Amp hunting for beginners?
I've lurked on these forums for several months, and only now have I plucked up the courage to actually post.
Basically, I'm in search of an amp. When I look at these kind of threads, I see some recurring questions asked, such as budget, and location. To save these questions being asked later on, I'll say now that my budget is up to £400, so that means yes, I'm in England. £400 (according to the internet) is equivalent to $630.
To sum it up, I'm basically a teenager who possesses a small practice amp. In the limited number of gigs I've played, I've been lucky to have been able to play through other amps. I also know the most recommended solution is to search second hand, which, I know will open me up to a wider selection of amps to choose from. However, (and please, don't rip into me for this), I don't know what I should be looking for. Would any combo suffice in a situation for small venues and rehearsals, playing mainly in the area of rock to alt-rock to indie rock (no metal to worry about!)
And then if I don't look at a combo, what about amps and cabs? Should I look for them separately, or for matching ones? Again, I ask you knowledgeable folk not to punish me for not understanding the whole ohms business. Can any amp go with any cab, or is there some link between the two? Also, what should I be looking out for in second hand equipment?
If you have taken the time to read this, I thank you for doing so. If you take the time to post, I thank you even more!
(my lack of knowledge of these things isn't through ignorance, I'm trying understand all of this amp business better!)
First, welcome, and thanks for doing your homework first. The answer to your question depends onj what is locally available to you. I'll just provide a few guidelines. IF you choose a combo amo- these are the features it needs to have: a good amount of power, say 300 watts approx. Either 2 10's, or a single 15" spkr. An Ext Spkr jack, so you can add another spkr later, for more volume. An XLR DI output to connect to any PA system you may have available. IF you go with seperates, the amp should be in the 300-500 watt range, and you want to go for an 8 ohm cab, like a 4x10, 2x12, or even a 2x15. Power is good, but it's the spkrs that make the sound heard, so more spkrs equals more loud. More power is nice, but does not get the volume, unless you have the spkrs to handle it.
See what you can find that fits those criteria, and post back for further suggestions. You don't want to spend your money on something that can't be built upon, like a combo amp without ext spkr jack. Enjoy the ride.
What kind of amps are you normally up against? Also, does the drummer you play with hit really hard or are they more reserved? I'm asking because knowing how loud you need to be is important when searching for a new amp. If your guitarists play through single or double speaker combos and your drummer plays softly (or through an electronic drum kit), then a decent combo would probably suffice. However, if you're up against Marshall full stacks and a drummer who likes to abuse his set, then you'll probably need something with as many speakers and watts as you can possibly get on your budget.
The first thing I would do is take your bass to a local store and play through everything they have, just to get an idea of things that are available. You can certainly limit yourself to what is in your budget if you like.
It is hard from the USA (across the pond) to know what you might have available to you?
A combo with an honest 100 watts RMS and a 15" or two 10" speakers can "get you by" in a lot of small situations (like an Ampeg B115). 200 watts is about the limit for a single 15" (like a G-K MB115). A 300 to 500 watt separate amp head will give more flexibility with what speaker cabs you can run (like two 210's, one or two 410's, two 115's, an 810. one or two 212's or a 412).
A good cab and so-so amp head is a starting point for beginning with separates. Heads are usually easier to find and cheaper to ship if needed.
Ohms (impedance) is the load placed by a cab on an amp head, amp heads will have a minimum load labeled on the back. The lower the number the greater the load placed on the amp. Two 8 ohm cabs equal a 4 ohm load to an amp.
A starting point for you anyway? Do you have an idea what brands may be available to you?
My advice is, whichever brand you choose, get one powerful enough to be heard over a drummer, because before you know it, you will want to play with one and it sucks to spend money on a practice amp only to realise that you need to buy another amp to do so.
Thanks for the responses guys!
I've looked extensively on websites such as gear4music and GAK, mainly at combos. Ones that did catch my eye were ones such as the Laney RB8 (1x15, 300 watts) and also the Gallien Krueger MB115 (1x15, but only 200 watts). I have looked through some of the amps and cabs on these websites (and also some second hand ones), but I find that with my budget, I'm very limited. I have come across some amps & heads that have attracted my attention on the internet (like a Hiwatt B300 Head and 410 Cab for £250), but I'm weary of purchasing through second hand, as I'm worried of the quality / condition of some of the products, and with my limited knowledge, I'm worried about being able to spot what's good and what's not.
