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So many watts so little volume?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Mrmatt1972, Jan 4, 2017.


  1. Hi,
    So I'm new here and back to being a bassist after a long hiatus. I'm shopping for bass amps for the first time since the 90s. The last amp I had was a 350 watt Trace Elliot combo that could push so much air my pantlegs would flap in the breeze. I'm seeing now that 800 or more watts is kind of "normal"? Is this because of class D amps?

    That said, I borrowed an Ampeg PF-350 mini head and an Ashdown 210 rated at 8 ohms/250 watts. It can barely keep up with a 50 watt Laney AOR at about 1/2 on the master. What gives?

    In frustration I pulled out an old MosValve MV-962 and an ART tube mp studio preamp, plugged into the Ashdown this rig is WAY louder (and better sounding). I'm so confused...

    OiYXpt3.jpg
     
  2. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    My guess is that the low bass frequencies are eating up your power.
    Cut the low end and crank it again, see if it makes any difference.
     
    Gearhead17 likes this.
  3. I had the PF500 and I would have it almost cranked going through my Ampeg 215 cab just to keep up with my hard rock band.
     
    Gospel Bass Player and Bassdirty like this.
  4. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    Just out of curiosity, what kind of cabs did you have before? I believe that PF-350 is only 250w at 8hm.

    My belief is that higher wattages are becoming more of the norm for three reasons:

    1. Watts are relatively cheap now
    2. As you noted, partly because of the feeling from early models that class D amps don't reach their limits gracefully and pushing them into that territory should be avoided at all costs (I do believe this problem is being engineered away though)
    3. An overabundance of watts, that are now cheap, allow for the use of less efficient, but smaller and lighter cab arrangements

    Just my personal thoughts on the topic.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2017
    cchorney and Sartori like this.
  5. So it is likely the Ampeg's design that is the issue. Every amp I look at is class D, so I'm a little worried.
     
  6. I've found that with any of the new Solid state amps over the years. Ampeg, ashdown, peavey, fender... Anything 500 watts and under I had to crank to cut through. I also play in a hard rock band with 2 Marshall half stacks. I just last year finally bit the bullet and spent the bucks on my first tube head. I no longer have the issue lol
     
    gsgbass and peterpalmieri like this.
  7. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    I can't speak to the PF-350 from personal experience, but I can tell you what I'd try.

    Gain and volume knob positions often don't "line up" from amp to amp. You might clip the front end of one amp with the gain at 10:00 and be able to crank another to 3:00 before the same thing happens. Same thing with the master volume. When I had the gain set where I liked it on my old Markbass F500, it would run out of gas with the Master volume around 1:00. Looking at the knobs, it would seem like I had a lot more room to go louder, but that wasn't the case. On the Glockenklang Blue Rock I just sold, with the gain set for a nice clean sound, you can turn the master volume almost all the way up and it just keeps getting louder and louder. The Glock is a significantly louder, harder hitting amp than the F500 was, but the F500 was probably louder with the master volume at noon. (Those are both class D heads, by the way.) Moral of the story? Forget about the gain and volume knob positions (unless you actually run out of room) and use your ears. The amp will either be able to give you what you want or it won't.

    Just looking at the photo you posted (if those are the settings you used), though, unless you're playing a pretty hot active bass, the Gain on the Ampeg looks to be set on the low side, whereas you might be hitting that Mos Valve with a much stronger signal from the ART pre. If you're going for a clean sound on the Ampeg, try turning the Gain up until you get just a bit of breakup (or just a bit more than you want) and then back it off a hair. If you're feeding the power section of the amp an anemic signal, it'll sound wimpy no matter where the volume is.

    As to class D vs. transformer based amps, there have been raging debates on here (though not so much, lately). I was away from playing bass for a long time and came back to it about seven years ago. I went through a few class D amps before finally trying a big lead sled. Even at similar wattage ratings, the differences in slam, heft, immediacy, ability to sustain a note at volume, and detail were immediately apparent (and favored the lead sled). There might be a few factors involved. Class D (as implemented in bass amps, anyway) was a less mature technology then than it is today. Wattage ratings can vary -- is that 500 Watts @ 0.1% distortion, or at 10% distortion? at what frequency? -- and manufacturers don't always measure with the same yardstick.

    I've continued to try smaller, class D amps and the better ones today are a step or two up from those of a decade earlier. The Glock Blue Rock I mentioned earlier is a hell of an amp (my favorite so far among the class D amps I've owned), though it still gives up some gravitas and detail to its lead-sled older sibling, the Heart Rock 2. Weight aside, I prefer the bigger amp overall, but the BR is good enough that I could see actually preferring it in certain settings, with certain cabs. I think that they'll continue to get better.

    As for the PF-350, fiddle with the knobs (Gain, especially) and see if you can get what you like -- you might not like it as much as the ART/Mosvalve setup, but at least you'll give it a fairer shot. I'll be curious to see what you find.

    Addendum: For what it's worth, I still have a modest, not-particularly-cutting-edge Class D head that I like and enjoy playing: a Kustom KXB500. It's not on the level of the Blue Rock -- and it's certainly not on the level of the Heart Rock 2 or my GBE 1200 -- but it's not bad at all and I can palm it with one hand. It has its place.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2017
  8. I was experimenting using the pad and fooling with the gain and master. I do have a very hot active bass.
     
