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Benefits of separates?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by OriginalCrash, Aug 14, 2007.

  1. So what are they? I'm not talking about a separate head and cab; I mean separate preamp, power amp, and cab. Is it just the same ideas taken a step further? Versatility, quality, etc.?

  2. Smallmouth_Bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    It leaves you open to more options:
    - You can upgrade one part without having to change the other.
    - You can (usually) and a cab after.
    - Depending on the weight, it can be easier to carry.
    - You have more choices to mix and match heads and cabs.
  3. Altitude

    Altitude An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure. Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2005
    Denver, nee Austin
    I think it's mostly about flexibility in output options. In a separates situation you can pick a preamp you like, and power anything from a single 12" cabinet to a wall of 8x10s by using the appropriate power amp configuration. Said another way, if you buy a nice preamp, you won't grow out of it, and even if you grow out of your power amp you can probably just add a second one and not lose any of your original investment. One could argue that you could just as easily add an outboard power amp to expand the reach of a head, however.

    There are also some boutique electronics companies that specialize in either preamp technology or power amp technology but not both. Some would say that to have an optimized tone rig, it's necessary to go "best of breed" to manufacturers that specialize in each area.
  4. So what are some good power amps that people like? I've read a lot more about preamps (obviously... being the tone shaping stage, they get more attention), but the only power amps I remember really seeing much about were Stewart Audio... And most of that was just people saying they have them and like them. I know companies like Crown, Crest, QSC, Peavey, and Yamaha make pro sound power amps... Anything particularly different between them and the ones used in a bass rig?

  5. peterpalmieri

    peterpalmieri Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Babylon, NY
    While I do understand the flexibility it seems to be a PITA to me.

    We are in the golden age of bass equipment IMO there are so many great heads out these days with awesome preamps I don't really see the benefit vs. the additional weight, cabling etc.

    There are obvious benefits if you have a favorite preamp(s) that doesn't come packaged with a power section or you need a gazillion watts that only a Crown Macro tech can provide, then this is the option for you.
  6. pablomigraine

    pablomigraine Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2005
    New York
    VP & Managing Director - Willcox Basses
    Benefits are, to me anyway:

    Flexibility in output ( ie multiple cabs, the ability to biamp, x-over )
    PA amps perform much better than integrated heads IME
    You can change preamps!
  7. Yeah, for me I think I'll definitely just go the head/cab route. I'm the opposite of the two reasons you gave... I don't have a lot of experience with dedicated preamps, and I don't need a ton of power. I'm just curious and wanting to learn a bit more about it.

  8. Altitude

    Altitude An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure. Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2005
    Denver, nee Austin
    Not really - a power amp is a power amp, mostly. The relative quality of low-end versus high end power amps is subject to vigorous debate, even.

    There are a few things differentiating power amps, from quality and design approach perspectives. From a quality perspective, they are rated on THD (total harmonic distortion), damping factor, and a couple of other things that are all meaningful in an absolute sense, but most of the commercially available products today score reasonably well in all of them.

    From a design perspective, you'll find various approaches to the delivery and amplification of the power. Stewart, which you mentioned, is most known for switching "digital" power amp sections that deliver an extremely good power-to-weight ratio. Crest audio, conversely, has the CA-9, perhaps an industry standard traditional (and heavy) power amp that brings loads and loads of old school power.

    You could do a few searches in this section and find lots of spirited discussions about the merits of each design and everything in between.
  9. It all comes down to how much you like to tinker with your rig and just how partial you to a particular pre-amp or power-amps sound. A lot of people are perfectly happy with a garden variety combo and have more gigs than they can play. Others are extreemly picky about their sound and wouldn't think of using anything less than a pre-power setup with a boutique cab. I've done both and right now I'm sorta in a very simple mode. I use a 2x10 combo and add 1x15 extension when needed. Does it sound as good as the pre-power-boutique cab? No but it's a lot less complicated and I'm into simple.
  10. To me, the benefit is often cost. When I first moved to separates, I was looking for an Ampeg SVTIII Pro - at $899. With a little patience I put together an Ampeg SVP preamp and a Stewart 1.2 power amp for about $500. So I ended up with a 1200 watt SVT (as opposed to 350 watts) that weighed much less for almost half the cost.

