What's the inflection point for amp prices?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Balog, Aug 5, 2009.

  1. Balog


    Mar 19, 2009
    Everett, WA
    As I'm sure you know, in every area of commerce there is a curve of return on investment, and a certain point past which increases in expenditure no longer have a commensurate increase in function.

    To put it in terms of a field I'm familiar with, a $200 rifle will (generally speaking) give roughly %75 of the performance of a $400 rifle, although it'll be worse in just about every quantifiable way. A $400 rifle, however, can easily give %90 or more of the function of an $800 model, and the differences are frequently more aesthetic than functional. Furthermore, the actual performance differences are often such that the level of skill needed before they become noticeable is fairly high. In other words, a graph expressing unit of functionality per dollar spent would not be linear, and the point of inflection would be earlier and more abrupt the lower the skillset of the user.

    All that to ask, where is that point in the used amp market? Will a $200 head and $100 cab do %90 of the job a $400 head and $200 cab would? What is the point past which I stop paying primarily for sound quality, and start paying for extraneous concerns like weight, appearance, convenience, and brand name? And would a newb even be able to tell the difference?

    I've given up on the idea of just rushing out to buy a cheap tiny amp to learn on, and I want to save up for a decent but not too fancy rig. But before I can start budgeting for that, I need an idea of how much I need to spend.

    Wow, that sounded a lot less complicated in my head. Hope it made sense.
  2. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois
    That's a really good question and I think that to answer it "properly" would require some real research and number crunching.

    Or I could just give my opinion based on seat of the pants estimation. :p

    I would say for the part time gigging bassist (one who does several shows a month) you can get to the 90% area at around $500 for the head and $400 for the cab (used prices)

    For someone who has gone past the casual playing stage and needs to have good sounding, reliable equipment that does what you want it to do on regular gigs, I think the rigs you want are going to be in this price range. Sure, lots of gigging musicians get by with cheaper, but if the question is "where is the 90% point?" this is the where I'd draw the line based on the actual used amps and cabs I see advertised for sale all the time and what their capabilities are.
  3. bwv1013


    Mar 20, 2008
    southern cal
    you're on the right track, maybe just adjust your scale a bit; i.e. i can't think of a bass cab that you could find for $100, even used. that being said ebay/craigslist/pennysaver/whatever is a good starting point for finding the average market price for used items. it will always vary a little bit (i.e. if you're in a market where certain brands are harder to come by) but it will be enough to give you an idea.

    in my experience, finding a good value is important, but it's considerably less important than product performance. IOW, look for good deals but make sure you like it first. i see plenty of ads for equipment that is reasonably priced but i wouldn't take for free. do whatever you can to find out what certain brands and configurations sound like.

    if you are looking for your first bass rig, i would focus on getting enough power: 300w should be plenty for the average gig, and if you're playing larger venues a lot you'll be making enough to upgrade anyway. as long as it sounds halfway decent there are affordable ways to improve your sound without buying a whole new amp.
  4. rpsands


    Jul 6, 2007
    Right around 1000 bucks total is where you get the most bang for your buck in a new rig (a 500.00 head and a 500.00 cabinet can be a great performer - like a Peavey Tour 700, a Carvin BX600, 700 RB II, et cetera, and a nice Avatar 4x10 or Peavey Tour 4x10, Peavey Tour 2x15, Carvin 4x10, etc).

    In the used market, it varies wildly because you can get some crazy deals out there.

    I'd say for around 600 bucks you should be able to put together a "90%" type rig on the used market pretty reliably, in the neighborhood of 300 for a quality used Carvin/Peavey head and 300 for a nice used cabinet.
  5. WarriorJoe7

    WarriorJoe7 Inactive

    Mar 12, 2004
    Syracuse, NY
    My current setup is an SWR redface that I got for $275 used and an SWR workingmans 4x10 cab that I got new for $400-$500 on closeout. I need to upgrade the cab but really this is great for a small to medium gig. I could play this in front of an audience of 200 or so without a PA. I play reggae.

    I agree with the sentiment so far. For new stuff somewhere around $1000-$1200 total . used anywhere from $500-$700 total.

    I could do this much easier for basses though... $750 used will get you to the 90% point for 4 strings.
  6. BassikLee

    BassikLee Commercial User

    Feb 13, 2004
    Starke, FL
    Owner: JLA Custom In Ear Monitors
    Absolutely! New, Carvin B1500 head and a pair of nice cabs, for the "cheaper" option, or the new Hartke L1000 head. For the "less cheap" option, shuttlemax 12 and maybe a 1212L/1210L combo...

    Used, depends. I have a KILLER used rig that was under $300. Watch the used gear sites.... My "no way" cheap used rig is an AMP KD-400 head and Mesa Boogie 1516 cab. Paid less than $300 for the whole thing!
  7. RickenBoogie


    Jul 22, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    New vs. used will be the biggest difference, of course. Many folks have put together rigs of decent quality and gigability for 600 or less. The "90%" area for a new rig, I'd have to agree, $1000-$1250. Beyond that, it becomes a more is better, I need headroom, debate.
  8. Balog


    Mar 19, 2009
    Everett, WA
    Used is absolutely the way to go. While prices fluctuate and vary by area, I think one can safely assume a fairly "standard" price based on ebay, and about 1/2 new seems pretty reasonable. Thanks guys, just what I needed to know. :)
  9. I'd stay with new prices for this comparison. If you want to scale it in half afterwards, that's up to you. Some amps are great, but have terrible resale value - due to age, weight, etc.

