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I recently got a JCM800 2203x amplifier and the thing is killer. I'm one of the lucky people who has a practice space where they can crank it to 10 and hear that beautiful power tube distortion!

The strange thing, however, is that it seems to sound smoother and more full when I stand off to the side instead of directly in front of the amp. Literally the tone is perfect standing off to the side, but when standing directly in front of it, it sounds more harsh and slightly less pleasant.

Has anyone else experienced this with their amps? I don't believe that the amp has anything wrong with it because it sounds phenomenal from all angles, but I was just wondering if I was the only one experiencing this kind of thing and if there was any reason behind it.

Also I don't think this has anything to do with how much the human ear can process at loud volumes because when the volumes are this high I am always wearing earplugs regardless of where I stand, so I am never hearing more than my ears can really handle. (I have tried taking the earplugs out for a few seconds though and it still seems to sound better off to the side even without earplugs.)

  • Facing it, or facing away? – Matthew Read Apr 26 '16 at 1:34
  • Check out the various placings of mics with regard to recording guitar amps. – Tim Apr 26 '16 at 6:11
  • @MatthewRead At lof amps are so bright if your ears are "in the beam", it doesn't even matter which way you're facing. I face away from my amp and it sounds pretty harsh on-axis even with my pinnae vainly trying to tone it down a little. I also always wear earplugs at gig and full practice volumes. – Todd Wilcox Apr 26 '16 at 11:39
  • "Directionality" (the sound beam) is related to the size of the wavelength: wavelengths larger than the size of the source are omni-directional, and those smaller than the source are more directional in nature. For guitar, which will generally be in the range of 80-1200Hz, a 12 inch speaker will be larger than anything about 1000Hz and above. (provided my math is right). I think 1000hz is somewhere around a high C – Yorik Apr 26 '16 at 17:42
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This is just the way all classic tube amp designs pushing 12" cones sound. Close backed cabinets are even more directional than open backed cabinets with the same drivers.

I play live with a 1x12 combo and I deliberately point it right at my head and make it sound a little too bright and harsh. That way I can always hear my amp over the rest of the band and I know that the audience is going to get the best part of the sound.

If you do enough recording of guitar amps, you'll quickly figure out that on axis with the dust cap is not where you want to put any mic.

It's just the way amps work. Be glad that you are aware of it.

  • It's the way SPEAKERS work, not amps. For the same reason, beware, on a live gig, from placing the speaker beaming straight out into the audience's faces. This may make you rethink the traditional position of backline gear on stage. – Laurence Payne Apr 26 '16 at 10:51
  • @LaurencePayne If you compared the way a modern, digital modeling amp sounds on-axis versus a classic all-tube design with similar speaker cabinets, I think you'd agree that it's both the amp and speaker design that cause this. The speaker is what causes the sound to be brightest on axis in front of the (a) dustcap. The amp is designed so that's not the place that sounds best. In other words, the amp is made deliberately too bright to make the off-axis sound the best. – Todd Wilcox Apr 26 '16 at 11:38
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There are several possible causes:

As a general rule, the sound produced by a loudspeaker is more directionally "focused" at high frequencies.

If the speaker is aimed directly at the opposite wall of a room, you are likely to get "organ pipe" resonances because of sound reflecting directly from the wall back onto the speaker. In this case, there may be noticeable changes in the sound quality if you stand in front of the speaker at different positions between the speaker and the opposite wall.

And if you are standing to the side of the speaker, you will be hearing more sound that has been reflected (multiple times) from the whole of the room. As well as adding "reverberation", the proportion of the sound absorbed and reflected by the walls etc is frequency-dependent.

Some combination of those effects can make a difference which is easy to hear. Which listening position you consider "better" is rather subjective, of course.

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