Cabs vs Combos, practically speaking....

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MC3
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Cabs vs Combos, practically speaking....

Post by MC3 » Fri Jan 03, 2020 11:17 pm

Hello all (sorry its a long post),

If anyone is keeping track, they will know that one of my favorite things is effective and efficient guitar gear. I like nerding out over how to most effectively and efficiently get the most out of my guitar-playing experience. Generally, this means a relatively simple guitar/pedal/amp setup. For me, this normally seems like Jazzmaster->overdrive (and maybe modulation of some kind)-> Vox AC-style amp. I wouldn't consider myself a seasoned guitar player that would use nicer gear to its full potential, so my simple Vox AC15C1 works well.

As I start to play more in a band setting, I've been carrying this amp around a good amount. While I know many many MANY guitarists have lugged around bigger and heavier amps, I'm starting to get a bit tired of lugging the AC15 around. While it isn't the heaviest amp in the world, it is quite dense. The most annoying aspect, to me, is the shape. The weight is negotiable, but the awkward shape and carrying position make it quite annoying to travel with, especially in the city where I live.

Getting on to why I'm posting here. I got thinking about amps, and the idea of combo vs head and cabinet. When buying my first "real" amp (the aforementioned AC15), I immediately assumed that the combo, since it was both the amp and the speaker in one enclosure, was the more practical choice. Recently, I was once again reminded of the standalone AC15 head that Vox makes. I got thinking.... "hey, if I got two cabs and the head, I could leave one cab at my home and the other at the place where my band practices". That way I would only need to transport the smaller standalone head around. I'm not sure if buying two cabs is the most effective way to solve this problem, but it would make some instances much easier.

This also got me thinking about gigging with a head/cab vs a combo. I really only have experience playing live shows in basements or small diy stuff where we bring basically everything to play. I have never played at a place that has a backline or anything like that, but I always wondered...could I theoretically show up with just a head, and rent/use any cab they have at the venue? I know that the sound of the amp will be heavily altered by the cab/speakers in the cab, but it sure would be convenient. I have little to none experience with playing standalone heads, and absolutely zero experience with backlines, so please fill me in on this subject.

I'm curious to see that the OSGers think about this. I know many of you have wayyy more experience in this stuff, so I'd love to hear what you have to say. Would it be way more effective (and hopefully fun) to run around with just a head, or would it just be more of a pain in my ass?

TLDR: Combo or head, which is more practical for getting around.

Thanks!

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Re: Cabs vs Combos, practically speaking....

Post by s_mcsleazy » Sat Jan 04, 2020 12:35 am

ah. the age old question. cabs vs. combos. so this has always been a subject i've went back and forth on.

nowadays if i've got a gig, it's usually a smaller thing where i'm filling in for a friend and i'll grab my fender deluxe 90 since it's pretty light (for an amp of that size and power) and can usually do a lot. it easily fits in the boot of my twingo. the downside is if i want a different sound (usually speaker wise) i'll have to change the speaker before i leave or i'll have to bring a different amp.

my main amp for 10 years has been my silverface bassman 50. it's a great amp but right now the only cab i have is a marshall 4x12 but the issue with that is it kinda doesn't fit in my car. sometimes i borrow a friend's 2x12. sometimes changing what cab you're using can really change the sound you'll get. but that's also a good thing if you're recording and you want the same sound but a little different.
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Re: Cabs vs Combos, practically speaking....

Post by mbene085 » Sat Jan 04, 2020 12:47 am

If you have a large enough PA and/or budget, go digital.

Carrying a single pedal (Fractal AX8/Kemper stage/helix) and having every amp and effect you could need at your disposal is freeing in a way that is hard to describe. If you like efficiency, it's hard to beat a "guitar and a single (large) pedal" setup. For this purpose, Fractal wins out for me as they have the most complete (exhaustive) effects chain available to me. It's like having the most monstrous pedalboard with you at all times, through your favourite amps, through your favourite cabs, mic'd reliably every time.

Of course, I couldn't make things too easy on myself so I ended up going with the rack mount profiler, then Axe FX 3, but still, a single 3U rack case is a lot easier to move around than most tube amp heads.

The reliability and quality of my tone went way up since converting to digital, compared to haphazard mic jobs and random cabinets that I'd end up using previously.

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Re: Cabs vs Combos, practically speaking....

Post by zhivago » Sat Jan 04, 2020 1:33 am

I feel the OP's pain...