  9. BassmanPaul

    BassmanPaul Inactive

    Volume comes less from the amp and more from the cabinets. A 2x10 will not get you too far especially an 8Ω one. The amp will produce less power into an 8Ω cab than it will into a 4Ω one. If you want more add a second identical cabinet. The difference will be dramatic.
     
  10. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    Most of the popular class D heads I see are in the area of 300 watts @8 ohm, 500 @ 4. The minis are less.
     
  11. BogeyBass

    BogeyBass Inactive

    Sep 14, 2010
    200 watts works great with a more efficient cab. but a 210 not so much

    a spongy 200 watts at that lol
     
    Aqualung60 likes this.
  12. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Agreed, with additional commentary: The difference will be due more to the increased cone area and less due to the wattage output. Watts != volume; what you need is ample voltage feeding efficient cabs. No matter what direction the knobs are pointing. ;)
     
    Gizmot and JohnMCA72 like this.
  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    First off, if I let you borrow my PF350 and you stuck a heavy SS amp on top of it like that, you'd better pray you don't scratch it up or dent it, otherwise you'd be buying it. Just a little friendly advice there.

    Anyway, here is the major problem:

    I have very hot active basses, too, and have since the 80's. Number of times I've ever had to use the pad: 0. All they ever do IMHO is cut your available volume and make the bass sound weak.

    To get the most out of those amps, ignore the clip light and turn the gain up till you can hear distortion, then back it down slightly until the distortion goes away, then use master to set your volume. And like it was mentioned on here before, knob positions are meaningless, so don't assume that they should match up right down the line.
     
  14. Your gain is at like nine o'clock, set it to noon and see what happens.

    The time my pf500 couldn't keep up was when stage was dark and I thought the compressor knob was the gain join l knob, and left the gain at like eight o'clock the whole time.
     
    Sartori likes this.
  15. franvarin

    franvarin

    May 30, 2013
    Rhode Island
    It's a bit difficult to say exactly what is going on here. But, the comments about matching the ohm rating for the cab and the power amp are spot on and I'd likely say that is the issue. I use a Mesa Boogie D-800 Subway into a Boogie Diesel 4X10 and it just flat out screams. I've never had the mast quite to half way up Pre-gain set low, about 7-8 o'clock. So, all that said to say I don't think the issue is just because the Ampeg is a class "D" amp. It may be slightly underpowered and the mismatch with the rating on the cab may be making that worse. Also, if you use any outboard effects, i.e. pedals. they can also increase the gain in the signal entering the preamp. Given the description of the problem, I suspect you are not using any.
     
  16. Wattage has nothing to do with efficiency.
     
    Honch, Aqualung60, Sartori and 7 others like this.
  17. lowfreqgeek

    lowfreqgeek

    Mar 15, 2010
    Tijeras, NM
    All things being equal, a Watt is a Watt. However, all things are not equal in real life.

    I believe one of the biggest differences in volume is the distortion spec. Take a 350W Class AB amp that's pushing 10% THD (total harmonic distortion); it's going to sound a lot louder through the same speaker setup than a 350W Class D that's hitting .5% (or less) THD.

    I don't know how the gain structure of the Ampeg is set up, but I would bet money that the difference you hear in perceived volume between the Ampeg and the Art/MosValve setup is ultimately found in the THD. Differences in EQ will certainly have an effect, but I'm betting it will come down to the THD, which will also be affected by the frequency content of the signal (and the EQ).

    In short, Class D is very clean power. We can sort of fake it with adding harmonic content to the signal before it hits the amplifier stage, but that isn't quite the same as pushing a transistor output amp into distortion.
     
    Mrmatt1972 likes this.
  18. RattleSnack

    RattleSnack

    Sep 22, 2011
    Europe
    That Ampeg PF-350 is not pushing 350W, but closer to (wild guess) 200W in your 210 cab. That is not enough for a loud rock gig IME.
    I used GK MB500 and 2x12 500W 4Ohm cab until recently, and only went to half volume. That is the setup you need: 500W and large driver surface (212 or 410).
     
    Bassdirty, jgroh and DWBass like this.
  19. MDBass

    MDBass Supporting Member

    Nov 7, 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Dingwall-Fender-Bergantino-Dunlop-Tech 21-Darkglass-Nordstrand
    Highly doubtful that's the case with the EQ set flat.
     
  20. pfschim

    pfschim Just a Skeleton with a Jazz bass

    Apr 26, 2006
    SF Bay Area
    I have a PF500/HE115 rig I use in rehearsal (similar enough to the PF350).
    It gets plenty loud, but the advice already provided is key.
    - Forget about the pad as JimmyM says
    - Don't be shy about the gain. Turn it up until you are getting solid clipping, then dial it back just a touch.
    - Mid control on the PF series is a little shy .. IMO/IME .. so pick your Q point and turn the Mid Level up past 3:00 .. you will get good mids (and presence)

    I use all tube/big iron (Fender Studio Bass) lead sleds (Ampeg SVT 6Pro), as well as Class D hybrids (Demeter 800D) - they all deliver the goods when the gain structure is set up right.

    Also, more drivers will just about always be your friend .. vs just more watts.

    good luck
     
    murphy and yodedude2 like this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
    May 15, 2021

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