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Amp Reliability

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Jim C, Dec 30, 2012.

  1. Jim C

    Jim C Spector#496:More curves than Sophia + better sound Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    I nearly bought a MB Fusion today; have also considered other micros to include GK MB500/800, Carvin BX500 /1500, Ampeg PF500, as well as lightweight power amps like Carvin, Peavey, etc.
    I spent a few hours searching reliability on TB today.

    I have been a player for many years and have gigged with the following amps:
    Acoustic 450 & 370
    Ampeg SVT, V4B, 3Pro, SVP-CL/SVP1500, B-15, B-15T
    Fender Basman & Showman
    Kustom 100 & 200
    Marshall (transistor amp)

    At the risk of being cursed, I have NEVER had an amp go down at a gig, rehearsal, or audition. Of course the above are either tube or old fashioned power output sections.
    Statistically I am certain I've played under low voltage conditions.

    Understood that new designs will have teething issues.
    I want light weight but will not trade off for reliability at this time.

    2 questions:
    Can I assume reliability will increase with micro amps as time goes on?
    Is there a micro amp that has proven to be more reliable based on the same sales volume? Realize this would be hard to quantify but wonder if some of the boutique manufacturers have spent more time & money on either better designs or more beta testing.

    Please don't turn this into a popularity contest or amp bashing thread. I think the above is a fair question assuming there is data available to support an accurate answer.

    I suppose that the trade off for lightweight could be reliability based on current technology.
  2. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    I gigged the mb2-500 (a07) really hard. For me it was flawless. Bought an mb200 basef on that. It is my main gigging amp today - mostly my amp is a monitor so I don't require big power all the time. it's been flawless as well. last fall I sold the 500 to a local bud who loves it. I picked up a Streamliner 600 which maybe the most thoughtfully constructed amp I 've ever owned. incredibly well put together. so far, so good. tonally it's a love it or leave it proposition. that's a given with the Streamliners. quality wise there is no argument IMO/E.

    i has way more issues back in my boo- teak rack phase... come to think of it, other than the tube coming loose, I never gad an. issue with my ancient WT800A either...

    so, far as I'm concerned... amps are getting better all the time.
  3. MyMusic


    Jun 1, 2010
    Dover, De
    I don't gig at present, but I have had my Carvin amps (BX series) for the last two years and I have not had any problems with them. And while I am extremely happy with mine, the only amps that I think I have heard the least negative reports about have been the Aguilars and Genz Benz.
    Having worked in manufacturing and quality control, I think a problem of some sort will be found in anything. The issue is how well the manufacturer can rectify that problem and minimize future incidents.
  4. Baird6869

    Baird6869 RIP Gord Downey. A True Canadian Icon. Supporting Member

    I find the micros and newer (and much more complicated) SS amps are absolutely less reliable than the old tube amps and earlier SS amps.

    For example, I had a Markbass F1 die on a gig, a Genz 12.0 foot switch die and 2 Mesa M9s crap out during gigs. Lots of malfunctions in 4-5 years considering the amps I used to use from the 80s to late 90s never malfunctioned unless a tube blew. Ampeg, Hiwatt, Fender, Mesa and GK amps.... ALWAYS worked great. Look at SVTs, 400+ and 800RB amps (popular years ago) and compare the nmber of issues to some of today's top amps like the M6/M9, Ampeg 7pro, etc.

    Also, if a new micro blows you are likely buggered. Many of these amps are basically disposable.

    In any case, the MB Fusion I owned worked perfectly.... And I have not heard of many issues with this amp.
  5. boristhespider9


    Sep 9, 2008
    I own and have gigged both a Markbass Little Mark III and a Genz-Benz Shuttle 6.0. Both great amps. The Genz-Benz seems to occasionally clip early (sometimes going into protection mode) with very hot basses such as a Music Man Sterling. With passive basses, not a single issue.

    The Markbass is my amp of choice and has not had a single issue with active or passive basses even when pushed hard.

    As far as reliability data, I doubt much is available. You're going to get a lot of anecdotal evidence going both ways. I think many of the kinks have been worked out of the micros and if you buy a new one today, you're going to be in good shape.
  6. I had a Crown K1 fault in a show one time. It was a known Cap. issue that Crown covered under warranty even though it was a year out. I had my SWR SM900 back up handy.

