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Beer of the Bass

15 watt amp is too loud!

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Threads about whether a 15 watt amp is loud enough to gig have been a staple of guitar forums since the advent of the internet, but I find myself experiencing the opposite problem
I use a home-built copy of a Fender Princeton Reverb with a 10" Eminence Copperhead. At most gigs, I'll turn the volume to around 2 (9 o'clock) during the soundcheck, invariably to be told by the sound guy that I need to turn it down, often "way down". Most venues we play mic the amp, but I've had the same thing happen in small venues with no mic. We're not that quiet a band, but I guess the presence of trumpet and violin may affect the stage volume we can use.
I like to keep the amp fairly clean but it sounds best from about 4-6 on the volume control and I can only really get away with that at outdoor festivals or private parties with large rooms full of dancing people and minimal PA, and these are types of gig we do only occasionally. With the volume at 1 or 2, the amp sounds OK, but everything just seems more lively with it up a little. The volume control in these amps comes earlier in the signal path than the reverb driver, so the reverb sounds better with the amp up a little too.
So I'm looking at options to make things work a little better at that low volume. It seems ridiculous that a Princeton is too much amp for the band, but that's the impression I get. I don't want to fit a less efficient speaker as from time to time I do need to carry a louder room and I don't want to lose that capability. I could fit a master volume (post phase-inverter), which is generally considered unnecessary on this type of amp but might be worth trying. I could use some sort of attenuator between the amp and speaker, perhaps even something as simple as a 100-watt 8-ohm L-pad. Alternatively I could look at building or buying a smaller amp (a single ended job of 5 watts or so) but I like the reverb and tremolo on my amp and it would be a shame not to use it.

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http://peavey.com/products/index.cfm/item/0/116598/

Does exactly what you need :D I've had one a good few years & wouldn't change it for anything :P

Edited by KiOgon

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My PP18 ampmaker build is also very loud (but fantastic). He does a kit that reduces the voltage in his amps - see http://www.ampmaker.com/infocentre/thread-47.html It might be a suitable mod for your amp.

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I'm with Kirky in that I don't think a new amp is the answer. My guitarist in my main band uses an attenuator and something like this http://www.gak.co.uk/en/thd-hot-plate/7081 would be a good investment. I play guitar in a band with a 15w tube amp and I have to say that I don't have the same problem and we're a pretty quiet band. This could be down to what pickups we use etc (I'm low output pickups on an archtop kind of player) or just the room etc.

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[quote name='Kirky' timestamp='1412437635' post='2568967']
My PP18 ampmaker build is also very loud (but fantastic). He does a kit that reduces the voltage in his amps - see [url="http://www.ampmaker.com/infocentre/thread-47.html"]http://www.ampmaker..../thread-47.html[/url] It might be a suitable mod for your amp.
[/quote]
It's a shame the ampmaker VVR kit is only for cathode biased amps (mine is fixed bias), otherwise it looks promising. I think there is a VVR kit for fixed bias amps available from Hall amplification in the US though.

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[quote name='BurritoBass' timestamp='1412438499' post='2568969']
I'm with Kirky in that I don't think a new amp is the answer. My guitarist in my main band uses an attenuator and something like this [url="http://www.gak.co.uk/en/thd-hot-plate/7081"]http://www.gak.co.uk...-hot-plate/7081[/url] would be a good investment. I play guitar in a band with a 15w tube amp and I have to say that I don't have the same problem and we're a pretty quiet band. This could be down to what pickups we use etc (I'm low output pickups on an archtop kind of player) or just the room etc.
[/quote]

Do I remember that you're using a Blues Junior though? I wonder if the master volume makes the difference, as the single volume control on the Princeton is rather like having the master volume stuck on 10 and adjusting the pre-volume.
Attenuators are another route I'm looking at, though things like the THD are somewhat out of my budget. DIY isn't out of the question though.
If I do build or obtain another amp it would be more in the interest of variety than to replace this one. Among my stash of bits I already have valves and transformers salvaged from an old reel-to-reel which would do a singled ended EL84 amp nicely, plus an original Jensen C8R pulled from a dead organ. Those are almost crying out to be some sort of guitar combo, whether I need one or not!

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Current speaker is 98.8 dB sensitivity. Change speaker to lower sensitivity model e.g. Celestion tube 10, 94 dB might be way forward?

