Master vs. Non Master volume amps

Miles

Member
Messages
3,967
What is your preference and why?

I prefer both for different uses:

Master Volume amps:
I love being able to dial in the master to achieve power tube saturation at manageable volumes. I generally use this method when I am using amp OD by itself and use volume knob control for clean. (disclaimer: I use a one channel amp for this)

I think a lot of players who big themselves up to be "holier than thou" hate master volume amps because they associate it with buzzy preamp overdrive. However, if used right, I think they are a more useful tool for gigging players who wish to achieve power tube overdrive in various rooms and gigs where volume is an issue:

Non Master volume amps:
I prefer a non master volume amp ala my Mesa Blue angel or Fender Bandmaster when I feel like using a good OD or fuzz pedal. This creates a more simplistic setup. You turn amp on, get clean rhythm level, and dial your pedal in, no balance between master and such.


So, in short, I think they both have their uses. What I do not understand is the reasoning behind players who just "hate master volume amps"...Perhaps I am missing something.

Discuss.
 

pfrischmann

Member
Messages
3,323
Non master volume,
I've tried about 10 different mv circuits on my Marshall. They all tend to constrict the sound and feel of the amp.
 

sickboy79

Member
Messages
12,999
Hmm - though question. As Miles said - both have their advantages for different reasons and tone. I own some of each. I do lean a bit more towards non-master volumes. Tone, dynamics, and I honestly find it easier to dial in. But, a really good master volume is a wonderful thing, and there are some great amps out there with them.
 

clothwiring

Member
Messages
6,822
Master Volume. I've purchased some amps that are unusable because they don't have a MV. Love my Chieftain...sold a SJT10/20 for the reason of not having a MV. Great amp, but without MV it was way too loud to get the tones I wanted from it...and the attenuator choked the tone too much.
 

guitardr

Member
Messages
970
Without going into what tubes are being used for the power sections on any given amo (there are a few threads on that issue), some of the points at issue could be...
1. Clean headroom: is it affected by the presence of a master volume?
2. At what point do you even want your non-MV or MV amp to clip or compress?
3. Will it affect the volume level that's acceptable to where the player gets a sweet spot or whatever tone he/she is looking for?
Personally: An amp with MV just has a bit more flexibility for me, especially if it's two channels as well. Set the master up for clean headroom, or kick the gain or channel volume up and set the MV for the slime you want.
Why not get it on an amp and have that option instead've getting a mod or pedal or whatever to achieve what you could've had in the first place?
Depends on the player's wants & needs.
 

shinebox

Member
Messages
392
Ideally non master volume,I love the sound of a cranked old Marshall.Realistically though for me given the places we play,a master volume amp is essential
 

ahab

Member
Messages
1,712
I used to be one of those "holier than thou" types that HATED master volume amps. I played a Superlead in a rock band for several years and I felt that it was the most musical amp I had ever owned...

Then I bought and have gigged the heck out of a Top Hat Club Royale 2x12 combo. Needless to say, I no longer own the Marshall and the Top Hat still amazes me. I will say that my Top Hat sounds its best when the master is running full tilt, but there have been times where I have had to turn the master down and it still sounds amazing.
 

Rosewood

Member
Messages
1,864
It's like an emergency/parking brake, it's just something you may need from time to time. My old 50 watt Hiwatt master worked just good enough to save me and the people in front of me, wish I still had it.
 

dumeril7

Member
Messages
177
Depends on the MV circuit design, but in general you're not getting power tube sat unless you have that MV turned up pretty darn loud, at which point the amp may be operating pretty much like a NMV amp anyway.

I prefer the tone and dynamics of a NMV amp. But the volume is definately an issue. I've used MV amps, attenuators, low-power amps, iso cabs, just about everything you can do to get cranked up tone at reasonable volumes and I have yet to find anything that wasn't a compromise in some way or another. You just have to find the approach with the compromise that bothers you the least.

