Why do many people say high wattage amps with master volumes still aren't good for low volume tones? My experience says otherwise.

RWMusic

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
214
For years, I've read that you can't get good low volume/bedroom tones out of 50-100 watt tube amps. I can understand this for amps that don't have a master volume, but for ones that do, my experience says otherwise.

I've always read that JMP 2203/2204 or JCM 800 2203/2204 sound "fizzy" at low volume. Until I actually bought one and heard it in person. I mostly play my JMP 2203 with preamp on 8, and Master volume on 1. No fizzyness here. Sounds like a classic rock Marshall to me. AC/DC in a box. Actually those same settings with a Gibson, if you play the Back in Black riff, that's the sound.

This past weekend I also played through a JCM 800, same settings. Sounded fantastic to me. It was a horizontal input version, which the internet says is bad. Sounded great.

Today I was at guitar center and they had a Soldano SLO. Plugged in, played through both Crunch and Overdrive channel. Gain on 7, all knobs at noon, Master around 1. One of the best hard rock/80's style amp I ever played. And it wasn't loud, I could have a conversation over my playing.

So what gives? Internet forum BS? People that are used to playing so loud that they can't imagine low volume? My personal experience contradicts everything I've read.
 

Bluesful

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
44,844
Depends on the amp, but for the most part I disagree.

For the few amps I have with MVs they sound and feel nowhere near as good as they do with the MV turned up. And that includes amps that are meant to get 'all the tone from the preamp' like D-styles.
 

Stig Ø

Member
Messages
1,255
MV amps gives you the opportunity to have overdrive without volume. Personally, I love MV amps, and I find that the tones I’m after need an MV amp. Others get good results with NMV amps, but to each his/her own. That being said, volume sounds good, MV or NMV alike.
 

Average Joe

Member
Messages
12,365
Depends on the amp. A lot of MV amps need to open the master a bit before coming into their own. My Rivera R55 fall into that category. Otoh my Mesa Express 5:25 seem to do its thing at most any volume
 
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tiktok

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
24,750
Well, their experience says otherwise.

My experience is that it typically depends on how quiet you're trying to play versus how much distortion you're employing. In my experience, even with a good MV, there's a point where you turn it down far enough and suddenly the tone "stalls", and you have to either increase volume or decrease distortion to make things sound "right" again. I find attenuators to be the same.

Or even with home stereo--which is why they invented the "loudness" button for when you're listening very quietly.
 

owlexifry

Member
Messages
162
i think the observation you're describing happens because many people conflate amplifier output and speaker movement as the same issue.

when people say it sounds better with MV turned up, this may be because:
- the power tubes are "going harder", approaching saturation, and possibly even producing some distortion.
- the (post MV) phase inverter tube (if the amp has one) - is getting more saturated from a hotter input from the MV.

obviously these factors affect non-MV amps a lot more than MV amps.

My experience with using a good attenuator/reactive load (fryette ps100) has given me some insight into this issue.
It's not all about getting the power amp or the phase inverter cooking (for non-MV amps, it is)
IMO, it's about getting the speakers moving air.

even with the one of the better reactive load box/attenuators on the market, you can pump the MV on an amp all day long, but if the speakers are running quieter at 'bedroom practice' level, it is not going to sound anywhere near as good as the same speakers getting cranked to stage performance volume. (regardless of wherever the MV is set).
 

LaXu

Member
Messages
10,953
My experience is that higher power (let's say 30W and up) MV amps tend to sound better at lower volume because they can push bigger and tighter low end than their lower power brethren.

With the 50-100 watters the cleans can have too high volume jumps based on picking strength though as you will hear the difference easier when the nominal volume is low. A bit of compression solves that nicely though.

That said I don't love older MV designs like the JCM800. I think they sound a lot better when turned to higher MV setting and attenuated. Same for things like JCM2000 models. By comparison modern master volume amps like a Friedman or Bogner don't need this.
 

Ejay

Member
Messages
7,710
In my mind:

Some amps tonestack only do as designed when there’s a little current going thru them…so even with a mv they don’t sound good at low volume. To me…”avoid amps” if you have low volume needs.

Many appriciate a little compression. With a master vm amp, also for a clean sound, you dial the input gain close to the headroom of the preamp tube…that’s where you get what you want…which you tame with the MV.
Nmv amps lack both preamp as well as poweramp compression at very low volume. Seems to me a lot are not aware what preamp gain can do..also on a clean sound.

