I just got my first tube amp (before I was exclusively playing on an amp simulator + a pair of monitor speakers), but it is really too loud for my home so I can't really push it to get that sweet distortion tone I could get from this amp, and I can't really experiment right now, because of the volume I'd need.

The amp (a Bugera 333XL-212 Titanium combo) has a super clean channel and 2 distortion channels so I can have distortion at low volume, but the distortion is a bit weak as I can't really push it.

As I have to choose between pushing the channel volume and pushing the master volume, I'd like to know which one would have the most effect on the distortion of the amp ?

  • 1
    Your amp has a line-out. Try connecting that to a hi-fi or similar. You'll lose the character of the speaker/cabinet but you'll be able to make use of the valves' character.
    – slim
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 9:16
  • I'll check but I think that the line out doesn't mute the speakers.
    – Julien N
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 10:49
  • I have a Vox AC30, it was built in 1967, I have had it a long time. I bought it used near 24 years ago. I set the amp tone knobes to a flat setting. The volume I set very high, then the master volume as needed. I get that tube dream like zone at a setting that is just below were I get the police called.
    – user9596
    Commented Feb 18, 2014 at 22:00

3 Answers 3


A possibly more direct method to solving your problem would be to use "hot-plates". If you're familiar with Paul Gilbert, he uses hot-plates to basically heat up the tubes of his amp to get the desired tone, without of course, increasing the volume.

You might be able to use something like this to help your situation.

To quote the description: "It lets you get your amp's full of distortion at any volume."

  • This is what I ended up doing. I bought a dBKiller MK2 by Name Of Sound.
    – Julien N
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 10:35
  • Glad I could help. If this answered your question, you can select it as the answer by clicking the checkmark. Anyway, I thought this sounded like something that might be able to help you. Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 18:45
  • It does not directly answer the question though, but it does answer the other one I asked on the same matter. This question was more about what is more efficient for pushing the tubes : master or channel (but I agree that with an attenuator, this is less an issue).
    – Julien N
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 9:15

This really depends on the amplifier design. What I say here relates to tube amps and my preferences.

On small amps rated 30 watts or less with inefficient speakers, I like to crank the master and use the preamp volume or guitar volume to control actual loudness.

The one time I was actually able to play with a true Dumble ODS, I found I liked the preamp cranked and the master controlling the overall volume. The same goes for the early silverface Fender Twins, Supers etc with master volume.

Your key may be finding some super inefficient speakers whose sound you like and using those as they function somewhat like an attenuator in that they don't produce as much sound.

Check around the internet for speaker ratings in db per watt and do a little research. It's over my head to explain but it has worked out for me.


Try this

  • Set Master to max and Channel to min audible volume, listen and see how it sounds
  • Reverse this, set Channel to max and Master to min audible volume, listen and see how it sounds

Which ever sounds better, sounds better. Like most question's of this ilk the only real answer is “suck it and see” I'm afraid.

At the end of the day I'd be surprised if you can get a really meaty distorted tone from a tube amp at low volumes. You can pile on distortion all you like but without volume you'll have no punch.

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