Thoughts On Watts......how many do we actually need........

mangoman

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,277
Just having an open an honest discussion. In a rehearsal context, from my experience (and i realize its definitely limited to most folks on here....and I always appreciate the insight from the pros on here), I rarely get to open things up. Even on stage....and I have played outside and in medium sized clubs, I still get told to turn down and just don't get my larger amps "cooking".

I realize, there is a big dispersion in needs here....bedroom players have much different needs....as does someone who has a home studio. But for those that still play out a bit, rehearse and also play at home.....this is where I am trying to aim my discussion.

My focus is about 50-60% home, 30% rehearsals with a band (Various members) and ab out 10% out.

I have also had extensive conversations with Fred at /13, Jeff at Savage Audio and the great Dr Z himself, and I think most of us really don't need much more than 30 tube watts. In fact, I dont think I need more than 20. YES, I agree, 20 watts from an Egnater Rebel is different than 18 Z watts or a 10 watt /13.

Case in point, at the point where I would have my MVP66 opened up for glorious clean tones, its wayyyyy too loud for any of my applications. Maybe, I just need to have a great attenuator/OX Box, but just trying to keep my (and your) rig fairly simple. But based on where I am right now, that amp is probably going to be moved in the hopes of getting an MVP 23 or similar. I'd always like to get to a plug n play, but just a great amp and a modest pedalboard is where I am at these days.

Thoughts on Watts???
 

The Opera Panther

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,166
Both of my amps are in the 18-20 watt range. Dr. Z Carmen Ghia, and Swart AST. Loud enough that I can play with a drummer if the situation presents itself, but not so loud I can’t attenuate down and still have a good sound at home.
 

fiveightandten

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,041
It depends on who you talk to. I've been told to turn down my 5W Gibson GA-5 1x10 combo, playing clean with the volume on 4. I typically use 15W to 20W, but even at that power level it's a constant struggle with sound guys.

IMO, there should be no problem with a guitar amp being at natural volume to match the level of the drums. That's how loud it needs to be in order to be heard. But a lot of people, perhaps primarily sound guys and venue owners, believe that a guitar amp should not be heard on stage except through the monitoring that the sound guy controls and however he/she wishes.

My typical experience is this:
  • I turn my amp on and put it at 80% of the volume I'd normally have it at rehearsal to match the drums (so, lower than "normal").
  • Sound guy says "that's too loud, turn it down a few notches".
  • I turn the amp down until it appeases the request. I can no longer hear the amp over the drums, and now the amp sounds lackluster, devoid of any sustain or note bloom. I crank my compressor pedal up to compensate.
  • I ask for the amp in my monitor so I can actually hear myself play, the sound guy obliges and after 3 or 4 requests between songs I can hear myself.
  • The amp is now just as loud, or in some cases louder, than it was at natural volume. Only now, it sounds bad on top of the high volume.

In order for a proper mix, the guitar will always need to be loud enough to be heard over the drums. IMO, turning it down then turning it back up through monitoring is counterproductive. I get the need for sound spread on stage so the band can hear each other. But I can hear everyone fine at practice, with the amps at natural volume. At gigs with the sound guy's approach, it's always WAY louder on stage and with poor sound because the amps are turned down so low. It makes no sense to me.
 

andrekp

Member
Messages
6,519
Well, I’ve used an 18watt clone with a full band. It is damn loud and does OK. Though really, it’s at its limit for playing with it set for a little hair and the ability to clean up. 18 proper tubes watts can be really loud though. YMMV, depending on the amp.

However, another option for playing with a smaller amp is always mic it into the PA (maybe a personal one just for your amp). May or may not work for your band, but it is the way to make good sounding quiet things louder. If you like the sound of a particular amp, you just have to find a way sometimes.
 

MikeMcK

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,532
Timely discussion, since I just fielded a phone call from a member of the "more is better" club. I might just be getting old, but I'm pretty sure I dodged a bullet:

BL: "Hey, so-and-so gave me your number because I need a guitar player for 2/11."​
Me: "OK, I'm free that night."​
BL: "Cool. What gear can you bring? We're a high energy, high volume band."​
Me: "Usually a Hayseed 30, 30 W into 1x12", and a 906 to mic it."​
BL: "30 Watts won't do it. Got anything bigger and meaner?"​
Me: "A modded Traynor YBA-1, 2x12 Marshall cab & the 906. And I'd run my own IEMs."​
BL: "I know that amp. That's better, but we need more than that."​
Me: "More stage volume than that? Thanks, but I don't think I want the gig."​
 

Short Tooth

Member
Messages
460
For me it equates to less low end umph as the watts go lower. Some will say that umph just competes with the Bass Player. For me I draw the line at 50 watts for what I play - but am obviously in the minority because basically every manufacturer seems to run away for 50 and go for 20 - here's look at you Marshall. That's ok tho - just got a Mesa Badlander 50.
 

michael patrick

Loud and proud
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
11,223
It depends.

My last gig was a Halloween show where we performed as the Blues Brothers. I ran a JTM-45 head into a 2x12 cab, and set the amp to run relatively clean. The amp has a PPIMV, and that was set probably half way up. Overall not a ton of volume coming from the amp. The place we were playing has a great PA setup, with individual monitor mixes and a very experienced FOH sound person, so I could rely on that to fill the room.

