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100 watts vs. 120 watts, what are the differences?


mbengs1
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how do 100 watt-ers and 120 watt=ers differ in sound? i think 120 watts is louder but 100 watts is already more than enough. can you tell the difference between the two immediately? I opted for a 120 watt amp coz its louder and it was cheap. its a bugera 6262.

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All else being equal, which it rarely is, an extra 20% power means about 4/5 decibel. The smallest increment the average person can hear reliably is 1 full decibel. As 1001gear said, we need lots more specifics. Are the speakers the same? The cabs? I went from a 25 Watt amp with a 10" speaker to a 65 Watt amp with a 12". The 65 Watt amp is clearly louder but, say, 30 Watts with another identical 10" probably wouldn't be noticeably louder. If everything else were identical, you might hear a slight difference between the two hypothetical amps but it's really mostly a matter of bragging rights (i.e., "Mine is bigger.)

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how do 100 watt-ers and 120 watt=ers differ in sound? i think 120 watts is louder but 100 watts is already more than enough. can you tell the difference between the two immediately? I opted for a 120 watt amp coz its louder and it was cheap. its a bugera 6262.

 

Unless you have more specifics the differences can be all over the place for quality and tone. In general however, wattages are broken down into three types. RMS, Average, and Peak. Most amp manufacturers (are supposed to) base their wattages on clean undistorted RMS levels. Peak levels are rarely reached. You could consider that the edge of melt down with everything cranked and a super strong signal feeding the input (well above a guitar pickups output) Average is between RMS and Peak where many guitarists push amps to get their saturated tones.

 

Tube amps may only output a clean signal turned 1/2 way or 3/4 up. They may get louder but its distorted so its not considered in its RMS Rating.

 

Solid State amps can usually achieve their maximum RMS rating fully cranked. They may have preamp drive that distorts the signal but they generally achieve maximum wattage full up.

 

If you're comparing a 100 w tube amp and a 120w SS amp, the tube amp will usually sound louder cranked up.

 

If you're talking apples and apples, then the 120w amp should have more headroom before it breaks up. 120w is incredibly loud however. With the proper speakers, its unlikely you'd ever be able to push that amp up into its sweet spot unless you're playing really big arena type gigs. Even a Marshall 100W plexi will drive you out of most smaller clubs. I'm talking tube amps cranked up to get saturation which is considered the best kind of drive because its got a big dynamic kick to it. If you're using drive boxes then it doesn't matter what the wattage is. The amp will essentially be running clean and the box will be emulating speaker and tube drive.

 

Wattage is just a power consumption rating however. Its tells you how much power the head can output and you'd use speakers that match or exceed that rating. And that's all wattage means. Anything related to sound like tone or loudness comes from the speaker. Manufacturers have pushed the wattage thing for many decades because they felt consumers were too stupid to understand the "other" ratings that dictate tone and loudness.

 

The main two rating you should learn are related to the speakers. The first dealing with loudness is the speakers efficiency rating. A speaker is an electro mechanical device that converts electrical signals into sound by pushing the air. A highly efficient speaker will convert a low wattage signal into air movement very well and sound very loud. An inefficient speaker can be pumped with allot of wattage and its ability to convert that wattage winds up being heat instead of cone movement.

 

The quality of the coil, the magnet and cone materials are what are responsible for faithfully converting the signal into accurate sound. Guitar speakers are especially awful at doing this. If you've ever compared a Hi Fi speaker along side a guitar speaker, the differences between the two are immediately apparent. The Guitar speaker produces mostly midrange tones, poor bass and practically no high end treble. This is fine for guitar of course because guitar is a midrange instrument and those frequencies are useless for an electric guitar anyway.

 

The response curve between those two points are very important however, and the ears are very sensitive to those frequencies especially in the 1~2Kilohertz ranges because that's the pitch of the spoken words peoples ears hear since birth. Choosing the proper response curve and SPL levels are therefore critical items in making a good head sound its best. If the head is crap then good speaker will only make it sound worse.

