Recommended amplifier power?

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All the Barefaced 12XN550 cabs are as sensitive as is possible for a bass cab of that size (a guitar cab can be louder but it doesn't have to do lows). They can all handle huge amounts of power for their size. They can all therefore play very loud for their size. The recommended amplifier power range that we state is for continuous RMS power or true burst power. The minimum is the amplifier power rating into the load impedance (8 ohm for 1x12", 4 ohm for 2x12", 2.7 ohm for 3x12", 2 ohm for 4x12" etc) which we believe is necessary to be able to play smaller/quieter gigs with a drummer. The maximum is the amplifier power rating (again into that impedance) above which we see little benefit in terms of loudness or tone but increased risk of speaker damage.

Continuous, burst and 'true burst' power

As a general rule, heavyweight bass amps or good quality PA power amps (regardless of weight) can deliver their rated power either continuously or for a long enough burst to be musically valuable with bass instruments. Lightweight bass amps often suffer from being unable to sustain full power for a full note envelope and therefore sound smaller and/or quieter for a given power rating. This is not a problem at all, unless you are pushing the amp very hard and finding that it isn't delivering in either tone or volume. Conversely, this inability to deliver full power for a long period of time also reduces the likelihood of one of these amps blowing your speakers because it takes time for the heat to build up and the voice coil temperature exceed the design limits. But note that it's perfectly possible to blow any loudspeaker with less than the rated power by doing something silly with it.

Barefaced's amp advice

We have spend a very long time researching this and trying to come up with an effective set of guidelines which work for the vast majority of users and allow them to get the most out of their Barefaced cab(s) without inadvertently blowing expensive drivers (though recone kits are available!) So taking the Big Baby 2 as an example:

Minimum recommended power = 150W

Maximum recommended power = 800W

Will more power help my tone when I'm playing loud?

If you are using a good quality amplifier whose tone you like at low SPL and are finding that it doesn't maintain that tone at high SPL then you need more system headroom to reproduce the peaks that are critical to your tone. If you amplifier has less power output than the maximum recommended then getting a more powerful amp (whose tone you like!) will help.

Will more power make me louder?

On the other hand if your amplifier is simply not loud enough at high SPL then you need more continuous system output. There comes a tipping point with continuous power handling where the increased thermal power compression all but 'overpowers' the application of additional continuous power. The reality with music is that power is never continuous but if you can't get loud enough and your amp is heavily clipping then this number is the point at which throwing more power at the problem will not help, you need more speakers! This number is simply 75% of the maximum.

Minima, maxima and power compression vs output tipping points

Min ____ Cont. ____ Max

SM/SC __ 150 _____ 450 _____ 600

BB2 _____ 150 ____ 600 _____ 800

ST ______ 100_____  900 ____ 1200

BT2 _____ 100 ____ 1200 ____ 1600

These are guidelines!

The minimum and maximums are not rigid, as we've already said there can be quite a difference between amplifiers' rating and their real world ability to deliver power in a way we bassists can use it, plus there are many more ways the marketing department can make ratings seem more impressive than they really are. On the minimum side of things, for recording and other studio work there's absolutely nothing wrong with using a single valve 5W amp, likewise very little power will be needed for acoustic duo gigs indoors. If your amp isn't doing what you need it to do and you've gone through the manual already (or haven't time to read all of it) then ask us for help - email will usually get you the quickest response!


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