    Then when I stumbled onto an Alembic F1-X at a Vegas online pawn shop for $225, I was all set to go! :hyper:
  11. The definitely something to be said in having preamp/eq/compression/crossover all in a single head. Makes setup and tear down a lot easier.

    However, my yorkville AP3400 is a great unit...cost 400 bucks and sticks out 1200 watts per side at 4ohms. Its really powerful.
    Behringer limiter, DBX EQ, rack box, BDDI this all comes in ~600-750 on the used market, so its definitively reasonably cost effective and in terms of headroom and muscle will outperform most bass heads I think. And you can use it as a PA system.

    But still, the amount of wires and farting around if theres a suspected problem in the signal is def a PITA. Same with pedal board. I'm starting to wonder if I've broken the Keep It Simple Rule and should get a rack preamp with EQ/crossover etc, and go back to just a BDDI and English Muffin with nothing else.
  12. peterpalmieri

    peterpalmieri Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Babylon, NY

    I have personally never had the need for an additional EQ unit beyond that in the preamp section of my head. For me the same can be said for compression and a crossover.

    These all seem to be useful tools for a PA system but why a bass rig?
  13. joelb79


    Mar 22, 2006
    Lansing, Michigan
    I would not go that direction to save weight but if you are looking for more tone options, pre/power amps + cabs is the way to go.
  14. Cost drove me that way. And location - I live in Perth after all.

    An SVT over here is $4500+ brand new. The ORange AD200B is $4000.
    I bought a SVPCL pre and a 1600w poweramp, and recently a 200w All-tube SLAVE amplifier all over the 'bay, for less than half the price all combined of the SVT - and I have two poweramps now, with different tone and voicing.
    :smug: Very useful for when one breaks down, or when I want different sounds for recording.
  15. CrashClint

    CrashClint I Play Bass therefore I Am

    Nov 15, 2005
    Wake Forest, NC
    DR Strings Dealer (local only)
    I am using a SVT Pro4 head and I like having the flexibility of using different cab combinations for a room. Go with 2-112, 112 + 210, 2-210 not to mention throwing a 115 into the mix.

    I still keep my 15 year old Super Redhead combo around, but find myself using it less and less.

    SMO, I feel for you, maybe instead of Free Trade Coffee, we should have Free Trade Equipment!
  16. eotpr


    Jun 25, 2007
    My Stack has a head, a cab with 2X10, and a 1X15. I could have gotten it all in one but this is much easier to move. And now if I want to upgrade I can without getting rid of the whole thing.
  17. groove pump

    groove pump

    Oct 24, 2006
    I was enjoying the "keep it simple" approach to the gear until I found a really good preamp that gave me all the tone and flexibility I could want. Suddenly my head became a 400 watt power amp with lots of knobs and sliders that I wasn't using, so I turned it over and bought a healthy power amp for low dough and zero regrets.

    A head has to do everything well in terms of your needs or else one drawback renders the whole thing not quite right. "Separates" make it easier to get the whole rig working right for you, but if you have a head that gives you everything you want, life is good... and usually a little more portable, but racks fit in my Corolla easier than bigger cabs!
  18. peterpalmieri

    peterpalmieri Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Babylon, NY
    What are the sonic diffences from using a dedicated power amp say: Crown XTI vs. Stewart vs. QSC or a dedicated bass power amp Demeter vs. Aguilar vs. SWR vs. Glock.

    I wonder if these power amps interact differently with different pre amps and cabinets. For sure the tube ones do although that doesn't seem to be in to many rigs posted in this thread.

    How many variables are there to consider or are they not noticable to those that use this method?

    i.e. The Alembic preamp sounds terrible with X power amp but great with Y...The Demeter Pre amp sounds great with X and terrible with Y...
  19. I think that if you are happy with a certain sounding pre, you should go that way. Personally, its too much stuff to go wrong. So many cables.
  20. srxplayer


    May 19, 2004
    Highland, CA

    Any of those brands make good products. It depends on how much money you want to spend, how much you want it to weigh, and maybe what type of routing/hook up options you want.

    I'm using a QSC RMX 2450 with a BBE BMax pre amp and I'm happy with it. Previously I was using the BMax with a Crown XLS 402 and getting good results but wanted a little more power and being able to run dual mono out puts which the Crown wouldn't do..

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