Saturday, July 13, 2019

Presence and resonance controls in a guitar amplifier

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today's article is a small analysis of what are those two additional controls that sometimes are featured on guitar amplifiers, and that sometimes have a different meaning from brand to brand.

Presence and resonance controls are less intuitive than other knobs (Eq, Gain, Reverb...), but are quite important as tone shaping tools, because when they are available, they let us modify dramatically our tone, adding a lot of versatility to the amp.

Let's start by clarifying that the aforementioned controls Gain and Equalization are the tone shaping controls of the preamp, and usually the eq is subtractive, meaning that it filters out frequences in that range unless you put it to max (but not in all amps), while Presence and Resonance affects the power amp section, so their shaping takes place after the preamp stage.

- Presence is an UPPER MID BOOST, which means that it adds upper mids to the sound coming out from the preamp, and its use must be somehow counterbalanced with the treble knob of the preamp: if they are both too high their effect is summed, and the distorted channel ends up sounding like nails on a blackboard.
It adds attack to the sound, aggressivity, but it takes away some body on the mid range area, and progressively takes our hi gain tone towards a "Pantera"-like type of sound.
The ideal position is from twelve o'clock to 3 o'clock, according to how much aggressivity we are looking for, but if the amp sounds very dark we can push it more, maybe being a bit conservative with the treble control.

- Resonance, on the other hand, works for the low end in the same way Presence works in the high end: it boosts the bass frequences, and usually we're not talking about the lower mids, but really just the lower ones, the "oomph" you get from the palm muting.
Dial in too much and the sound will become uncontrollable, especially when recording, but live if our guitar tone is too weak we can move it a bit higher than unity to have that cool rebound that is needed when muting the strings. On a general level, though, it's not suggested to push it more than 12 o'clock.

Hope this was helpful!

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