Big Amps vs Little Amps

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by Nolatone Ampworks, Sep 18, 2017.

  1. H. Mac

    H. Mac Member

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    My perspective is pretty simple: Use your guitar controls, creativity, and playing technique to bring out the best of the amp that you're plugged into - regardless of its size.
     
  2. knotts

    knotts Member

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    Assuming you're getting what you need (cleans / dirt) out of both amps, I would choose small 90% of the time. You can always mic the small amp to sound bigger. I've tried to make a big amp sound good a low stage volumes and although it works, it's like driving a Ferrari through a school zone; it might look cool but you're only doing 25!
     
  3. mikebat

    mikebat Member

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    Recording and playing in a band context is two different things.
    Playing roots or blues or rock are also two different things.

    Pick a rig that suits your application, and hopefully it is flexible enough for the times when you are in a different context, playing in a role/style outside your typical wheelhouse.
     
  4. Mr. Bertha

    Mr. Bertha Member

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    I play clean and don't often want power tube saturation and "singing" lead tone. It's just not what I do. For recording, I'm fine using a small amp - I've got a 12w and a 20w amp for those purposes. I use a 50w silverface bassman set to be mostly clean -- because I play clean I can use the bassman for quietly-playing-at-home-levels and gig-levels. I recently played a 1960-something Deluxe Reverb while jamming with a drummer friend of mine. It sounded great, but the low notes especially mushed out in a way I didn't like -- maybe too much compression from the amp. I've never had my silverface bassman mush out like that when played at levels appropriate for jamming with a drummer.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017
  5. Nolatone Ampworks

    Nolatone Ampworks Member

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    Where the heck are you guys getting to play out with these 50 & 100 watt amps? The reason I started this thread is because a player who's trying to get a tube amp to work for him live at a volume that the venue will allow him to play. He started with 40 watts, too loud. I modded his amp to be about 28 watts, too loud. Now he's trying a small cabinet (size of Blues Jr) amp at about 18 watts, still too loud, so now he's asking me about the 5 watt model I do. I'd been tweaking a 37 watt chassis before putting the 5 watt back on my bench and I plugged in and though "what the hell is this little thing?!"

    It took a bit of time to start appreciating that little thing again. I'm like a lot of guys here, I'd gotten hooked on pushing air. If you can get the small amp dialed up where it's doing the right things it's a really fun ride though. It was based on a Tweed Princeton which *can* sound pretty crappy when cranked and hit with certain pickups, but I tweaked it to where it puts a smile on my face. But at first I was thinking "how in the world have so many people been using these silly things over the years?!"
     
  6. bman5150us

    bman5150us Member

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    I've played my Landry G3 100W at small gigs with a 212. It's got a fantastic master volume so no issues. Does it sound better pushing more air? Yes. Does it still sound good at small gig volumes? Yes. The same could not be said for my old 5150 combo. That thing stunk at lower volumes. My Peavey classic 30 (dirt channel) also sounds halfway decent at lower stage levels. Ditto my Friedman PT 20
     
  7. Laurent Brondel

    Laurent Brondel Supporting Member

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    Everywhere…
    With a good PPIMV implementation on Plexi / Metal Panel Marshalls (or the excellent master volume on 2203/2204 circuits).

    Small amps can be cool for some tones, but there's no way they can have the low end response, tightness, punch and clarity of a big amp. Every time for me it's a big amp with a good master (and/or attenuator).

    Most would be surprised that there's not a lot of difference in volume between a 50w and 100w Marshall (all other things being equal), but the 100w has so much more clarity, tightness and punch, at equal volume. They sound different, the 50w being more focused on the midrange, and dirtier, which can be cool.

    A cranked 20w is pretty loud too, and depending on speaker efficiency, may be too loud for most venues as well…
     
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  8. Nolatone Ampworks

    Nolatone Ampworks Member

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    Agreed, with a good master volume it doesn't much matter if you're working with 5 watts, 50 watts, or 100 watts, if you're satisfied with working with mostly *preamp* gain/tone (and even a Plexi without extra gain stages gives you a good amount to work with), but if you're wanting to get your power amp working, that's where a lot of folks run into trouble...

    Unless you're JD Simo and just crank the 100W Super Lead and let it fly. I'm sure there's some nancy panzy types who would complain about that somewhere, but the last time I saw him it was insanely loud and not a soul cared because it sounded *glorious*!

    And though your amp may be 100 watts, if you have the master volume dialed back, you're not using 100 watts. A lot of posts here have stated they prefer 50 - 100 watt amps because of the punch, headroom, power, suggesting master volume isn't in play. I'm wondering where THOSE guys are playing.
     
  9. HaroldBrooks

    HaroldBrooks Member

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    Missing the lower octave makes the amp more powerful in the range that fits in a recording mix. Amps need to do a lot of things, and one of them is to play in a band with a bass player (often). When you're playing solo, I agree more bass is an asset, but when your playing with a bass player, not so much, particularly if the guitar base is uncontrolled, the way some bigger amps are.

    I own both a Fender Princeton (like a champ with a tone control) and a Gretsch 6150 (Same as Supro 1606), and the Valco amp is a much better amp in almost every way. I've used it to play a wide variety of rock, and it's far from quirky. Regardless of the circuit layout, I'll go with the actual amps performance, day by day. The sound is rich and complex in the midrage, loud (peaks up to 110db when distorted), great sounding cleans. My Fender is a very good amp, but sterile sounding by comparison, and the kicker is it cost me 3 times as much ! As far as never getting a clean tone from a Champ or old style Valco, I really don't want too clean a tone, not with the 60's to 90's rock I'm doing, but I understand there are many times you might want super clean tones at a loud volume, so you would need more power and a bigger amp, for sure.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017
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  10. JustABluesGuy

    JustABluesGuy Member

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    Different tools for different jobs. My situation doesn't call for big iron, so I don't use it.
     
