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Thinking about going from amp to preamp/power amp rig. School me.

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by russpurdy, Nov 28, 2013.

  1. russpurdy


    Apr 16, 2013
    Hey guys. I'm thinking about going to a preamp/power amp rig instead of an all in one amp. I'd like to do this in order to have a variety of preamp options and a reliable hearty power source. Do I need to know anything before going this route or is it as simple as plugging a pre into a power amp and going to town?

    Also, in solid state power amps, am I going to notice much difference if any between power amps in terms of tone?
  2. Jim C

    Jim C Spector#496:More curves than Sophia + better sound Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Check the sensitivity rating of the pre and the amp, meaning they should be matched for best performance (or full volume).
    Decide if it's worth the weight for schlepping.
  3. russpurdy


    Apr 16, 2013
    Would you be able to elaborate on the sensitivity ratings? Are you talking about how much gain a power amp will require and to make sure I match that to the pre?

    Weight doesn't matter much as I have to carry the head in one trip and cab in another trip already. As long as it weighs less than a 4x10 cab I'll be ok.
  4. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    Been there ... Done that... Got the tee shirt. I find I get an overall better... As in punchier and more preset sound fromg the better 'integrated' amps. WT800, GK 1001 RB II, MB-Fusion.

    I tried Pre's from Alembic to Yamaha with many, many stops along the way. Power from Crown, Crest and QSC.. Probably others... Dbx, rane, and other comps and eq's and... Yeah I get the flexibility thing, for me I got and get better sound and more punch - which is different from more volume - with a good integrated amp.
  5. seansbrew


    Oct 23, 2000
    Mesa AZ.
    Most modern amps will be compatible with all the pre amps on today's market.

    I went this route once. QSC PLX + Ampeg, Eden, Sansamp, SWR.

    It was cool because it enabled me to try out all kinds of different makes without committing too much money. I purchased almost all of them used.

    I am back to the all in one heads now.

    Give it a try and have fun with it.
  6. It's pretty simple and can be complicated depending on what tone your going for.
    You would have to balance your pros and cons.

    Pros can be splitting a signal to different cabs, or having plenty of headroom to drive any cab, or having different channels for different basses.

    Cons can be lugging around heavy items, or having to many cords, or defeating some tone due to a certain rack unit.

    I use to have a bunch of options and realize it's mostly in the hands.
    I was moving my 8 space rack which weighed in at 85lbs. :help:
    The only thing I ended up keeping was one of my preamps and the rack tuner.

    I do admit I did have fun (felt like a kid at the willy wonka factory) but I just didn't see the huge gain out of it.

    I now like to take my GK MB200 2 lb. amp everywhere.
  7. dukeorock

    dukeorock Owner BNA Audio Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2011
    Nashville, TN
    Authorized greenboy designs builder/Owner of BNA Audio
    I don't think I'd make an argument for or against this idea. My situation is a bit different in that I get a lot of doubling gigs. What I own at the moment;

    Genz ShuttleMax 12.0
    Genz ShuttleMax 9.2
    Mesa M9

    Pre amps
    Michael Pope MPP2
    Reiner/JGR 6SL7 tube pre amp

    For upright, there may be a better integrated amp than the Pope/power amp, but I haven't heard it yet. :) For electric, nothing I have sounds quite as cool as the JGR 6 SL7 pre. This is all based on my own experience and preferences, of course. A huge caveat would be the Pope/JGR doubling rig is seriously expensive if you can even find one :/ I feel a bit spoiled by having tons of clean headroom that a nice power amp provides, so that's cool.

    I may be in the minority here, but for around town gigs I like this silly SKB rack cases because they are really light. My full 'big boy' rig if the Pope/JGR/31 band graphic eq (for taming tricky rooms with the upright)/power amp isn't super heavy. For me it's well worth the schlep and I play 4-6 gigs a week and am not a youngster :)
  8. I prefer the pre/power amp setup, and my bass buddy (we run sound for each other, depending on who's got a gig) has decided to ditch his temperamental Ampeg SVT 3 Pro for a Zoom pedal into a QSC amp taken from his PA rack.

    Maybe it's because I've been running sound professionally for over 20 years, but I tend to gravitate towards the versatility of these rigs.

    I've done shows with a $40 Behringer tube DI into a power amp that sounded great.
    The Peavey MAX preamp I use now has both tube and solid state channels, sounds amazing live and in the studio, and cost a whopping $79 used.

    To me it makes sense to invest in the speaker cab(s) that will do everything you need and the power to make them sing first. Matched impedance, quality connections, etc.
    Then you have the luxury of tone-chasing with whatever preamp catches your eye.
  9. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Just more crud to lug around and spend time hooking up for a nominal, if any, improvement in sound.
  10. tom-g


    Oct 2, 2007

    One rack case, one speaker to carry. One power cable, one speaker cable to hook up (not counting the bass).

