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Old January 30th, 2005, 03:57 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Wattage vs. Volume

So is a 20 watt amp twice as loud as a 10 watt amp?
I found this info on the web :

40 watts is 94% as loud as 50 watts.
30 watts is 86% as loud as 50 watts.
25 watts is 81% as loud as 50 watts.
22 watts is 78% as loud as 50 watts.
20 watts is 76% as loud as 50 watts.
18 watts is 74% as loud as 50 watts.
15 watts is 70% as loud as 50 watts.
12 watts is 65% as loud as 50 watts.
10 watts is 62% as loud as 50 watts.
9 watts is 60% as loud as 50 watts.
8 watts is 56% as loud as 50 watts.
7 watts is 55% as loud as 50 watts.
6 watts is 53% as loud as 50 watts.
5 watts is 50% as loud as 50 watts.
4 watts is 47% as loud as 50 watts.
3 watts is 43% as loud as 50 watts.
2 watts is 38% as loud as 50 watts.
1 watt is 31% as loud as 50 watts.

You can't really compare loudness and volume because loudness is a product of volume.
Volume is a measurement of the sound pressure level determined by your amp . Loudness is the sound that is collected by the receiver and it is a variable measurement depending on acoustics, room size, sensitivity of the receiver (your mic, ear)
The loudness of your amp is determined by sound pressure level, wattage, room acoustics, sensitivity and bandwidth of your receiver and your speaker.

One thing is the various amp models : quality, circuitry, tube/ non-tube, speaker quality and size.
You can take a 15 w Mesa and a 15 w Crate and the Mesa will out perform the Crate.
A 40 w amp could SOUND louder than a 50 w amp, it all depends on these variables .

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Old January 30th, 2005, 11:34 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Yea, there are a lot of variables.... I believe that this chart was meant to compare like to like though. When comparing the same series amps of different wattages, I'd say this chart is closer to right than wrong on average.

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Old January 30th, 2005, 11:48 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Wattage vs. Volume

Originally Posted by Garrison
So is a 20 watt amp twice as loud as a 10 watt amp?
No. Given that everything else is the same, a 20 watt amp will only be 3dB louder. In order to double the SPL you have to have a tenfold increase in power, all other things being equal.

Originally Posted by Garrison
You can take a 15 w Mesa and a 15 w Crate and the Mesa will out perform the Crate.
That's a pretty bold statement. You don't mention how a Mesa will outprerform a Crate. Cubic dollars, yes. Tone is more subjective. You can't make a blanket statement like that. It just isn't true.
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'tone is in the underpants'
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Old January 30th, 2005, 12:15 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I'm confused: are you asking the question, or giving a lecture?

I do agree w/e-merlin: the Mesa probably outperforms the Crate in terms of profitability; everything else is pretty much subjective and open to discussion. ;-) CS
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Old January 30th, 2005, 01:45 PM   #5 (permalink)
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apples & oranges

wattage and loudness are not related.

without adding in the efficiency of the speaker, the entire argument is baseless. this variable is critical to any discussion of wattage & SPL.

for example, if "amp A" is 6dB higher in wattage than "amp B", yet amp A's speaker is 7dB less efficient than amp B's, then the "more powerful" amp will be less loud.

and...yes....all other things equal {speaker efficiency included} it takes a ten-fold increase in wattage to perceive a doubling of loudness. This is based on the more-or-less logarithmic way your ear hears and has nothing to do with marketing schemes, class of operation, type of guitar, etc.
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Old January 30th, 2005, 02:04 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I think the original post brings out the idea that buying a higher quality amp should take priority over a higher wattage amp.
#'s are not always as they appear.
I appreciate that being pointed out.

Originally Posted by Chris S.
I'm confused: are you asking the question, or giving a lecture?

Hopefully you are no longer confused.
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Old January 30th, 2005, 08:23 PM   #7 (permalink)
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IMO, good "small" wattage tube amps (5-15 watts) that use good/efficient speakers, and are housed in good boxes, are more than "loud enough" for me. Heck, I've used an unmic'd 5 watt B1uesboy with a Weber 10A125 speaker for 4pc. blues/rock band playing at small venues and there was never a need to turn it up past 3/4's.

I've compared 30 and 40 watt tube amps up against 12 and 15 watt tube amps. Each amp was as healthy as can be, with good tubes and good speakers. In terms of both clean headroom and slightly pushed tone, the bigger amps were just marginally louder than the smaller amps, and I never needed to crank any of 'em up for my playing. IOW, I don't see a need for all that extra horsepower for my playing.