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[quote name='3below' timestamp='1412449757' post='2569066']
Current speaker is 98.8 dB sensitivity. Change speaker to lower sensitivity model e.g. Celestion tube 10, 94 dB might be way forward?
[/quote]

That's a possibility, but the problem is that we've had a handful of gigs in hired halls with cobbled together vocal-only PA and lively audiences - while those only make up a small percentage of our gigs, it's nice to have the extra loudness on tap for when that does happen. I used to have an alnico Eminence 1028K in there, which was good at low volume miked gigs but broke up too early in the unmiked, larger room situations. But thinking about it, a speaker swap only involves a small number of screws and 15 minutes at the most. So maybe it wouldn't be crazy to install a less efficient speaker, use that most of the time but keep the Copperhead in a box on a shelf in case that type of gig comes up.

Edited by Beer of the Bass

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Use the copperhead in a home built extension cab to match the combo. Best of both worlds, and since you have the Em 1028K speaker, the cost is minimal. Which Princeton reverb circuit did you use - I have time on my hands.

Edited by 3below

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Unfortunately I sold on the 1028k when I fitted the Copperhead. The amp is based on the AA1164 circuit, with the exception of a larger Deluxe Reverb type output transformer and 40uF at the first stage filter cap.

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[quote name='Beer of the Bass' timestamp='1412441082' post='2568996']
Do I remember that you're using a Blues Junior though? I wonder if the master volume makes the difference, as the single volume control on the Princeton is rather like having the master volume stuck on 10 and adjusting the pre-volume.[/quote]

I am indeed using a Blues Jr and again you're right. I set the break up with the volume and control the loudness with the Master control. It's the only amp I've used since I started taking guitar seriously although like Trigger's broom I've changed the speaker, the reverb tank and I am currently having a custom cabinet built for it.

Good luck in your search to resolve this.

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I had a similar problem with of all things a Fender SuperChamp XD. 15w tube based modelling amp. I was playing in both a rock and roll (50s style) and also doing some blues jams. The thing sounded much better wound up to around 1 o'clock on the volume but I just couldn't get it there, jut too loud. It sounded ok at lower levels but just not great. In the end I sold it and bought the head version and used 2 cabs with different speakers (which happened to be the Eminence Copperhead and Legend 1028) which helped, but finally sold that and went back to solid state fender and a Boss Fender Bassman pedal which I find much more suitable...

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[quote name='Beer of the Bass' timestamp='1412439124' post='2568974']
It's a shame the ampmaker VVR kit is only for cathode biased amps (mine is fixed bias), otherwise it looks promising. I think there is a VVR kit for fixed bias amps available from Hall amplification in the US though.
[/quote]

I've used the Hall fixed bias VVR kit and it works well.

Note that you'll lose some headroom if you convert to cathode bias anyway, so that's actually one of the first things I'd do, along with changing the speaker to something less efficient.

I play a home built amp similar to yours and FWIW I find the cathode bias sounds subjectively nicer to my ears anyway (more compression, slightly sweeter when pushed)

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[quote name='Beer of the Bass' timestamp='1412441082' post='2568996']
I wonder if the master volume makes the difference, as the single volume control on the Princeton is rather like having the master volume stuck on 10 and adjusting the pre-volume.
[/quote]

Obviously, you could just install a master volume, on the back if you've not got any space for it, and if that doesn't work out for you use the hole for a VVR circuit power control?

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I'm a little late to the party, but a speaker swap would be the obvious thing, depending on finances something like a Jensen P10R or P10Q.

I used to use a couple of home built amps around 10-20W depending on valves fitted, and found that a Jensen P10R really dropped the volume compared the the Celestion G10-35L I'd previously used, which was not a particularly efficient speaker. The Jensen alnico should also be in keeping with the overall character and tone of the amp.

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[quote name='Ancient Mariner' timestamp='1414763661' post='2593076']
I'm a little late to the party, but a speaker swap would be the obvious thing, depending on finances something like a Jensen P10R or P10Q.