    Doesn't seem to be less with other gear, except a combo.
  11. Grissle


    May 17, 2009
    I think most the negative opinions might be from people who tried the pre+amp route more than a couple years ago. In the last couple of years the inrush of great preamps + lightweight power really makes this setup more doable and rewarding. Also generally you'll want to look for an amp with a low input sensitivity like .775v or you won't get the full power of the amp. Otherwise you'll need an addition peice like a mic pre to run a hotter 1.4v to an amp. I believe the Crest and Carvin amps will do .775v. There are others but one of these would be my choice. Probably a Crest Prolite 2.0 or 3.0.
  12. punkjazzben


    Jun 26, 2008
    Some people prefer pre+power amp, some an all-in-one. It depends on your goals in relation to tone and rig setup. My only real input is that the 'modular' option can get expensive. But if you have the coin, no worries. As long as you're happy :)
  13. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    You've pretty much nailed it: get a decent power amp and you'll find yourself rolling preamps through on a regular basis...but that's half the fun! I've gone to the pre / power pairing as my cabs are fairly power hungry. I also own / run the PA and, with 6 power amps at my disposal, I can re-assign as necessary.

    The Crown, Crest, Peavey, and QSC offerings are all great values. Please don't ask which pre is best! I will offer up a suggestion for a "safe" bet: SansAmp RPM as it is affordable, decent sounding, and fairly easy to flip when the time comes.

  14. SS is all about clean headroom. Tone is identical unless it is starting to clip.

    Tonight I played a wedding with EUB and Jazz through a 3rd TB handmedown pre with dual inputs, a RedDragon from sfx, into Mb200, mic on my 2x10. Am I going to go back to RBI and power amp? No. For that kind of gig, minimum schlep wins. I would have preferred my Trace EQ but the handbag amp won.

    Minimum schlep doesn't always win. Last weekend I was rocking out with vintage tubes. The weekend before Trace got the nod with the RedDragon giving it a nudge.

    If I had to chose one relatively light rig to do it all I would stick with the vintage Trace, those 250w mean business. Failing that, a power amp with dsp and a RPM preamp driven with the RedDragon.
  15. russpurdy


    Apr 16, 2013
    Thanks for the info thus far dudes. I currently have a Yorkville 800 watt head and just picked up a trace elliot preamp on the cheap. I'm going to take some time running the trace pre into the Yorkville power amp and see how I like the combo before jumping full on into a power amp purchase.
  16. For my situation, separates are required.

    With my current band, I play about 75% keys, 20% bass, and the rest is lap steel, 12-string and banjo.
    My rig has to be full range and tonally flexible for this variety of instruments.
    To achieve full range response, I biamp the cabs.
    This can be as small as a single 10+6 or a bass horn and top for street gigs.

    I use VTRM and RPM preamps to provide bass-specific or tone-neutral response depending on which instrument is being used.
    The Fender tone stack, SWR scoop, VTRM grind, etc all sound like crap with my non-bass instruments and keys (B3, pianos, saxes, brass).
    I foot-switch between the VTRM for bass, and RPM for all the others.

    We also use a biamped RPM + ProLite2 for our eDrum rig.
    This pair barely fits into an SKB XRack3, but it does the job.
    The RPM and biamped cabs provide superb tonal control for the drums and cymbals.
    Outdoors I use it to drive a bass horn and top for street volume level.

    I believe the build quality is superior with separates.
    Pro-audio grade power amps such as my QSC PLX are designed for long-haul industrial grade durability.
    These are interchangeable with my PA system amps, so spares are always available.

    IMO, live bass tone is really only important to the bassist.
    The typical person in the audience (playing with their phone) can't hear the difference between genuine SVT power tube grind and a cheap Crate.

    Rack flexibility requires... a rack.
    The size, weight, cost and complexity is far more than a micro head.
    Full ATA cases are heavy. My 4RU Roadrunners are 25 pounds empty. This one does not look better at closing time.
    I find the SKB-3U Standard to be the ideal rack for this aging weekend warrior.
    So far, Adorama has the best mail-order price I've found.
  17. dukeorock

    dukeorock Owner BNA Audio Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2011
    Nashville, TN
    Authorized greenboy designs builder/Owner of BNA Audio

    Naw, once everything is racked up it's as fast as setting up an amp. All my stuff is plugged into a powerstrip inside the rack. Set rack on cab, take off doors, plug in the speakon and one power cord (just like you'd need to do with an amp) and you're playing. For some folks, trying different combinations and wiring schemes is part of the fun. I'm not one of those people, btw :)
  18. I goofed when I acquired an XRack3.

    I have to remove the rear panel (no cover), plug one IEC power cable into the preamp and a second into the power amp.
    Then I have to plug the XLR cable from the preamp into the power amp.
    Last, I have to plug the two Speakons for biamping.

    A simpler solution is using a better rack with a real rear cover such as the SKB-3U Standard.
    12" IEC power cables are available, for use with an in-rack power strip.
    The preamp to power amp cable can be left permanently connected.
  19. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    I use a rackmount SS power amp/tube preamp setup and I'm very happy with it. My only slight gripe is the weight of my rack, but I could make my schlep easier buy putting my lead sled power amp in a separate rack. I currently have 2 very different sounding tube preamps, so in essence, I have 2 different amps.

    I don't disagree with the posts from folks preferring self contained heads, there are plenty of great ones out there for sure. I prefer having tons of headroom, so for me the extra schlep is well worth it.

    Once I buy the rack for my power amp, I will use my existing rack to house both of my preamps, with room to add another 2 preamps.
  20. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    OK. So how much does your rack weigh? My amp weighs 4 pounds.