Stand Alone Power Amplifiers

What is a Power Amplifier?
Power amplifiers are the most boring part of your setup. If you think spending money on a tuner pedal is no fun, then power amplifiers are, at least, 10x less fun than tuners.

What is a Stand Alone Power Amplifier?
It’s when you put the power amplifier in it’s own box so you now have your boring part in its own box.

So… What is this topic about?
I have this affinity for things being modular. The idea of being able to simply swap out only the parts and pieces you need (or want) to change at any given time is something that seems ultimately practical for many reasons.

Specifically, I am enamored with the idea of having a stand alone power amplifier. This would let you change out your pre-amplifier whenever you like with out having to invest in a new power amplifier. Theoretically, this would allow you to keep cost down and allow you to keep weight down by only bringing what you need to any given gig.

There are a lot of reasons I don’t expect this idea to become a standard. The main one being the practicality of a manufacturer giving up the potential profit in the existing model. And then there is this…

Everybody wants to sell you the amp/bass/pickup/whatever with the magic dust in it that only they know how to make.

Regardless of all this, I have done a lot of research on this topic and thought I would share here in case anyone else finds power amplification as interesting as I do.

Here is what exists in the wild right now.

Straight Ahead SA-500W
$249 USD
Made in the US
500 watts @ 4 ohms, 300 watts @ 8 ohms

GSS Baby Sumo 600
$349 USD
Made in France
600 watts @ 4 ohms, 300 watts @ 8 ohms

GSS Sumo 1000
$535 USD
Made in France
1000 watts @ 4 ohms, 500 watts @ 8 ohms

Bose PackLite A1
$359 USD
Global
250 watts @ 4 ohms, 125 watts @ 8 ohms

Bassics A900
$605 USD
Made in UK
850 watts @ 4 ohms, 500 watts @ 8 ohms

Jule Simone 500
$775 USD
Made in US (I think they’re in California)
500 watts @ 4 ohms

Demeter Minnie 800D
$999 USD
Made in US
800 watts @ 4 ohms, 500 watts @ 8 ohms

What should you learn from this?
When comparing the pricing and functionality of these units with what you get from buying either a traditional amp head or combo amp, you would be really hard pressed to get more for your money by going this way and with most of these solutions you end up paying a premium to have things modular.

Lastly, no one needs this.
You might want one, but no one need one.
Regardless, I still think they’re cool.

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I like that GSS sight. Actually seem like very reasonably priced if the quality is there. I have no way to know and I assume they are good quality, so would be a nice option if shipping was no issue.
The items you showed are on sale now, so the Baby is $299 and the Sumo is $459 right now.

I am not a BOSE fan.

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I’m really surprised theres not more standalone power amps for guitar and bass.

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Doesn’t it seem like you have to buy the matching cab for that amp (bose) to work?

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IDK, because it was Bose, I didn’t even look.

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I like the premise. I mean we all buy the Amp heads with pre-amps in them, then go and get one to 3 more pre-amps on the pedalboard, kind of making the pre-amp in the amp head useless, since it is just left flat anyway.
Unless I am simplifying it too much, these would really be the way to go, if they were priced right and readily available, and support from the mfg was great, which I kind of expect it would be, being more of a boutique type product.

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Agree.

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Plus, if the power amplifier is mostly to drive the cabinet, the direct out from the pre-amp works the same, only it comes from it and not the back of the amp.
As the only option I mean

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Yep, and I go one further. I have my amp preamp that I leave flat, my preamp pedal that I leave flat, my active bass preamp that I leave flat and I use my eq pedal for tone. Stacking eq’s is for suckers :thinking::grin:

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Heretic!

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Pretttyyy much

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Actually for the amp EQ I would say you just set it once to sound good for the space you’re playing in and leave it that way forever (or until you move it).

But I use the EQ on my bass a lot to set its tone, depending on style. And avoiding the preamp EQ is no fun, especially now that I’m playing with tubes. Tube preamps that is.

Then again I don’t have a separate EQ pedal. Just a whole ton of preamps.

Basically the way I think about it is, I set the EQ on my bass to what I want the bass to sound like. Then I set the EQ on my last preamp to what I want the amp to sound like. Maybe I’m weird but in my mind those are two different sets of parameters.

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I tend to use the EQ on my pedals(like OD, Fuzz, Filter, Chorus, etc…) more then the pre-amp or amp.
I set each different pedal how I like it’s sound, and how I like it with each otherer.
when I need extra tweaks, I usually start on my bass, then the amp, then the pre-amp and back to additional pedals if needed, but I usually don’t get past the bass, or rarely the amp

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Nah what you do is closer to what everyone does then me, which makes me the wierdo. I just try to eliminate as many variables as possible and keep it simple. Which does not mean better automatically.

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I took that into consideration. I translated all prices to US dollars for consistency. They’ve been on sale for at least a year. I’m pretty sure it’s just their marketing.

You’re right. It will work with any cabinet that meets the Ohm requirement. An interesting thing about the Bose power amp is you can chain them together and run another amp out of each one. I read on talkbass.com about a guy that did this for his rig with two of the Bose power amps and two cabinets to get a total of 500 watts.

I only included power amps that would work for bass players. As is typical, there are quite a few more options for guitar than for bass but they’re all lower wattage.

I’ve read testimonials on talkbass.com about people using all of these and I’ve never heard anyone say anything that wasn’t positive other than some people that want more power than the one they have.

