Recommend a good preamp / poweramp?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Transverz, May 4, 2004.

  1. Transverz

    Transverz believer of the Low End Theory

    May 3, 2004
    Los Angeles, CA
    Hello all...

    My first thread! Cool. This place is great.

    Just wanted to get your opinions on a decent to GOOD preamp / poweramp combination. Of course, I am limited by a budget, probably $500 max on a preamp and $500 max on a poweramp.

    I was considering the Ampeg SVP-PRO preamp ($499) or Ampeg SVP-CL Classic preamp ($499). Are these worth it or are there better preamps for less? You know how some Ampeg's are a bit pricey for what they are ;) (though my Ampeg B5R is quite tasty although I got it for cheap). Oh, between tube and solid-state, I'd like a tube for tube's sake, but eh, it wouldn't end the world if I kept it solid-state.

    As for a poweramp, hmm, that's tough. I see lots of power for cheap nowadays, and power for EXPENSIVO too, and I'm a bit confused as to what is truly a value and what is overpriced. Help?

    All opinions would be appreciated. Thanks!

  2. Transverz - Welcome aboard!

    I'd recommend you go with used gear. You can get much more preamp for your money. Power amps are a little different, there's a ton to choose from and they range in price all over the place.

    I've seen the SVP and Alembic F1X preamps for around $300, sometimes less for the ampeg. These both have a pretty good reputation. If you want to spend more, there's Eden Navigator, Kern IP777, Demeter VTBP201, and Aguilar DB659, I've seen them all adverstised for $400 - $500.

    For power amps I usually base a "good deal" on how much per watt. (4 ohm bridged power just so we have an apples-to-apples comparison) A good QSC PLX series amp goes for around $0.30 per watt, the RMX for under $0.20. The really nice, small, lightweight Stewart amps go for around $0.35. You might want to check out the Carvins too. I'd guess you could get a DCM for about $0.20/w used, but their new CP series are pretty cheap right out of the box, the CP1800 (1800 watts @ 4ohms) costs $400 - $0.22/watt.

    Most amps like this are pretty heavy - 25-30 lbs or so. so make sure your back is up to it. But you could really get yourself a honey of a rig for $1K.

    Of course you can always buy an Aguilar DB728 - 400W of all tube power, but it will set youback about $2750 new - almost $7.00 per watt.

    Cheers, BT
  3. Transverz

    Transverz believer of the Low End Theory

    May 3, 2004
    Los Angeles, CA
    haha, Squiers and squirrels...

    Thanks for the welcome. Much appreciated!

    Thanks for the advice. I will definitely look into all those brands/models you suggested. In terms of all the preamps you mentioned, relative to each other, what are their respective sounds in general? I have some sort of idea what the Ampeg sound is being an owner of one, though I only own a solid-state model. I play mostly heavy alt-rock, sorta punk-ish, and love a bit of overdrive warmth.

    Being on a budget, used gear would definitely be the way to go for this stuff, thanks for suggesting that. Should I be worried about the condition of the tubes and such? Or is it just crap shoot at the quality/condition of this stuff?

    Regarding the poweramps, price per watt is a great tool. Quick question though: What about the affect of tone or "musicality" of the poweramp? Is it just experience that will guide me to a "better sounding poweramp"? Or is the sound/tone/color difference between all these poweramps almost negligible and overhyped?

    Sorry for all the questions. I really appreciate the help. :D

  4. Hmm, I'm not a super gear monger, although I've had a few heads. I've heard that the Demeter, Alembic, and Kern are all based on the old Fender Bassman preamp, so I would think they would have a pretty good soft vintage tone. But I haven't heard any of them. The Eden, if it's anything like their heads, is a great preamp with a lot of control over your sound. And it has that warm sound that tubes are famous for. I've owned a couple of them, and think they are much better than anything else I've had.

    I've bought and sold alot of used stuff from all over, and have only been burned once. And that was because I didn't ask enough questions. Guys on the board here have been real straight, and I've had good luck with the people on bassgear and harmony central too. Just ask alot of questions, (Why are you getting rid of it? any issues? what condition?) and ask for pictures. Ask them for references too.

    Well, that's why people buy Aguilar 400 Watt tube heads for $7.00/watt. It's all very subjective. I used to work for a hifi company who's flagship product was a 600W monoblock power amp. and it only cost $15,000. So it's pretty mystifying what drives people to do that kind of stuff.

