Touch sensitivity: What determines it?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by Tone, Feb 6, 2006.

  1. Tone

    Tone Member

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    Hey guys. I posted a thread on Master Volume and Non Master Volume amps and learned great deal from everyone who posted. So I wanted to post this one as well.

    What determines how touch sensitive an amp is? I usually read about single channel, non master volume amps are the most touch sensitive. How do they get this way? Is it possible to get a MV amp to respond more like this? If so, how? Is it pure volume? Settings? Tube choices? Mix of all?

    I have a feeling this relates to the other thread I posted, so sorry if it's too similar. :)

    Thanks!:RoCkIn
     
  2. bob-i

    bob-i Member

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    IMO it's having the RIGHT amount of gain/overdrive and enough dynamic range. Guitarists feel touch in the change of tone as much as in the change of volume. Therefore the amp cannot be hi-gain compressed and be touch sensitive. The most touch sensitive amp I've played are mid gain, clean up when you lighten up your touch, and break up when you bear down.
    JMO
     
  3. fyler

    fyler Member

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    input impedance.
















    i think. :)
     
  4. Unburst

    Unburst Member

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    Output transformer.
     
  5. Chiba

    Chiba Gold Supporting Member

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    The player's hands??

    --chiba
     
  6. Tom Gross

    Tom Gross Supporting Member

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    While there are many single channel amps that are very touch sensitive, there is a whole world of Dumble Style (and other) channel switching MV amps that are as touch sensitive as can be.
    I don't think MV and/or channel switching has anything to do with it.
     
  7. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    Just from my own experience, Two-Rocks are VERY touch-sensitive amps, and they're master volume, two channel amps.

    And yes, I've played MANY great NMV, single channel amps with a lot of touch-sensitivity, and the TRs are as good as as any others in that department, IMHO, and better than most.

    So I don't think one can say that only NMV, single channel amps can do touch sensitivity well, in all honesty.

    That said, continue on, guys!

    EDIT - Tom Gross musta posted his reply while I was typin'!
     
  8. fakeox

    fakeox Member

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    A Little touch of positive feedback. Low noise floor can help. Lower rated speakers. Any of this & more.
     
  9. fakeox

    fakeox Member

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    1 other thing: are you lookin' at dynamics or distortion?
     
  10. Leonc

    Leonc Wild Gear Hearder Gold Supporting Member

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    Yeah, I often think of this as a "simple circuit" kind of phenomenon...but it isn't. As the other guys have mentioned there are plenty of "complex", master-volume amps that are still very responsive to pick attack and guitar volume changes.

    I think that there are a lot of factors involved and like so many things, unfortunately, there isn't going to be a simple single answer. It's clearly related to the circuit design and the use of certain components...but it's pretty hard to pin down in a generalized way that will help me know in advance how touch sensitive an amp's going to be, just by looking at its features.

    And I think there is more than one way to get there. Some amps with rectifier tubes, for example, seem to be very touch-sensitive...but there are plenty of others with diode-bridge rectifiers that exhibit this trait as well. So all I can say is: there ain't no simple answer. Just evaulate each amp you run across on its own merrits and if you're looking for touch-sensitive, don't rule anything out until you've tried it.
     
  11. bluesbreaker59

    bluesbreaker59 Silver Supporting Member

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  12. Leonc

    Leonc Wild Gear Hearder Gold Supporting Member

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    Nah, it ain't the player that makes the amp touch-sensitive. It's the player that takes advantage of it, if he knows how.
     
  13. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Member

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    I agree completely. My K&M LTD is hugely touch-sensitive. To the point of really reavealing everything in my playing - but I really dig that! Makes me tighten up my chops! OTOH, my Cornford Harlequin - really a simple design, despite having a master volume (which is always all the way up anyhow) is much less touch-sensitive; more compressed - but in an altogether cool way. It kinda makes a 'hero' out of anyone playing it. I like having both 'schools' in amps. If only the Harley were a 50 watter.......I could use a Framptone amp switcher and have the best of both worlds for gigging!

    :D
     
  14. Mayflower

    Mayflower Supporting Member

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    If you want touch sensitivity on any amp, be careful how much compression you use. Alot of amp that have great dynamics (touch sensitivity) are useless when heavy compression is used. IMO.
     
