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More headroom needed & pre/power amp suggestions

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Bruiser Stone, Oct 21, 2019.

  1. Bruiser Stone

    Bruiser Stone Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2017
    I love my 160 watt tube head, but I may add something in the future with more clean headroom for live performance. I’m looking to get effortless articulation and a tight, full low end without any breakup at significant volume. PA/backline support is not a frequent option, but I’m also not going to be playing concert halls. I’ll be playing outside when warmer weather returns.

    Already have head ideas (Subways, Shuttles, GK’s), but I’m even more intrigued with possible pre/power amp combinations, so I thought I’d as ask for pairings that have proven to work together well in similar live conditions. I like the potential flexibility, but I’m not separate pre/power savvy.

    Here are the constants:
    • A ‘78 Precision with original PU’s and a set of TI’s, and maybe a second Precision with Roto 66’ers
    • Genz Benz Uber 410, 4 ohms, 1000 watts RMS...this will be the only cab I deploy based upon weight/vehicle constraints
    • 50/50, fingers/pick
    • The only pedal is overdrive
    • Mix of classic rock, blues, R&B, old country, perhaps garage, rockabilly, maybe even punk. I love doom metal, but I won’t expect this particular rig to perform with BEAD tuning or crank out heavy distortion
    Cost? Not much over $1k, but less, of course, is fine

    Power? Up to the 1000 watt cab capacity, maybe a little more...I’m guessing 400-500 minimum

    Weight? I’m not squeamish but I prefer to stay near or below my current amp’s girth of 45 lbs

    Tubes? I LOVE them, but having them in the power section (or even pre) isn’t an absolute requirement so long as it isn’t overly modern/hifi

    Used is ok so long as I could easily find technical assistance and parts if necessary.

    And here are some heads I’ve had before that are off the table based upon my experiences:
    • Ampeg PF500
    • Hartke LH1000
    • Glockenklang Blue Rock
    • Peavey Firebass
    • Sunn 300T (only because too heavy, but what a beast)
    • Markbass
    I realize I could receive a very wide variety of opinions, and that’s ok. I’m just gathering some purely subjective intel and sage experience.

    Thx in advance
  2. Stumbo

    Stumbo Semi-retired member Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2008
    Masks, people, masks!
    I know this not what you're looking for but I've written TB articles on it and posted on it many times. Check my TB Wiki on the topic for more info.

    I'm a tube lover too!:thumbsup:

    So, before spending $1k on a new head, I'd add a HPF to your signal chain. The Broughton always-on HPF is a good price(about $100)and it's adjustable. It'll clean up the mud from your rig, remove stage/room boom, give you more headroom and allow you to cut through more cleanly.

    Next I'd put your rig up on a tilt-back stand to disconnect it from the stage and point it towards your ears so you can hear what really going on.

    Last, I'd go wireless so you can go FOH to hear how you sit in the mix and adjust from there. Much better way to get your mix tone.

    Whatever you end up with, the HPF and wireless will still serve their purposes.

    Good luck!:thumbsup:
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2019
  3. Bruiser Stone

    Bruiser Stone Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2017
    Thx Stumbo. I had a Broughton HPF/LPF and sold it off a few months ago. I’m not opposed to getting another one, probably just the HPF next time, but I suspect my tube amp with a front-ported (though efficient) 4x10 will be inherently tough to keep tidy. Perhaps I’m overly pessimistic. I haven’t had an opportunity to truly put it through the paces yet in a difficult space, but just shy of breaking up, it sounds beautiful.

    The wireless angle is a good idea, not just for sound-checking, but also to remedy my big clumsy feet around cables.
  4. Stumbo

    Stumbo Semi-retired member Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2008
    Masks, people, masks!
    I agree you are overly pessimistic.:smug:

    Keeping 4x10 "tidy" is what HPFs and tilt-back stands are born for.:thumbsup:
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2019
    Nevada Pete and Bruiser Stone like this.
  5. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    If you are running your Alpha Bass, you could probably rig up a crossover and power amp to biamp. Use a higher powered solid state amp for the lows and the Alpha Bass for the mids and highs.

    I actually did this with an SVT and a Fender Twin back in the early 80s. I used the SVT to cover the lows and the Twin to cover the mids and highs. The only issue I had was the Twin was a bit hissy and fussy to dial in because I was feeding it a line level signal. But this should not be a problem with your Alpha Bass. Sensitivity for the power amp section is +10dBv/3V.

    So rather than buying a pre and power amp, you could buy a crossover and a bass amp with an effects return that accepts line level. This would give the you choice of using your new bass amp full range, or biamp using the your Alpha Bass preamp. Or perhaps you might like to use the preamp in whatever amp you buy.

