How many watts/cabinets do i need to gig with??

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by IvanMike, Nov 23, 2004.

  1. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    You asked for it. Here's the 1st generic thread for the FAQ sticky thread. This one gets asked a lot and we all have our different opinions. So post yours. Include answers for different gig sizes, types of music, etc. Feel free to post links to any of your favorite threads where this topic has been addressed as well.

    i merged this thread with an old one i did - below is my original post and the original reply by sundouge.

    There are many situations where a player can get away with using a small 100 watt combo or what have you. I'm not really adressing these type of situations, rather I'm coming from the perspective of advising someone who can only have one rig and wants enough flexibility volume wise to be able to play medium sized gigs, play with moderately loud guitar players and drummers, etc, and who doesn't want to find out in a year that what was fine for practice won't cut it in the gigging world.

    There are two factors to consider, watts and speaker configuration. As far as watts go I feel that you should have an amp that will put out at least 200 watts into the speakers you are using, and that 400 watts is much closer to optimum. Before choosing an amp you should determine what speakers you are going to use and what the total impedance of the cabinet(s) will be so you can make sure you'll be actually using 200 - 400 watts at that impedence.

    In terms of minimum speaker requirements i think a single 12", two 10" drivers, or a single 15" speaker is the bare minimum. I'm also in favor of having a two 8 ohm cabinets instead of one 4 ohm one if you can manage it. A 4 ohm 4x10 or 2x12 is actually great, but i'm not a huge fan of 4 ohm 2x10 cabs. (ditto for 4 ohm 1x12 or 1x15 cabs). All things being equal a 4 ohm 2x10 will be only slightly louder than an 8 ohm 2x10 on the same amp. You're better off saving your money and getting a second 2x10, 1x12 or 1x15 in the future which will give you more volume due to the additional speaker area.
  2. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    While it is purely subjective, that pretty much sums it up.

    400 watts is "typically" enough to get one through most situations.

    A single 8 ohm cab does give one options, whereas a 4 ohm limits a person, unless they have an amp that goes down to 2 ohms, which is not that common.

    While what works for one person may not work for another, there are common denominators. Factors such as types of venues played, how manageable the setup is (weight/size) and type of music and kind of musicians played with will all come into play in determining what kind of amp/cab is needed.

    But generally you are right on. Those who have tiny practice amps will be disappointed when they play with a group and it ain't gonna cut it live. Those who are buying 100 watt heads/combos will probably upgrade in the near future anyway, so why not get something useful and practical for the future as well.

    Lord knows there is so much gear available these days, there is no reason a person can't be adequately equipped right from the start. Of course GAS will more than likely take over at some point and then all bets are off. :)
  3. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
  4. cb56


    Jul 2, 2000
    Central Illinois
    Don't forget about those folks that use stereo power amps in their rigs (like me). Stereo power amps usually are able to run a 4 ohm cab per side. Some can run 2 ohm load per side. I agree 300 to 400 watts is usually enough to gig with.
  5. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    I'd say watts-wise, 450 watts at 8 ohms is my personal minimum. I prefer more power for headroom but I'm also into overkill ;) . For ease of transport I prefer smaller 8 ohm cabs - in my case a 2-10" and a 1-15". If necessary, I can add another 2-10"/1-15" cab setup and power each "stack" with my stereo power amp at 4 ohms per side. Up until recently, I'd been using 4-10" cabs. My last 4-10" cabs were both 4 ohm cabs, I now understand the benefits of cabinets wired at 8 ohms.

    - Art
  6. Zirc


    May 13, 2001
    Los Angeles
    350W works just fine for me. Most of the time it's DI anyway. 350W at 4 ohm through 8 10s. Sometimes when we go on the road and I can't fit both 4x10s, I only bring one and it's fine (260W @ 8ohms I think) as long as my sonic maximizer is on. It was pretty rough without the BBE sonic maximizer though.

    - Chris
  7. yea same here, about 400-500 would be pretty good, but to have really great tone and headroom probable about 1,000 watts, usually more speakers makes more of a differance then more watts, like a 400 amp with a 8x10 will be MUCH louder than a 1,000 watt head with a 4x10 (unless its a schroeder)
  8. ESP-LTD


    Sep 9, 2001
    One thing that folks might want to consider is having more than one rig. Practice is a LOT more fun when you don't have to carry an amp around and do setup. The combo you leave at the house doesn't have to be anything special; just enough for you and your stereo.

    Otherwise, I'd concur with what has been said, that 300-500w is a pretty flexible power level. Anything needing more power should have some PA support.
  9. Lowtonejoe

    Lowtonejoe Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2004
    Richland, WA
    I think 300w at 8ohms and a 15" cab at 8ohms is the bare minimum. If the room is really small (70 people) you can get away with a 12" 8ohm cab at that wattage but then your rig just got alot less flexible.

    This way when you get another cab (as long as it is 8 ohms) you will be able to use both cabs and your amp will generally (I know there are exceptions) pump out around 500w at 4 ohms if you get 300 at 8 ohms.
  10. alexclaber

    alexclaber Commercial User

    Jun 19, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Director - Barefaced Ltd
    900W and one Acme Low-B2 does a nice job for me. 1800W and two Low-B2's is enough to handle pretty big/loud gigs without PA support.

    If you get into a volume war with a guitarist armed with a Fender Twin or Marshall half-stack you'll need immense power and sensitivity to cope. But if you're with people willing to play musically then 300W and a 2x12" will be fine for almost anything.

