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Why so much power?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by basmeisje, Nov 4, 2004.

  1. basmeisje


    Jun 7, 2004
    Hi all,

    I was wondering why we need so much power when we play with a PA.
    Wouldn't a small combo with a good pre and DI be just fine?
    I know I play with a guitarist with a Marshall 100watt stack, but still, can's the PA take things over and do I really need 400watts with at least a 4x10?

  2. Bass frequencies are harder to hear than guitar. So it has to be alot louder to be heard properly, that requires more power. 400 watts is a minimum IMO.
  3. Not everybody needs a big setup everytime, that is true. In fact, if you play through a good PA, the less noise you make onstage the better. That way the FOH guy has more overall control of the sound. If the house has good monitoring, you don´t necessarily need your own amp at all.

    So if your band has an adequate PA (or always rents one or only plays in houses that has one) a small combo could be all you need, depending on how loud your band is onstage. But OTOH, if you ever end up in a situation where you have to supply all the bass with your own rig, you´d better have some wattage behind you.

    Therein lies the beauty of modular setups: let´s say you have a 2x10, 1x15 and a powerful yet compact head. On "good PA"-gigs you can save your back by leaving the 1x15 home. But if the PA support isn´t that good (or you are not sure about it), that extra 1x15 can save your day.

    Then again there are people who don´t want to compromise and insist on lugging huge rigs on every gig, no matter how good the PA support is. Good for them, I say, especially if they have someone else to do the carrying ;) But personally I am too lazy to lug around tons of power if I have no real use for it.
  4. the dude

    the dude Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2004
    The other question you have to ask is - "How good is the PA?"

    If you have say 8 10s or 4 12s or for that matter, 2 10s and 1 15 dedicated to bass, how does that compare to what you will be sharing with vocals, drums and guitars in the PA?

    If it's a monster PA, no prob. Most clubs don't have monster PA gear. Even worse, if the PA is something like 2 12's and a horn on each side - something that would handle vocals, guitars and most drum sounds - you will be left without much for the bottom end.

    I like a lot of bottom. I want you to feel the notes, not just hear them. I'm one of the guys who will gladly haul to make sure I'm not the only one not heard - let alone felt!

    ...and even if it's a great PA, you are behind the PA cabs. What a bummer to be loud in the audience, but not be able to hear yourself because your stage rig isn't loud enough.
  5. I've found that the amount of power you need depends greatly on where you are playing, too. For instance, I used to practice with my band (loud drummer, Marshal 100w guitarist) with just a 100w guitar head and a bass cabinet, and that worked fine. For practice. Playing smaller clubs, I found I needed a bit more power, but since there aren't alot of big clubs in our area, I can get by with 300w just fine in most places; usually, if the place is bigger than that, they've got their own adequate PA.
  6. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    Well, 400W would be fine considering the guitar player usually won't turn up to 11 when playing.

    I have a 1000W setup, just incase. It's overkill for some things though. I was playing in the pit orchestra for a local play "Little Shop of Horrors". My amp was MAJOR overkill. Size matters, you won't want too big or too small of an amp.
  7. I play in a really loud band. hell just for practice I need the 400 watts/4x10 minimum, I was forced to use my 350 watts 15" combo for a couple weeks and I couldn't hear myself at all. We play all different gigs that range from no(we bring out own for vocals) to full huge PA setups to outdoor shows with and without PA support. I don't have the money for a bunch of different rigs so I gotta try to find a good comprimise to do it all.
  8. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    If I'm mixing in a small club, I often do not have enough headroom in the system to throw a lot of bass into the mix. Kick drum, vocals, and acoustic instruments will be all I actually turn up, even though I nearly always take a DI feed from the bass. However, if the band wants to be rational and bring 30 watt guitar amps (or less), and keep their stage volume down a bit, I'm more than happy to bring everything into the front of house mix. Getting vocals on top is job one, and your bass is gonna be the first thing to go, usually. It's not because I'm a moron (I hope), it's because bass sucks up headroom in a serious way. A balanced volume on stage is always helpful, no matter how big or small the system. Monitors can help achieve that, but again, in a small venue, don't expect much monitor support for your bass.

    IOW, you might very well be able to use a tiny amp at a big gig, but need something pretty robust in smaller venues. Make sense?
  9. Bob Lee (QSC)

    Bob Lee (QSC) In case you missed it, I work for QSC Audio! Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 3, 2001
    Costa Mesa, Calif.
    Technical Communications Developer, QSC Audio
    It depends.

    It's better to have, say, 600 watts and use only 50 than to have 50 watts and need 300. If you're always playing different and varying room-PA-music genre situations, that biases things automatically in favor of having big power.

    But if you know you will have suitable PA support or will play in a small room or whatever, certainly having a small rig is smart.
  10. uglybassplayer


    Aug 24, 2001
    New Jersey
    And just as important... How good are your monitors?

