What is gain on a guitar amp?The Difference Between Gain and Volume

As a result, you may want to jump into a pool of boiling acoustic particle velocity soup. And, you can have channel volume, guitar volume, master volume, fader levels, mixer board gain, guitar amp gain…etc.

However, it’s important to understand whether you want to get a good sound from the guitar. Let’s check out this article to learn about what is gain on a guitar amp? and the difference between gain, volume, loudness, and level.

What is Gain on a guitar amp?

What is Gain on a guitar amp?

What is gain?

The fact is that most people misuse these terms when it comes to working with sound amplification equipment. It’s because of seeing them often. Or, some of them are on the same piece of equipment.

What is Gain on a guitar amp?

This may be one of the harder terms to define. Indeed, the gain is used in a lot of places in the world. In fact, it is considered as an increase in some kind of value.

For instance, you can get a power gain, current gain, or voltage gain. All of them increase those respective values. They are always expressed in dB.

It may be the increase in the raw signal from your microphone or guitar before going into any of the other electronic components.

Most guitar amps have two stages – a preamp and power amp stages.  The gain setting of guitar amps allows you to control the amount of signal you send from your guitar to the preamp section.

It also controls how much distortion in the guitar tone you have.

Practical Use of Gain

For all non-rocket scientist purposes, you will surely see a gain control in two places. One is on your mixer board or PA, and another one is on a guitar amp.

They actually serve different purposes in each. It’s easy to see the gain at the top of the board on the mixer board. The thing you need to do is set this gain level high enough.

This ensures to bring up the level of the signal. Many boards have a PFL button that is essential for this purpose. Thanks to this button, you can see the actual signal strength just by looking at the LEDs.

On a guitar amp, the gain’s main intention can be able to create distortion.


In addition to defining three-dimensional space, you can also use volume to describe the power level of a signal. Turning up the master volume knob means increasing the amount of power in order to increase the signal.

This term is used in so many different places when it comes to mean the actual sound. So, it’s important to use it with caution.

Are volume and gain the same thing?

It’s an intellectual mistake to mention lump volume and gain in the same definition. The fact is that both of them are defined the same way when defining the volume.

Each serves a different purpose. According to Rudolf F. Graf in the Modern Dictionary of Electronics.

Any increase in power is actually expressed in decibels when transmitting a signal from one point to another. And, it takes place in an amplifier. Also, according to him, the term volume is to signify either the intensity of a sound.

That’s why you see there are both a GAIN and MASTER VOLUME knob on an amplifier. These definitions are really important to understand the difference between gain and volume.

Gain vs Volume

Gain vs Volume


This term has the purpose of describing the magnitude of the sound to some arbitrary reference. In fact, the sound pressure level is used to describe sound waves.

It’s calculated from the log of the arms sound pressure of a measured sound associated with a reference value. This scale is shown in dB. In fact, it can be able to go up to 130 dB.


This term is similar to level as well as volume. But, it’s another whole other monster. In fact, we aren’t capable of hearing each frequency at the same level.

Here is the graph of the level human can hear. But, they are not correct most of the time.

In this graph, you can see a term called a “phons”. This term is used to describe loudness. Looking at the graph, you see the different phons contour for each dB level.

Indeed, the 10 phons contour requires more boost in the low frequencies than the 120 phons contour.

Also, you can be able to see from the graph the best range we can hear is 3-4 kHz. That’s why you shouldn’t lose it, otherwise, you will find it difficult to understand people.


In conclusion, now, you have a look at the whole point of this article. They promise to help you understand music terminology as well as the way to use it.

However, it’s wrong to go around hitting people with your “terminology hammer”.

Instead, you should pretend that you are the owner of the universe right away you get this stuff. It’s not easy to understand the ideas behind these terms.

That’s why you need to avoid hanging up on the specific words if you don’t go writing text someplace. Hopefully, this post is useful for you, and you enjoy it.