  11. boogiebass


    Aug 16, 2000
    Personally, I won't use less than 600 watts into a 4 ohm load (old EA iamp600) although I do occasionally use that amp into an 8 ohm load with a single 112. Headroom=good! ;)
  12. Joe Beets

    Joe Beets Guest

    Nov 21, 2004
    There isn't such a thing as "overkill" when it comes to bass wattage. That's what those knobs on the front are for, you just don't turn them up all the way. I'm running a PLX3002 right now and sometimes I get GAS for a PLX3402. Those giant RMX power amps look good, too. What's that big one, the RMX5050?? If only I had someone to carry it for me. :D
  13. TheChariot


    Jul 6, 2004
    Boston, MA
    Dont forget about speakers. I agree: 500Watts can totally get the job done at most gigs. And if the place is huge, then you'll have PA support. But... I wouldnt go out on the road with 500Watts into a 112 cab. :eek:
  14. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    i see your point smash. and of course not all amps are equal, every situation's different. If i didnt have to answer this question several times a week, i wouldn't have posted the thread. ;)
  15. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Precisely. My motto has always been go too big.

    You can always turn a big rig down, but you can only turn a small rig up so far.

    In that respect, it's never really overkill in the amp department.
    maestrovert likes this.
  16. alexclaber

    alexclaber Commercial User

    Jun 19, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Director - Barefaced Ltd
    I researched this pretty thoroughly when I was upgrading from my boat anchor Mackie to a lighter more powerful amp - if you do a search you'll spot a poll I ran here, as well as picking up anecdotal evidence from various Acme users, info on blown speakers from Andy and discussions with people such as Phil Jones on speaker power handling.

    Based on all of this info I found that it was almost always peak low frequency power that blew Acme drivers by causing over-excursion, and as I play a four rather than five string (and use low-cut filters) it was deemed safe to go from the preferred level of 700W-ish up to 900W.

    And since I've had the amp I've found that it is possible to overdrive the speakers with excessive bass boost but it's very obvious when this is happening, and it doesn't cause any damage unless you get really silly because Xmech is significantly greater than Xmax.

    The recommendations on the site were written by Andy and myself when I redesigned the site, and take into account potential operator error.

    I have seen the amp occasionally hit the limiters but it's very loud at that point - with one cab it's far too loud compared to a hard hitting drummer, not drowning out but certainly an unbalanced mix. And the last time that happened it was because I'd let a guitarist play my bass and he was banging seven shades of hell out of it!

  17. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    Maybe the overall intent of this (and the other generic threads) isn't entirely clear. The one thing you won't get in this thread is a single definitive answer. Like most subjective isssues, you're going to get a lot of opinions, hopefully most of which are based upon real world experience. The point of having threads like this linked in the FAQ sticky is to give users a starting point. Just like in an individal and specific thread, these threads will contain a wide variety of answers and viewpoints, from "you need 500 watts and an 8x10", to "my 75 watt combo has been fine for every gig for the past 25 years", to "you should use my favorite head cause it rawks", to "there is no definitive answer becasue every situation is different". Hopefully after reading threads like these a user will be able to come back to the forum with a better understanding of the issue (even if the understanding they gain is that no one can agree on the subject - :p ), and a more prepared assesment and explination of their particular needs and situation.
  18. Moo

    Moo Banned

    Dec 14, 2002
    Oakland, CA
    Tough thread ;)

    One thing I've learned to get more volume out of an amp that may not be cutting it is to cut bass around 30 or 40hz. Now some here would rather gouge out their own eyes than cut the sub frequencies but you can get tons more volume this way as those are the most power hungry frequencies and many people are fine without them.

    For years I've used an Eden 400 head into a single Eden D210T and that's been plenty (never set the master higher than 6) for our somewhat loud jazz/funk band in any art gallery, bar, restaurant type gig. If we play outside without a PA I add a cab. I think my preference for a focused sound versus a wide frequency tone make things easier for me than someone more into a hi-fi sound.

    Also I've found a weak output bass may be much quieter than a hot bass if your amp doesn't have decent preamp level controls to compensate. An onboard preamp on a weak passive bass can boost your amps final volume greatly.

    A rock band with a very heavy drummer I play with has an SVT-100 and a 1x15 in the studio and that can make my ears bleed, I've gotten that 100 watt amp louder than I've ever gotten my Eden 400.

    I tend to think of power in terms of how low you can go as much as how loud. When you can play with a guitarist who's 18 watt amp can cause pain you realize you don't need more power to get loud, just low and I think those last 10hz or so can use most of your power. Rolling those off can give you much headroom back and in some situations sound better, most situations to my ears. So when deciding on how many watts and cones you need I think you should also define how loud your bass signal is, how loud your band is and how low frequency you want to go.
    Blearyeyes likes this.
  19. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    excellent point there Moo.........eq can make up for a lot. i used the same trick when i had an eden wt-400 cutting around 40 hz let me turn up a good deal louder. and keeping the enhance knob all the way off helped too. (fro those who don't know, the enhance on eden boosts lows, cuts low mids, and boosts highs - instant smiley face eq). the other trick i used was to boost high mids a little bit. (the frequency varied, the semi parametric eq was awesome for finding just the right spot). that often gave the extra little bit of "attack" to cut thru. It wasn't the prettiest tone soloed, but sounded great when the whole band was playing.
  20. Wow...What a great topic...I think I talked to "Ivan" about the 3500 and 225XL I was excited about........ and when I got to practice I had the EQ up so the bass was shaking the walls....well, after a few more practices and some discussion from the band (3 weeks ago) my low end is almost nile and mids are way up there and the whole sound we have now is so much better...Thank you......Also, I never realized that boosting the low end like that sucked so much power from the amp! Could it be I'm just a bass player.... and like alot of people here I just don't know the technical part of what makes it all work??...:) but you guy's make it alittle more clear....