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  1. #1

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    Sometimes I get to plug into amps that got more tone controls than I'm able to appreciate. I don't understand what all those knobs are supposed to accomplish. The more I tweak, the more horrendous the tone. I don't have the time for this.
    (My favorite amp got two knobs, Volume and Tone and 4 different Inputs. And it sounds good regardless of settings.)

    The common tonestack got 3 tone knobs (B,M,T), some have an additional presence control and some have a Master Volume. I'm supposed to "turn the knobs until it sounds good". Piece of cake! not....all these knobs are sensitive and hyper interactive, can't change one without affecting another. Once I feel EQ is good enough, I adjust Volume...and tone will change again! I'm chasing an elusive sweet spot, a moving target. I understand what this is ultimately about; I'm supposed to "sculpt distortion". Sculpt? I seriously don't have time for this. Those tweaker amps are time thieves.

    5 controls, 10 increments = 10^5 = 100 000 possible combinations. Multiply the controls of the guitar and it's easy to understand why this goes out of hand.

    At this junction some people plug straight into the power amp and free themselves from preamp tweaking. May I propose a little switch: "BTTTAGSTTGS" (Bypass The Time Thief And Go Straight To The Good Stuff") or just call it "Jazz".

    Rant over.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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  4. #3

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    Maybe a tweed champ
    is your amp.

    just dial out what you don’t like, then you’ll be left with what you do.

  5. #4

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    Try starting with everything flat, whatever the amp and controls. Then adjust the treble and bass to taste, then the mids if there is a mid control. Or if that's too difficult, just set everything flat and live with what you get.

  6. #5

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    My Bud has that confusing multiple EQ knob setup, but it helps me to think of it in the familiar bass, mid, treble format.

    I like Sgosnell's advice above. When using the Bud, I start with all knobs flat at 12 o'clock and low (bass) is either boomy or not. I adjust that first as needed. Then I dial out highs or not, depending on whether it sounds too trebly. The presence knob usually stays at 12 o'clock, because I don't like it too muddy. The high mid knob stays flat as well, because it doesn't do much. The last thing I set is the low mid knob, because that's where the magic is for jazz guitar. Boost the low mid for fatter tone, cut it for more clarity.

    So, low knob for bass, high knob for treble, and low mid knob for mids. The others stay flat usually.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chazmo
    My Bud has that confusing multiple EQ knob setup, but it helps me to think of it in the familiar bass, mid, treble format.

    I like Sgosnell's advice above. When using the Bud, I start with all knobs flat at 12 o'clock and low (bass) is either boomy or not. I adjust that first as needed. Then I dial out highs or not, depending on whether it sounds too trebly. The presence knob usually stays at 12 o'clock, because I don't like it too muddy. The high mid knob stays flat as well, because it doesn't do much. The last thing I set is the low mid knob, because that's where the magic is for jazz guitar. Boost the low mid for fatter tone, cut it for more clarity.

    So, low knob for bass, high knob for treble, and low mid knob for mids. The others stay flat usually.
    Any chance you could post a pic of your actual "Bud" settings? I'd like to try them on my "Blu".

    Many Thanks in advance.

  8. #7

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    I think when you don't know what sound you are after, it's cool to have an amp that can be really flexible. But once you have found your voice, it's all playing the one-trick-pony amp that is an extension of you. Same goes for guitars. Put me in the tweed camp: I just need volume and tone. As for guitar, I pretty much never use the tone knob.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCat
    At this junction some people plug straight into the power amp and free themselves from preamp tweaking. May I propose a little switch: "BTTTAGSTTGS" (Bypass The Time Thief And Go Straight To The Good Stuff") or just call it "Jazz".

    Rant over.
    Already done. PAB essentially bypasses the tone stack by breaking the connection to ground, inactivating the tone stack. This also provides a signal boost.
    Amp tweaking, talk to me-pab-png

  10. #9

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    Short version:
    I think if you try the full down treble and bass, with full up middle, you will have approached the tone you might want for jazz and will have immediately eliminated about 90% of the various non-jazz sounding combinations; and you might find this is hitting the right setting the first time. Just be aware that in performance you will need to learn to trust it sounds right to the audience and be patient learning to hear it yourself on stage.

    Long version:
    It may help to understand what is going on with how the tone controls operate, which for almost all of the popular amps is not how you would think, and not how the controls are labeled.

