It’s commonly accepted knowledge among guitarists that a full stack is too loud for most stages. These days, thanks to improved technology and PA systems, a smaller amp setup will do the job in almost any circumstance – except, perhaps, if you want to look cool. But even diminutive tube amps can be too loud for an onstage environment. The solution? Step forward the power soak…
There are certainly numerous good reasons to keep your volume down while you’re up on stage, but two stand out: firstly, the need to protect your ears (not to mention the ears of your bandmates and the audience!), and secondly, the fact that you and your fellow musicians have to be able to hear each other while you’re doing your thing.
No doubt about it, a deafening guitar rig is not going to help anybody.
Thankfully, there are a few solutions to this. You could try going down the non-tube amp route, for example. Digital modelers don’t need to be turned up to sound their best. But then, their best is a sacrifice when compared to genuine tube tone.
You could try experimenting with the position and angle of your amp on the stage – more on that here.
Or, you could play an amp with a master volume, or just turn the volume down on your amp if you don’t have the master option. Works OK, but again, most tube amps sing when they’re cranked, and for that, there’s only one workable solution: deafness.
Oh yes, or the power soak.
How the power soak makes your guitar tone better, and quieter
So, what is this power soak feature, and how does it help you as a live guitar player?
Well, first off, you’ll find it on the TubeMeister and GrandMeister amps, and what it does is allow you to enjoy the benefits of full-blown power amp saturation – and therefore the most delicious guitar tones imaginable – at low volumes (which, by the way, also makes it perfect for you to play at home without annoying the neighbors too much – more on exactly that here).
On the GrandMeister and the TubeMeister 36 (both of which pump out 36 watts in full power mode) the power soak works by first disabling two tubes to reduce the output power by half – to a still pretty rocking 18 watts. When you press the 5W and 1W buttons, some of the power is converted into heat to further reduce the output to five watts and one watt respectively.
(You can even go into silent recording mode, where all the power is converted into heat and the amp is muted – but that’s for another day and another blog.)
On the 18-watt TubeMeister 18, the power soak converts power into heat, giving you the same five, one and 0-watt modes of its bigger brothers.
An onstage life saver!
When you’re playing a show, this can be a true blessing. Don’t just take our word for it, though – a number of pro players are using the power soak at big gigs to help them, their bands and their audiences enjoy an improved live experience.
Exhibit A is Alan Parsons Live Project lead guitarist Alastair Greene, who switches his power soak settings depending on venue size:
And Nashville session guitar ace Dan Tracey, who also plays with Alan Parsons alongside fronting his own group, Save The World, is a fellow power soak fan. Dan’s always thinking of the front row when he sets his amps up for a show:
So, if you’re in the position where your tube tones are simply too loud – be in on stage, or at home – you know what to do: give the power soak a try.
If you want to get a full and detailed lowdown on the history of the power soak, and the story and secrets behind the Hughes & Kettner version, just read our in-depth blog on the subject by clicking on this rather nice picture:
First published: October 30 2015. Most recent update: October 30 2015.
Leave a comment
Any way you can achieve the power soak benefits on the 20th anniversary combo?
I’d love to get a Tubemeister combo but kinda don’t want to go through the process of trying to sell my amp and I really love my amp.
I also have a Tube100 and I understand it would be a simple external power soak piece hookup between amp and the speaker but the days of schlepping heavy gear are behind me. But I still don’t have a heart to part ways with the head, too many memories when I look at it.
Anyway, are there any options for me with the 20th anniversary? Output stage modifications? Opening the back of the amp to put a speaker input jack so I can use the external power soak? Some say the FX loop might give you the benefit depending on it’s design? Red Box wouldn’t help here would it?
Well, there’s things you could do for sure, but nothing that won’t be more expensive or annoying to do than go out and get an amp that just has the benefits of built-in attenuation. In your position, we’d just end up getting a small external attenuator, a Two Notes or something. They’ve come on leaps and bounds in recent years and sound great, and they don’t add too much to the overall weight of the setup. You could get an external Red Box 5 or similar too, but they still need a load, so you’d still need to play with volume.
Sorry we can’t give you a more appeasing answer than that! Hopefully you can still go on to enjoy all those H&K classics you have there in your collection, and maybe you can add something new to it soon that has the built-in power soak option 🙂
have an early switchblade stack.100watts is now too loud,can 1 fit some sort of power soak to this amp,without mikes.
Hi Alan! Yes, although we don’t make any external power attenuators ourselves, there are plenty on the market. One of the most popular is the THD Hot Plate (just Google it or type it into YouTube to find out how it works – it just gets put between your head and the speaker cab), and there are many others too. Ask around at your local guitar store to try one, or check the usual online places and you’ll see what’s on offer. Hope this helps, but just let us know if you have any more questions, and hopefully you’ll have your quieter Switchblade up and running soon! 🙂
Speaking about volume, my source audio expression pedal does not control the volume via the midi footswitch the way its supposed to. It only ranges from 70-100 volume, nonsense of that sort goes for every single parameter as well. Am I supposed to use a specific expression pedal or is it the amp that has the problem?
Hi Rafael. Hmm, the first thing to ask is: are you definitely using the soft volöume control (i.e. controller number 7)? Controller number 57 is the hard volume control, and it sounds likje you might be on that settings, which doesn’t allow you the full volume sweep, but just cuts from nothing to a set value. Try that and let us know! We’re pretty sure the amp is fine, by the way, so no need to get worried yet 🙂
The next thing to try would be to ask Source Audio if they’ve got any resolution for this. We’ve not tried that sepcific pedal, so we’re unsure of how it acts exactly together with the GrandMeister!
Great blog, I always wondered if there was a decent way of doing this. Now I know 😉 Also loved the loooong explanation blog too – can’t wait to try one of those H&K amps out with the Power Soak soon!!!
Thanks for the kind words Jerry! We prefer the word ‘detailed’ to ‘looong’ but there you go – at least it was useful 😉 Enjoy the power soak when you try one, and let us know how you get on with it!