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Cabinet Size: Is Bigger Better?

Q: I have a question regarding the cabinet sizes. I see a lot of players lugging around some real beasts. I tend to use my DI for most medium to larger gigs and sometimes just go through the PA. I can’t see a need for a monster rig and wonder why so many bassist are breaking their backs lugging around 810 monster cabs. What’s your take?

A: You’ve hit on an interesting point! I know that when I first started gigging, I wanted the biggest sound I could find, and I was that guy lugging around an 810 cab.

Not for long though.

I soon realized that you can get an enormous sound out of a well built 410 cab or, my current preference, 2-112 cabs, stacked.

It’s true, most larger venues will have a decent PA and monitors. In a large hall, you really only want as much stage volume as you need for your own monitoring of your sound. However, keep in mind that there are often not enough monitor mixes to go around. and the bass player seems the first to get the shaft when there aren’t enough mixes. I often find that I can’t even get a monitor wedge, let alone my own mix, if the band is too large. So, you want to be able to cover your volume needs on the stage and let the house guy cover the house sound.

These days, there are also a lot of builders building really great sounding and light weight rigs. Most guys I know that still use big rigs use them for show or for sound. Tube amps are still preferred by many, and they will always be heavy. Rock and metal bands feel rockier with a nice fat rig on stage.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of the light weight revolution. That said, if I have roadies on a tour? I’ll probably opt for a nice tube amp simply for the overhead (power) and warmth. I must say that it is nice when you can really feel the bass behind you on stage. But lately, I’ve been using light weight gear.

Certainly as I get a little older, my back appreciates the relief and I’ve found experimented enough to find solutions that are easier to manage and still deliver the sound I’m after. I usually encourage my students to get a nice small to medium sized rig which can cover most local live scenarios, because it’ll be easier on them for 90% of their gigs and they can always get a little help from the PA and a monitor wedge any louder venues.

Ultimately, my advice is to consider your gigging needs. If you exclusively play in a death metal band, you probably want at least a 410 and a 500 watt or higher power amp. If you’re playing a lot of casuals, restaurants and the occasional loud bar, consider something in between raging amp and practice amp… something you can lift but something that you can also hear.

I play in most every sized venue there is, so I’ve got an assortment. I have two different power amps, 3 different 112 cabs that I can use standalone or chained together and a 410 cab. I like to have the right rig for the gig, but I also do it for a living and can often gig with up to three or four different bands in any given week.