How to make lower volume playing sound better

MaxTwang

Member
Messages
3,365
Get a nice reactive load with IR's like the Suhr Reactive Load IR or UA OX. Use any amp you want and crank it at conversation volume...

I use a Suhr PT15IR into a Stienberg UR22 interface, into JBL LSR 308 monitors... Sounds like a cranked Marshall!
In addition to the IR feed through monitors you can use the OX's attenuator to mix in your amp at low volume through a 1x10 or 1x12 cab (Greenback works well). This creates a low volume wet/dry/wet rig that sounds awesome at low volume.

* With the Suhr RLIR you can use the Un-Filtered out into a low-wattage power amp pedal (EHX, Quilter, etc) to bring your cabinet in.
 

r9player

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,841
OK, so this is related to another thread I started called "How LOUD do you play guitar?" where I started a poll (with dB being read at hearing level and distance, not the ol' 1m from the front of the cab).

I got tinnitus 9 weeks ago. My audiologist says it's almost certainly due to hearing damage from past military experience, but it was "triggered" by playing guitar and listening to backing tracks at the same time. The backing tracks were played through a speaker at head level; I believe the directional highs were the culprit. I never played louder than 92dB peaks.

Either way, my goal is to play at 80dB, with 82dB peaks. I play at home exclusively (to the delight of everyone who doesn't have to hear me play).

My old setup was a 100w Marshall JVM410HJS. While it had a master volume, I always had it at "1" and it seemed lifeless unless I turned it to 1.5, which was now around 90dB. I blamed it on not providing enough power to the the power tubes out of the gate. Or the CF preamp tube. Or whatever.

So I got a Mesa Mark V 35 and play on 10w mode. The EL84s get going much quicker than EL34s. Problem is, at less than 85-90dB it still sounds inarticulate. I thought it could be the fact that I'm not putting enough power to the speakers (2x12 V30s). But to get 120 watts of speakers (or even a 60w single) really moving it would take a LOT more than what I'm throwing at it.

Any suggestions?
What do you feel is lacking in your sound at the lower settings?
Not to be evil but pedals, EQ and even post production can fix a lot of 'balance' in the sound output.
What can't be replaced is the 'feel' that happens when you are moving a good amount of 'air volume'
or the direct sounds.
 

LaXu

Member
Messages
6,239
In my experience, when the volume is low enough you just pick your compromises. At that volume you won't get markedly different results out of tube amps, attenuators, reampers, digital modelers or pedals into a clean amp. No matter what your speakers are not getting driven and your perception of the sound at low volume matters too.

You might be happier using digital modeler or tube amp into reactive load -> cab sims and studio monitors. Then you have total control over what the amp does and a million ways to EQ the tone to your liking. It won't be the same as using a guitar cab directly but it can sound real good.
 

jeffh

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
943
That's what I'm wondering. I went from a 100W amp to a 10W amp, effectively. I'm wondering if the F-M curve is the issue, if it's speakers not driving, or if it's still the amp not moving.
my experience using BOSS TAE as attuenator/re-amp ...every amp I own sounds really good at bedroom volume with the TAE, then there is a space between bedroom volume and band volume, that I do not like it at all. And then once up to "play with a band volume", it sounds great again.

Has something to do with how the cabinet is being pushed or not pushed ( in my case a Friedman 4x12) I think.

Not sure how Friedman does it, but every Friedman amp I have owned, sounds great at any volume.
 

nbessie1

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
495
Overdriving a vintage 50s Champ is always a great option!

For getting low-volume overdriven tones close to (or equal to) the quality of your favorite larger amp/set-up, the only thing I've ever tried that has worked well (very well in fact!) is a Suhr Jim Kelley attenuator (now a permanent part of my very simple set-up).

For low-volume clean tones, I just get the best clean amp I can find (in my case a Bruno Cowtipper 22 II) and have at it.

:)

Also, finding the right speakers for the low-volume response that you're looking for from your amp is critical (it might not be the same speaker that works best at full crank!)
 
