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Moderate power all tube amp : guitar amp with bass speakers a good idea?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Inconnu, Mar 26, 2013.

  1. I've been an SVT user for years and I'm searching for a lower powered, more portable amp and I can't seem to get the sound of an all tube amp out of my head.

    In the used market, they are way more deals for all tube guitar heads (which I'd plug into a small bass cab) and combos (which the speaker could be replaced by a bass specific one).

    How many of you tried that or uses that type of setup?

    How much power (watts) should I aim at to get enough volume for rehearsal with a 3 piece band, if I chose that path?
  2. Can't help you with the power, but I do sometimes play bass through my Dr. Z EZG-50 (50W 6L6 tube head) with its matching 4x10. Must say, the tone is not bad, but lacked some attached, I guess the speakers should be blamed. I would definitely give it a try, i mean running an all tube guitar head through bass cabs makes sense to me. Would be good if you could try it out in a store (if they let you).
  3. Mr. Foxen

    Mr. Foxen Commercial User

    Jul 24, 2009
    Bristol, UK
    Amp tinkerer at Ampstack
    Guitar amps tend to have dinky output transformers that don't take advantages of the capabilities of a bass cab, and bass cabs tend to have darker speakers that don't take advantage of the harmonic content from guitar amps. If you band is capable of controlling their volume, a big 4x12 guitar cab and guitar head might work, fairly oldschool (4x12s were intended as bass cabs). But best option would be getting a lower powered valve bass head, most old ones where for guitar or bass and had reasonable sized power transformers. I use a pair of valve heads, 100w and 70w respectively for gigging, do have very loud cabs though.
  4. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Hi-fi into an old tube amp
    If you plug a preamp in the FX Return (bypassing the guitar-oriented preamp that you dont want) of a fairly high powered head (say something with 4x6L6) it should make a very solid amp, especially if you are going through a big or otherwise loud cab.

    Once in a while I will plug a preamp into the power section of my Ibanez Thermion guitar amp (4x 6550) and it's insanely awesome. The Thermion does have a particularly excellent power section with a huge torroidal transformer. I did somewhat extensive A/B testing and found this power section sounds better than the power section of the three excellent Mesa heads that I own (Bass 400 w/6550's, Buster with JJ's, D180 with Mesa labeled).

    50w might get you there but I'd recommend 100w. It might be a waste of time to try making a guitar pre/EQ work for you. I'd use an outboard BASS pre (Ag Tonehammmer or Sansamp VT) and go straight into the power section. With that said, maybe a tube power amp would be an option (used Peavey Classic in a budget price range). Krank makes some 50w tube lunchbox heads that arent super expensive too.
  5. Hi.

    If You happen to like the classic "Brit rock bass" tone, that's an exellent idea.

    The low end will distort in an unpleasant way because the OT is designed for 80Hz and above performance. If You don't care for the modern Hi-Fi bass tone, that won't matter much though.

    Most of the vintage tube "guitar" amps I've played through have had tone stacks that work very well for the tone I'm after, so no worries there either IMHO.

    What You do need though is either very efficient cab(s) and/or plenty of speaker surface area.
    Back in the 80's that was 412 & 215 Marshall bass stack under a JMP1959 for me :).

  6. Here's a youtube vid of me with my Peavey Windsor 100w head into a 2x12. The amp will clean up better than this demo shows. I currently play through a 4x12 with eminence betas and it gets really loud and goes pretty low. The only problem is the eq centers aren't right on the money but it works and is passable. Some of the stuff said above is true, but a lot sounds like bunk that people have read on the boards over the years but have not had personal experience with (my apologies if you had- no offense meant). I've played through bass amps that had less balls than the Windsor.

    Best part- Windsor heads can be had for ~$200!

  7. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Hi-fi into an old tube amp
    It will depend on the amp. The trouble is, the bigger/better the transformer the heavier it is probably going to be.

    Sounds great!
  8. bumperbass

    bumperbass Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2012
    There's a reason that the SVT weighs what it weighs. Physics, I guess. You need that transformer MASS to get the bass frequencies. As was already said, the tone controls on guitar heads aren't really centered in the right place for bass. To answer your question though, a 100W guitar head should do OK for practice.
  9. Oobly


    Jun 19, 2008
    Or you could stick with Ampeg and try to find a B15... :D

    Guitar amps are usually "voiced" differently to bass amps, particularly in the preamp section. The output transformers are also usually smaller and roll off the bass a bit too early or allow it to distort in a "nasty" way.

    So, a bass preamp into a guitar tube head can work if the output transformer is big enough. Not gonna save too much weight and it won't sound like the SVT, but it can be done. Try before you buy.
  10. beate_r


    Jan 25, 2012
    Among the famous old guitar amps there are several which do good jobs as bass amps. Remember the old Hiwatts or Oranges, even the Fenders. All of these have large "HiFi" output transformers.

