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What is big and small

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by fisk, Jan 9, 2001.

  1. fisk


    Jan 3, 2001
    Indianapolis, IN
    What do you consider a small venue and a big venue? I've been reading a lot about amps lately and everyone makes comments like "that amp is big enough for a small gig, but not a medium", or something like "thats fine for a practice amp, but you cant do a gig with it".

    Could you give me your opinion of what a small gig is and a medium? My wife and I were at a club friday night that had a large back room with a stage. We estimated about 150 to 200 people there. Just guessing, would that be small, medium or large and what kind of bass amp would do the trick at that place, assuming a normal size band (whatever that is)?

    I'm thinking about getting something in the 100-200 watt range, but some of the posts say thats fine to practice with in your garage, and others say thats ok for small-medium venues. Kind of confusing. I dont want to spend major bucks on what I think is a good amp, only to find out it's not big enough. I'm just a beginer and i'm not in a band, nor will I be anytime soon. I'm still learning and taking lessons.

    Oh, I would have asked the bass player in this band, but they didnt have one. The bass and drum tracks were all pre-recorded. They had a lead guitar, horn section, and some guy on bongo drums. They were actually very good, but I was a little disapointed that they were cheating on the bass.

    Thanks in advance for any help.
  2. bassguy187


    Jun 27, 2000
    Nazo, PA
    don't listen to what they say about 100 watts doing the job on any gig,
    if you're playin with a band ur gonna need at least 250- 300 maybe more depending on how loud your drummer is and how big your guitar player's cabinet is,
    so don't waste your money on small stuff unless u know u don't wanna play in a band,
    plus u just started so ur gonna wanna get a really small inexpensive practice amp to see if u love playing bass and wanna do it for a long time, after about a year or so after you like playin' alot and wanna be in a band, go for a big amp,like a head and a cabinet(4 x 10) setup, i personally suggest swr, eden, or ampeg,
    have a nice day

  3. I use a Buster 200 (MESA/BOOGIE), the one with a single 15, and that is honestly big enough for any show I can see myself doing....I do have a 200 watt head for a backup power amp and a 2x10 cab just in case I need a little extra....but the secret to being able to hear yourself over the guitar players...(ladies and gentlemen, drum-roll please) "IN EAR MONITORS" I have played with no rig other than a direct box in a pinch and wow was I loud......but I do have to admit 1,000,000 10 inch speakers do look cool on stage.....
  4. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    Okay fisk, I'll take a stab at this. Of course, I will be proven wrong by everybody else, but here's my take...

    The room that you and your wife were in is what I would call a medium sized venue, (I'd call 100 or less a 'small' room), and I wouldn't attempt it with less than 300 watts. Just me...of course, like bassguy and christos say, this will depend on your band mates and their equipment, whether you run through the PA, etc.

    IMHO, I wouldn't go any larger without at least 400 watts. I may get shot down on this, but my feeling is I'd rather have too much rig than not enough. In these types of rooms, it's best if you can get your band in the frame of mind to play as quiet as you can get away with. It is always easier to turn up, and you can usually get a better mix with a quieter stage volume, whether you run through the PA or not...Get someone that you trust to go to various parts of the room, at different time in the night, and advise you on your sound. I honestly find that drummers and bassists have the best ear for how the mix sounds. Guitarists and vocalists tend to listen for their parts most.

    Hope this helps...


  5. Matthias


    May 30, 2000
    Vienna, Austria
    My GUESS on size:
    small: bar, club, cafe' with up to 100 (150?) people, bass not through PA is possible if you have enough power
    medium: larger clubs, churches, smaller theatres or town halls, up to 500 people or a bit more, bass has to run through PA, no matter how big your rig is (stage volume!!)

    So 'small to medium sized' refers to what most of us do most of the time.

    IMHO this does not help very much anyway, because it very much depends on stage volume. (I've played in front of 800 people with 125Watts and need 400W even at rehearsals with one of my other bands...)

    However I would be VERY interested what everyone here refers to as small and medium size!

  6. NJXT


    Jan 9, 2001
    Lyon, FRANCE
    I ask somehow the same question in another thread (http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?threadid=10225) and you guys are scaring me !
    At list 300-400W ? Aargh ! I can't afford that kind of amp ...
    IMHO, a small gig is (like Matthias said) in a bar, club, cafe with ~100 people, and I was hoping that a 150-250W combo would be enough.
    Now I'm confused ;)
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    As people have mentioned it mostly depends on stage volume and the sort of music you are playing. For example, the vast majority of small Jazz groups I have seen , the bass player is using 100 - 150 watt amp no matter what the venue - as long as everybody can hear themsleves on stage then the pa can get this across.

    But if you are playing in a heavy rock group with distorted guitars and a drum kit that requires an articulated lorry (!) then you are going to need 1,000 watts just to get heard at practice!

