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With equal wattage, which amps are the loudest?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by murpbrad, Dec 9, 2004.

  1. murpbrad


    Dec 1, 2004
    Abilene, TX
    with all things equal (wattage, ohms, speaker configuration, guitar, etc.), what amps are the loudest? i've heard that tube amps are much louder than solid state with the same watts, but i've only played solid state so i have no personal experience with that. i've also heard people say that certain brand's watts are more powerful than other brands. for example, i've heard someone say that eden's 300 watts is just as loud as G-K's 500 or so watts. i'm really looking for either all solid state or hybrid. tube's are just too much of a hassle for me. also, which speaker config (210/115, 210/212, etc) will be best to give the most volume?
  2. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Sad to say there is no answer.

    As far as wattage there are two main issues, one is how honest the power ratings are and the other is how much dynamic headroom (i.e. extra power available for short bursts) there is.

    With speakers there are way too many factors involved to allow calling one "the loudest".

    So why do people say stuff like "English watts are louder" or "tube watts are louder"? Because they go off and use two amps rated at the same wattage and one seems much louder. There could be many reasons for this totally unrelated to wattage or the speakers used!

    1. Compression

    Compression raises the average volume level without requiring any more power (you read it here first: the cheapest and simplest way to make your amp sound louder is to run your bass through a compressor). The more compressed the louder the amp will sound. The tradeoff is you lose dynamic range.

    2. Harmonic distortion

    Small amounts of harmonic distortion in the signal make it sound louder than the same signal with no distortion.

    3. Frequency response

    Overemphasis of midrange will make an amp sound louder than one with flatter midrange response because human ears are most sensitive to midrange.

    I'm sure this thread will get quite long and a lot of opinions will be tossed around...sit back and enjoy it :p
  3. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    I must say that Brian summarized this quite nicely. Add to the information that he gave, that tube amps have a tendency to provide a more pleasing distortion than solid state amps. Because of this you can typically overdrive a tube amp farther than a solid state amp and still have something that people like to listen to.

    Remember, of course, that this is a generalization. The only way to really compare two amps is with your ears.
  4. Well the obvious answer is "they are all the same" given your assumptions at the top of the post. Brian and Bob have properly pointed out that loud is really a subjective thing. As far as the speakers go, theoretically speaking of course, is that the higher the sensitivity rating, the louder the speaker. But again, it's all about honesty in measuring specs. For instance, a lot of people have said that A****'s B** 350 watt amp is no where near as loud as G******-K*****'s 200** 200 watt amp. (names have been changed to protect the innocent). Maybe watts are bigger on the west coast than they are in Missouri.
  5. BruceWane


    Oct 31, 2002
    Houston, TX
    Most bassists will agree that an all-tube amp will be louder than a solid state amp of equall wattage. Note that all-tube means tube pre- and power sections, not just the preamp. Most typically, all-tube means Ampeg SVT or Mesa 400+.

    The main reason is that you can drive a tube power section into clipping and it doesn't sound awful. Depending on your tastes, it even sounds good. Tube distortion is just a little gritty, very "punchy" sounding. A solid state power amp driven to clipping sounds just awful, and that's not really just according to tastes, that is a pretty universal opinion.

    What this does is it allows for a much higher average wattage from the tube power section; since it's OK for the peaks to clip, you can run a much higher average level. With a solid state power section, the entire signal must be reproduced without distortion, so the level must be set accordingly.

    Also, tubes have a natural compression effect that enhances percieved loudness.

    Tubes also tend to accentuate midrange frequencies a bit, which contributes even more to the perception of loudness.

    So, all that sounds great....why aren't all bass amps all tube?

    An all tube bass amp that puts out sufficient wattage for an average rock band is very heavy.

    And due to the components necessary to build them, they're expensive.

    And they're very heavy.

