Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length

Author Topic: Master Volume or not to Master Volume?  (Read 3713 times)

Offline 908ssp

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6365
Master Volume or not to Master Volume?
« on: March 22, 2008, 05:11:30 PM »
This is good topic that I have been thinking about and have had recent off line discussions about so I thought I'd start a thread.

First off in my opinion neither is necessarily better they are different that difference is what makes some people like one better than another. I am going to deal with this in the most basic way not to confuse things right away. So what we typically think of in tube guitar amps comes two ways with or without a master volume. The traditional original purpose of an amp was to make the guitar loud, clean and loud. To do that the signal goes through a set of gain stages till it goes through the power gain stage and to the transformer and then speakers. Those early amps controlled the volume immediately after the first gain stage because the goal clean power requires all the rest to run wide open. This gave the amp its maximum amount of head room it was capable of. When rock musicians got hold of amps they turned them all the way up the louder the better and when Link Ray did it he discovered distortion. It wasn't that others hadn't heard it they just avoided it and turned back down but he didn't and it caught on. Much later amp builders looked to control this distortion, one to change the quality of the sound and two to get more distortion at lower volumes. What they came up with was to put a 2nd volume control after the preamp gain stages and before the power gain stage this became the master volume. What they discovered was that the distortion of the first couple gain stages worked it sounded different than the old amps but it did have some of that sound.

So what's the difference? In the old amps everything from the volume control to the transformers are running flat out hot and distorting. All of the components lend some quality to the sound. With a master volume amp only the components before the master volume are running flat out a different sound.

This master volume sound has become very popular and some amps have become very well thought of for their master volume sounds, Dumble, Mesa Boogie to name two.

Many people still want the sound of the old none master volume amps and some technology has come about to allow this at lower volumes. One is a later stage master volume, by placing the master volume after the phase inverter tube a tube normally considered as part of the power amp gain stage they have added at least that part to the sound. Another technology fairly recently patented by Maven Peal controls the power stage in such a way as to actually control the output of the power tube allowing them to add their flavor to the sound while only putting out a fraction of the power they are capable of. Another cruder way is called Powerscaling it does essentially the same thing but with less sophistication and cheaper components allowing it to be incorporated ever more frequently. Another way is after the power amp with an attenuator this is the only way that the transformer is actually pushed and that does change the sound too. This can work to varying degrees some better than others.
[^]



Alex

« Last Edit: March 22, 2008, 05:16:53 PM by 908ssp »
Alex

[IMG]http://i146.photobucket.com/albums/r245/908ssp/ThumbNails/_1010802.jpg[/IMG

Master Volume or not to Master Volume?

Offline marvin jensen

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 174
Master Volume or not to Master Volume?
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2008, 05:39:30 PM »
Alex,

great post!  I have a THD Hot Plate and it does seem to work better than others that I have tried, but still not quite "there".  the old "Trainwreck Pages" had several different master volumes but they weren't to my taste either.  Any recommendations?
 

Master Volume or not to Master Volume?

Offline Padraic

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 221
Master Volume or not to Master Volume?
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2008, 05:44:13 PM »
I don't have much background in this but I will throw in my tuppence:

All save one of my amplifiers are master volume. I love the way that master volume (preamp?) distortion sounds to my ears. I have played with other rigs and at higher volumes and have found the sound to be staccato and almost brittle? Well, "brittle" is an imprecise term as that denotes thinness. The tone is broken and staccato in an unpleasing way to my ears. I prefer a much smoother tone.

Now, that being said, those same too staccato tones recorded (e.g. Link Wray, et al.) I find very raw and visceral, very immediate. But that also has to do with volume, and signal path, I believe. To get the "staccato" overdriven tones the volume has to be too loud for me to be comfortably nearby, and recorded there are mics, pres, etc in the chain as well.

I guess for me it all boils down to context and distance :)

Padraic
Atlanta, GA
1998 Parker Fly Artist!!! w/Gen 2's
(I have other guitars, I just haven't touched them since I got my Artist)
Sovtek Mig 50-H
Epiphone Valve Jr.
Orange Tiny Terror
Marshall MF280 4x12
Custom cabinet w/ Eminence 1x12
Sovtek upright 2x12
Luthier
Owner of Mullycrushed Custom Instruments

Master Volume or not to Master Volume?

Offline captain_rusty

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 536
    • http://www.s3cretcode.com
Master Volume or not to Master Volume?
« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2008, 07:57:10 AM »
When I bought my Ceriatone Liverpool, I ordered it with the post-phase inverter MV. It works pretty well, but it just doesn't "breathe" the same, so I leave it wide open all the time.
This means that at rehearsal I'm too loud when I have THE sound, so I've started turning the speaker cab to the wall [:D].
This works fine, because although it tends to be muddier like this, the Liverpool has bags of treble at hand, so I just engage the bright switch.
I agree totally with Alex that to some extent it depends on the amp - does the "magic" mainly come from the pre-amp or the power amp or both? In the Liverpool's case, it's largely the power amp, so the MV will always be a compromise.


