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Useless bass amps....????

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by mikarre, Mar 24, 2003.

  1. mikarre

    mikarre Guest

    Looking at bass amps, it seems that there are 3 categories. One is the stage and performance worthy amp. I'm not talking about quality, but just in terms of power and size, these are the ones that can keep up with a band and don't get drowned out by the guitarists 100 watt Marshall. Category #2 is the "practice amp". Little combos of low-moderate wattage, usually one 10", 12", or even 15" speaker, and not much use for anything other that personal practice. Then there are the 'tweener amps. They aren't really loud enough for a performance situation, and they are a little too big and loud for practice amps. For instance, a Fender Bassman 200...or a Carvin PB200. I can't think of anything you could use these things for besides playing loud by yourself.

    Am I wrong? I'm sure I must be.:D So, if YOU have one of these medium size amps, 100-200 watts, and you DO use it for something besides annoying the dog, please tell me what you do with it.

    It also occurs to me that I may be misunderstanding the mid size combo amp altogether. In bands I've been in I used a Hartke 3500 head, which kept up nicely pushing 240 watts I believe it was through the 15" cabinet I was using. Could I have been loud enough with, say, 150 watts? 120 watts? Most people seem to suggest over 300 watts for bands situations, yet I see companies like Ampeg, Peavey, and Hartke selling tons of amps in the 120-200 watt range. Am I missing something? Is the whole wattage thing over-rated (no pun intended)?

  2. arose11


    Sep 30, 2002
    Kalamazoo, MI
    the thing i think people will say is "headroom" the more headroom you have usually the better tone you have(although some people like some distortion at high volumes, whatever), although it can't be too quiet or else it won't always sound great. And for a small gig you are right 200 watts will probably do the trick seeing as I do mine fine with a SWR WM 15.
  3. natebass


    Sep 6, 2001
    Bremerton, WA
    i have used my Trace for close to a year now - and i used a SWR WM12 for 3 before that and I did great with those - however, I am also running into a 3000 watt per side PA with 2k of that for subs. I play about 30 times a year with that set up and i never have a problem with that.

    Are you going to use your amp for just stage volume or for the house as well? I have found that when I had a "loud" amp onstage, my volume actually suffered because I was then pulled from the house mix.
  4. Matthias


    May 30, 2000
    Vienna, Austria
    I'm currently in two bands (pop-rock and indie-rock), and I use my 400W rig with one band and an Ampeg BA115 (100W into one 15") with the other. (the Ampeg is not mine, it's provided by the rehearsal studio)

    The Ampeg really does a great job, I did not expect that this amp would be sufficient for our needs, but it is, even for gigs. (I play a 5-string BTW)

    I don't play much louder with my big rig, but of cause it sounds better, especially the low end, which you can actually feel.

    So I would say: No, a 100W combo is not useless.
    IMHO those combos are very well suited for schools for example.

  5. I have a 130 Watt Trace Elliot combo that really gets a lot of use, especially for rehearsals. It's louder than its wattage implies, so I often use it on gigs in smaller venues as well. It helps preventing a slipped disk!
  6. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    My Bassman 200 works fine on stage.
  7. I think the class amps you speak of is best suited for jamming with friends or performing in a small room. The MOST fun I've ever had is playing in a garage or basement with friends and a case of beer. These "tweeny" amps are perfect for this. jmho
  8. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    I've used an AMPEG B1 150 W for several years, both for pracise and on stage.
    We don't all play in stadiums.
    For bar gigging and jazz-blues clubs, 150 W is more than enough.
  9. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Yes it is.

    First off, the folks who recommend 300+ watts are usually playing loud rock music. Many other styles of music don't require that much volume and not all rock bands play at levels requiring such high wattage.

    I did gigs for many years with two combo amps, one was only 20 watts :eek: the other 75 watts, but both had 15" speakers and the bands were working in small bars and not that loud.

    The trouble with most small amps is not the wattage so much as the speaker size. You would never see a 20 watt amp today with a 15" speaker, most have only a 8"!!!
  10. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    Well, I've got a Yorkville BM200 (1x15) - puts out about 150W at 8 ohms and 185W at 4 ohms. I've used it mostly for rehearsal with two guitarist (Fender Twin/Vibrolux stereo setup for one and a Mesa/Boogie 50W combo for the other) and a loud drummer. I've gigged and rehearsed with it, but it's pushed to it's absolute limit and gets pretty harsh sounding. I bolster the gain with a SansAmp DI and get some decent results. At the same time, it's too big and overpowered for a practice amp. It would probably be good for an acoustic trio type setup because it's tone is pretty transparent. Unfortunately, I'm not playing that type of music right now.

    My theory is is that the 200W combo amps are affordable "trainer amps" that wet your whistle for something bigger and more expensive, if you're playing in any of the "loud music" genres or if you have a guitar player with more than 40W of overdriven tube power at his disposal.

    I just "upgraded" to a 400W/410 rig for a few reasons including better tone, more power and more volume. So far so good. Will I keep the 200W combo?? You betcha - for backup and for those times that I might be doing a informal rehearsal-type jam with different players and don't want to drag my stage rig across town.

  11. SnaveDogg


    Mar 21, 2003
    Birmingham, AL
    I've been using a 135W all-tube head for YEARS and never have I ever been lacking for volume.