 

 

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If you know eddie van halen. he used 100 watt amps in the early years and then switched to 120 watt amps when he went with peavey. i think the 5150 hits a little softer (although it is really loud) i think the 100 watt amps have a more 'solid' feel while the 120 watt amps are a bit more polite sounding.

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If you know eddie van halen. he used 100 watt amps in the early years and then switched to 120 watt amps when he went with peavey. i think the 5150 hits a little softer (although it is really loud) i think the 100 watt amps have a more 'solid' feel while the 120 watt amps are a bit more polite sounding.

 

 

Actually Eddie used one Marshall Super Lead Tube head as a preamp using a dummy load and DI box to drive H & H V800 MOS-FET power amps which drove the cabs. http://www.hhelectronics.com/product...uct_details/36

The H&H are 800W solid state power heads drove the cabs. The Marshall was only used as a preamp and drove no cabs.

 

The Marshall was cranked to 10 for and a Variac was used to lower its voltage to get even more brown saturation. He used a 20 Ohm dummy load so it would run cooler. He then put his echoplex between preamp head and the H&H power amps (much like you'd put an effect in an effects loop between the preamp and power amp) This way he got all the saturated tube and power transformer amp tone to record on the echoplex tape. The cabs were simply being driven like PA cabs with 100% clean SS power amps.

 

http://www.legendarytones.com/edward...n-brown-sound/

 

Musicians do make money in advertisement, or at least get gear in exchange for their endorsements. You have absolutely no way of knowing what's actually being used to produce their tones. Heads can be easily modified and many of those mods can be kept quiet from the public so their signature tones aren't ripped off. Usually by the time the technical info does leek out that musician has moved on to using something else.

Edited by WRGKMC
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Throw my 1 decibel in... recalling when I was into hifi I think was surprised when Stereo Review said more or less had to double watts to get discernible difference in sound level. Like WRGetc said speaker efficiency greater impact on sound volume. Those old Klipshorns would really pump it out with only a few watts, back when watts were spendy and living rooms bigger.

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Interesting stuff. I'm just comparing eddie van halen's 80's sound vs. his 90's tone. the 90's sound seemed to be bassier. i cant describe the difference i percieve.

 

Well that's actually probably true for a number of reasons. His earlier recordings were released on Vinyl and Cassette mostly. Vinyl had to have lower bass content so the needle didn't jump out of the record groove or you had issues cutting the vinyl grooves. 45's usually produced much better lows because thay ran at higher speeds and the grooves were cut deeper. They had been phased out pretty much by the 80's however.

 

Later they simply re-mastered the older recordings to CD, but given the fact the music was already recorded and targeted for Vinyl, there's only so much you can do with those original tracks to beef them up. They still sound killer as is so why mess with a good thing.

 

Later recordings were likely recorded digital or at least targeted a digital format so you have much better headroom and frequency response. Eddie did start using a trick of adding mics to the side of the cabs when recording in order to capture more bass thump directly from the wood of the cab. Pretty cool trick and since you noticed more bass in later recordings I guess it was successful.

Edited by WRGKMC
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  • 3 weeks later...

This question comes up often enough, and there's enough misunderstanding about it that I wrote an article about it.

 

Wattage, Speaker Efficiency and Amplifier "Loudness"

 

It will hopefully answer your questions and give you a better idea of some of the variables involved, but if you have any questions please let me know. :wave:

 

 

 

 

 

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This question comes up often enough, and there's enough misunderstanding about it that I wrote an article about it.

 

Wattage, Speaker Efficiency and Amplifier "Loudness"

 

It will hopefully answer your questions and give you a better idea of some of the variables involved, but if you have any questions please let me know. :wave:

 

 

 

 

 

Phil great link!!! Need to find the author and tell him he did good.......

 

a 100W amp is not going to sound twice as loud as a 50W amp

I quoted this from your article and confirmed my motorcycle analogy. Loud is loud.

