Monday, December 7, 2009

Update from the Wattage Wars

The response from harp amp makers to my challenge regarding wattage claims has been fascinating and illuminating.

For the most part, the amp makers all are using methods that could be considered valid. Their wattage ratings for their amps are “correct” for their own tests. The problem is, all the methods differ slightly, making the wattage numbers meaningless for comparisons.

In other words, none of these amp makers are being dishonest about the power of their amps. But you’d have to use their precise methods (none of which is used by other makers) to verify their claims, and to compare to other makers’ amps. That makes it impossible for the consumer to make an informed choice on a very key buying issue.

One amp maker dragged his feet about his testing methods, and became defensive. He then declared he’d made a mistake and his amps actually make MORE power than previously claimed. This proves my point that wattage numbers are sometimes arbitrary.

Automakers make claims of power and performance for the cars, which are verified and reported by the motoring press. This is no different. I am not casting aspersions upon the integrity of any amp maker. I am simply calling for clarity and uniformity in the harp amp market.

In all future reviews of harp amps I intend to test wattage as well as SPL volume, using the same parameters for all amps. This will give amps shoppers a reliable way to compare amps and know what they are getting.

1 comment:

Rob said...

If one were to look at old 1950's Gibson amp chassis faces it reads many different wattage ratings...70w, 95w, 110w, 135w, etc.
But the amp will usually have a pair of 6v6's, EL84's, 6L6's or 6550 in it.
Most everyone who plays through an old Gibson amp will know what to expect in the dB range and the "wattage" is usually ignored and is most likely the total amount of power the amp uses.

Basically, if its a single ended amp using a 6v6 or 6L6, 5-10 watts can be expected.
A push pull amp with 6v6's, 12-16 watts.
6L6's 20-45 watts.
Anything larger or in quads look up the data for a general info on plate voltages and whatnot.

This is a very good topic, but I really don't understand what all the hub-bub is about splitting hairs on the amount of wattage produced in an amp is anyway.

Being that this was started to keep amp builders honest but anyone who knows anything about tube amps can either guess or find out from a friend if the amp is good enough for their needs.

But purchasing an amp over the internet without taking it for a test drive can be tricky...especially with harp amps. I can understand why most are skeptical to buy anyway.

You may have one builder that will claim that the amp is a "blisteringly powerful 70 watts of 6L6 tube action" but can only be turned up to 3 or 4 because of feedback issues.
This would be the same as having a Porsche and being stuck in traffic.
What's the point?

Its important to know what the amp is capable of in a range for power. Choosing an amp that's 5 watts more than another may not really make a big difference with harp if one doesn't have good mic technique.
By the way, I'm certainly not an authority figure on playing the harp because I really cannot play very well and nor do I gig. I'll be honest to admit that. But I've read enough and conversed with those who do to understand the basics of control and technique.

So Watt's up with all this what watts is what?

Best advise is to choose an amp that is well built, has a good reputation and is in a general wattage range in the description for your needs. I wouldn't worry if the ACTUAL wattage is spitty spot-on accurate. That's nuts! Those who worry about such things probably iron their underware too...