Gain / Volume Confusion

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Gain / Volume Confusion

Postby Dennis » Tue Sep 22, 2009 12:33 pm

Can anyone explain the difference between 'gain' and 'volume' on a guitar amp? Are they the same? In the photos for the repro Stimer amp there are controls for gain and tone, but no volume.

http://www.sandarac.co.uk/amplifiers.html

Confused of Essex....
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Postby Jono » Tue Sep 22, 2009 1:49 pm

When there's only a gain control and no volume then it amounts to the same thing. You will usually find that, depending on the amount of headroom available on the amp, as you turn up the gain, the sound becomes warmer, then breaks up and gets more distorted.

When there are gain AND volume controls then you can crank the gain up, getting a warmer/distorted sound but then use the volume knob to control the overall levels so it's not too loud. The gain is usually controlling the pre-amp gain and the volume is controlling the power amp gain.

Older style amps often don't have a master volume control, so if you want an overdriven blues/rock sound it is nearly always at higher volume. 'Master' volume amps came in so that you could get similar sounds at sensible volume levels (eg for the studio, rehearsals, etc.). Distortion and overdrive pedals can be used to the same effect.

The drawback with these is that power amp distortion and the sound of the speaker being driven hard both give different characteristics to the sound of an overdriven pre-amp through a clean power amp stage, so there's sometimes still no substitute for cranking an amp up loud.

The volume control on an electric guitar also plays a part and you can think of it as a pre-pre-amp gain control.
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Postby Dennis » Tue Sep 22, 2009 8:54 pm

Thanks, Jono, I really appreciate your reply.

Dennis
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