iAmp 800 vs. pre+poweramp

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by embellisher, Aug 17, 2004.

  1. Rack system

    22 vote(s)
  2. iAmp 800

    17 vote(s)
  3. carrots

    13 vote(s)
  1. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    I am closing in on my rig, have the $$$ in hand, and would like you knowledgeable tone gurus to help me make a decision here.

    Obviously the EA and Thunderfunk are highly regarded around here, and I would probably be happy for a long time with either one. Both would be a good choice for a lightweight all in one head to drive a 4 ohm load to very high volume. But which one wins out, and why?

    In the third corner, there is the pre/power amp choice. It wouldn't be as lightweight as the other two, and wouldn't be as plug-n-play friendly, but would be more versatile. If I go this route, I would probably put together a rack with 800-1000 watts, a Sansamp RBI, and some kind of clean, modern sounding preamp. BBE, Alembic, Demeter, etc.

    As far as the iAmp 800 vs. TFB420, I would like for people who have experience with both of these heads to answer a few questions for me.

    1. How do each of them sound for loud rock, slap, and R&B?

    2. How would you characterize the tone of these amps, in your own words?

    3. How honest, in your opinion, is the power rating?

    If I should consider a rack system over these heads, explain why, besides the versatility angle.

    Thanks for all of your help!!!:D
  2. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Thanks a lot, SMASH, and thanks for recommending the MM and the Mesa. Those are two that I had not considered.
  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I pick Thunderfunk:

    Powerful enough for most gigs

    Does not need to be racked (iAmp really does)

    More compact than a rack rig yet has all the goodies most players will ever need

    Disclaimer: I own three A.M.P. heads on which the Thunderfunk was based
  4. Jon Burnet

    Jon Burnet

    Jan 21, 2001
    Memphis, TN
    i am wondering the same thing except add the new aggie head int the mix. i want headroom but my back is gettin worse the older i get. something says i need 200000000 watts but somehting else says why? if i ever need that much volume i'll have backup. but those are the 4 HEADS on my contention list.
  5. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    That is a real tough call. I own a rack system (which is what I voted for), and sonically, it is my best option. With 3,000 watts, I have headroom galore! Of course, it's a 6+ rack space setup (Furman PL-Plus, Raven Labs MDB-1 and Shure ULXs14, Eden Navigator, PLX 3002), so the portability is not as great as with a compact head.

    On the head front, I own an iAMP 800 and a Walkabout, and I have had an opportunity to try out a Thunderfunk. All three are great, and I have a hard time choosing between them. The Thunderfunk has tremendous plug and play ability (it sounds great set flat), and its tone controls are intuitive and flexible. It has a very clean sound, with a hint of warmth. The Walkabout is crazy loud for 300 watts, and I have used it to drive 2.67 and 2 ohm loads with no difficulty. Tonally, it and the Thunderfunk are more similar than either one would be to the iAMP 800 (we're talking with all EQ's set flat). The Walkabout is pretty flexible, EQ-wise, but doesn't cover quite as broad a range of useable tones as the other two. One thing that the Walkabout offers that the other two don't is tube overdrive. You can get a very nice OD sound out of the Walkabout.

    The iAMP is by far the most powerful of the group, and I think that the EA power ratings are accurate (whereas I would call both the Walkabout and the Thunderfunk ratings conservative). Ultimately, the Walkabout and the Thunderfunk seemed about equally loud to me, but the additional headroom of the iAMP 800 can certainly be heard, especially with power hungry cabs (like VL-series EA cabs), or cabs that take to being driven by lots of watts (like Epifani). The iAMP has the most flexible EQ, although I find that I do need to use it more than I do with the other two (which I would leave pretty much set flat). The EA is the thickest sound, and the warmest (which is somewhat surprising, really), but it can be extremely clear and detailed at the same time.

    I guess if I could only have one head, it'd be the iAMP 800 for now, but both the Thunderfunk and the Walkabout (or other M-Pulse line heads) are very, very worthy considerations. Once Dave offers an 800 (or even 600) watt Thunderfunk head, though, I may have to give it another go! As for a rack rig, I think that you can get one that sounds better than the best heads out there. It really becomes a matter of what size/weight you are willing to deal with, how much power do you need, and overal cost. In the bang for the buck category, the iAMP 800 really does offer a lot for the money, IMHO.

