Beginner's Guide To Amp Settings

Yesterday, we here at PAL broke down the differences between preamplifiers versus power amplifiers and although for all intents and purposes they are usually referred to in their combination state – that is to say, simply an amplifier – both have unique jobs in bringing players that perfect tone. While preamplifiers are used to relegate tone shaping settings such as treble, mid,  bass, etc, power amplifiers are in charge of taking that modified signal and giving it enough juice to be able to power up the speakers and create sound. Think about the power amp as a voltage multiplier; signals sent from guitar pickups (even those from active pickups) as well as everything thereafter from the effects pedals to the preamp itself do not use nearly enough voltage for the speakers to go live which is why the role of the power amplifier is so important.

 Alright, so now that we know a bit more on how amplifiers work as far as getting that signal live from the speakers goes, maybe a few tips to get you started on getting that perfect tone is in order. Some of the more experienced players out there might be thinking that there is possibly nothing that they don’t already know as far as getting their own perfect sound goes - and that’s fine. As we say here at PAL, finding one’s perfect tone is an individual journey and what works for some might not be all too pleasing for others – and that’s the great thing about music, to each their own – but even with that said, a refresher in the basics never hurt anyone. Who knows, there might be something the veterans out there might learn after all, even if it’s simply in the interesting side notes. Anyways, whether you’re a brand new player ready to start their own personal search for that perfect tone or are a music-wise man simply in the need of a good read or a good laugh (kidding! This is solid info, you can try it out for yourself right after), let’s keep going and head on to a few good tips that are sure to get those players a bit green around the ears pointed in the right direction. And in case you want to find out a bit more on the variety of guitar amplifiers out there, check out our previous article on that very subject right here! Maybe some history on the subjet? Here!


Startup Amp Settings for Beginners

Now, whether or not you are familiar with guitar pedal reviews, I can tell you from doing them myself that a good way to begin to figure out a brand new product is by placing the settings at their mid point and go from there. For amplifiers on the other hand, you will want to start off with the settings on their “flat” position. This is because unlike guitar pedals which best understood by getting a feel for the way they apply effects, guitar amps can be best understood by familiarizing yourself with their true sound, that is to say, how it sounds with all of the EQ settings on their flat (or off) position. As an interesting side note, you might have (or not) noticed that the flat position for EQ knobs are at their 12 o’clock position while those for volume and drive/gain are not (they’re usually at 6 o’clock).  Interesting side notes aside, always start with this flat EQ setting when trying to determine a specific tone you are looking for, that way you can hear exactly how each setting affects the overall sound and you won’t have to blindly mess around with knobs when trying to find another specific tone.


Distortion Balance and Adding Some EQ

Alright, so now that you have everything in the flat position and are able to hear the true sound of the amplifier, you can begin to add some EQ. By now, you should have placed the volume at your appropriate listening level. If you are looking for a distorted tone, give that gain a bit of a boost until you’re satisfied with the overall sound. If you will be looking for a completely clean tone, leave the gain off altogether. Now that you have your balance of clean and distorted figured out, we can begin to add some EQ to the sound. The first EQ setting you should focus on will be the Bass knob as this will be hardest to distinguish of the common three settings if not set first. More bass will give your tone a thicker sound while less will leave it thin. Once you find the appropriate body for your tone, the mid range should be next. The more mid you give your tone, the more it can cut through other instruments in the mix but remember, it is a good idea to be a bit more conservative with the mid settings because most vocals usually fall on this side of the spectrum and too much mid can begin to overpower them. Alright, and finally, the treble setting will be used to give your tone your desired amount of brightness or plenty of more bite when used with distortion. If you would like something that sounds a bit more dark, keep the treble a bit low.


Come Back Tomorrow For More

There you go; nothing too hard. Although there is no true right or wrong way in figuring out settings for your preferred tone, following these simple steps is by far the easiest way to not only find your desired sound, but lets you start getting a feel for not only how each of these settings individually affect the overall tone, but you will be able to gain an understanding of your amps true sound as well. While this is simply just the beginning when it comes to amplifier settings, it is definitely a good place to start. And in case you’re ready to tackle on some of the more exotic extra settings regularly featured on most modern amps as well as some tips on pairing them with effects pedals, come back here tomorrow when we will be taking on that very subject. But in the mean time, how about browsing through our guitar amp section and find something you might want to bring home? Do so here! And remember, we here at PAL always feature the best products at the best prices – guaranteed!

2 thoughts on “Beginner's Guide To Amp Settings”

  • John Jeromeyou have helped me out a fare bit
    John Jeromeyou have helped me out a fare bit June 29, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Thank very much I appreciated the article I didn't know any thing about setting up a amplifier for my Guitar to play through the amp is a R.M.S. 40 watt Acoustic Amp (code R.M.S.A.C.40) 10'' Woofer and 2'' tweeter with Brown Carpet covering amp .

    Your truly,

    J. Jerome

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