Then there's always the issue of "cranked power valve tube tone". For me, and probably most of us jamming or gigging, that's impossible to create from tune to tune - there are just too many volume variables to consider. I could never do that with a 30/40 watt tube amp, and can barely get away with it using a 12 watt tube amp. Enter the overdrive/boost pedal - I don't leave home without a real good one ... heck, it stays on all the time. That's just the reality of amps and overdriven amp tone.

So you've got a 4 power valve 60 watt tube amp that can go from pentode to triode mode, plus you can pull out 2 valves. What is the *perceived* difference in volume between the full-tilt 60 watts and the 20 watt triode/2 tube version. Bascially, a loss of clean headroom. That's about it. Both are loud as heck, if need be.

Perceived volume ... a lot depends on the kinda music yer playing, yer bandmates, and the venue. I'll never need more than 15 watts of good tube amp - if I ever did (probably never), I'd just mic it. To each their own, YMMV.
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Old January 30th, 2005, 09:19 PM   #8 (permalink)
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3 db is the smallest audible volume deference that the human ear can detect. The human ear can't tell the deference if something goes up or down 1db or 2 db.

You have to double an amps power just to gain 3 db. So if you had a 20 watt amp you would have go to a 40 watt just to hear an audible deference in volume.
A 100 watt amp(twin) is only 3 db louder than a 50 watt amp(Super).

The human ear can not tell a deference in volume between a 40 watt or 50 watt amp, a 15 watt or 20 watt, not until you double the power can you hear a deference.
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Old January 30th, 2005, 09:40 PM   #9 (permalink)
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hearing vs feeling

Depends of course on what type music, guitar, pickups etc...
Play a Deluxe Reverb (22 watts) then play a Twin Reverb (80-135watts), even at the same relative volume you will "feel" the difference.
I know the Twin has 2 speakers, but there is something more to it than that.

Not all amps are the same even if they are rated at the same wattage either, I recently bought a Laney VC30, it was barely loud enough cranked all the way up for my needs- the Peavey Classic 30 I had a few years ago was much louder.
Heck even my 68 DR at 5 was louder than the Laney.

I like the sound of a smaller amp cranked for OD but you can't beat a higher watt amp for clean headroom.
I guess that's why most of us here have more than one amp, and guitar
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Old January 31st, 2005, 09:58 AM   #10 (permalink)
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what you can hear, and can't. We're all different.

The auditory threshold (what you can hear) depends upon the frequency, and the individual. All of our hearing is most sensitive to frequencies around 2500cps, and less sensitive at 20cps and 20,000cps. So I can hear a sound pressure level equivalent to slightly less than 2dB at 2500cps, but I can't hear anything less than about 30dB at 20cps, and as I get older, it's more like about 40dB at 18,000cps. Oh well, that's life.
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Old January 31st, 2005, 11:32 AM   #11 (permalink)
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I played a casual blues gig once with a SF Champ - the other guitar player had a tweed Bandmaster clone (+/- 35 watts, 3-10's). Drummer and bass player had good control. I had NO trouble being heard (and with great tone), which amazed the other guy.

Wattage is overrated as a measure of stage practicality.
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Old January 31st, 2005, 01:32 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Unfortunately, wattage is the easy to use proxy for "loudness." How "loud" an amp is incorporates numerous variables (including the eye, er, ear of the beholder), and there is no way to capture that in one objective measurement. So, watts gets the nod as the objective measure to compare one amp against another -- even though by itself it's almost useless.

Comparing wattage is useful, I think, on a relative basis when some new to amplification is being wooed by that 100 watt Plexi. It can help them understand that they will never approach cranking that amp up!

My new Goblin is a 5 or 15 watt amp (1x12, 6V6), based on a toggle switch setting. You can switch this on the fly, and when you do, as noted above, you get less clean headroom but not significantly lower overall "loudness." It does, however, let you get power tube distortion at stage friendly volume.

I just sold my Bassman RI because I just have no use for anything over 20 watts or so anymore. For more volume, I mic the amp and let the PA do what it's good at.
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Old January 31st, 2005, 02:19 PM   #13 (permalink)
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I have a gilmore jr amp head. It is 1/2 watt tube amp. the thing is very loud.
opinions expressed are the view of the author, and are not necesarily correct.
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Old January 31st, 2005, 03:46 PM   #14 (permalink)
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A little experiment

I just did a little tube swap experiment in my Super Deluxe, comparing 5Y3 + 6V6 pair to GZ34 + 6L6 pair. Is the amp louder with the 6L6's? Absolutely. Is it much louder? Not to my ears.

But here's something to consider: Does my guitar "hear" differently than do my ears? In other words, while it takes 3dB for my ears to notice, will my guitar notice a smaller increase? I guess I'm thinking about acoustic coupling, the effects that the amplified sound can have on the guitar (feedback being the extreme example), changing the feel of the instrument. Is my guitar more sensitive to volume changes than my ear is? That's the question.

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