With the growing number of threads directed towards going direct and lightweight amps I think it’s about time for a thread which brings us back to some punch-you-in-the-chest reality and why some of us will never let go of the heavy iron. So why full-sized stage amps when running into a FOH system can get you just as loud? In my opinion, the answer to this question is what separates the boys from the men with regards to your sound. Somewhere along the way, the lure of minimalist setups has fooled guitarist and bassists into giving up their beloved stage possessions… namely their amplifiers. In some cases, giving them up totally, and in others trading them for stage monitor versions of their amplifiers. This was done under the thought that ‘it sounds just as good out front’. Well guess what? No, no it doesn’t. It doesn’t in a small bar, and it doesn’t in a concert venue. And, your live playing might take a dive as well. First off, just like cymbals and snare drums real amplifiers reverberate off the walls and ceiling – even in large venues. These reflections come at you in a multi-directional fashion and carry not only realistic characteristics of the amp but also the ‘color’ of the venue which you are playing in. And, it sounds awesome! This akin to a real band vs. a DJ or band in a box. Sound which is originated or largely amplified by the FOH is generally coming from isolated points left and right. And, this is done without the benefit of studio processing where mic placement, reverb, delay and compression have been strategically used to give the illusion of reality. Combine the sound projection coming from a glorified stereo with a flat mix and you are no aural competition for the real deal. Most people may not be able to put their finger on it, but they can tell the sound is kind of… meh, lacking excitement. Well, how about full-sized ‘light weight’ amps? I’m sorry to say, but there is a certain ‘heft’ to the sound of the old school gear. For many reasons it’s the heavy components in transformers, speakers, and cabinets that just can’t be beat when you want the best sound without compromise. In the end, I am certainly not telling anyone what gear you should use – use whatever makes you happy. But, if you’d like some straight talk on how to go directly to some world class sound, go for classic gear. Gear that is sized right for your stage and venue when using the FOH for reinforcement – not your primary sound source. Lean towards tube or solid-state amps with reputations of being work horses. You don’t need to over do it with speaker cabinets, but, bring enough so that your cabinets have plenty of head room to support your sound. There’s a reason why so many touring bass players use 2 4x10’s or an 8x10. Do you need that? No. Will it give you amazing authority, touch sensitivity and headroom? Absolutely. Gear that is undersized takes away your feel. Again, none of this is necessary. But if you’ve reached the point where you and your band just need a great sound than hopefully this helps you find your way. Lastly, while hefty amps and speaker cabinets do play and sound great in all sized venues, they can ruin your hearing and give you tinnitus. This is some serious stuff my brothers. Regardless of your amp size, you should have controlled stage volume and use in ears. Rock on!