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If you have the choice, combo or head+cab


Silver Supporting Member
I played through a head+cab combination for years. Started with a Peavey Musician head with a 4x12 Peavey cabinet. Replaced the head with a Marshall Mark-II Lead. Played through that and loved it. Added a Mesa Son of Boogie combo to the rig and began experimenting with using the combo to power the 4x12 cabinet. Had some very good results. (I also had good results using the Mesa as a preamp to drive the Marshall).

I really liked the idea of the Mesa combo being an "everything in 1 box" sort of deal. After my rig was stolen, I ended up gravitating toward combos as I started building back up. I don't think it was anything against heads and cabinets. I think it was more that when I decided to buy an amp, the ones that had what I wanted all worked out to be combos.

Now I've even gone smaller. If I play through somewhere that has volume restrictions (church) or requires the use of direct input, I use my Blackbird. Works out nicely.

Thanks for reading.


When I lived alone and was gigging more, I came to appreciate the head/cab. Now, with The Mrs. and baby sharing the space... Well, the place where I had my amps set up has been replaced with a lot of furniture and the amps relocated to the closet. Now I miss my combo - sure, setting up a head and cab is easy, but it's easie to just grab the combo and plug that in! How the times change...

I love both, but combos suit my current lifestyle more!


No, you would be without back issues.
+1 I'm a small guy weighing not much more than 100lbs. I could lift a twin 10 years ago. No joke! Not easily, and I couldn't carry it super far, but I could do it haha But since hurting my back? Whole other story. (I admit that I am a bit embarrassed...)


Hi, can someone explain to me what is the tube stress ?

I don't want to write something dumb....
I'm not sure, but I'm not afraid to write something dumb. :)

I presume this is referring to the fact that, with a combo, the tubes get vibrated around more because they are in the same enclosure as the speaker.


Silver Supporting Member
I'm not sure, but I'm not afraid to write something dumb. :) I presume this is referring to the fact that, with a combo, the tubes get vibrated around more because they are in the same enclosure as the speaker.
Agreed. This is a TGP-ish comment, but all things being equal, I prefer head+cab so that if I'm running some nice NOS tubes I can maximize their lifespan.


My preference is a combo PLUS an external cab! Best of both worlds and the ultimate in flexibility. Small gig, bring just the combo. Larger gig? Bring the combo and an external cab. Plus I've found that the combination of the combo's speaker and the external cab usually sounds much better than if you had just a head and a cab. I suppose you could use a head and two cabs but then you'd end up carrying three heavy pieces of gear.

I hate carrying heavy combos just as much as the next guy but that's why none of my combos weigh more than about 55 lbs.

That said, I also have some amps that are just heads and I'm planning on buying another one soon. But if I could only have one, either combo or head + cab, I'd pick combo and add an additional external cab to it.


Good thread. Was wondering which way to go with my next purchase which is a Deluxe Reverb now that the head version is available. Think I'm going to go with head only :)

Blues Power

Senior Member
I guess someone has to differ. As someone who plays out two to three times a month, I appreciate having a combo, and only making one trip to the car. My wife's bass rig is not a combo, and is a nuisance having to make two trips when loading and unloading.

the more and more I play out the less and less I use my stack.

lately I been thinking about selling the full stack and put the $$ towards a few more combos


Platinum Supporting Member
One of my techs says that combos are like acoustic and semi-hollow/hollow body guitars. They break in according to how well they're built and with what materials. The combination of amp/tubes/speaker/wood/bracings/etc gives the combo character as it ages.

I like, have, and use both.

I like this thread in that it gives the pros and cons to both, but I think we're missing the point of the OP's question.

The amp in question is a Tone King Royalist. The combo is 20lbs and the head weighs less. And the OP plans on putting it in a studio. So portability isn't the issue, here.

My impression is that it's a question of sound quality. Combo vs Head/Cab.

For me, the open back combo will give a wider sound than a head and closed back cab. You can tighten it up by placing it flush to a wall or with a towel over the back…but it still won't be the same as a closed back cab.

The head/cab rocks because, as was said before, you can buy all kinds of cabs (open, closed, convertible) with different numbers and kinds of speakers to go with one head. Most combos are open back. Most head/cab setups are closed back, which gives a more focused sound with tighter bass response than from a combo.

Nothing's written in stone, but lots of people who are into clean tones like the open back cabs (though compressed, clean, funk rhythm is awesome through a closed back). The more you get into the dirt, the more the closed back cabs come into play, ime. Nice to tighten up the bass on that OD and distortion. YMMV.


Head and cab for the versatility.

Playing an outdoor venue or a big room? Head + 2x12 or 4x12

Playing a small club or cramped stage? Head + 1x12 or 2x10

Silent Sound

It's all going to depend on the amp. For some amps, the combo makes sense. Think of a Deluxe Reverb. Why would you break that up into two? It's open back, small, and light. For other amps, a head and cab setup is a better option. Have you ever hauled around an Ampeg 8x10? In those situations, I think head and 2 cabs would be a better idea! It's closed back, huge, and very heavy.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking everything in this world is black and white/right or wrong.

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