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Small Amp vs Big Amp (15W EL84 vs 60W 6L6)
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
Gear Maniac
Small Amp vs Big Amp (15W EL84 vs 60W 6L6)

Hey guys,

I'm a huge fan of the laney Ironheart amps.
They sound HUGE!
I love how raw the upper midrange and treble frequencies sound in combination with those fat lows.
The clean tones are really great too!

I've been wanting to make a couple 'Small Amp VS Big Amp' videos for a while and I decided to make a Laney one first.
This one is all about the Laney IRT Studio which is a 15W amp with an EL84 power section versus the Ironheart 60W head with a 6L6 power section.
Opinions on the sonic differences vary quite a bit so this should be the ultimate test!
After watching this video, what is your opinion on the difference in tone?
Which one functions better in the mix?

I would love to hear your thoughts!
I'm also going to do one for my EVH LBX and 5150 III EL34 50W.

Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
Gear Maniac
I'm back with another comparison.
This one is all about the EVH lbx vs the 5150III 50W EL34.
The LBX is quite small with it's EL84 15W power amp but it sounds absolutely HUGE!
The 5150 III 50W EL34 is quite a bit bigger and heavier but does it also sound bigger?
Both sound great imho and just as with my recent Laney IRT Studio vs Ironheart 60 comparison you'll notice that the smaller amp has a little bit more mids but the differences are small on the red channel.

The blue channel is known for being a bit looser than the other blue channels of the EVH amps but I quite like having this option.
It reminds me a lot of a Mesa Recto or Soldano.
Because of this the blue channel on the LBX sounds a little bit tighter and mid focused.
The LBX has no clean channel so I chose to just go with a low gain blue channel part for that bit.

What do you guys think?

Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
Gear Nut
Unless you need massive amounts of clean headroom, bigger definitely does NOT mean better when it comes to tube amps.

Personally, I am a huge fan of the 20W-ish 6V6 amp. 15W to 20W is the sweet spot IMO.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #4
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by dpsbb View Post
Unless you need massive amounts of clean headroom, bigger definitely does NOT mean better when it comes to tube amps.

Personally, I am a huge fan of the 20W-ish 6V6 amp. 15W to 20W is the sweet spot IMO.
I definitely get where you're coming from!
I've never owned or tried a 6V6 amp unfortunately but I imagine they sound similar to EL84s?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #5
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enorbet2's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Guitarjon View Post
I definitely get where you're coming from!
I've never owned or tried a 6V6 amp unfortunately but I imagine they sound similar to EL84s?
Especially at recording levels and given the level of preamp compression and distortion in the music you represented, how would one know? Any differences in output devices is effectively rendered "spitting in the ocean".
Old 4 weeks ago
  #6
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by enorbet2 View Post
Especially at recording levels and given the level of preamp compression and distortion in the music you represented, how would one know? Any differences in output devices is effectively rendered "spitting in the ocean".
So you're saying that you'll never be able to hear the difference between power sections and tubes if you're listening to a high gain tone?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #7
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Bstapper's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Guitarjon View Post
I definitely get where you're coming from!
I've never owned or tried a 6V6 amp unfortunately but I imagine they sound similar to EL84s?
They are quite different sounding amplifiers.

6V6's sound more like a 6L6 but with a sweeter high end (my opinion, of course). EL84's are typically brighter and have more "bite".

Both have their place for sure, but to my ears they do not sound anything like each other no matter what circuit they are in.

When discussing low wattage tube amps I find it quite valuable to have one of each as they represent the classic American and British overdrive respectively.

A good sleeper for a kick ass little EL84 combo, if you can find one, is the Orange AD5.

Cheers,
Brock
Old 4 weeks ago
  #8
Gear Nut
There's a difference. 6L6's are more "full sounding" or "round sounding" than EL34/84's. 6V6's have the 6L6 fullness but have that awesome creamy overdrive character in a lower-wattage format so it is much easier to overdrive. Even when overdriven, 6L6's don't have that creamy character.

Generally speaking (and yes I am fully aware there are other factors involved) the "British" sound (Vox, Marshall) comes from the EL34/84 and the "American" Fender sound comes from the 6L6/6V6.

