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I Miss The Big Stuff

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by JimmyM, Nov 21, 2019.

  1. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Hate to break it to you kids, but downsizing and ampless gigs didn't just start a few years ago when micros and neo speakers came out on a wide scale.

    It certainly didn't feel like downsizing when we wheeled in 80 lb solid state power amps and those big "sugar scoop" cabs for the PA, but it was. And ever since PA's got powerful enough to fill venues in a painfully loud but clean way, there have been ampless musicians. Keyboard players were the first to adapt, and who could blame them? Even the smallest keyboards of the day were big and bulky and you needed a good handful of them to get gigs. So why wouldn't you run them to the PA and just monitor them with a floor monitor at your first opportunity?

    But bassists and guitarists had these little instruments and often only one back then, so we hung onto our big stuff, and there wasn't much downsizing going on with us, though there were folks who cut their 810's and 215's in half and did smaller gigs with them. There were some lower wattage combo users, but most of them either had adequate PA or played quieter in smaller rooms. And they were still pretty big compared to combos today.

    But the slow crawl we did to ampless setups happened anyway. I started seeing bassists do it around here. First major band I saw doing it was Devo in 1980. At first I thought they were all DI but found a couple mic'ed MusicMan combos off in the wings. A bit disconcerting, but OK. Then a few more, and a few more, and I saw a set of IEM's first time in like 1990 with Sinead O'Connor on SNL. That was really disconcerting. I was afraid it was a sound tech/singer conspiracy to get us all using them, and I hated the idea of listening to my awesome tones on a portable music player.

    Well it took 25 years to become truly widespread through all of live performance-dom, sound techs and singers, but mission accomplished. IEM's are consistently cheaper and better at lower prices all the time. Bassists can tailor their DI sounds with preamps that don't cost much money or take up much room, or they can show up with an instrument cord and say, "Plug me into something and let's go." Guitarists are finally not balking at the latest in digital gear, and those who still are also have a lot of choices for running direct in other ways, all of which are perfectly usable. Even drummers will sometimes forego their acoustic drums for digital despite the flaws if it pays enough, and if they won't, you can just put them in a glass box.

    And I'm certainly no stranger to downsizing, either. I've done arena gigs with a B-15 and been asked to turn down. Even did a short series of ampless gigs earlier this year. It wasn't horrible. Everything sounded fine. I've got a handful of small stuff I use pretty much exclusively at the moment ranging from top of the line to the cheapest of the cheapest practice amps, and it all sounds terrific because it's well chosen and I play more right notes than wrong :D

    But dang do I miss hearing myself through a big juicy 810! And oh how I miss the sound of a good 412 on guitar! And I hate when the drummer goes digital or gets stuck in a box. And it's not that I want to hear them loudly, either. They sound great to me at low volumes, too. Once heard a guitarist using a 412 with a 5w tube amp and he sounded so much better than the players I work with using smaller cabs. And I've done many gigs with an SVT and 810 at B-15 volumes and it was still amazing sounding.

    And you try telling that to your band and venue manager when you show up for a small patio jazz gig with a 412 or 810, and they look at you like you are a mental patient. "No no," I said, "It works quietly, too!" But they never listen. And God forbid you want to ride with someone else and insist on that 810! Even a 410 is enough to get you dirty looks these days.

    So you do what you need to do to keep getting the calls. Honestly, I don't mind the reduced schleps at all. I can get in and out of gigs faster than a sax player if I don't have to tote my upright. And my stuff is all quality or at least well-chosen cheap and I don't think I ever sound the least bit bad. But dang, do I love to hear myself through the big stuff! No matter how big the small stuff is, it just doesn't have the physics of the big stuff.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
  2. Agreed. Moving air, even subtly, rules.
    Also, when did “getting out the door” become a race? I can do quick bumps, even with a full rig, but still like to help out with the PA (etc) on the “bring your own” stuff gigs. For the sake of an extra ten minutes or so you can really help out your mates with the unavoidable amounts of stuff they need to bring that helps make us all sound good.
    (Gets off soap box...)
    dbbltime, Jaymo, barrenelly and 15 others like this.
  3. After witnessing one of my favourite bands completely ampless, it’s not a bandwagon I’d be looking to jump on anytime soon. It was dry, lifeless and just awful.

    I’ll prefer my tube amp any day of the week. Although until the unlikely event I start getting to play big stages I’ll be quite happy with my new BF SuperTwin @ 17KG!
  4. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I always help in my new bands if they need it, but they've downsized already. They weren't like the oldies band I used to be in where the drummer regularly set up 7 cymbals, 4 toms, a double bass pedal he wasn't all that good at, cowbell, woodblock, and sometimes bongos, and took his sweet time tearing down because it was his band, his band only, and he is the star and you better not forget it. Easy for him when he lives 10 minutes away from most of our local gigs and I live an hour and 20 away. And he's the guy who demanded I buy a 410 in 98 when I first joined because he didn't want to deal with an 810 in the trailer on road trips. I should have known something was up with this character.
  5. Balog


    Mar 19, 2009
    Mukilteo, WA
    He likes big CABS and he cannot lie...
  6. biguglyman


    Jul 27, 2017
    Rochester, NY
    Agreed. While I have downsized recently, there's still something about 18" speakers that just speaks to me. I love the boom and the feel of my pantlegs moving with the breeze. I still have one 18" cab left but I never gig with it. Just too damn tough to get it out of the basement...

