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Ridiculously overpowered 80s power amps

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    Ridiculously overpowered 80s power amps

    So I was watching a video that popped up on my feed the other day of an early 90s thrash band, and both guitarists had sick rack system rigs. The band was Deliverance, and both guys were playing Mesa Quad Preamps through what looked like Strategy 295s or 400s.

    That got me thinking, so many modern amp builders are going smaller nowadays, and the highest wattage I ever went was a 2:90 just to get that perfect deep/modern tone option for my preamp. I never understood why anyone would want a 300-500w power amp. Was there ever a legitimate reason for these behemoths to exist? Even arena bands basically had their amps under the stage with a single cab miked up.

    #2
    The best one was the Rivera TBR-1SL. 100x2 stereo, but just godawful loud. Sounded like God.

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      #3
      For bass, I get it. For guitar, I'd have to try one in a big space.

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        #4
        Paging Professor Squidbeard

        I think it has to do with bass response, but once you get outside the realm of >150W, if you're not loading up a couple full-stacks for one head, I don't know how that extra power translates.

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          #5
          Originally posted by Jeff View Post
          The best one was the Rivera TBR-1SL. 100x2 stereo, but just godawful loud. Sounded like God.
          7 Dying Trees had a Rivera TBR (TBR5 maybe?) back when I was playing bass for one of his projects. Thing sounded awesome, but weighed as much as a 4x12 (or at least it felt like it) What was even madder was he'd bought it from a guy who was powering his home cinema's speakers with them, one per channel! I think that one was a spare or something

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            #6
            Originally posted by Jeff View Post
            The best one was the Rivera TBR-1SL. 100x2 stereo, but just godawful loud. Sounded like God.
            TBR2-SL had the TBR-5 endstage (I had a TBR-5 as mentioned above). 4x6550s per side for something like 320w total. Thing was monstrously heavy, so i put it in a metal rack case to make it near unmanageable. Was awesome as fuck though.

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              #7
              Originally posted by Leon View Post
              Paging Professor Squidbeard

              I think it has to do with bass response, but once you get outside the realm of >150W, if you're not loading up a couple full-stacks for one head, I don't know how that extra power translates.

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                #8
                It was the 80s, the age of excess I don't think there's much more to it than that. My 2/90/2 is awesome, so is my Marshall DSL20, and it gets louder than I'd ever need. If I ever did actually join a band and play shows I'd probably go with a light weight power amp since everything is most likely going to get miced anyways and fuck hauling around a 86 lbs (what my rack weights with my pre/power/effecs/power conditioner) rack.

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                  #9
                  Originally posted by 7 Dying Trees View Post

                  TBR2-SL had the TBR-5 endstage (I had a TBR-5 as mentioned above). 4x6550s per side for something like 320w total. Thing was monstrously heavy, so i put it in a metal rack case to make it near unmanageable. Was awesome as fuck though.
                  Was it that high? Seriously some of the best tones of the late 80’s/early 90’s.

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                    #10
                    I had a Mesa Recto 2:100 back in the day.... it was ridiculously loud, and I only used one side of it! I think I bought it used for $500 shipped.

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                      #11
                      I've had 120w tube heads and this 500w poweramp that are so loud they change your DNA and could never find a use for all that. I mean before the modern PA set-ups people needed it to play outside venues or large theaters, but not these days. I saw empty cabs on stage in the late 80s, not eveyone but quite a few. Some people just want them, and that is also cool, but unless you or your band hits the fame lotto and you insist on that backline look ... just get 50w head and rock out.

                      More and more I see big bands with large display screens with images of cabs on them, I guess they want that look, with the added benifit of the light show?
                      "Slow Hand"

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                        #12
                        The point of these is supposed to be clean power--meaning you can crank them into earbleed territory without going into saturation. That was the original point of the 200w Marshall Major back in the '70s, and I'm sure the '80s Mesa power amps were the same idea.

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                          #13
                          "Slow Hand"

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                            #14
                            I remember playing with a local band (Mike may recall Recalcitrance) where the guitarist had a Quad, a Strategy 400 and four Mesa 4x12s. It sounded fucking glorious.

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                              #15
                              Originally posted by bigdave View Post
                              Even the "lower" wattage version of that easily hung with Crooks' Mesa 2:90. Best solid state guitar power amp ever made.

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                                #16
                                Originally posted by Mike View Post
                                I remember playing with a local band (Mike may recall Recalcitrance) where the guitarist had a Quad, a Strategy 400 and four Mesa 4x12s. It sounded fucking glorious.
                                I'm sure lugging all that around was a joy...

