Cranked 1 watt amp vs 100 watts... with a master volume?

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irish_admiral
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Re: Cranked 1 watt amp vs 100 watts... with a master volume?

Post by irish_admiral » Sat Jun 30, 2012 7:57 am

Yeah, they just mush out out lower notes IMO. Also the thickness in the tone just isn't there. There's a lot going on in a guitar sound above 100hz that is very important to a full sound. I can almost bet you analyzing the EQ plots of a 1w vs 30w amp would be very revealing. I'm guessing the 1w is way down in the 200-800hz range compared to an amp 15w or so and over. I'm just guessing, but that's what I seem to hear.
A lot of it will also come down to the design of the amp circuit, and I suspect that a lot of the bigger amps are designed to give you some extra welly there... bear in mind that pushing more through the lower registers requires quite a lot of power (that's why you don't really get small bass valve amps), and so those amps with more power are likely to push more through the bass. You have to decide whether you need it or not.

Jake also pointed out that there isn't much difference in volume terms between 30 and 50 watts, and that's true. However, a healthy 30 watt amp is ear-splittingly loud when run at full bore...
having more iron and bass will give you more punch for rhythm as well.
Only really relevant if you and the bass player are playing out of sync with each other... otherwise you're crowding each other's space.
I want my amp to do the work and fill the room with sound. Not an SM57 and the PA. I play small- medium sized clubs and tell the sound guys NOT to send my guitar through the PA system. The only reason I mic the guitar cab in this instance is so that it can be run through the monitors for the rest of the band on stage.

Honestly, where do you want your amplification to come from, your amp or a shitty sound system?
Really really contextual question.

Short answer - ideally, it should be a bit of both. An SM57 is pretty much ideally designed to pick up the frequencies you want to amplify, and I've never yet come across a PA system so dire that it wouldn't be suitable to provide some sound reinforcement to an amp.

OK, here's the scenarios / rationales...

CRANK THE AMP

+ You get the best out of your amp in terms of tone
+ You have plenty of volume on stage to hear yourself
+ Everyone else can hear the amp if you set it up right (eg. facing audience, open backed cab)

But...

- Higher frequencies travel - disturbingly - only in a very narrow arc in front of the speaker, whereas the bassier frequencies travel in all directions. So the awesome tone you've dialled in is being heard by a limited group of people.
- Higher frequencies get soaked up by people. Unless your amplifier is raised above head height, some of the sound is going to be soaked up by the first few rows of the audience meaning that (again) the tone that you've dialled in isn't going to reach people at the back very well.
- Stage volume is potentially very high meaning that you have to balance the band around this, leading to a really high mix volume. If the venues you play are ok with this, it's not a problem. However a lot of them do have issues feeling - as they do - that keeping their punters happy is more important than keeping the band happy. This might involve turning down a bit. It's called customer service :)

So the advantages of having a good PA in...

+ You can balance the sound a bit, ensuring that the higher frequencies in your tone reach the back of the room and the sides too.
+ You can keep stage volume down a little, again, meaning it's easier to push a balanced level of sound to the whole room. You'll actually save your ears by doing this too.


The stereotypical mushy 'pub' sound you get is achieved by bands doing exactly what you describe... cranking it up and going at it. The problem is often bad spread of the frequencies, and frequencies competing with each other crowding each other out. You miss all the tonal nuances in the wall of sound. If that's what the punters and the landlords want, then that's what you deliver! However, as I mentioned, not all of them do, and you'll actually send a much better balanced band sound to the audience if you use PA properly. This is just factual. You can disagree, but you'll be wrong.

Remember, it's not either / or. You can get your amp cooking at a reasonable volume to squeeze some of the good tones out of it, but stop short of the pain threshold. Equally, the size of the venue you play might be small enough such that some of the advantages of using PA support will be eroded, and the extra hassle might not be worth it for you.

I would say it's worth thinking about as it's inevitably a bit more complicated a decision than, "i'll turn my amp up so everyone will hear it." Don't go with the rush of testosterone and and the "screw it, I can't be bothered" approach. If the sound man at the club has actually offered you an SM57 for your amp it's a reasonable indication that he's got some vague idea what he's doing.

If you're worried about the sound man, then bring your own small mixing desk and learn how to use it. You can plug your whole band into it at the stage, mix it properly, and then give him one cable as the output and tell him to just plug it into his system and turn up. You can then control everything from the stage. It's what I see a lot of bands do.

As ever, YMMV... my credentials... PA tech & electric guitarist who plays in bands with some pretty hard hitting drummers. So I see it from both sides of the fence!
Joe

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Re: Cranked 1 watt amp vs 100 watts... with a master volume?

