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how many watts do I need for a small cafe/club type place?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Fastfwd, May 18, 2006.

  1. I currently play guitar and use a GNX4 amp/cabinet modeler with a 2x130watts power amp and speakers.

    I'm thinking of selling this and getting a new setup that's a bit more powerful. 130 watts is just not enough and I can't bridge it to 260watts.

    First: How many watts do I need for a small cafe/club type of place. I don't think I'll ever play anything bigger than this and if I do I'll just rent or buy new gear when I get there.

    Second: How many watts do I need if I want to play bass instead of guitar? I'm buying new stuff and I want it to be able to do everything that I plan and I'm planning on playing bass too.

    Third: Separate amp/speaker or powered speaker? I was thinking of getting just one powered speaker that would be easier to move around. Maybe get a powered sub later if I want to get into bass playing. Is there any pro/con to having active speakers vs power amp and speakers?
  2. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I have never seen a venue where a guitar player needs more than 60 watts and a 12" driver. Guitar cuts like a knife and most are WAY overpowered for their gigs.
  3. It's hard to quantify what number of watts is exactly the "right" amount. It all depends on the gear. 100 watts from speaker A can be a lot louder than 100 watts from speaker B.

    I would say any decent combo amp in the 50-100 watt range with a 10 or 12 inch speaker should suffice for the type of venue you're describing, though. If you're switching to bass, maybe a single 15" speaker or a 2x10 or 2x12 should work. For a small gig, I don't think you need a separate head and cabinet set-up.
  4. fish slapper

    fish slapper

    Nov 17, 2005
    Newberg, OR
    What kind of music are you playing where 160watts on guitar isn't enough in a cafe'?

    Big difference in volume - watts ratio between guitbox and bass. My guitar player uses a Blues Junior that is rated 15 watts (tube) and here rarely has it above 4 (it goes to 12 - better than Spinal Tap). I need 400 watts solid state on the bass to compete with him. But that's in 200 seat bars playing classic rock.

    I also play upright in a jazz combo doing coffee houses and private parties and I rarely have my 100 watt SWR cube above 4 on the volume.
  5. it all depends. for the most part, on the pa and set-up of the room/stage and the vibe. playing with a girl strumming an acoustic in a coffee bar? (fender deluxe reverb) or playing punk in a sweaty cramped rock club hole? (50 watt mesa stack) see what i mean?

    mainly, afford yourself the ability to be flexible for any situation that may arise. and bass can never hurt from having a little too much headroom in the power handling.
  6. I never played a scene yet but I want to someday so I'm getting gear that can do that. I currently play guitar at my drummer's house and 130watts is OK for the guitar but when I add mp3 playback for practice it starts to become too little.

    I guess I could play further away from the drum and send the mp3 sound to him with headphones instead of louder :)

    I guess my setup is sufficient for guitar but I'll need an active sub for bass then.
  7. hmm, ive seen trolls start out their troll careers with threads like this before. i dont want to jump to conclusions though.
  8. spectorbass83


    Jun 6, 2005
    Will there be PA support?

    For a small cafe/club type gig at moderate volume you should be fine with a 200W 2x10 combo set up.
  9. For a guitar?!*&^%$$:eyebrow:

    He needs 50 watts - not 200. I'm assuming the 200W 2x10 combo is suggested if he's planning to switch to bass :)

    For Fastfwd...if you have money to burn and want a great guitar tone, invest in a nice 50-75 watt tube amp (or tube preamp and solid state power amp). There are several stereo tube power amps on the market that would work very nicely. Then buy a nice 2x12 guitar cabinet...preferably one that you can tilt so that it points at your head from behind you. If you can't get a tilt back cabinet, get a stand that will allow you to angle it back. A good 2x12 cabinet will let you run a stereo input from your amp so you drive each speaker with a separate amp output - really helps guitar tone with effects much more than bass.

    From there, you're on your own as far as midi controllers/footswitches/processors go to actually feed your tube power amp or tube pre/ss powe amp setup.

    Seriously, if you can't make 50-75 watts of power work for a guitar rig, your band is not doing things intelligently.

