Damien on… Volume 11
“Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and… Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten? Nigel Tufnel: Exactly. Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it’s louder? Is it any louder? Nigel Tufnel: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where? Marty DiBergi: I don’t know. Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere – exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do? Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven. Nigel Tufnel: Eleven – exactly. One louder. Marty DiBergi: Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder? Nigel Tufnel: [long pause] These go to eleven.”
I will assume you are familiar with this exchange from Christopher Guest’s improvised cult movie, “This Is Spinal Tap” – if not, you won’t be interested in the rest of this piece!
But if you are still with me, Spinal Tap was made twenty-eight years ago and has been popular for most of that time. And yet, the idea of “volume 11” has only recently become a THING.
It started about two years ago – I heard someone being interviewed and they said they had put (such-and-such a tape) into their car stereo and pushed the volume to eleven. The remark was just a throwaway one – and I chuckled at the reference to Spinal Tap.
However, since then, I have heard at least half a dozen other people say much the same thing.
And more recently, I noticed that even the BBC have gotten into this by putting “IIIIIIIIIIII 11″ as the volume scale under all of their online players. Including on their NEWS website – which is supposed to be SERIOUS, for chrissakes!!!
Anyhoo, speaking as a retired electronics engineer, I thought it was time this joke was EXPLAINED – just in case there are some people who BELIEVE it (in the early days, there were some who thought Spinal Tap was a REAL rockumentary – including a few rock stars!)
Okay, here it is… The volume knob on ANY rock musician’s amp is connected to a potentiometer (variable resistor) which is a part of the circuitry in the front stage of said amp.
The POWER (in effect, volume) of the amp is a product of its power supply, output transistors or valves (U.S. – vacuum tubes) or both (if it is a “hybrid”) – and if the final stage involves valves, its output transformer.
The detailing on the fascia – or knobs – can be “low – med – high” or “1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 (and even 11!)” or “quiet – loud – freakin’ awesome!” – or anything you damn well LIKE! It will not make ANY DIFFERENCE!!
Just four feet away from where I am typing this right now – is the amp I use to play records, in my den. Like the one featured in the movie – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuzpsO4ErOQ – it is a classic British Marshall amp (for the record, a JTM45 MK II) and I am here to tell you – IT ONLY GOES UP TO TEN!!!