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Help With Tube Amp Selection

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by TwoRivers, Feb 9, 2014.

  1. TwoRivers


    Aug 26, 2012
    Las Cruces, NM
    Hello all, I would like to solicit the expertise of this wonderful forum.

    I currently play through an Ampeg PF-500 and 1 or 2 Ampeg PF-115HE cabs. A lot of the time I am running the amp at 8 ohms, with one cab, and using it primarily for stage monitoring. The amp outputs 300 watts in that configuration. On occasion I need the full 500 watts and both cabs.

    I am going to buy a tube head, but am unsure of my wattage needs. I've never owned a tube bass head before, but have owned ones for guitar in the past. In my experience with guitar, having too much headroom with a tube amp isn't very desirable because you miss out on the character of the amp when you have to run it at lower levels. IE, micing a cranked 50w tube amp was preferable to using a 100w tube amp and keeping the level lower.

    I'm also a bit confused because my current amp pushes 300 watts at 8 ohms and 500 watts at 4 ohms, but the tube amps seem to push the same wattage regardless of the load? At least that's what I'm seeing advertised.

    I was considering a 225 watt amp, but think it will probably be overkill.

    What are your thoughts/experiences in this matter? Thanks in advance for your input!
  2. TwoRivers


    Aug 26, 2012
    Las Cruces, NM
    I will also be buying cab(s) to go with the head and plan on trying out what I can get my hands on in stores. I also welcome any recommendations on that front that might point me in the right direction. I would prefer lighter cabs that could be used individually or together, depending on the venue.
  3. Cirk


    Jan 16, 2011
    Mobile, Alabama
    How loud is your band? What amps are the other members using? Do you run through a PA for FOH, or using it as a stage monitor? What are your tonal goals? What's your budget? Sorry for all the questions, but it is relevant.
  4. JDLowEnd


    Dec 19, 2010
    Groton, CT
    New ampeg v4b! 100 watts, starts to break up at a nice level! Or fender 100t, if you want a second gain channel
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  6. Road Bull

    Road Bull

    Jul 24, 2011
    Seattle, WA.
    I would have to say that if volume is a concern, get more cabs. One Ampeg SVT-CL pushing one 810 is enough for most of us. If not, get TWO 810s for the SVT to push.

    At some point, the amp can't make you louder. It can send a cleaner signal, but not make you much louder. The speaker surface will make much better use of, lets say, a 300 watt tube amp. Where a 500 watt amp cant utilize it's power if all it has to work with is two 15" speakers. Maybe if you have a fEARful / fearless dual cab perhaps, but if loud is your goal, think speakers.

    Are you looking for tube break up? If so, Ampeg, Fender and Mesa make nice sub 300 watt tube heads that can fit the bill.

    Another option is to get a head that allows for clean headroom and pick up one of the many pedals out there to get a little of that overdrive sound that you might be looking for.
  7. Cirk


    Jan 16, 2011
    Mobile, Alabama
    The Mesa Prodigy amp might work for you. All tube, switchable between 250 and 125 watts, and 29 pounds. However, I'm sure it's not cheap.
  8. High Camp

    High Camp Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2013
    If you want to stay in the Ampeg area:
    1) For sound improvement: the V4-B in combination with a svt212 cab (or 2 of those)
    2) For volume improvement, I'd say: swap one PF115HE for a PF410HLF
    3) For maximum out of your head - who need's p.a.! - volume improvement, but still affordable with the sound you already have, the PF800 with two PF410HLF cabs.
    I personally find the sound of the PF500/PF800 almost as good as the sound of a V-4B.

    Main thing is: what are you missing with your current set-up?
  9. JellinWellen


    Oct 18, 2012
    Houston Tx
    225 watts, were you looking at the vb-2? I own one, and its a great sounding head. It has massive headroom. I can crank it to overdrive the power tubes, but its earsplitting loud.
  10. TwoRivers


    Aug 26, 2012
    Las Cruces, NM

    Band isn't extremely loud, 2 guitars, drums, bass, vocals. One guitarist uses a 100 watt Marsall combo (he wants to downsize to a 50 watt because the 100 is really overkill. The other uses a 60 watt Blackstar combo.

    Most times we are run through FOH and use our amps for stage volume (guitars mic theirs for "their tone" and I'm usually di'd from my amp) but there have been some venues where the sound has come 100% from the stage.

    Budget is about $1,500.
  11. TwoRivers


    Aug 26, 2012
    Las Cruces, NM

    Thanks, I've taken note of both of those.
  12. TwoRivers


    Aug 26, 2012
    Las Cruces, NM

    I'm not really trying to get louder than what my PF-500 and two 115he's can do, I've just been bitten by the tube tone bug and have always wanted an all tube rig...I finally have some cash available so, here I go :)

    Truthfully, one of my reasons for posting this is that I don't want to buy more than I need, and am confused with regard to wattage.
  13. TwoRivers


    Aug 26, 2012
    Las Cruces, NM

    I like that combo you mentioned.

