Tube amps that you can CRANK without going deaf

ronmail65

Gold Supporting Member
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3,390
There's got to be some great low wattage tube amps that when dimed - they sound awesome at reasonable listening levels. Not looking for attenuator solutions -- just an amp, a guitar, a cable, and excellent overdrive.

A guy in high school had a silver face Fender Champ that I remember as sounding awesome when cranked; but maybe that's a false memory...

What do you say?
 
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4,528
Anything 1W or lower. Take your pick.

Even 5W amps are quite loud when cranked. I have a Gibson GA-5, and while it’s not likely to give me permanent hearing damage from one use, it’s positively blaring when used at home, and certainly exceeds the OSHA PEL and my ears are ringing after I use it cranked up.
 

ronmail65

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
3,390
Anything 1W or lower. Take your pick.

Even 5W amps are quite loud when cranked. I have a Gibson GA-5, and while it’s not likely to give me permanent hearing damage from one use, it’s positively blaring when used at home, and certainly exceeds the OSHA PEL and my ears are ringing after I use it cranked up.
That's helpful! I've had limited experience below 20W (which, for me, is too much to dime). So definitely less than 5W (perhaps 1W). Are older less efficient amps easier on the ears at 3W or 5W?
 

Benz2112

Memba?
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
5,361
I highly recommend the Suhr Badger. It has London Power's Power Scaling, I don't run it higher than 2 o'clock on the dial, sometimes lower. I run the preamp gain pretty low, and it has a very rich, edge of breakup tone. You can crank of the gain and get more saturation, but I think a boost works just as well (the mk2 has a mosfet boost on board). The power scaling works really nicely, and other builders like Morgan also use the feature. Worth a look.
 

gulliver

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
10,209
Big iron will make small tubes sound loud.

Has anyone tried a 12AX7 in a standard power tube slot? Will an adapter work? Is the current too strong? If it would work, I'd like to try one on my Bivalve.

Huge iron/tiny tube.

image.jpeg
 
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4,528
That's helpful! I've had limited experience below 20W (which, for me, is too much to dime). So definitely less than 5W (perhaps 1W). Are older less efficient amps easier on the ears at 3W or 5W?
An amp puts out the power it puts out. What varies in efficiency is the speaker. Older speakers in a lot of the small amps are indeed less efficient and yield less volume than, say, a modern 12” speaker. But they also tend to be quite bright and cutting, which isn’t super easy on the ears.

In any case, a 5W amp is louder than you might expect. My little GA-5 is barely any quieter than my 15W amps. It has less headroom though, for sure.

I’d go for a 1W amp into a robust speaker before picking a 5W amp into a little plug magnet vintage 8” speaker, for instance.
 

scottcw

Low rent hobbyist
Gold Supporting Member
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4,179
The Benson Vinny is 1 watt and it is pretty loud. Keep in mind that the power rating of any amp is clean power. As soon as it starts to break up, it's putting out more than that rating. I've read a 50 watt plexi is closer to 85 (?) watts when dimed.

So using the Vinny as an example, it's likely closer to 2 watts dimed. Through a 98db sensitivity speaker, that's 101db at 1 meter. Using the chart below, hearing damage is possible after 15 min.

 

Chris F

Member
Messages
87
A lot also depends on the room you are cranking your amp in. I used to play in the guest room that didn't have much furniture in it and had trouble turning up any amp. I set up a guitar room with a lot of soft surfaces to deaden echos and I can crank up my 65 PRRI w/12" speaker.
 

Golem

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
805
Gibson GA-5. Granted mine is the Mojotone handwired from when they partnered with Gibson. It has had work done so that it doesn't break up as early.
Also own a Marshall Origin 5 that can do this. I changed the stock tubes and it was an improve,emt.
 

HotBluePlates

Member
Messages
10,656
I've had limited experience below 20W (which, for me, is too much to dime). So definitely less than 5W (perhaps 1W). Are older less efficient amps easier on the ears at 3W or 5W?
I've built a 1/3 (one-third) watt amp. Turning it to distortion when driving sensitive speakers is too loud for apartment use at night. During the day, it's not too bad but the neighbors will still hear me.

Sensitive Celestion = ~100dB @ 1 watt @ 1 meter.​
Insensitive Jensen = ~94dB @ 1 watt @ 1 meter.​
A decibel chart says Normal Conversation is 60-70dB, a movie theater is 74-104dB, and an ambulance siren is 110-129dB. By 140dB you're at (and maybe beyond) the threshold for physical pain.

50w Amp into Sensitive Celestion: 10 x log (50w/1w) + 100dB = ~117dB​
50w Amp into Insensitive Jensen: 10 x log (50w/1w) + 94dB = ~111dB​

5w Amp into Sensitive Celestion: 10 x log (5w/1w) + 100dB = ~107dB​
5w Amp into Insensitive Jensen: 10 x log (5w/1w) + 94dB = ~101dB​
0.3w Amp into Sensitive Celestion: 10 x log (0.3w/1w) + 100dB = ~95dB​
0.3w Amp into Insensitive Jensen: 10 x log (0.3w/1w) + 94dB = ~89dB​
The average small 3-5w amp doesn't have a master volume, and won't be distorting until it's making 3-5w.
 

rickt

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
2,195
A SAMAMP VCS 10 or 12 would be a good choice. It is a 1-watt tube amp that feeds into a solid state amplifier for a 12-watt output. Adjust the tube amp for the level of grit and than adjust the solid state section for the desired volume level.
 

Amp_Addicted

Member
Messages
680
I crank up this little 5 watt sucker often. I even blew out the power transformer! An older Gibson GA-5 is still a decent value though. If you're really adventurous, you could look for a Gibson GA-8 which is a GA-5 on steroids. Both are great amps for home use:

GA5_1.JPG


GA5_14.JPG
 




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