#1
I'm contemplating a new amp purchase and have a few questions that some of you guys may have run through already. I'm deciding between buying a combo amp or a head and cabinet half stack. Intuitively, the balance in this discussion would be between the simplicity of a combo vs. the potential flexibility of using an amp head in different situations. Some of my questions will be based on the fact that I'm not exactly sure what a head unit can and can't do.

Q1 - Can you plug headphones directly into a head unit and not have a cabinet hooked up to it?

Q2 - Can you plug a head unit into a combo amp and basically just use the speaker of that combo amp?

Q3 - Is there anything to be aware of if dragging just your head unit around and plugging into someone else's cabinet (or combo amp)? Any potential to damage the head unit? The friend's cabinet?

Q4 - Is the answer to all of these questions "It depends on the amp" and I should ask the nice salesman at the guitar store?

Thanks.
#2
1. You can't plug headphones into most valve amps.
2. If the speaker(s) can withstand the amount of watts the head pumps out and the impendances match.
3. Same as above - make sure the cab (or combo's speaker) can withstand the amount of watts and the impendances match
4. Don't ask the salesperson at shops because they're just looking to sell you the most expensive piece of rubbish in the shop possible and you'll walk out of the shop with a Marshall MG halfstack.

It depends on what you're using it for and how much you're spending - knowing the genre(s) you play is helpful too.
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#3
Q4 is yes. i can plug headphones into my head but some you can't. it just depends what you looking for. and if your going to be doing gigs, i would just go ahead a get a half stack, but combo amps are good also.
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#4
1) I don't think so. Turning on your head when it doesn't have something "receiving its load" is generally a bad idea.

2) Yes, but you can't use the normal input jack of the combo; you'll have to rewire it.

3) If it's a tube head, you're going to have to try to match the impedance, but it is *ok* if the impedance of the head is lower than the impedance of the cabinet.

4) It does vary from amp to amp, but these are things you should learn anyway .

Keep in mind that many combo amps have external speaker outs so you can hook up a cabinet to them.
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#5
Q1 - Can you plug headphones directly into a head unit and not have a cabinet hooked up to it?

No - running a head without speakers generally results in a dead head.

Q2 - Can you plug a head unit into a combo amp and basically just use the speaker of that combo amp?


Depends on whether the combo has a disconnectable speaker, and if the impedances match and the speaker can handle the power

Q3 - Is there anything to be aware of if dragging just your head unit around and plugging into someone else's cabinet (or combo amp)? Any potential to damage the head unit? The friend's cabinet?


As above, but substitute "cabinet" for combo

Q4 - Is the answer to all of these questions "It depends on the amp" and I should ask the nice salesman at the guitar store?


Sort of, but don't expect a salesman to be much use either!

The main deciding factor is cost....if you've got a grand or more then it's moot, but less than a grand and there's not really much worth getting as far as stacks go.
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#6
Halfstack or combo?

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#7
Q1: I don't know of any heads that have headphone jacks, except like a little 5-15 watt head (even then I think you need a cab though)
Q2: You can plug into a combo amp, but you have to match the ohms from the head and speakers being used, honestly if you don't get that, I would advise against it.
Q3: once again matching the ohms from head to cab is pretty important, you don't want to blow anything up, also make sure you are using a SPEAKER cable when running your head into a cab.
Q4: yes everything will depend on the amp, and you probably should ask the salesman. Research the hell outta this and make sure don't blow anything up lol.

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Last edited by New_Crisis at May 29, 2008,
#8
Whats your transportation situation like? If you don't have a lot of room in your car, a halfstack is a major pain. until this year for the past 7 years I've run various stacks. Packing for shows was always like playing tetris.

And listen to everyone...do your homework. What do you play friend?
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#9
Many good answers so far, just wanted to clarify a few things.

You can't use headphones with any tube amp (with the exception of one amp, I think it's a Peavey Royal 8 (5 watt)?) that I know of. You can use headphones with solid state amps, but I don't know if SS amp heads have headphone outputs (some do, some don't I guess). You definitely can't plug headphones where the cabinets would normally go, unless your headphones can handle the wattage and the impedances match (which I doubt).

If you're gonna use a head with a combo's speakers, it depends somewhat on the combo. Some combos have wires from the speakers going to the back of the combo, so you can unplug them and use other speakers (or a head). Some don't, and in these cases you'd have to rewire the speakers so you could use them with the head - not very handy.

You can use your head with any cabinet as long as the wattage and impedances match. I think one step (like 4 vs. 8 or 8 vs. 16) is "ok", don't remember which way, up or down, but only one way (it doesn't work the other way and you risk frying either the head or the cab or maybe both). In general it's a good idea to only use a cab and a head with matching impedances.

All of these points work at least with tube amps (where not mentioned), I'm not too sure about solid state amps, because frankly, most solid state amp heads are pretty bad (there are exceptions tho, but stuff like MG's, Spiders or Flexwaves are pretty bad).
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#10
Great feedback. Thanks.

To answer some of the questions directed back at me:

I typically play rock or blues.

I won't be doing a tremendous amount of travelling with my amp, but I do have a couple of places where I may infrequently want to cart it along with me.

I have a friend who has (surprisingly) built out a mini-recording studio over his garage and that might be one destination where I would consider bringing over the head unit to plug into one of his cabinets.

I also plan on being realistic from a power perspective and get something appropriate for the likely basement-type setup. For example, the Blackheart Handsome Devil (switchable between 7w/15w) is something that I've been considering. Besides, the wife would kill me if I showed up at the house with an ear bleeding 100watt setup.
#11
Methinks you should get an Orange Tiny Terror .
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#12
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