D7
 

Jet Age Eric

Member
Messages
7,671
I'm having a master volume BF-type amp built for me. I love the convenience of a master volume: I can better accommodate varying venue sizes and it means I'll FINALLY be able to close mic my cab with my ancient U87 in the studio (alongside a Royer 122, of course). -E
 

Free

Member
Messages
1,304
Brian Gerhard of TopHat told me a few years ago about the nature of the master volume circuit he uses on the "Club" amps. He said that when the master is at max position, the amp becomes, in essence, a non-master volume amp at that point (if then controlled only by the volume pot), with the nature of the circuit he uses. So, the Club amps are essentially master and non-master volume amps all in one interestingly.

There are quite a few differnet master volume circuits - all sounding different, some adding additional gain and some not adding more gain than a NMV amp, etc, etc...

The TopHat Club masters are not so much for volume attenuation (for me) as they are for cleaning up a bit of the preamp distortion (at times) when the master is maxed. That's what great about certain MV circuits - they can clean things up in the preamp at maximum master volume, something a NMV amp is SOL on when maxed. So, masters volume amps are not always just about volume attenuation - they can be about gain attenuation.
 

andyk

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,849
I'd vote for a Non-master volume amp, with an added post-phase inverter master volume! I'll be getting David Bray to do this on my new to me Marshall Plexi reissue!
 

trazan

Member
Messages
810
Is the difference really just the presence of a master volume at all, or is the difference the fact that the master volume is used? As in lowered, which obviously will result in a different sound; less power tube saturation and more preamp tube relatively. What bad does MV do when it's fully open?
 

Free

Member
Messages
1,304
Is the difference really just the presence of a master volume at all, or is the difference the fact that the master volume is used? As in lowered, which obviously will result in a different sound; less power tube saturation and more preamp tube relatively. What bad does MV do when it's fully open?
The best master volume circuits do NOTHING different than a NMV amp when fully open.
 

freak4liferu

Member
Messages
90
I typically prefer the tone and feel of NMV amps. I do have an HC-30 with a push-pull MV, so that it can be taken out of the circuit completely. I do like this option, but I find myself hardly ever using the MV. I think it's just about preference really, some do, some don't...
 

ahab

Member
Messages
1,712
Brian Gerhard of TopHat told me a few years ago about the nature of the master volume circuit he uses on the "Club" amps. He said that when the master is at max position, the amp becomes, in essence, a non-master volume amp at that point (if then controlled only by the volume pot), with the nature of the circuit he uses. So, the Club amps are essentially master and non-master volume amps all in one interestingly.

There are quite a few differnet master volume circuits - all sounding different, some adding additional gain and some not adding more gain than a NMV amp, etc, etc...

The TopHat Club masters are not so much for volume attenuation (for me) as they are for cleaning up a bit of the preamp distortion (at times) when the master is maxed. That's what great about certain MV circuits - they can clean things up in the preamp at maximum master volume, something a NMV amp is SOL on when maxed. So, masters volume amps are not always just about volume attenuation - they can be about gain attenuation.
Thanks for the info, Free. Explains why I love the way my Top Hat sounds, I run it as if it we a NMV amp.

-Ahab
 

orogeny

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
10,703
I honestly prefer the sound of my blues junior run wide open on the master with a bit of hair dialed in to just about any mv amp in the same/near volume range. I don't like to be in a room with a drri when it's finally breaking up. . . it's just waaaaaaaay to loud.

Meanwhile, I'm about to give a rottweiler a really good workout with some pedals to see if i can get the same drive i love from those little el84s getting pushed hard in the BJ. NO WAY i can really be in the room when this thing breaks up (rott). . . I already have tinnitus. However, I do love the tone of this mofo. . . and it is so darn light. . . incredible bottom on this amp.
 

Nomadgtr

Member
Messages
413
I vote for a Power Scaled amp. Much better solution than a MV or an attenuator on an NMV IMHO. I think this technology will continue to proliferate as more of us get exposed to it.
 




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