How loud does an amp need to be?

October 10th, 2003, 02:59 PM
Hey folks!

This might sound like a subjective question, but I really don't know the answer. I'm currently playing through a standard 60watt SS amp. No big deal, and I don't ever turn it up more than halfway (and rarely do I do that).

In looking around for a nice little tube amp I'm drawn to the cool little 5-10w tube combos. I see some of the boutique-y stuff has speaker out connections as well to drive a cabinet (I'm drawn to the Songworks amps specifically).

I'm just a living room player right now, but I do aspire to play with a small combo for fun. I have no idea how LOUD my amp needs to be to play with other people. Can a little tube amp combo keep up? Could a little tube amp plugged into a cabinet keep up?

I always imagine if an amp is too quiet that plugging it into a cabinet would just mean the same quiet sound coming out of more speakers.

What do you folks do? I'm most interested in those who get great big sound from tiny amps. Again, I'm new to all this, so any advice is appreciated.


Tim Swartz
October 10th, 2003, 03:17 PM
The drummer will dictate the size of the amp needed. I've worked w/ Princeton drummers and I've worked with 100w Marshall drummers. Personally, give me the 100w Marsahall drummer who can play at Champ levels and all points in between as determined by the dynamics/emotion of the piece being played.

October 10th, 2003, 03:25 PM
a small amp can put out a surprising amount of sound through a speaker cab. i had one of those little smokey amps (with a 2" speaker) and plugged it into the 2x12 cab for my Pro Reverb and shook the walls. i'd be surprised if that smokey even put out a full watt.

as for how loud, well that's a tough question to answer. if you have a quiet drummer you can keep up with a cranked champ, but if you add another guitar player you'll probably get buried. i've used a 12 watt princeton reverb when sitting in at a friend's gig and it was loud enough, though just a little thin sounding. not bad for a little amp set on the floor and playing with a 5-piece band. i've also played an 18W blues junior and kept up with much bigger rigs, an a 15-ish watt Guild tweed amp that kept me on pace with the guy playing a strat through a super reverb.

keep in mind that SS watts are quieter than tube watts. the reason for this is that the wattage rating is measured as the maximum power the thing can produce with a certain percentage of distortion. when SS amps distort, they sound lousy, when tube amps distort they sound better so we keep turning them up.

Big Cookie
October 10th, 2003, 03:26 PM
I gig with a bunch of different amps. I am the type that has to have the amp volume on 8 or better or I am going to get a smaller amp to use. When gigging my minimum is going to be give or take 20 watts my drummer is not a real banger in the 70's sense, but that minimum will give me the stage volume that I need and an SM-57 and the PA take care of the rest. In much larger venues or outdoors I have 34, 50, and 100w options to go to, or I will use multiple amps.

October 10th, 2003, 03:54 PM
cookie, you said your minimum setting on the volume knob is 8, is that on a 10 or 12 scale? if it's on a 10 scale, is there a lot of difference between 8 and 10? my amps usually live at about 6 or 7 live, and i don't get much opportunity to really crank them anyway.

October 10th, 2003, 07:50 PM
Three piece blues band, fairly aggressive drummer (who can also lay back) and a bass player with a big rig (4x10 plus 2x15).

Dinky gigs (private party) the Blues Junior. 15 watts. 1x12.

Regular gigs (200 seat room, lots of dancers, but everybody likes to hear themselves talk) Blues Deluxe until recently (44 watts, 1x12) or lately a Bad Cat 30 on half-power (15 "class A" watts, 1x12)

Outdoors: everything you got. In my case the Bad Cat in full power with an extension cab. Louder than this, you're courting hearing loss.

Those 5-10 watt amps will sound fine in the living room but even the Blues Junior is pretty underpowered for gigging. I"ve got a nice '65 Deluxe-Amp that sits home lonely -- too much for living-room use, not enough for the gig, quite.

October 10th, 2003, 08:28 PM
Small/quiet gigs ~ Tweed Deluxe clone w/phase inverter mod - measured 18w power. Anything louder my Vibrolux Reverb ~ 35 watts which will go plenty loud. Any louder than that, I'm not there.

I appreciate there are people who like to play, or to listen, at gigs where there is earcrushing volume. I'm not one.

October 10th, 2003, 08:44 PM
and the speaker, and many other variables..for example the class A "15 watt" Vox AC-15 RI with the "blue" can get quite loud..much louder than say a 12 watt SF Princeton 'verb or a 15 watt Tweed Deluxe, and can easly keep up with most drummers...It's probably closer in volume to a 40 watt Vibrolux. It's 2 x12 AC-30 running mate is probably comparable to a 85 watt twin.

Of course neither of these are small amps...15 watts is about the breaking point and as others have pointed out, alot depends on the drummer, when gigging. Beware that 15 to 20 watts is a popular amp these days, but without a master volume it can be a problem in some settings..not loud enough for many gigs, and WAY too loud for home use. You really need to try a few, and see how the sound..preferably with your band.

October 10th, 2003, 09:50 PM
another thing to consider is are you wanting a clean sound or are you wanting an amp that will be breaking up?

October 11th, 2003, 01:01 AM
There are a LOT of variables, if you have a loud drummer , loud bass player , keyboards, horns etc...?
Country / jazz / pop vs R&B , R&R , Blues too, what kind of guitar/ pu's?

Personally I like smaller amps cranked, I've gigged with Princeton cranked up to 8/9 and my 68 Deluxe Reverb and I can always throw a mike on those amps IF need be to get some more output ( usually I don't need to)
But if you want a lot of clean headroom IMHO you need an amp with more power like a Vibrolux, Super, Pro Reverb or even a Twin.
Of course there are other makes ( Rivera , Boogie, Crate, Peavey, Mesa Boogie etc...) and each has it's own thing.
I had a Peavey Classic 30, with a good speaker that is a good sounding amp that will hold it's own!

Playing out live is SO different than playing at home , even a Champ can be too loud at home sometimes!

Rob DiStefano
October 11th, 2003, 07:43 AM
At home playing, and with g'tar/bass jams, I love my '66 Champ. Recently I've used the Champ at jazz jams with drums, bass and keyboard, but the vibe and volume was quite low key and the Champ had more than enuf horsepower to cut through for ballads and jump tunes. If I was back gigging with a blues-rock-cover bar band I'd want 40 watts of 6L6 valves into a 2x10 or 2x12 - you can always turn down the amp volume and use a good OD pedal, but if you need that extra punch you'll only get as much volume as the amp can deliver un-mic'd. YMMV.