    If you have a decent pa, then it should be just a question ofbalancing the instruments on stage - so you need to keep up with the drummer and other players. If you don't use a pa except for vocals, then I would say that 300 watts for a bass amp is a minimum if you are going to have enough headroom to get a clean sound. But then again, some amp/cab combinations are louder than others. You can get cheap loud amps, but in my experience they generally don't sound as good as an expensive amp with higher rating and better quality cabs which might actually be quieter but get closer to the sound you want. You might be loud enough with a certain amp or cab but sound awful!

    I suppose I'm getting to the point of saying there are so many variables that it is impossible or at best meaningless to generalise about these things. A Jazz trio is not going to have the same amplification requirements as Metallica - even if they were playing the same venues! ;)
  8. Matthias


    May 30, 2000
    Vienna, Austria
    fisk: IMHO there is nothing wrong in getting a 100-200W (combo) amp first. You can upgrade later if necessary.
    And once you have your 1kW 118+410 dream rig you will sometimes still be happy to have a smaller and lighter amp too...
    I would not get anything less than 100W though.

    NJXT: 150-250W will be ok for 100 people (when you are not playing too loud: even without PA), but as Bruce said, it depends on many variables (most important is speaker efficiency, not amp power!)
    I second every word Bruce said, listen to him.

  9. NJXT


    Jan 9, 2001
    Lyon, FRANCE
    Thx Bruce and Matthias.
    I play in a "not-as-loud-as-metal-but-still-punchy" rock trio ... so I'm still worried.
    I was thinking 150-250W without PA (except for the singer). Maybe I have to think more 250-350W to avoid any risk of distortion.
    Anyway :
    1)How do you know/mesure speaker efficiency ?
    2)Correct me if I'm wrong but 250W RMS(8 Ohms, he?) are "louder" than 250/4Ohms, aren't they ?
  10. fisk


    Jan 3, 2001
    Indianapolis, IN
    I want to thank all of you for your replies.

    I'm very much a newbie and a looooooong way from playing with a band. But i've been thinking about buying a 100 or 200 watt amp because the little 10 watt practice amp my bass came with isn't exactly raising the hair on the back of my neck. I had thought that 100 or 200 would be fine to play out with, but the general opinion is thats not going to be enough. I dont have the money to spend/waste on a big, but not big enough, amp.

    So I think i'll wait untill i'm closer to actually playing in a band, and i'll save up some money to buy a bigger setup.

    Thanks again for the help.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well there are people who play out with 100 watt combo amps and there are big names who go direct to the pa and don't use any amp. I think cabinet efficency is more important for volume - but I was trying to say that just volume on it's own might not be the most important thing - could be loud enough, but sound horrible. I personally use a 300 watt amp even for the smallest gigs and it sounds quiet, but my main band goes for "acoustic" volume on stage and I have comparatively inefficient cabs that sound great and efficent cabs that are loud but boxy-sounding and so get used less frequently.
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Actually as an aside - the one thing you will need to buy if you're thinking of playing gigs as a bass player and which you can be sure won't be a waste of money is a car!

    The one way to make sure that your large amps are a waste of money is if you don't already have a car that's got enough room to transport that amp/cab combination. ;)
  13. Matthias


    May 30, 2000
    Vienna, Austria
    1) I don't know about measuring, but you can read that from spec sheets - though you have to be VERY careful with comparing specs, they don't say too much, some people here even say: nothing ;). An interesting thread on this topic is:
    rule of thumb: more speaker area = better efficiency = more volume. e.g. 200W into a 410 cab will most likely be louder than 200W into a 112.
    2) I hope I'm on the right way: With a given *voltage*, a 4Ohm cab will be louder than the same cab rated at 8Ohms, because more current will flow -> power output of the amp (wattage) will be higher. This is true for solid state (SS) amps. Tube amps have output transformers wich allow to put out the same wattage at different loads (you have to plug into the relating jacks or set a switch).
    'Typical' ratings are:
    200W SS head: 200W@4Ohms, 125W@8hms (higher impedance -> less current -> less power -> less volume)

    200W tube head: 200W@4Ohms, 200W@8Ohms

    fisk: I believe 100-200W IS enough to play out in many situations (I had a 200W amp for 13 years...), but I feel better (and have better sound) with 400W.
    Don't let them talk you into something you might never need.
    Keep looking around what other bassists use for small to medium sized venues (and how they sound).
    Also check out these threads:
    how loud is loud?:
    how much power do i really need?:

  14. fisk


    Jan 3, 2001
    Indianapolis, IN
    Bruce and Mathias, thanks again for the info. You guys really helped me out a ton.

    I know i'm putting the horse way before the cart because, like I mentioned earlier, i'm still taking lessons and i'm months away from even looking into joining a band. I have no idea what kind of places i'll play, number of members in the group, kind of music, or anything else for that matter. I'm just trying to learn.