    Course if you want light weight, you probably should consider one of the micro class-D hybrids.
    MarkA, Bruiser Stone and Stumbo like this.
  6. Bruiser Stone

    Bruiser Stone Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2017
    The Uber deserves more credit than I’m giving it. It’s a fantastic, efficient cab, and tight for something front-ported...I just recommended it in another post, which kinda prompted this one. It’s not so much the boom/mud as thinking ahead on the prospective live limitations of 160 watts to stay as clean as I want. I confess my head hasn’t failed me in my brief gigging experience apart from pushing it in practice to find its ceiling. And so perhaps it also deserves more credit until it doesn’t.

    Such pessimism is both my genetic inheritance and, even more so, a hazard of my occupation. :D

    Rev. Stumbo, I may yet still believe in the Gospel of High Pass. Keep preaching.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2019
    Stumbo likes this.
  7. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2008
    One thing to consider, is the tube amp performing up to spec. Power supply issues can result in a lack of headroom. As can the power tubes themselves (tubes can be selected for a later onset of distortion) and the bias setting.

    If the amp has always been like this, then maybe it is what it is and may not be up to your present or future requirements.
    Stumbo and Bruiser Stone like this.
  8. Bruiser Stone

    Bruiser Stone Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2017
    It is the Alpha Bass.

    Question: in using a crossover to bi-amp, wouldn’t this involve an additional cab, or am I incorrectly conjuring the setup in my mind?
  9. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    SansAmp VT rackmount (...RBI, RPM, GL, whatever) and a Crown 2502 (750 watts per side @ 4 ohm). Substitute either according to taste, budget, and second-hand availability. FWIW, the Crown has user-selectable HPF and sensitivity. Since you've limited yourself to a single cab, I'd be looking more closely at the higher-powered lightweight bass amps including the Quilter, Shuttle, and other options with which I have no experience whatsoever.

  10. Bruiser Stone

    Bruiser Stone Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2017
    When I first purchased it (cheaply), it needed some work. After an expensive and lengthy visit to a questionable tech, I took it to one of the best in Nashville back in May. He gave it a full cap job and a new sextet of the power tubes as pictured below. He said when it arrived, it was testing output on just 4 of the ones the last tech supposedly replaced. It now sounds better than ever.

    There isn’t a lot of information out there describing the characteristics of a Peavey Alpha Bass other than (1) some have said it is based on Mesa’s D-180/400/400+ designs, and (2) it’s very nice clean, but not so much beyond.

    I’d love the chance to blind A/B it against an Ampeg or Orange or Sunn or whatever else and see how much being named a “Peavey” factors into suggesting an auditory experience. I think its breakup sounds quite nice when playing on flats, and a little harsh with rounds. But that may be more of an indictment of something else in the chain...perhaps me.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2019
    beans-on-toast likes this.
  11. I've used preamps and power amps nearly my entire career. My first preamp was a Demeter VTBP-201. My last one will be, too. Just a great preamp that makes exactly what you put in it louder. Very satisfying every night I play it. Consistent room to room. Indoors or outdoors. In a variety of styles. I've tried em all. It is my favorite, unless tube type distortion is needed. Then I turn to my #2, an SWR Interstellar Overdrive.

    The IOD is great. Two separate D.I. outs, variable level on the clean side. Clean, it resembles the Demeter enuff it's not a total shock. But add true tube Overdrive and it's a whole other monster.

    Power amps I always use Crown. There are others out there, but I like Crown's sound and history, so I just look for one of em. QSC, Peavey, Crest and others all make great power amps, too. And if you like your current amp's sound, just need more power, you could probably slave just a power amp to your current amp's preamp.

    I use big cabs, too. And with all my experimentation with filters and such, I've found it just as effective to roll my lows off on my preamp a bit as the volume increases. A lot of what I read about 410 cabs and what they supposedly lack is a bit crazy to me. I've used em forever and never had an issue hearing one. I learned my skills in another era, when no one had filters and compressors. Those were for the stars. We couldn't afford em. So we used the eq that came on our amps, learned what our cabs like and didn't, and part of what I learned was that my pulse could be communicated to the others in the band thru stage coupling. Cutting my lows to save speakers, yet still providing the pulse the other band members feel is an art. Putting my speakers on stands, eliminating coupling and lows with stands and filters left my bands less tight. And with bigger cabs, I can hear myself far better than with a small cabinet onstage. Right now my rig consists of a Demeter preamp, Crown power amp (it has a nice hpf if you want to use it) that provides 550 watts at 8ohms and 1100 watts at 4ohms, bridged. It can run four 8ohm cabs if I want, or just one with plenty of juice. I paid 450 fer my rig bout 2.5 years ago. It is killer. The Demeter never breaks up. Clean signal for days. Tight, articulate. And if you need more eq options, their H series preamp has parametric eq.