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Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
32,700
Above explains a great way to control volume and make it more manageable, but ill also note that the Fletcher Munson curve is going to make you perceive low volumes as not have as much highs and lows.
There is no replacement for db's.
Set up your amp simulator, reamp signal or what ever, and listen through phones or monitors and you can hear your tone blossom with no change except volume. The dynamic range and freq response is perceptually altered by volume. The feel of the dynamic range and the actual feel of the sound waves is irreplaceable to tonal satisfaction.
Ex 2. Take an acoustic guitar and cleanly mic/amp it...yep it sounds better louder, too, for all the same reasons.
All you can do is find a compromise 'good enough' sound.
I think there are plenty of ways to do that without going to elaborate lengths in search of the unattainable.
 

David B

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,897
I have had severe tinnitus for 23 years, probably acquired as a mix of noise exposure, childhood ear infections, and a few rounds of aspirin (many drugs are ototoxic). I use a clean amp, usually 10-50 watts, and depending on the amp design it can work extremely well with pedals for low volume listening. I don't subscribe to the fletcher munson theories about it being the reason your lower volume sound might not be great. If you can listen to music from a your car/home stereo without that sounding lousy, then the guitar is exactly the same, as in, it's just sound and follows the same principals. If lower volume sounds feel lifeless, it's either lousy equipment, poor choices, or you have grown accustomed to "feeling" the sound, and need to listen lower and get over that visceral side where it needs to blow air to the point of making your chest thump.

Sorting out clean amp so you can get good sounds with pedals means, getting rid of bright caps which make the sound fizzy the quieter you play, and it also means using speakers and cabs that work well at lower volumes. This does not mean the speaker needs to be super low wattage, many speakers sound good low. I like ragin cajun 10", Texas Heat 12", Red Fang 12", and there are others. Speakers that need to "break up" a bit I don't tend to use, so old Jenson styles don't sound great with pedals at quiet volumes. You could also explore a modelling/profiling amp/preamp and a single 12 or 10 for playback.

Overall, playing quieter usually requires that you rethink your amplification a bit, but I could work with a classic deluxe reverb and pedals without much issue after removing the bright cap and a speaker change. If you are playing heavier music , then you might look at modelling options, with those you should be able to go direct to a studio monitor for playback.

Likely your ears did not suddenly, "start to ring", without a traumatic event or new use of pharmaceuticals, it's usually a cumulative affect, and then a limbic "awareness" that triggers the feeling of tinnitus emerging.

Wear hearing protection when sound rises above 80db, or any level that feels uncomfortable. Be aware your car is likely over 80db when you measure full spectrum (cars are measured at a-weighted which throws out important info). Tinnitus sufferers often have louder tinnitus triggered by specific sounds too, so don't be surprised if the sound of a very high energy harmonics (so, fizzy guitar and cymbals) makes your ears ring worse, even if it does not appear that loud, some sounds trigger. Everybody who has tinnitus has a different experience, and protecting yourself while not hyper focusing on your ringing is important to anxiety levels.

I play nylon string a lot now, it's not loud like steel string acoustics, and tends to stay quiet. A typical dreadnought acoustic can be louder than 90db without much effort.
 
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crazymauler

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
274
I do recordings and low volume practice in my home studio and love the tones I get.
Guitar > pedalboard >
Suhr Badger 18 or Princeton Reverb >
Suhr Reactive Load IR >
ProTools > monitoring on Yamaha NS-10s w/ sub.

The Suhr RLIR is a game-changer. I can crank my amps to the sweet spot, run them into a 4x12 cabinet IR, and set my monitor volume anywhere it’s comfortable, without compromising tone.
 

AaeCee

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
18,285
I think all the guys suggesting powered studio monitors and maybe a sub as the critical part of the solution are spot on. I don't have such a set-up but a friend does, and with them he can create a low db soundscape with all the low end thump and highs that only typically come from a much louder amp.

It's next on my list of near term gear pursuits.
 

Adamclayton

Member
Messages
1,156
Sounds like you need the Boss Waza Tube Amp Expander. The unit has a Fletcher Munson curve that really helps low volume tones from your guitar cabs and 12” speakers. The TAE reactive load iv tunable which helps with the feel when your cranking your amp full tilt into your studio monitors/PA/audio interface. You can also send your line-out signal stereo XLR, and play through your amps speaker cabs or studio monitors/PA/audio interface at the same time since there is a 100 watt solid-state power amp aboard.

