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Amp Reliability - Heavy vs. Light

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Smallmouth_Bass, May 7, 2006.

  1. Smallmouth_Bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    Are older (or even newer) amps that weigh a ton and feel like a tank more reliable than the newer under 20lb amps out there?
  2. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Depends on the amp.

    My 20 year old Peavey is still kicking after 20 years. So is my old 20 year old GK.

    My new GK just turned four and is still hauling arse. They're building them so solid these days, but there are some old ones that are just as reliable. I would say, however, that the new ones are more reliable due to technology. They're lighter and more efficient because of technology, not because they're skimping on reliability.
  3. spectorbass83


    Jun 6, 2005
    Peavey seems to have a very good reputation for building big as$, rock-solid, reliable rigs that could take a serious beating.
  4. throw_this_away


    Mar 30, 2006
    many modern tube amps are lighter because of terroidal transformers saving weight. digital power sources also save lots of weight in the modern super light solid state amps.
  5. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    I'm not sure weight and reliability are related.
    Some power supplies and transformers are heavy. Some aren't.
    Build quality can be good or bad despite power supply weight.
    I have an Eden Navigator pre with a qsc/plx power amp: pretty light. Dead reliable so far, neither are three years old yet, I don't think.
    I had a Mesa 400+. Big heavy mofo. Fairly old when I bought it. Never failed either.
    I have a thunderfunk 420, about a year old. Pretty light, dang powerful, also dead reliable so far...
  6. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    Weight has almost no bearing on reliability. I am sure the 80 lb sunn 300 heads would last forever with proper tube maintenance, as will my GK if I quit breaking off the knobs.
  7. Pickebass

    Pickebass Supporting Member

    Jul 12, 2004
    San Antonio, TX
    I think the reliability issue becomes an issue with low end vs. high end rather than weight. One of the problems with SOME lower priced models is that everything is built onto the circuit board. This can be a problem with something as simple as a pot breaking, which could lead to an expensive replacement of the entire board. Of course, this applies to solid state amps.

    I think with heavier amps, you have less problems with reliability, because no one is throwing the amp around.
  8. billfitzmaurice

    billfitzmaurice Commercial User

    Sep 15, 2004
    New Hampshire
    Owner, Bill Fitzmaurice Loudspeaker Design
    The reason most ultra-light amps are lighter is that their high efficiency power supplies don't need large/heavy transformers, and their output sections create less heat, so they don't need as much heat sinking or cabinet space to contain heatsinks and fans. Since heat is the number one killer of the components in an amp, right down to the wiring, lighter weight and higher reliability can go hand in hand.
  9. Jerrold Tiers

    Jerrold Tiers

    Nov 14, 2003
    St Louis
    Any type of amplifier can be made very reliable, regardless of the weight, technology employed, etc.

    That said, reliability generally is related to the total number of components.

    Ever component has a reliability in terms of number of failures per "x" number of hours operation. That is obviously affected by heat etc, hot components fail faster. But even under ideal conditions, every component type has a failure rate.

    The more components, the higher the failure rate.....

    The whole thing is affected by the cost, because reliable components cost more originally, and you do things like de-rating (example: use a 2 watt rated part where you might normally use a 1 watt rated part).

    From a strict reliability point of view, a properly designed "iron transformer" power supply, for instance, is probably always going to be "more reliable" than a properly designed switchmode supply that has maybe 5 times the number of components.

    Is that a reason to shy away from lightweight units? Probably not. Designed and built right, they can all last longer than you will want to use them.

    It's going to be hard to beat the units that are still running that were built in the 1960s. That may be more a factor of obtaining components for repair.

    Newer components have a lifetime in production of 10 years, often less. There are tube types that have been in production now for 50 years, and the supporting components are still available.

    I strongly doubt that will be the case for most "high tech" components of today.... It's a hard record to beat.
  10. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    SMPS can and often adds regulation. An amp with a regulated power supply does better on different voltages you're going to find in many live situations.

    There's nothing, except costs, that keep SS manufacturers from taking a modular design and allowing chunks of amps to be swapped out. This costs to much. And the industry is not going to agree on and stick on some old ancient architecture just so parts can be swapped out. And the parts are just not going to fail that much. Reliability is built into the designs. You are going to run into cheap amps that cost and hype are more important than reliability.

    You have to admit the cost of a new power amps, as clean, powerful, and reliable as they are today - is a great buy. Having to replace the whole unit, if a failure occurs in 10 years, is not a financial worry. Just put away a little of the money you would have put into maintenance of a less reliable amp away every year.
  11. Smallmouth_Bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    I've got a 48lb head that can be tough to move. I am convinced that my last (and only) "malfunction" was because I probably banged it around struggling with the weight and knocked something loose. Luckly it was a cheap and easy fix, but I am wondering if going to a light weight design might be the way to go. My back is saying yes!
  12. Wrong. It will just shut down sooner. The regulation required to keep a switching supply working ONLY regulates its DC output to the emitter devices. If the AC input voltage is not sufficent or is too high, a switching supply cannot compensate for it, and as a matter of fact, in low AC line voltage conditions, a traditional transformer based supply with its large capacitor bank has a distinct advantage over a switching amp in terms of reliability.

    What kind of amp is "less reliable" and requires "maintenance" that will even begin to pay for a similar amp in a decade's time? Any manufacturer of an amp that crappy would be hard pressed to stay in business.
  13. jokerjkny


    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PHL
    hmm, lets do that math...

    two amps in the back of a van. one 15 lbs. box that's easier to throw around than your briefcase vs. one 90 lbs. behemoth that'll only move when the force of three roadies are present.

    wonder which'll last longer? :p

    with that said, anything that's well cared for will last a long while. also, tech has come to a point where lightweight doesnt necessarily mean "flimsy".
  14. eots


    Dec 18, 2004
    Morris, IL.
    A heavy amp is more likely to get dropped, scraped,scuffed and swore at.
    Weight aside, design plays a bigger role. Like board mounted pots and tubes. These items require rigid surfaces to keep them stable. Screw the face of a pot to the front panel while it's soldered to board that is secured to an adjacent surface, will subject stress on it when the chassis flexes.
    Simple things like putting sturdy handles in convienient locations help protect the guts from excessive banging.
    Electronic design is another key. Some manufactures will forego certain elements or protection circuits to keep costs down. Plug something in the wrong port and you may find out just what was eliminated.
    Another often forgotten aspect, is documentation. What's the difference between a Fender and a Mesa Boogie? Which one can you obtain prints for? Consequently, you see a lot of old Fender amps still in service cuz they let people fix them.
    A brands reputation for reliability goes along way when they have a lot of product out there still doin' it's thing.

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