    That said, I think most solid state power amps are designed to be "flat frequency response" which means it won't color the sound, or shouldn't anyway.

    not a problem. That's why I terrorize this board.

    disclaimer: IMHO applies to everything I said.

    Stay Low, BT
  5. Transverz

    Transverz believer of the Low End Theory

    May 3, 2004
    Los Angeles, CA
    haha, thanks dude. I'm planning on terrorizing (in a good way) this board too.

    Quick question: I noticed you didn't mention the value-priced Behringer amps. The Behringer 2500 is 2400 watts @ 4ohms bridged for about $350 = $0.15 per watt. Of course, 2400 watts is insanity, for me at least. There is the Behringer 1500 which is 1400 watts @ 4 ohms bridged for about $300 = $0.21 per watt...not bad. Still insane relative to the 350watt Ampeg B5R that I'm running right now which is perfectly fine for me. I just figure that at the same price, why get less watts? Of course, figuring that there is no tonal difference between solid state amps...only personal preference and track record of quality issues.

    Eh? I'm catching on!

  6. 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 between good-quality power amps.
  7. rddog


    May 30, 2003
    Park City, UT
    Check out For the scoop on preamps. They have done a great job of putting together sound bytes and prices.

    I will wish you good luck on finding the right preamp, I have been on the quest for the "one" preamp for a while now.
    I went with QSC PLX2402 for the power side, only 21lbs of good clean power with customer service that is quite excellent... (just ask a question here :)) but I have been through 4 preamps at this point. They are all good just not what I am listening for. I am waiting for my new BBE BMAX to arrive... Let you know how it goes.

    Road Dog
  8. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    IMO the SVT-Pro or the SVT-BSP would be right up your alley. I see them come up on ebay regularly. The Alembic F1-X is an awesome preamp IMO. If you can, try out an SWR I.O.D. preamp. If you like it, pm me, I have one like new I'm planning on selling.

    I also did a lot of trial & error with preamps until I found this forum. I just wish I'd heard of the basstaster site before I bought 2 different preamps!!

    Welcome to the forum, A.P.
  9. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Watch out, what basstrader said only applied to better amps - and Behringers dont have a reputation to be one of them... Sure they are cheap, but if it is unreliable,noisy and doesnt get low frequencies well through, then its just money out the window
    My $0.02
  10. Yeah, there's a reason I didn't mention them, not just the quality but their ethics, but lets not go there since it's been covered ad infinitum in other threads. Besides I feel that the Carvins pretty much match them on price (close anyway) and should be way better amps. And their USA made. Look for a good used DCM, their pretty common on Ebay.

    Just my $0.20/watt

  11. I've got the Demeter VTBP201-S and QSC PLX-2402 and it's very very nice. I usually pump my Bergantino NV610 with this rig. I did add NOS Telefunken 12ax7 tubes which made it even sha-weeter.
  12. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    Hey Transverz, welcome to Talkbass!

    You mentioned being on a budget. You also mentioned Ampeg preamps so I'll assume you like the Ampeg sound. With that in mind, I'll add my own two cents.

    Now I own an Ampeg SVP-Pro, it's a very cool preamp. Very versatile tone-shaping features (even if the graphic EQ isn't used!), nice warm overdrive. However just last night I saw a killer deal on a used SansAmp RBI preamp so I jumped on it. I put it into my rack, and wow, I was really impressed. It isn't as versatile tone-wise as the SVP-Pro, and does not contain any tubes. However it does have a nice tubey sound, is quieter than the SVP-Pro, and is also $100 cheaper (MSRP).

    At this point, who knows what your ultimate preamp will be... so many good ones exist and it's a matter of taste. But the RBI is cheaper than most, high quality, and an amazing value IMO. So I would suggest starting with the RBI so you have more money to spend on your power amp.

    The thing is, a good power amp will be transparent. Once you find one with enough power and transparency, you won't need to change it. Preamps are another matter entirely: features can vary widely. Some of us own a few of them because we can't decide, or simply for variety's sake.

    Hope that makes sense. Good luck to ya.
  13. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    Just checked Musician's Friend: apparently the RBI is $200 cheaper than the SVP-Pro ($299 vs. $499). Emphasizes my point even better. :smug:
  14. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    *Thread hijack*

    I have a similar thread going on so I'll do some hijacking...