A great example of that comes from the fact that the JTM45 is almost an exact copy of the Tweed Bassman circuit except for economic and supply reasons Marshall used KT66/EL34 tubes instead of the 6L6. The two amps really don't sound all that much alike, even with the same speakers.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #9
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enorbet2's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Guitarjon View Post
So you're saying that you'll never be able to hear the difference between power sections and tubes if you're listening to a high gain tone?
No. I'm saying the difference is rendered miniscule especially at lower studio volumes. The term "Louder" generally barely begins to define what happens to not only sound itself, but the entire system of Guitar-Amp-Speaker-Air. There is a world of difference between a cranked 15 watts and a cranked 100 watts beyond mere loudness. One cannot hear that difference or have it to mic up in an environment (and settings) where even the 15 watt amp is likely not cranked. Then it's mostly preamp we hear.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #10
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enorbet2's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by dpsbb View Post
A great example of that comes from the fact that the JTM45 is almost an exact copy of the Tweed Bassman circuit except for economic and supply reasons Marshall used KT66/EL34 tubes instead of the 6L6. The two amps really don't sound all that much alike, even with the same speakers.

Firstly EL34s are not KT66s. they are KT77s. KT66s are essentially 6L6s on steroids.

If we are talking about the full 4x10 Tweed Bassman Combo then that's kinda true, but plug a Tweed Bassman amp into a Marshall 4x12 and the differences are vastly reduced. You may see that my avatar is, in fact, Gold Lion premium KT77s and I have replaced both 6V6s and 6L6s with those KT77s and of course the tone changes but not by all that much. What changes a LOT is the threshold of overdrive. I LOVE KT77s and only slightly less most EL34s but other than feel, swell, and bloom, tone-wise I can get very close to either the 6L6 or 6V6.

It is my experience that Black and Silverface Fenders exhibit the "roundness" of which you speak but there's more contributing to that than just power tubes. Tweeds and Marshalls sound very similar through similar speakers.

Last edited by enorbet2; 4 weeks ago at 08:02 AM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #11
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by rimisrandma View Post
Doesn’t the American sounding mark v 25 & 35 both use an EL84 power section(?)
I have that one (35w), it freakin' rawks!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #12
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Bstapper's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rimisrandma View Post
Doesn’t the American sounding mark v 25 & 35 both use an EL84 power section(?)
Must’ve had Americans playing through it...

But seriously, the American/British connotation is a bit limited as there were plenty of el84 based amps built in the States. None of which sound anything like an amplifier that uses 6v6’s. While voicing are all over the map the “smoothness” of a 6v6 is something the el84 can’t achieve. It has its own strengths in respect to bite and snarly.

And a thumbs up to enorbet2 above for mentioning the cabinet. A good percentage of the Marshall mojo is the closed back 4x12. Tons of records have the classic tweed champ through the 4x12 and sound quite a bit like a jtm45.

I wasn’t familiar with the Mesa V25/35 so just did some you-tubing. Sounded much closer to an AC15 than a Princeton to me.

Cheers,
Brock
Old 3 weeks ago
  #13
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by enorbet2 View Post
Firstly EL34s are not KT66s. they are KT77s. KT66s are essentially 6L6s on steroids.

If we are talking about the full 4x10 Tweed Bassman Combo then that's kinda true, but plug a Tweed Bassman amp into a Marshall 4x12 and the differences are vastly reduced. You may see that my avatar is, in fact, Gold Lion premium KT77s and I have replaced both 6V6s and 6L6s with those KT77s and of course the tone changes but not by all that much. What changes a LOT is the threshold of overdrive. I LOVE KT77s and only slightly less most EL34s but other than feel, swell, and bloom, tone-wise I can get very close to either the 6L6 or 6V6.

It is my experience that Black and Silverface Fenders exhibit the "roundness" of which you speak but there's more contributing to that than just power tubes. Tweeds and Marshalls sound very similar through similar speakers.
I agree with everything you say. But only the very early JTM's used KT66's. The switch to EL34's came pretty quickly.

I really like KT77's too. Best of the 6L6 married to the best of the EL34. Awesome tube and a "drop-in" replacement for EL34's.

One of my favorite tubes is the 5881. Somewhere between the 6L6 and 6V6 power-wise and some of that 6V6 breakup with slightly more headroom.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #14
Gear Nut
Of course there are other amps made in America but when you think of the "American" sound you typically think of Fender.

The "British" sound is Vox and Marshall.

Just general terms, of course there are exceptions. Mesa is kinda their own thing and even they acknowledge those generalizations with their Trans Atlantic amp.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #15
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ponzi's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by dpsbb View Post
Of course there are other amps made in America but when you think of the "American" sound you typically think of Fender.