My favourite amp of all time is my Matchless Lightning 15 watt 1x12 combo, which weighs in at a whopping 45 lbs (20.5kg). :wtf:

It only has one handle on top, and I live on the third floor, with no elevator. :fp:

For the past year, I've been in a cover band where I borrow a Matchless Lightning head + a 1x12 cab. Moving that around is infinitely easier than my combo. I can hold the head in one hand and the cab in the other with no problems.

I am now looking for an empty head shell for my amp to convert it. I can see how I could just take a head to rehearsal spaces and plug through the 4x12s there.

So for me, for actively playing out, head + cab is the way to go, no question.
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Re: Cabs vs Combos, practically speaking....

Post by Logrinn » Sat Jan 04, 2020 1:52 am

MC3 wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 11:17 pm
... I got thinking.... "hey, if I got two cabs and the head, I could leave one cab at my home and the other at the place where my band practices". That way I would only need to transport the smaller standalone head around. I'm not sure if buying two cabs is the most effective way to solve this problem, but it would make some instances much easier...
No, the most effective way to solve this problem above is to get another AC15. One at home and the other at your practice place. That way you’d only have to lug around your guitar (and pedals).

But as for gigs - sure, a head would be a good thing if you could always count on there being a cab at hand for you at the venue.
So another option is to keep the AC15 at home and get a AC15 head and cab at your practice place and then only bring your head when gigging. And if the venue don’t have a cab, then you’d bring that as well.

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Re: Cabs vs Combos, practically speaking....

Post by marqueemoon » Sat Jan 04, 2020 8:42 am

My main setup is a small 15W tube head and an open back 1x12. So much less awkward to carry than a similar 1x12 combo (one in each hand). Nice to be able to separate the two when recording to minimize rattle.

I rarely see head/cabinet setups offered as backline for live shows around here. Some hourly practice spaces seem to have them though. Would be nice to just bring my baby head in that kind of situation I guess. I don’t much care for 4x12 cabs though. So much useless low end.

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Re: Cabs vs Combos, practically speaking....

Post by DiAmoroso » Mon Jan 06, 2020 12:13 pm

That is pretty much what I do. I have an Orange TH30 head, and two 112 cabinets. One of those cabs I leave at home, the other in our rehearsal space, and just haul the head back and forth.

Gig wise, I haven't yet played at a venue that had cabs available, so I usually bring at least one of the cabs, sometimes two for bigger venues. One thing I sometimes do is have one cab mic'd, and use the second cab angled directly at me as my own monitor, although I use IEMs when I can which makes that unnecessary.

One other thing I've noticed is that I actually am a lot more comfortable carrying a 35lb head in one hand, and a 35lb cab in the other. If I'm only carrying one it is always a bit awkward, but when I have one in each hand it balances out that weight distribution so I'm not leaning to a side to compensate.
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Re: Cabs vs Combos, practically speaking....

Post by Arthon » Mon Jan 06, 2020 12:39 pm

Head and cabs can also be convenient because a larger cab is louder and vice versa. You could have a small cab (like a single 10" speaker) for home use and a 2x12 for band situation. Live, you could bring the small cab if the gig is miced.

I've done that a while with a Tiny Terror. I had a 4x10 at the reahersal room and a 1x10 at home.

Now, I just use my Vibro-Champ at home and play my AD30 with the 4x10 at the reahersal (I leave it there). For gigs, I can bring my TT with a 1x12 cab or my AD30THC/4x10, depending on the room. I usually prefer the big amp setup.

But the simple answer is always a good Princeton Reverb ;)
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Re: Cabs vs Combos, practically speaking....

Post by parry » Mon Jan 06, 2020 1:21 pm

I think my mode of transportation has the most to do with how I'd go about it. If I were still in TO, taking a streetcar or subway everywhere, I'd definitely go the head/backline route - or at least a small combo as most places mic. But I live in the burbs, so can easily load up the wagon and drive to where I need to be. At the practice space, I play a Super Reverb. As I'm inching my way closer to 50, my mind still says things like "pffff, no problem", which means my body (the next day) is like "ARRRGHHHHHHHHHHHHH... duuuuuude!!!! WTF?!??!", hahaha. I am DREADING taking that thing out and lugging it around. So much so, I'd probably opt to bring a smaller amp, like my Ampeg Reverbojet (15w) or my Musicmaster Bass amp (12-ish watts). Maybe both (stereo), for the right situation. But either of those would be plenty loud on their own.