    You have narrowed it down to some good choices, though, and my guess is that any of them will serve you well. I have not had to deal with Mesa Boogie on the Walkabout, but at least for the Thunderfunk and the iAMP 800, I have found Dave Funk and all the guys at EA to be very helpful and extremely supportive of their gear (even to guys like me who buy most of their gear used).

    Note: This post was edited to say what I meant to say about the power ratings of the Thunderfunk and Walkabout. See my reply to Dave Funk's quote of my original misstatement, below.
  6. My current rig consists of - Epifani T210 on top of Epifani T115 and either an iamp 800 or a SWR Grand Prix driving a QSC PLX 1608 bridged at 4 ohms. The Epis like power so the comparison may be a little skewewed relative to other cabs (and I DO have Schroeders in my sights based on all the talk). The iamp sounds beautiful through these cabs and the Grand Prix is no match for the iamp's front end sheen BUT the QSC with twice the power is noticably louder with significantly more chest thump. This may just be the Epis reacting to their beloved increased watts though. I'll be real interested to hear how the Schroeders behave under a similar comparison. At this point it's a REAL tough call but doing mostly loud 2 guitar + keys rock, I'm leaning toward the power/pre setup. Could change after hearing the Schroeders though...
  7. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    OK, at the moment, I am leaning towards the iAmp or the rack system. The Thunderfunk is probably out of the running.

    Here is the setup I am looking at for a rack.

    Sansamp RBI & Carvin DCM600, plus 3 space rack(which i will put away or sell), $400 + shipping
    Power conditioner w/lights, $60
    Korg rack tuner, $135 + shipping
    BBE BmaxT - $350 + shipping
    SKB roto rack, 6 space, new, purchase locally - ~$100
    Schroeder 1210 ~$650(bought locally, I will have to pay tax)

    Total = $1695, give or take a few pennies.

    I would have tons of flexibility, with 2 preamps. I could get grind when I need it from the Sansamp, and the BBE has compression built in, which is something I use a fair amount. The downside is that the rack would weigh around 50 lbs.

    EA iAmp 800 - ~$875
    Demeter Comp1 - ~$200
    Sansamp BDDI - ~$179
    Schroeder 1210 ~$650

    Total = $1904, again, give or take a few pennies.

    The advantage here would be the light weight of the iAmp. Even if I put it in a small rack, it would weigh less than 25 lbs.

    So, I can have more flexibility, for $200 less money.

    Or, I can have less weight to move around, for $200 more money. And sacrifice some of the flexibility.

    The weight of the rack isn't that big of a deal, considering that I am moving from schlepping a 98 lb combo amp around to a 50 lb rack that I can easily carry.

    What to do? What to do?:confused::confused::confused:
  8. Consider the resale value as well. I think the iamp option will win there...
  9. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Scott, all of the stuff in the rack is used, so should easily resell for what I am paying.
  10. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Not to confuse you too much, but if you're looking at a rack system, did you consider the Read Purity? I use mine with a Stewart World 2.1 through an Epifani 4x10 UL. The Purity sounds amazing!

    If you're still open to non-rack gear, I've always been a fan of EBS...the HD 350 might be a good one to consider...;)
  11. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    I appreciate the recommendations.:) The Read is no longer available, from what I have heard. The EBS is attractive to me, but I feel that I need at least 600 watts, to be able to compete with my guitarist and still have a little headroom.
  12. Over the years I've found the rack mounted tuners and power conditioners to be not worth the space and weight. Although the BBMax is a nice unit, you don't really need two preamps. Well, here's the way I would go:

    Sansamp RBI & Carvin DCM600, plus 3 space rack(which i will put away or sell), $400 + shipping
    Schroeder 1210 ~$650(bought locally, I will have to pay tax)
    Fishman Bass Pro EQ ~ $177 shipped


    Fish has 5 band EQ, optical compressor, and the best bass shelving (called "depth control" on the unit) I've ever heard. With a little compression it cleans up boominess without gutting the bass. Run it inline or in the effects loop of the RBI.
  13. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Just to throw in another slice of pie.
    If you are looking at the TF and Walkabout.
    The iamp 500 is 13 lbs with 500 watts @4ohm.
    I have friends who like it more than their
    Walter Woods ultra's.
  14. alexclaber

    alexclaber Commercial User

    Jun 19, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Director - Barefaced Ltd
    Are you sure? Nothing on Jack's website has changed.