Low watt is nice when you want poweramp distortion on civilized levels…but…that’s still crazy loud with a 5w…and even a 1w will not bend on bedroom levels.

All my amps sound good at low volumes…well..as good as it gets…volume itself does something…which cannot be replaced.

In my mind low watt amps are nice if you don’t need more and only play at home…but are not a ticket to good sound on low volume…amp design is your ticket there…regardless of power.
 

gldtp99

Member
Messages
4,369
The exact same amp can be viewed differently by different players ---- there is no absolute Right or Wrong

If it sounds good to you, then it is good --- that's all that counts

One guy brought me an inop JCM800 2203 to repair

I replaced Carbon Arced output tube sockets and properly re-wired the Input Jacks that someone had mis-wired

When I tested the amp in my shop I found it to be probably the brightest sounding stock spec 2203 I'd ever played

I found it so bright that it was annoying and, if it was mine, i'd have modded it to reduce the bright tone and make it more to my liking

When the owner came to try it out he played it and smiled ear-to-ear ---- He said now the amp again sounded like it did when it was new and he loved it

He played a Humbucker guitar with no pick (just fingers) and he made that bright amp sound great ---- he was a very good player

I thought the amp was barely usable but it was just right for the owner

Who is Right and who is Wrong ???

Hard to tell sometimes
 

Krausewitz

Member
Messages
3,838
Depends on the amp, but for the most part I disagree.

For the few amps I have with MVs they sound and feel nowhere near as good as they do with the MV turned up. And that includes amps that are meant to get 'all the tone from the preamp' like D-styles.

Look at the language you use. “Doesn’t sound as good” is not the same as “doesn’t sound good”.
 

MrTAteMyBalls

Member
Messages
4,694
For years, I've read that you can't get good low volume/bedroom tones out of 50-100 watt tube amps. I can understand this for amps that don't have a master volume, but for ones that do, my experience says otherwise.

I've always read that JMP 2203/2204 or JCM 800 2203/2204 sound "fizzy" at low volume. Until I actually bought one and heard it in person. I mostly play my JMP 2203 with preamp on 8, and Master volume on 1. No fizzyness here. Sounds like a classic rock Marshall to me. AC/DC in a box. Actually those same settings with a Gibson, if you play the Back in Black riff, that's the sound.

This past weekend I also played through a JCM 800, same settings. Sounded fantastic to me. It was a horizontal input version, which the internet says is bad. Sounded great.

Today I was at guitar center and they had a Soldano SLO. Plugged in, played through both Crunch and Overdrive channel. Gain on 7, all knobs at noon, Master around 1. One of the best hard rock/80's style amp I ever played. And it wasn't loud, I could have a conversation over my playing.

So what gives? Internet forum BS? People that are used to playing so loud that they can't imagine low volume? My personal experience contradicts everything I've read.
Have you played any of these amps at roaring volumes as a comparison??

It might sound OK at master 1, but high volumes is a whole new ballgame.
 

De Batz

Member
Messages
3,128
In my mind:

Some amps tonestack only do as designed when there’s a little current going thru them…so even with a mv they don’t sound good at low volume. To me…”avoid amps” if you have low volume needs.

Many appriciate a little compression. With a master vm amp, also for a clean sound, you dial the input gain close to the headroom of the preamp tube…that’s where you get what you want…which you tame with the MV.
Nmv amps lack both preamp as well as poweramp compression at very low volume. Seems to me a lot are not aware what preamp gain can do..also on a clean sound.

Low watt is nice when you want poweramp distortion on civilized levels…but…that’s still crazy loud with a 5w…and even a 1w will not bend on bedroom levels.

All my amps sound good at low volumes…well..as good as it gets…volume itself does something…which cannot be replaced.

In my mind low watt amps are nice if you don’t need more and only play at home…but are not a ticket to good sound on low volume…amp design is your ticket there…regardless of power.
In almost any amp with a master volume, the tone controls are before the MV and therefore any adjustments to the MV won't affect what's going on earlier in the circuit.


In the case of my two big amps with master volumes (Mesa Heartbreaker and Cornford MK50ii), neither of them works well at home volume. The Cornford is spitty, clanky and far too aggressive, the HB is woolly and unfocused. Both start to work at around 1/3 on the master, at which point you're at rehearsal levels. Why is this happening? It's not to do with PI or power valve drive, because they're still both way below the point that these effects come in. Could well be speakers (and just moving air), but the change to way the sound presents itself is really marked. I would be pleased if either of them was more suitable for home use, but I would not want this to be at the expense of the sounds they make at band volume.
 