    Almost all guitar amps use a "tone stack", which is just this particular circuit's name because of the arraignment of the components in the circuit. In order to grasp how it works, the first thing to know is that there are only three principles involved:

    1) attenuation
    2) filtering
    3) amplification

    The tone controls use only attenuation (a reduction in signal level).
    The reduction of signal level is filtered to "shape" the result.
    The whole tone stack is amplified about 20dB of signal boost

    The treble and bass tone controls are marked so when you turn them to higher numbers there is an increase in treble or bass, but that is not what is really happening. They can only attenuate signal, never add signal. When the treble control of moved from high numbers to low numbers, what it is doing is attenuating bass frequencies. When the bass control is moved from high to low numbers it is attenuating treble frequencies. Basically, treble and bass controls are mislabeled as far as what they actually do in the circuit, and the markings are ordered backwards.

    Since both treble and bass are attenuating the signal, the 20dB amplification is provided to make up for this - the overall level is moved up to account for the reductions that shape the resulting tone. To the operator, it sounds like turning up treble or bass results in more treble or bass.

    In a tone stack, the middle tone control is not a tone control; it is an insertion loss recovery control - it acts to generally raise most of the whole frequency curve, whatever shape it is from the treble and bass control settings, up and down as a whole without reshaping the middle of the curve but letting only the high and low tails of the curve be subject to the treble and bass settings when the whole curve is low. As the whole curve is raised is tends to flatten out.

    So what does all this mean and how can you set the controls?

    If you want to hear what it sounds like when the tone stack is flat, you turn the bass and treble to their minimum values (all the way down) and set the middle control all the way up to maximum. This is the sound of an amp with not tone controls. This is a good starting point for hearing the sound of your amp and the sound of your guitar (if the guitar controls are all wide open, full up). For jazz, many have discovered that this resulting tone is perfect.

    The tone stacks for amps with no middle control actually have the component active in the circuit for that, but it is fixed and not variable - no control knob attached. Its value is typically chosen for what you would get with a middle setting at about "8" on a 1-10 marked knob.

    If you're still with me, I will tell you what is likely to happen based on my experience with this. I spent a weekend a few years back trying to make my Strat sound like an L-5 and discovered the full down treble and bass, full up middle setting. With the amp across the room so I was hearing it like someone out in the audience, the tone was perfectly jazz magical - no low booming, a blooming mid-range, and a sweet high end, single notes with depth and character, chords smooth and coherent, blah, blah... just amazing and perfect.

    First time in performance I was disappointed. It sounded muddy and thud like. By the second tune I had to adjust the settings. However I stuck with it and kept trying, and it took about three more shows until all was well with hearing the magic settings. Now it's the only way I play.

    If you are used to playing with the treble up especially, you will likely need some time getting used to the treble full down setting. The intelligibility of pitch discrimination of notes, and even more so that of distinguishing chord types harmonies is conveyed mostly by the higher frequencies. Turning up treble makes it sound clearer to you when you are on stage amidst the band's stage level and sub optimal amp placement and positioning with respect to your ears, but this is at the expense of possibly punishing the audience.

    If you love the sound of the flat setting, you have to have faith that you will learn to be able to hear it just fine, but it takes some time to learn to hear it. A nice surprise is that when you do learn to hear it, you will find your ears have actually improved their ability to hear, distinguish, recognize, and identify everything else better.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by pauln
    Short version:
    I think if you try the full down treble and bass, with full up middle, you will have approached the tone you might want for jazz and will have immediately eliminated about 90% of the various non-jazz sounding combinations; and you might find this is hitting the right setting the first time. Just be aware that in performance you will need to learn to trust it sounds right to the audience and be patient learning to hear it yourself on stage.

    Long version:
    It may help to understand what is going on with how the tone controls operate, which for almost all of the popular amps is not how you would think, and not how the controls are labeled.

    Almost all guitar amps use a "tone stack", which is just this particular circuit's name because of the arraignment of the components in the circuit. In order to grasp how it works, the first thing to know is that there are only three principles involved:

    1) attenuation
    2) filtering
    3) amplification

    The tone controls use only attenuation (a reduction in signal level).
    The reduction of signal level is filtered to "shape" the result.
    The whole tone stack is amplified about 20dB of signal boost

    The treble and bass tone controls are marked so when you turn them to higher numbers there is an increase in treble or bass, but that is not what is really happening. They can only attenuate signal, never add signal. When the treble control of moved from high numbers to low numbers, what it is doing is attenuating bass frequencies. When the bass control is moved from high to low numbers it is attenuating treble frequencies. Basically, treble and bass controls are mislabeled as far as what they actually do in the circuit, and the markings are ordered backwards.

