Question for amp builders

Discussion in 'Amps/Cabs Tech Corner: Amplifier, Cab & Speakers' started by RedMitch, Nov 14, 2005.

  1. RedMitch

    RedMitch Member

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    Guys
    Is it possible to build a low power amp that sounds , feels and has the low end of a large amp? If it is, why doesn't anyone do it? I supect it has something to do with the economics of things, low powered amps being mainly cheaper student amps with cheaper parts. Its' never made sense to me to throttle down a 100 watt Super Lead with a attenuator, Why not make an amp that sounds like the Marshall at a less deafening volume?
    Just wondering.

    Mitch
     
  2. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

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    From James Peters' web site:
     
  3. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

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    Continued...

     
  4. JamesPeters

    JamesPeters Member

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    That's the original "really wordy version", I see. :) It's been pared down lately.
     
  5. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

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    Lots of info requires lots of words. I found it to be a pretty comprehensive and articulate answer to the question at hand.
     
  6. Fuchsaudio

    Fuchsaudio Member

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    I build amps from 7 through 150 watts. Each has it's own sonic signature and "feel". There are simply limits to what a low powered amp can and cannot do. Especially when it comes to low end chunk and "cajones". High power is anice thing to have, when you can get it.

    As James so elegantly points out, alot of people have different ideas of what's "loud" and what's "gigworthy" volume-wise. I've used the Lucky-7 at small open mic blues jams and it sounded great, but it would not play all that loud (IMHO) without starting to distort. At home it's still rattling plates and making my westie's ears twitch before I can make it grind like a Marshall. People still hear it in the shop through a 212 V30 enclosure and say "7 watts !?!?!?!".

    On the high end and midrange it grinds like a mofo, but it lacks the low end thunk of a good Plexi because it ain't got the juice to move a speaker that strongly.
     
  7. TheAmpNerd

    TheAmpNerd Member

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    Interesting,

    It seems as though everyone wants their cake and
    they want to eat it too.

    Folks, this is, the...

    REALITY

    Summarized here as:

    There is NOT one amp that will do it all.

    Sorry to have to burst your bubbles.
    No ONE amp is going to do it all.
    OH, is that what was said????

    So, either, buy or rent what you need
    and know that from bedroom levels,
    to studio, to live, you are going to have
    different requirements/outcomes.

    Therefore expect to know that you will need
    three different amps to do the preceeding.

    There can be overlap for what you need, the
    key is knowing where each amp leaves off and
    where the next amp take over.

    Good luck, only
    you can be the judge. AND
    that will take practice on your part.
    THAT IS RIGHT,
    there are NO easy answers.
    It is all trial and error.
    Any amp builder/musician,
    you work to dial it in for each
    individual. At least I do, and I guess
    that is the difference between those that
    build 100s of units and those that
    customize each amp for a particular
    artist's need.

    What works for you, might not
    work for the next guy/gal...so put that
    into consideration, it is a sliding scale where
    only the artist/musician knows for sure...and
    even then, it just might be a guess (though an
    educated one based on experience (and don't let
    that throw you for a loop either!!!)).

    However, If I am incorrect.
    then someone please tell me and I'll stand corrected.

    It is pretty easy to sit here and espouse all kinds of
    advice; until your feet are to the fire, to me that is the
    bottom line, whether live or studio....fulfulling the
    musicians tone, enabling them to be free and to find
    it simply, by YOUR amp, IS THE BOTTOM LINE.

    It doesn't matter tubes or trannies, resistors or caps.
    If the artist can't find their tone, you as an amp builder
    haven't done your job.

    BTW, Andy, Kevin, Doug, Guy, Bruce, Randall, Allen,
    Rich, and anyone I left out, I'd love nothing more
    then to spend an afternoon playing and learning to
    feel one of your pride and joys.

    I guess that does make me an amp nerrd.
     
  8. RedMitch

    RedMitch Member

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    Amp Nerd,
    I wasn't trying to imply that there should be some holy grail "do it all" amp, I just wanted to know what made small and large amps different animals. I currently own only small amps, the biggest being a tweed deluxe, but I've also owned a Black Face Twin and a '73 metal panel Marshall in the past. I use amps appropriate to my current situation, but I certainly appreciate the big boys. IMHO amps only sound "right" when they're opened up.

    One follow up question: Why is it a truism that all small amps have lower headroom? Is it not possible to design a circuit that distorts a roughly the same place on the volume knob?

    THanks for the replies.

    Mitch
     
  9. Scumback Speakers

    Scumback Speakers Gold Supporting Member

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    Red Mitch...it's been my experience that more watts equals more "thump", pure and simple. You can run your smaller amp through a closed back 1x12 (or 2x12) cab with a 12" 55hz bass cone, and get more thump, but bass notes need more watts pushing them because they don't hit our ears like low mids to upper mids do. Lows require more watts than mids/highs do, just a fact of sound output.

    Although, I'm pretty happy with my 9 watt amp through a 2x12 closed back with a 55/75 hz 12" mix... but it's way past bedroom volume, and can be used at the local blues jam quite easily, volumewise.
     
  10. bob-i

    bob-i Member

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    I've spent some time building small amps too, typically under 1 watt. The closest I've come to a really nice low powered tone is this amp. It's about 2 watts using a single 6N1P output tube in Class A/B.

    http://www.patmedia.net/bob-ingram/Gilmore/Blues.mp3

    [​IMG]

    Like it's been said already, there's a lack of a nice tight fat bottom end. It's also not as quiet as you might think. I actually use a master volume on it to keep it to reasonable volume.
     
  11. Mickey_C

    Mickey_C The Original Racketeer Gold Supporting Member

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    At a certain volume, doesn't a Vox Tonelab (or pod, or whatever) and some headphones, just make more sense? Then you can crank up, all you want.

    Mickey

    PS - The bassnotes sound wimpy because they are larger air waves - and it takes more power to move a larger volume of air. Which, BTW is something a low power amp just can't do - the feel of your pants getting hit with the roar of a 412 with a 100W head on it. Serious thump power. Headroom is the amount of volume the amplifier can achieve before compressing and or distorting, and is a function of how much clean power the power amplifier can deliver. That question is ironic in that most people desiring a truly low power amplifier are looking for the characteristics of higher power amplifier sounds at lower volumes. The loss of headroom at those volumes is one such (and highly desired) characteristic. I would say it's the most usual one stated for building a low power amp. Otherwise, turn down ;)
     
  12. Boogie92801

    Boogie92801 Member

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    This is how I justify having several amps!
    :dude

    I explain (to my wife), that the small tweed one is for the living room practice, the lightining is for recording and small indoor jams and the Mesa Boogie and Bandmaster are for big places or outdoor gigs... actually, now that I think of it, for the big jams I am a bit underpowerd and I think I need a Roco ...;)

    It's all the drummers fault!
     
  13. Wakarusa

    Wakarusa Member

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    The discussion centered on movin' air is only half of the problem. The other half has to do with the mechanics of the ear and how your brain perceives things at low volume vs. high volume. The upshot is that even if I can prove to you on the spectrum analyzer that a given 1/2W amp has exactly the same spectral signature as a dimed Marshall 1959 through a closed-back 4x12, it still won't sound "right" at low volume.

    Another small point has to do with dynamics - you can't get the cool feedback, pinch harmonics don't sing as well, etc. when the guitar isn't in the strong sound field from a big amp. The amp and instrument just interact differently at low volume.
     

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