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Amp: How many watts do you really NEED?

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by Telephonist, Jun 30, 2010.

  1. Telephonist

    Telephonist Tele-Meister

    Mar 9, 2010
    The older I get, the more I come to the point to use amps with as low wattage as possible. We all know that tube amps sound the best when they are driven hard.

    But sometimes I´m not sure how many watts I really need. I do have a Mesa Boogie Studio .22 with 22 watts and it was always enough for me. Recently I bought me an old German tube amp which is basically a Tweed Deluxe clone but with 17 watts (it´s called Dynacord Twen). I haven´t played it on stage yet, and I don´t know if it can compete with a drummer, but I guess it will, because it has almost the power of the Mesa.

    But I do have serious doubts, if a 12 watt Tweed Deluxe 5E3 or something like that will be powerful enough.

    I´m mostly a blues guy (sometimes a little bit jazz, funk, country...). I want to be able to play clean - not sterile clean, but clean in the sence of 50ies tweed sound (think of Elvis and other Rock´n´Rollers). And I want the amp to be able to handle a small club gig with about 200 people.

    So, how many watts would you recommend AT LEAST for this domain? I know that I can always mic the amp and play through a P.A., but I want the amp be powerful enough, that I can hear myself on stage, even if the drummer is kinda like a smasher...

    Thanks a lot!
    Daniel ;)

    P.S. Do you think a Princeton Reverb or a Vox AC15 can handle that?

  2. Batman

    Batman Tele-Holic

    Jun 12, 2010
    Northampton, UK
    My Peavey Windsor can keep up with fairly loud drumming, and that's less than 15 watts. 15 watts is loud enough to mike it for the PA, so even if it's not quite loud enough to hear you can use your monitors as reinforcement.

    It does depend what music you're playing... if it's blues you'll be fine, if you're doing Metallica covers you'll definitely need some reinforcement.

  3. imsilly

    imsilly Friend of Leo's

    Feb 15, 2009
    I think here is your answer:


    Looks to me like an Echosonic (25 watts), a Standel 25L15 (25 watts), Fender Widepanel Pros (25 Watts), Fender TV Deluxe (12 watts) and a Gibson of some kind. Seems that anything with between 12 and 25 watts should do and there won't be much volume diffence between that range if you are using the same cabs and speakers.

    I'm pretty sure that in that picture the Echosonic and Deluxe are his own amps. The Deluxe seems to have seen him through the earlier recordings and gigs. I think he was using both at this time before using the Deluxe to payoff the Echosonic. As crowds got larger and needed more volume he started to use extension cabs with slave amps. So if you would like that kinda Elvis tone, I think if a Deluxe was good enough for Scotty playing those early gigs it should be decent enough for you. If you need more volume then of course like Scotty you can add another amp, cabs, etc.

    With those 50s designs those watts become a little subjective as to what are clean watts and dirty watts, but you should be able to find a volume and tone balance around that power of an amp. I know from personal experience those early Deluxes are pretty much dirty all the way with some pickups. A standel seems a perfect amp for what you want, but they are expensive new and dam rare vintage. I'm kicking myself now for not buying one a while back I saw. Later version, but still all tube point to point wired Standels are rare as hen's teeth!

    Interestingly it seems that Scotty Moore seems to use a Peavey Classic and vintage Magnatone as his current amps. Those would also be great choices. I'm guessing the amp he used the longest was the Echosonic.

    I think Princeton Revebs are great amps. I love Blackface cleans more then anything else. It's definately different from Tweed cleans.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2010

  4. jmaul

    jmaul Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 7, 2008
    don't forget about speaker efficiency and micing your amp. When you add those to watts, these are a lot of formulas to allow you to go as low as you want.

    re: princeton and ac15- I say yes but you'd probably want both the new speaker and the Mic.

  5. blargfromspace

    blargfromspace Tele-Afflicted

    Apr 8, 2010
    I play regularly in a club which holds around 200 people with a 5E3 with the volume between 2 and 3! It holds its own against the drummer, the horn section, the bassist (who uses a 4x10 Eden something or other, bass amps confuse me) and the keys man. I use my amp as my on stage monitor - as usual you have to make sure that it's angled towards your ears, not your legs, but I can hear myself just fine - and it's mic'ed up through the PA so the sound man can mix it in as he sees fit.

    I understand the sound that you're after as it's exactly what I like too - not too clean. The 5E3 I have does exactly that. I think that your 17 watt version could do it too! Of course a Princeton or an AC15 could do it!