The "British" sound is Vox and Marshall.

Just general terms, of course there are exceptions. Mesa is kinda their own thing and even they acknowledge those generalizations with their Trans Atlantic amp.
Agreed on that. I think those terms are based on 60s-70s amps and music--classic rock, as later on, companies would try and emulate these tones. Even today, eminence speakers use euphemisms to indicate the tone country. I recall redcoat is British and I can't recall what the american ones are called.

Personally I have some interest in an el84 based amp, but I have a 6v6 based class a savage and its great, so hard to justify another amp given how little I play guitar now.

Vacuum Tube Valley was a short lived magazine that has great background stories on these tubes, if one is interested:

https://web.archive.org/web/20130604...es/VTV/vtv.htm
Old 3 weeks ago
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Guitarjon View Post
I definitely get where you're coming from!
I've never owned or tried a 6V6 amp unfortunately but I imagine they sound similar to EL84s?
No, not really. The 6V6 has much larger plates and sounds less "chimey". It sounds somewhat fatter and more "American" in voicing.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by enorbet2 View Post
Especially at recording levels and given the level of preamp compression and distortion in the music you represented, how would one know? Any differences in output devices is effectively rendered "spitting in the ocean".
I wouldn't entirely agree with that, but it depends on the amp and how hard you're pushing the output stage.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by enorbet2 View Post
No. I'm saying the difference is rendered miniscule especially at lower studio volumes. The term "Louder" generally barely begins to define what happens to not only sound itself, but the entire system of Guitar-Amp-Speaker-Air. There is a world of difference between a cranked 15 watts and a cranked 100 watts beyond mere loudness. One cannot hear that difference or have it to mic up in an environment (and settings) where even the 15 watt amp is likely not cranked. Then it's mostly preamp we hear.
When we record here we set the amp for the desired tone.

Of course we don't drive the 140 watt Twin into distortion.....
Old 3 weeks ago
  #19
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enorbet2's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
I wouldn't entirely agree with that, but it depends on the amp and how hard you're pushing the output stage.
Seems to me that's paraphrasing what I said. In most modern studios one is not going to push even a 50 watt amp.... 30? maybe but somewhat unlikely.... 15? Quite likely you can push that. Thus there is an inherent difference BY DESIGN since one of the reasons Fender changed the heritage of tone stack after Volume control to Volume AFTER Toner stack was so that one amp would sound more alike at a wider range of volumes...

The very reason Vox and Marshall, or at least a very important part of that equation, became the go to amps all over the world for larger venues is because if an amp sounds similar at a wide range of volumes it loses some of the dynamic expression that comes from note attack and decay tonality changes, in addition to going in and/or out of limiting due to the Direct-Coupled Cathode Follower.

In the gist of this thread, with that much preamp gain and compression I strongly suspect neither amp was being pushed very much and the 60 watter not at all.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #20
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enorbet2's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
When we record here we set the amp for the desired tone.

Of course we don't drive the 140 watt Twin into distortion.....
...and I'm sure you're aware few studios like that exist anymore. There are people on this board who claim to play Rock well below 90db !!! LIVE!!! let alone in the studio.

I'm pretty sure Bill Hicks' nightmare has largely become reality - Government Approved Rock 'n Roll is the order of the day with just a handful of holdouts.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by ponzi View Post
Agreed on that. I think those terms are based on 60s-70s amps and music--classic rock, as later on, companies would try and emulate these tones. Even today, eminence speakers use euphemisms to indicate the tone country. I recall redcoat is British and I can't recall what the american ones are called.

Personally I have some interest in an el84 based amp, but I have a 6v6 based class a savage and its great, so hard to justify another amp given how little I play guitar now.

Vacuum Tube Valley was a short lived magazine that has great background stories on these tubes, if one is interested:

https://web.archive.org/web/20130604...es/VTV/vtv.htm
Interesting but not always accurate, at least not in one article I read. I issue #2 , the article on the EL34/6CA7 there is a section on the STR series tubes in which ther author prints inaccurate information, inclued the assertion that Fender was using an STR badged tube before Boogie, which is not true. As it happens I once had a fairly extensive conversation about tubes in which he described the process in which he and the head tube designer at Sylvania designed the first STR tube, the STR387, which was a beefed up 6L6 type designed specifically for use in high powered combo amps in which the tube was subjected to considerable vibration from the speaker. Randall described a special test rig he designed and buit with a speaker mounted next to a naked amp chassis with a strobe light arrangement in which the strobe could be synced to the incoming signal so that a high speed camera could record how the internal components of the tube moved with the speaker output so that they could analyze which components of the tube needed physical reinforcement. Randall also mentioned some functional upgrades to the basic 6L6 design for higher performance in guitar applications. At that point in time I'm pretty certain that Fender was still using their usual RCA built tubes, which the continued to do for at least another year or two.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by enorbet2 View Post
...and I'm sure you're aware few studios like that exist anymore. There are people on this board who claim to play Rock well below 90db !!! LIVE!!! let alone in the studio.

