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Any tonal difference between 4 or 8 ohm cabs?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Yorin, May 2, 2015.

  1. Yorin


    Apr 29, 2015
    Dear Talkbass,

    Is there any tonal difference between a 4 or 8 ohm cabinet if you had enough power to play both at the same volume? I understand that a 4 ohm would be louder but i've seen people mentioning that they've percieved it as 'punchier' than a 8 ohm cabinet, and the 8ohm is percieved to be 'fuller'. But how would that make a difference? I've spotted a lot of mixed responses on sites but is there any science behind it?
    I had a discussion with a shopowner, and he said that if you have the power, an 8 ohm is always better. It would sound fuller and you have the potential to upgrade it with a second cab. I don't think i'd ever get a second cabinet though..
  2. A 4Ω cabinet will allow a typical SS amplifier to output more power than an 8Ω one. That additional power reserve can make a cabinet seem more punchy. The down side is that you are pretty much stuck with one cabinet with a 4Ω minimum bass amplifier.

    In my own case I chose 4Ω impedance cabinets deliberately as I use "stereo" power amps that can handle 2Ω per side.
    SamJ likes this.
  3. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    No difference
    All things being equal, If you do an A/B between two sounds, the louder sound will always sound better. Human trait, simply an illusion.
  4. Yorin


    Apr 29, 2015
    So if they would sound the same on the same volume. Would it make sense to get the one that could go the loudest on a single cab? Or would a 8ohm cab be worth it considering i'd probably can get loud enough anyways on small venues and i would always have the opportunity to upgrade..
  5. With a SS amp the 4 ohm cab might be 10% "louder" at the most over a like 8 ohm cab. Two like 8 ohm cabs are more like 40% louder with the same wattage as the 4 ohm. With a tube amp or a Hellborg (SS with an output transformer) there is no difference in wattage output so the single cabs will be pretty much the same and two 8 ohm will be 35-40% louder than one 4 ohm.
    squidtastic, Downunderwonder and SamJ like this.
  6. iualum


    Apr 9, 2004
    The max volume difference is negligible between a 4-ohm & 8-ohm cab. Most ss/hybrid amps put out ~ 60% to 2/3 the 4-ohm output @ 8-ohms. A doubling of wattage increases volume by 3dB, the smallest increment readily discernible by the human ear outside a sound-controlled environment & especially in a bar/club atmosphere. To double volume, you need 10X the wattage.

    I'd never buy a 4-ohm box because of the nominal volume difference, because another 8-ohm can be added, & because 8-ohm cabs are lots easier to unload when it comes time.
    Last edited: May 3, 2015
    monsterthompson, GMC and Yorin like this.
  7. I would say easily 80% of the gigging people who get 4 ohm cabs come back looking for a magic bullet to add a second for more volume.
    Losbass and Zooberwerx like this.
  8. Yorin


    Apr 29, 2015
    I thought there would be more d
    Very intresting information, thanks a lot! Would almost seem like 8ohm is always the better option.
    Considering my amp puts out 400 watt at 8ohm it should be loud enough. (Depending on sensitivity, sure)
  9. agedhorse

    agedhorse SUSPENDED Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa, Product Support-Genz Benz
    In theory, no difference.

    In practice, it's very difficult to get all the parameters identical between a 4 ohm and 8 ohm driver, so there will usually be some SMALL differences.
    RyFi, Arjank, bassmeknik and 4 others like this.
  10. iualum


    Apr 9, 2004
    IMHO, it is always the better choice :thumbsup: .

    Yes, depends on sensitivity & displacement (vD spec). Displacement is driver surface area multiplied by Xmax. There's no replacement for displacement.

    OP, you haven't mentioned which cab type you're talking about (driver size/quantity).
    Yorin likes this.
  11. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    The "average person" can readily discern a 1dB increment under the right circumstances, which is why Bell Labs used that scaling system.
    RyFi, Arjank, GMC and 2 others like this.
  12. Little 4 ohm cabs are a hangover from tube amps that only liked 4 ohm or 2 ohm loading. Amp salesmen still recommend them ''extra power dude!'' but they are clueless.

    The only reason to get a small 4 ohm cab is if the amp you have can't do the business with an 8 ohm and the little extra makes it all good. It's a tiny sliver of performance range that no nooby bassist has a hope of identifying.
  13. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Any tonal difference between 4 or 8 ohm cabs?

    4 will be louder
  14. Louder is not a tonal difference though. Loudness and tone are two different things. Tone is the quality of sound and loudness is the quantity of sound.
    mbelue likes this.
  15. but only louder if
    the amp can't drive the 8 ohm one to clean limit, rare for modern amps.
  16. True. But offer me a choice of 1dB extra headroom for the gig OR a beer, I'm taking the beer.
    walterw, BassWaffle, hdracer and 2 others like this.
  17. iualum


    Apr 9, 2004
    "Under the right circumstances" is only in a very controlled environment. In real-world situations, with normal noises present, it's almost impossible (if not just plain impossible) to detect a 1 dB volume change. 3 dB increments are generally the smallest that are readily perceptible. Certainly in a club/bar scenario.
    Last edited: May 2, 2015
  18. Yorin


    Apr 29, 2015
    I'm currently looking at a Glockenklang Quattro 8ohm. Which i believe is the german one with volt speakers. (But i geuss i'd have to check the serial number and whatnot)
  19. Yorin


    Apr 29, 2015
    And yet it's funny to see some people SWEAR to hear the difference. I would love to see how they would do in a blind testing :D.
    S-Bigbottom likes this.
  20. Is there any tonal difference between high impedance drivers and lower impedance drivers?
    I think that was OPs question.

    For a given fixed power output will two different impedance cabs sound different?

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