Post by Thinline_slim » Sun Jul 01, 2012 4:22 am

irish_admiral wrote:
having more iron and bass will give you more punch for rhythm as well.
Only really relevant if you and the bass player are playing out of sync with each other... otherwise you're crowding each other's space.

Actually what I was getting at is having a higher wattage amp at a reasonable volume will allow for much more dynamic playing. That is also helped by a better bass response since you get a lot more punch in even the lower mid frequencies. That to me is a lot better than pushing a lower wattage amp far into compression. No dynamics at that point since there's not headroom.

I agree with everything else you posted though. I converted to micing caps and getting a good spread for the whole band. We never sounded better than when we had 2 mains and 4 monitors.
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Re: Cranked 1 watt amp vs 100 watts... with a master volume?

Post by irish_admiral » Sun Jul 01, 2012 9:04 am

Sure... your point about having more watts rings true in the situation where you've pushed an amp hard enough that you've started to get natural compression... although in my experience, again, you're running pretty loud by that point if you can't exert sufficient control from a combination of the guitar volume pot & your picking style!
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Re: Cranked 1 watt amp vs 100 watts... with a master volume?

Post by a.hun » Sun Jul 01, 2012 9:25 am

David Verb wrote:I was talking to the head tech officer at my music uni the other day, who has some experiences mixing live bands who toured down under, and we had a discussion about optimum stage levels. His argument was that an amplifier only needed to output 1 - 10 watts of power for nominal stage levels in a good environment, then micing and sound reinforcement would do the rest. Especially in the case of your local pub gig or band contest.

...Where is your master volume usually set on your 'big' rig?
OU818 wrote:I honestly think 20w is the best medium venue amp if you are being mic'd.

I currently play a Hiwatt DR103 100watt monster and have to generally face it towards the wall to stop killing the FOH mix.
It works great in the bigger rooms but I am starting to lean towards a small 20w 1x12 combo for smaller venues.

Either that or just build myself the Trinity Triwatt kit.
Strong arguments for both sides here.

Firstly the sound guy is right in that in a good on stage environment you shouldn't need huge wattages for guitar. Even if talking valves no I wouldn't gig a 1 - 5 watt amp. But I've played many gigs where a 15-20 watt 1x10 or 1x12 combo was plenty for guitar, even unmic'd. (And I have a 10 watt head which would be fantastic onstage if only needed for overdriven leads.)

For me with good sound reinforcement a good 30W valve amp should totally be able to handle any stage worldwide, period.

But with bigger amps though it isn't all about volume. Its about TONE; that and dynamic response. Couple of good TGP threads on that:

Who here gigs with a 200 watter?
Do 'big' iron amps just flat out sound beefier than 'smaller' iron amps ?

Yeah, most smaller amps are relatively wimpy on the bass front, but live (or recorded) thats not usually such a problem. Cutting through a band mix with guitar isn't too often about bass. Mids are the key to getting your guitar lines heard. Remember that the sounds which you worship out of your amp when playing alone aren't usually what'll work best in a band mix. Unless you NEED to pump out mega bass (putting bassists like me out of work! :twisted:) you don't need a huge wattage amp to get your message over with electric guitar. If big bold cleans (sometimes solo) are needed though than there is a lot to be said for more power.

OU818, your DR103 shouldn't be a problem. It isn't like the old OR amps which NEED to be pushed to sound really good. Sure Custom 100s sound <insert favourite idol / deity here>-like when moving serious air, but they sound better than the rest of the competition at low to moderate volume levels too. Mine is now my favoured living room amp - it simply sounds bigger and better than the rest of my amps even at very low volume levels. Big amps often (but not always) do. Yes, I think it is largely the big robust power supplies and transformers. I'm told the 200W (and 400W) Hiwatts (DR201 and DR405) sound better still than the DR103 even at very low volumes. I really didn't want to know that, so thought I'd share... :P
...Where is your master volume usually set on your 'big' rig?
I have hardly ever gigged on guitar myself but basically my answer would be 'as low as possible for getting good sounds and band mix at the particular venue'. That or I'd bung the amp through an attenuator to be able to crank it harder. I'm not a big fan of high stage volumes, and just like huge amps if there is a decent PA around (they aren't all shitty dreamdistortion!) they are also never NEEDED. Have occasionally mentioned a small (~200 capacity) venue here where they do live radio broadcasts / webcasts of all sorts of bands including known touring ones. (3 voor 12 in Desmet studio's.) They use attenuators there to keep the stage volumes low enough that the majority of what you hear comes from the (quality) PA. The sounds at that venue are always excellent - top notch in fact! That is what professional sound engineers can do for you.