    - Frank.
  11. yes we do need lots of power for those low notes but i always get complaints from soundguys that.
    the bass is leaking into the drums
    the bass is too loud
    the bass is too edgy and cuts through too much(o´boy)

    so what i´m doing now is using an old 50w solidstate with a small 2x12 miked. i use the cab as pretty much my own monitor. then the soundguy can have a di from the instrument and those two channels get mixed together.
    i get a clear and quite good sound with decent bass without having lots of bass fq on stage.
    i´ve even been thinking of building a 2x 8 to get levels down further and use it with my SWR pro220 but don´t know yet.
  12. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    one of the other things to consider is that in medium and high volume gigs you will need a lot of power for the bass. It might come from your amp, it might come from the PA, but it ain't gonna show up by wishing hard. I love going thru the PA, but on most gigs it's not feasible for the reasons passinwind stated. My preference is a lightweight high powered power amp, and small efficient speaker cabinets. I bring as many cabinets as i need to a gig.
  13. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    Headroom. I don't ever, EVER want to hear distortion coming from my amp that I didn't intentionally put there, and especially not when I dig in on a low note. I have lots of watts, almost never need them, and have complete piece of mind.
  14. Nick man

    Nick man

    Apr 7, 2002
    Tampa Bay
    Monitors are something Ive learned dont exist... at all.

    Passinwind was talking about FOH mix, but the onstage monitor mix is usually no bass at all from my experience. I make sure I have enough power behind me so that I can hear myself.
  15. MichaelScott


    Jul 27, 2004
    Moorpark CA
    I don't really get it-and maybe I am missing something.

    I have a trusty Fender 300 combo- just a 300 watt amp with a 15" driver. Probably only puts out around 200 watts through the single driver...

    The point is I have have played a whole bunch of small to medium size venues where I have never turned the thing up past 3 and the the volume has always been fine. I see plenty of bands that play same venue and cart around huge stacks that take 5 people to move and must have cost them $1,000's of dollars- but they must have to set the amp to 1 or .5 to not blow out the room. Seems like more power then they will ever need. Am I missing something?

    Last night we had a gig at a pretty well known bar in Santa Monica- they had a great stage set up but the room was smaller then some of the venues I've played before. The sound guy asked me for a line out to run through the PA. I looked at the room, kinda shrugged, and said: "Do you really need one?"

    He looked at my amp and said "If you wanna be heard you'll give me a line out."

    So I gave him a line out... and my friends said I was probably a little too loud in the mix.

    I can't think of any reason to upgrade my rig unless I started playing large venues or outside. Hell, the guy that sold me my combo for $225 bucks said he was upgrading to a full stack with a 700 watt head- he told me he wanted a louder sound for his band's demo album- they never gigged because he had "connections in the biz as soon as we finish this album." :rollno:
  16. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    if your setup is working fine don't sweat it.

    In case you don't know, the relationship between wattage and volume is NOT linear. 3 dB is the smallest difference in volume a person can hear. To get an increase of 3 dB you have to double your wattage. To get twice as loud (+10 dB) you need ten times the wattage. In sound reinforcement it's generally thought that you should have about 10 dB of headroom in your system, meaning that your amplifiers should be able to put out 10 dB of non distorted volume over the volume you are playing at. That way any louder transients won't distort the system. When I'm using 2100 watts through a 12 and a 15 i'm not running the amp wide open. Far from it. But i never clip my amp.
  17. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    I'm running 240 watts and often seem to be falling short, even with PA support a lot of times.
  18. CamMcIntyre


    Jun 6, 2000
    I'm running a 2000 watt power amp [when it's a 4 ohm load bridged] through one or more of the following: 1X15, 2X10, or soon to be 2X12. I feel this gives me the flexibility to cover everything that i play for. Whether it's a quiet gig where i don't need much and only bring one cab. [i unbridge the power amp for 425 @ 8ohms or 700 @ 4 ohms per side] I like knowing that i will always have enough power for a gig and never really need to worry about not being heard.

    Comment about preamps being turned to 1 or .5-true at times, but it depends on the bass along with the preamp for me. The RBI-if i need it to be alone practice level it goes to maybe 8 o clock, if it's loud [extremely] performance about 3 o'clock [6 oclock being off]. The BBE is different since it depends more on my gain levels. Generally-i keep it on barely there. I like knowing that if i need to, i can turn up though. :bassist:

    That's all
  19. 1) Regardless of the PA, if you have a drummer who is a pounding heavy hitter, power is good.

    2) Regardless of the PA, if your guitarist's stage amp is a wall of mind blowing grunch, power is good.

    3) If your sound guy insists on running the front-of-house mix so loud that you saturate the room and washout the stage mix, power is your friend.
  20. I tihnk something like that is VERY dependant on the style of music you are playing. my second amp ever was my Ampeg B2 combo...200 watts, 15". it was ok for the band starting out..but as we got better we seemed to get louder. I was forced to use that the last couple weeks and the bass was pretty much inaudible. 600 watts into my SVT 410 quite often hasn't been enough. situational differences Iguess.