Master Volume versus Hotplate?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by jimmybcool, Mar 18, 2006.


  1. jimmybcool

    jimmybcool Supporting Member

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    First, apologies if I post and run. Jetlag so bad I can hardly type this so I'm out for the count in about 15 minutes but I will be back.

    I am trying to find nice tone at decibel levels that won't damage my hearing. I have a standard size office/bedroom setup with a Mesa Boogie Mark IV amp. From all the suggested settings I have found (millions?) none of them have the channel volume to 10 and reduced volume on the master. Isn't that where you would get the tubes into overdrive?

    And how does a master volume control differ from a hotplate? And is a hotplate the same thing as an airbrake?

    I hope these aren't really stupid questions but I am a bit frustrated with the Boogie anyway as it seems to have too many options and I never get just the right tone at controllable volume.

    Sorry if this is :horse
     
  2. Rusty G.

    Rusty G. Member

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    First, I don't have a Hotplate, I've got a Dr. Z Airbrake. . .and if it handles the question, here goes. . .

    Some people are looking for power tube distortion/saturation, instead of pre-amp distortion. If you've got a great amp, with a great master volume, then you can play at a lot lower sound levels and get a great sound. I've got a Matchless DC30, with a defeatable master volume. I find that it gets a great sound in either channel at close to bedroom volumes. This is a VERY LOUD 30 watt amp into a 4 ohm cabinet, and it sounds great with the master volume.

    On the other hand, I've got a non-master volume amp, 18 watt Marshall type clone, and run it into the Airbrake, to get power tube saturation or breakup. The problem is, after you knock down the volume a couple of clicks, then it starts sucking up the tone and changing the sound of the amp. Now, it can play at bedroom volumes, but it doesn't sound near as good as the Matchless at bedroom volumes. However, when just taking the edge off a click or two, it's increble, and you won't go deaf. . .Still, it's pretty loud, even with the attenuator.

    From my experience, you can get the basic sound of the amp, master volume amps, at really lower settings that you can with an attenuator.

    The next best thing. . .Just get a killer pedal--OD, Distortion, Fuzz, or whatever, and run your non-master volume amp with that. . .And every once in a while, when the kids and wife are gone to the store. . .Crank it up!
     
  3. pbradt

    pbradt Senior Member

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    Smaller amps turned up ALWAYS sound better than bigger amps attenuated.

    Always.
     
  4. monstermike

    monstermike Member

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    Except when the bigger amp is a much better amp (ear of the beholder, I guess) than the small amp. Also, some small amps get mushy when cranked in a way that bigger amps don't, attenuated or otherwise.

    With all else being equal, you're generally right. It's why I play a 20 watt amp on gigs, and keep my Pro Reverb at home (although the Pro actually likes a small amount of attenuation, funnily enough).

    M
     
  5. axelicker

    axelicker Member

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    I have a Laney GH50L that just nails classic British Invasion stuff, but it doesn't come alive until the master is up to 3+, 5 is even better (his is true of a good number of MV amps I have tried). By then it is painful to use without ear protection . For group practice or gigs I use a Hotplate to knock it down 8dB which allows me to get it singing at a more tolerable volume. Further reduction costs too much tone-wise, but , if I really want to make it sweet for bedroom wanking I use the HP as a load and send it's line out to a Hafler G150 power amp. Works really well to get cranked amp tone at home.
     
  6. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Member

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    Invest $40 in a Bad Monkey. Run it into a clean to slightly edgy channel. EQ to taste. Compare that to your best MV'd or attenuated tone.
    Send the money you save to a good cause.
     
  7. somedude

    somedude Member

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    Like Rusty G, I use an attenuator (Hotplate) to knock down the volume a bit... works really well in that role.

    For bedroom playing I've found that a combination of turning down the volume and attenuating works best.....you don't get the benifit of full drive, but it doesn't sound as crushed either. Then again, my bedroom playing is still pretty loud. For real bedroom playing I use a MicroCube, and if neccissary - headphones.
     