When we played out a few years ago, I started off with a Bassman head/2x12 cab and ended up with a combo'd Bassman with a 15" in it. It's shape was like a mini Super Reverb and that seemed to work quite well for getting around. I still never - ever - got to push the volume past 2-2.5, so it was definitely overkill.
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Re: Cabs vs Combos, practically speaking....

Post by andy_tchp » Mon Jan 06, 2020 2:12 pm

Good posts above.

Also, don't lift combos by the flimsy (and ergonomically fucked) handle on top. Grab them under each side like a bear hug so the weight is distributed more evenly across your shoulders/back instead of severely straining your neck down one side. I can carry my Vibrosonic Reverb (advertised weight 85 pounds IIRC) and two guitars in a Mono M80 Dual backpack style case this way.
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Re: Cabs vs Combos, practically speaking....

Post by DeathJag » Mon Jan 06, 2020 3:08 pm

I wonder how many back injuries were caused by attempting to lift a Fender Twin?

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Re: Cabs vs Combos, practically speaking....

Post by MayTheFuzzBeWithYou » Mon Jan 06, 2020 4:10 pm

Head and Cab all the way!

It is in fact the more ergonomic and comfortable way!
I’d always rather carry two equally heavy things (alone) than something like a Twin Reverb or a Bassman 10 (even in pairs). These things would be my back‘s death!
If I don‘t bring my cab it‘s the head in one hand and the effectboard in the other.

Also aesthetically I clearly prefer Heads with a (matching) cabinet.

Also here was only one show I ever played where the other bands both „only“ had a Twin Reverb to share - so we had to organize two cabs prior to the show as our van was to small back then.
Normally all the venues we play have 4x12 cabs at hand - but I don‘t really like the Marshall cabs so I try to bring my own! :)
But I have the luxury-problem that I‘ve “collected“ four cabs over the last 12 years - so one cab and head (and a small combo) are at home - while my main-head and matching (creme) 1x15, 2x12 and 4x12 cabinets are at the rehearsal space - and depending on the show and venue and if other bands need to borrow my cab I‘m either bringing the 1x15 (the lightest - love it for touring), the 2x12 (most versatile, same size as the 1x15), both (my main setup) or the 4x12 (only if need be).

For real mobile gigging and public transports I‘d recommend a Vox Nighttrain or Orange Tiny Terror as they even come with a Gigbag to hang around your shoulder! :)

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Re: Cabs vs Combos, practically speaking....

Post by andy_tchp » Mon Jan 06, 2020 5:14 pm

DeathJag wrote:
Mon Jan 06, 2020 3:08 pm
I wonder how many back injuries were caused by attempting to lift a Fender Twin?
An unscientific measure, but I'd guess 'shitloads'.

Nicest way is a two person lift, one on each end grabbed from underneath. Unless the floor is dead flat casters don't help.
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Re: Cabs vs Combos, practically speaking....

Post by jorri » Tue Jan 07, 2020 7:39 pm

Ime either you get to a gig and everyone uses combos or you rent cabs for same price as amps at a studio...

But it splits the weight in two nearly.
Or you can try out different cabs a bit easier (well many combos you can anyway but...).
You could in fact get a lightweight neodynium speaker by choice too.
My bass head- one hand with pedalboard in other and guitar on back. (its an hh vs so it does have a large handle)
15" Bass cab- huge but light. Lighter than any combo even tiny ones. More like an awkward empty box. But dont need it if one is available. For guitar i might be more picky.

If you are after ac15 in cab form idk whether something exists. There MUST be. Thing is ac15 celestion blues may be different to the default modern type speakers you pair with other amps... It can be a big change in response.

I dont have much issue with carrying heavy combos. I am not a strong person. Usually i hold the open back part and the handle in other hand.

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Re: Cabs vs Combos, practically speaking....

Post by Larsongs » Fri Jan 10, 2020 7:25 am

I have several more powerful Amps including a Vox AC15.. 15 to 100 Watt. Fenders, Vox & Marshall. Not only are they cumbersome they're all too loud for the venues play I which are small Club type or Parties..

So, I bought a new inexpensive Vox AC10C1. Smaller lighter & just about as loud as my AC15. Surprisingly. I put a Special Design Weber Type Blue & upgraded to Tung Sol Tubes.. Small, Compact, not too heavy & easy to travel with...

I still have all the Amps but I use the AC10C1 80% of the time...

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