My hopefully helpful and highly personal view on amps

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by IvanMike, Feb 18, 2005.

  1. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    The following is a cleaned up and corrected copy of the initial post of a thread i wrote on 9/24/2003. I have to give thanks to cjazz50, Mark Reccord, Richard Lindsey, and Bob Lee (QSC) for correcting my misunderstanding of clipping as it relates to speaker damage.

    I don't like combos, never owned one. I think they a great alternative for those on a budget but become a trap later on. Why? Because it's much harder to upgrade or add on to a combo without replacing it altogether. I much prefer to go the seperate head/cabinet route because you can replace one or the other for less $$$ than if you had to start over from scratch. You can also usually add a second speaker cab to a head/one cabinet rig as long as the amp can handle the extra speaker. What do i mean by this? Most amps can handle a mimimum load of 4 ohms. you get that with 0ne 4 ohm cabinet or 2 8 ohm cabinets. Assuming that you started out with an 8 ohm cabinet to begin with, adding a second 8 ohm cabinet will increase your volume significantly. Some amps (e.g. swr) will handle a minimum 2 ohm load so you can use two 4 ohm cabs. I'm a big fan of 8 ohm cabinets because you can bring one to a small gig, or 2 to a larger one. However if your amp and a 4 ohm cabinet have enough guts to cut it in all the situations you play in, there's nothing wrong with that setup. Just be aware that if you want to add another speaker in the future, you'll have to buy a head that can handle a 2 ohm load, or a stereo head that can handle 4 or 2 ohms per side, or upgrade to a preamp/stereo poweramp setup.

    as far as wattage goes, the more the better, period. The bass needs 4 to 10 times the wattage to compete with a guitar amp. (actually, i think guitar combos are a wonderful idea. They're loud enough, and the world would be a quieter and happier place if more guitar players used 1x12 combos instead of 1 or 2 4x12's powered by 100 watt heads). More wattage also gives you more clean headroom, and makes clipping much less likely. Clipping in and of itself won't destroy your speakers, but a clipped soid state amp can put out a theoretical maximum of twice its rated power, (and it sounds terrible). Generally, to get that kind of wattage you eventually have to go the preamp/poweramp route. I like this setup the most as you can change preamps, poweramps, or cabinets without having to start from square one all over again. The downside is these setups cost a lot of money. Along the way i also learned that not all 400 watt amps are equal when it comes to volume. Back in the mid 90's i found that a Trace Elliot 300 watt head could blow the doors off of a bridged swr sm-900 or bridged eden wt-800 every time. I even ended up writing an article on it which appeared in the Nov. '97 "play the blues" issue of Bass Player.

    I started out with a 25 watt Westbury head with a Westbury 15" cab back in 1984. After the speaker blew i replaced it with a peavey black widow put in the westbury cab. Later i got a 300 watt peavey mark 4 head to get some real volume. After that i got a peavey 2x15 cab for gigs and ended up using the 1x15 for practice. A good while later, 1992?, i sold the peavey stuff and got a used swr electric blue head (150 watts) and a used swr goliath 2 4x10. Needing more power for real gigs i got a used peavey cs-400 power amp (for $150) that put out 400 watts bridged into 8 ohms and used the electric blue as a preamp. In 1997 i got an eden wt-400 and ditched the peavey power amp, but i still have that nifty electric blue. Later on i got a bagend s15d to use my eden's full potential (i.e. two 8 ohm cabs), and it was also neat as a smaller cab to bring to gigs and practices. In 1998 i added an eden 210xlt, so i usually gigged with the 4x10 and the 2x10 or the 1x15 and the 2x10. on some big gigs i also brought the swr 150 watt head and used it to power the 3rd cabinet. (i knew it would come in handy) In 1993 i finally got a couple of used preamps (alembic & demeter), a new aguilar 659 preamp (which i sold to Boogiebass), a used alembic superfilter, and a stewart 2.1 power amp (450 watts into 8 ohms per side). I would have gone stewart or qsc plx due to the light weight of both, but my pal at the stewart dealer gave me a great deal. Both the stewart and plx are great as they sound wonderful, are lightweight, and can handle 2 ohms per side. Due to size issues i sold my swr 410 and i sold my eden 210 after hearing epifani stuff - wow. At this time i also got a bagend s12d, and got an aguilar 112 as part of a complex trade at a guitar show, (that's how i temporarily ended up with the aguilar preamp). Unfortunately, due to financial issues i had to sell the aguilar 112, the eden wt-400, and the two alembic units, but i did score a wonderful 4 ohm bag end 210 from Nightbass. What's the point of the story? Well, for the most part i was able to upgrade one item at a time, and i have options like mad when i gig. Usually i bring the 2 small bagends and the demeter/stewart rig, (the two alembic units were paired with the stewart for a long time before i sold them), sometimes i bring all 3 cabs, sometimes just the bagend 15, and i play other gigs with the eden or swr head and 1 or 2 cabs. Before i sold it, when using the eden I also usually brought along the demeter and plug it into the eden's effect return so i get to use the demeter preamp and the eq of the eden.