  8. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    They're not stupid questions but some of the answers are... :)

    :rolleyes:

    It totally depends on the amps, and how much attenuation you're using. It also depends on whether you mean attenuating a non-MV amp from fully cranked, or a MV amp from not fully cranked.

    You can use a MV and an attenuator at the same time! Where the belief that you can/should/need only use an attenuator on a non-MV amp has come from I have no idea... like screamingdaisy says you can often get the best tones by using both. You can use pedals with either or both methods too.


    Jimmy - that's a very 'touchy' amp in my experience, and difficult to dial in just the right tone at any volume. There are some good sounds in there though, along with the millions of bad ones ;) (especially if you use the Graphic EQ), and if you find one that's simply too loud, you can bring it down to the right volume with an attenuator. Don't get hung up on which tubes are overdriving, just use your ears.

    Yes, a Hotplate is essentially the same thing as an Airbrake, although they sound different and have different features. I can't say which is best with the MKIV, I've never tried one with either. Either one would be a useful thing to have even if you later decide to change amps.
     
  9. jimmybcool

    jimmybcool Supporting Member

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    Well, Jimmy is awake at 4:30 in the AM. Isn't that special (jetlag).

    I really appreciate all the replies on this one. As a newbie to the electric guitar thang I'm never sure when I am asking something so obvious that I should just shut up. But, I do need to change something and I appreciate the help TGP provides.

    Since I like to change guitars in the middle of messing around and the MKIV is so difficult to dial in a great tone that translates between humbuckers and Fenders I feel I need (OK, lets not mess with the want aspect here) a different practice setup. I might just set the MKVI for LOUD with single coil guitars and leave it for when I want to reduce my permanent hearing :eek:

    This means I NEED a better all round practice amp. I am really tempted to buy a lower power amp to start with AND an attenuator. As an impulse buyer I am close to getting the one I saw (but haven't heard yet). The new Zinky Velvetteen which is 15 watts. I'd love to consider a Dr Z Maz Jr but the only dealer in my state doesn't have one in stock (according to his webpage). Apparently Superpro is also coming out with a lower power amp and they are usually more along the lines of the vintage/bluesy tone I like versus the Zinky which has higher gain.

    I was looking at the new Fender SuperSonic but again 60 watts. Maybe I should try the Blues Jr. Well, my wife is getting a new car the LEAST I deserve after not bidding like crazy on the Thorn on Ebay is a new amp.
    :BluesBros
     
  10. SlyStrat

    SlyStrat Supporting Member

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    I use a Hot Plate and some preamp gain with my 100w Marshall combo. The HP helps me crank the mv for more power tube push, which fills out the tone more than just cranking the preamp. Without the HP I'd have my mv way down. My HP is never higher than -8db. Its a balance of the 3 that I use.
     
  11. Leonc

    Leonc Wild Gear Hearder Gold Supporting Member

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    I completely agree with John Phillips: it's entirely amp-dependent. I've used both solutions and both capable of greatness with some amps and of being quite unsatisfactory on others.
     
  12. tedjac

    tedjac Guest

    Jimmy...

    If you want a totally great MV amp that sounds fantastic at practice volume (and I mean you can easily talk over it and it won't annoy neighbors or family)... and all volumes for that matter... drive to Riverside, CA and check out a Fuchs ODS30 (you can even order a 20W model if you want!). You won't be disappointed... it's worth the trip. (This is the last Fuchs suggestion I will bother you with.)

    Ted
     
  13. jimmybcool

    jimmybcool Supporting Member

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    Ted,

    I might have to try that. I will be going to the LA area late summer anyway to pick up my Thorn. Or maybe winter. I can wait til then for another amp. I was messing with the Mesa MKIV and I can get close enough, just need to settle on a single guitar with the settings.

    Between all the choices in the Mesa and all the various pup selections in my guitars I am overwhelmed. TOO may choices.

    I find that when I want to hear a certain kind of tone it is so much easier to use my Vov modeling amp to get it. Yeah, I know it isn't a tube amp but it sounds darn good.

    I am going to wait a bit longer before any more amps. Edumacation is needed and time in the stores listening and trying.
     

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