    Most players, IMHO, fail to utilize a proper PA system for live performance. Ideally, your amp is for you and your band to hear. If it is a really huge stage, monitors should spread your bass around the stage. The FOH speakers are for the audience.

    Example: I played for two years in clubs, both large and small using a Peavey Minx with one 8" speaker. I ran a DI to the house and monitors. Everybody heard bass and didn't know the difference. I had my little practice amp set up on a stool about shoulder-high, aimed at the side of my head so I could hear it. It was great not having to lug around a huge rig.
    I did it primarily for aesthetics. Our stage setup was aimed at focusing on US, not our gear. Our guitarist used a 2-12 combo amp aimed at his side as well. The only thing our audience saw was a bass player, a guitarist and a drummer (and three monitor wedges). Sort of minimalist thinking.
  12. IMHO, it all depends on what/where you play. I do a lot of acoustic jams where a 20W amp would do great, you just need to be heard over a couple of acoustic guitars. In a church setting, my SWR WM160 head and a 1x8 custom cabinet were all I needed for monitoring - I ran through the house mix. It also depends on the efficiency of your speaker. A 4x10 might be able to push 103 dB or so with one watt, where some 1x12 can only do 97, and I think Acme's 2x10 is at 93 dB. 10 dB is alot of sound, You would need ten times the power to increase your sound level by 10dB. So yeah if you are playing big clubs or halls, you might need a 500 W stack with an 8x10 cab, but for most stuff you won't need that kind of power, or much less want to haul it around.

    Stay Low,

  13. A lot of folks are doing that these days. Many are using a DI into the monitor board and only coming out of the monitors. No onstage amp at all. I tried it but just didn't find it satisfying.
  14. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Oregon, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    I suppose there's not much for me to add, but I agree with a lot of what's been said. My 100 watt amp with one 15" speaker is generally all I need.

    I only play clubs when I'm with a band, and it would probably be enough by itself for a lot of those, but combined with the PA, I never have a problem.

    The only other performing I do is solo bass at my dad's art gallery, and, obviously, that doesn't need to get too loud. It helps to have a "tweener" amp for the art gallery, since I need good tone and sustain at lower volume, which a huge amp couldn't provide.
  15. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I am looking at reducing my stage amp (monitor) even more. I have gone from a 750 watt/6X10 to a 350 watt/4X10 to my current BDDI/Focus SA/Bergie HT112 rig.

    Almost all my gigs are with PA and usually monitor support. I use my amp as a monitor only - and I am probably going to go to an IEM rig and I won't even need it for that.

    I am looking at the Basman 150 for a small gig/practice amp. 150 watt, 12" driver, semi-para mids, pre/post DI, 38 pounds. Not bad.

    It really depends on your gigs, venues, music type and PA situation, but I have always thought that many of us could get by with far less gear and power. I think as we get older, our backs and brains take a little more control over our gear chices. To each their own.
  16. Pickebass

    Pickebass Supporting Member

    Jul 12, 2004
    San Antonio, TX
    Any amp can be used for any purpose. The idea is to use the correct amp for the correct situation.If you are playing in loud venues you need to worry about cutting thru. If you are playing jazz standards as part of a trio a 100 watt amp could be more than you ever need.

    The quest for power became more of issue because it was available. Initially, I think everyone wanted the extra headroom, but all that it has done is make the stage volume increase. As a result, the drummer is much louder (was probably already too loud anyway), the guitar player/keyboard player (depends on your style of music) can now stay loud, and the singer is screaming to be heard.

    As a result, the P.A. is louder, the 400 watt amp you bought is not loud enough (and you NEED the 1000 watt amp) and you all are getting to the gig earlier to set up more crap!
  17. adept_inept


    Jan 9, 2006
    well, i moved up from a 60 watt ibanez to a 400 watt swr stack 2 10 and 1 12 (avatar), yea, i really could get by with just 100-200 watts. BUTT in a gig setting, i definitely need the full 400 watts. so, i solved thsi the easy way. why buy two amps when i can just take ONE of my cabs with the amp.

    so i get 200 watts for practice thru 2 10s. enuff punch for me to hear it. and then for gigs, more than enuff to keep up with a 100 watt stack and a drum kit, plus vocals.

    and the weight isn't much of an issue. each cab is 40 pounds or so. and the head is 20. so 60 pounds for the practices. my ibanez itself was 45. not a big difference for an extra 340 watts. :)
  18. The 'tweener amps are for practice with the band and smaller, coffee house gigs.
  19. Juniorkimbrough


    Mar 22, 2005
    Mississippi / Memphis, TN
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland Basses
    I would say you are wrong.

    All amps have a certain usage they are intended for.....loud gigs, acoustic gigs, and at home practice...that should cover the bases.
  20. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    Category 3 is for playing with competent musicians and non-guitar-oriented music in general. :bag:

    There are at least two ways to size a gig-worthy bass amp:

    1. Bands whose volume level is determined by things like the music, venue, audience, and so forth.

    2. Bands whose volume level is determined by the physically realizable output of one or more tube guitar amps.

    If you play in the first kind of band, then 100 to 200 Watts could very well be (no pun intended) ample. I am presently using a 180 Watt head and a 1x12 cab, and I can overpower any band that I play with. And 80% of the time, I am just using a GK MB150E combo.

    Now I am not denigrating anybody who plays in the second kind of band, because I know it happens for any number of reasons. But I think that breaking down bands into these two categories helps explain why no two bassists can ever agree on how much amp power is needed.