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Valve watts - how many do you need?!?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by JCartwright, Jul 12, 2018.

  1. JCartwright


    Jun 11, 2008
    Hi all,

    I've been using a mesa walkabout for quite a while now and keep thinking of changing over to something all valve. I picked up one of the tiddly Ashdown 15 watt valve heads and really like the immediacy it has compared to solid state stuff that I'm used to, it's not the fullest sounding amp I've played, which seems to be the main criticism of this particular amp, but for home use it's great.

    So... if paired with a small but efficient cab like a barefaced two10, how many watts would be likely to keep up with your standard functions bands without being massively distorted? Compressed and a bit saturated is lovely but I'm not looking for something that's always gainy if that is helpful.

    I play all passive basses, mostly with flats, and don't use much in the way off effects other than the occasional fuzzy or overdriven sound.

    Any advice would be much appreciated.
    SuperTwin likes this.
  2. 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
  3. guitarflinger

    guitarflinger Not all who wander are lost Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Front Range, Colorado
    Depends on whether you have PA help.
    If no PA help, then I agree with Munjibunga. If PA help, you can get adequate stage volume with a lot less. Many of the old Marshalls (like Lemmy's) were 100 Watts but paired with massive cabs. More volume is easier with lots of speakers than lots of Watts.
    dbsfgyd1 likes this.
  4. JCartwright


    Jun 11, 2008
    For a reference, most of the time I get by fine with just the walkabout 12" combo running with gain and volume at 12 o'clock, which feels like pretty much all that amp has to give! If I add the second 12" cab and have it running at 2ohms then it's plenty loud.

    I think the walkabout is 300w but obviously not all valve.

    I pretty much always play with PA support.
  5. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    All of them. ;)
    pcake, Razman, BassJuju and 6 others like this.
  6. BassmanPaul

    BassmanPaul Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2007
    Toronto Ontario Canada

    It’s not recommended to run the Walkabout at 2Ω no matter what the pundits on the Internet say.

    You also have to consider what happens when you don’t have PA support or if the PA fails. The show must go on! :)
  7. JCartwright


    Jun 11, 2008
    I've seen so many contrasting opinions on the 2ohm thing with the Walkabout including contrasting opinions from people at Mesa Boogie! I tend to just stick with the combo by itself where I can help it, which is probably >90% of the time. It has got me out of a pinch a couple of time but I'm always a bit wary of running it like that.
  8. C_Becker


    Mar 30, 2017
    As a rule of thumb, I'd go with 2 or 3 times the power the guitarists are running. More speaker surface always helps too.

    It depends though, what is the rest of the band like ? One or two guitarists ? What do they play through ?
    How is the drummer ? Any more instruments on stage ?
  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
    Watts is watts.
    pcake, interp, soulman969 and 2 others like this.
  10. pfschim

    pfschim Just a Skeleton with a Jazz bass Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2006
    SF Bay Area
    I'll add my experience on using the WA @ 2ohms.
    I used my WA for years and years at 2ohms without ever having a single problem. BUT, I rarely pushed it hard at 2ohms until recently.
    While playing in a 60/70's style power trio with pretty high stage volume and decent FOH/monitor support, I did finally manage to push my WA into shutdown mode for the first time in 14 years of steady gigging use. So, the lesson I learned is that you can probably use the WA at 2ohms while pushing modest levels on the amp, but if pushed hard at 2ohms, it will defend itself and shutdown - which is preferable to it burning up. ;)

    Now, the cool thing in that shutdown situation was that while my stage rig volume went to zero .. the DI apparently does not shut down in protect mode, so I still had my bass signal hitting the PA and was able to finish the gig (the shutdown happened close to the end of the gig).

    As far as the OP's question on how many watts are needed, I'll just echo Munji with his "watts are watts"

    Depending on the gig, I have gigged with 100w, 200w and 300w tube amps perfectly happily, as long as I had enough drivers, and as long as the cabs were fairly efficient, to meet the need of the gig. And if the OP always has FOH support, there is no reason that even 100w would work just fine as long as you can hear yourself sufficiently.
    AstroSonic and pjbassist like this.
  11. mikewalker

    mikewalker Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2017
    Canada, Eh!
    100W has always worked fine for me. But a 300W is not that much heavier, if you are craving the cleanest headroom... :)
    djaxup, alesreaper9 and rodl2005 like this.
  12. While playing live you can get away with as low as 100w if you're going through a PA, for rehearsal and non-PA situations you'll need at the very least 250w. With a tube amp you may be able to go a touch lower, but you do risk not being heard.

    I'm rarely comfortable live unless I have at least 300w behind me.
  13. I found 50w of tubes could keep up at function band rehearsal but not gig level as a monitor with 210.
    AstroSonic likes this.
  14. mpdd

    mpdd neoconceptualist

    Mar 24, 2010
    a lot of guys that want a more overdriven sound get 200 watt tube heads and push them pretty hard
    Amano, alesreaper9 and Tom Baker like this.
  15. Tom Baker

    Tom Baker

    Feb 3, 2016
    100 for most stuff, 300 if you're gonna need to compete in a hard rock setting. You could get by on the 50 watt portaflex head and 1-2 efficient cabs for most non-rock gigs I think.
  16. I think a 100w Ampeg vb4 is plenty paired with efficient cabs. 300 watts is defiaatley enough. Lol
  17. ^This. A PF-50T is enough for me.
  18. As you can see there isn't one sure answer that isn't also dependent on other factors.

    Keep in mind that more speakers move more air so your 300w Walkabout through a 4x12 cab will sound louder than through it single 12". Since the head is removable maybe that's your solution. Maybe trying a 2x12 Mesa Cab for starters is a solution or a 4 ohm 4x12 cab if you can handle the size.

    That aside if I was going with a good all purpose 100% tube head I'd look at a 100w Ampeg V-4B. That and an appropriate cab should be able to handle most anything short of a huge concert venue.
    AstroSonic likes this.
  19. ficelles

    ficelles Supporting Member

    Feb 28, 2010
    Devon, England
    Those old Selmer Treble & Bass 50W heads are fearsomely loud... I had one back in the days when you could barely give them away, wish I'd kept it.
    webmonster and gungrog like this.
  20. ficelles

    ficelles Supporting Member

    Feb 28, 2010
    Devon, England
    Either a Hiwatt or Orange 200W valve head will keep up with most anything, but probably not through a single 2x10... I guess it depends on the cab.
    spiritbass, Wisebass and gungrog like this.

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