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Why do I keep killing bass amps?
February 6, 2014 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Last night, at an otherwise excellent show, my electric bass amp died. Power was on, amp was off, and would not turn on any longer. In the middle of a song. This would be fine, but: this is my third amp that's died in three years. What's up?

So: let's see. First amp was used and somewhat abused. Second amp was craigslist but in good condition. Third I bought new. They're all combo amps - a Fender, SWT, and Peavey. I only play electric bass through them (a Fender Bullet Deluxe), occasionally with distortion (Blackstone).

The common factor is me. But it's also a practice space, and so on: could it be a power problem? Should I run bass amps through surge protectors? Could my bass be killing them? Should I use a separate head/amp in the future?

These questions and more, I have no idea. But I feel bad cycling through so much gear when all I want to do is play le bass!
posted by tmcw to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total)
 
It could definitely be a power problem, since it sounds like this has always happened while playing in the same location. Is the circuit breaker tripped, or can you plug other devices into the same receptacle where this failure occurred and draw power?

Plugging into a surge protector won't hurt, but it would be a shame to spend money if you don't need it.
posted by maximum sensing at 11:39 AM on February 6


Are we talking tube amps or solid state?

It's not your bass, I think that's a safe assumption.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:42 AM on February 6


I'd lean more toward a power conditioner.
posted by rhizome at 11:51 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Do they have replaceable fuses? Many of the cheap combo amps DON'T but you may be blowing a fuse.

What are the model numbers of the amps?
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:52 AM on February 6


I'd take it to the best amp repair person I could find and have them do a post-mortem diagnosis and then ask for their recommendations.

But yeah, my educated guess would be that you need a power conditioner.
posted by The World Famous at 11:55 AM on February 6


Do they have fuses?
posted by thelonius at 12:30 PM on February 6


How high are you cranking up the amp?

It's possible your distortion pedal is doing something too.
posted by mikeand1 at 1:10 PM on February 6


Are we talking tube amps or solid state?
Solid state - most recently a peavey max 112.

I'm not really cranking them - this was at 6 or so, and I practice with it around 3-5. Almost never is it over 7. I'll check for a fuse when I get home tonight - unfortunately my area (DC) has a total lack of amp techs accessible outside of a 1-2 hour drive, and I don't own a car.
posted by tmcw at 2:15 PM on February 6


Are any of them by chance under warranty?
posted by rhizome at 2:27 PM on February 6


The Peavey is - just checked it, no sign of an accessible fuse, unfortunately. I'll call sweetwater this weekend and try to get that sorted, though a really heavy, large amp probably costs a lot to ship so it's not a great deal.
posted by tmcw at 6:09 PM on February 6


I read your question to my bass playing partner and while he was stumped, since it seems to happen not at the same location, though it sounds like a power issue, he suggested you post your question here: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/ if you have not already.
posted by mkim at 7:03 PM on February 6


unfortunately my area (DC) has a total lack of amp techs accessible outside of a 1-2 hour drive, and I don't own a car

I'm not a tech but I'm somewhat handy with electronics and could probably take a look at one of them sometime the weekend of the 15th if you like (probably not the Peavey unless you want to void your warranty). The location in my profile is accurate to within a couple blocks.

An amp like this is relatively simple, so about any sort of electronics-type person could qualify. You could also try reaching out to HacDC or the local amateur radio clubs. If you could scare up a schematic that would help considerably.
posted by exogenous at 6:52 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


I'll call sweetwater this weekend and try to get that sorted

Maybe too late, but IME warranty work is usually better handled by dealing directly with the manufacturer, not the retailer.

So you contact Peavy tech support directly. First thing they'll probably do is give you a list of repair shops in your area that are authorized Peavey warranty repair shops. They do the work, charge you nothing, and get reimbursed by Peavey.

You can locate local "Service Centers" here via the Peavey website, but keep in mind that sometimes (maybe "often") these "Service Centers" are just retailers acting as middlemen and just shipping stuff back to the factory anyway. Might be worth doing some searching and calling, though, just in case you missed an actual local repair place.

I realize without a car taking the amp somewhere semi-local is not the ideal solution, but you're right that shipping charges on a bass amp are going to be high, and according to this FAQ about Peavey factory repair under a warranty repair you'll have to pay to ship it to Peavey, and they'll pay to ship it back to you. Getting a lift from a friend is likely to be the cheapest way to go here, although fairly inconvenient.

Power was on, amp was off, and would not turn on any longer.

Yeah, blown fuse would be my first guess.

no sign of an accessible fuse, unfortunately.

Sometimes manufacturers are actually OK with the end user doing some DIY for something simple like a blown fuse that's not immediately accessible, and will let you do something like this without voiding the warranty. Worth asking Peavey if you can do this given your transportation situation, anyway, although it's probably best to get that agreement in writing via email rather than a phone conversation.

The common factor is me. But it's also a practice space, and so on: could it be a power problem?

It's still not clear to me whether your amps are all dying while you're playing them in your practice space, or if you're in different places when they croak.

If they're all dying in the practice space, then yes, you might very well have a power problem there, but surge protectors might not be of any use, and fixing that kind of power problem is the kind of thing that needs to be handled by the landlord/local electric utility company/licensed electrician.

If they're dying in different places, you may just be having a run of bad luck. Nothing you've described jumps out at me as, "Oh yeah, you're doing [foo] wrong!", it all sounds like fairly normal playing that most amps should be able to handle for years and years.
posted by soundguy99 at 11:28 AM on February 9


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