  10. spectorbass83


    Jun 6, 2005
    Oh yea I definitely meant bass! 200 watts for guitar?! :eek: Talk about overkill!
  11. MacGroove

    MacGroove Brother of the Groove with a 'Pocket Full of Funk'

    Oct 5, 2005
    SWR California Blonde, 160 watts @ 8 ohms, 200 watts with and 8 ohm extention cab. 12" spk and tweeter. I know that guitarists like this amp also.
  12. RobertUI

    RobertUI Thumper Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Herndon, VA - NoVa
    This can't be for real. I know that a lot of you are saying that 50W is all a guitar player needs in a small club, and all I can say is that MOST of the KILLLER blues guitarists that I have seen (and I've seen TONS) play with either 18W Marshalls (or Matchless - Vox etc) or 30W Fender Deluxe amps. These amps will reach EXCRUCIATING volumes in any venue that I would consider to be a "club". I've also seen these in use in big outdoor venues where the player will simply place a mic in front of the amp. I am really sick of hearing a guitar player say that they need a FULL Marshall Stack or some other nonsense in any venue short of the "Enormo-Dome"* C'mon folks.. this "Mr. No-Posts" has got to be insighting a riot.

    that's my $.02

    The 400W Hartke head going into an Avatar 2x12 (4ohm) that I typically gig with, has never been above 4 when pitted against my guitar player's 50W Marshall Head with a power plate bringing it down to reasonable volume. It should also be noted that my drummer is really louder than he needs to be.

    edit - I WILL state however that my guitar player from my other band (where I play rythm guitar into a 30W Laney 1x12 combo) runs a GNX4 into his Mesa Boogie combo, and it sucks SO MUCH tone from his signal that he's got the Mesa running WAY HIGHER than it would be if he were going straight in. So yeah if "Mr. No Posts" uses a tone sucker as part of his signal chain... he might need more power.

    * note "Enormo-Dome" is an intentional "This is Spinal Tap" reference.
  13. I see how it can look that way and I definitely agree that 50watts should be plenty for a guitar in a small club.

    I have 0 posts because I'm not a bassist. I play guitar and am considering maybe switching to bass, hence the possible need for more watts in the future.

    I use and love my GNX4 that models both guitar and bass amps. This is why I'm using a PA and not a dedicated guitar or bass amp.

    When playing with a drummer friend I really do need all of my 130watts to get a good guitar level compared to drums. I guess he's just banging too hard on the drums?

    What do drummers do in small clubs? Play behind a shield always or do they learn to go easy on the drums?
  14. RobertUI

    RobertUI Thumper Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Herndon, VA - NoVa
    ... my apologies for the "Mr. No-Posts" but these troll-like debates are starting to get on my nerves. i shouldn't have taken it out on you!

  15. That's alright. I can imagine how it looks from your point of view.
  16. Drummers definately have to play lighter in the small cafe settings. With that said, there is an infamous rock and roll hole in the wall here that has seen many full stacks and nobody complains. It's the whole "it it's too loud, you're too old" thing.
  17. RobertUI

    RobertUI Thumper Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Herndon, VA - NoVa
    Andrew... I totally agree with you. I used to go to the "old" 9:30 club in DC and saw some CRAZY LOUD shows there, that were anything but what I would consider reasonable volumes. The reason that I got so set off was due to the topic name "how many watts do I need for a small cafe/club type place?" The answer is you only NEED to be loud enough to be clearly heard, and in the Blues / Jazz realm folks tend to be much more interested in the vibe and feel than the sheer power of ROCK. :-D

  18. MeYHymN

    MeYHymN Habitual User

    Nov 7, 2004
    Charleston, WV
    Ok, I'll jump into this troll-0-rama (sry couldn't resist).
    Take your power amp-speaker setup to a music shop and try a few basses through it, you may be suprised. If you're getting the full 130x2 from the power amp it should be plenty. Of course, if you're running 16ohm cabs or something you won't be getting the full power the amp can offer.
    Oh, and don't use the Gnx when you do, ty.
  19. Is there really a difference between using a 130x2 compared to a 130x1? I mean apart from being able to get stereo sound or have a peaker in both sides of a room?

    Why not use my GNX4? It is going to be doing the work of the pre-amp. Won't the bass sound strange plugged directly into a power amp?
  20. For up to 300 seats here are my favorite guitar amps or those played by my friends.
    Peavey Classic 30 with 112 extention
    Fargen Blackbird 112
    Ashdown Peacemaker 40 with 212 extention
    Gibson Goldtone GA15
    Vox AC15
    Dr. Z Maz 18 Jr
    Dr. Z Prescription 212
    Dr. Z Route 66 into 212 cab
    Carr Slant 6V 212
    All of these are 40 watts or less, provide plenty of headroom and can get plenty loud. The Vox, Goldtone and Maz 18 Jr. have to be pushed hard for large loud venues, but they sound beautiful when you do it.

    For bass, I have played up to 200 seats with moderate bands with my Ashdown Mag 200 115 combo for 4 years. For louder and larger venues in the past year I borrowed an Aguilar AG500 with either an S410 or S210 / S410 stack, but that would be more than you need for the venues you are describing. I recently bought a Genz Benz GBE 600 and will probably buy a Genz Benz, Eden, Aguilar or Schroeder 212 cab to go with it soon. That will be plenty for any venue I have played in the past 10 years. If anybody needs louder than this, either the venue is more than 300 seats or I'm leaving the building.