    Am i done? naw. Am i happy? yup. Remember, the biggest thing is to trust your ears and while opinions and feedback can help, don't buy anything based on what someone else uses or swears is the best. And always demo prospective gear with your stuff. When i bought the bagend 12 i brought my bass, my amp, and my bagend 15 along to see what the bagend 12 would sound like for Me.

    I hope this helps some of you who are hoplessly lost in the "what should i do?" zone. But remember, my opinion is just that. Always trust you ears.
  2. Great information.........Thank You !!.........OHhhh, didn't you say you had a 215XL?...:)
  3. Great information, though I must disagree on the combo thing. I believe combos can be very useful for gigs where portability and quick setup time are important. There are indeed some very high quality, loud, great sounding combos out there.

    I myself have a plethora (that means a whole bunch) of cabs, heads, and power amps. So I can be flexible and upgrade, or impress people with a rackful of gear, or blow their pants legs with a wall full of 2x15's and 1800 watts, yadda yadda, I've got a room full of stuff....

    But for many gigs--like the one I've got tomorrow--I don't want to spend all day loading up, unloading setting up, tearing down, reloading, then unloading. One trip, I'm in with my 450 watt combo. And for a $250-total-take bar gig, it's good enough to keep the drunks happy. :D
  4. Scott Giambusso

    Scott Giambusso

    Jan 15, 2005
    Hey Mike, sounds like we both have a lot of equipment options.
    Right now I am shopping for a good 8ohm 300 watt 1x12 cabinet for electric and upright work. I am looking real hard at Ephani NYC and Aquillar Gs112 and now you mention Bagend. Could you rate these speakers? What's good about them?
  5. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    well, 1st, welcome to talkbass! FYI, at the top of the TB page to the right of the link to forums is a link to "gear reviews" where tb members can rate products and view the ratings of others. I actually did reviews on the bag end and aguilar 1x12 cabs and some other stuff there.

    anyhow, i can't really comment on doubling as i dont yet play the doghouse. there are some threads in the amps forum on good cabs for both, (the search option is cool for this). The cabs I'm most familiar with are the epifani, bergantino, bag end, and aguilar. The bag end 1x12 is a very present and aggressive cabinet, with quick mids but is a bit low end shy for some. not the best cab for a low b. all of the others do well with a 5 string, the epi and aguilar get lower than the bergie for sure, but the bergie has a strong presence in the upper partials of the b string for a "tight" bass response. the aguilar is a bit mid scooped, but some eq helps with this. the aggie does have a very deep apparent low end response. all 4 of them seem to do well with more watts, not that they're inefficent, but they all seem to come alive when pushed. i know some doublers use the bag end 1x12, but IIRC, more are fond of the bag end 1x15, which is still a very small box. it has more low end than the 1x12 (although not as much as the aggie) and is probably louder than any of the 1x12's i mentioned. It's one of my favorite cabs. I haven't heard the epifani 1x12UL, but from what i understand it's not that differnt from the 1x12NYC and both can be made to sound like one another with a little eq. Another really popular doubling rig has been an epifani 1x12NYC with an epifani 1x10UL. IIRC, this rig was common prior to the introduction of the 1x12UL, so it's quite possible that some cats are now using UL versions of both cabs.

    now that i said all that, click on this link for some more info
  6. Punchy810s


    Jun 18, 2010
    OK, so I am getting a little freaked-out about asking the solid state amp to do more than it is designed to do and resultant clips and how tone controls turned up (i.e. esp. the Low frequency) can cause speakers to wear out over the course of a gig (yes I read most of the clipping thread and it makes me a little gun shy).

    Here's my proposed gigging rig: GK MB500 = 500 W @ 4 ohms with an Acoustic B810 Cab with 8 - 10" speakers = 800 W @ 4 ohms. At face value, it looks innocent enough to me. However, I like to use amp tone controls to get some warmth , SPLs and presence not just the volume controls. I keep the gain down and adjust the master level up (never all the way, probably not even 1/2 way) to minimize distortion. In addition, I have an active bass with a three band EQ and have learned to turn the low frequency all the way down and let the amp itself do the bottom work - but occasionally turn up the mid a little and hf knobs for a hands-on boost to get the desired presence and brightness.