David

2001 Fly Classic -> Ibanez WD7 wah -> Digidelay -> Trainwreck clone -> 1x12 Fane cabinets
Fly clip: http://rustyzone.free.fr/rusty_meltdown_44.mp3
David

2001 Fly Classic -> Digitech GSP1101 -> PA.
Band web page: www.s3cretcode.com

Master Volume or not to Master Volume?

Offline Bill

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4839
  • What is this ?
Master Volume or not to Master Volume?
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2008, 08:35:40 AM »
Great thread and post. [^]



A few Flys in my soup
A few Flys in my soup

Master Volume or not to Master Volume?

Offline 908ssp

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6365
Master Volume or not to Master Volume?
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2008, 10:28:25 AM »
All good observations. The techniques used in amp designs are getting very sophisticated almost more art than science. The final sound is certainly the sum of all the parts and even if they aren't in being driven to distortion levels they make a difference. You can hear the difference between two interchangeable types of tube as an example. I have heard from amp builders that output transformers can sound significantly different. When a power amp isn't driven to distortion levels in theory it is supposed to be transparent. Which means it is supposed to be able to increase the volume of the signal without altering the tone. Unfortunately for tubes they never quite lived up to that promise even clean different tubes sound different and distorted that difference is magnified.

Some amps get very close using a Post Phase Inverter Master Volume or PPIMV. I have heard some Marshalls that sound terrific not exactly the same as no MV but really close. Some amps like the Trainwrecks don't seem to like them, just too much going one in the power-section and transformer. For them a good attenuator is a good way to go.

Attenuators really deserve their own thread. Maybe I'll do that in the future. I have purchased 6 of the top brand names and if you can find a Richter buy it. It is the most transparent one on the market today. More on all these later.
[^]

Alex

Alex

[IMG]http://i146.photobucket.com/albums/r245/908ssp/ThumbNails/_1010802.jpg[/IMG

Master Volume or not to Master Volume?

Offline LooseChange

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 729
    • http://www.fydamps.com
Master Volume or not to Master Volume?
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2008, 11:26:42 AM »
Some amps are designed to be used with a master volume and some are not.  Preamp focused amps have a master volume to get "the" sound at any volume.  Amps that are designed to push the power amp/tubes don't sound like "they" should with a master volume control.

I think the best way to go is with a power scaling control.  Not quite the same as an attenuator but the idea is the same. You are trying to get power tube distortion at a lower volume.  The power scale technology reduces the wattage of the power amp which provides a power tube overdrive/distortion at any volume.  The nice thing about this is it saves your expensive power tubes.  (Attenuators push the amp hard and burn up the power tubes a lot quicker).

1995 Fly Deluxe (Beaten and Modded but Loved)

I like tubes... Check out all my DIY amps:
http://www.fydamps.com
1995 Emerald Green Fly Deluxe (Beaten and Modded but Loved)
1997 Sunburst Nitefly NFV/4
I like tubes... Check out all my DIY amps:
http://www.fydamps.com

Master Volume or not to Master Volume?

Offline Bill

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4839
  • What is this ?
Master Volume or not to Master Volume?
« Reply #7 on: March 23, 2008, 11:54:08 AM »
Stupid question #1

Well then would higher output pickups, running through the same amp, give more distortion at lower volumes than lower output pickups? (and conversly get muddier at higher volumes than low output ones)

Seems to me certain amp systems (master volume versus nonmaster volume; A/B versus all A) would sound better with certain pick up designs than others.

That is it seems to me amps and pickups should be designed to go together to achieve the desired tone.

I would have thought more planning would go into that. That is Boogie pickups to go with Boogie amps;Marshall pickups for Marshall amps ect. Or at least preamp volume control amps for certain pups ect.

Seems like there is a whole nother variable to tone that needs to be considered when comparing amp systems, even when talking of the same kind of music or tone desired.

A few Flys in my soup
A few Flys in my soup

Master Volume or not to Master Volume?

Offline 908ssp

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6365
Master Volume or not to Master Volume?
« Reply #8 on: March 23, 2008, 12:22:10 PM »
quote:
Originally posted by Bill

Stupid question #1

Well then would higher output pickups, running through the same amp, give more distortion at lower volumes than lower output pickups? (and conversly get muddier at higher volumes than low output ones)

Seems to me certain amp systems (master volume versus nonmaster volume; A/B versus all A) would sound better with certain pick up designs than others.

That is it seems to me amps and pickups should be designed to go together to achieve the desired tone.

I would have thought more planning would go into that. That is Boogie pickups to go with Boogie amps;Marshall pickups for Marshall amps ect. Or at least preamp volume control amps for certain pups ect.

Seems like there is a whole nother variable to tone that needs to be considered when comparing amp systems, even when talking of the same kind of music or tone desired.

A few Flys in my soup



Not a stupid question and exactly the right observation. Yes the hotter the pickup the more it over loads the 1st gain stage and the more it pushes the next gain stage that causes distortion.

