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Amp Adjusting: A Walk-through with a Marshall MG100DFX

Grasping all of the features behind an amps settings can be difficult. Many musicians have an okay understanding of what knob adjustments such as EQ and Gain do, but knowledge of the exact function of such adjustments can hold a greater understanding of how to shape your tone, and how each amp is different. These settings are usually similar with each amp, but for the purpose of explanation I’ve decided to augment my descriptions with examples from a Marshall MG100DFX.


The Channels

The channels are fairly simple in concept. Most amps have at least two channels: A clean channel and a distortion/overdrive channel. Both channels usually are sent to a master gain, and are used for shaping the signal and changing the output level.
A clean channels gain has a higher threshold for clipping, allowing for less distortion of the signal being sent to the master volume.
A distortion channel has a lower threshold, and creates a clipping effect at lower gain levels. To compensate for the difference in signal output, or volume, the channel is run through a second gain stage, which on the MG100DFX, is called the volume. This volume is then routed to the master gain.
Some amps, like the Mg100DFX, have the option of a secondary gain channel, which has an even lower threshold, and allows for more distortion.

The Equalizer

Amp equalizers usually offer two or three options. Most common and basic are the bass and treble EQ. These functions work through shelving, which means they effect the signal above or below a certain frequency. The bass EQ shelves low frequencies, and the treble shelves high. These can vary from amp to amp. For example, the MG100DFX clean channel bass EQ shelves low at about 200Hz, and the treble EQ shelves approximately 800Hz and up (This is just collected through tests I’ve done. I’m sure a Marshall employee can tell you these numbers more exactly).

A third EQ option is a mid range band, which effects frequencies in between the two shelves. Mid bands are peak equalizers that effect a specific frequency, and pull others around it in a parabola.

The MD100DFX offers an equal-loudness contour setting. Since the human ear perceives different frequencies at different volume levels, this superimposes a curve to the EQ in an attempt to fix this issue. The higher the setting, the more curve is added

With a better understanding of these functions comes greater control over overall sound. With knowledge of which aspect of tone each setting effects, a musician can adjust his settings more wisely, and have more knowledge to draw from when choosing an amp.

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About Brad

Brad is a musician, mixing engineer, and solo artist that plays in the metal band Oblivion’s Eye.

4 Responses to “Amp Adjusting: A Walk-through with a Marshall MG100DFX”

  1. Daniel March 26, 2012 at 11:03 AM #

    Dear Brad!

    I have just read your article, and I would like to ask for your help to set up my DFX. Our band play’s Metallica songs, and on the main riffs I found a really great set up, but the solos, are sound a bit too high, too sharpe to me.(I play them on the bridge humbucker pick up) Can you give me your prefered set up i can have both the main heavy riffs and solos in good shape?
    Thank you very much!

  2. Duncan gallagher March 9, 2014 at 11:05 AM #

    Could you tell me what settings I need to play and hear Alice coopers poison.

  3. Gordon March 25, 2014 at 11:03 AM #

    Hi! I’m originally a bass player and changing over to guitar. I have done a lot of lead technique on bass, so now that I’m 52, I’m taking a new direction. I have an Ibanez P.s.4 (not the game) and getting a Marshall MG 100 HDFX amp with the 412 cab that goes with it. I’m looking to know more about how to get the best settings for different type of music.
    Who says you can’t teach an old dog new licks? LOL!

  4. Darryl May 8, 2014 at 3:18 PM #

    Hi everyone, please forgive me as i am certainly no expert at only 17 years old but this is my main amp and i have experimented endlessly with this amp to get all sort of tones from chuck berry to slash and it is by far one of the best amps money can buy for getting those varied tones, anyway for making the tone less sharp i personally just roll back the tone knobs to about halfway on my les pauls for a les sharp more bluesy tone as you hear in certain blues inspired legends like billy gibbons and slash but amp wise i do not know all too much you can do than increase the bass or roll back the mids and treble slightly although i cant guarantee as i said i just use the tone knobs on the guitar for easy access whilst playing, as for different settings i would just say experiment with the onboard effects as i have found i get a brilliant twelve string jimmy page and slash sound using the clean channel and the chorus effect (very simmilar to the cowboy style sound at the begginning of paradise city by guns n roses), this setting is also very good for any sort of clean bluesy acoustic sound when used with neck pickups, also make use of both channels as i have found that the clean channel is very good with gain around 7 bass around 8 and mid and treb set 10 and then just adjust bass and gain to get suitable sound, and also with the click of the crunch option you have a bluesy rock sound, as with the distortion channel i preffer to leave it in od2 for that high gain sound with settings the same as the clean channel but with low contour high volume and occasionally mids set at 3 for more distortion (dimebag darrell sound), and then whilst playing i use the footswitch to switch between channels and so i try to get simmilar sounds on both channels but have the overdrive channel higher gain and slightly higher volume and then i have the abbility to play rhythm in clean (crunch) and switch to overdrive channel for solos and lead, hope this helps

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