    Of course You need a dedicated bass cabinet for this, and with only 50 W You need really good efficiency. So the power You need depends on the music You are making and the rooms You are playing. And on Your drummer...

    I am using a vintage Dynacord Bassking 1 with about 50 W and recently ran it on its limits under a 115/410 stack; i am considering chaining of two amps. That one is actually not a bass amp but a minimalized tube PA. The old Dynacords have the additional advantage of a small footprint and light weight (12 kg, even in their variant with 100 W called Eminent...)
  11. Oh, well, I've read all your replies... and it seems easier to just search for a proper bass amp...
  12. obimark


    Sep 1, 2011
    The issue is there are NO medium priced 100 watt all tube bass heads. NONE, zero. YOu are looking at $1500 still and a 45-50 pound beast no matter what even for what there is.
    Guess it is physics. The new Ashdown 100 All tube head has caught my eye unit I saw the proposed price- $1600!!

    The good news, my GB streamliner 900 is freaking sweet, warmth for days, nice OD built in, and got it for $600 new!

    (still wouldn't mind trying the AMpeg V4bh reissue, if 1. it ever comes out, and 2.It doesn't cost more than 800-900, which is what would be fair!)
  13. Mr. Foxen

    Mr. Foxen Commercial User

    Jul 24, 2009
    Bristol, UK
    Amp tinkerer at Ampstack
    More to it that straight mass, you can get lighter with better quality laminations (SVT uses lots of poor quality ones, Hiwatts used lots of high quality ones, so run cleaner), and more efficent design (toroidals give more for less mass).

    [looks at two head high stacks of 100w valve amps that all cost less that £500 each]. Yeah, that just isn't even nearly true.
  14. Phlipper


    Feb 5, 2013
    Fayetteville, NC
    Endorsing Artist: Old SS Peavey Lead Sleds and Peavey tube amps
    I used a 160 watt PV Mace combo for bass for a while and it worked perfectly. Couldn't kill those old BW speakers. Now I sometimes still use a PV Classic 50 head and 2x12 guitar cab (sealed) and it cuts thru a very loud country/rock band and has a really warm, punchy, growl when the power section starts cooking. And again, the PV guitar speakers have held up fine. I've seen guys using PV Classic combos, Fender Bassman 4x10 combos (sold as guitar amps), and older Marshall JCM halfstacks running dual duty for guitar and bass. And they seem to work perfectly fine. Many many tube amps have been performing dual duty since Jesus was in diapers. No doubt some combos will eventually tear a speaker from cranked bass frequencies, but I haven't had it happen yet on any PV combo.

    I'd much rather play bass thru a guitar amp than guitar thru a bass amp. Look around at what's available in the 50 to 100 watt range where you are, try them out, see if the tone works for YOU for both bass and guitar, and roll on with it. If you need to replace a speaker at some point, find something tough that still works for both to YOUR ears.

    I definitely disagree with that statement. Pushing the power sections of the Mace (with a pair of tubes pulled cuz it was TOO loud for the stage) and the Classic 50 yielded a very sweet, punchy grind for bass. Others find the same with older Marshalls and with some Fenders. IME power tube saturation/gain sounds far sweeter than pre-amp distortion on most tube amps, whether it's a bass amp or a guitar amp. It might not be everyone's cup o' tea. But "nasty"? That'd be a new one.
  15. beate_r


    Jan 25, 2012

    A dedicated bass amp of 55 W maximum power.


    110 Watts from 2 EL34 .


    These use huge HiFi transformers and weigh about 12.5 kg.

    In the range below 1000 EUR, recent Traynor amps come to mind. These are, btw, very heavy.
  16. carbonfold


    Oct 13, 2006
    Dallas, Texas
    I would say at least 100w. I highly recommend Ampeg V4 or V4B. Even at lower costs, Bugera 1960.

    But don't forget to put a lot of speakers underneath it!
  17. Peavey Classic... I'll have a look... Oh, I've seen an Peavey Artist VT 1x12 combo in local classified, with a BW speaker. Worth the trip out of town?
  18. Phlipper


    Feb 5, 2013
    Fayetteville, NC
    Endorsing Artist: Old SS Peavey Lead Sleds and Peavey tube amps
    I've owned most of the old PV combos, or at least played them enough to know them pretty well. IIRC the little Artist was actually 100 watts and with an extension cab (we used old PV or Marshall 4x12s) it totally rocked for guitar when cranked. I have no doubt it would do the same for bass, if that punchy, grinding tone is your thing (great for rock bass). It's not going to do a modern, ultra clean hi-fi sound. But the grind is perfect for rock or backed off the pre it'll clean up but stay warm for country. The speaker might need to be replaced due to age. But play it till it blows then call PV.

    Take a bass and try it out. Like I said ... despite scientific opinions to the contrary, we've been jamming bass thru guitar amps and cabs since Jesus was in diapers. Often with stellar results.

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