Even though many guitar amps tend to have a manageable amount of control options, they also have quite a few pitfalls when adjusting the sound, which can even lead to the worst-case scenario. A variety of connections should actually provide for variable use, but a plugin the wrong or no plugin the correct socket may even cost you the amplifier.
That’s why in this little guidebook, we’ll deal with the dos and don’ts around your guitar amp. How settings have a negative or positive effect on the sound, what belongs to which connector and last but not least, how and where our amp should be positioned for the best sound. Here we present to you some solutions.
- Tube powered amps need a load resistor. Therefore never use a power amplifier without a connected box or dummy load.
- Amps have different control units for the sound (tone stacks). Its sound should, therefore, always be adjusted by ear and not just by default.
- Too much gain takes the sound definition and punch.
- Always set the amp in context, eg, during a rehearsal or to a playback. Isolated tuning usually does not show how it really fits into the band sound.
- Set up the box so that the sound waves hit your ears. It looks cool on the floor but does not always sound good acoustically.
Play the Tube Power Amp Without Speakers
Guitar amps are equipped with speaker outputs that connect the power amp to the cabinet. This wiring takes place with combos within the housing and with stacks via box cables between the top section and the cabinet. The guitar speaker acts as a load resistor and absorbs the energy of the power amplifier.
If you forego the connection of a speaker or other load, especially with tube amplifiers, an overload builds up in the output transformer, and the amp becomes damaged. Therefore make sure that a cabinet or a load resistor (load box, power soak, or similar) is connected to the speaker-out.
By the way: There are solid-state amps or tube amplifiers with DI-Out, which does not necessarily require a load when using this direct output.
Take Regulator Settings Literally
Guitar amps are often equipped with rudimentary EQs that allow you to adjust the sound fundamentally. These usually consist of bass, midrange, and treble controls. Interestingly, the tonal stacks and the efficiency of the tone control are entirely different depending on the amp type. Here it is essential to use the ears and not the eyes when adjusting the sound.
Controllers can also work interactively here, and the central setting does not always have to be the most sound-neutral. An excellent example of extreme EQ settings are Tweed Fender Bassman or Marshall JTM45 models, where it is quite common to set the bass control to minimum, and mids and treble to maximum, without getting an extreme sound.
In general, it is also advisable to give the centers a special meaning. The guitar has its place in the mix, especially in this frequency range, and even if it sometimes sounds subjectively more pleasant to turn out the mids, it often robs you of one of the main assertiveness of the band structure.
Use Too Much Gain
Rock riffs and solos are usually easier and more enjoyable to play when you rip the gain knob wide. With solos, that’s a good thing, but with rhythm parts, one should be careful that, despite the desire for more tearing, the definition and the presence remain intact.
Too much gain often leads to muddled attacks, i.e., especially if you are looking for a hard and “punchy” attack, you often come to a goal with a moderate Gain setting. Experiment for yourself how much distortion is actually needed to get your desired sound.
Set Amp Sound Isolated
Many guitarists make the mistake of setting their sound at home in remote conditions and then wonder if it’s going to be just fine when they go down in the band context.
My tip here is to always put your amp to playback or within the rehearsal because this is the only way to make sure that the guitar also finds its right place next to the other instruments and receives presence and assertiveness.
You may find that you get a sound that sounds completely different on its own than what it is in context. But that’s fine because it was supposed to be about the overall band sound and not just your instrument.
Wrong Amp Positioning
Often, guitarists make the mistake of placing their cabinet directly on the floor and then putting themselves immediately in front of it, so that the guitar sound blows neatly against your beautiful face. However, little of it arrives in your ears. Due to the angle of the speaker, the situation is often different for the other band members and the audience, who enjoy the much too loud guitar board and the “beam” of the speaker.
Additionally, the FOH has only limited opportunities in live gigs to mix a good band sound. Try to tilt the cabinet slightly, or place it in a raised position so that the speakers shine properly and lower volume is needed. Even technical aids such as the Deeflexx can be beneficial here.
Following these five suggestions ensures that you will make at least fewer mistakes when setting up gear for the next gig. Numerous nitty-gritty details can be additionally said that will confuse you even more, but for starters, remembering these steps can make sure that you will at least sound better.
It’s always highly advisable that you seek advice from an experienced player that will sit next to you and show you the magic of fingers and the knowledge of experience to tune it just fine.
We hope that you will implement these suggestions into your playing for a safer and more enjoyable experience for both you and your audience.