If only they were all that good...


Andy.
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Re: Cranked 1 watt amp vs 100 watts... with a master volume?

Post by Les Paul Lover » Sun Jul 01, 2012 10:56 am

OrangePaul wrote:Whilst 1 watt can sound more than loud enough at home I'm pretty certain in any size-able room its volume would just disappear.

I've tried recording my blackstar HT1R and didn't get very good results either.
I practice weekly with my AD5 and bass/drums, the rest of the band often tell me i'm too loud!!

I'll have to bring it to the open mic night we go to to get "match fit" and see how it copes there - might have to mic it there.

Funnily enough, that AD5 is, from my mediocre attempts, much easier to record than my RV50!
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Re: Cranked 1 watt amp vs 100 watts... with a master volume?

Post by a.hun » Sun Jul 01, 2012 11:06 am

[OT...]
That was guitar, but I'm a bassist. We do NEED more watts to do our job right because pushing out the lows needs more power - fact of life. But even so as far as bassists go I'm far from power crazy. The OR120 I've used for most of the gigs I've done over the years (mostly rock) actually has pretty pitiful clean headroom for bass. Tones are great of course - if you can live with an edge of distortion. But my DR103 has way more clean headroom. Hell, even my 100W solid state Ampeg combo has more clean headroom than the Orange and it has done me proud for some small / medium sized gigs. Even so 100 - 150W for bass these days isn't that much, and especially with solid state amps things look to be going NUCLEAR on the wattage front. Why?

Well right now I have a 900WRMS bass head sitting in a shoulder bag next to me. (Genz Benz Streamliner 900) What the <insert favourite idol / deity / freak> for?

Again, basically TONE; that and dynamics! NO WAY do I need (or ever want) to be cranking a 900W amp just to be heard. If I ever got anywhere near toasting that amp I'd be walking because the rest of the band would be far too damn loud. I want to enjoy music 'till I drop not watch people bobbing their heads and wonder what they are all hearing.

Reasons I got the amp were...
A. It genuinely sounds great, lots of smooth fat bass, sweet treble, versatile midrange, and is the closest thing there is right now to big valve bass amp sounds and dynamics out of something you can hoist with one finger. I am well used to gigging good valve amps and this sounds and feels like a very good one!
B. It weighs 3kg (6.5lb). You can hoist that with one finger.
C. It works really well at powering my small lightweight bass cabs to get unbelievable sounds at real gig volumes out of them. I can hoist each of them - easily - one handed. Amp in it's shoulder bag, bass in a gig bag, one or two cabs by hand, a single person carry, so...
D. It finally lets me hoist one finger at the guitarist. Not just at load in but also in the volume stakes. Since I could ALWAYS go much MUCH louder than is needed now I have just a little more say in what is reasonable. Helps win any arguments over volume versus tone! :P
E. It also helps make friends with the 'desk jockey'. This thing has a really sweet sounding pre / post EQ DI, something which puts a smile on any sound engineers face. And unless they are totally useless (in which case chance is I can just rigid digit and unplug them! :P ) they really can be any bands best friend. Which takes us back to...
...Where is your master volume usually set on your 'big' rig?
Depends on the amp. With the OR120 it is always maxed or very close to. Like I said clean headroom is very limited for bass so that is a must. The DR103 master will normally be fairly high too, but again as for guitar set as low as possible for good sound / band mix for the venue. The Streamliner I haven't yet gigged. It has 3 volume controls, a standard gain / volume for setting up your sound plus a master volume for the speaker output level. That last one I don't see needing to be cranked too far clockwise! :lol:

I've been joking about raising a finger to guitarists and sound engineers, but really that isn't my way. Seeing eye to eye and working together always works much better - where possible anyway. The people I certainly don't want to raise a finger to though are the audience. I've been to far too many gigs where I liked the band but didn't like the fact that they were so freanking loud they sounded far better when muffled through cheap ear plugs. I'd far rather back off the overall volume levels a bit (though still being loud enough to rock), give the audience a really good sound, and let the music do its thing.

The vast majority of gigs I've played over the years haven't needed everything to go through the PA, usually just the vocals, sometimes keys if someone let them in the band. So the stage mix is also the house mix, and frankly it is doable. As long as people are working towards sounding good as a band rather than massaging tiny egos anyway. We'll usually send someone out into the hall to give an idea of the overall balance and go with their suggestions. After that a couple of slight sign language adjustments if needed and we're golden. Personally I always take the time to position my bass cab carefully in relation to the back /side walls which makes a HUGE diference to the sound. I like my bass to be clear, powerful and articulate, not muddy and indistinct. Moderating volume levels and careful placement / EQ usually makes that possible...


