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.
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.