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SGFanboy42

Amplifier for Dorm/Coffeeshop Gigs

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Hey all so now that I've completed my guitar I'm on the search for an amplifier (insert cart before horse jokes here). Anyway I have a friend that is interested in writing songs, she likes karaoke, and there's an open mic night near my college at a coffeehouse every month. Having just put two and two together I realize that any amp I buy might need to be ready for small gigs.

Just for visualization the coffee shop in question is a heavily renovated old car shop that still has the brick walls and bare ceilings. That said, when there isn't an open mic night it has those small Bose speaker sets which provides a fair amount of volume and they definitely aren't dimed.

I have been considering a Fender Champion 20 amp because it's not too expensive but it seems pretty good despite the price. Does anyone have experience with this amp or another smallish amp for gigging? Does anyone think this is a powerful enough amp to get the job done?

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I have no experience specifically with that amp but you might want to consider a few things generically that may apply to your situation. From this you may get some ideas as to what you're looking for in any amp:

  • When the coffee house does the open mic nights, do they provide a PA or is it meant to be an unplugged event? The last restaurant I went to had a solo singer/acoustic guitar artist from midday to about 2pm, no PA, totally unplugged. From where I was seated at the back of a room about 30ft x 70ft it was about equivalent to the in-house music if they decided to run the CD player, which was comfortable for casual dining. But I could tell that diners sitting closer to her were finding it a bit too overwhelming, even with her only relying on her unamplified voice and guitar.
  • What kind of atmosphere and music is the shop going for at these events? Unplugged? Duos? Full bands? Laid back Jazz? Are you essentially providing mood music or is it a proper gig event? A half-stack might look and sound the biz for a blues rock outfit, but if you can't run the master volume past 1 then it's just a wasted asset.
  • Do you get a designated stage area or are you effectively on the floor amongst the patrons?
  • Is the playing area limited in size?
  • Do you need to be able to get your stuff on and off stage quickly or will you have ample time to set up and pack up?
  • Is transportation to and from the venue a problem for you?

Back in the bad old days when I was first gigging I initially got away with a 65W Peavey Express combo plus pedals, which could just keep up with an unamplified drum kit in a medium sized room. For anything bigger, where I had the opportunity, I'd mike it up on the PA. It wasn't the greatest sounding set up, but it was quick to move around - maybe two trips to and from the car to get it in and out of the room. I didn't have mountains of volume on tap without some kind of leg-up from a PA, but I could turn it down if I needed to for gigs where loud wasn't on the cards. Later on I moved up to more powerful and better sounding setups, but the time taken to handle it and the space required on stage also grew.

These days given the wide variety of modeling options out there, I'd almost be tempted to ditch the amp altogether and just run a pedal setup direct to the PA and monitor through foldback wedges or with in-ears. That potentially simplifies things to a point where you can turn up with a guitar in one hand and a pedal board plus a couple of leads in the other, find a single power outlet on stage, plug in and go. Plus, low- or zero-volume practice at home with the actual sound of the rig becomes possible with headphones or through just about any stereo system with an aux input.

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I once was at a concert/inside festival with several bands in a large restaurant. The last band only had those tiny Gorilla amps miked to the PA. They were the loudest band of the evening! Not the best sounding, though...

The small amps of today often have a speaker emulating output for street credible guitar amp sounds from the PA. That would allow for cranking up the amp's volume to a level where it sounds good without breaking anyone's ears.

My playing hours increased tremendously with the 3 watt Blackstar Fly. It provides a good sound at radio listening level.

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On 7/12/2019 at 10:10 PM, curtisa said:

do they provide a PA or is it meant to be an unplugged event?

* Looking back at both the coffee shop website and my memory. they actually have a PA system and several mics. So I guess amp output wont be a problem.

* It'll most likely be just a duo. The event is widely advertised so people go to the shop specifically to see the acts.

* The acts are on the floor with the patrons and there is a nicely sized but still limited space for acts.

