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Can you hear the difference in amps in a loud bar or club?


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  • Can you hear the difference in amps in a loud bar or club?

    Over the years my observation is that in your basement or home, especially at lower to mid level volumes, every amp has its own character and tone and so do cabs. My brother and I have a variety of amps and cabs in our basement where we also have a little recording set up and you can tell when the Marshall is being played vs Fender vs Mesa etc. But when I go to bars and clubs I find it harder to tell the difference. There is a local band in my area and the guitar player plays through an older Line6 Flextone and some beat up cab (I think it may be a Peavey?) and it sounds great in fact, its one of the best guitar tones Ive heard on a bar. What do you guys think - does raw volume in a bar (I dont mean super loud just normal bar amp volume), club or even arena take away from the unique "tone" of an amp?

  • #2
    If it's to the "loud" point to where I can't discern what sounds good or not and what's going on, then I usually leave... FWIW.


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    • #3
      I can definitely hear a difference when I play different amps in clubs. It's really noticeable to me.


      • #4
        It's less noticeable for sure. The crowd sure as hell doesn't know the difference though.
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        • #5
          I don't notice brands, I notice sound quality. I hate hearing **************** guitar tone, regardless of the amp brand. If it sounds like an icepick in my ear, I leave. When I hear something that impresses me, I go up and make a mental inventory of their gear and try and figure out how to reproduce it, but usually forget all about it and just go back to sounding the way I always sound.
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          • #6
            To tell the truth, I care more about hearing the singer clearly and bass not being mud that makes the entire building buzz uncontrollably. Raw volume is usually a great way to ensure your performance will end up being only ear-pearcing ****************. With most clubs/gear the problem definitely isn't how much volume you can muster but if you can actually tweak the band mix to sound great and balanced.

            Oh, loudness doesn't rob tone, but it alters it because human hearing responds differently to frequencies depending on volume. Hearing the same signal louder or quieter makes a difference. Additionally, when volumes get cranked, a great chance is that more and more distortion is introduced in the amplification process to mush up the signal. It's not always a good thing. Room resonances and effects of standing waves also begin to have more importance at higher sound pressures and that can mess things up badly.
            Honestly...this is not music... it is hatred and self loathing expressed with loudness.


            • #7
              Interesting points - Im a tone junky too and have been through tons of gear and effects over the years to find a sound that I like but like I said Ive seen all sorts of gear ranging from Mesa Half stacks to Line6 combos and when they are loud or going through a PA I find it harder to tell the difference compared to the controlled space in my house. THAT'S ANOTHER THING - good point about the "ice pick in my ear" thing thats one thing I hate when Im in a bar/club or arena and the presence or the treble are turned up way too much and all you get is that ear piercing shrilly sound!


              • #8
                I think regular club patrons can hear a difference in what gear you use, they just don't know what difference they are hearing. Something about the band will pop out more about the sound when a band knows how to use their equipment. I mean, someone who EQ's their guitar rig to sound like hollow mush to where you can't hear them in the mix versus a guitar playing that cuts through the mix with an awesome sound, the crowd will probably think the latter is the better player, even if they were the same skill level. The crowd won't think it's their tone, they will just hear him better and equate that to being better.

                Whats funny, though, is I don't hear a difference between cheap and expensive gear, I hear a difference between a player who knows how to work their gear and one who doesn't. I've heard guitarist that make cheap Marshall MG stacks and Line 6 Spiders sound godly and I've heard guitarists make Bogners and Mesas sound like absolute ****************. A tool is only as good as the operator using it. Like I said, a crowd will notice a difference in tone, but won't know that's what the difference is.
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                • #9
                  well, yes and no.

                  bad gear normally sounds bad at all volumes

                  Some good gear sounds good at all volumes.

                  some good gear sucks until it's at high volume.

                  It depends, I guess.
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                  • #10
                    I found that all I need is the volume knob on my guitar... Set the amp to some dirt, and use the volume + pick dynamics for cleans vs dirt. Then a boost for leads. This simple setup sounds ****************ing awesome, and I'm happy with it.

                    As for different amps at loud gigs, every amp I've owned I could tell the difference, the only time I can't, is when I get drowned out, but thats a soundman issue.


                    • #11
                      I think the question needs to be clarified as it pertains to:

                      Listening on stage or the crowd hearing it at FoH.

                      I would think most guitar players listening to their own rigs can totally hear small differences still, at bar level, but when I listen to a band at FoH, with all the other instruments in the mix, I usually can't tell what brand of gear someone is playing until I look at it.
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                      • #12
                        I would have to say at those louder levels you do lose some certain characteristics, but IMO I start to hear/notice how well the amp in question handles louder volumes, which can vary drastically...
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                        • #13
                          Most bar type venues you can't expect a "great sound" just because of the way things are set up (unless the club has a nice house system). I don't expect every bar band do be top notch either. Note for note solo's not happening don't bother me. I've heard bad sound from the best bands around. Bad night for them maybe, we all have that from time to time.

                          The regular audience is there to have a good time and won't criticize as much as the two guitar players (from other bands) in the back room with their arms folded.


                          • #14
                            It depends.
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                            • #15
                              I end up hearing more cover bands than original bands just because of the bars I hang out at while having fun with my friends, but often times the guitarists tone sounds like complete **************** when its just a Les Paul or American Strat through any number of GOOD amps. Most of it is heard through the PA and we all know the QC that goes on in that regard.

                              I certainly notice as a member of the crowd, but 99% of the crowd does not. It also depends on if you're playing in a club full of musicians and their friends or at a bar in front of a bunch of drunk people who are there to hear their favorite radio tunes.