I used to use a couple of home built amps around 10-20W depending on valves fitted, and found that a Jensen P10R really dropped the volume compared the the Celestion G10-35L I'd previously used, which was not a particularly efficient speaker. The Jensen alnico should also be in keeping with the overall character and tone of the amp.
[/quote]

I haven't tried one, but I'd be a little concerned about the dip in the mids around 400Hz that the P10R has on the spec sheet. I tend to run the bass and treble controls on the amp fairly low to mitigate the mid scoopiness of the amp as it is, so while the Jensen is a classic of its sort I wonder if it might not be the right thing for me.
I think I'll look at trying a master volume first, as it's a DIY amp anyway and it could be as cheap and simple as an extra pot and coupling cap. If I don't like that, it'll be time to look at an attenuator or alternative speaker. I played at a private party last night in a fairly large bare concrete ex-car park with vocal PA only and a dancing audience and the amp was running squeaky clean turned up to 10 o'clock! I'm not looking for a dirty sound really, just that slight squashiness and sparkle you get with a blackface style amp turned up around halfway.

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[quote name='Mikey R' timestamp='1420144647' post='2646146']
Hey, did you manage to resolve your problem? Did you go master volume, or attenuator?
[/quote]

My bands gigging schedule is kind of patchy, so I haven't done anything about it yet. I think a simple master volume might be the first thing to try though, installed on the back panel so that if I don't like it I haven't left an ugly hole in the front of the amp!
Come to think of it, I've got a gig on the 10th. I may get round to trying it before then...

Edited by Beer of the Bass

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Since you like more prominent mids, you could swap the eq out for a tweed deluxe one knob, and use the second knob for the master?

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[quote name='Mikey R' timestamp='1420495312' post='2650081']
Since you like more prominent mids, you could swap the eq out for a tweed deluxe one knob, and use the second knob for the master?
[/quote]

Not a bad idea, or use a concentric dual gang pot on the treble control so you can have a combined treble/bass control with 250k dual pots, and add a 25k mid control in place of the 6.8k fixed mid resistor. That would allow you to dial in a lot more mids (doesn't solve where to put the master tho ;))

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I'm happy enough with the basic voice of the amp that I don't want to move away from the blackface tone stack, though I've read about increased value mid-pot and that could be interesting to try some time. I imagine it would work well in conjunction with a master volume to get an alternative more rocky voice out of the amp. While that's not what I want most of the time, it could provide some useful versatility when recording parts.
I'm going to try putting the new master volume after the third preamp triode (just before the phase inverter) using a 1M pot with a coupling cap on either side of it, much the same way as the MV in the 80s Super Champ is implemented. I'll put it on the back panel initially just to try it out. If I decide to keep it, I'll make a new faceplate for the amp and move the tremolo speed and intensity controls one space to the right. That would work best in terms of layout inside the chassis. The front of the amp looks like this at the moment;

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[quote name='Mikey R' timestamp='1420546326' post='2650430']
Thats one sweet looking homebrew! What voltage do you run the plates of the 6V6s at?
[/quote]

I stayed very close to the original AA1164 schematic and layout, so the plate voltage runs fairly high. It's around 420v at present, though it varies a little with the bias setting. I like it biased conservatively to maximise the tremolo depth. I'm using JJ 6v6s which seem to handle the high voltage well enough.

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I've installed my master volume on the back panel and given it a quick try. It seems to work more or less as expected; with the original volume turned around halfway and the master reduced to taste it does a decent job of adding just a little hair on the peaks of my clean tone. That was what I was aiming for, so it may turn out to be a good solution for me. I'm gigging tonight, so I'll have a chance to check it out in a little more depth.

Post-gig update: Yep, it seems to work. Run as described above with the master around halfway, the amp still sounds mostly clean in the mix but it has the tiniest bit of grit on the hardest played notes and feels a little livelier and more fun to play. Set this way, it takes a bit of the rasp off my overdrive pedal too.
Our trumpet player tends to grumble if I use too much volume on stage, so keeping the stage volume just where I need it to hear myself and letting the FOH sort out the rest is a good strategy with this band.
I can see why people generally don't recommend adding a master volume to a blackface Fender type amp though,as while it's good for adding a tiny bit of grit to your clean sound, cranking it further into overdrive with the master turned down is a little raw and harsh sounding and generally not as satisfying as the right pedal. So you can't really use it the same way as the master volume on a Marshall type preamp, but it's useful for what I'm after.

Edited by Beer of the Bass

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