Gain vs Volume: 5 Critical Differences that Matters

The other day, I was looking for the difference between the gain vs volume. Suddenly one of my friends comes to me and said ” It’s the same dude! ” and start laughing. 🙂

Many people get confused between volume and gain easily. I got interested and start digging into this topic more to find some practical differences between gain and volume.

Gain vs volume

5 Key Differences Between Gain and Volume

Gain is the Input of the Audio SystemVolume is the Output of the Audio System
Impact on the Loudness as well as the Texture of the Sound.Impact only on the Loudness of the Sound.
By changing the Gain, The Tone & Quality of the Sound also Changes.By changing volume, the Tone & Quality of the Sound Remains the Same.
Gain is a Function of Current.Volume is a Function of Voltage.
It controls the Signal Level at the
beginning of the signal chain.
It controls the Signal Level at the end of the signal chain.

Let’s see each difference in even more details:

What is the Volume in the Guitar Amp?

We understand ‘volume’ by taking a simple example. When you are in the car and enjoying music, you increase or decrease the volume of the music through nob.

It doesn’t mean that you are changing its tone or its texture. You only play with its loudness. So from this, we concluded that volume is the loudness that we hear. It does not change its tone and texture. Going straightforward, volume = loudness

Volume is the output of the sound/audio that’s going to the amplifier. It measured in decibel(DB). While dealing with a guitar amp, you control the volume by controlling the amplifier. Change in volume does not change its quality.

Also check: Top 5 Best Volume Pedals for Swells in 2021.

What is Gain On the Guitar Amp?

Gain is a little complicated to understand. But in simple words gain is the ‘volume at the input’. Gain is the loudness of the sound before going through any process i.e at the input stage.

By increasing or decreasing the gain, the quality of sound also changes. It is necessary to understand that gain controls the tons, not the loudness.

Gain is the input of the sound/audio system and its measured in Decibel(DB). In the case of a guitar amp, it is the intensity of the sound that is sent to the amplifier. It helps to reduce noise that might come from the source.

Almost all guitars have both knobs i.e. gain knob and volume knob. Gain is active during the preamp stage only.

What Does Gain Do?

The main function of gain is to make the sound clear. It controls the amount of signal or loudness before going to the signal chain. By adjusting the gain knob, the Quality, and Tone of the sound also change.

What is High Gain and Low Gain in Guitar Amp?

High gain is passive pickup while the low gain is an active pickup. You can easily use Low gain whenever it is possible. But when your maximum volume is not so louder, you can switch your gain too high. However, the low gain is the default setting.

High gain input is actually lower output pickups and low gain input is higher output pickups.

Which One is Best for you:

Choosing the gain is totally depends on which song you play on your guitar. Most of the people use high gain on their guitar amp. But it loses the clarity of the tone.

In the case of classical songs, you choose low gain for a clear and pleasant sound. Similarly, for rock n roll songs, you choose high gain for powerful sound.

What Is Gain Staging?

We are talking about gain staging which basically means ‘a crucial process that makes your mix better and your guitar sound professional’. At the end of this topic, you will understand what is gain staging.

The gain stag is the point through which audio signal flow. Gain staging is the process of controlling the level of the audio signal which makes the mix cleanest as much as possible. This helps to prevent distortion and noise. It makes your sound clear.

According to Wikipedia, Ideal gain staging occurs when each component in an audio signal flow is receiving and transmitting a signal in the optimum region of its dynamic range.

Here is the video that explain Gain Staging in detail:


Final Words on Gain vs Volume?

As I already mentioned,

Gain is the input of the audio system that controls loudness, tone, and the quality of sound before going through the process whereas Volume is the output of the audio system (loudness) after going through the process.

So just remember, gain and volume are very similar concepts but their difference is important for your better mix. By knowing the difference between gain and volume, you could change the tone of your guitar forever. Sometimes gain and volume used interchangeably.

Please put your opinion in the comment section. It will help others to clear their confusion about the difference between the gain vs volume. Don’t forget to share this information with your friends.

Have a great day!

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