What exactly is "clean"?

Discussion in 'V.C.'s Parlor' started by duceditor, Sep 18, 2020.

  1. TheQuietOne

    TheQuietOne Squier-Meister

    Age:
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    103
    Aug 11, 2019
    oshkosh, wi
    Clean is like porn. I can't define it but I know it when I see (hear) it.
     
  2. brians

    brians Squier-holic

    Age:
    50
    Oct 1, 2017
    South Africa
    I know it's all very subjective, but to me , the real definition of clean is an unplugged acoustic guitar.

    IMO the minute there is any electronic element involved, that clean is diluted to some degree.

    I'm one of those that is not in love with sterile clean on an electric guitar, especially a Strat, in fact I love the sound of coloring, if that's the right term.

    Minimum coloring for me is delay or reverb and there is no maximum.
    Drive, fuzz, wah, etc are all more than welcome, i don't really ever play my Strats on dry clean, unless I'm just testing something.

    But I love the sound of an acoustic.

    Good thread and post.
     
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  3. Anacharsis

    Anacharsis Squier Talker Platinum Supporting Member

    94
    Aug 31, 2019
    United States
    Good and thought provoking thread.

    I think this all speaks to the subjective nature of the construction of aesthetic norms. Sounds are "classic" primarily because we associate them with a particularly significant time in our lives (or the lives of our mentors/heroes/influences). Change contexts, subcultures, cultures, etc, and everything changes.

    And of course, the sound itself has so many components. Relative response across different frequency ranges, the overtones the OP mentions, and on and on. Then there's what is changed by pick attack and technique.

    When I hear people talk about a clean sound, I interpret that as meaning no compression or distortion created by the amp. Coloration, yes - a clean blackface may sound scooped, a clean Vox chimey, but both clean. A Roland Jazz Chorus (my own favorite clean, particularly with single coils) sounds like neither one.

    So yes, like so many other words used in aesthetic discussions, the definition can be a little fuzzy (no pun intended), and well worth asking about now and then.
     
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  4. Anacharsis

    Anacharsis Squier Talker Platinum Supporting Member

    94
    Aug 31, 2019
    United States
    I get that. Oddly, I am just the opposite. I don't care for the sound of an acoustic at all. But give me a Strat through a JC-40, and I am in love.
     
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  5. Block Head Ike

    Block Head Ike Squier-holic

    Yes, "clean" as in little or no THD; versus "clean" as in signal from guitar to amp with no effects in the signal chain; versus "clean" as in piezo signal versus "coil and magnet" pickup; versus "clean" as in using a pick instead of bare fingers...and on and on!

    "Clean" as a term used by guitar players requires context. I am sure the same applies for recording engineers, or HiFi enthusiasts, but their realms have different ranges of meaning for "clean".

    Amplifier manufactures have given use one common meaning, as in "Clean Channel" versus "Distortion Channel". I am always a bit amused by this. All amps have some distortion - some have more than others. I guess "Gain" is now the more precise or acceptable term for labeling amps, but it is all the same. Gain setting determines how hard the preamp section of your amp is driven. Setting the gain control ultimately sets the level of distortion, regardless of how loud the final volume is. At lower levels this might still be perceived as "clean". We often tend to refer to this as "warm" sounding - like the difference between, say, a Fender Deluxe at low volume versus a Roland JC-120.
     
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  6. DougMen

    DougMen Squier-holic

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    Jun 8, 2017
    Honolulu, HI
    Gain is actually a misnomer, because gain is actually voltage gain or signal level increase, not distortion level, as it's come to be known in guitar amps and pedals.
     
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  7. duceditor

    duceditor Squier-Axpert Gold Supporting Member

    Age:
    73
    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    Absolutely correct.

    But still, within the guitar community the phrase has a commonly understood meaning.

    This is much like...

    "What's is it going to be like out today?"

    "Hot."​

    The response correctly communicates an idea because the context is understood.

    No, in cosmic terms the difference between 72f and 102f isn't even a blip, but in practical human terms it is a true and real difference. And the description answers the understood question.

    "Gain," too, has a specific technical meaning. But when we use it as guitarists we really mean what its effects is on the pre-amp. Does it push it into "distortion" -- again a word with commonly understood and shared meaning for guitarists that is quite different from what it means to a technically astute electronics person.

    And so it is with "clean." There are various flavors of it, but if I post that I'm working out a guitar part for a song and am gravitating towards playing it "clean" my friends here will know what i mean. Indeed more clearly than if I said "I'm looking to keep its THD below 3 percent."

    -don
     
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  8. wonkenstein

    wonkenstein Squier-holic

    Feb 3, 2017
    NH
    Yeah..... exactly. You can hear it when they just dig right in.
     
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  9. Wound_Up

    Wound_Up Squier-Meister

    Age:
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    195
    Jan 28, 2020
    Shreveport, LA
    Didn't Marshall start using solid state power supply & rectifiers in their amps in the 70s sometime? I swear I read that somewhere just this morning. IIRC, it wasn't just, Marshall, either.
     
