Being thoroughly familiar with your gear is going to save you pain. I see my customers show the pain of loss of revenue, having the gear quit in the middle of the gig, frustration at the interruption of the creative process, and the loss of time down. Much of the reason why they experienced gear failure could be avoided by being familiar, in a technical sense, with their Owner’s Manual.

I know these are a pain to read because they’re full of stuff nobody gives a crap about. Well, it’s not so much how to turn up the TREB knob, but what the equipment is capable of doing, and more importantly what its limits are.

This also has to do with the equipment’s design for optimum performance. There’s quite a difference between a +4dB and a –10dB signal. Know what the power amp’s intended INPUT signal strength should be, and what the output is of whatever is driving it. If it’s a mixer, you may have a choice of output signal strength.

On an amp, there’s often a HI/LO channel switch or jack arrangement. This is for passive (regular) guitar pick-ups (HI) and active (needs batteries) pick-ups (LO). If there’s a battery operated FX unit going into the amp, the (LO) input may be considered better suited to the amp’s design. I’m saying to know, from a technical view, what’s happening when you plug in a device that outputs a +4dB signal into an amp that’s designed for a –10dB INPUT. On that path lies danger.

Another consideration is that the equipment’s design assumes that the knobs will be used in their middle third – say from ‘3’ to ‘8’. If the amp always has to be ‘dimed’ for the gig, then it is underpowered for the job, and needs help. That’s what LINE OUT jacks are for. Nobody should expect a 60W garage band guitar amp to keep up with the 300W monster the bass player has. Not gonna do it. Put it through the PA so the poor thing will have some help.

I know that the initial investment in time learning can be considerable. I think that it needs to be done because one of the top reasons for equipment failure starts: “I lent it to my buddy and…” If you were going to lend your equipment, logically you would want to make sure it’s operated correctly. Maybe the person knows what they’re doing, but you won’t know that unless you know what’s going on. Also, remember to find out what the venue is like, because beer, Margaritas, Coke, and such eat electronics alive… literally.

Many amps today are digital amps. They are not like the traditional analog amplifiers, where a BASS pot actually filters the low frequencies. They are more like computers with knobs, attached to an output amp and speaker. They adjust volume and tone by changing the algorithm in the computer, not by filtering the actual audio from the instrument. The problems they exhibit are more like computer problems, and the first troubleshooting move is to make the computer reset. That kind of stuff is in the Owner’s Manual, and while you may lose custom presets (gotta back-up?), that’s how a corrupted file is renewed.

Please go through your equipment with the Owner’s Manual every time you get a new piece – even if you bought it used. If it says “Not Intended For Outdoor Use”, that’s pretty much what that means. Keep it protected, like it’s inside. Save yourself some pain.

Thank you,

Armand Blake, Owner: AMPWERX Repair

1935 E. 7th. St.Long Beach,CA90813

Tel: 562-591-1423 Fax: 562-591-1423

[email protected]

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About the Author


Ampwerks Repair

My name is Armand Blake, and my shop, AMPWERX Repair, is located inside Gilmore Music on the NW corner of 7th. St. and Cherry Av. in Long Beach, CA. I have been there since 2003, however, Gilmore Music, a local independent full-service music store, has been there since before most of us were born. This store is not your corporate super-box, and as far as the repair of electronic and acoustic musical instruments are concerned, we do it all in-house.

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