My Advice too all of the home players

alivegy

Member
Messages
1,176
So i have to admit it, at this point I'm an apartment warrior. I'm not really in a band, I mostly just jam on my own and write songs and riffs. I just love to play. Sometimes I don't even want to play I just want to hear guitar, so I play anyway acting as both solo performer and lone audience member. Since I'm not jamming away in clubs and stadiums volume is always a huge consideration, but just because I don't do this for a living doesn't mean I'm any less particular or crazy about my tone. I've been playing for 14 years, have lived in an apartment for the last 5 years, and I play on average 2 hours a day. So here are some of the nuggets that I have learned a long the way to getting good tone at a reasonable volume.

1. Buy the amp that you want regardless of wattage. 1 watt is freaking loud, if you buy a low wattage amp expecting to be able to crank it up without bothering anyone, prepare to be disappointed. My princeton reverb is a small clean machine, but even at low volumes it sounds stiff and sterile. Don't buy something that "sounds like" or is xxxx with less wattage because it is not. As soon as you start changing the power section of an amp to acomodate lower wattages you have changed the tone, especially when that requires new transformers and every consequence that comes with it. I have a 100 watt Marshall sitting in my living room and it puts a grin on my face even before I flip the thing on.

2. Before you set your budget for a new amp, factor in a good attenuator into the cost. It may seem expensive at first, but it ensures that you get your money's worth. Save up. Your amp, is not the amp of your dreams with the volume at .25. You will be frustrated and disappointed and you won't play as much. Your new expensive amp will sit in the corner and gather dust and every time you turn it on you will dream about what it could sound like. There has never been a better time for bedroom guitar players. With the UA, the Alex, the Aracom and the Phantom it is now possible to get killer cranked guitar sounds at more reasonable volumes in ways that you just couldn't before these devices came to market. I'm not going to talk about the pros and cons of each device in this thread. I recently posted a long review of the aracom if you want to know what i think of it.

3. Speakers that sound great loud, might not sound that great at quieter volumes. A lot of vintage speakers require a good bit of wattage before they show their trademark tonal colors. At low volumes they may sound down right honky and nasty, not to mention harsh and buzzy. Try to find a speaker that has a more neutral coloration and is more consistent at different volumes. I like Lead-80's

4. Use a Compressor even if it's subtle. Compression is one of the things that your ear uses to perceive relative volume. When your ear hears a sound that is more compressed it tells your brain, hey this is loud! The same goes for clipping and saturation. At lower volumes a touch of compression is a great way to get fuller sound without adding any more peak volume. Your ear hears distortion as being louder, even if it really isn't.

5. Use a ported cab. If you're like me, you like to pace around a lot while you play guitar. If you have a closed back cab it is going to sound different with every step that you take and will drive you nuts. For a while I used a semi-open back cab to fill the room a bit better, then I switched to a front-ported Port City Waves 2x12. What a difference. The cabinet just sounds huge at all but the lowest of volumes and it sounds better and better the louder it gets. Plus, it is easier to control with all of the sound blasting out the front.

6. Use a Delay pedal. Another thing that your brain uses to judge the volume of something is the way that the sound is reflected around the room. You can mimic this with a subtle delay. I'm not a big fan of delay, never been a big fan of the Edge, but if used appropriately it can really fatten up your tone and give you the "appearance" of a much louder sound. Adjusting Regenerations and delay times is a great way to mimic different sized rooms.

7. Buy a Gramma acoustic isolator. These things are great for $50 even though it's probably $2.50 worth of materials. They're not going to let you crank the fool out of your amp without bothering any one, but they do a great job of decoupling your amp from the floor. If your amp generates a lot of sympathetic vibrations in your room, or your neighbors room, this thing can really help calm them down, and hey it may buy you a couple of more decibels before the guy below you calls the cops. It's not a miracle worker, but every little bit helps. Get your amp off of the floor.

8. Finally, there is no replacement for actual volume, but that doesn't mean that something can't be too loud for a room. I have noticed that below a certain threshold you loose the ability to really distinguish the subtle nuances of particular guitar tone. There is just a law of diminishing return. Even with the most transparent of attenuators once you get to what people refer to as "tv volume" and below it's just all going to start to sound the same. Something can also be too loud for a given room.

That is all that I can think of right now. The interweb has made people lazy and people don't usually read my long ass posts but I hope this helps somebody. If I think of anything to add I'll post it later.
 
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voojo

Member
Messages
3,414
Great post!!

I agree with all of it, especially the little bit of delay/reverb for at home playing. I use an AxeFX sometimes, and if I ever create a dry patch I always find myself eventually going in and adding at least a touch of delay and or reverb. It just sounds better in a smaller "home" room.
 

ford

Modz
Staff member
Messages
14,070
Good stuff... and obviously well thought out through experience.

