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You're at rehearsal with your band members and you need to turn up your guitar or bass. You'll likely be faced with two knobs - gain and volume.

So, how do you distinguish between them?

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Many people get confused about the difference between gain and volume in particular, so let's clear that up.

What is gain?

Gain is a difficult term to define in simple terms. Generally, the term "gain" is referring to transmission gain, which is the increase in the power of the signal. When adjusting gain, you're usually manipulating a preamp (such as active electric guitar pickups) and how it will handle an incoming signal.

What is volume?

In music, volume (or loudness) is usually manipulated by a knob, fader, or, during live performances, a volume pedal (affiliate link), and is used to describe the power level of a signal. So when you turn up the “master volume” knob on your amp, you’re increasing the signal by increasing the amount of power used by the amp.

How are gain and volume different?

Simply put:

  • Gain usually controls what comes in to a piece of gear.
  • Volume usually controls what comes out of a piece of gear.

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