But I also play off and on with a Motorhead tribute. A 30w head into a 2x12 ain't gonna cut it for that. The drummer hits pretty hard, and just to get it to sound right I need big iron and tubes and speakers pushed pretty hard.
 

62Tele

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,886
It doesn’t work to just equate wattage to volume. Headroom, percussiveness, low frequency clarity and presence can all be a byproduct of increased wattage. I’ve seen many Jazz guys gig Twin Reverbs in very small rooms.

There’s a feel and clarity to big iron that feels 3D and that small amps never duplicate. If your clean tone is actually a little dirty (seems to be a common interpretation these days) then the differences might not be as obvious. But if your clean tone is clean, it can be night and day.

There’s also the question of the PA - with a good sound system and sound guy, you can get by with a Pignose, but as soon as things go off the rails, having adequate amp power can be the only way to keep up with the drummer and hear yourself. Playing outdoors adds another twist when wattage can just disappear.

Obviously playing at home or in a studio is a whole different story.
 

tele_jas

Member
Messages
4,001
Need and want are 2 completely different things.

These days, do we even NEED an amp?? I mean, with the Kemper and Helix out there, we don't really need an amp anymore.

But, I'm a self proclaimed "tube snob"... While I have had some of those high-tech units, still have a PodGo, I much prefer a good old fashioned tube amp.

As for wattage.... I started with a 22w Fender Deluxe for many years, never got it past 3 on the volume knob. Even opening for some big name bands in the late 90s to early 2000s in front of 10,000 people. In the mid 2000s, I played in an 80s style rock band and had Mesa Dual Rectifiers, 5150's with half stacks and some other 120-150w tube amps..... Rarely did I get the volume up to 3.

Today, I play similar (80s rock) music with 15-20w amps and I rarely get the master volume past 1/3 of the way up (probably similar to what my Fender Deluxe was). I Recently played a reunion show with the band I was previously in, when I used those big amps. This time around, I used two 1x12 amps at 15w each, but not turned up past 1/3. It was fine for me and the sound man even asked me if I could turn down.

I've tried an 8-10w amp, with a real drummer, it was *almost* there but not quite. I think it may have been fine with electronic drums, but not sure?? I know my Maz 18 was plenty loud with the same drummer and is more than enough now with my current drummer and his electronic drum set.

Bigger amps, do sound bigger (more lows and more punch).....But though a PA, a 150w full stack will sound the same as a 15w 1x12. Sometimes, it's not always the volume it's the feel and fullness of a bigger amp that you're used to? A 150w amp, can still be played at the same level as a 15w amp....Different strokes for different folks.

.....Sorry, I got lost and rambled on.
 

JustADudeNamedJoe

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
96
I like 60-100. Are there better options, is it magic for my tone.... I don't know, maybe??? . Like a lot of things that we all end up debating about, find what makes you happy for your needs, wants, and living situation and forget all the other noise. Trust me, will save you a ton of time and even more money. If it sounds good, stick with it. If it's not broke, don't try and fix it.
 

GtrTravel

Member
Messages
393
Watts are not just about volume. They relate to headroom and compression. So it depends not only on volume needed but how clean and stiff/collapsed one wants to the amp to be. Also the wattage will impact the low end that an amp can produce. Those questions matter more than solely asking about watts.
 

El Rey

Double Platinum Member
Messages
2,229
It depends on who you talk to. I've been told to turn down my 5W Gibson GA-5 1x10 combo, playing clean with the volume on 4. I typically use 15W to 20W, but even at that power level it's a constant struggle with sound guys.

IMO, there should be no problem with a guitar amp being at natural volume to match the level of the drums. That's how loud it needs to be in order to be heard. But a lot of people, perhaps primarily sound guys and venue owners, believe that a guitar amp should not be heard on stage except through the monitoring that the sound guy controls and however he/she wishes.

My typical experience is this:
  • I turn my amp on and put it at 80% of the volume I'd normally have it at rehearsal to match the drums (so, lower than "normal").
  • Sound guy says "that's too loud, turn it down a few notches".
  • I turn the amp down until it appeases the request. I can no longer hear the amp over the drums, and now the amp sounds lackluster, devoid of any sustain or note bloom. I crank my compressor pedal up to compensate.
  • I ask for the amp in my monitor so I can actually hear myself play, the sound guy obliges and after 3 or 4 requests between songs I can hear myself.
  • The amp is now just as loud, or in some cases louder, than it was at natural volume. Only now, it sounds bad on top of the high volume.

In order for a proper mix, the guitar will always need to be loud enough to be heard over the drums. IMO, turning it down then turning it back up through monitoring is counterproductive. I get the need for sound spread on stage so the band can hear each other. But I can hear everyone fine at practice, with the amps at natural volume. At gigs with the sound guy's approach, it's always WAY louder on stage and with poor sound because the amps are turned down so low. It makes no sense to me.
Great post (in my humble "nobody" opinion).

My herd of amps are all over the place. Matchless Lightning to Wizard MTL MKII KT200.

I love a tool box of variety.
 




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