  15. Aint Life Hell?

    Aint Life Hell? Member

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    So would low wattage AlNiCo speakers provide too much compression, or is this a purely case by case evalution?
    Thanks...
     
  16. Timbre Wolf

    Timbre Wolf GoldMember Supporter Gold Supporting Member

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    I'm going to focus on a component of touch-sensitivity that I've had repeated success with - preamp tubes. Since most of us use 12AX7s, I'll name two American black-plate 12AX7s which have helped me ride the edge of clean-to-breakup with my touch: RCA ('50s square-getter) and Raytheon (early '60s, with halo-getter). Try one of these as the main input tube (V1), and you're not likely to ever go back to what you had been using. Both exhibit rich harmonics and fine string definition, but the RCA is sort of thick and meaty, while the Raytheon is lean and twangy. I tend to favor the Raytheon.

    Another thing that I've found to help dynamics is to sub a lower-mu tube for a 12AX7: say 12AT7/ECC81 or 5751. That usually yields a less-compressed, more open/airy response. When it comes to 5751s, by the way, I've found, as with 12AX7s, that black-plate versions are more lively and responsive than their gray-plate siblings/cousins - don't know why, but there it is.

    Certainly there are other elements, as others have discussed, but that's my tip of the day. Looking forward to others' tips.

    - T
     
  17. fakeox

    fakeox Member

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    Squishy compressed amps are great. So are clean to distorted touch sensitive types. So are big dynamic, brutally clean monsters. Most amps have some of all three sounds available, depending on settings. Most any amp will be really great at only one of these.
     
  18. LaXu

    LaXu Member

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    I once asked the same question but the answer was pretty much "everything."

    I've played plenty of master volume amps with exceptional dynamics. I find huge differences in how naturally compressed amps are even on the clean tones. Peavey XXX and JSX are IMO the other end - very compressed, not much dynamics in my experience. On the other side would be amps like my Stephenson LJ-10, THD Flexi, Orange Rocker 30... The Orange was interesting because I tried it side by side with the 50 and 100 watt Rockerverb heads and the 30W Rocker had better dynamics even on totally clean tones.

    I like dynamic amps because you can always add more compression if needed, but if the amp has little dynamic range to begin with where can you go? But on the other hand having the right mixture of compression is where it's at - you don't necessarily want superdynamics because then the amp feels difficult to play. You want dynamics where you can get a clean(er) tone by picking softly and really wail when you dig in, with the playing still being easy. I think Marshalls are pretty good at this.

    Dynamic amps certainly are very good for honing your chops, you need to be more accurate with how hard or soft you pick and have to milk every ounce of sustain out of the guitar because you don't have high gain distortion and compression to rely on.
     
  19. Jackie Treehorn

    Jackie Treehorn Member

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    I think touch sensitivity is a term that is thrown around in so many different ways that it's difficult to really pin down a definitive meaning. What it means to me is how well the amplifier reproduces and responds to the nuances in the player's touch. What seems to affect touch sensitivity is length and quality of the signal path, meaning a short signal path comprised of high quality parts, put together with quality workmanship (a well executed PCB, a builder who solders well) leads to a more touch sensitive amp. I also think gain staging is important as well. If you have the full wattage of the amp under your fingers, I would say you have control over the whole dynamic range of the amplifier. If the amp is set up to distort at the output tubes first, one can even get control over which parts are distorting by touch. Master volume amps (when actually utilizing the master volume) seem to pinch off some degree of this quality.

    I think compression and gain are totally separate; many amps capable of high gain and compression can (and should, perhaps) likewise be set for low gain and less compression depending on taste or context. When you play soft does the volume drop and tone stay the same or does the texture/tone shift more than the volume? Either way, the amp is responding to touch, in my opinion.
     
  20. Leonc

    Leonc Wild Gear Hearder Gold Supporting Member

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    Interesting Dave...but that's kind of the opposite what I mean when I use the term "touch sensitivity". To me, if the amp is sensitive to my touch, it means that it cleans up if I play lightly (or turn the guitar vol down a bit) and dirties up if I hit it aggressively (or turn the guitar vol up).

    What I really don't have a handle on is how much "sensitivity" is coming from which part of the circuit--i.e., the pre-amp and the power amp.

    I have played a number of MV amps where pre-amp distortion seems to play a big role but they're still very responsive to attack and guit-vol changes...and of course there are plenty of MV amps that exhibit very little responsiveness...
     

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