I'm pretty sure Bill Hicks' nightmare has largely become reality - Government Approved Rock 'n Roll is the order of the day with just a handful of holdouts.
Actually we mostly use smaller amps, but we do have a couple of big Fenders and Marshalls. But we choose amps for tone and operate the amp where it sounds good. When we were still in The City we had to watch the time because of neighboring apartments and shops but up here in the North Bay we have a house and you can barely hear anything outside, even with a full band playing.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #23
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Yuri Kogan's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by enorbet2 View Post
...and I'm sure you're aware few studios like that exist anymore. There are people on this board who claim to play Rock well below 90db !!! LIVE!!! let alone in the studio.

I'm pretty sure Bill Hicks' nightmare has largely become reality - Government Approved Rock 'n Roll is the order of the day with just a handful of holdouts.
We recorded a band last weeken where both guitarists used an Orange Thunderverb100 and O%50 through 2 openback cabs each, 1 speaker box with a 90W Alnoco 12", the other with a 100W Ceramic 12". At 3-4 o'clock each. Nooooice! :-)

Last edited by Yuri Kogan; 3 weeks ago at 05:53 AM..
Old 3 weeks ago
  #24
Lives for gear
 
enorbet2's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yuri Kogan View Post
We recorded a band last weeken where both guitarists used an Orange Thunderverb100 and O%50 through 2 openback cabs each, 1 speaker box with a 90W Alnoco 12", the other with a 100W Ceramic 12". At 3-4 o'clock each. Nooooice! :-)
I just have to say "Thank you!" for both understanding that something way more important than just being louder happens when big amps can breathe and also of course, and especially in this day and age, supporting it. There's not many venues, studios, soundmen, and now even bands, still doing it.

To all those that warn about hearing damage I ask why would you care if you have technicolor vision if you're confined to a black and white existence?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #25
Gear Nut
Well to play Devil's Advocate I will say this...

Big-wattage amps still have their place but IMO just if you need massive amounts of clean headroom at high volume levels. My 20W amps pump massive volumes of air, believe me.

As far as quiet stages go, it really depends on the venue. If you pull up to a small coffee shop or restaurant with a 100W half-stack expecting it to have room to "breathe" well then you deserve the nasty remarks you get from the manager. If you are playing on a festival stage then yeah the soundman needs to deal and let you open it up.

But I do get a little peeved when a soundman tells me at a venue that seats 500 people to turn my 20W amp down. Usually I just say "no thank you, it's fine where it is" and move on. If he says "I can just put you in the monitor" my response is "if I can hear my amp I don't need to be in the monitor" and he usually shuts up. Once in a great while I get a younger guy who after the show comes up and says "I can see why you didn't want to run at lower volumes. The two guitars working together really set up a nice sound-stage without going so much through the mains."
Old 3 weeks ago
  #26
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Bstapper's Avatar
 

All of you are too loud.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #27
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enorbet2's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by dpsbb View Post
Well to play Devil's Advocate I will say this...

Big-wattage amps still have their place but IMO just if you need massive amounts of clean headroom at high volume levels. My 20W amps pump massive volumes of air, believe me.

As far as quiet stages go, it really depends on the venue. If you pull up to a small coffee shop or restaurant with a 100W half-stack expecting it to have room to "breathe" well then you deserve the nasty remarks you get from the manager. If you are playing on a festival stage then yeah the soundman needs to deal and let you open it up.

But I do get a little peeved when a soundman tells me at a venue that seats 500 people to turn my 20W amp down. Usually I just say "no thank you, it's fine where it is" and move on. If he says "I can just put you in the monitor" my response is "if I can hear my amp I don't need to be in the monitor" and he usually shuts up. Once in a great while I get a younger guy who after the show comes up and says "I can see why you didn't want to run at lower volumes. The two guitars working together really set up a nice sound-stage without going so much through the mains."
Heya dpsbb I don't know who you're playing devil's advocate to because I for one absolutely agree. I've known quite a few musicians who think they have magic numbers on their amps and even guitar knobs and never really learn how their gear behaves at other settings. They might as well glue their knobs in place. Have you seen this meme?