Andy.
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Re: Cranked 1 watt amp vs 100 watts... with a master volume?

Post by David Verb » Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:12 am

baytamusic wrote:
David Verb wrote:Even wimpy through a 4x12?

I find the clean channel on my RV100 too bass heavy at times, especially in the room I'm in. I would prefer to let the bass guitar take care of the lower frequencies. But that sort of attitude isn't going to 'bust guts and melt faces' isn't it?
Yes. I've owned several 5w amps and have ran them through my 4x12 and they don't have near the bass response of even a 15w amp. I don't play the kind of music where I want to 'bust guts and melt faces' so I'm not quite sure what you're getting at with that comment...

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Re: Cranked 1 watt amp vs 100 watts... with a master volume?

Post by David Verb » Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:18 am

a.hun wrote:
...Where is your master volume usually set on your 'big' rig?
I have hardly ever gigged on guitar myself but basically my answer would be 'as low as possible for getting good sounds and band mix at the particular venue'

Andy.
THIS!!!!

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the responses for this thread. Thanks for all the great opinions!

I asked mainly because I have never had the opportunity to play a small watt combo... Just nasty 100 watt valve power. I personally believe the RV100 sounds good at every volume anyway!
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Re: Cranked 1 watt amp vs 100 watts... with a master volume?

Post by irish_admiral » Mon Jul 02, 2012 2:58 pm

A good master volume will cover a multitude of sins - if it sounds good, it is good...
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Re: Cranked 1 watt amp vs 100 watts... with a master volume?

Post by Jab » Fri Jul 06, 2012 6:14 pm

Thinline_slim wrote:Agree with Joe - clean headroom

Agree with Bayta - bass response. But for a different reason that having more bass in the mix. I agree that the bass player needs to fill that space but having more iron and bass will give you more punch for rhythm as well. Having that plus more headroom can give you more dynamics in your touch, pick attack etc. running a 1w wide open will compress into mush.

There are smaller amps that are damn touch sensative but there are far more 30-100w that will do it too. Also remember wattage to decibel ratios too. I think it goes if you doube your wattage you'll get an additional 3 dbs. 30w to 50w is not that big a difference in volume.
My Tungsten champ-style amp feels punchier, is more touch sensitive and has more bass than a bigger head through a 4x12 at the same percieved volume level, up until a certain point of course. It's crazy how that thing just sings and resonates. So for a smaller gig, I'd say a smaller amp will sound better. IMO

(The Blackstar HT1 though, that's just for practise. No punch to speak of)
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Re: Cranked 1 watt amp vs 100 watts... with a master volume?

Post by apocalypsedude » Fri Jul 06, 2012 7:45 pm

I say just get a Rocker 30, perfect wattage to play club gigs, if you want that cranked tube sound without deafening everyone in the room! Anything less, and you are at the mercy of the P.A. and monitors in order to hear yourself over the drums!. No one ever mentions that its the drummer that actually sets the volume in a band :wink:
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Re: Cranked 1 watt amp vs 100 watts... with a master volume?

Post by irish_admiral » Fri Jul 06, 2012 8:33 pm

Mmm, not really, given that there's only 3db difference between a 15 watt & 30 watt amp, all things being equal. Often the drummer does set the volume, but if you've got a good one, they don't always have to smash the kit.

Likewise, put a 10 watt valve amp next to your head and - even with a hard hitting drummer - I guarantee you'll hear yourself.

Being at the mercy of the PA isn't necessarily a bad thing, given that in reality, you have to play to the level he's set your vocalist's mic to! If you think that's a bad thing, then you should probably be doing your own PA...
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Re: Cranked 1 watt amp vs 100 watts... with a master volume?

Post by mr_william » Fri Jul 06, 2012 8:35 pm

a.hun wrote:
The vast majority of gigs I've played over the years haven't needed everything to go through the PA, usually just the vocals, sometimes keys if someone let them in the band. Andy.
if someone let them in the band! ive played with keys before too! hehe
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Re: Cranked 1 watt amp vs 100 watts... with a master volume?

Post by Dark Helmet » Fri Jul 06, 2012 10:00 pm

I had my AD30 on stage at my last gig and had it running both the 212 in the combo and my 412.


that was "enough, but just barely"... it was a BIG room, but no way could a 10w amp have cut it on that stage.
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Re: Cranked 1 watt amp vs 100 watts... with a master volume?

Post by baytamusic » Fri Jul 06, 2012 10:22 pm

I'll stick to my 30w and 4x12. ;)

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