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  10. Croppertone

    Croppertone Squier-Meister

    448
    Mar 31, 2010
    Ontario
    All about headroom. Listen to the left channel of an AC/DC song. Doesn't sound clean, but it sure is. The Malcolm used headroom up into the ionosphere to get his sound, the sound that made me pick up a guitar 450 years ago. The beauty of the band's sound was the juxtaposition of clean and dirty, left and right, Angus and Malcolm.

    I see people in videos playing his riffs with distortion, and it's all wrong. The Malcolm played very clean, and very, very loud.
     
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  11. duceditor

    duceditor Squier-Axpert Gold Supporting Member

    Age:
    73
    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    I don't know the date, but that switch over is one of the things that often separate Fender's 'Reisssue" models from the originals. -Those such as the reissue 2 10 brown Tolex Vibroverbs from the original `63s such as I used during my working years.

    Among the delights of Wangs Mini 5 amplifiers is that it gives you a choice of rectifiers. A tight-sounding SS type or a relatively loosey-goosey tube jobie. And it is its having a tube rectifier that made me go with Jobo's Sweet Baby Champ-type amp instead of one of the other, and far more commonly found, Champ type with a SS rectifier.


    Wangs Mini 5.jpg

    Pushed gently the two are pretty close in sound and feel, but when pushed hard the older type tube models very failure -- read "sag", where the power supply just can't quite keep up with the demand -- is what gives them their glory.

    This is the most natural form of compression available. One that self restores often just in time for the next hard pick attack and then goes back into sag mode.

    The very best modeling amps will mimic even this effect, but most don't and it is the type of subtle difference that an amp just "right" for certain players. -And old friend that does just what you expect it to do.

    :)

    -don
     
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  12. wonkenstein

    wonkenstein Squier-holic

    Feb 3, 2017
    NH
    I think this is right.... Jim Marshall was definitely going in that direction because he saw potential in it. I'll bet we can cross reference the specific amps, too. Later on Leo Fender's Music Man amps were also using a hybrid design - solid state rectifier and preamp with a tube power stage. Let me get into some digging because today we've got a good number of hybrid amps and solid state amps that really are excellent.
     
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  13. wonkenstein

    wonkenstein Squier-holic

    Feb 3, 2017
    NH
    And it's true that this stuff is like a good tonic for us!
     
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  14. wonkenstein

    wonkenstein Squier-holic

    Feb 3, 2017
    NH
    Pulled this right off the Marshall Forum:

    Marshall have used solid state rectifiers in all 100w amps
    since the 100w was introduced Nov '65.
    JTM45 and JTM Black Flag 50w had tube rectifiers.
    50w amps changed to solid state rectifiers mid '67
    when the JMP amp were introduced.
    But you can find late 50w Black Flags with solid state rectifiers
    and early JMP's with tube rectifiers.
     
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  15. madmodder

    madmodder Squier Talker

    53
    Mar 21, 2014
    new england
    Agreed Don. "Clean" and "Dirty" are too vague to be a single category. I suppose there is some ill-defined line between what one may consider "clean" or "dirty" but it would vary from person to person.
     
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  16. wonkenstein

    wonkenstein Squier-holic

    Feb 3, 2017
    NH
    Yes - the main reason right there why the instruments and vocals were so clearly identifiable, too. You know these guys did this on purpose! The guitar parts are very distinct.... and both guitarists didn't bother with anything extra that would plug up the space - that band band left all kinds of space in the tunes. There's really something to be said about loud, clear and clean and the power needed to make that headroom makes all the difference.

    Like the difference between an Ampeg VT-22 and a Fender Twin Reverb at the same volume levels. Leo designed the circuit to break up at a certain point where Everett Hull built in more clean headroom.
     
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  17. duceditor

    duceditor Squier-Axpert Gold Supporting Member

    Age:
    73
    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    I cannot imagine how loud that'd have be. I've never had my mid `70s Silverface "break up." Not even with its rarely used (many players don't even know its there) "Master Volume" turned way down.

    Now that is not to say that it is uncolored. No, a Twin Reverb has a very distinctive sound. But "break up"? Not within my experience.

    I suppose, agan, th twin caeats remain: "It's a matter of opinion" and "YMMV." :D

    -don
     
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  18. wonkenstein

    wonkenstein Squier-holic

    Feb 3, 2017
    NH
     
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  19. Croppertone

    Croppertone Squier-Meister

    448
    Mar 31, 2010
    Ontario
    He used Marshall Super Bass heads, which helped keep it loud and clean.

    The real key to the Malcolm sound is the wound 3rd string: that adds so much to the mix when playing those cowboy chords. Even a 10-46 set with a wound 3rd makes a difference in tone.
     
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  20. wonkenstein

    wonkenstein Squier-holic

    Feb 3, 2017
    NH
    I knew he was a Marshall guy but I didn't know he used a wound third. Thanks for that one! When your string tension is a bit on the stiff side you'll just hit it a little harder, too. Because you can.
     
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