Power and Volume

When you think of an Amplifier for heavy rock and metal, what do you think of first? Probably size, wattage, appearance, and brand. Big. Everything big. Walls of 100 watt stacks. The more the better. Many a band has cultivated that image. Lets face it, no one expects to see Judas Priest in front of a wall of 1 X 12 cabs.

Unfortunately, the image we want to project and the truth behind the tone quite often have nothing in common. The image we think of when we think of Dino amps harks back to the days of outdoor festivals in the 60s and early 70s when amps were not mic'd through the PA system. So originally amp size was a necessity brought on by ever enlarging crowds and venues. Folks like Townshend and Hendrix needed more volume and drive to blast the music from the stage. A wall of stacks became the norm. Marshall stacks. Hiwatts lined up like a train of boxcars sitting on the track. A huge brick of Orange colored amps as a backdrop to the stage. Yes, a killer image. And frankly, it is exilerating thing to play through those rigs. You don't just hear the music any more. You feel it in your bones. It can be intoxicating and inspirational.

But from the late 70s on, big amp stacks were no longer required to get the sound out to the crowd. Sound systems had advanced to the point that they could mic anything and present it at full volume to crowds of any size. Yet, the image of a Rock Band was ingrained. So, on through the 80, bands like Van Halen and Metallica and Whitesnake maintained the mandatory stacks or wall of stacks, even though only most of them aren't even running. But visually it still works.

Let's take a moment to look at this subject from the perspective of getting the appropriate sound for Dino music. In the studio, what with all the gadgets and effects, a good Dino tone can be attained by just about any amp with tubes and one 12" speaker. In some cases even a 10" speaker will suffice. In a live venue, for whatever mystical magical reason, a tube amp with a minimum of about 50 watts run into a 4 X 12" cab is still the typical way to achieve that certain grail sound associated with the best of rock music. A handful of boutique amp builders and a few of the production amp builders have come up with very small amps that do a good job at replicating the Dino sound at bedroom levels. My MV3484 is good for 60s and early 70s Marshall sound and the Orange Tiny Terror is a great inexpensive alternative for the sound of the 80s in a small box. Yet, I really believe that nothing can produce Dino quality sound the way a 50 or 100 watt tube head into a 4 X 12 cab can. A 1 x 12" sounds more direct, great for recording, and a 2 X 12" sounds less tough or maybe doesn't have the same type of growl that a 4 X 12 cab does. There's just some type of interplay that goes on between four speakers in one cab that alters their sound in a way that other cab configurations just can't seem to reproduce.

So. Let's take this to a useful level. If a 50 or 100 watt head into a 4 X 12 cab mic'd through a P.A. system can provide both the volume as well as the Dino grail sound, what do all the other cabs and heads that provide a backdrop for the Dino act provide? In my opinion......the look. Nothing more. Just........the look.

Many pros know this. Frequently, the pros only mic the bottom cabs for their guitar sound. The upper cabs are sometimes used for additional monitoring of vocals and or other instuments. More commonly they are disconnected to protect the player's hearing. One 4 X 12 cab sitting on the floor, topping out not much higher than your beltline, mic'd into a P.A. system will deliver your Dino sound to your fans without destroying you.