    As far as tube amps being more. This is not true. They do not take bus and trailer jiggling very well. They MUST be properly maintained in order to be reliable. SS amps can take A LOT of miss use.

    Also keep in mind that, more than likely, you'll never see a tube FOH power amp. (George Jones still uses a tube rig. So I won't say "never.")

    There's a reason other than weight that airplanes are NOT tube. Computers are SS. Your car is SS. SS has a long, PROVEN reliability record.

    Early "digital" power amps (what you call micro) weren't very reliable. But that was 15 years ago. Now that has been corrected. They are extremely reliable. I've giged my Bag End Powered cab for 2 years with out a flinch. I don't even carry a spare now.

    If someone has a history of blowing amps up, it's more than likely user error. This is rare for a modern amp.
  7. Jim C

    Jim C Spector#496:More curves than Sophia + better sound Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    The issue I am referring to is not tubes vs. transistors vs. solid state devices topic, but rather the amp design class as well as power supply design.

    As far as FOH, AFAIK the big touring companies are back to using big iron amps for reliability as opposed to saving fuel costs with lightweight gear.
  8. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN


    All of my amps in the last 10 years have been the lightweight variety. None have had issues. My PA rig is currently setup with Peavey IPRs. No issues.
  9. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I figure, if amps are less than 100% reliable, then there's no way for your regular joe bassist, including me, to choose a design topology based on expected reliability. I realized that I had no practical choice but to carry a spare. The beauty of the micro heads is that tossing an entire spare amp into the car requires virtually zero effort.

    I had an amp fail once due to a broken power switch.
  10. Jim C

    Jim C Spector#496:More curves than Sophia + better sound Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    I'm referring to large touring companies like Claire Brothers; I could be wrong but believe most of the big boys are back using iron transformer Crowns.

    Sorry to feed the derail; my question was about MI amps.
  11. Culpritbassman


    Sep 13, 2012
    Humble tx
    they are more expensive, but well worth it. Ampeg is the way to go. im running a huge ampeg v4b folded horn cab ( i call it the fridge), with a trace elliot 300 watt head. the cab is vintage, from the late 70's, and the head has been through 2 different bands, touring, and local gigs, in and out of cars, trucks, trailors, etc. the head, not very heavy at all. maybe 25-lbs. the cab however is 168lbs. very big. if you want long life and reliability for bass, go with ampeg. i like ampegs with 15 inch speakers. you might look for the same. deep sound, usually hardcore drivers, and in any case, changing speakers ( if ever need be) is easy and in my case, only 2 of them. so you dont have to replace 8 10's. ( cheaper in my case.) my cab came with d140 speakers, and i replaced them with eminence 15's due to old age, and the need to replace speaker coils after power surge that messed them up. however, before that, they were still amazing and at 40+ yrs old, unbeatable. i'll say it again, AMPEG! and i understand you are looking for micro amps yes ( did not forget about you), ampeg has a single speaker, 15 inch, that delivers great sound, and is pretty easy to haul anywhere. get a good head unit, and you're good to go.
  12. Jim C

    Jim C Spector#496:More curves than Sophia + better sound Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Interesting thoughts.
    Are you saying that the different topologies can all have the same expected reliability and, that problems are more based in in design, implementation and QC?
  13. boristhespider9


    Sep 9, 2008
    What's 100% reliable? Anything can fail...especially if you drop it on concrete or the drunk guy at the gig finds a way to knock over your amp or spill a pitcher on it. But the valid point is, if you do want to carry a backup (I never do for my Little Mark III except for an Eden preamp/DI pedal), it's easy to buy the smallest GK or Carvin micro, for example, that are really small and inexpensive as a great backup head.
  14. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    I've seen some repair frequency figures somewhere, on TB, I believe. Markbass rated well, with fewer repairs than most (at least, if not the fewest). Sorry, but I don't remember the numbers.
  15. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa, Product Support-Genz Benz
    Jim- I don't recall seeing an A level tour using conventional line frequency tranformer type amps in at least 3 or 4 years. I also don't think Crown makes anything except SMPS/Class D type amps for their touring products either.
  16. Jim C

    Jim C Spector#496:More curves than Sophia + better sound Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Thanks for the correction.
    Any words of wisdom regarding old tech vs new tech amps vs. reliability?