It makes complete sense to match pickup to amp but what does match mean? In other words if you want clean then you want a pickup that doesn't overload the the initial gain stages but if you want dirty then you want it to overload. So match is in the eye of the the beholder or in this case the ear.

Powerscaling does adjust the output wattage what it can't do is push the output transformer so while it sounds better than the typical master volume it isn't the perfect solution. Maven Peal has added a SAG control this artificially simulates the SAG caused by the draining effect of the power transformer. This draining of the power transformer won't happen with powerscaling. Regardless of what Power Scaling fans tell you power scaling does not have a SAG control. A good attenuator is still the holy grail in my opinion. It uses tubes no faster than playing loud it just saves your hearing.
[^]

Alex

« Last Edit: March 23, 2008, 12:23:02 PM by 908ssp »
Alex

[IMG]http://i146.photobucket.com/albums/r245/908ssp/ThumbNails/_1010802.jpg[/IMG

Master Volume or not to Master Volume?

Offline Bill

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4839
  • What is this ?
Master Volume or not to Master Volume?
« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2008, 01:18:32 PM »
Well , as a geaneralization, are high output pups better suited toward preamp distortion amps and lower output pups better suited toward power tube distortion amps ?

Or does that not really matter in this partiuclar regard?

A few Flys in my soup
« Last Edit: March 23, 2008, 01:31:51 PM by Bill »
A few Flys in my soup

Master Volume or not to Master Volume?

Offline 908ssp

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6365
Master Volume or not to Master Volume?
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2008, 01:41:37 PM »
quote:
Originally posted by Bill

Well , as a geaneralization, are high output pups better suited toward preamp distortion amps and lower output pups better suited toward power tube distortion amps ?

Or does that not really matter in this partiuclar regard?

A few Flys in my soup



Well it is all subjective there is no better just what you want to hear. But in general a high output pickup will give you more preamp distortion and that will be limited as to what goes to the next gain stage so it will sound different. By the way a high output pickup is a low output pickup if you turn the volume control on your guitar down.[;)]
[^]

Alex

Alex

[IMG]http://i146.photobucket.com/albums/r245/908ssp/ThumbNails/_1010802.jpg[/IMG

Master Volume or not to Master Volume?

Offline LooseChange

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 729
    • http://www.fydamps.com
Master Volume or not to Master Volume?
« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2008, 01:56:30 PM »
My power scaling amplifier has a sag control too.  I can add a sag feature to any amp.  Is it that important to most? no. When the PT starts to sag you are pushing it over the edge and will overheat and possibly fail. Pushing the OT that hard also can cause major failures.
1995 Emerald Green Fly Deluxe (Beaten and Modded but Loved)
1997 Sunburst Nitefly NFV/4
I like tubes... Check out all my DIY amps:
http://www.fydamps.com

Master Volume or not to Master Volume?

Offline bembamboo

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1001
Master Volume or not to Master Volume?
« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2008, 09:14:22 PM »
Hi everyone.  Been awhile.  I love this thread.  It is THE rock guitar issue. You know it when you got it but getting it is a trick.  I think it is power tube distortion you want.  Master volume/ preamp fizz is not the same.  Alex knows the Maven Peal approach.  London Power seems to be a pioneer.  I have not used attenuators/brakes much.  I am designing something new (guitar, bass and harp models only), simple, light, power tube sweet, soft or loud, out in 2010, we hope. Cabinets will be airline portable, light and loud. Prices will be cheap.  May turn out to be not possible.  But if it pleases my ears, and my schleping agenda, maybe we won't ruin our retirement!  Will be as revolutionary as a Boogie was then, without the weight.  Would love to continue this discussion.  We have never gotten very far with it her.  I think that means many guitarists haven't experienced it. Aloha.

Master Volume or not to Master Volume?

Offline rt0412

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1584
Master Volume or not to Master Volume?
« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2008, 09:37:12 PM »
quote:
Originally posted by 908ssp

A good attenuator is still the holy grail in my opinion. It uses tubes no faster than playing loud it just saves your hearing.
[^]

Alex

I assume when you stated "good attenuator" you mean an attenuator that presents a reactive load to an amp, similar to that of an actual speaker... otherwise if the attenuator is a purely resistive load then it's "no good".
 

Master Volume or not to Master Volume?

Offline 908ssp

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6365
Master Volume or not to Master Volume?
« Reply #14 on: May 25, 2008, 10:50:03 PM »
quote:
Originally posted by rt0412

quote:
Originally posted by 908ssp

A good attenuator is still the holy grail in my opinion. It uses tubes no faster than playing loud it just saves your hearing.
[^]

Alex

I assume when you stated "good attenuator" you mean an attenuator that presents a reactive load to an amp, similar to that of an actual speaker... otherwise if the attenuator is a purely resistive load then it's "no good".



Yea. Unfortunately the one I have found is no longer made and the company is too enamored with their speaker emulator technology to get back to designing and making good attenuators. A crime in my mind. Just a darn shame.
[^]

Alex

Alex

[IMG]http://i146.photobucket.com/albums/r245/908ssp/ThumbNails/_1010802.jpg[/IMG