High Gain vs Low Gain: Which One Provides Better Sound?

Any music or movie sound needs to be perfect. For that sweet spot, gain setting is becoming popular these days. But it also creates many confusions.

So, which is better between high gain vs low gain?

The high gain of an amplifier causes higher SINAD. But, the low gain is better for a low-impedance amplifier. Nevertheless, the high gain creates deeper bass for the speaker. On the other hand, the low gains sound better for an efficient speaker. Albeit, high gain produces more power than low gain.

These features aren’t enough to get a complete idea. I will guide you to find the perfect gain setting.

So, let’s move on!


So, there are numerous audio gain myths. These myths may or may not be entirely true. However, in the vast majority of situations, these are simply misconceptions. Let’s look at three common misconceptions about the gain.

Gain And Distortion Are the Same

No, gain and distortion are not the same. However, setting gain will also affect the distortion level.

For example, the high gain will create high volume and also increase distortion levels. It happens as the input signal is more than the output signal. So, gain and distortion aren’t the same. But, gain and distortion are interrelated. 

The Purpose of Gain Is to Make Volume Louder

This is not true. The gain defines how loud an input audio channel is. It controls the tone or sound of input, not loudness.

However, if you get less sound, you can use high distortion. The amplifier or device will use more power. As a result, you will get a higher volume.

You Need to Adjust Gain for Each Device that You Are Using

Yes, you need to adjust the gain for each device. Because as a music producer you’ll use different instruments. So, each instrument’s “sweet spot” is different.

As a result, you may want different gains for guitar and microphone. So, the myth is true and useful too.

Now that the myths have been busted, we can move on to the main topic.

Let’s jump right in!

Head-to-Head Comparison

There are various audio devices out there. Whether you use an amplifier or DAW, you want to hit the sweet zone. You will have the most satisfactory outcome from there. Also, choosing between 5.1 surround and Dolby surround is an important aspect for better results.

Now, buckle up, and let’s dive into the comparison.

High Gain vs Low Gain Amplifier

An amplifier is a great companion for music producers. You can control a whole range of features that affect the audio quality. Gain is one of them.

Now, let’s talk about low gain’s effect on the amplifier. The low gain will keep the noise and distortion at a low level. Hence, the audio level (dB) will also be lower. Let’s see the audio frequency of the low gain setting.

Source: https://www.audiosciencereview.com

As you can see, the noise and frequency levels are less distorted. Using low gain on the low-impedance amplifier is much advised. Because these amplifiers can produce high power.

The high gain will give you a higher SINAD. It’s the measurement of signal, noise, and distortion. Let’s see the audio frequency of a high gain setting.

Source: https://www.audiosciencereview.com

You can see here that with frequency, the noise level increases. It’s particularly useful for high-impedance amplifiers. Also, you can crank up the power for better instrumental sounds using high gain.

Summary: The low gain is perfect for low-impedance amplifiers. Whereas the high gain is perfect for high-impedance amplifiers. 

Low Gain vs High Gain Speakers

Suppose you want to enjoy a movie. But your speaker cannot produce a better sound. Well, it happens because of the gain.

In low gain, a speaker cannot reach full power. Hence, the speaker clips and audio can get distorted. However, for an efficient speaker, using low gain settings is better. Because it will definitely hit the sweet spot and won’t create distortion.

On the other hand, the high gain is better for deep bass effects. You can boost bass and the volume too using the high gain settings. But, if you mismatch it with volume, your speaker will create a distorted sound.

Summary: The low gain settings are suitable for efficient speakers. But, the high gain is suitable for boosting the bass of the speakers.

High Gain vs Low Gain Preamp

The preamp is perfect for weak signals. Many also use the device for a concert or recording. The purpose of a preamp is to boost any weak signal.

The low gain for preamplifiers produces a low-frequency sound. It is particularly useful for studio recording if you want to record loud tracks. Nevertheless, the low gain settings on the preamp catch the essence of a track perfectly.

However, music producers use the high gain for the preamp to record a quieter track. It needs more power to record every instrument and vocal. Hence, high gain is a better choice. But, high gain is more prone to cause unwanted distortion.

Summary: The low gain is better for preamp than the high gain.

Low Gain vs High Gain Headphone Amp

Headphone amps are a useful part of sourcing a better sound. Hence, I will recommend some of the best headphones amplifiers available on the market:

Now, the low gain of the headphone amp is useful to suppress the distortion of loud tracks. But, it also uses low voltage which may result in low-quality audio output.

On the other hand, high gain is used for raising the low voltage. It results in better and clearer sound. Nevertheless, it may also create distortion while achieving high power and loud audio output.

Summary: The low gain of the headphone amp suppresses the distortion of loud tracks. Whereas, the high gain provides clarity to quieter soundtracks.

High Gain vs Low Gain Microphone

Microphones are the part and parcel of any music producer. So, the gain setting matters the most for a microphone.

The high gain will make the microphone sensitive. So, it easily clips the audio track and results in distortion. But, the high gain is perfect for a quiet and ambiance sound.

Moving on, the low gain will conceal the noise floor. So, you can end up with better-recorded sounds via a microphone.

Summary: The high gain makes the microphone sensitive. Whereas, the low gain conceals operating noise or noise floor.

High Gain vs Low Gain DAC

For any music producer, DAC is a very useful equipment. It converts the digital audio file to a universal analog format.

The high gain setting will raise the base volume of DAC. But, it also creates some minor floor noise. 

On the other hand, low gain expands the span of control for DAC. You can tweak other features like volume, treble, or bass using low gain.

Summary: The high gain of DAC raises the base volume. Whereas, the low gain allows you to perfectly tweak features.

Low Gain High Volume vs High Gain Low Volume

Although volume and gain are different aspects, they are interrelated. So, it’s one of the most important topics to consider. You can easily adjust microphone gain settings to affect recording volume.

At low gain high volume, you can eliminate channel imbalance. Because at low volume channel imbalance takes place. But, you can crank up the volume while using low gain without distortion.

Nevertheless, in high gain low volume, that channel imbalance can happen frequently. So, you can expect distorted noise or sound from it.

Summary: The low gain high volume is better than the high gain low volume.

With this, the head-to-head comparison ends. Don’t worry if you are still confused, then jump to the next section.

So, Which Gain is Better?

After thorough research, my verdict is that both gains are useful in different circumstances.

The low gain will give you a low soothing sound. Whereas, you can boost volume and bass using the high gain. It can vary from powered speakers to keyboard amps.

It depends on you. Whatever gain settings hit your sweet zone of audio use that.


Is It Possible to Make Gain Negative?

Yes, it is possible to make a negative gain. It means the output is inverted from the input. Some antennas are already set to negative gain as a factory setting.

How to Know if the Gain Is Too High?

When you set the gain past the volume limit, it will create distortion. This may cause a hum or hiss sound or simply sound bad. 

What Can Occur if Gain Is Set Too Low?

At very low gain, your device won’t be able to reach full power. This allows the source unit to clip. As a result, it creates distorted sound coming out of your speaker.


That’s all regarding high gain vs low gain. I hope now you have no more confusion about this topic. 

At last, I would say- both gains are important, it just depends on the user’s need.

Have a good day!

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