Episode 005: Combo vs. Separate

Before you lay money down on a new amp, consider this episode about combos and separates.

Music: Jahzzar, Please Listen Carefully; spinningmerkaba, Urbana-Metronica (wooh-yeah mix)

Featured photo by Joe Seggiola.

Show notes

  • What was your first “real” amp, a combo or separates?
    • Dave: The Ampeg BA115 – 150 watts with easy functionality, not so mighty but Ampeg warmth
    • Paul: replaced my 25-watt? Peavey Minx 1×8” with a Crate 200W head and 1×15” cab.
      • Dave: Ha! My first was a Peavy Minx 1×15! – I just let it go a year ago after 20 years
  • Just to make clear… combos combine an amplifier with a speaker cabinet in one piece.
  • Let’s look at the benefits of each
    • Combo
      • One thing to carry, one less thing to forget
      • Hopefully, ideal match amp-to-speakers
      • Often combos are engineered for the working musician, with special features like kickback, built-in tuner, etc.
      • Great for small venues, rehearsals, your practice space, stage monitor.
      • Newer options to daisy chain another cabinet if you need to go bigger and if the amp is strong enough to carry the load
    • Separates
      • Mix and match the way you like
      • Don’t have to replace the cabinet to get a new amp head
      • If something happens to one piece, you can borrow a component
      • It’s really where you need to go for those heavier gigs – Big bottom – open air (unless you’re just going direct)
  • Drawbacks of each
    • Combo
      • Not as flexible
      • If the amp or speaker goes out, you may be hosed if combo doesn’t have accessible wiring or a jack
      • Often engineered less carefully to cut cost, since many combo buyers are budget-driven
      • Agreed: Very big box store driven product lines
      • In the wrong gig, you may not cut through – need to know the stretch
      • Most are powered in the 250 watt and under
    • Separates
      • Sometimes lack bells and whistles at lower price points
      • May have to try many to find a good sounding amp/speaker combination by different manufacturers
      • One extra hand, one extra snap-on/speaker cable
      • Can there be such a thing as too much bass on a gig?
      • For the simple minded, that whole ohms rating business can be tricky but more importantly, how do the sounds of two different makes match up?
  • What’s your current/most recent amp? And what do you prefer?
    • Dave: Currently Markbass CMB Jeff Berlin Players School Combo – 1×15 at 300 watts weighing in at 35 pounds. Not sure if I prefer it, but it’s appropriate for what I do now. Purchased it as a back up, and snuck into the workhorse role, and now my only rig. It really feels like I’m living on the edge…
    • Paul: Separates for me! Main workhorse is currently a Markbass Little Mark Tube 800 and a set of Markbass Traveler cabinets — 2×10 alone for small/medium gigs, with a 1×15 for outside or large gigs.

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