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  11. scelerat

    scelerat Silver Supporting Member

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    One of the places I play at occasionally (and drink at frequently) books mostly metal bands. Their PA is insane for a small club and the SPL there is an abbreviation for "SPLit your brain," so they were happy to book a "country" band -- we're not even a country band, I just play a telecaster, and we once had a mandolin player. Suffice to say, they're used to the volume and we're not that loud, relatively speaking.

    Another trick I've learned is to simply not play all the time. Single, authoritative notes stand out better. And playing clean is different from playing distorted. Your "wall of sound" comes from many instruments playing at a time, not from distortion screaming through every harmonic.
     
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  12. TCMx3

    TCMx3 Supporting Member

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    I personally find it more useful to evaluate amps as individual units against each other using the goal Im trying to accomplish as my metric but what do I know.
     
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  13. Serenity

    Serenity Member

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    I have no need for 100 watt Marshalls anymore. I don't gig much these days so smaller amps make a lot more sense for my situation, i don't even look at amps over 25 watts when shopping anymore, but if an AFD100 came up at the right price i'd be tempted. If i ever need a large amp again i'll just get something like a Power Station and re-amp.
     
  14. BrokenRomeo

    BrokenRomeo Supporting Member

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    All of my big amps sound just fine at lower volume and glorious at higher volume...the only downside to larger amps is the physical size and weight, and that seems to be a HUGE issue in today's convenience oriented world. Small, light and convenient is always a trade-off...no matter what half of TGP says :)
     
  15. Leonc

    Leonc Wild Gear Hearder Gold Supporting Member

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    I love my little amps. They're a blast and they're fun for what they are. But I have no illusions about using them in my bands. They're great choices on certain recordings, but I'll never get the clean headroom or frequency spectrum and body that I need in any of the live performance situations I've been involved with in the last, oh, 46 years. Since I picked up a power station a year or two ago, I find myself bringing bigger amps to my band rehearsals and performances. They just work better for what I'm doing. Way better than micing up a little amp.
     
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  16. FbIsNotE

    FbIsNotE Member

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    Generally my approach to all gear is more of a "This is what this thing is...what can I do with it?" as opposed to "How can I make this thing be more like something it isn't". Right tool for the job and all that.

    Sure, sometimes situations arise where I need to improvise with the wrong tool, but those are few and far between. I currently have a 3 channel 50 watt head that I can drop different power tubes into in about 1 minute to drop it to 1/2 power. With 3 channels there is pretty much nothing I can't make it do to my satisfaction. It's a head with separate 2x12 cab so even though it's a big amp it carts like 2 small amps...which is what I used to run.

    Life is unpredictable, so for me flexibility has always been the answer to being happy with my gear.
     
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  17. buddy7168

    buddy7168 Supporting Member

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    I love guitar stuff in general and I appreciate big and small amps. I currently own both and choose based on how I'm feeling at the moment. I'm not opposed to big amps and 4x12s at home either, most sound good either turned down or with a power station. I also have the Fractal AX8 and love that too either with studio monitors or with the Power Station and a cab. There's so much good stuff around these days it's really amazing!
     
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  18. jimpridx

    jimpridx Supporting Member

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    I'm definitely in the "master volume" camp using 40 and 50 watt amps. Even though I play in funk/fusion/blues groups, both of the drummers that I usually play with are pretty hard-hitters at times, and I need pristine cleans that'll cut through the mix. The smaller amps just don't have the headroom unless I'm keeping the volume very low and running IEMs, which is something I've never been able to adapt to very well. I enjoy hearing the stage vibe that's going on.

    Funny, but this thread coincides with some of the "volume" threads that have been surfacing on the forums lately. Perhaps I'm one of the fortunate ones, but I rarely run into situations where venue or club owners find our stage volume to be too loud. It's not that we're head-bangers by any means, but we do like to use dynamics to a point where the volume can sometimes get on the edge of being too loud for some folks. Personally, I kind of like it that way.
     
  19. BMX

    BMX Member

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    I love the concept of a little amp for recording but for some reason it never works for me. For example I had a Tophat Deluxe (nmv) that sounded fantastic cranked but it was so loud by that point it wasn't useful. The Tophat Ambassador 50 that I had next to it on the other hand sounded great at lower volumes. I think either method can work but I've just had better luck with 50 watt amps with good master volumes because the lower watt NMV amps are just too loud.
     
  20. rburkard

    rburkard Gold Supporting Member

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    I always like big amps better due to the extended headroom, but have been since the seventies in Europe always been harassed by sound guys and also some band members to bring the volume down more and more. This won't sound unfamiliar to anyone here. Spend a lot of money for different amps starting with master volumes to power scaling to power soaks to attenuators to reamping to smaller speaker cabs to smaller amps to ISO boxes, to digital modelers and have never been really happy ever since. Most importantly is that the signal coming out of the PA never seemed to be what I heard on stage and how I wanted my sound to be perceived. Long story short, since I discovered the BluGuitar Amp1 I don't have these problems anymore and they became past. I can get a big amp sound at literally any volume and are using the build in analog DI speaker simulation for the FOH. A very streamlined and simple solution that also saves my back.



     

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