    So heres two more questions. I was going to buy a fender bassman 200. The salesman said (first mistake, listening to a salesman) that it had a jack to connect to a seperate cabinet. Is that a big advantage in sound/volume. Is it that simple to just hook up a 200 watt combo amp to a big cab full of speakers? I'm just guessing there's more to it than that. And second, in your opinion, about how many clubs/bars/venues etc.... have their own pa system that you can hook into so you dont need to bring in a mountain of speakers?

    I really appreciate the help you guys have given me.

    Almost forgot, no problem with the wheels. Got my minivan for the kids with seats that come out. More than enough room for any size amp I can get. Ooooops, did I just say I drive a minivan outloud, or did I just think it.......

    [Edited by fisk on 01-10-2001 at 12:41 PM]
  15. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Welcome FISK,

    Bruce and Matthias speak much truth. I thought Bruce's post was very comprehensive.

    I'll just throw in my personal experiences real quick.

    I've played a large restaurant bar, with very few people in it (embarrassing, huh?) with a Peavey 35 watt amp (10" speaker). No PA. I really love that amp. The thing is though, the band was comprised of two acoustic guitars (very small amps for them as well) and a 3-piece (bass, snare, tom) drum kit, with light sticks. That worked very well, and I had headroom left over.

    I currently rehearse in a large movie theater (no acoustics), with two electric guitars and a drummer who uses his arm's full range of motion with the world's heaviest sticks. I use a Peavey Firebass with a 4X10 cab and crank out over 400 watts. I still have headroom, but I might need to add another speaker. Similarly, when this same band plays at clubs, 60-150 people, tops, I go through the PA and have plenty of headroom. We play blues, rock, and pop.

    I also play a electric jazz/alternative (it's cool stuff) with an acoustic piano, drummer, vocalist, and sax. I use a Carvin 160watt combo amp and have plenty of room.

    It just really depends on the situation. For a practice amp, I LOVE my Peavey amp (a precursor to the MINX 110). I've played several small jams and acoustic gigs with it. The tone is unbelievable.
  16. membranophone


    Mar 19, 2000
    Madison, WI
    I've read in numerous places that the Bassman series do NOT have extension speaker jacks. Most combos do have one of these, and let you hook up one more speaker cab for a boost in wattage (less resistance), speaker area, and consequently volume.

    Ask the salesman to show you the extension speaker jack. If it is labeled as "Line Out" or "Preamp Out" or "Effects send" it is NOT an extension speaker jack and you cannot power another speaker with it.
  17. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Fisk, for the type of sound you've described, I'd recommend the Ampeg B-100R. I've used it without PA support in rooms of up to around 400 people and still had plenty of power to spare. It's a relatively cheap 1-15, 100w combo (less than an SWR Workingman 12), has a 5 year warranty and above all else, sounds great for lots of different styles and works very well with a 5 string.

    It's always interesting when people give you minimum requirements for gear without finding out what "your" requirements are. There are several combos that a "newbie" such as yourself won't outgrow for quite a while. By that time, who knows what will be required and why buy it years in advance? I haven't outgrown my Ampeg yet.

    Small room- room for around 100
    Medium room- 200 to maybe 1000
    Large room- you'll know when you see one:D

    Lots of people here seem to think that you have to provide the primary fill for each of these situations...you don't. Medium and large rooms (and sometimes small ones, too) usually have PA support, meaning at most you'll need to provide stage volume and the PA takes care of the rest. That means you don't have to lug around a rig that is flat down to 18hz. Some people actually like dragging gear around... if you think you might like it too, go large, otherwise leave the big stuff to the amateurs:D
  18. VictorLeMonteWooten


    Dec 6, 2000
    Here's my opinion:
    All you need is 200-300 watts, if you want more, plug it into a pa. For cabinets all you'll ever need is about a 15-18", a 10", and a tweeter. That is good enough for anyband (yes that is including those metal bands with the marshall stacks and all that $hit). There is no need for a 300 watt- 400 watt practice amp, so you really don't need a lot of wattage. The cabs are not to bad to carry around, too.
  19. Matthias


    May 30, 2000
    Vienna, Austria
    fisk: hooking up a second cab IS that simple if it has matching impedance (usually not less than 8 Ohms). Power rating should be 'reasonable', it makes no sense to hook up a 800W 8x10 cab to a 100W combo. I think it's most common to add a 1x15 or 2x10 rated at 8Ohms, I for instance have a 1x12 cab for my 1x12 combo. Adding a second cab makes a huge difference because you have more speaker area and get more power out of your amp.
    Most clubs I know have their own PA, often in rather bad condition though.

    Another point: I found it very useful to have an aux input (for CD and MD) and a headphone out on my amp - now I can practice whenever I want.


    [Edited by Matthias on 01-11-2001 at 02:26 AM]
  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
    Don't even dream of anything less than 300 watts for anything. 400 is better, 600 is even better, 800 watts of you-know-what is boobies. Amen, over and out.

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