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My hopefully helpful views on amps

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by IvanMike, Sep 24, 2003.


  1. IvanMike

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

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    OK, I'm not tooting my own horn here at all, and my views are essentially my own and definitely not the last word on amps. Having read, responded to, and posted threads on amps i think a lot of newbies to the bass might benifit from my experience.

    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 2 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 protects your speakers as "clipping" a 100 watt amp will fry speakers much faster than using a 1000 watt amp and spiking every once in a while. 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. 2 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) This past year i finally got a couple of used preamps (alembic & demeter), 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. 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 bagends and the alembic/stewart rig, 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. Whn using the eden I also usually bring 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. kirbywrx

    kirbywrx formerly James Hetfield

    Jul 27, 2000
    Melbourne, Australia.
    Very well put. Thats almost worthy of sticking it to the top. Thats a great story, and theres alot of advice in there thats going to help alot of people.

    Thanks for your input, but now you have got me thinking...:meh: :D
     
  3. Deano Destructo

    Deano Destructo Music Man/Upton addict. Hasn't slept since 1979. Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Seems like this could've been in the newsletter. Great read;) .
     
  4. IvanMike

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

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    thanks guys, glad you found it interesting
     
  5. This statement is not very accurate. A 100w amp could fry a 100w speaker if driven into clipping, but it couldn't fry, say, a 700w speaker. The 1000w amp, on the other hand, could fry the 700w speaker without clipping.
     
  6. IvanMike

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

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    point taken, but i belive that a 100 watt amp could destroy a 700 watt speaker if clipped long enough
    those square waves heat up voice coils really really fast
    however, dont take my word for it, i would ask a speaker manufacturer
    for example, the epifani 212 is rated at 800 watts rms - nick epifani's reccomended power for driving this speaker is 400 - 2000 watts
     
  7. Petebass

    Petebass

    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    Yep, and yep again!
     
  8. You'd be very hard pressed to thermally destroy a 700W speaker with a 100W amp. The theoretical maximum power that amp could produce is 200W. In practice you'd never be able to get anywhere close to that on average. That's far enough below the rated power of the speaker that it would be easily dissipated.


    Good post, BTW...
     
  9. IvanMike

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

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    yeah i agree on that point ,maybe the example was a lil exaggerated but it's always distressing to me how many players don't know what clipping is and dont understand that underpowering their cabs may do more harm than good
     
  10. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    Not to jump on you, because that was a good post that could help a lot of people here, but there's not really any such thing as underpowering your cabs. Cabs don't care whether they're getting 1 W or 500, as long as it's within what they can handle.

    But there is such a thing as being underpowered *for your gig/playing situation*, where you don't have enough amp to get the job done as well as you want/need to, and if that's what you meant, I agree. If you're underpowered for your gig, you'd be underpowered whether your cabs were rated the same as your amp, lower, or higher. You'd still be overworking your amp. And in fact, once you're overworking your amp, you'd be in *more* danger with a lower rated cab than with a higher rated one (unless, perhaps, if the latter has a sensitive tweeter and the former has none).

    Also, though, don't forget the value of using more speakers. I've come across one or two examples of guys trying to get the volume and tone they need by pouring more and more power into one or two little bitty speakers (you know, like 900 W into one 10). Even the best speaker has limits beyond which it just won't give you any more no matter how much power you try to throw at it. Adding a second identical cab to the same amp (if the amp is set up to handle it) often is functionally equivalent to roughly doubling your amp size.

    Generally, power needs should be figured first in relation to playing situation, not to cab rating.
     
  11. Bob Lee (QSC)

    Bob Lee (QSC) In case you missed it, I work for QSC Audio! Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 3, 2001
    Costa Mesa, Calif.
    Technical Communications Developer, QSC Audio
    That's not correct.

    And square waves don't heat up voice coils any faster than other waves of equal power do.
     