    Since both treble and bass are attenuating the signal, the 20dB amplification is provided to make up for this - the overall level is moved up to account for the reductions that shape the resulting tone. To the operator, it sounds like turning up treble or bass results in more treble or bass.

    In a tone stack, the middle tone control is not a tone control; it is an insertion loss recovery control - it acts to generally raise most of the whole frequency curve, whatever shape it is from the treble and bass control settings, up and down as a whole without reshaping the middle of the curve but letting only the high and low tails of the curve be subject to the treble and bass settings when the whole curve is low. As the whole curve is raised is tends to flatten out.

    So what does all this mean and how can you set the controls?

    If you want to hear what it sounds like when the tone stack is flat, you turn the bass and treble to their minimum values (all the way down) and set the middle control all the way up to maximum. This is the sound of an amp with not tone controls. This is a good starting point for hearing the sound of your amp and the sound of your guitar (if the guitar controls are all wide open, full up). For jazz, many have discovered that this resulting tone is perfect.

    The tone stacks for amps with no middle control actually have the component active in the circuit for that, but it is fixed and not variable - no control knob attached. Its value is typically chosen for what you would get with a middle setting at about "8" on a 1-10 marked knob.

    If you're still with me, I will tell you what is likely to happen based on my experience with this. I spent a weekend a few years back trying to make my Strat sound like an L-5 and discovered the full down treble and bass, full up middle setting. With the amp across the room so I was hearing it like someone out in the audience, the tone was perfectly jazz magical - no low booming, a blooming mid-range, and a sweet high end, single notes with depth and character, chords smooth and coherent, blah, blah... just amazing and perfect.

    First time in performance I was disappointed. It sounded muddy and thud like. By the second tune I had to adjust the settings. However I stuck with it and kept trying, and it took about three more shows until all was well with hearing the magic settings. Now it's the only way I play.

    If you are used to playing with the treble up especially, you will likely need some time getting used to the treble full down setting. The intelligibility of pitch discrimination of notes, and even more so that of distinguishing chord types harmonies is conveyed mostly by the higher frequencies. Turning up treble makes it sound clearer to you when you are on stage amidst the band's stage level and sub optimal amp placement and positioning with respect to your ears, but this is at the expense of possibly punishing the audience.

    If you love the sound of the flat setting, you have to have faith that you will learn to be able to hear it just fine, but it takes some time to learn to hear it. A nice surprise is that when you do learn to hear it, you will find your ears have actually improved their ability to hear, distinguish, recognize, and identify everything else better.

    This is all very good info but I think the tone stack design you're describing in this post is Fender tone stack. Not every tone stack works this way (ie. passive knobs with middle knob adjusting all frequencies).
    For example, I don't think many of the SS amps, like Henriksen's work this way.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 09-24-2021 at 07:45 PM.

  12. #11

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    For me, the one important thing to get in every amp is how the gain staging works, and what's the sweet spot you want to use. From there, most of them have one sound basically, and the eq controls serve to balance the room and volume you are playing in/at. Generally the louder you play, the less bass and gain you need. If you get to play in an open space with no returns, you get to hear the true sound of your amp.

    I'm perfectly happy with a one knob amp myself, like the Fender champ!

  13. #12

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    After years of tone-tweaking and knob-twisting, push-pulling my old Boogie Mk IV controls, I sold it. Full disclosure: The amp sounded fantastic, and over the years I learned its sweet spot. The reason for the sale was mostly due to its weight, fewer gigs...and my age.

    I recently discovered the purity of Leo Fender's original amps, and bought one of Fender's updated 5e3 amps, a 57 Custom Deluxe. For me the head version was all I needed since I have a variety of speaker cabs to plug it into.

    Three knobs (2 Volume & 1 Tone) plus four inputs are all I need. I wish I had tried this earlier.


  14. #13

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    The irony though... between the 4 inputs and the channel interactions, the 5e3 is an extremely complicated amp with never ending choices!

