Speaker Snob V.I.P. Member MLP Vendor

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    I don't know the answer to this. It would require a close look at the schematics and knowing what components were used to build the amps.

    I've gone to extremes trying to tame high-gain. Almost all amps use AC power for the tube heaters. A few will use elevated heaters, and even fewer will use DC power for the heaters. I've designed a "regulated" DC power supply for the tube heaters on V1 & V2 in an effort to lower the noise floor (VERY important in high-gain amps). I don't know of anyone else doing this.
     
  17. sonar

    sonar Senior Member

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    Playing with less gain.

    Stating the obvious, but unless you've got a really good FOH situation that can compress the sh*t out of your hi-gain amp in the mix, there really is very little other choices when playing at loud volume.
     
  18. Classicplayer

    Classicplayer Senior Member

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    I can attest to playing with less gain to get a "clear" sound. And, do we mean clean/clear sound?

    I just bought and started using an Orange Dark Terror; noted for its high gain capabilities (for what its worth) at 15 tube watts. It sounds wonderful IMO, at lower gain
    and slightly scoped on the shape control. I use its gain side sparingly to keep my sound clear with lots of chime and sparkle, but still with some hair as a halo around that tone. I'm hinting tones reminiscent of tones of Page, Knopfler, and Kossoff.

    Classicplayer
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2017
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  19. cherrysunburst00

    cherrysunburst00 Senior Member

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    DUDE!! That's some awesome fitepower ya gots
     
  20. Caoimhin

    Caoimhin Senior Member

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    I was pretty familiar with all of them before I bought them but the one that surprised me the most was the Dark Terror. I run it through Orange PPC412 full stack and it sounds huge for being a little 15 watt amp. If you closed your eyes wouldn't know if I was using that or one of my 100 watt amps.
     

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