Either way, it WILL remedy your low volume playing any way you’d like with vintage or modern amps up to 150 watts. I’ve tried and been through a plethora of all the loadbox’s and attenuators, and I think it has the best tones for low volume playing and recording. They are expensive, but well worth it.
 

RockDebris

Member
Messages
3,503
OK, so this is related to another thread I started called "How LOUD do you play guitar?" where I started a poll (with dB being read at hearing level and distance, not the ol' 1m from the front of the cab).

I got tinnitus 9 weeks ago. My audiologist says it's almost certainly due to hearing damage from past military experience, but it was "triggered" by playing guitar and listening to backing tracks at the same time. The backing tracks were played through a speaker at head level; I believe the directional highs were the culprit. I never played louder than 92dB peaks.

Either way, my goal is to play at 80dB, with 82dB peaks. I play at home exclusively (to the delight of everyone who doesn't have to hear me play).

My old setup was a 100w Marshall JVM410HJS. While it had a master volume, I always had it at "1" and it seemed lifeless unless I turned it to 1.5, which was now around 90dB. I blamed it on not providing enough power to the the power tubes out of the gate. Or the CF preamp tube. Or whatever.

So I got a Mesa Mark V 35 and play on 10w mode. The EL84s get going much quicker than EL34s. Problem is, at less than 85-90dB it still sounds inarticulate. I thought it could be the fact that I'm not putting enough power to the speakers (2x12 V30s). But to get 120 watts of speakers (or even a 60w single) really moving it would take a LOT more than what I'm throwing at it.

Any suggestions?
I went through the same thing, I had bought these great tube amps that I couldn't use at home because unless you can get decently loud volume out of them they sounded like crud. It's not just a matter of EQ either, IME, they sound choked, like a faucet that's only letting a trickle of the potential gain through.

The sure fire method I found accidentally is to use analog SS preamps in to the fx return of my tube combo amps when I need quieter volumes. I can play at any volume with the tone I'm looking for (whatever the tone provided by the preamp is). I use the AMT Legend 2 series of preamps, and there are others. Not expensive to get one and try it out. There is that Neunaber Neuron preamp that looks very interesting.
 
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Patrick B

Member
Messages
501
I would sell the Marshall 100 watt and the speaker can and get something much smaller. 85 - 90 dB is still pretty loud. Concerts are usually around 100 dB. Conversation level volume is around 50-60 dB while a vacuum cleaner is around 65-70 dB. A low wattage amp seems to be a better solution than a rig fit for Slash.
 

Baba

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,113
A couple of guys hit on it, it's "loudness" (fletcher-munson) he's probably missing, and that's the reason they put it on stereo systems, for a more pleasing lower volume sound.

So, either an attenuator, adjusting the bass/mid/treble on the amp, or some sort of baffle in front of that amp, if he wants to keep said amp.

Really, there's a whole host of things he can do, it depends on whether he wants to keep that exact amp, or move on to other gear.
 

Golem

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
664
So many options: attenuators, load boxes, volume/eq in FX loop (but only if you don't rely on power tube saturation), lower watt amps pushed with boost/od pedals, less efficient speakers, taking tubes out (works on some 100W designs but I don't know about all), etc.
 

Baba

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,113
I think all the guys suggesting powered studio monitors and maybe a sub as the critical part of the solution are spot on. I don't have such a set-up but a friend does, and with them he can create a low db soundscape with all the low end thump and highs that only typically come from a much louder amp.

It's next on my list of near term gear pursuits.
I've been thinking about this too, or maybe just using my computer speakers/sub setup from now on, instead of my studio monitors. I don't record much, at least anything that requires critical listening, but I do play along with music/tracks, etc, and I like listening to that stuff with some extra lows for drums/bass.

Guitar doesn't live in the subwoofer range, but I do live in an apartment, so, pleasurable low volume listening/playing is key.
 




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