In terms of band set up, the guitarists are pretty much in the same boat as me, and I doubt they'll be turning up with Marshall stacks soon, so our drummer will probably be my biggest noise-maker. So yes, he is quite hard hitting.
And in response to the third post, I'll go and do that as soon as possible, but I've found most of the shops in my area are quite over-priced when compared with the internet, and I have no problems with purchasing off of the net.
Also, thanks for explaining (what I assume to be) the basics of ohms to me. I've studied circuits and stuff in physics, which proves how good I am at it (not very.)
As for brands, I'm not fussed for them at this point and with my budget, I can't afford to be. I'll have a look in music shops around my area to see what they've got, but I'm gonna guess the internet has a bigger (and probably cheaper) variety.
The HiWatt looks like a decent starter amp head. Used stuff you have to play through or have a return policy if buying on the net in case it is damaged.
When playing through any piece use your own bass and work all controls listen to make sure the controls work and don't be afraid to crank it up to half to make sure the speakers don't rub or "fart out" too early.
Used Peavey, Ashdown, Trace Elliot or Marshall are good bets.
With things being more expensive over here, what you could get for $600 in the US, you couldn't get for £400 here. While that is the correct exchange rate, typically it's easier to look at it as £1 = $1. Though it's obviously quite a basic approach and not true for everything (UK based brands will obviously be more expensive in the US etc).
I have to agree with having a look in store first. IMO, a seperate head and cab is a better option than a combo. When it comes to upgrading, you could add to the setup or replace the cab or the amp.
Also, not sure if you looked, but check out Thomann.de, brilliant selection, great guys to deal with and postage is cheap.
This should handle all your small to medium gigging needs. Imo it has a very clean sound with tight lows and sparkling highs, but can also get anywhere from mild overdrive suitable for metal to full blown distortion and it's blendable with your clean signal, i love blending just throwing that out there. I myself am buying the 350 head with a 4x10 cabinet, that's 700 US dollars. As always if possible, try your amps first before buying them, because what i like may not be what you like.
I'll say it again, don't underestimate TC Electronics. Either the BG 250 or BG500 can be had and should suit your needs.
Thanks again for all your messages. From what I've been seeing, I'm probably going to look into an amp & cab combination, as it seems that upgrading them is easier than a combo (as you can do it separately, if you get what I mean.) I'm also gathering that it's best to go for a good cab, and an ok amp, right?
This then brings me onto the whole cab discussion. From what I understand, a choice between a 1x15 or 2x10 usually comes down to personal preference, what should I be looking at with my budget? Because I'm guessing monsters like 8x10 are out of the question. And if I should be focusing on a cab, what is an appropriate, but preferably cheaper amp?
Simply stated a good 210, 115 or 212 will out perform a cheap 410 or even 810. 810 would be a bit much at your stage of the game just yet.
A good quality cab can make a cheap amp sound okay, a cheap cab can make a high quality amp head sound pretty bad. :)
I'll also say you can sometimes get awesome deals on used cabs. Picked up my Peavey 215 for £75, Marshall 810 for ~£300. Peavey amps often pop up nice and cheap too. Though I'm talking personal experience and things I like :)
If you're going for a sperate head and cab i'll name off some good affordable gig-worthy heads...
Ampeg Portaflex, comes in 350 and 500 watts, either is sufficient for small to medium gigs, Gallien Krueger MB500, Hartke LH500, or Fender Rumble 350 head. lots of other good ones, these are just a few of them.
This should tell you what you need to know about matching heads and cabs, it worked for me.
I'll throw some other ideas in the mix:
Basically trying to say that if you keep a keen eye, you can actually do quite a lot with the money you have on the used market. If you are happier going new then that's the way to go. I've never had an issue on the used market (thankfully).
A few things that haven't been mentioned....
First, don't buy a rig that you can't transport.
If you're starting out, you don't know what you want. I would buy something used that seems like it would do the job, but holds its value:
- If it holds its value, it's for a reason. Likely to be a pretty good setup.
- You'll learn what you like and don't like with experience. You can always sell it, get most or all of your money back and buy what you want.
Thanks for all the responses and suggestions, they've been great and helped show me what's what. This kinda brings me onto my next question. When going for second hand equipment, is there anything I should look for in particular, any damage or technical things? And if so, how do I idenify these things?
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