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Why do does small amps sound terrible at gigs?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Kylemcgregor96, Mar 26, 2013.

  1. Kylemcgregor96


    Aug 8, 2012
    Does anyone ever find that small amps that don't have much volume sound bad at gigs DI'd through the PA?

    I've always asked the sound guys to mic the bass amps but they refuse and only mic the guitar amps. I find that when I ask for more bass in the monitors and out front, it's never loud enough. I think it's terrible that you don't have any control over your volume when using a small amp say under 150w. I found it much better when a venue I recently played supplied an ampeg SVT 8x10.. I could finally hear my bass and the tone was amazing. That's probably why I enjoyed the gig so much.

    Does anyone else find that small amps DI'd have little volume, bad clean tone with not much lows? Is there a way to overcome this problem at gigs?

    I'm saving up for an ampeg 4x10 + ampeg portaflex 500 head at the moment.. I own an ashdown 100w which I've found out I dislike the ashdown tone.

    No hate towards sound guys, some of it's probably not their fault!
  2. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    If the P.A. is undersized and/or underpowered to handle bass, that would explain it.

    If you've got a crappy P.A. that can only handle so much bass but youve got an SVT and 8x10 cabinet on stage, you can turn up the amp to compensate for the P.A. Whereas a low powered combo amp simply doesn't give you that extra firepower.

    In my case I have DI'd my 150-watt combo amp to our P.A. for the last 2 1/2 years and have never had any trouble with big, punchy, clean bass sound in the house. Of course we are running anywhere from 4 to 6 subwoofers with 2x18 speakers in each cabinet and about 24,000 watts in total power, too.
  3. Nope.

    A DI is more or less transparent, even if it's just a single OP-amp cheapo.


    You pay them good money to run your sound, so if they don't do as you tell them to, time to hire another one the next time.

    Obviously, if You cheaped out and didn't bring your own soundperson, well... you got what you paid for ;).

    The same goes for the monitors, if You don't like what's available, bring your own.

  4. jason weatherby

    jason weatherby

    Aug 30, 2012
    If you are using that small, under-powered amp as your bass monitor that might be one reason it sounds bad on-stage. A wimpy PA bass-frequency speaker or power-wise might be another reason. Or both.
  5. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    If bass is going to FOH on these gigs, your amp is your personal stage monitor; put it wherever you can hear it best, and let FOH worry about what everyone else hears.
  6. Tuned


    Dec 6, 2007
    What's happening is that the PA is simply louder than your amp. There's no point in trying to compete with the bottom end of subwoofers, turn down the bass on your amp, prop it up at least waist high, stay close, and crank it, best chance of getting anything useful.
  7. Kylemcgregor96


    Aug 8, 2012
    I think it is the PA, it's good venue's I've played in but I've not seen any subwoofers, just a large chunk of covered speakers at each side of the stage!
  8. godofthunder59

    godofthunder59 God of Thunder and Rock and Roll Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2006
    Rochester NY USA
    Endorsing Cataldo Basses, Whirlwind products, Thunderbucker pickups
    Even with good FOH there is no substitute for a big rig. A little combo used as a monitor just isn't going sound the same. I always mic my cab. I can't tell you how many gigs I have done with other bands and the bass player brings a little combo. I get questions and compliments from the other bass player at the end of the night and am asked why doesn't my bass sound like yours. My answer is the rig and the mic. As Geddy Lee says, " If you think your not loud enough in the mix then you probably aren't". All imho of course.
  9. Marley's Ghost

    Marley's Ghost Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2002
    Tampa, FL
    Yea, you just cant trust those chunks of covered speakers. Who knows what's under there.
  10. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI

    Things tend to get muddy on stage. I intentionally set my monitor amp (Combo) to sound like crap from a bass perspective in order to be able to hear what I'm playing in the band context.

    Leave the thud to the soundman.
  11. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Don't bring a knife to a gun fight.
  12. fokof

    fokof One day ,I'll be in the future

    Mar 16, 2007
    You usually DI a bass , not an amp.

    Taking an output post EQ from a small is a bad idea because the amp will be EQd with the bass all the way up to compensate for the lack of low end.

    (This true also for mid-size and some larger amps)

    As others stated , your amp is your monitor , don't try to compete with a full size PA.
  13. bassfreakah


    Mar 26, 2011
    Endorsing Artist Ernie ball strings
    I will use my ampeg rocket 200 some times when i know the house sound is right. i sit it up on a box and leave the eq flat. it has a good cutting sound that i can here. if you turn the bass up you get mug not loudness. Leave the low bass for front of house. My band mates tell me they want to hear notes not low bass on stage. And it is nice to have everyone asking for bass because you are not blasting on stage.
  14. TimmyP


    Nov 4, 2003
    Indianapolis, IN
    Operator error. The best bass sounds I've heard were from folks who had no amp, a single 12" or 10", or used their wedge.
  15. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    The issue isn't large vs small as much as it is one of
    1. Quality of the rig - there are big rig's that suck and little rig's that suck...
    2. Application. You have to gear for the space and stage volume.

    In my settings, I can generally use an MB 200 and 2 1x10 cab's, use the DI and it sounds great. If it's going to be loud, I bring sub's for the PA. Just 'cause it's loud out front doesn't mean we have to suffer along on stage...
  16. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    Preach it, my brother!
  17. I read "why do small amps sound terrible."

    You can't fill a room with a 110; stop trying. Those are for practice, not for shows. If the sound man is in control of your stage volume, you don't have enough sound for that stage. If you're playing a coffee shop it might be a different story but it's been my experience that I can never trust the FOH to put enough of me into the wedges to compensate for my not bringing enough.

    You can always turn down, but if you don't have enough, you just don't have enough. Let the sound guy decide whether he uses your DI or mic. That's his job. I've never seen one refuse to mic an 810, but I *have* seen a few refuse to use the DI in my old GK800RB (too hot, no pad; it clipped mixing boards so they mic'd me).
  18. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    That's a good idea for folks who aren't sure what they want out of the PA, not so good for folks who know what they want and know how to get it. I'm in the latter category, so unless it's a situation where it's completely impossible for me to be too picky, I do my best to dictate the delivery system for the PA. Of course I have a REDDI, so that makes things much easier on everyone, since what soundman in his right mind is going to turn his nose up at a REDDI? But honestly, it's a DI world, and instead of fighting it, you might want to have a DI line that sounds like a mic'ed amp. Not quite the same thing but it beats having to plug into some $50 DI. And in some ways it's actually better because it's one less source of bleed.

    I've had them refuse to mic a vintage 810 powered by a vintage SVT and a B-15N from 1964. Many times. 4 out of 5 times it's no problem. But there's always someone who comes along and wants to argue about it without even trying it. I guess if you're on a show where you're 5th on a bill of 5 you have to do what you're told, but I'm usually not so I don't even get that.

    Anyway, I don't think small cabs sound as good as big cabs on gigs, but I use them sometimes and get a good sound. But let's face it, bigger is better for bass.
  19. Afc70

    Afc70 Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2004
    Northeast Arkansas
    I play through an older Euphonic Audio iAmp 350 combo, it's small but packs an amazing punch. Of course we always have a huge p.a. But I have no complaints, I never have to turn it above 4, and it always delivers incredible tone and punch. I always use the amps di to the pa and use the Ea as a monitor basically. It's always delivered!
  20. Nope. FWIW: I don’t play blistering loud anymore, so the GK MB115 bass combo amps serve me very well and I’m just as happy with IEM and no amp because I’m also lazy. Oh, and 15s rule!!! :D


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