  15. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Doh! I obviously got some bad info from somebody! The Read is indeed still available. Teach me to listen to somebody else without checking for myself, huh?:D

    Thanks for the additional recommendations, everybody.
  16. The iAmp 800 is a really nice piece of equipment.

    I currently have an iAmp 800 and a rack system. I usually end up using the iAmp. IMO, the tone is smoking with both and the iAmp is just much easier to transport. I'm not sure what the previous poster meant about the iAmp needing to be rackmonuted. Mine is not, and it travels really well in a bag with my carpet, cables, etc. I use that with 1 or 2 Aguilar GS112’s and I’m stoked. :hyper:

    If you can get the iAmp for around $875, I think you can’t lose. I paid over $1100 for mine new and it was well worth it.

    I have not heard the thunderfunk so I can't comment on that.

    My rack system is cool and sounds stellar (IMO) but it’s just no fun to move. :meh:


    Good luck finding the right set up for you. :)
  17. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    I dunno...600 watts, 5lbs. over your shoulder. Wouldn't be so tough a decision for me. However, I'm kind of a minimalist these days. I also really like my Clarus. You're already ditching alot of weight with the Schroeder. You could probably load in with one trip with the Focus.

  18. Thunderfunk


    Mar 27, 2004
    McHenry, IL
    But it's a different amp tonally. Can't really be compared.

    Not at all. 40 volts divided by 4 ohms equals 10 amps times 40 volts equals 400 watts. Right on the money. When testing make sure your AC line is still at 120 volts. A power sag in the AC supply can throw any measurement off. I've never tested any of the other amps, and am not concerned with what they are doing. Also, the Thunderfunk amp will drive a 2.6 ohm load, but it won't produce much additional power at 2 ohms. Again, physics. To say that your amp delivers "free" power at 2 ohms is really saying the amp is designed to drive 2 ohms, and if you're NOT driving 2 ohms, you're carrying around unusable power.

    I also just had this discussion. The physics of speakers can't be avoided. To get lower freq response takes a less efficient speaker, and/or a bigger box... up to a limit. When you say a cab is "power hungry" your rewally saying the designer chose low freq response over efficiency. If the amp doesn't deliver the low end, you're using more of the amp's available power to drive that less efficient speaker to get the same amount of low end to compensate, and then you run into distortion and/or lack of headroom. With 3,000 watts you never see this. If the amp does deliver the low end (by having an adequate power supply) the speaker will come alive and sound louder than the amp's power rating or cabs "power hungriness" would indicate. Rating an amp's power at 1,000 Hz means little to a Low "B" string. The only real test is to A-B amps and cabs.

    Dave Funk
  19. Posted by Dave Funk-

    Rating an amp's power at 1,000 Hz means little to a Low "B" string. The only real test is to A-B amps and cabs.

    AMEN -


  20. Matt Morgan

    Matt Morgan Fellow Conspirator Supporting Member

    Oct 21, 2001
    Plano, TX
    I recently (a couple of months ago) did a comparison of my Demter VTBP 201S pre and Crest power amp vs. an Iamp 800. You can read all of that at your leisure.
    I personally chose the rack system simply for the tone I was after. I think I did a pretty decent job describing the differences and my opinions.
    The EA was very warm and thick and had some other noise issues as well. The Demeter/Crest is just (in my opinion) super clean, clear articulate and of course a bottomless pit of power. There's no doubt in my mind that the Iamp 800 was packing the advertised 800w and it sure would be nice to tote around 19 lbs in a padded gig bag instead of hauling the rack.
    But...it just wasn't the sound I was after and it did have some of the noise issues I discussed in the thread.
    I may give it another shot here in a while since they've done some modifications to it. I'd also like to see if AI puts out a higher power amp in the future too. If the Focus is putting out 600w now, the 1000w mark can't be too far off.
    Just my opinions.