  6. Durtdog

    Durtdog Poster Extraordinaire

    May 19, 2004
    In all the hoopla about how great low wattage amps are, let's not forget clean sound. We're not just talking about volume. You can take a radio with a 2" and "crank it" and yes, it'll be loud. But ii'll sound like ****. If you need any semblance of clean, you need a few watts, and I want a decent sized speaker(s). I don't care how great the amp is, a single 8-inch speaker is a fatal flaw, IMO.

  7. diaz

    diaz TDPRI Member

    Jun 23, 2010
    Ontario, CAN
    Speaker efficiency > speaker amount > Speaker setup > Tone > Wattage.

    A 10 watt amp can sound huge through a Celestion blue angled 4x12 cab. A 40watt amp through a 112 cab can sound boxy and beamy - and even smaller in some cases.

  8. diaz

    diaz TDPRI Member

    Jun 23, 2010
    Ontario, CAN
    When I said "Tone", I meant clean vs dirt, mid heavy vs scooped etc...

    Example: A clean scoooped sound (acoustic simulating) will require the most clean headroom and most power. -VS- a mid heavy dirty/cranked sound will punch right through even with a low wattage amp.

  9. T Prior

    T Prior Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 17, 2003
    Charlotte NC
    Actually the photo of Elvis is NOT the answer.. Upright Bass and no drums, no sound system, no monitors, etc...that's defining for an electric guitar amp. There is no wall of sound to overcome.

    The question is not how many watts do you have and need, it's about how many do you require to execute as a player .

    I had a somewhat similar conversation with my friend about this last night, with regard to Twin Reverbs. At first he was thinking it was to loud, to sterile but works well with pedals.

    Then I explained MY position ( the one that matters of course ) .

    I am a decades long Tele picker, no pedals and no picks. I played thru a Twin for 25 years before I sold it like a J..A...but I did just get another.

    here's what I told my band mate...

    With an amp like the Twin and the power it offers, it allows a player like me to understand and hear the guitar without coloring the tone. I can play at bandstand level with NO distortion especially off the front pup. In a NY minute you can tell what your guitar sounds like and if you have good strings vs worn or dead strings. You hear YOUR tone. After doing this for 3 decades, Telecaster, wire and an amp ( Hi powered Twin ) you really get to understand your own playing, execution and style. No hiding . What you hear is what you get.

    An amp such as a Twin ( lots of watts) allows players like us to play at bandstand levels uncolored and unaltered, the real guitar, amp and player are on the it or not, good or bad...

    That's how many watts a guitar player needs

    my take


  10. greggorypeccary

    greggorypeccary Friend of Leo's

    Nov 16, 2006
    Raleigh, NC
    +1 We don't all want the sound of a cranked, low wattage amp. In a blues-type band that's great but sometimes you need a loud clean tone. Thats why I have a 15w el84 amp and a 40w 6L6 amp.

  11. imsilly

    imsilly Friend of Leo's

    Feb 15, 2009
    I used that picture specifically because it's a great shot of Elvis and his band with amps on display. They used the same kind of equipement many times with a drummer and probably more then 200 fans. The likelyhood is there is a drummer out of shot and a room full of screaming fans.

    One difference that I did notice is that is most of the shots with the whole band there is a Bassman amp with an electric bass. I reckon upright basses can cut it with a less noisy band and a mic nearby. Last two, three country, blues and rockabilly bands I've seen have used upright basses with relatively low to medium watt amps. So I see it as a personal choice rather then a necessity.

    It also looks like that the acoustic a that Elvis is using has a pickup addded and the upright bass looks stuffed to prevent feeback from either a mic or pickup. I reckon that some of those amps are being using to amplify the bass and acoustic. So I think if they are booth blaring out and there is a drummer out of shot and the Echosonic and Deluxe are still doing alright I think you'd get away with the same kind of wattage today.

    I know that it's up to the kind of sound you want, but I suspect that you could get away with a Standel or something like that for cleans in a 200 person gig.

  12. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Telefied Ad Free Member

    I know you guys like your tweeds, but I didn't realize you'd be doing the full Elvis! :lol:

    Amp for tone; PA for volume. Then you just need to hear yourself on stage and that means either aiming the amp, monitors or in-ear.

    Do you think they ever have this discussion on the Marshall forums?

  13. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

    Nov 20, 2007
    Newbury, England
    Assume push-pull guitar amps sound better than single-ended, because they do.