@howard You beat me to it. I’ve distilled what you’ve said in the past down to this…

  • Pedal EQ is for finding your sound
  • Bass EQ is for a particular song
  • Amp EQ is for the room

It may not fit every situation but it is a nice way of seeing how all the pieces fit together.

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The one I’ve found to be the most surprising is the Straight Ahead SA-500W.

It looks awful, like it was made from the leftover pieces of a popcorn machine. Apparently most of his buyers use it for slide guitar and in folk bands where that down home garage build esthetic kind of fits.

What I’ve read from people getting it, they say things like…
“It’s a beast!”
“Solid build quality.”
“I can’t believe the amount of clean uncolored power.”

He builds them all by hand and will make modifications if requested. Like using a Neutrik connector instead of a 1/4" out. There was also a comment that said, if you tell him you’re going to use it for bass he’ll beef it up. I don’t know what this is supposed to mean.

If we use this as a standard, here is how the pieces fit together and how I try to look at the cost effectiveness.

Fender Rumble 500 Combo Amplifier
$600 (new)
$450 (used) (I’ve seen a like new used one for as low as $400)

  • Fender Pre-Amp
  • 500 watt Power Amp
  • 210 Speaker Cabinet

That is a damn hard price to beat for what you get. If you try to compare new prices you won’t come close.

Frankenbuild Amp I
$582 (new - cheapest solution)

  • $33 Behringer BDI21
  • $249 SA-500W
  • $300 Peavey 210 Bass Cabinet

Frankenbuild Amp II
$402 (used - cheapest solution)

  • $33 Behringer BDI21 (still cheaper than anything else)
  • $249 SA-500W (still the cheapest of the options above)
  • $120 Various Manufacturers 410 or 115 Bass Cabinet (210’s are usually more expensive)

This is all just more food for thought. How cheap would a 500 watt power amp have to be for it to be cost effective versus how cheap would it have to be for someone to consider buying one at all?

(Edit: for readability)

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$91 on amazon, due to limited sellers and stock. LOL, I just ran across it a few minutes ago, so that is what it is now.
Funny thing however, I am pretty sure (although I have not looked recently) that GC has them for $33 still.

I honestly don’t mind the look of it at all. If he makes them to order, I may would probably ask for
1 - sanded / buffed / soft abrasive wheel, etc… whatever, on the corners, round them off a bit so there is no cuts to come from the edges.
2 - Custom logo in Orange and black instead of Yellow Red

Also, by Neutrik connector, you are referring to what is commonly also called Speak-on, correct?

Realistically it is ONLY a $249 investment for me.
I already have the BDI-21 plus I have the DarkGlass Alpha Omega Ultra.
And I have my SWR WorkingMan 410 4x10 cab.
I would have to check, I think it is 400w at 8ohms, but I can’t say for sure, but I will see it tomorrow when i am getting my stuff out of storage and moving it to my new apartment, so I would check then.

I do know for a fact it is 8ohms tho, because it is part of the WorkingMan line, being add on speakers for the combo amps, and all 3 of those combo amps state MIN 8ohms. I have 2 of the three. I have the WorkingMan 10 (10" speaker - 80w or 120w with min 8ohm add on) and I also have the WorkingMan 15 (15" speaker - 160w or 200w with min 8ohm add on)

So, this power amp, rated for 500w at 4ohms, is then 250w at 8ohms, correct?
So, if my speaker is 400 load max, it works for this.

I like this because I can basically get a new amp every time I get a new pre-amp. I could add a 2nd 8ohm cabinet and get the full 500w, meaning it is enough for just about anything.

So, what is the downside that I am not thinking about?

I should be able to DI from my pre-amp, if I were ever at a show and had to go to the house via sound guy. I just use my pre-amp for recording, no need for the amp there? Is there any downside? It is starting to look like NO, but there must be some situation where going the normal route would be a better option? Help me out here, what am I not thinking about.

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If talking class D amps, not missing anything. The power section of all class D amps are basically the same; they add essentially no tone. The biggest differentiator is the preamp and its features, and the Darkglass is a better preamp than on 90% of the amp heads out there.

Note that this is true now, though, if you pick a power amp that has a relatively transparent preamp.

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Ok, I was about to quote the last part of your post, and it disappeared on me, I was gonna ask what exactly you were trying to say, then i think you saw that yourself and deleted the last part. If the statement ends there, it makes sense, the rest sort of left me scratching my head.

But in that sense, if we are talking specifically the TC Electronics BQ line, thin pre-amp, not much in the way of coloring, only 3 band eq and a compressor.
I actually like this, mostly for recording where I am using anything I want pre or post the recording. Maybe not so much for live setting, but then again, this leaves a lot to your pre-amp.
Now, if the amp is very little character, like this, does it allow your pre-amp to do more then an amp with character would?
And personal preference aside, is there anything wrong with that.

The one thing I think the TC Electronics has over the power amp alone is the nice features built in, pre/post DI, speak-on, etc…
Some of the features I guess are what i am asking about. do some of these features make it worth getting an amp head over a power amp with your choice of pre-amps.

Some things could be (not to say this about TC or the power amp maker specifically, but in general) ease of replacement, warranty, re-sell value, etc…

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Yes. Neutrik is the company that makes speakON connectors.

I haven’t been able to come up with one.

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