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                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by jacksonplayer View Post

                                  I'm sure lugging all that around was a joy...
                                  Those were the days where there was always someone to help you move gear if they could get in free.

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                                    #18
                                    Let me tell you something... As much as I love my Soldano SLO-100.

                                    There was nothing like plugging into my Dad's Mesa Boogie Colosseum 2B (200 Watts) and playing in front of it (ear protection of course).
                                    Every note felt like it was alive and in the room with you pushing. That type of air movement and sound other amps just can't do.
                                    It was tremendous and I recommend it at least once for everyone. Just don't blow your ears out...
                                    Sure. It was unusable cause' I'm not touring Colosseum's but man if it wasn't fun.

                                    I played it in a Modern Cathedral once and it filled that whole room that sit over 3,000 people.

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                                      #19
                                      It's a vast oversimplification and leaves out a number of other factors, but in terms of wattage, the relationship between wattage and volume is logarithmic, not linear.

                                      That means you need 10 times as many watts to sound twice as loud.

                                      So the idea of the wattage being equivalent to how "powerful" an amp is always stupid.

                                      All other factors as roughly equivalent besides the obvious ones, if you take two similar amps a 300-400 watt is going to be a little louder and have a little more headroom than a 100 watt one.

                                      The dudes preaching the "wattage=power" dick measuring contest shit will usually give you blank looks of confusion when you say, "but what about current?".

                                      The easiest way to explain it to the ones who apparently missed basic high school physics is asking them if they know how many watts a hair drier is.

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                                      So you know, either your 120 watt amp is a total weakling piece of shit, or you should hit the books and realize wattage in isolation means fuck all. One of the two.

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                                        #20
                                        Mesa made a Strategy 500. Dear lord.

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                                          #21
                                          If anyone does want the cheat sheet version though, the best way to compare amps by just eyeballing them is looking at how big the transformers are.

                                          That's what people mean when they say "Tube watts are louder".

                                          Fuck no they aren't. That's just the easiest way to explain it to the "wattage = dick measuring contest" crowd. Tube amps are usually designed with fucking massive transformers. Home stereo amps and stuff like highly portable bass amps can have way more wattage, but can't provide as much current.

                                          There are plenty of 50 watt amps that are way louder than 900 watt ones.

                                          So you know, if you do want to oversimplify it to one factor, wattage means fuck all, go by the size of the transformers.

                                          VHT (now Fryette) and Rivera both make 50-60 watt amps that get way louder than other companies higher wattage offerings. That's because they have better transformers.

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                                            #22
                                            Originally posted by Greg McCoy View Post

                                            So you know, either your 120 watt amp is a total weakling piece of shit, or you should hit the books and realize wattage in isolation means fuck all. One of the two.
                                            Watts are like literally the unit for power.

                                            Power (W) = Voltage (V) * Current (A)

                                            Something like a tea kettle is like 2000 watts - it takes a lot more energy to heat something up than to make a bit of noise. The only time I've had a fuse go in our current apartment was when the electrician had put the dishwasher, microwave and all sockets in the kitchen on the same 11A fuse - and I made the mistake of making coffee while the dishwasher was on. Having my amp, stereo system, TV and several computers on at the same time on the same fuse has never been a problem.

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                                              #23
                                              Garrett, that's kind of the point of my original question. A 50w or 100w tube head is more than sufficient to power two 4x12s at extremely loud levels. I don't see a reason to have 200+ watt tube amps. Solid state it makes more sense, as I've played through 300w solid state amps before and you sort of need more power with SS amps.

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                                                #24
                                                Originally posted by Greg McCoy View Post
                                                That's what people mean when they say "Tube watts are louder".

                                                Fuck no they aren't. That's just the easiest way to explain it to the "wattage = dick measuring contest" crowd. Tube amps are usually designed with fucking massive transformers. Home stereo amps and stuff like highly portable bass amps can have way more wattage, but can't provide as much current.
                                                The way I've always thought of/explained it, and I'm SURE this is still an oversimplification, is that wattage is measured, and quoted, at a certain level of total harmonic distortion - usually something like 0.5% THD or whatnot. Solid state amps sound like shit when they are driven into distortion, so that's about as high as you're going to go. Tube amps, while it's a matter of taste and for some applications you DO want clean headroom, sound pretty awesome when their poweramps are pushed into distortion, so they're built to go way ABOVE 0.5% THD.

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                                                  #25
                                                  Originally posted by bigdave View Post


                                                  She still running smooth for ya?

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