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Rack vs. Head discussion

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Jeb, Mar 15, 2005.

  1. Jeb


    Jul 22, 2001
    Regarding the head vs. rack setup:

    It would seem to me that a simple preamp (T21 RBI or otherwise) over a simple poweramp (insert QSC model here) would offer more options (and power) than a standard head (lets say GK1001 or SVT4?). On the surface, it would also appear to be more affordable (and expandable).

    In a band situation, that power amp could be used to power additional monitors (or something else) dependent on what you discover is available to you when you got to the stage.

    Am I making sense here? Would a separate preamp/poweramp alone rival the performance of a standalone bass head? And then offer additional useage options over and above the bass head alone?
  2. WovenGraphite

    WovenGraphite Supporting Member

    Jan 19, 2005
    Bay Area, California
    I would say yes, the pre+power offers some flexibility. The second usage you mention is all right but only if your power amp has multiple channels (usually two) and you have enough power for your bass stuff (read: no need to bridge the power amp).

    Otherwise, in comparison to a head, the power/pre setup adds some more cable and the clutter/time that goes with installing it.

  3. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    I like heads personally. Pre+power is something I've wanted to try though. In the long run it's prolly a better idea, in a lot of cases. Right now my rack's just my head, a power conditioner on it's way along with eventually a rackable wireless. For me that's best, as I wont be powering monitors at all, or have money to change and go pre/power now :D.

  4. protoz


    Nov 30, 2000
    I run both. I've been using my rack kit more because I have the power conditioner and tuner in there but I toss the head on top of that on occasion just so I can use the conditioner and tuner easily.
  5. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    The pre/amp setup is certainly more flexible, allows for incremental upgrading, and in many cases is a better bang for the buck. A good bass head puts all you need in a more compact package (even an SVT is somewhat "compact" compared to a seperate tube preamp and 300 watt tube power amp). Both routes can work well.

    I also own both rack setups and heads. While it's rather enjoyable to put together a rack system that is tweaked to meet your exact wants/desires, it's also nice to pick up a 7 lb Walter Woods and be done with it! :p

    I'm such a gear whore, that I will stick to both routes, for sure!
  6. lbanks


    Jul 17, 2003
    Ennui, IN USA
    I've got both. I use my heads more, because the rack cases are awkward and heavy. The heads are just heavy.
  7. jiant.


    Jul 3, 2004
    Fort Mill, SC
    One question I had about this is do most power amps have limiters like heads do, or do you just have to be careful about what you pump into your cab?
  8. TheChariot


    Jul 6, 2004
    Boston, MA
    Most have limiters. On my QSC, you can also have the frequency drop out at 30Hz or 50Hz. Pretty handy for me since I have a 410 and 115 cab. :)
  9. Bob Rogers

    Bob Rogers Left is Right

    Feb 26, 2005
    Blacksburg, Virginia
    Another advantage of the rack system - In a head, the power amp is usually designed to be part of the tone chain. A standalone power amp is supposed to be flat. So with a rack system you are trying to design "your" tone at the line level. So, ideally, every flat line level input is the same: the power amp, a mixing board, direct recording. In the real world you have to tweak, but there should be less to do.
  10. msquared


    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    I have done rack setups always because of flexibility but I scrapped it all a few months ago to go with a small head. I miss the rack rig and am looking to rebuild it soon.

    I agree that racks can be cumbersome, which is why I never go over 4U. Some would even call that too much, but I never seem to have a problem with it. Plenty of space for a 2U power amp and a 1U preamp, with some space left over for other things. If the power isn't enough, it's easy to swap for a bigger amp and maintain your tone.

    The thing with using the power amp for backup PA amp should be mentioned again. If there's an emergency, it pays to be prepared, and I wouldn't mind going down to one cab or unbridging if it means the difference between playing the gig and having to turn around and go home.
  11. Jim Ingraham

    Jim Ingraham Supporting Member

    Nov 14, 2002
    this happened to me last Sat at a gig.... were ready to start the first set and somebody sees smoke coming out of our PA power amp...luckily I had my QSC/Bmax rig with me so we run a patch cord to second channel of my 1602 and we're good to go :bassist:
  12. Rack setups aren't so bad if you split the rack up. I mean if you start out with a 50lb power amp then add a pre, a tuner, compressor, EQ, etc...you wind up with something that's like trying to move a block of depleted uranium with handles on it. I Keep my CA9 in it's own 2u rack, which is still heavy, but it's a hell of a lot easier to transport because it's not so friggin bulky. The rest of the electronics I keep in a 4u rack which hardly weighs anything. I throw everything on the hand truck and can load the entire rig (cabs and all) in and out in one trip.
  13. silky smoove

    silky smoove

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    I keep a Mesa/Boogie M-Pulse 600, a vented blank, a Korg DTR-1000 and a Furman Power conditioner inside of a single 5-space rack case. Truth be told its heavy as hell, but the rack in question is an SKB Roll-x. So, even though its heavy its still got wheels and a pull-out luggage handle, so moving it is a snap.
  14. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    1st, no, most power amps dont have limiters. some do. some also have filters to cut frequencies below a set point to protect speakers not able to cope with them.

    the pre/amp route is inherently more flexible, but a good head is a cool thing. i'm one of the few who racks my poweramps seperately. makes one more thing to carry, but makes for lighter peices that fit in cars eaisier.
  15. orskard


    Mar 17, 2004
    hey, coming from using a RBI with QSC power, i do like the idea of being able to change the problem, tone or volume. by just swapping out a piece. However i have yet to get a rack case so i dont know about the size issue yet.

    I do however wish i had a really good head to bring around. It would be easier but you have to find the tone you want and the power you need...in the right ohms... and hope its affordable. with a rack its like a build-your-own-amp kit. Make it what you want/afford.

    I really want to know more about that new amp, maybe yorkville or yamaha. something like 10 lbs 500 watts at 2 ohms... anyone else remember? That would be nice to have.
  16. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Good points above. One thing that I'm not sure has been mentioned yet: with a head, if one component fails then the entire head will probably fail. With a rack, if a single component fails then you can probably patch around it and keep going. That's what I did a few years ago when my preamp went down: I simply pulled it out of the signal chain and used my rack compressor as a preamp. If the compressor had failed, I'd have patched around that.

    Power amp failures are usually another story: with most, a single failure will bring the entire amp down... hard to patch around that! But one neat thing about dual-mono amps (such as the Stewart 1.6 and 2.1) is that one channel can continue to function if the other fails. Hasn't happened to me and I hope it never will, but I do enjoy the peace of mind that the dual-mono feature brings.
  17. msquared


    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    If your power amp dies, steal a PA amp channel (or go direct into the board) and keep going.

    Note: there are at least a handful, if not several heads that if the power stage blows will allow you to take the effects send or the DI output and run it into the board or a PA amp channel, and likewise with the preamp stage dying.
  18. AlembicPlayer

    AlembicPlayer Im not wearing shorts

    Aug 15, 2004
    Pacific Northwet, USA
    I agree with the majority here..
    a little head is nice, but there's nothing like a full rack :D

  19. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Exactly! Me, I like both! :p