Head vs Preamp/Power Amp

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by CaptainWally, Jun 1, 2001.

  1. CaptainWally

    CaptainWally Supporting Member

    Oct 21, 2000
    Sandy Eggo, CA
    Ok, here is a very good question, but one that
    has probably been answered before. Please
    indulge. I'm considering upgrading my head to
    something a little fancier. I like SWR heads
    quite a bit, and I've considered the rather expensive
    SM-500 (I think I would pay ~1200 new).

    Why would I buy such a product I could buy this

    brand new QSC1602 = $600
    brand new SWR Grand Prix = $450
    = 1050 (1600 watts and cheaper to boot)

    the rig would be 6 lbs heavier and one more
    rack space....

    what do you thinK? Would Grand Prix
    have as many features, etc?

    Is it just the convenience of an all in one package
    that you are paying for here?

  2. Separates are more costly, heavier, use more space, and are also more flexible than heads. Should you choose to add EQ or a crossover for bi-amping, this is very easily done between the preamp and the power amp. You have power capabilites that are unmatched in heads or combos.

    Power amps are available in light weight switching models (Class D) or heavy weight transformer models (Class AB, or H), all in your choice of pounds, price, and wattage. If you bi-amp, you can run your power amp in stereo to handle the highs and lows, or bridged mono for the lows, and add another amp for the highs. Separates allow for balanced connections using either TRS or XLR type connectors for hum prevention.

    If you can grab a new Grand Prix for $450, that is great. There is a used one ending on eBay about an hour from this writing. It appears to be selling for higher than my personal rule of thumb, which is 66% of new discount price, for used gear. The average on eBay for Grand Prix is $299, right at the 66% mark.

    I am selling my SWR Bass 750 not because of tone, but because I am going all separates and bi-amping. If the Grand Prix is anywhere close to my SWR 750, it is very satisfying. YMMV.

    Personally, I would avoid buying new unless there is no other choice. You lose 33% of your investment when you resell. There are several QSC amps on eBay right now. The RMX series is something to consider.. not a light weight Class D like the PLX, and not as heavy as my MX-3000a. The RMX-2450 is a Class H. The Class H amps are more thrifty with power than the Class AB are.

    SKB tells me the maximum weight for their plastic racks is 69 pounds. This is why mine is for sale, as my amp alone is 69 pounds. These are things to consider.
  3. CaptainWally

    CaptainWally Supporting Member

    Oct 21, 2000
    Sandy Eggo, CA
    You have a 69 lb amp?????

    Holy cow!

    Do you get a discount at the chiropractor?

  4. leftybassdog

    leftybassdog Senior Supporting Member

    I may be old, but the more stuff I have to bring to a gig the more I wish it was smaller, I have a SWR 750 and two 4x10 cabs but I use one most of the time due to moving it, I use one rack for my head( 3 space), I let the sound system do most of the work, its live and if I set up all my stuff its up to the sound man anyway, I have 450 watts at 8 ohm or 750 at 4 ohm(2 cabs) , the system has 6000 watts triamped 18 subs 15 mids and more horn then my SWR cabs will ever have, why move all that stuff when a direct box at about 1/2 lb can do it ?
  5. The big QSC MX series weigh in at 69 pounds. No chiropractor, just two of us to put gear on the hand truck.

    My Hammond C3 was 610 pounds, if I remember right. Then there was the full sized Leslie speaker, the complete PA... yada, yada. I gave all that up in 1970 and started playing 5-string banjo. Back to playing bass now, cuz it needs to be done.

    I don't have the luxury of a PA at nearly any gig, and certainly cannot count one being available, so that option is out.
  6. CaptainWally

    CaptainWally Supporting Member

    Oct 21, 2000
    Sandy Eggo, CA
    i do 1 ampeg svt3 = 26lbs
    2 1x15 bag ends-44lbs - very easy to carry
    8 ohms each
    fits in my trunk :)
  7. Nightbass


    May 1, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    Cap'n Wally,

    Seems to me that you get more bang (watts) for the buck with a preamp/power amp rack, but at the expense of a little more weight, an extra rack space, and two power cords to deal with. When it comes to watts, I think we pay more when we buy them from a bass gear mfr than from a pro sound mfr! Just like women have to pay more for the same shirt than men...

    The Grand Prix and QSC PLX is a great combination and will easily outperform the SM-500 and SM-900 in power and headroom, and will sound as good as, if not better than the SWR heads. I just sold my Grand Prix for $400, as I'm not really an SWR guy. But I did use it with my PLX-2402 and it was the bomb. I'd say go for it!

  8. Amen to that.

    I'll never get the maximum wattage out of my MX-3000a, but I will have the headroom it provides. When driving my very inefficient cabs, my SWR 750 is simply out of gas, even turned almost all the way up.

    My preamp choice came down to the luck of the draw: the Alembic F-1X showed up on eBay before the Grand Prix did. I would have gone either way. After owning the SWR 750, I have no doubts whatsoever the Grand Prix is a top piece of gear. I'm in $1245 for the preamp and the power amp. Both are used, and I can get all my investment back, should I choose to resell them.

    Nightbass, why did you sell the Grand Prix, and with what did you replace it?
  9. Nightbass


    May 1, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    I sold my Grand Prix because I had to set the EQ too drastically in order to get the sound I like, and even then it was a little too bright for me. For powerhouse blues and classic rock, I still prefer the Alembic F1-X and SF-2. I do like the Grand Prix, though, and if I could, I'd have a rack with 5 or 6 preamps and the GP would be one of them!

    Another factor is that given a certain bass and cabs, there are preamps which work better than others, and you can't ignore the synergistic effects with your other gear. For example, when I had a pair of Acme Low-B2's, I tried out 5 or 6 preamps and the one that complimented the Acmes best was the Kern, but the Alembic sounded overly scooped. It seems that some preamps have strong mids while others have weak mids, and when you combine them with cabs that have either strong mids or weak mids, the preamp will make it or break it.

    bgavin, here's something you might find interesting: when I started using a power amp with genuine DC bandwidth (an old Crown DC-300A), I noticed that the Alembic F1-X actually passed ultra-low frequencies! When I wiggled a string, the speakers Xmax'd to the max. This is significant because I can't find any other tube preamp that will do this. Tube preamps are capacitor coupled out of necessity, but somehow Alembic managed to give theirs a bandwidth down to 2 or 3 Hz. Maybe that is why the bottom end sounds so good?

  10. Now that's a thought. Just what I need... an amp capable of delivering 3,000 watts of subsonic string motion... Wow... those are the sort of subsonics that completely trash speakers. One of the goodies I want for my rack is a Rane EQ, either an ME30B, or an ME60, both of which have serious subsonic filtering. Thanks for the tip... my F-1X is still in transit, so nothing to report yet.

    I notice the SWR sound is very bright. I don't mind it, but my style tends toward phat, rich bottoms. Even though I play an RB5 (jazz), I admire the tones of Bob Marley's bassist, and similar. Hopefully the F-1X combined with the MX-3000a will give me that tone, cuz this is what I'm hunting for. I don't plan on using the EQ for tone controls, so my rack EQ will be setup once with an analyzer to yield flat response from 31 Hz to 7,000. I only have two tones: jazz growl and P-thud. The rest of it is concentrating on musical style.

    Your point is very well made about all the components having to match to provide a given tone. I still think this is one of the main benefits of separates vs heads.
  11. Ty McNeely

    Ty McNeely

    Mar 27, 2000

    Mine is 75 pounds. Most tube amps are heavy.

  12. FedEx dropped my QSC MX-3000a on the doorstep yesterday morning. It was easier to roll the box into the house than pick it up.