What are the qualities of a "stiff" amp?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by slybird, Jun 24, 2019.

  1. slybird

    slybird Member

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    I'm still not sure what the word means. In context sometimes it seems the writer is implying that the amp is overly compressed without enough dynamic range, other times it seems to indicate that the person writing thinks the amp is overly dynamic leaving mistakes too exposed. This is leading me to believe we all don't have an agreed upon definition of the word.

    EDIT: are there amps that some might think are stiff and other people think are overly compressed? An example would be what I sometimes read in Mesa threads. One person will say they don't like a Mesa because it is overly compressed, then a few more posts down you will read someone stating it is too stiff. Do some amps live in the stiff/compressed middle ground?

    I personally think Mesa amps I've used are some of the most dynamic amps I've ever experienced. I would never think to call a dynamic amp stiff.

    Is a dynamic amp the same as a stiff amp?
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2019
  2. nmiller

    nmiller Drowning in lap steels Gold Supporting Member

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    I've always interpreted it as having very little compression.
     
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  3. De Batz

    De Batz Member

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    High Young's modulus...?
     
  4. JK1965

    JK1965 Silver Supporting Member

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    Yes this. A clean amp that packs a real punch because the frequencies aren’t being squashed. The more compressed it is, the less punch it has.
    Also yes that it doesn’t hide sloppiness, poor technique etc. I will get my Deluxe Reverb out every now and then just to work on clean chops.
     
  5. MikeMcK

    MikeMcK Supporting Member

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    Usually large transformers that create immediate attack... picked notes might sound more "clangy" than smooth, more of a reproduction of what you actually play and less forgiving of inconsistent attack. If you ever get to play a Traynor YBA-1 (unmodified, which is usually not the case), they are very stiff compared to most Marshalls that have the same specs.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2019
  6. slybird

    slybird Member

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    I love a post that leads me to reading a Wiki page with lots of equations and links to pages about engineering polymers. Good stuff.
     
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  7. nmiller

    nmiller Drowning in lap steels Gold Supporting Member

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    So that's where the term comes from!

    [​IMG]
     
  8. slybird

    slybird Member

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    thatguynamedjosh likes this.
  9. nmiller

    nmiller Drowning in lap steels Gold Supporting Member

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  10. De Batz

    De Batz Member

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    I try to slip at least one random and incorrect 'named after' into every science lesson I teach. I haven't done Neil Young and Young's modulus yet, but I can add the one to the list for next year.

    On a further diversion, it's very interesting to note that everything changes shape when you bash it, even apparently rock-hard stuff. If you had a fast enough camera, you could see the shockwave travel through it, hit the far end and bounce off, come back and make it back to where it started. The stiffer the material, the faster the wave goes. Steel is in the range of 5000 m/s.

    To actually answer the question (I know, unlikely!)...

    Stiff usually means high-headroom, unlikely to compress by running out of power, rapid response. Folk usually contrast it with 'tactile' or 'chewy' or things like that. My Heartbreaker is usually called 'stiff', and people point to the power supply. The general tone of it is that the supply to the power amp is so capable that the power amp produces exactly what goes in, rather than struggling and sagging. In some applications, that's what you want, and not in others.
     
  11. De Batz

    De Batz Member

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    Due to the prohibition of political jokes on this here forum, I am unable to do a suitable 'equation of state for the UK' gag. Please imagine that I have. It would have been very funny.
     
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  12. Guinness Lad

    Guinness Lad Silver Supporting Member

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    Put an amp into a tensile tester. You can then find out the modulus of elasticity.
     
  13. aiq

    aiq Supporting Member

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    I am virtually laughing.
     
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  14. big mike

    big mike Plexi Loving Admin Staff Member

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    Guys if you can't actually give a reasonable answer for the OP, how bout you cool it on the jokes?
    A little here and there is one thing, but out of 13 posts, only 3ish are on topic. Take that stuff to the pub.
     
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  15. NorCal_Val

    NorCal_Val Member

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    Yes.
    I own one; the Randall Satan.
     
  16. JCantrell

    JCantrell Member

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    I think it's more of a quality of feel rather than sound especially to the lower frequencies. Like when you dig and play hard the amp doesn't respond as much compared to a more forgiving amp which will bloom and sag. The lower frequencies would be solid and consistent without sagging. At least that's what I think anyway.
     
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  17. LaXu

    LaXu Member

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    Exactly. The amp can be compressed or not but still feel stiff or loose to play. It is above all a feel thing. You will find actually stiff feeling amps are usually 100W or more. The response feels very immediate for better or worse.
     
  18. SecondFloorTones

    SecondFloorTones Member

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    As you’ve already said, the definition is just not that - a definition. To me, a stiff amp is one that has a lot of mids compared to bass and treble, and one that reacts fast. A Twin has some of the mids sucked out, so it doesn’t feel stiff, even if it has a robust power section with negative feedback. My THD Flexi on the other hand can be set up to feel really stiff and unforgiving. Especially at edge of breakup where the attack can be very prominent, and then the sustain part of the note just dies off. Mind, it can easily be dialled in to feel better, but that flavour is in there if you want it. I’d think that a Mesa Mark style amp with little gain and no graphic eq could feel fairly stiff and unforgiving too.
     
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  19. Teleplayer

    Teleplayer New Mods On The Block Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

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    To me it means more "immediacy" of attack. Notes and sounds don't squish/sag as readily.

    You sort of "know it when you hear it". The notes, chords, harmonics, etc. you play actually feel and sound more "stout", "fast", "immediate" .... if that makes any sense.

    Hope that helps.
     
  20. JPH118

    JPH118 Member

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    To me, it’s all about the amp’s responsiveness to one’s playing, and I think it varies a lot on that person and isn’t really a binary thing. Whether an amp is compressed or dynamic, it can still have a stiff or loose response... it can still be forgiving or brutally honest, either way. I might want it to compress when I play hard, and react more dynamically when I back off... that’s my ideal. A stiff amp, to me, doesn’t react to your playing... it takes what you put in and gives a certain result based on its settings. the variance in feel just isn’t there.
     
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