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A Basic Question about Bass Amp Power

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by wafu_vasco, Jan 11, 2014.

  1. Hi Guys,
    Apologies in advance if this question is too elementary, but I can't find an answer anywhere after a bit of internet searching…

    Can somebody please give me a run down on bass amp power?
    My main bass amp is a 100W Trace Elliot solid state combo, an old Series 6 715. I noticed recently that the current model of the 715 has 600 watts. This left me rather confused as to why the huge jump in wattage. I found an online guide to buying bass amps which stated that 'a 100w amp is ok for practise, but you'll need a 200 to 400 watt amp for small gigs.' Well, I've done plenty of small gigs with my 100 watt, my first practise amp was 15 watts and did the job perfectly well and these days my practise amp is a Marshall MB30, with 30 watts - inadequate, according to the guide I read, but from my experience perfectly fine even with jamming with friends.

    So, I'm more confused than ever. Why is the current model of my dear old amp boasting six times the wattage? Is there a rule of thumb to explain this or is it down to individual manufacturers and their products? Any help would be of great assistance!
  2. Jack


    Sep 6, 2003
    Newcastle, UK
    1. The amount of power an amp is capable of outputting is fairly meaningless seeing as it's never actually at max, think about car hp.
    2. Many manufacturers lie or bend the truth anyway.
    3. Even if 1 and 2 weren't true it still takes 10x the power to be twice as loud. So 100->600W isn't really 6x as much at all.
  3. Jack,
    Thanks for such a clear and concise answer, much appreciated!
  4. Not to detract from what Jack offered.
    Amp power has gotten cheaper and cheaper over the years. People like numbers and to remain competitive you either step up your game or stop playing. Most manufacturers either make a definite distinction like mark II or use a new model number. Larger output lets you "get by" with smaller speakers, but there is no substitute for speaker area to get more actual "sound" from lower output power.
  5. Then there's old Trace ratings being squeaky clean. Your 100w combo would get tagged 300w by some manufacturers today.

    Have a crack at the amps forum sticky.
  6. This is really oversimplified but think of amp wattage like lightbulb wattage. If you are in a really small room , a 40 watt lightbulb will light up the room just fine. Take that same 40 watt lightbulb and put it in a bar or auditorium and it will only light up a small area of that room. To light up a much bigger room , you need a 500 watt lightbulb. To some degree , amplifier wattage works the same way.Adding speakers is kinda like adding more light bulbs. Go from 1 40 watt bulb (1 10"speaker) to 8 40 watt bulbs (8 10"speakers) and you get more light but the lightbulbs aren't getting fed properly and as you add more , each lightbulb will get dimmer and dimmer.However , take those 8 lightbulbs and pump them up with 500 watts of power and viola , you have a bright room and none of the lightbulbs are getting dim so to properly light up a bigger room you need more lightbulbs (ie more speakers) and more watts to drive them.Same thing goes for being heard over your bandmates. If they have bright light bulbs , you need a brighter lightbulb to be heard over them. Like I said , this is NOT technical in any way. Just a simple way to kind of understand watts and speaker capabilities. Hope this helps.
    (was that too confusing?":bag:
  7. Jack


    Sep 6, 2003
    Newcastle, UK
  8. Come up for air when you can't take any more.
  9. Thanks very much for all of the answers, guys, particularly as it hasn't gone too technical where I would have gotten lost very quickly! I'll go take a look through the forum sticky section and see what else I can find, as advised.
    I guess the main thing I'm taking away is, as suspected, the number on the amp is just a guide - you've got to play it to know if it does what you want it to and for the small gig sizes I'm doing, it's absolutely fine.
  10. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    If your amp is enough and you like the sound, that's all there is to it, and you should be congratulated for knowing how to play to your band. I use a little 35w practice amp on some of my gigs and I could do almost all my gigs with not much more than the 35 watter. There are some who play louder than others and need to carry larger and louder rooms with their rigs, though, and 200-400w is generally considered enough to get respectably loud, so it's usually recommended as an entry level gigging rig. SS watts can be pretty cheap these days, and it's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. But if you know that a 100w amp is all the amp you need, then a 100w amp is all you need.
  11. soulman969


    Oct 6, 2011
    The biggest issue with a bass amp is having enough power to produce the low frequencies a bass puts out cleanly and without distortion. The higher the output the greater the amount on clean headroom you have when you do push for more volume.

    This became more important as bass amp converted from tubes to solid state. SS distortion isn't very pleasant so it's to be avoided as much as possible. Also as Downunderwonder pointed out these day some manufacturers produce some overly optimistic power ratings for there amps. Especially the newer Class D digital ones.

    I've played a lot of club dates with older analog SS 150w and 200w amps with no problem at all and even now I'm still using one 200w and one 250w combo and they work fine for my needs even in fairly good sized rooms. It may be nice to have a 750w-1000w rig but in many cases it's overkill.

    If your rig works for your needs that all that's important.