* Now this I'm not too sure about. There is a start and end time for the open mic night but even then with just a guitar and an amp it will take seconds unless I get a double 4X12 stack and head😄.

* Transportation to the shop isn't a problem, it's more storage. I am thinking about a small amp because i live in the dorms at school so there isn't a lot of room. At the same time though I want an amp that can be used at a similar sized gig unplugged, That's why I'm shooting between 15-50W. I heard that most early rock bands got away with even less wattage at similar sized gigs.

On 7/13/2019 at 3:44 AM, Bizman62 said:

3 watt Blackstar Fly

Those look nice but it seems a little small. Does Blackstar sell a similar amp with more wattage?

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8 hours ago, SGFanboy42 said:

Does Blackstar sell a similar amp with more wattage?

Blackstar make all sorts of amps, the latest being a series of 10 watt tube amps which looks like something I would like to own! I mentioned the Fly because of the word "dorm" as it would allow for practicing with nice sounds without disturbing people in the next room. My wife can watch TV at a low volume while I play, my unamplified singing (shouting, as she says) can be louder than the guitar!

The Yamaha THR series also sound quite nice, I've seen them being used even on streets so the 5+5 wattage is plenty enough for smaller audiences.

Edited by Bizman62
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I had a Fender Blues jr. I liked quite a bit. It only had one sound, but it did it quite well.

If you're looking for something to do slightly dirty blues, that's a good one. If you want versatility in a solid state amp though, I'd look into the line 6 stuff. 

The Champion isn't something I've ever used. I never considered Fender to be good for solid state amps.

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I've never considered solid state amps to be good for fender amps hehe.

GO TUBE.  love me some tube!

that said... honestly I think a practice amp is really only good for practice.  You will quickly outgrow it so I'd follow the good advice above: either snag some sort of pod/digitech/boss multi pedal and go straight to pa, or perhaps consider a small tube amp... because both of those devices will be small and will serve you for lots of differing needs.  IMO - tube amps - no matter the size: never get outgrown.

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On 7/15/2019 at 7:09 AM, westhemann said:

I had a Fender Blues jr. I liked quite a bit. It only had one sound, but it did it quite well.

Likewise.

SR

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Tubes can be dependent on volume to get certain sounds. Something like this is smaller and lighter, will cover more situations and music styles and is very highly regarded.

 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PCKZJOK/ref=sspa_dk_hqp_detail_aax_0?psc=1&smid=A3KO61ZGUBAZ09

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Just now, komodo said:

Tubes can be dependent on volume to get certain sounds. Something like this is smaller and lighter, will cover more situations and music styles and is very highly regarded.

 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PCKZJOK/ref=sspa_dk_hqp_detail_aax_0?psc=1&smid=A3KO61ZGUBAZ09

my buddy had one of those and a while back we did some recordings with it... i was actually going to recommend it too because bang for buck it's hard to beat.  really great sound, portable-battery operated and has an interface.  the achilles heel of it is the interface as it's "latent with latency" but w direct monitoring you can work around.  Not sure it'd be loud enough, but admittedly they are surprisingly loud for size.

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Don't get me wrong, all I've ever played out of is big tube amps and have also spent a lifetime trying to tame the firebreathers to be tolerable in a small space! Probably a good place to mention that watts and volume are not what most people think.
5 watts can rip your face off and blow the ceiling off. Even 1 watt will.

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1 minute ago, komodo said:

Don't get me wrong, all I've ever played out of is big tube amps and have also spent a lifetime trying to tame the firebreathers to be tolerable in a small space! Probably a good place to mention that watts and volume are not what most people think.
5 watts can rip your face off and blow the ceiling off. Even 1 watt will.

well... I am a tube guy myself.  yes, tube watts =/= solid state watts.  5/1 watt of tube will def be loud - but this item is solid state... perhaps a small coffee house would work but I imagine it would be at the peak of what it could work for.  it's really a 'busking' amp so should be fine but it would be drowned out by a tube champ for sure!

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