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^ The usual rule of thumb is that "twice as loud" means an increase of 10 dB' date=' a 10X increase in Wattage, all else being equal, so that a 100 Watt amp is "twice as loud" as a [b']10 Watt[/b] amp.

 

Exactly! As I said in the article...

 

 

So let's assume we have a speaker with a sensitivity of 90dB @ 1W / 1m and a power handling capacity of up to 100W. If we power that speaker with 1W of power, it will generate 90dB when measured at a distance of 1 meter. If we double that power to 2W, the SPL measurement will increase to 93dB. If we increase the power to 10W, then the SPL measurement will increase to 100dB, which is "twice the perceived loudness" when compared to 1W. So it actually takes ten times more power to give us a perceived doubling of volume level.

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Exactly! As I said in the article...

 

 

So let's assume we have a speaker with a sensitivity of 90dB @ 1W / 1m and a power handling capacity of up to 100W. If we power that speaker with 1W of power, it will generate 90dB when measured at a distance of 1 meter. If we double that power to 2W, the SPL measurement will increase to 93dB. If we increase the power to 10W, then the SPL measurement will increase to 100dB, which is "twice the perceived loudness" when compared to 1W. So it actually takes ten times more power to give us a perceived doubling of volume level.

 

So in the end run, a 120 watt amp, all other things being equal, will not sound louder than a 100 watt amp. Because it's also a matter of what your ears can stand. And at that point, your brain is telling you to quit and it really doesn't matter. This type of analysis is very well suited to a smaller amp/wattage config. Those who haven't read Phil's link should do so ASAP. He explains some semi-complex things in a simplified manner that makes sense.

 

Go to the link. Take a 25 watt amp with a 94.5dB SPL speaker. Stick a 98.7 in the b!tch. Holy loudness Batman!!

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So in the end run' date=' a 120 watt amp, all other things being equal, will not sound louder than a 100 watt amp. Because it's also a matter of what your ears can stand. And at that point, your brain is telling you to quit and it really doesn't matter. . . .[/quote']

Right. The difference is about 4/5 of a dB (0.792dB if you want to get picky) but by then you're at deafening levels (I heard years ago that a "good seat" at a Kiss concert would expose you to 110dB or more; imagine being on stage) anyway. A speaker with a sensitivity of 98dB will be pumping out 118dB at 1 meter with an input of 100 Watts. By that point, an extra 0.8dB won't matter. I have a 65 Watt Fender 1X12 amp, my fellow praise band guitarist has a 75 Watt Peavey 1X12. Both amps are SS. Assuming the same sensitivity for both speakers, his amp can go 0.62dB louder than mine, which is negligible. In practice, neither of us gets a chance to really crank his amp anyway.

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Right. The difference is about 4/5 of a dB (0.792dB if you want to get picky) but by then you're at deafening levels (I heard years ago that a "good seat" at a Kiss concert would expose you to 110dB or more; imagine being on stage) anyway. A speaker with a sensitivity of 98dB will be pumping out 118dB at 1 meter with an input of 100 Watts. By that point, an extra 0.8dB won't matter. I have a 65 Watt Fender 1X12 amp, my fellow praise band guitarist has a 75 Watt Peavey 1X12. Both amps are SS. Assuming the same sensitivity for both speakers, his amp can go 0.62dB louder than mine, which is negligible. In practice, neither of us gets a chance to really crank his amp anyway.

 

DE, nice job of trimming it down for us peasants. Let's talk about how this fits the big equation. Phil will tell you I'm the over simplifier champion of ALL forums.

With the smaller amps, under 50W, it really matters what the SPL is for the speaker IMO. However my fave amp is a single ended EL84 with only a volume knob. Old, not really efficient 12" alnico organ speaker. fook me, it wails!!!

But add 4 dB SPL to a 30 watt amp and you gain clean headroom. You really can't quantify what yer ears are hearin'. If everybody around you says yer wailin'...............

Edited by Belva
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