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LaXu

Member
Messages
10,953
In almost any amp with a master volume, the tone controls are before the MV and therefore any adjustments to the MV won't affect what's going on earlier in the circuit.


In the case of my two big amps with master volumes (Mesa Heartbreaker and Cornford MK50ii), neither of them works well at home volume. The Cornford is spitty, clanky and far too aggressive, the HB is woolly and unfocused. Both start to work at around 1/3 on the master, at which point you're at rehearsal levels. Why is this happening? It's not to do with PI or power valve drive, because they're still both way below the point that these effects come in. Could well be speakers (and just moving air), but the change to way the sound presents itself at is really marked. I would be pleased if either of them was more suitable for home use, but I would not want this to be at the expense of the sounds they make at band volume.
It's more likely to be simply because you hear them louder. The actual volume has a huge effect on how we hear things and that's why any amp, even solid-state ones will sound better louder. I'm not talking "window shaking cranked amp" loud but comfortably loud for the space, which is always much louder than most could reasonably play at home. Even the best attenuator cannot get around the fact we hear things differently at different volumes. While cranking the Cornford or Mesa through an attenuator might sound better even turned down, it still won't be anything like they sound louder.

Many amps are also not designed to work at lower volumes in the first place. The volume controls become extremely sensitive where your preferred volume is at 0.625 on the dial. Then you get excessive bright caps making them very bright and harsh whereas at band volumes those are less of an issue.

I think modern amps with master volumes and power scaling can be designed to work well both for home volumes and stage volumes. The technology is there and it's just for amp designers to utilize it. For example I own the Victory VC35, a Vox style amp designed by Martin Kidd who designed the Cornfords too. At 35W, I can easily turn the MV down to any setting I need and it will still sound good within reason. Same thing was true for the Bogner Goldfinger 45 SL I used to own.
 

Ejay

Member
Messages
7,710
In almost any amp with a master volume, the tone controls are before the MV and therefore any adjustments to the MV won't affect what's going on earlier in the circuit.


In the case of my two big amps with master volumes (Mesa Heartbreaker and Cornford MK50ii), neither of them works well at home volume. The Cornford is spitty, clanky and far too aggressive, the HB is woolly and unfocused. Both start to work at around 1/3 on the master, at which point you're at rehearsal levels. Why is this happening? It's not to do with PI or power valve drive, because they're still both way below the point that these effects come in. Could well be speakers (and just moving air), but the change to way the sound presents itself at is really marked. I would be pleased if either of them was more suitable for home use, but I would not want this to be at the expense of the sounds they make at band volume.
You are right about the position of the preamp.
Yet…my ears tell me…in some amps…there’s something going on with the “package” delivered to the poweramp. Seems to change when you open the mv. I don’t think it’s the speaker or powersection…cause when I feed a preamp or modeler into the return…all is well.

Im no tech…so can’t explain it. All I know is that some amps are fine at low volume…and offer enough control to adjust for different volumes. Deep/resonance/density/presence controls help a lot! (Like the good old “loudness knob” on hifi amps)
 

itguy61

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,474
I agree, My Mesa Fillmore 50 and Bogner 3534 sound great with the MV turned down. Now they do not sound as good as the amps cranked up, air volume and speaker extension do matter. But basically I agree, these particular amps sound great at low practice volumes.
 

jdel77

Member
Messages
10,795
A huge part of this is changing the EQ settings of the amp for the volume you’re playing at.
I’m no tone wizard, but I can set the EQ on any of my amps to where the amp sounds inspiring at low volumes or to loud volumes where it’s pushing the speakers.

Whether it’s a vintage Fender, Vox or Marshall or more modern high gainers like my SLO, Diezel or Boogie Marks/Tremoverb, you gotta roll that EQ to work.

Cranking the Master Volume and driving the output transformer and speakers means re-EQ’ing again.

It’s all in the EQ for my money…
 

BADHAK

Member
Messages
10,288
Yeah I don't know how many times I've read here and elsewhere that 2203/4's sound crap at lower volumes and only sound amazing once they are screaming loud. IME absolutely not true and cranking the MV is not a night and day difference.
 




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