Well played sir.. well played.
 

XKnight

Member
Messages
11,086
I've never met an attenuator that I liked. For me, nothing beats a low watt amp that I can crank for home usage.
 

sharpshooter

Member
Messages
4,009
Yeah,,,, I gotta agree with you about the speakers. As a die-hard Altec fan,(all my cabs/amps have 417s in them), at low volumes, the Gemini I sounds better with the old Jensen P12Q in it. The big magnet/voice coil units need to have some push behind them to really get the "sound", and the little Jensen is sweeter at lower levels.
 

sinner

Member
Messages
3,996
Good stuff... and obviously well thought out through experience.

Well played sir.. well played.

I liked it too! Thanks!

I was happy in my tiny apartment waking up and seeing that Marshall 50 watter sitting on top the oversized TV 412 cab. I liked the sound with the Power Brake, and then later a UA attenuator, along with my pedals. It did satisfy!

Another "bedroom" tip I've found:

I have the Boss RC Looper pedal box, great for playing alone and adding lead lines to your chords.

There is also an added plus for bedroom players:
There is an "instrument level" volume (as well as output level) so you can turn your amp up to find a sweet spot but lower the instrument level down as low as you need for the neighbors. I set the amp where I want (with or without an Attenuator), set the pedals for the tone and push I want, then turn the instrument level to make it all sound at TV levels. Sure, there's no air being pushed but still much tone and much smiles are there!
 

Bill Brasky

Senior Member
Messages
1,421
meh.... 100 watt amps into and attenuator = jar of bees tone. I've been there and done that. Yeah, 1 watt amps can be loud if you crank them, but they're easier to control volume wise than a 100 watter that jumps from OFF on 1 to OMG! MY EARS ARE BLEEDING!!! at 1.3 .
Not only the volume, but 4 x EL34's roasting plus hot transformers means your amp is basically a space heater, which is not what you want in a small apartment in the middle of summer. You're better off with a good master volume amp. IME it sounds much better than an attenuated amp and the volume is easier to control.
 

smolder

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
14,770
great post. I spent the last few years in an apartment and it was killing me.

I have on occasion picked up the axe and cranked the amps... not so much to play, but to hear tone. I often deny it... but I love it.

Lots of folks here chasing the whole 'loud tone without the volume' oxymoron. There is no substitute for loud... it's an integral part of the formula for great tone.
 

Olds442

Member
Messages
353
I've been thinking of making a ported back for a ppc112 cab for this very reason. great post, but i don't completely agree about low wattage amps. i've been using a nice 4 watt head in a condo with no complaints from the blue haired volume conscience neighbors.
 

SurfGreenTele

Member
Messages
2,324
I've never met an attenuator that I liked. For me, nothing beats a low watt amp that I can crank for home usage.

I have to agree...I find that without the speaker being pushed, there's no point. Having an attenuator pretty much leaves me just a flat as having the volume way down, so I might as well not bother with one.
 

Rena Rune

Member
Messages
3,218
In all honesty taking all this into account you're best off with a good modeler unless you're loaded or have plenty space to crank.
 

furry

Senior Member
Messages
1,399
Excellent post. One thing you left out is that volume--IN AND OF ITSELF--is a big part of the fun. Sure, you can get close to the TONE of a cranked amp via a variety of creative avenues, but the amp won't really sound cranked unless it IS CRANKED...
 

GT100

Member
Messages
4,275
This is why I bought the (100watt) Guytron.
It sounds great down to -I figure under a watt or so when it's saturated.
The cleans will sound good even lower.
I have an old 79 or 80 Marshall 4x12 with the original G12-80s and it is great at a wide range of volumes and listening positions too.

If I ever get the chance I'm going to design and make a practice amp that is the same quality as the stage amps...

Lloyd
 

amp boy

Member
Messages
2,471
honestly.
if any of you have seen the condo society that Toronto is now.
F...K this wall to wall "lifestyle"
it sucks.
 

GT100

Member
Messages
4,275
In all honesty taking all this into account you're best off with a good modeler unless you're loaded or have plenty space to crank.

If I had no choice but to use a modeler for an amp -I'd go acoustic.

Seriously

Lloyd
 

jwny72

Member
Messages
3,118
My at home (apartment) playing needs are filled by playing through a pair of Fender Class A 5 watt tube amps (a vintage Vibro Champ and a RI Champion 600). They take pedals very well, and pedals take care of all my dirt needs. I have a great "at home" jamming out sound, especially with the Echoplex coming out of one amp and the AD-9 from the other (spacious). And I don't disturb the neighbors.
 

Head+Cab

Member
Messages
398
Great advice from the OP. +1 on using Auralex Grammas/Subdudes/etc. I've been slowly accumulating them for all of my cabs.
 




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