    I'm missing tubes with my current rig :)
  14. TwoRivers


    Aug 26, 2012
    Las Cruces, NM

    I was looking at the vb-2, but think it might be overkill for my needs. I need to try one out!
  15. I gig with a 180 watt amp, and for gigs where I need to be louder, I just use a bigger cab.

    That said, it really depends how loud the band is.

    The PF115 cabs are pretty good. No need to switch immediately unless you really want to.

    It's always good to have an 8x10 or other big cab handy, though.

    +1. Very light weight, and switches down to a lower power setting if 250 watts is too much.

    I wouldn't agree with this. The 410HLF sounds very different from what I associate as the more typical Ampeg sound. I also can't stand that cab with a tube head. Wouldn't recommend that cab at all.

    $1500 can get you a lot if you look used. New it might be almost enough to get a Mesa Prodigy, but nothing else.

    I'd say a 200 watt head would be enough, probably. Your guitarists seem sensible in not wanting more amp than they need.

    A new Ampeg V4B or an old used one would also be good. The Fender Bassman 100 they make now is also good.

    Obviously, I'm going to recommend a used Mesa D-180, as that's what I have, but it's just one of many good options.

    Used Sunn gear is unfortunately now quite expensive, but if you can land a 2000S or 1200S (or a 1000S, but I don't see these as often), that might also work well, though they're very wide amps, with somewhat minimalist controls.

    For cabs I'd check out used Ampeg 8x10 cabs, maybe 2x15 cabs as well (especially the ones that are just the SVT-15E times two). The 410HE is also a great model.

    If you can find a used Sunn 2000S or 200S 2x15 cab for cheap, those are also really excellent.

    You might also be able to find a used Mesa Diesel 2x15 (which is really heavy, especially the "Road Ready" variant, but quite good).
  16. Road Bull

    Road Bull

    Jul 24, 2011
    Seattle, WA.
    Right on. Well I would say that's a lot easier then. I just keyed in on the 500 watt minimum thing.

    I would start with some youtube clips to familiarize yourself with some of the different tube head sounds and features from Mesa, Ampeg, and Fender. Then try to find somewhere that has them to check out in person to hear what they sound like. And if it is really close, take your rig to see how they sound together.
  17. TwoRivers


    Aug 26, 2012
    Las Cruces, NM
    After calling some places (even up to 100 miles from where I live), it looks like it's going to be really hard to try very amps out in stores. Most places don't have any all tube heads at all. Anyone know if GC will order things to their store without you buying first?
  18. No idea.

    But I'd be looking at craigslist stuff, too.
  19. Road Bull

    Road Bull

    Jul 24, 2011
    Seattle, WA.
    Where do you live? (i am on mobile) Guitar Center will more than likely have you buy first if they don't already have it in store. However, our Seattle store has two of the Fender tube heads on the floor. I am not sure if they have the smaller Ampeg though. Then, you can return it within thirty days for exchange/refund. Perhaps find one that you like, and make a new post here in the amps section to see if any TBer nearby has one they would be willing to show to you.

    I have done this for someone else before. But due to the usual weight that goes along with tube amps, returns via a shipping carrier can get lame quickly so something like a GC starts to look more attractive. Wait got a sale and go wheel and deal.
  20. TwoRivers


    Aug 26, 2012
    Las Cruces, NM
    I live in Las Cruces, NM. Population is only about 200k. I'm about 40 miles from El Paso, TX, and checked their GC, but they don't have much. Craigslist in Las Cruces and El Paso is surprisingly lame. We have a lot of small shops that scour it religiously, snatch stuff up, and resale at a profit.

    I'll be in Albuquerque, NM, later this month. I called the local shops and checked GC, but it's mostly solid state combos.

    I'd really like to try:

    Peavey VB-2
    Ampeg v-4B

    And I know it's hybrid, but I'd like to try the Orange Terror Bass.

    So far, I haven't found any of these in stock. One place has a Genz Benz hybrid, one has a Mark Bass head, and one has a pro series ampeg. That's it! :(
  21. bobcruz


    Mar 10, 2004
    Alameda, CA
    One of the more versatile 100 watt tube amps is a stereo power amp like this Carvin:


    (I believe Peavey and Mesa make or used to make similar power amps that generally cost a bit more.) At 50 watts per side into 4, 8 or 16 ohms, and 100 watts bridged into 8 or 16 ohms, it can drive quite a few cabinet configurations. Depending on how hot your bass's output is, you may not even need a preamp. I was able to drive mine to full power plugging straight into the input from my Peavey Cirrus, which has an 18 volt preamp but never seemed like a really hot signal to me. But that was an earlier version of the Carvin power amp that only required a 1/2 volt at the input for full power. I believe the newer ones require .75 volts or maybe more (it would be in the manual on Carvin's website). Anyway, I loved mine and only sold it recently because my Streamliner 900 satisfies my desire for tube tone.

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