18 vs 22 vs 18 watts: Amp volume

Discussion in 'Amps/Cabs Tech Corner: Amplifier, Cab & Speakers' started by sws1, Dec 26, 2003.

  1. sws1

    sws1 Member

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    What can cause different amps to sound so drastically different in terms of volume?

    For comparison, I was using a '65 Fender Deluxe Reverb (22 watts) in 100% original condition, a Marshall 18-watt (original) and a Dr. Z Maz 18 Jnr.

    I realize that speaker efficiency contributes alot. SO, I took the Z speakers and moved them to the other amps.

    It wasn't even close. The Z is almost deafeningly loud. Even with gain on about 1pm, and master around 11am. DR was at 7 or 8 and while loud, it was tolerable. The marshall (even with Z speakers) is tolerable.

    Could the fact that some parts are vintage cause the volume to be different? Can a bad PT cause volume to be lower (i.e., not enough juice to keep the power coming)? What about old filter caps? Would they cause too much juice to leak away from the circuit?

    I can understand a little difference, and the DR and Marshall are sort of close. But the Z is unfrekinbelievably loud. Makes me think somethings wrong with the vintage amps.
     
  2. Swarty

    Swarty Member

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    My guess would be that it comes down to the output transformer.
     
  3. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

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    Voicing and the amount of compression can affect the apparent loudness as well.
     
  4. sws1

    sws1 Member

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    If a smaller output transformer cause the signal to compress, doesn't by definition that effect the overall wattage? If wattage is a function of how loud a signal can get before the signal is distorted, how can 2 amps with different size transformers yield the same power? I must be missing something.
     
  5. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

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    Transformers don't get really nutty 'til there's some kind of distortion or they're really pushed. Also, a lot of amp architectures (e.g., anything that would be considered "high gain") get most of their compression from the preamp stages, not the tranny.
     
  6. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    Are you talking about a situation where the power stage was definitely distorting in all three amps?

    Unless the power stages are reaching maximum power, volume comparisons are meaningless because the gain structure may be very different, and you can't tell what proportion of total power is occuring based on the knob settings. Although I'm guessing the the DR will be driven fairly hard at 7 or 8...

    Also, what impedance are the Z speakers? A mismatch with either the Marshall or the DR (whose true match is closer to 16 ohms than 8 anyway) will substantially reduce the power.

    And there is a huge difference between RMS power and 'peak' power. Two amps with the same RMS can have peak powers that differ by up to at least a factor of two - and perceived volume (at least for single-note playing) is more dependent on peak than RMS. That's one of the reasons solid-state amps generally don't sound anywhere near as loud as tube ones of the same power. The peak power is affected by a lot of factors including the power supply and OT, even given the same RMS.

    If the Z has bigger transformers and filter caps than the others, it could sound much louder even if the steady-state power is exactly the same.

    Yes, there is a lot more to 'volume' than 'wattage'. :)
     
  7. sws1

    sws1 Member

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    Don't know about power stage distorting in the Z amp, because it has a master. I suspect it wasn't. Plus, the sound was pretty clean. The Marshall and DR don't have masters, so they were just turned up to max.

    The Z speakers were 2 16-ohms in parallel. Same as the Marshall. The Z speakers definitely made the Marshall louder since they are so efficient. Nonetheless, the volume of the Marshall never approached the Z. In fact, my home stereo is louder.
     
  8. Scumback Speakers

    Scumback Speakers Gold Supporting Member

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    I have experienced this same phenomena myself. I build a dual 6v6 parallel single ended Class A amp. It's supposed to be 9 or 10 watts at 2 on the volume dial (my amp guru designer will only measure the wattage output at 8 ohms, with a totally clean signal).

    The difference between the 9 or 10 watts is the power tranny. That's right. The same amp with an old Gibson power tranny puts out 9.2 watts at 2. The same amp (the new models) with the same exact circuit, output tranny, tubes, wiring, etc. puts out 10.2 watts at 2. Freaky, huh? Something about the minor, and I mean MINOR (+/- 5 volts) plate voltages applied to the tubes does this.

    After that, there's also a perceived volume and tone difference based on the tubes. I found the NOS 60's Sylvania's have a nasty Texas blues based tone, a little higher in the mids. More highs than say a vintage RCA/Sylvania from the 50's, which has a fatter, more bottom end based tone.

    Then you get into the speakers, and their load with the output tranny. One thing I've learned, there's a bunch of small variables that make up a great sounding amp.
     
  9. mbratch

    mbratch Member

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    The other thing to note is that sound can "hurt" not because it's too loud, but due to other factors like frequency profile and light distortion. Maybe the Z sounds loud enough to hurt not because it's louder, but due to something like that. (?)
     
  10. BPlexico

    BPlexico Gold Supporting Member

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  11. ToneKing

    ToneKing Member

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    I had a Carr Hammerhead, Z Maz Jr., and Fender DRRI, I noticed the same scenario. The Z flat out blew the other amps away volume wise. There was no comparison. I always thought that Michael must under rate his amps power output. I loved my Z, but it sure seemed to like to eat tubes. :)
     

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