    Did I mention how heavy they are? ;)

    Truthfully, if that's what you're looking for, the only way to get that true tube tone is with an all tube amp. The drawback soundwise is that tube amps are a bit less flexible than solid state amps; they pretty much will always have some of that tube flavor, whether you want it or not. Solid state amps faithfully reproduce whatever tone you feed them, and while you cannot get a "perfect" emulation of an all-tube amp from a solid state rig, you can get about 95% of the way there, while still having the options available to a clean, fast amplifier.
  6. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    a number of years ago i wrote an article for bass player called "loud enough?". at that time i mentioned that all 400 watt amps are not created equal, and it's still just as true today for reasons already expained above. Eventually, if you want to be LOUD, it pays to consider a preamp/poweramp setup as the poweramps available tend to have much more wattage than integrated heads. But it's not mandatory. amps liek the aguilar db-750 coem to mind which are just scary loud. I don't know if the MOSFET power section has something to do with that.
  7. I'm not going to get technical like the posts above me...that is some great info to look at...but in my experience I have found Genz Benz, Aguilar and especially Trace Elliot amps to be very loud compared to what you would normally expect from their power ratings.

    for instance I have played through a 300 watt trace head that blew away my current SWR head that is rated at 500 watts.

    and Tube Power sections are always going to sound louder then solid state power sections just because of the way they work...it is easy to over drive the tubes for a pleasing effect. that's not the case with SS power.
  8. The loudest are the ones you build yourself in a rack. I used to use a crown DC 300 to drive 2 JBL 18"(1200watts) at 4ohms and 600 watts to 2 -12" bullfrogs with 50 watts to the horns. It was a 3 way cross over with an SWR preamp. That system was not only impossible to stand in fron of but also you needed a truck fo it alone!
  9. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru.......... Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2006
  10. Can't resist an anecdote:

    The father of William James (pioneering psychologist and philosopher) and Henry James (perhaps the greatest novelist in history) wrote a series of books on Swedenborg's theology. He asked William, who was also a talented artist, to do a drawing for the title page of his latest book. William presented his father with a picture of a man beating a dead horse.
  11. will33


    May 22, 2006
    Seeing as this horse died in 2004, there may not be much of him left to beat.:)
  12. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    That's a perfect example of frequency response acting against loudness.
  13. BassmanPaul

    BassmanPaul Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2007
    Toronto Ontario Canada
    Why on earth would you resurrect an EIGHT YEAR OLD thread to describe a sound system you no longer use???

    Let sleeping threads lie!!
  14. Just one more addition, the reason tube amps (power sections) sound good at clipping levels is when the tube distorts, it produces even order harmonics which are somnically pleasing and comlimentary to the root harmonics.

    When a SS transistor distorts, it produced odd order harmonics which are not at all pleasant sounding, especially against the root even order harmonics. ...like an out of tune bass! Yechhhh.
  15. Mr. Foxen

    Mr. Foxen Commercial User

    Jul 24, 2009
    Bristol, UK
    Amp tinkerer at Ampstack
    Tube amps loudness is more down to compression and limited bandwidth than harmonic content.
  16. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
  17. will33


    May 22, 2006
    I'd tend to agree with Mr. Foxen here. It isn't just that their distortion is more musically pleasing to the ear, but that they add a bit of natural compression, which makes the peak to average signal level higher. Most of them, unless they have huge, over-speced iron, also naturally roll off a bit of the subwoofy lows the speakers can't make anyway.
  18. dincz


    Sep 25, 2010
    Czech Republic
    And the lack of a HPF in the SWR causing the speaker to drown in subsonic mush?
  19. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    That's what they tell me, though I used to own an SM-500 and never had that problem.
  20. dincz


    Sep 25, 2010
    Czech Republic
    One of my early rigs included a home-made mosfet power amp driven by a preamp salvaged from an ancient AceTone. No HPF anywhere. If I gripped a string between thumb and finger and wiggled it, my speaker cone would mimic the movement. I always blamed the cabinet for the woolly sound when cranked hard but now I wonder if a filter would have improved things.