    Simple two part question - (a) am I asking the amp to work too hard if I push the tone controls past 12:00 0'clock at gig volume on the master? and (b) could pushing the tone controls past (say, 2:00 or 3:00 o'clock) damage the speakers over the course of the gig, even though the cab rates higher than the amp?

    The sticky threads are very enlightening, but now I'm beginning to wonder if I know just enough to be very dangerous to my equipment.
  7. Foz


    Jul 26, 2008
    Jax FL USA
    a no - knobs are made to twiddle and ears are made to listen

    b yes - there is no such thing as an unbreakable tool [or toy].
  8. PierreCA


    Jan 8, 2009
    Great post. I'm in a middle of a bind where I'm short of cash (with 2 good basses that I wouldn't sell easily) and have to buy stuff that I need. Plus where I live I can't find any good head or cabinets and the shipping rate is too expensive with all that weight. I live in Dominican Republic. Also, I'd like to invest in the M9.

    IvanMike what do you think about direct boxers like Tone hammers or Sansamp as a temporary solution to connect to the PA system directly until I can find and buy a good head and cab?

    Once again thanks for this post, I won't buy a combo amp no matter what. I just sold my Roland 30 cube and I'm glad I did... I won't get into that 'trap' again.
  9. MIJ-VI

    MIJ-VI Banned Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2009
    Best DI box for live sound? Bass - DI - PA

    Soundman/DI Question
  10. TheRealKong


    Mar 17, 2011
    Buying a combo is no trap at all - if You know what You're doing...

    Just gigged and practised for more than 16 years with a SWR Redhead (first series) and an old custom built, sealed 410 without tweeters. It actually is made like the upper half of an Ampeg 810.

    The sound was just gorgeous, it gave the SWR the mids I always miss when playing it alone.

    The SWR Redhead passed away, irreparable. My tech tried it 4 times, but wasn't able to find the issue. Finnaly he installed a new power-amp - section, but it was not the same old thing... So I sold it cheap.

    I bought this cab long time before that SWR when I used to play over a Gallien-Krueger 200 MB, the old little Combo. This was a killer little rig. Still have it.

    Today I am much more versatile. There is a Markbass LM II which I love with my SWR Workingpro 212 for rock, a Marshall MB 4410 which I use together with the old custom made 410 for heavy metal, an Ibanez Promethean for practise and little bar-gigs, and - for the real big open-air - stuff I do 6-8 times a year - a Ampeg SVP Pro + stereo power amp (2x 700 w @ 4 Ohm, 2x 450 w @ 8 Ohm, 1400 w bridged @@ 8 Ohm) with two Peavey TVX 410 in 4 Ohm. Ääähm, and there is a Peavey TVX 210 in 4 Ohm that I bought together with the Promethean.

    I`s hard to say what is better: The Combo, the amp/cab combination or the pre/poweramp with cabs. Had/have some combos and some heads/cabs. It depends on the kind of music You make, on Your mobility (have car? will haul...) and on the band You are with. There are much more things You have to think of. But I'm just sad because of my SWR Redhead. With the extention-box it covered everything I did for a long time: Rock, heavy metal and teaching.
  11. Not unless you have one as a practice amp. Combos are highly underrated IMO. I have a main rig and an MB112. The MB112 gets out of the house about 80% of the time - purely because of its form factor. It's convenient. I'd rather have a totally fuss free setup and lug in if it gets me 90% of the tone I'm after. I let the playing and booty shakin take care of the rest. Life's too short to obsess about that other 10%
  12. tom-g


    Oct 2, 2007
    My combo weighs 100 lbs. It doesn't get moved at all. This means I don't like combos either.
  13. jnewmark

    jnewmark Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2006
    Stax 1966
    Play guitar.
    I like combos too, especially my Roland DB 700, which I have been using 50% of the time for the last 10 years. It is loud enough for my small Blues band without PA support, and I have also used it once in awhile with my 7 piece wedding/event band with PA support. I think the biggest reason is, I love the way it sounds so much, I try to use it whenever I can. I would never discourage anyone from trying a combo.
  14. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    Pretty sure IvanMike was just stating his personal preference. And some combos are more amenable to working with other gear if the need arises than others. The point being that with most combos you can't use the head with other cabs without carrying the built in cab along. Or use the cab with another setup without carrying the amp.

    I still have two combos, an Ampeg B-100R that I don't gig with and a little AER Basic Performer that I can use on just about any of the gigs I do and it sounds great. It's all about what the individual needs and prefers.
  15. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Zombie thread... Well... Maybe not zombie, but certainly not fresh with roughly a year before being bumped on Monday.
  16. tallboybass

    tallboybass Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2003
    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    I ♥ Zombie Threads!