    Maybe my good fortune is not so common for others when playing "back in the day".
  17. Basshappi


    Feb 12, 2007
    This may not be relevant but my Peavey MkIV bass amp has been 100% reliable since I bought it new in 1983. I cannot even begin to guess how many hours of operation it has logged in that time. I take care of my equipment but it hasn't been babied, it has very often been run hard and put away hot! :D

    I also have an Ampeg BA115HP (SLM) that I bought new back in 2000 that has seen much rehearsal and gigging use over the years. Aside from a wonky mute switch it has also been 100%.

    Over 30 years of performing I have played through Acoustic (original), Ampeg, Fender and Sunn as well as various preamp/power amp configs and all have served well. Of course all of these were "big iron" amps, I have never owned Type D amps.
  18. Tvrtko


    Dec 27, 2002
    South of the USA
    As a professional electronic guy that worked on everything in last 30+ years, I (generally) refer to these days as a "post-consumer age".
    I've seen flaws in old technology, I've seen attempt to improve it and I've seen failure to accomplish it. Dare problem these days are caps. In the old days, caps were made huge with paper insulation and very rigid. That's very old technology, very expensive and "dirty". So, most of the Western countries outlawed cap production as a dirty process and they are making it now in different jungles all over the Globe, where "protection of nature" is still not in local vocabulary.
    Price of those caps went significantly low, as well as the quality. QC is based on simply model - 0.1% sample from stockpile of caps will determine entire production. Buyer (amp producer or dealer) will test couple of cups from the stockpile and if they all pass, it might go for the second round or declare those caps 100% according to specification. During the warranty period they will find out how many products fail. Major manufacturers have 3-5% in warranty failure rate as acceptable and it's called "A" production. "B" production will have failure rate (in warranty) up to 15%.... So, in these days buyer is actual QC. They will work AFTER THE FACT that product failed to find a fix.
    In the old days they did it in their facility, until product is ready for sale.

    Further - these days is "digital era" that requires a bunch of small caps to stabilize voltage and separate several low level voltages, they are using these days. As much electrolytic caps you have in any circuit board, your chances are greater for product to fail.

    More crap - modern electronic constructions are minimalistic in the nature. There is no "double" or "triple" over-sized parts. They are all made to sustain minimal thermal differences, minimal weight and minimal price and well as minimal dimensions.

    Output units (in solid state amps) were mostly made with integrated amps (what my kids called "chocolate with a legs"), they don't have thermal tolerance like old amp outputs and they usually have crappy lifespan.

    If you want something dependable, chose old "analog" amp, with less features and huge cabinets. Any amp that has a FAN does not enter my home (well I have 2 of them - new Acoustics. But, I don't use them outside home and if they fail, I will just throw them in the garbage)...
    I am "oldtimer" and I will be "oldtimer" to the rest of my life. If you like fancy "yellowish" thing behind your back, go for it. Just buy couple of them, so, you can throw them right after they fail. Make my day...
  19. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa, Product Support-Genz Benz
    It all comes down to the quality and thoroughness of the design as well as the execution in manufacturing.

    Crown, Crest (Peavey) and QSC (kind of the big 3 in the U.S.) all have a good track record in the SMPS/Class D arena.

    Same can be said abroad with PowerSoft, Lab Gruppen, IcePower.

    Doing high tech well is not easy, takes enormous resources and skill set. Done well, the rewards and benefits are absolutely worth it, and it's indeed possible to do it with exceedingly high reliability. This is precicely why we choose IcePower for our SMPS/Class D collaboration. I had worked with them on some pro audio projects many years back and was impressed with their grasp of the technology as well as the manufacturing needs on a very large scale. They are certainly not the inexpensive solution, but there's plenty of companies out there promoting their class D race to the mottom marketing. IMO, that generally comes with a reliability cost that is pretty expensive in the long run.
  20. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa, Product Support-Genz Benz
    IMO, You greatly under-estimate the capabilities of the modern electronics industry. I too am an "old timer", but I am also completely current on modern technology. Frankly, the good old days were not as good as you may remember them to be ;)

    Good designs, well executed in today's modern era will be vastly superior to what we had to work with 30 - 40 years ago when the parts were simply incapable of the necessary performance... at any cost.