Is a big amp still useful nowadays?

I first got a big amp while I was still young and playing with my first band. It was a Fender Frontman 100w head with 4x12" cabinet, which I got for graduating high school in 2006. Ofcourse it wasn't much of an amp, but I had been playing guitar for just a year and started gigging a lot. Besides that, it said Fender and it had some size. Back then a lot of people where still playing 4x12" cabinets with heads and I thought that's what it took to be serious as a guitar player.

It didn't stick for long, because the next step was ofcourse a tube amp, and I got a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe not even a year later. Since then, I didn't play anything bigger than a 2x12" for a long time. Until 2021, when I got a Marshall 1960TV 4x12" cabinet to go with the 1987x head I had bought a year before. And I thought this was a rig that would get me into a lot of trouble.

Back then I was aware of the fact that it was kind of weird to get into a big amp like that, while these days everyone seems to be slimming down their rigs. Not just combos, but also modelling and such. So I was wondering: are stacks a dying breed, or will they still be usefull for certain players? I wanted to share my take in a video:



But ofcourse I am very curious what other people's experiences are, so please discuss and let me know your takes :)
 
I think we live in a time where every option is as versatile as it has ever been between load boxes, modelers, home recording advancements, etc.

One can gig a 0.5w amp or 200w amp anywhere depending on what they're running. You can record with a big cab and mics or straight into a box and do cab sims into a DAW.

it's a remarkable time to be a guitarist who is into amps and/or modelers.
 
Live, power always helps I think. I tend toward 20-ish watt amps, but I have a 5150 iii that I use a lot live and used a lot in the studio. Live, that amp just manages to get a big full sound no matter how I set it up. The master volume is incredible. My Down Brownie got used a lot in the studio too, and that amp is just a breeze to dial in. Set everything on 7 and let it rip. I can drop volume with the master and still get great tone, but I prefer it all the way up and the sound men don't seem to mind as much since it looks little so they don't worry about it they way they did when I gigged a 20 watt Marshall clone into a 2x12 vertical.

Oddly, though, the biggest tone I got by far -- rhythm and lead -- was the 5150 set dead clean on the green channel with an EQD Hoof Reaper. Reaper side for rhythm, Hoof for lead. The only effects other than that were some delay and an octave pedal (Coppersound Triplegraph) on the solo, plus an ebow for a break after the solo. It wasn't even that loud, it just sounds huge on the recording.
 
I think we live in a time where every option is as versatile as it has ever been between load boxes, modelers, home recording advancements, etc.

One can gig a 0.5w amp or 200w amp anywhere depending on what they're running. You can record with a big cab and mics or straight into a box and do cab sims into a DAW.

it's a remarkable time to be a guitarist who is into amps and/or modelers.
So much this. Theres a solution out there for every amp to work perfectly in any scenario PERIOD.
 
Cool video, and great tones. :beer

I'd suggest that the usefulness of using a big amp as traditionally intended is next to none. Sure, there might be the rare occasion where you need that kind of throw unassisted by a PA, or you're playing a stadium show and you can call the shots.

But for most of us, 20w is more than enough for the majority of gigs, assisted by PA or not. I don't even feel comfortable bringing more than a 5w amp most of the time, if my amp is on stage. I just don't need much power to monitor myself, given that I mic to PA 90% of the time. And for mic'd gigs, really you only need enough power to monitor yourself.

Of course, this takes no consideration for the attitude or mojo behind a big amp. Sometimes that's just what you need. And in today age of attenuators and backstage mic'ing, use whatever you want. Just be considerate to your sound man and your audience. ;)
 
I first got a big amp while I was still young and playing with my first band. It was a Fender Frontman 100w head with 4x12" cabinet, which I got for graduating high school in 2006. Ofcourse it wasn't much of an amp, but I had been playing guitar for just a year and started gigging a lot. Besides that, it said Fender and it had some size. Back then a lot of people where still playing 4x12" cabinets with heads and I thought that's what it took to be serious as a guitar player.

It didn't stick for long, because the next step was ofcourse a tube amp, and I got a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe not even a year later. Since then, I didn't play anything bigger than a 2x12" for a long time. Until 2021, when I got a Marshall 1960TV 4x12" cabinet to go with the 1987x head I had bought a year before. And I thought this was a rig that would get me into a lot of trouble.

Back then I was aware of the fact that it was kind of weird to get into a big amp like that, while these days everyone seems to be slimming down their rigs. Not just combos, but also modelling and such. So I was wondering: are stacks a dying breed, or will they still be usefull for certain players? I wanted to share my take in a video:



But ofcourse I am very curious what other people's experiences are, so please discuss and let me know your takes :)


If by "big" you mean high wattage then, no, they're not useful for me and I sold my last one 7 yrs ago.