    In the new range, I'd say $1,000 for an amp and single cab is about right. Sure, there's some really nice $2,000 rigs out there that I'd love to have, but they probably are only 10% better than a $1,000 rig.

    Used is a whole 'nother ball game. I came across a used Carvin stack on Craigslist (didn't buy it - but seemed like a great deal) - it was a full stack, with solid state head - probably built early to mid 80's - for $250. Old Peavey stacks from the "Mark IV" era seem to have the same bang/buck.

    Otherwise, with more recently made gear that is used, yeah you could find a decent gigable head for $300, and a cab for $250-300. (I bought an Eden Nemesis 4x10 combo for less than $300 used though, and it's killer - great for gigging... so it all depends.)
  10. billhilly66


    Aug 25, 2007
    Plano, TX
    Bass amps are way more subjective than rifles. With a rifle, you’ve got weight, functionality, looks, and accuracy for the most part. All but looks can be measured easily and qualified say like a 6.5 lb push feed, stainless/synthetic that will do 1.5 MOA.

    A bass rig is harder to quantify. I may like one $1000 rig and not another with similar specs. It’s hard to qualify taste. That’s why some people like Weatherby’s.
  11. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Inactive Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    you could have simplified this a bit by asking "Where is the point of diminishing returns" - I think you threw some folks with "Inflection point", which sounds awfully heady for a music list!

    Ah, the old diminishing returns thing... Well, I know that I'm happy I spent top $$ for my rig, and not because I can say that I did - because it really performs and sounds great. My whole rig (head, 2x10 + 4x10) cost me ~ $2400... I end up using my head and the 2x10 for 90% of my gigs, so that's more like $1400... but that's still expensive. You can get the top of the line Carvin gear for less than that by far - and not to cast aspersions on Carvin, but I'll bet my gear (ashdown/epifani) sounds better. That said, if you don't have really crazy strict needs, $1K should take care of most needs, particularly if you buy used.

    Now, the whole diminishing returns debate on Basses is a WHOLE 'nuther thing....
  12. Vic Winters

    Vic Winters

    Apr 20, 2006
    Western NY
    Prices vary greatly between brands as do the models within those brands. Besides there are too many variables that do and don't matter to so many people.

    -Speaker size/#/area
    -Operating Impedance

    And a ton more.
  13. WarriorJoe7

    WarriorJoe7 Inactive

    Mar 12, 2004
    Syracuse, NY
    I think he is asking what will get you to 90% no matter what your preferences. I think the only preference that clearly wouldn't fit would be tube/ss.

    Let me put this in bass guitar terms since that is what I am familiar with. For the most common needs, whether you prefer maple or rosewood boards, p or j or mm pickups, neckthrough or bolt-on, pickguard or no pickguard, active or passive, one certain brand of common pickup or another, you should be able to get a bass that is 90% as good as the best bass fitting your preferences around the $750-$800 mark used. At this point you get diminishing returns when it comes to practicality. i.e. a used fender will get you 90% to a sadowsky, a used cirrus will get you 90% to a ken smith, a used kawai will get you 90% of the way to an alembic etc.

    of course the price would be higher for 5 strings and 6 strings... you would have to figure them out seperately. Off the top of my head only whether it's tube or ss would need this distinction in heads (because almost all tube amps compared to a similiar spec'd solidstate amp will cost way more.)

    if you prefer tube then double the head price. other then that you should be able to stay within your preferences (common ones) at the price points listed above before you hit seriously diminishing returns.
  14. bwv1013


    Mar 20, 2008
    southern cal
    let me take it a step further. add a VT pedal to your bass amp purchase and make up some SERIOUS tone for cheap. best 150 bucks you can spend, after your amp that is.
  15. Balog


    Mar 19, 2009
    Everett, WA
    Interesting discussion, especially as to the personal preferrence vs straight specs vs what specs are important to you.

    So what are some of the good used options that are right on the edge of DR? I hear a lot about GK 400 and 700 as good values, but I'm such a newblet I don't have much insight into the field.

    Bwv: what's a VT pedal?
  16. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    What's the inflection point for jewelry, or shoes?
  17. Interceptor


    Mar 29, 2005
    Madison, WI
    FDeck, that question has major problems.

    The inflection point for that stuff is based upon the female perception of male pain threshold. That threshold has much to do with income level. The guys I hang with put this as a unit. For a guy with average tech guy income; let's say it is $1000. For the CEO dudes, that's $10,000, for my nephew in the military, it is $100. It is all relative to the situation.

    Oh, and back to the GK question - the 400 and 700 are great examples of inflection point products. They ride the knee point.
  18. Balog


    Mar 19, 2009
    Everett, WA
    Jewelry has no criteria other than personal taste. Amps are subjective as for tone preferences but can be rated for objective things as well.

    Shoes, in terms of practical work or hiking boots or running shoes actually do have a point of inflection. $25 Walmart work boots vs $200 Red Wings vs $600 custom deals.
  19. jam.majors


    Mar 24, 2009
    Louisville, Ky
    This is the most perfectly worded question I've read on this forum. I have nothing more to add but that.

    Except that I went with Eden Nemesis because of exceptional sound quality, solid price comparison, and extremely low weight. For $800 new I got an RS210 and have no reason to get anything else for quite some time.
  20. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    It's the pedal of the future. Sansamp VT Bass Character pedal, the only Ampeg simulator on the market that nails the SVT/B-15 sound.

    Anyway, this is too hard to answer. There is quality gear to be had at every price point when it comes to amps. When it comes to speaker cabs, though, you generally get what you pay for. But again, there are good ones at almost every price point but the absolute lowest.