  15. #14

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    I found the Boogie Mark III to be the way described. Controls were so interactive, even minor tweaks to the sound seemed to always require multiple adjustments. Once it was dialed in, it sounded great.

    Now I play with an ME80 pedalboard, typically into a Little Jazz. Sometimes two amps, with the other being a JC55.

    On the LJ I turn the bass almost all the way down. Mids at noon, treble a little below noon.

    I have EQ in the pedalboard but I almost never use it. The tone control on the guitar is all I seem to need. Setting is somewhere in the middle, depending on the tune. Never all the way up or down. I rarely touch the amp controls once they're set.

    If I had to use EQ a lot, and adjust it a lot, I'd probably add a 7 band box, or similar. Not because I need 7 bands. Rather, because I need to be able to see my EQ settings, which the ME80 won't do in the same way.

    It can get to the point where there are too many available adjustments in the signal path. In the past, that's given me trouble.

    At one point I played a two pickup guitar with volume for each pickup plus master.

    I had a volume pedal.

    I was using a Yamaha FX unit in a box (not a floor stomp and not a rack). It had a volume control on every element of a patch, plus a master.

    And, into a Mesa Boogie, with 3 volume controls and a treble control that changed volume a lot.

    Okay. I've lost count. I think it's 6 volume controls, in series, in the simplest patch and amp setting, not counting the amp treble.

    Heaven forbid I adjusted one and forgot what I did.

    Now, it's one on the guitar, an output volume knob on the pedal board, a volume pedal and the volume on the amp. Volumes on the patch are set, as far as possible, to unity. Still too many, in a way, but the only one I usually touch during a gig is the volume pedal. If I'm not loud enough overall, I may turn the amp or the pedalboard output up. Guitar volume is always on full.

  16. #15

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    Very interesting and informative thread! Thanks @JCat

    I now feel much less guilty about all the time I have spent trying to adjust the EQ on my amp to get THE (elusive) tone I hear in my head and that everyone else seems to have.

    This thread had provided me with EQing ideas that have helped me achieve much better jazz guitar tone(s) than I had been able to find on my own through time.
    Last edited by Greco; 09-24-2021 at 10:26 PM.

  17. #16

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    It's hard to know without being there, but often people who get bad tone from good amps are overusing the tone controls. You might try starting out with all the tone controls on 1 and go from there. Tweak in small increments at first. You're more likely to find your sound starting low than by starting high.

    Hope you find what you want to hear.

  18. #17

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    Try this for kicks:


  19. #18

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    The tone stack explained in English for humans:

    The guitar amp. Why does one control seem to alter what another one does? Why does the mids knob affect volume? And why is the treble pot more like a blend control? Because they’re connected in ways we could not intuit.

    After searching repeatedly for a layperson’s explanation of the tone stack – the EQ section found in guitar amps – I realized one would not be forthcoming. There seemed to be two camps: guitarists, who, despite an adorable belief that the three knobs do what the labels suggest, have no understanding of it; and amp builders, who understand it too well and talk to each other in Martian.

    This is it.

  20. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Gitfiddler
    After years of tone-tweaking and knob-twisting, push-pulling my old Boogie Mk IV controls, I sold it. Full disclosure: The amp sounded fantastic, and over the years I learned its sweet spot. The reason for the sale was mostly due to its weight, fewer gigs...and my age.

    I recently discovered the purity of Leo Fender's original amps, and bought one of Fender's updated 5e3 amps, a 57 Custom Deluxe. For me the head version was all I needed since I have a variety of speaker cabs to plug it into.

    Three knobs (2 Volume & 1 Tone) plus four inputs are all I need. I wish I had tried this earlier.

    I will carefully read all replies in this thread and give likes to every post. In the mean time, l want you all to know that the amp pictured above is my Stradivarious.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Litterick
    The tone stack explained in English for humans:
    The guitar amp. Why does one control seem to alter what another one does? Why does the mids knob affect volume? And why is the treble pot more like a blend control? Because they’re connected in ways we could not intuit.

    After searching repeatedly for a layperson’s explanation of the tone stack – the EQ section found in guitar amps – I realized one would not be forthcoming. There seemed to be two camps: guitarists, who, despite an adorable belief that the three knobs do what the labels suggest, have no understanding of it; and amp builders, who understand it too well and talk to each other in Martian.