    Fuzzbass, can you get a "cleaner" sound out of the RBI than the SVP? - as these are two most likely options here, a used SVP or order an RBI or a BMax if its available in Europe.
    Also, I'm a guy who prefers a bit cleaner and clearer sound, hates hum and noise, doesnt like retubing, has so far only used SS, and the prices of these three preamps being near the same, which would you recommend?
    (I'm asking this also because I cant go and try all these, only the used Ampeg in a shop thats at the other end of town...)

    *Hijack off*
  15. Thumpinthenight


    Apr 13, 2004
    New York
    Transvers, I just assembled a pre-amp-poweramp with the Ampeg SVP-Pro and a Carvin DCM1500. I am REALLY happy with this coming from a Hartke 3500. (I still keep the 3500 for a backup/practice. Just my 2cents - If you click on the "Clearence scratch &dent Specials" on Musicians Friend you can get some good deals with full warrentees. That's what I did with my SVP-Pro. Check them daily-you never know what you can find. Good Luck. ;)
  16. Transverz

    Transverz believer of the Low End Theory

    May 3, 2004
    Los Angeles, CA

    Thank you ALL for your comments and the welcomes! Finally, a friendly forum to call home. Good stuff.

    It's looking like I'm going to check out the SVP-PRO (or SVT-BSP) and the SansAmp RBI. At $200 cheaper, this may be the dealbreaker for me. And dealing with tubes may not be on my top priority list since I'm trying to better all aspects of my playing and performance first :D

    Fuzzbass: When you mentioned the RBI had "less versatility" then the SVP-PRO, what exactly did you mean by that? Is it because the SVP-PRO has an EQ section? Another quick question: Does the RBI have ample "overdrive" ability? That is one of the greatest things about my Ampeg B5R that I would definitely miss if I couldn't get a warm overdrive going.

    As for the poweramp thing, I will definitely give Carver a try. There is a Carver store nearby so maybe they got some good stuff there. Or would it be better to buy used?

    Thumpinthenight: Thanks for sharing your experience with the SVP-PRO and DCM1500, plus the MF Scratch&Dent tip. I'll check that out. The SVT-BSP looks interesting! Plus it has a compressor?! One less thing in my current rack! Do all preamps have compressors? Hmm...

    rddog: Yeah, I cheked out great resource! Although after a while, all the sounds started to sound the same haha, but it's in the subtleties I guess. Please let us know what you think of the BBE BMAX. Might check that out as well!

    Thanks again all...hope I can be of help to any of you soon!

  17. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    I believe I was just referring to equalization (but see next question regarding versatility of overdrive). Even disregarding the graphic EQ (which I don't use), the SVP-Pro has more tone sculpting ability: treble, switchable midrange, bass, ultra-hi switch, ultra-lo switch, bright switch. For EQ, the RBI has treble, mid, bass, presence (and some might argue that the Blend control should also be considered a tone shaper).

    For overdrive, the SVP-Pro wins. Even with a passive bass, it's easy for me to get nice warm thick overdrive. The SansAmp RBI is another matter. It also has a Drive control, but I've never been able to get the same OD with my SansAmp than I have with my SVP-Pro. Some say that thick overdrive is possible with the SansAmp when using high-output basses such as G&L, or boosting gain with another preamp. But even so, the SansAmp's forte is "tube emulation"; it isn't the best choice as a distortion unit.

    Oh: if you're looking for the over-the-top distortion that's possible on the B5R, you might want to look into the Ampeg BSP preamp (the Billy Sheehan pre).
  18. i will second this. i used to own an SVP-BSP, and the B5R is essentially a head version of the preamp. i often used a B5R for quick cabinet comparisons when i was at a store without my amp rack. if you want to stay as close to that tone as possible, get the SVP-BSP. i really enjoyed mine.

  19. Transverz

    Transverz believer of the Low End Theory

    May 3, 2004
    Los Angeles, CA
    Thanks fuzzbass, man, you are right on the money with that SVP-BSP suggestion. I was just checking that out. It's just like my B5R except tubed and probably way crazier possibilities. Awesome.

    Anyone selling one? :D Is there a forum particularly for classified want/sell ads? The only one I see on the home page is under the double bass section. Is that it? Thanks again...

  20. Transverz

    Transverz believer of the Low End Theory

    May 3, 2004
    Los Angeles, CA
    Whoa, thanks also rcz...we musta posted seconds after one another! Yeah, that does nail my B5R perfectly (actually probably more than perfectly hehe). I'll definitely look into that.