Nothing can be more important than setting up the fundamental tone ob your rig by directly plugging your guitar into the amp and adjusting the volume as your taste. Typically tube amps open up and sound best above 25-30% of the volume (Master). If your amp has 2 volume controls – Preamp (Normal Volume or Bright Volume or Both single channel or double channel), you should try boosting the channel volume and setting up the master lower (If you are in home or studio). If you have multiple channels you should try jumpering the channels and explore various tonal possibilities.
PEDALS & AMP
If you are a pedals guy then you might need an amp with clean headroom and can set up the amp volume at the edge of overdrive. Tube amps with gain pedals in front sound fizzy and thin at low volumes, you need to crank up volumes at least 20-30% to get meaty smooth and dynamic tone.
How to handle volume in Home or Studio
Practising or recording in a home or studio on a Tube AMP with more than 20W power could be a real challenge. These amps get too loud around 20-30% of master volume but you can’t go below this without sacrificing the tone. (Check out the audio demo below and see how the dynamics change and Amp opens up with volume) To get around this problems and to take care of your neighbours (especially if you are in a multi-storey building above the ground floor) you need to understand the little physics of sound. Typically your amp rests on the floor on the 4 feet at the bottom of the cabinet. The floor acts like a big solid diaphragm and resonates with the cabinet causing severe boomy sound in the room and the room below. To counter this problem and boominess, you need to have 2 layers of acoustic dampener. There are ready made solutions available in market but they are hard to get and too Pricey. You can very easily make a DIY version which will be extremely effective in killing the vibrations. Refer the diagram below:
DIY Tube Amp Vibration Dampener
You can increase this layer by one for more effective dampening but beware of the increase instability of the stack, it might topple by a gentle push or a HARD ROCK RIFF 🙂
My Vibration Dampener setup
Amp volume and dynamics demo
Opening Solo of Coming Back to Life (Channel Volume at 50% master volume at 15%, Stratocaster to Mild Tube Overdrive to Compressor set to mild compression to Boss DD3 delay to Amp
Comfortably Numb & Time Solo at same setting (Distortions Dignified (Big Muff Rams head clone boosted by Overdrive))