  12. IvanMike

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

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    right you are richard - good points
    i would have elaborated more but i felt my post was already too long
    i just have seen too many guys playing with a 100 or 200 watt amp into a 4x10, not hearing the clipping because the band was playing so darned loud and they had to turn up to be heard, and discovering the next day that all the drivers were blown wondering why their cab rated for 500 watts rms just bit the dust
    as far as square waves go, the way a speaker manufacturer explained it to me was that because the wave stays at peak for a long time, the speaker gets held at maximum excursion for much longer than normal - he said that speakers really dont like it and that that's what heats up the voice coil
    like i said, don't take my word for it, ask someone who makes their living making the things
     
  13. Bob Lee (QSC)

    Bob Lee (QSC) In case you missed it, I work for QSC Audio! Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 3, 2001
    Costa Mesa, Calif.
    Technical Communications Developer, QSC Audio
    Mike, I would take anything else that "speaker manufacturer" says with a really big grain of salt, because he doesn't quite have a grasp of how loudspeakers work. ;)
     
  14. IvanMike

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

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    well thanks for the correction, i don't pretend to know everything
    i wouldn't suggest that someone go dime their 1000 watt amp into a 2x10 retaed for 250 watts either, that's just stupid
    i guess what i really mean is that you have to be careful enough to listen to your speakers to hear if they're being clipped or overdriven
    let's just say i'ma fan of judiciously using a lot of watts for headroom and not having the amp run out before the driver does
    of course, using a lot of speakers is great, but after loading in the pa and my guitar player's stack, i don't wanna lug 4 bass cabs in ;)
     
  15. Gabu

    Gabu

    Jan 2, 2001
    Lake Elsinore, CA
    Interesting read. What I have found to be the best for me is to have:

    One small combo for convenience in the house. No stacks in the house!! ;) Its great to have a little amp with an 8" or 10" speaker that is the size of a lunch box and good tone. In the house, volume is not important.

    One medium to large combo for small bars, coffee houses, or practice. Most of the time when you are playing a 50 to 100 seat bar, that 810 that you have is kind of overkill... But a 210, or 115 either as a short stack or as a combo is great. My old Carvin RC210 rocked the house at a bunch of small bars and was very easy to setup, tear down, and transport. My Ampeg B100-R has been even easier... although it couldn't handle some of the rooms the Carvin did.

    One Large rig for larger rooms, outdoors, or loud shows. The medium rig combined with a line to your PA is backup for the large rig.
     
  16. IvanMike

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

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    that's why i love to go modular - you can always tailor the rig to your needs

    btw boblee (qsc), if you could give an accurate description of clipping and why it frys speakers, and what wattage amp can hurt what rating of speaker by clipping that would be useful. I always try to expand and clarify my knowledge and i'm sure others would find it useful as well
    thanks,
    ivan
     
  17. Gabu

    Gabu

    Jan 2, 2001
    Lake Elsinore, CA
    You know a lot though. :)

    Good first post. I hope you haven't felt too jumped on...
     
  18. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    Clipping, in and of itself, doesn't fry speakers. If it did, no rock guitar players would be able to play, 'cause those guys clip their amps all the time.

    This gets discussed a lot around here. I mean A LOT. There's a lot of good info, so I'd suggest doing a search on "clipping" and look for posts by Bob Lee and Mark Reccord. I don't mean this in a nasty way at all, just that if something's already been said, it can be easier to look it up than to discuss it all over again, you know?
     
  19. Ask and ye shall receive: An earlier post by me....Bob Lee approved, I might add.:D
    Check it out and if you're still looking for more insight, do what Richard Lindsey said. ;)

    Thread's called "has anyone blown speakers using to much clean power."
     
  20. IvanMike

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

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    nope i dont feel jumped on........
    thanks much for the info on clipping and speaker damage - very informative, next article i write will be more accurate
    i didn't start this thread with the intention of impressing anyone with my knowledge - (heck, i can't even impress my kids!)
    It just seems that so many players are unaware of the simple facts about amplifiers, ohms, the fact that to get a 3db increase in volume you need to double the power, etc. It just amazes me how most music stores do such a dismal job at educating the consumer, and ditto for a lot of manufacturers. What frosted me the most was reading a post here yesterday where a player was pretty much out of luck because he wanted to add another speaker and his combo was only rated to drive a minimum of 8 ohms! How could a manufacturer sleep at night making such a dead end product? Kudos to qsc and stewart and others for making amps that can safely take a 2 ohm load!