But 50w plus amps are very useful (and necessary) for many players and that's great too.
They are doing all the carrying around so why should anyone care if they want to use them and love them :p
 
There is something about 100 watts through a nice 4x12 pushing air that I’ll always crave. Modelers are cool and all, and even a big amp with a load box and ir’s just misses some harmonics and dynamic that a live speaker setup provides.
 
As others have noted, with the technology of today any amp, any size can be used to great effect.
Right now I carry my own **** so every purchase has the consideration of cartage in mind. I memorized every venue's input/exit strategy we currently play and as we hit new venues this year that will also be top of mind.
I have a head/cab setup and I currently have two combos.
The head (Friedman Little Sister) sounds amazing and big at gigs. It's also like 20lbs and my 1x12 cab is on casters or my Marshall 4x10 is also on casters.
For combo's I currently have the Suhr Bella which has BIG IRON and you can tell; it just sounds full and rich and amazing. I did almost sell it strictly because of the weight, but I tried a V-Type NEO which shaved 4lbs, makes a difference and makes me want to gig the amp as my #1.
I have a Dr. Z Jetta which sounds HUGE and is 35lbs. It's almost unbelievable that the Jetta can absolutely hang volume wise, girth wise as well with the Bella. But, there is a TON of overlap, the Bella has slightly more depth/thickness that I really enjoy so I'm moving the Jetta, but it's a very hard decision.
All three amps sound fantastic home volumes as well, no issues.
So I guess I'm saying yes I like big iron, but I don't like to carry it around much; if I can find a weigh to get my rig under 50lbs I'm very happy.
But that is really my limit; I mic every gig anyway whether we do our own sound or not.
 
Cool video, and great tones. :beer

I'd suggest that the usefulness of using a big amp as traditionally intended is next to none. Sure, there might be the rare occasion where you need that kind of throw unassisted by a PA, or you're playing a stadium show and you can call the shots.

But for most of us, 20w is more than enough for the majority of gigs, assisted by PA or not. I don't even feel comfortable bringing more than a 5w amp most of the time, if my amp is on stage. I just don't need much power to monitor myself, given that I mic to PA 90% of the time. And for mic'd gigs, really you only need enough power to monitor yourself.

Of course, this takes no consideration for the attitude or mojo behind a big amp. Sometimes that's just what you need. And in today age of attenuators and backstage mic'ing, use whatever you want. Just be considerate to your sound man and your audience. ;)
You made me think of a good point that I forget to mention in the video or my post: I like to hear my sound from my amp. The monitors at each show every week are different, and many sound like **** to my ears. So I prefer to hear my amp from my own speakers, because that's the sound I know and like. Luckily that's the same for my bandmates, so stage volume is set to the drums. Since we manage to get a good sound as a band, this hasn't been an issue, because in the end we make it easier for the sound engineer.

Don't confuse that with being loud for the sake of being loud, because I don't like to hear myself too much either. Just enough to hear what I'm doing in combination with the others.

And your final point is very important, to be considerate to the engineer(s) and audience. But it's always good to have them prepared in advance and state in your rider how you work. My band is loud, but we are rarely called too loud and if we do, it's usually someone who doesn't go to rock shows
 


omg its so scary, i don't know how they did it..

Not to be silly, but I often wonder how bad the tinnitus of the old guard must be. I have played fewer and smaller amps for more than 10 years without any hearing protection, and I regret that nowadays. I have tried the rig from my video without attenuation, and I can't imagine how so many of those legendary guitar players did that for so long, with more amps for so many nights... without hearing protection. I would imagine your head must just explode.

While I'm saying this, I am well aware of the fact that 19 year old me would think it's so stupid what I'm saying here. He was all about rock and roll. But 33 year old me cannot be in a quiet room because the whistling in his left ear drives him crazy.
 
My first real amp 45 yrs ago was a music man HD130.
My biggest mistake in my career
Was never able to get it past 2. Most times played on 1

Couldn't ever get the tubes driving.

Since then downgraded to 50s then to 30s.

Now im looking into some boutique 15s and 20s.

I sold my 4 12s for a few 1 12s
So I can still stack my heads and they fit right in the back seat

Back in the day I was able to sling a 4 12 up and down steps myself plus throw it in the back of the truck
I can't lift any more so they became dust collectors and I got rid of them
 




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