What kind of EQ takes the volume out when lowered?

Discussion in 'Amps/Cabs Tech Corner: Amplifier, Cab & Speakers' started by GuitarInnovations, Nov 27, 2019.

  1. GuitarInnovations

    GuitarInnovations Member

    Jan 20, 2004
    And are there any rules of thumb as far as how to dial one in?
  2. xtian

    xtian Member

    Dec 15, 2010
    All passive tone stacks attenuate the signal. Fender/Mashall/Vox tone stacks are all passive--they're made from resistors and capacitors. The opposite is active tone controls, which require amplifiers (usually transistors)--a typical example is the five-band EQ on Mesa and Ampeg amps.

    How do dial one in? Use your ears! Or if you're interested in EQ curves, look at this awesome tool for visualizing the effect of tone stacks:

    abnerfm, oneblackened and pdf64 like this.
  3. HotBluePlates

    HotBluePlates Member

    Mar 27, 2017
    Most Fender amps don't have a Mid control, but have a fixed resistor in the circuit performing the function a Mid pot would handle (expect in a non-changeable way). So the amps with no Mid control usually won't take the volume down to "nothing" when the available controls are all the way down (because those mids are still there).

    Amps that have Mid controls often reduce the output to nothing if all EQ controls are turned all the way down. That has a caveat because there are different EQ circuits, and they don't all work the same way.

    If you're looking for a "free attenuator" by way of the EQ controls, you might just as easily look to your amp's Volume knob. I see this suggested for blackface/silverface Fender amps every now & then, but the Volume control in those amps immediately follows the Treble control. Even if you can't read a schematic, check out this Deluxe Reverb schematic, find the letters "XE" in the end of "Deluxe" in the title, and go straight down the page. You'll run into the depiction of the Treble control and its connection to the Volume control.

    Dumping signal level with the EQ, then turning up the Volume control seems like a wash to me. What's the benefit in that over turning the EQ controls up and turning the Volume control down?

    Also check out the web-based version if you don't want to (or can't) install the program on your computer.

    Rules of Thumb?

    - The program can show you where to set controls for "flat frequency response" from the tonestack, but the rest of the amp might not have "flat frequency response"

    - Setting a (perhaps Fender) amp for flat frequency response may sound mid-heavy to your ear. Congrats! You just figured out many pickups are actually mid-heavy (depending on the values of controls & caps in the guitar).

    - People playing orchestral or wind instruments figure out early that bass notes have to be loud(er) and treble notes have to be soft(er) to sound "balanced." You might need less treble than bass for those to sound "equally-loud".

    - Most of the guitar is broadly in the "midrange"; turning midrange up will usually increase the overall signal level in the amp, and the speed at which the output section distorts (assuming a non-master volume amp).

    - People playing orchestral or wind instruments figure out early that their individual sound matters less than how they're contributing to the overall sound of the ensemble. Your warm, fat, smooth, rich, bass-heavy sound that is so awesome when you play at home alone will probably be an inaudible, muddy mess when playing in a group with a bass player or keyboard. For a group you will probably need less bass, more mid, and probably a more present & harsher treble than you'd expect. Solo'd guitar tracks from your favorite songs might be underwhelming-to-awful (assuming no goofs in the process of obtaining the isolated track), when the same guitar sounded wonderful in-the-mix. You need your guitar to occupy frequencies not-occupied by other instruments (and vice versa).

    - Although setting the EQ vs Volume was described as "a wash" above, you might hear a difference with EQ up & Volume down, compared to EQ down & Volume up. You have to just try it, see what your amp does, and decide what you prefer.

    - Remember you have Volume & Tone controls on your guitar; use them. They can offset "too much volume" or "too harsh" at the amp. They can also give you "room to go somewhere" when playing with other instruments if you don't start out with both all the way up (can get louder, or get brighter, or both to be heard in the group).

    - Maybe think about dialing in your sound on something other than the neck pickup. ;)
    Rossi163, xtian and pdf64 like this.

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