    A pair of EL84 are quite loud enough to cope with a drummer, i.e. 15 to 22 watts. But it was found in the 60s that this is not loud enough to cope with a large noisy hall. So we got 4xEL84 or a pair of EL34: the 30-50 watt amp. And that was louder.

    Loud was good, louder was better and too loud was just right. Then we got The Who.

  14. RubyRae

    RubyRae Friend of Leo's

    Dec 8, 2009
    I concur with jmaul here, but I will also say that the Princeton Reverb is a great amp in my opinion for most situations, and sounds great. One thing I notice tho is that if you really need that clean headroom, this is not the best amp for that, since it kicks in to overdrive fairly early on the volume dial. Folks rave about the extra gain stage in this amp, and it is sweet, but that is the main reason I opted for a princeton (non reverb) cause I can crank it and stay clean, then use pedals for all I need. With the new Weber 10F150T (50 watts), this amp cranks the full body clean, spank, and takes pedals great. Originally this amp was a bit light in the volume area, but with the speaker upgrade, and a transparent clean boost pedal, I have no issues with volume anymore.
    In fact I run it on 6 or 7 now most of the time.

    I only mention this so you don't get a PR and find that you don't get the clean tones at the volume you need, and end up bummed.

  15. Blank

    Blank TDPRI Member

    Dec 17, 2009
    Burnaby, Canada
    how many watts you need for you amp.
    always 1 more.

    no but seriously. i've used a PR and was able to fill a venue with 500.

  16. scantron81

    scantron81 Tele-Afflicted

    Apr 29, 2009
    20-40 watts. I use a 22 watt drri, and when the space calls for it (or allows), I bring a 35 watt Bogen & 2x12 cab.

  17. adjason

    adjason Friend of Leo's

    Jan 9, 2010
    twin reverb can handle any situation and always sounds great. If you have ever had an amp not be loud enough it will make you want to throw it through a wall.

  18. T Prior

    T Prior Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 17, 2003
    Charlotte NC
    imsilly, I do not disagree with what you are saying, but..

    200 people at an Elvis show is not an AB to what may be a requirement for today, 2010...If I was playing with Elvis in a small combo with an Upright Bass, I would still use a Twin Reverb ! Doesn't mean I have to play loud.... I have several smaller tube amps, 30 watts up to 60 watts, each really nice, but none have the sparkling clean quality of the HI WATTAGE Twin Reverb at the SAME moderate volume. Each of the smaller amps add a "tube drive" somewhere early on the volume knob, based on the gig, one amp may be better than the other...

    A player should use the amp that best defines his or her own playing style, sometimes it's 20 watts sometimes it's 200...

    Using Elvis / 1956 as the reference may not be accurate as that's all that was available back then...there were no other options. That's all I am saying.

    Look at the Beatles, they gigged with 15 and 30 watt amps, at first they didn't go to 100 watt AC100's for the audience, they did that so THEY could hear themselves play over the audience noise. Eventually those amps and amps in that category turned into the stadium standard .

    Even James Burton used a Twin Reverb with Elvis on stage, he was not an excessively loud player. His amp fit the gig...but he was an excessively CLEAN player at volume..still is.

    no right or wrong, just what fits the player...


  19. Tim Armstrong

    Tim Armstrong Super Moderator Staff Member Ad Free Member

    Mar 5, 2003
    Austin, Texas
    Admin Post
    I've played gigs with guitar amps from 5 watts to 130 watts, and they all worked just fine with a little foresight. One thing to remember is that first, watts ain't decibels, speaker size, efficiency and cab design greatly affect volume. As I've related ad nauseum, I played a few gigs with an SF Champ feeding a closed-back 2x12 cab, unmic-ed, and it was LOUD! Not incredibly clean, but it did clean up some with the guitar volume knob rolled off a little.

    And as has been mentioned above, if you stick a mic on it, just about ANY guitar amp can work for gigging. I've been using a little Vox Pathfinder 15r or a really nice old Princeton Reverb, and either amp is just fine, as loud as the PA system makes it!


  20. ZZB3

    ZZB3 Tele-Holic

    Apr 17, 2009
    Salem, Oregon
    I too love the Princeton Reverb with the Weber 10F150 upgrade. This gives me enough clean volume for most situations with great tone. When I need more I haul my Tweed Bassman but it is a different beast. For straight up clean for "every" situation a Twin Reverb is hard to beat. (I do not have one anymore) I like the size and weight of the Princeton much better though for the smaller places I now play. Have fun, Wayne

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