What makes one amp better than another?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by arizonabass, Mar 26, 2002.

  1. arizonabass


    Feb 6, 2002
    Tucson, AZ
    For example, a GK-400RB III is rated as 240W at 4 ohms. An SWR Workingman's 4004 is rated at 400 watts at 4 ohms. Both are similar in price +/-.

    That's quite a difference in wattage per dollar; as far as electric bass heads are concerned, what makes one head better? Does the GK put out "better quality watts"? Is watts alone not what I want to look for in a new amp in that price range?
    I know there are also bells and whistles (actually, I hope that's not what they sound like!) to consider, sound shaping and all that... ? I want quality to dictate the price, not doo-dads.

    Howard Lester
  2. ChenNuts44


    Nov 18, 2001
    Davenport, IA
    imo, the gk beats the hell out of the workingman. it can get quite loud without clipping (you can pretty much crank it), and the quality of the sound is noticeably better. it seems like the louder you turn them up, the better they sound. also, i think it's safe to say that you're getting higher quality parts inside the amp. some people have had problems with gk, but i have yet to. until i do, i'll remain a huge gk fan. i suggest a/b-ing the two amps to see if you notice any big difference. peace
  3. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    I think one of the bigger reasons for the number of comments about reliability is the fact that there are a ton of GK amps out here. They've been around a long time and there are many levels of use and abuse.

    You can't really go by any single spec alone when deciding on an amp, there are many ways they are measured, some gear barely meets their own while others greatly excede theirs. The real test for an amp is to listen to it, if at all possible at gig levels and decide if it has the sound and the power to meet your needs. Unfortunately there are no "tonal" specs, which IMO is most important.
  4. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    To further Brad's post, I'll say that you may find that the cheaper amp is a better way to go. Then again, you may not.

    Try 'em both, side by side. See which one's better for you. It may be that they meet your needs in similar ways, but one's much cheaper. Then again, you may well prefer the sound of the more expensive, in which case the cheaper is just that...cheap.

    Let your ears decide;)
  5. boogiebass


    Aug 16, 2000
    Brad and RAM are right on. I will only add that it's often wise to decide how much you can afford and then look at everything you can find in that range and try them all out in person (and on a gig, if possible) before making your choice. You'll own a few less amps that way.
  6. arizonabass


    Feb 6, 2002
    Tucson, AZ
    Thank you for those replies. I'm reminded of my old Pioneer stereo amp of 80w/channel. It had a nice 5-band graphic eq and outputs for a rudimentary surround sound. It was fine. But it gave up the ghost so I had to quickly do research and buy a new one. I bought an Onkyo receiver of 100w/channel with only basic bass and treble controls (no 5-band), and no surround sound in any form. You know what? It SOUNDS a lot better than the old Pioneer.

    That's what makes me suspicious of a bass amp for "cheap" with a lot of watts and lots of knobs to turn, as opposed to a similarly priced one with fewer watts and controls that may actually sound better... and may even be effectively louder with less distortion.

    Oh, wouldn't it be nice if one local music store sold all the brands and models *I* was interested in!
  7. ChenNuts44


    Nov 18, 2001
    Davenport, IA
    i can relate on the lack of selection. i live in davenport iowa. we currently have a choice of the following: peavey, peavey, peavey, and ::gasp:: eden. there are a few fender bassmans still carried, but that only makes three brands to choose from. no gk, no swr, no mesa boogie, no ampeg, etc. one of our locals just picked up the eden gear, but it's not selling. there was a big rush for it at first, but now they can't get rid of it. we haven't even gotten the new peavey cabs yet. it's not a good situation. (we don't even have musicmans!!!) it's 45 minutes to one bigger city (still has horrible selection) and 90 minutes to one with an ok selection. my best bet is the 3 plus hours (and in my car... ::shudders::) to chicago. it has become my gear mecca of sorts. problem is, i can only make it there once a year . . . it sucks. peace
  8. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    It really is simple to say what makes one amp "better" than another.

    1. it just SOUNDS better

    Pretty subjective, but this is why we all don't play the same amp! Your ears are the final judge here.

    2. it is BUILT better

    If you are gigging every night with an amp it has to hold up to abuse.

    3. it has UNIQUE FEATURES

    Not all amps have the same features and depending on your particular needs, one amp can be better than another.

    Price doesn't really enter into it, sometimes the cheaper amp is better for YOU.
  9. PICK


    Jan 27, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Its a very personal thing!! I personally like the sound of a 300 watt Ampeg. You dont need ridiculous amounts of wattage IMO. Basically try all the heads that you can and let YOUR ears decide which sounds better. Who cares about wattage!
  10. Original quote by Gunnar.
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