An amp's wattage is pretty close to irrelevant

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by GCDEF, Apr 8, 2015.

  1. GCDEF

    GCDEF Supporting Member

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    All these I need an amp that's no more than n watts seem kind of misguided to me. The question to ask should be which amp gives me this sound at this volume.

    I was playing my 100 watt tube head last night at a level that matched an unplugged acoustic guitar and it sounded fine. As long as your amp has enough power to get the levels you want, or has a design that allows it to sound good at lower levels if that's what you need, the actual power output is pretty much irrelevant.

    GCDEF's tip for the day. Don't get hung up on the wattage as your primary consideration. Focus on the sound instead.
     
  2. cardinal

    cardinal Member

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    I'd agree with this. I play a Triple Recto sometimes at TV level volumes and it sounds great. Much nicer sounding for what I want than how a 35-watt Boogie DC-3 sounded when I use to own it. Same for the Mini Recto that I played.
     
  3. riffmeister

    riffmeister Gold Supporting Member

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    But I want to reduce everything to a single number in order to be able to make my decision! :)
     
  4. Pantone 333

    Pantone 333 Member

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    I could not agree more.
     
  5. sleewell

    sleewell Member

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    agreed. the builder of the amp and the person playing it are FAR more important than the wattage.
     
  6. H. Mac

    H. Mac Member

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    Agreed. I use a 5 watt 5F1 Champ clone to jam with a guy who uses a Bassman, and another guy who uses a Twin Reverb. We play at about the same volume levels, and it sounds great.
     
  7. Aslan

    Aslan Supporting Member

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    I could not agree more, and since the introduction of the Bad Cat Unleash I use a 5 watt Bad Cat Bobcat for all my gigs and adjust the volume & clean headroom to the size of venue I'm playing. I especially like it when it comes to retubing and I only have to buy one 6SL7 & one 6V6!
     
  8. Blue Strat

    Blue Strat Member

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    Yes. Same applies to "what amp is this artist using while playing an arena in this video?" If you can't turn the amp up to arena levels, the particular amp is irrelevant and not what you need.
     
  9. whoismarykelly

    whoismarykelly Oh look! This is a thing I can change!

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    Amplifier wattage and speaker configuration are generally-accepted ways of describing what you're talking about. Are you suggesting we start using more meaningless buzz words to describe tones and volume levels?

    "I want something creamy and smooth at the same volume my half-deaf neighbor listens to Matlock at" doesn't work as well as "I'm looking for a 1x12 25-watt combo."

    One of those is much easier to make a recommendation on.
     
  10. SteveO

    SteveO Member

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    The only real issue with this that I've seen repeatedly is that many people don't really understand how it all works. You'll see a thread asking about getting power tube breakup at quiet levels, and then they start listing 15 watt amps. Fifteen watts pushed hard through most modern speakers is going to be anything BUT quiet.
     
  11. teemuk

    teemuk Member

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    Output power is output power.

    You can guesstimate something about headroom and required power handling of the speaker system based on that figure.

    If you make a mistake to assume that the figure tells anything meaningful about perceived loudness or tone of the amp then it's your own problem, not the fault of that parameter.
     
  12. JPF

    JPF Member

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    It's gotta sound like butter at any volume level. :D

    I agree with the op up to a certain point, but when pedals are taken out of the equation and crunch is required, I can get my 6w Cornford Harlequin to sound a lot bigger than my 50w Koch Multitone at lower volume for recording without an isolation cab/booth. I think there's always going to be some situations where it's horses for courses.
     
  13. GCDEF

    GCDEF Supporting Member

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    I'm saying that there are a lot of threads that start by saying recommend an amp that's no more than 10 watts, for example. I think it would be better to say I need an amp that will sound like - insert and example of the tone you want - at these kind of levels. If you arbitrarily decide to restrict the wattage you could easily be ruling out the right amp. You may get the right tone at the right levels from a 5 watt amp or you may get it from a 100 watt amp.

    Even though your example is a bit goofy, I actually do think that works better than providing nothing more than wattage.

    To me wattage is fairly similar to horsepower. Nobody looks for a car by saying help me find a car that has no more than 150 horsepower. You talk about how you're likely to use it and what you want it to do for you. You may find the perfect car for you has 100 hp or 400. Arbitrarily restricting it seriously and pointlessly limits your options.
     
  14. SteveO

    SteveO Member

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    And, as I already mentioned, many people wrongfully assume that a cranked 10 or 15 watt amp is going to produce "bedroom volume levels" because they don't realize just how much volume that much power is capable of producing.
     
  15. GCDEF

    GCDEF Supporting Member

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    And they also wrongly assume that no high powered amps can sound good at low volumes. Amp designs have changed in the last 50 years. Many modern amps are designed to sound good without the power tubes breaking up and therefor have a much wider volume range where they sound good than the amps of yore.
     
  16. Astronaut FX

    Astronaut FX Member

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    I think it matters more with amps that don't have a master volume, and have only one volume control. Amps with separate gain and master volume controls can more easily dial in a broad range of gain levels with the overall volume controlled by the master volume.

    For amps with a single volume control that only break up at around 6 or 8, short of using an attenuator, you have to either live with whatever volume that results, or stay in the clean tone area, or use a pedal.

    If you want an amp with a single volume control, and you want to play in break up gain territory, at manageable volumes, you might need to go with a lower wattage amp.

    That being said, I just bought a 5 watt Swart STR-Tweed, and even at 5 watts, the break up territory on the amp is whole house loud, so I've ordered an attenuator.
     
  17. SteveO

    SteveO Member

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    My "living room" amps are a Stiletto Deuce II and a Mark V. I run them both on their full power settings (100 and 90 watts respectively), and use the master volumes to keep things in check. Sometimes I even run through both of them at the same time while watching TV.
     
  18. SteveO

    SteveO Member

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    Running just one full watt of power into a single, modern 12" speaker will give you about the same volume level as firing up your lawnmower in your living room.
     
  19. stephen sawall

    stephen sawall Member

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    A lot of people confuse "watts" and "dB's"......
     
  20. ghostrider

    ghostrider Supporting Member

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    I'm not very familiar with changing out speakers, but doesn't the speaker rating make a big difference in the volume as well?
     

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