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Overpowering your cabinets?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by bassn00b11, Mar 13, 2008.

  1. Much higher watt amp pushing lower wattage cabs to near max

    32 vote(s)
  2. Slightly higher watt amp running near max pushing cabs at almost max

    57 vote(s)
  3. Lower wattage amp running near max not pushing cabs hard

    29 vote(s)
  4. Lower wattage amp running at low power barely pushing higher rated cabs

    14 vote(s)
  1. bassn00b11


    Feb 7, 2008
    My basic question is whether or not players think it sounds best when your amp over powers your cabs, best when your cabs are rated much higher than your amp, or if you get your best sound when they are roughly equal.

    For me personally I think most cabs sound best when they are slightly overpowered and each of the components can run closer to their full capacity. I have played through a 400 watt amp into 200-300 watt cabinets and have found that they sound fuller than higher wattage cabs, but I was curious as to what other people thought.

    What's your opinion?

    *edit* I guess option 2 wasn't totally clear - when I said slightly higher I meant to say slightly higher, equal, or slightly lower - like within 50-100 watts of cabs rating.
  2. Overpowers? If you are running your amps up to the max and you have low rated cabs...that kind of overpowering?

    I prefer to have a great sounding cab and headroom on my amp.
  3. There should be another choice...Carrots?
  4. bassn00b11


    Feb 7, 2008
    Damnit I knew I forgot something.

    And as I side note I have to admit the choices in this thread are not exactly clear nor all encompasing....sorry guys.
  5. metron


    Sep 12, 2003
    It doesnt really matter what the ratio of available power to speaker dissipation capability is. Also the term overpowering is being used incorrectly. Overpowering speakers is not something you want to do because it results in damage.
  6. mjolnir

    mjolnir Thor's Hammer 2.1.3beta

    Jun 15, 2006
    Houston, TX
    Pushing cabs comfortably with some headroom to play with is what I would say if it were up there.
  7. bassn00b11


    Feb 7, 2008
    My usage of the term was to imply the question whether or not people use amps that have the capability to overpower their cabinets, not that they actually did.
  8. joelb79


    Mar 22, 2006
    Lansing, Michigan
    There are thermal and mechanical limits on every speaker. You do not want to cross either boundary as it can quickly result in damage to them. If your speaker can thermally handle 300 watts and you are feeding it 500, there is a fair chance of damage to the voice coil. The same speaker also might handle 300 watts thermally, but due to the enclosure design cannot handle more than 100. In this case again, you would not want to feed it more than 100w as you could be exceeding your speakers limits and causing the cone and voice coil damage.

    I'm not sure what my answer is, but probably along the lines of my rig. My Epifani handles 1000+ watts and I choose 500-600 watts as my save range. I never need that much volume anyways.
  9. bassn00b11


    Feb 7, 2008
    Yeah I failed to include that as an option, hence my apologetic post a couple up.

    Basically HIGH watt Amp (more than cabs) over high watt cabs running low with plenty of headroom not working the cabs hard.

    Joe - sounds like the option I forgot to include.
  10. mjolnir

    mjolnir Thor's Hammer 2.1.3beta

    Jun 15, 2006
    Houston, TX
    Yup, you got the gist of it, though that's actually not what I'm running right now, it's just what I prefer. I'm actually running a 1000W head into a 1200W cab.
  11. The max wattage of the cabinet is typically a pretty useless spec. I always try to match a head to a cab based on tone and the absolute volume I'll need (wattage versus SPL).

    IMO and IME... probably better off not placing a lot of thought into the ratio of maximum amp output to maximum suggested power handling of the cab.

    Also, your touch and tone goals really impacts this 'mix and match'. I like a full tone but have a very even and relatively light touch (you can't tell the difference if you have a compressor on or not with my technique). Therefore, given I like sighificant bottom, I do need relatively high wattage (all other things being equal) and a large enough and high enough SPL cab to deliver that tone to the audience with the lightweight amps I prefer that are typically in the 500 watt range. However, I rarely run out of headroom with 500 watts going into a large, relatively widely voiced and relatively high SPL cab.

    On the other hand, I have a good buddy who is a 'J bass bridge pickup only Jaco type tone' guy, and he can get away with low power and a small cab, since it's relatively easy to punch that type of mid range/low end compressed tone out into the audience. He also rarely 'stresses' an amp or cab (he has a strong touch, but with very little deep low end in his tone, he doesn't tend to push amps or cabs to their limits with big peaks in the low end.

    Finally, I have a buddy in Detroit who has the hardest touch and widest dynamic range of any player I've ever known, and even with a compressor, he is constantly hitting the peak limit light on his very high powered amps.... he also blows up speakers right and left... so, he seems to need much 'sturdier' (maybe higher maximum wattage) speakers and a good power amp limiting circuit to reduce those massive peaks. With my touch, I rarely even drive a power amp to full volume!

    So... complex question, and IMO, probably not the right way to think about it.
  12. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    ^^^ Good points there. Also, whenever this topic comes up (amp W rating vs. cab W rating) a lot of mythical BS gets posted as "fact", because somebody's cousin blew a speaker once and told his uncle that is was because a square wave overheated his voice coil, and it wouldn't have happened if his amp had a higher wattage rating. :rolleyes: Damage can and does happen, but only because the user did not take knowledgable care with their own specific application/usage of the amp and cab -it has nothing directly to do with the wattage ratings.
  13. Yup!!
  14. +1... but again, depending on SPL, that could mean 500 watts into a 1000 watt cab (like my F1 into a Epi 410UL), or 500 watts into a little 350 watt Acme B210.... both would result in what many would call 'nicely pushing the cab with plenty of headroom:) due to the different voicing and sensitivity.
  15. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Car manufacturers do crash tests.
    I'd like to see a cabinet manufacturer actually make measurements to burnout.
    Show the watts in pink noise, versus SPL out all the way until the speaker burns out.
    I wonder if the speaker manufacturers like Eminence actually do this?
    Better they do it, than some poor consumer find out on their own.
  16. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    That's an interesting idea, but I see two possible problems:
    1) Pink noise is no simulation for what happens in the real world
    2) Players have widely different styles: some play hard with a lot of attack, some limit dynamic range with compression or saturation, some pluck softly and evenly.
  17. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Here is my favorite rig: a tube amp pushed just above the clipping point. Nothing beat a vintage SVT run in the "sweet spot".

    I now use tube emulators rather than actual tubes. Isn't quite the same thing, but I no longer have the back for a 90 pound SVT head. :bawl:
  18. lefty007


    Jan 19, 2004
    Miami, FL
    Amps should have slightly higher wattage than speaker rating, and should be run up to 75% capacity, in my opinion. No amp should be run at 100% capacity for long period of time, and if that's the situation, then you need a more powerful or efficient system.

    Amp with too much power for speaker = speaker failure.

    Amp with too little power for speaker = amp failure.
  19. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    That's what car manufacturers say when the insurance institute crash tests cars. :) Sure, circumstances, and conditions would ever be the same, but you need some standard starting point.
  20. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    If we want to pass some idle rules of thumb - I would say your cabinet should be rated twice what the amplifier is feeding it it. The cabs is going to reach it's max SPL at half it's rated power (or less)

    And modern amps should have no problem running full out at their rated specs. If overdriven they should politely shutdown. Amps with limiters should flash their light at you but keep on trucking. If they burn out, then that manufacturer has no business selling an amp for pro use.

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