It's pretty amazing how many musicians still don't know that or have never even played with trying different settings for different environments let alone thought through amp/speaker placement. Bringing a 100 watt half stack to a coffee house is just plain ignorant and/or foolish... just as foolish as any poser soundman who imagines a 20 watt amp is too loud for a 500 seat venue.

My Go-To amp is (2x EL34s) ~30 watt Class A 1x12 combo that I setup right next to my vocal monitor with Tilt-Back legs so regardless of venue it's always pointing up at my ears from roughly 6-8 feet away. That consistency means I rarely have to knob fiddle much, just fine tune for how "live" the stage is since I like being in both the monitor and the main mixes so everybody gets what they want and i can hear myself well wherever I wander about onstage when not singing, but that never includes turning down where 30 watts can't breathe. Essentially pointing at the back of stage ceiling (once it gets past me) it just isn't that loud. I know this for certain since it is exceedingly rare that my band mates don't have at least some reinforcement of my guitar in their monitor mix. .
Old 3 weeks ago
  #28
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ponzi's Avatar
When they recorded Layla down at Criteria, they used fender champs on the guitars. Hard to fault the tone of that song. When clapton recorded with cream, it was 100 watt marshalls going full blast in one room with the band. Reportedly for Ginger Baker, keeping up with a 100 watt marshall was not a problem.

I spoke to an engineer who worked at Criteria--why was this or that microphone selected for a given iconic hit? Well, maybe the engineers favorite mic had been taken from the closet for a session in another room. Its not the mic, its the artist.

Moral of the story--there is no one magical tone or amp or recording method. You get clapton with the allman brothers or whomever, its not the amps that make it iconic. Whatever they use will become iconic!

It will be what people try to emulate 40 years later thinking it was the tone, not the artist. If you have the talent to write and perform a good song, don't be tethered to the past--create!
Old 3 weeks ago
  #29
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enorbet2's Avatar
Heya ponzi On a fundamental level not only do I agree with the basics of everything in your above post, but I wonder how much argument can even be proposed. However it seems to me you may be underestimating or even leaving out that Zen-like bonding that happens with a song and with the gear to make it coherent and instantaneous. It's not like The Greats can pick just any ol' thing even though they (and hopefully we) sound like themselves through any gear, it's that once one gets to a certain level of expertise and learns to surrender to the song, the right gear picks you! Somehow it just speaks to musicians in the right voice that suits that song and suddenly The Muse is on the line..

There are or may be exceptions of course, but I think that magical serendipity is very commonly so. One possible exception is that although Nirvana reportedly hated the way that Nevermind was mixed, and even though I do indeed love earlier stuff like Bleach which was supposedly more of what Nirvana desired, not only do i find it doubtful that if Nevermind was mixed more like Bleach that it would be as iconic as it is, I have to wonder how sincere the dismay over Nevermind actually was since In Utero has far more in common mix-wise with Nevermind than Bleach or Incesticide. Then, too, there is the whole POV experience of the listener such as how we most often prefer the song version we hear first, but gear does matter to everyone. I don't care how good the driver, nobody is gonna win Le mans in a Kia and I know F-16 pilots that for the sheer exhilaration of flying don't seek a modern jet but fly radial engine biplanes for that "seat of the pants", Zen bond, one with the machine, experience.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #30
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ponzi's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by enorbet2 View Post
Heya ponzi On a fundamental level not only do I agree with the basics of everything in your above post, but I wonder how much argument can even be proposed. However it seems to me you may be underestimating or even leaving out that Zen-like bonding that happens with a song and with the gear to make it coherent and instantaneous...
I suppose my argument is that the musicians who are successful used what was available to them at the time in terms of gear, and they are successful because they didn't need a zen like bonding to equipment--they can made what they have at hand to work. I think the quest for equipment that gives a zen like bonding is an alternative use of time rather than practicing your instrument and writing songs.

Zen and serendipity are human things, not machine things.

A dearly departed friend of mine, who actually worked as engineer on some hits, and I spent many enjoyable hours talking about the theory of the popular song. His view was that singer and song are top two in terms of importance and equipment is something like 5th down the list.
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