    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
  7. Dang!
    Well, clearly there are different circumstances. If any of us really need to bolt, that’s cool. But I usually help out BL and engineer with the PA at least until the drummer starts bumping.
    If they’re all mucking around and avoiding heading home I’ll usually bid my farewells :cool:
    Pbassmanca, HertzWhenIPlay and JimmyM like this.
  8. themickster


    Oct 4, 2015
    I have to go everywhere by cycle and public transport. My rig needs to be tiny - Blackstar Fly 3. I have yet to gig as the only bass on the bill and can therefore plug into another player's rig. I'm going to play by myself as singing bass player with backing tracks at the care home I work in. The Fly will be well enough for that, as I will be unmiked.
  9. You gotta do what you gotta do.
    When I lived in London I only owned a small 112 combo. Most gigs had backline there as it’s just too crazy otherwise.
    I do like locking in with the an acoustic drum kit using a decent sized rig though. Nothing like it.
    Pbassmanca, Wisebass and JimmyM like this.
  10. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    I guess I am sort of the opposite. As long as my rig is loud enough to hear clearly, I tend to prefer smaller cabs with fewer drivers, or multi-way, full range cabs. To me a single 15 sounds better than a 215, and a 210 sounds better than an 810. IMHO adding drivers gives you more SPL capacity, but tends to diminish the sound quality. But if you need more volume or heavier lows, nothing satisfies like a big pile of speakers being pushed by a big amp .

    When I was still touring I had an Eden D210XLT, a D410XLT, and QSC power amp rated at 250W per channel. Most of the time I used only the 210. The 410 was a bit fuller and louder, but it didn't help me hear any better. The 410 was also a lot heavier, and I had plenty of other heavy stuff to deal with, since we didn't have roadies.

    I have had people give me hard time for my little GK 700RB/112 combo :bored:.
  11. JxBass

    JxBass Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2008
    I too am from the day when it took two people to haul each amp and cabinet, and the whole band to move the Hammond B3 and Leslie cabinet. Our rehearsal stage was in a gymnasium three flights up, to which we dutifully carried all of the above, plus PA, up and down each week. It was also in the days of matching amps and stage outfits ;)

    EDIT: I now consider anything over 30 lbs off limits.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
    bpmben, el jeffe bass, TomB and 9 others like this.
  12. ACWild


    Nov 5, 2019
    I just sold off the last of my “big stuff.” As much as I love the sound, my back couldn’t take it anymore. It just became too impractical so I had to make concessions if I wanted to continue.
    Evil Funk and Pbassmanca like this.
  13. jnewmark

    jnewmark Just wanna play the groove. Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2006
    Stax 1966
    Third St. Cigar Records staff musician.
    My 71 year old back does not miss big rigs at all, although I do get to play with them occasionally when provided as backline. Really, at this point in my life, its all about the schlepp !
  14. chadds


    Mar 18, 2000
    If you play your amp as an instrument and it’s not in itself “sound reinforcement” than the substitution of IEMs or playing through floor monitors and amp sims is going to be adequate to good but still not the real thing.

    I use 1000w at singer songwriter gigs because it sounds fabulous. The sound on a stick PA sounds excellent for guitar and voice. It carries medium halls and my amplification fits perfectly. We sound balanced because we know how to do this!

    Too many groups never learn to play in balance with each other. They can’t listen across the band and know exactly how to sound perfect out front. Now plugged in they give up responsibility to some sound man who may have interest but no chops. He might even be a friend of the band without experience.

    IMHO the band should sound the same if the PA cuts out. Just quieter. I don’t have to lose the skill. I hope the next generation can find it.

    P.S. I use everything down to a 30w 1x8 for gigs. I love amps!
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
  15. BLDavis

    BLDavis Master of Snarks. Supporting Member

    May 21, 2009
    Ellenboro, NC
    I do miss the big amp push and thump onstage that just aint gonna happen thru floor wedges or earbuds. My heart misses my 800RB and 215 JBL cab. But my back loves my VTDI.
    All in all, it's a fair compromise since going ampless might let me keep giging a few years longer than if I had to lug an amp to every show.
    Evil Funk, Pbassmanca, mike57 and 2 others like this.
  16. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    I have no love for "big stuff" and do not miss its passing at all. I generally get a much better sound these days. I started my move to smaller, more powerful and lighter gear in 2005, just after some of the very heavy stuff damaged my back. I've never looked back.
    Evil Funk and 210superair like this.
  17. dbase

    dbase Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2008
    South Jersey, USA..
    I love the big rigs .. They will have to bury me in it when I go to see the bass god in the sky. meanwhile, the lighter 12's work fine for me.
  18. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    I'm well into the process of exchanging the big stuff for small stuff.


    This was taken just about a year ago - it's the last time I used an 8x10 cab, which is, by far, my favorite sounding cab. I traded it in the next day. It's just to big for me to move around.
    amper, Rock Salad, adjectives and 8 others like this.
  19. Amen, Jimmy. As much as I love my newer, smaller rigs, I do miss how the big rigs look and sound. Probably just a mental thing but I always seem to enjoy playing more with the big box behind me. I don't think I could ever do "in ears" only.
  20. Honkey tonk

    Honkey tonk Turn it up Supporting Member

    Feb 10, 2019
    Lower 48
    A B3 grinding out through a leslie is wonderful thing in a live setting .
    It's hard enough to get people to shows, audiences like props it's part of the show .

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