Pro's/Cons To a Head & Cab setup (vs. combo)??

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by joel_ostrom, Jul 11, 2009.

  1. joel_ostrom

    joel_ostrom Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 11, 2006
    Calgary, AB
    Hey folks,

    once again i find myself lined up to swap my main amp again. This time i'm leaning towards going from a combo (which i have now) to a head & cab setup.

    i was just wondering what the pros & cons might be, from guys that have been down this road.

    I play small venues like churches and small auditoriums a lot. My though is that if i had a separate head and cab i could have the cab situated someplace like a back room or under the stage to reduce stage volume, while being able to control the tone with the head close to myself.

    The other thing i like is the notion that, once i get bored with that head, i can just swap it for another instead of going through the motions of getting rid of an entire combo. Plus, the speakers in the cab will still be broken in and sound good for the next amp head i purchase. It might even end up being cheaper to have one cab to use multiple heads on (not at the same time, mind you) instead of having to purchase several combos.

    any thoughts?

    mucho appreciado...
  2. imsilly

    imsilly Friend of Leo's

    Feb 15, 2009
    Personally I feel there is a time a place for both, so you have to figure out which place you'll be and choose accordingly.

    Small combo are more practical then small heads and cabs. Large heads and cabs are more practical then large combos. I mean try lugging around a Twin or Super Reverb and you will understand even a larger Head like a Showman will seem pretty small in comparison. On the other hand compare a Champ or a Princeton with a Maz head and cab and you won't have a hand spare to hold your beer.

    As for sounds a combo seems more alive for the most part being open backed and usually more complex sounding with all the components interacting with each other more directly. With a head and cabinet you can more easily vary your sound with a mix of speakers and layouts.

    I think what is more important is what amp do you like the sound of? What combinations does it appear in? And finally do you favour practicality over tone if there is a difference?

    Sadly I don't have any small amps (still searching for the right tweed) and I only have old Fender monsters and all I can say is I love my Super Reverb for it's sound and my Bandmaster for it's portability. If I never had to move it I'd go with a large combo amp.
  3. P-Zilla

    P-Zilla Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 26, 2006
    North of The Wall
    I would much rather have a head and cab compared to combos. Some combos I use to have were back breakers.

    Like the Mesa MKIV Combo or the Bassman's.

    Just seems like most combos are just akwardly balanced to carry.
  4. tiktok

    tiktok Poster Extraordinaire

    Jan 11, 2005
    Combos are great for the grab and go, and they're easier to tilt back than a head and cabinet setup.

    On the other hand, head+cab doesn't mean "big" any more--there's plenty of 1x12 and 1x10 cabinets out there, open and closed back, if you want to experiment with that end of the tone chain without the hassle of swapping a combo speaker. Plus, you divide the weight into smaller loads.
  5. rhinocaster

    rhinocaster Friend of Leo's

    Sep 26, 2006
    I've always been a combo kind of guy.

    Mid sized combos are light, don't take up much space and allow for single trips into a club. This is nice as most gear ends up going missing when multiple trips to the car are made at the beginning or end of the night. The downside is that the more powerful combos get heavy and awkward and can REALLY hurt you if you don't respect the weight.

    Heads and cabs are cool in that you can break up the weight, but a downside is that you can always forget the speaker cable or forget to plug it in. Bad for the transformer! Also, a cab should be matched with a head. This means that just selling a head and using the same cab can leave you with a less than desirable situation if the new head doesn't match the cab well.

    I have both types of amp at this point. I still tend to prefer a combo.
  6. k2baloo

    k2baloo TDPRI Member

    Jul 11, 2009
    At the end of the rainbow
    You should try an isolation cab. I know the guys at Randall build one type of this but there surely are more manufacturers out there.
    Check Laurie Wisefield's set up at the "Night of the Proms" shows to know what i mean.
  7. JohnnyCrash

    JohnnyCrash Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 12, 2005
    Fullerton, CA
    Head pros:
    Combining several amps with several cabs/speakers.

    Head cons:
    Not as portable as an all-in-one combo.

    Combo pros:
    You can grab it and go. You could set them on chairs for more projection. You can put them in a back seat or trunk of a car.

    Combo cons:
    You can't often mix and match the amp with other speakers as easily as a head. Sometimes they can rattle.

    I've been obsessed about amp heads for a few years now, since I've been building amps for my home studio. Only trouble is, I pretty much only have three cabs to mix and match them with - a 2x12" V30, a 2x12" Celestion Blue, and a 1x12" isolation cab... and most recording is now done through my iso box.

    For lugging to rehearsals or gigs, a head and cab can be a bit more of a pain than a combo. For gigs, my girlfriend (the bass player) insists I use half stacks since it looks cool HAHA!

    For your situation, I'd say go with a combo. Small venues, easy transport, etc.

    As it is I have over 12 amps and only two of them are combos (and they're not gigging volumes/tones either). I'm making a 40w multichannel 2x10" combo in case I need a quick gig box.
  8. mistermullens

    mistermullens Poster Extraordinaire

    Jan 3, 2007
    Atlanta Area
    I've been leaning toward head & cab lately and that's mostly do to the new Night Train. I like how portable the head is, and as long as you're going to place with a cab, or a combo, you're good to go. I really like AC15s, but those have got to be the biggest 15w amps out there. Too much. I like things light, and simple. I'm also starting to think, everyone should own at least one cab.
  9. smoss469

    smoss469 Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 12, 2007
    West Virginia
    Combo's are most prone to tube rattle. The tubes and other comps go through some wear and tear being that the chassis is mounted to the same pieces of material that the speaker has a direct effect on.
  10. sjhusting

    sjhusting Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 8, 2003
    I've always been a combo guy, but lately have been moving towards head/cab. One reason is the tube rattling mentioned above, but the main reason is, if I keep building amps, I'm going to go broke buying speakers. I think maybe three cabs would cover everything: a 4x10, a 2x12, and a 1x15. Plus my 5e5a is really bigger and heavier than I like to carry.

    On the other hand, it sure is easy to grab the 5e3 in one hand, the guitar in the other, and go.

  11. tazzboy

    tazzboy Former Member

    May 5, 2005
    agreed a lot of pro's and con's on weather to go with head and cab or combo.
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