    Today, tho, their are a frightful amount of both rack and floor preamps that would do what your asking very well. From simple ones like my Demeter and Alembic preamps, to "everything but the kitchen sink" models like the Darkglass stuff or old Eden Navigators. Any of them will work well. It's all really what you wanna sound like. There's an option for everyone. And they all work well if you spend time learning how they work. Each is a bit different. But that's why I like my Demeter. Simple, consistent and awesome! Luck on your search. And don't pass on a very old, but tried and true, pedal pre. I carry a SansAmp BDDI I use as a preamp on occasion with my Crown. Just fer fun. It is great! Especially when you don't want anyone to see what you're using. Heh.
  12. Bruiser Stone

    Bruiser Stone Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2017
    Thx for the specificity...that’s what I’m looking for. I wish I had the option to increase speaker area, but a 410 is me maximizing my practical considerations for now. Thankfully I stumbled onto a good one.
    The Nameless and Zooberwerx like this.
  13. Bruiser Stone

    Bruiser Stone Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2017
    Thx! That’s a wealth of experience and specific information. The flexibility inherent in separate pre/power amps seems really appealing and worth the extra space and weight. At one time I was GASsing for a pre from Arkham or Broughton to pair with my tube head’s power section, but they are serious $$$ and not as widely-reviewed as Demeter and other brands. I’ll add it to my list.
    The Nameless likes this.
  14. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    A 410 should be more than enough for most gig situations. Anything more should be sent to FOH while maintaining the cab as a solid backline.

    FWIW, I'm seeing some stellar deals on pre / power combos & separates in the classifieds.

  15. MTN.bass72

    MTN.bass72 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2010
    Blue Ridge, Ga
    You mentioned Mesa...
    Can't go wrong with either of their Subway heads...
    If you go the power/pre route.. either Subway DI , plus say a Crest Prolite 2.0 bridged. Would be an amazing rig.. less than a grand, and light..
    I play the same styles as you.. my Mesa D800 never disappoints
    Bruiser Stone likes this.
  16. Bruiser Stone

    Bruiser Stone Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2017
    I see them, too. What’s in front of the eyes is often what's fondest in the heart. :D But I’m in no rush: this is slow-burning GAS.
    Zooberwerx likes this.
  17. interp


    Apr 14, 2005
    Garmisch, Germany
    Get a Jule Amps Monique Dovecage preamp/DI and a Jule Amps M2500. You will never be concerned about headroom again.
    Nevada Pete likes this.
  18. sears

    sears Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2005
    ec, md
    I have a plx/ashly rack and while it's 40 lbs, I use it outdoors whenever I can. The depth and dynamics are just sick. Indoors too, but it's not really needed unless it's a ballroom with high ceilings.
    The Nameless likes this.
  19. MCS4


    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    I'm going to second this, coming from a slightly different angle. While I love super-clean pre/power setups and have gigged them for more than 15 years, I don't think you are going to get a ton of extra headroom out of any pre/power amp into a single 4x10 beyond what you are already can get through a properly functioning 160 watt tube head into the same cab. If the tube head is very weak for the listed wattage, is designed to break up particularly quickly, or is malfunctioning, then I can see an issue, but otherwise I don't think any amount of clean solid state wattage is going to make much of a difference. IMO, if you want sufficient clean overhead such that a 160 watt tube amp into a 4x10 is insufficient, you're looking at needing more speakers rather than more pure wattage. I understand that might not be an option, but it is what it is.

    That being said, I can strongly endorse the Genz Benz Shuttle series if you want to pick something up used that is well within your price range (I have a Shuttle 9.0, 900 watts at 4 ohm). You could also easily build a pre-power setup with any QSC power amp (I use the GX5, which is great for a two-amp setup, but might not be optimal for you) and a preamp such as BBE Bmax or Bmax-T (my favorite overall for tone, and the T model has a tube) or SansAmp (I use the RPM in my current setup, and while I do not like the tone quite as much as the BBE and it is not quite as clean, I do find that I get slightly more headroom live without clipping).
  20. Eddie LeBlanc

    Eddie LeBlanc

    Oct 26, 2014
    Beaumont, Texas
    Berg is Best.... is all I can say.

    And if you haven't tried it, may not have enough information for a good decision.

    I'm currently running a Berg B|Amp with two Schroeder cabs (a dual 12" and a single 12") It cuts through everything, has a small stage footprint, lite weight, and easy to set up and use on stage.

    The B|Amp head is the most versatile head I have ever used in over 50 years, period.

    Bergantino Audio Systems
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Nov 26, 2020

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