What the hell does "open" mean as a tonal descriptor?

Discussion in 'Gear & Equipment' started by KailM, Apr 13, 2018.

  1. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    Like the title says. I hear the term "open" used often to describe pickups, amps, pedals, etc. I think it's a very poor adjective by which to describe guitar tone -- but I digress.

    I'd like to know what it means, and whether or not people even AGREE on what it means. :lol: And if 'open' is indeed a thing, what's the opposite of it?
     
  2. narad

    narad SS.org Regular

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    Probably the opposite of compressed. I also think if you roll off a lot of high end, it's hard to imagine it sound "open" as you're not going to perceive this wide frequency band on big chords.
     
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  3. Shask

    Shask SS.org Regular

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    Yes, I think of it as the opposite of compression, and in terms of frequency, containing more frequencies. I think of an "open" tone as being very dynamic, and very wide, and full of all frequencies.
     
  4. MetalHead40

    MetalHead40 SS.org Regular

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    Compressed is the opposite of open.
     
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  5. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    Cool -- thanks guys!
     
  6. Beheroth

    Beheroth SS.org Regular

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    IMO, the opposite of the "blanket over the speaker" sound
     
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  7. FitRocker33

    FitRocker33 My tone is tighter than my hamstrings

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    To analogize, i would imagine a 5150 typed heavy amp being compressed and something like a lower gain Friedman Marshall type being open.

    A lot has to do with gain levels and hi and low frequencies.
     
  8. protest

    protest SS.org Regular

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    Just to confuse everything, Rectos are almost never described as open but they basically go lower and higher in frequencies than just about any other amp. So I definitely think it's a combo of a few things like some have said.
     
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  9. Grindspine

    Grindspine likes pointy things

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    Open as a sound descriptor is the opposite of dampened or compressed, as indicated above. An open sound will not only be dynamic, but also have clarity and not be muffled.
     
  10. Hollowway

    Hollowway Extended Ranger

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    Terms like this drive me nuts. It would be so much easier if we all used descriptions of what’s ACTUALLY happening.
    At any rate, I think that a lot of what we call openness is specifically referring to high order harmonics. The “blanket over the speaker” effect is because those frequencies are missing. It’s almost like what an exciter does.
     
  11. wakjob

    wakjob SS.org Regular

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    When I watch a dirt pedal vs tube amp drive channel comparison video, I hear the pedal as if I walked into a room that only has a 6 foot ceiling and no ventilation, and when they click over to amps natural drive channel is like entering a gymnasium..."open"
     
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  12. Wizard of Ozz

    Wizard of Ozz Arch-Mage of Metal

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    Best definition: The opposite of compressed. Turn on your compressor pedal, turn off your compressor pedal. Extreme definition, but accurate.

    Yes and no. It has more to do with the number of gain stages in the preamp and how much distortion is present in each stage... too few stages or to extremely distorted/clipped signal in each stage = compression. More preamp stages, less distortion in each stage, one cascaded in to another = much smoother more open high gain sound.

    There are plenty of very open sounding high gain amps. The mighty Wizard MTL is very high-gain, but very open and uncompressed sounding. The Fryette Ultra-Lead is another example of open high-gain.
     
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  13. FitRocker33

    FitRocker33 My tone is tighter than my hamstrings

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    my KSR Ares and my 5153 sound different enough in their gain that I justified keeping both to myself.

    I would say the Ares is a little more open sounding with Much better clarity in chords than the 5153 but the 5153 has its own distinct thing going on with a wave of gain and brutality all its own.

    The two amps are voiced pretty differently too. Both are tight, but different.
     
  14. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    I guess I'm a fan of more compressed sounds then. 6505s and 5150 IIIs are usually described as compressed and I adore the sounds I get out of them. I can hear individual string clarity on big chords though, to a certain extent. I don't go for the hyper-clarity that is in vogue currently though. I like some bass and more importantly, balls in my tone. Which both of those amps have in spades.
     
  15. Flappydoodle

    Flappydoodle SS.org Regular

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    Agreed. Seeing people say that "open is the opposite of compressed..."

    Really? I thought "dynamic" would be the opposite of compressed.
     
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  16. ElRay

    ElRay Mostly Harmless

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    ITT alone, these are all different, yet all are somehow opposite "open":
    • Compressed (increasing input approaches limited output with a smooth transition - typical has flat frequency response)
    • Damped (output response is "slower" -- similar to compressed, but more of an extreme high-end roll-off)
    • Clipped (output volume limited, but with instant limit, no smooth transition)
    • High-end rolled-off
    • Muffled, aka blanket over speaker (band-passed, volume attenuated)
    • Narrower frequency range (Similar to band-passed, but implies flat frequency response in pass-zone, and rapid roll-off outside)
     
  17. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    +1 for hating vague terms like this.
    But also +1 for when I think of the word "open", I think of the opposite of the blanket-on-speakers effect. I think bright and clear, lots of high end, not struggling to understand what I'm hearing.
     
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  18. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    This makes the most sense to me. I could get behind using "open" to describe such a tone. I don't feel as though it's a very good term for describing uncompressed tone though. Because there are plenty of compressed tones that are also clear and represent all of the frequencies being produced by the guitar...:shrug
     
  19. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    Read what ElRay posted.

    Compression doesn't hide or cut frequencies, it just smoothes out the differences in perception of said frequencies in a manner that makes them all represented roughly the same.
     
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