    This is it.
    Thanks for that link!

  22. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    Try starting with everything flat, whatever the amp and controls. Then adjust the treble and bass to taste, then the mids if there is a mid control. Or if that's too difficult, just set everything flat and live with what you get.
    Quote Originally Posted by Chazmo
    My Bud has that confusing multiple EQ knob setup, but it helps me to think of it in the familiar bass, mid, treble format.

    I like Sgosnell's advice above. When using the Bud, I start with all knobs flat at 12 o'clock and low (bass) is either boomy or not. I adjust that first as needed. Then I dial out highs or not, depending on whether it sounds too trebly. The presence knob usually stays at 12 o'clock, because I don't like it too muddy. The high mid knob stays flat as well, because it doesn't do much. The last thing I set is the low mid knob, because that's where the magic is for jazz guitar. Boost the low mid for fatter tone, cut it for more clarity.

    So, low knob for bass, high knob for treble, and low mid knob for mids. The others stay flat usually.
    Thanks,

    The inherent mid-scoop of certain amps is problematic. It's partly about the tone stack design as well as NFB. The meaning of "flat" is often misunderstood. Plug directly into the power amp of a non-NFB amp for a true flat sound.

    The Bass and Mid controls of (any) guitar amp messes with the fundamental frequency range of the guitar (80-1200 Hz) where cuts and boosts affects the phrasing and note-to-note level. Treble and Presence on the other hand act on the Harmonic frequencies. Yes, I'm a fundamental note guy, and a tweed guy, but I don't disregard the harmonics and upper range. I like to hear some nails, fingers and frets. I also don't mind an occasional sub 80 Hz thump.

  23. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by omphalopsychos
    once you have found your voice, it's all playing the one-trick-pony amp that is an extension of you.
    Yeah, wisdom. It's a blessing and a curse. (We can't take our Stradivari to every gig).

  24. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by icr
    Already done. PAB essentially bypasses the tone stack by breaking the connection to ground, inactivating the tone stack. This also provides a signal boost.
    Amp tweaking, talk to me-pab-png
    Precisely! That guy knew what he was doing. "Dum..." like in Dumble? Maybe I find one of those in a dumpster...

  25. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Alter
    The irony though... between the 4 inputs and the channel interactions, the 5e3 is an extremely complicated amp with never ending choices!
    I use only one channel at the time, so it's basically just Volume and Tone for me. I don't know how to get a bad tone from this amp.

  26. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar
    I found the Boogie Mark III to be the way described. Controls were so interactive, even minor tweaks to the sound seemed to always require multiple adjustments. Once it was dialed in, it sounded great.

    Now I play with an ME80 pedalboard, typically into a Little Jazz. Sometimes two amps, with the other being a JC55.

    On the LJ I turn the bass almost all the way down. Mids at noon, treble a little below noon.

    I have EQ in the pedalboard but I almost never use it. The tone control on the guitar is all I seem to need. Setting is somewhere in the middle, depending on the tune. Never all the way up or down. I rarely touch the amp controls once they're set.

    If I had to use EQ a lot, and adjust it a lot, I'd probably add a 7 band box, or similar. Not because I need 7 bands. Rather, because I need to be able to see my EQ settings, which the ME80 won't do in the same way.

    It can get to the point where there are too many available adjustments in the signal path. In the past, that's given me trouble.

    At one point I played a two pickup guitar with volume for each pickup plus master.

    I had a volume pedal.

    I was using a Yamaha FX unit in a box (not a floor stomp and not a rack). It had a volume control on every element of a patch, plus a master.

    And, into a Mesa Boogie, with 3 volume controls and a treble control that changed volume a lot.

    Okay. I've lost count. I think it's 6 volume controls, in series, in the simplest patch and amp setting, not counting the amp treble.

    Heaven forbid I adjusted one and forgot what I did.

    Now, it's one on the guitar, an output volume knob on the pedal board, a volume pedal and the volume on the amp. Volumes on the patch are set, as far as possible, to unity. Still too many, in a way, but the only one I usually touch during a gig is the volume pedal. If I'm not loud enough overall, I may turn the amp or the pedalboard output up. Guitar volume is always on full.
    Yeah, every volume pot in the chain affects tone. I really want to use that to my advantage (when possible!). I use the guitar controls, but also a Volume pedal sometimes.