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Guitars & Accessories

Best Bass Guitar Amp

A bass guitar amp is a crucial part of any bassist’s rig. While a quick glance might mislead newbies into thinking this critical piece of gear is similar to models used by electric guitarists, bass amp rigs are an entirely different animal. Because the frequencies that a bass guitar provides are much heavier on the low-end of the sound spectrum, bass amplifiers are properly configured to process those sounds and give a final result that can shake the room but also provides clarity and distinction when playing – and adjusting the EQ – of the instrument. There are many things to consider before purchasing a bass guitar amp, and we’ve outlined them for you in our buyer’s guide below.

AER Bass Cube 2 Bass Amp

AER Bass Cube 2 Bass Amp

AER’s BassCube 2 acoustic bass amp is versatile and powerful enough to capture the intricate sounds of the double bass, and amplify them for the entire room to hear. You’re getting two channels here, which means that you can plug multiple instruments into the amp. Each channel comes equipped with its own settings/EQ, along with compressor and notch filter. The two way acoustic system in the BassCube is designed to pick up on all the subtleties that make the acoustic bass so unique, whether you’re playing with a bow or have your fingers on the fretboard, all of your playing and performance will be translated through this amplifier. Acoustic bass guitars will sound good through this amp and definitely what was in AER’s mind when this product was created.

SWR California Blonde II Guitar Amplifier

SWR California Blonde II Guitar Amplifier

SWR has been manufacturing amplifiers made specifically with bassists in mind since the 1980's, and their update on the California Blonde acoustic bass amplifier continues their line of products in a way that won’t have the company losing fans any time soon. Offering two channels and 200 watts of power, this amp also features a preamp with a built-in Aural Enhancer; this feature makes every note sound clear and distinct with overtones that exude a natural grace. The amp also features tone controls that allow you to perfect your tone; three band active EQ is present, along with a built-in reverb to give your sound some cool space and breadth.

Crate Durango Acoustic Bass Amplifier CA120DG

When was the last time that you saw an acoustic bass amplifier with built-in effects? Enter the Crate Acoustic CA120D. This amp offers built-in delay, reverb, and chorus effects that can add an interesting dimension to the traditional acoustic bass sound. The amp pumps out 120W of power through a special-design 12 inch speaker. Featuring two stacked channels that have both XLR and 1/4 inch input jacks, this amp is something of a Swiss Army knife amongst its contemporaries. A feedback elimination circuit casts a 20Hz wide, 15dB notch automatically when activated via footswitch.

Acoustic AB50 Acoustic Bass Amp

Acoustic AB50 Acoustic Bass Amp

Acoustic’s AB50 acoustic bass amplifier is a 1x10 build that offers pristine, natural-sounding amplification designed specifically for the instrument. Two inputs allow multiple instruments to be plugged in and controlled with their own parameter controls. Additionally, one can also plug in an acoustic bass guitar and microphone, too. A 1/8 inch headphone jack and 1/8 inch MP3 input also allow players to run music from their phone, computer, or other devices so that they can play along. A line out also allows you to send your signal directly to the PA.

Euphonic Audio The Micro Acoustic Bass Amp

Euphonic Audio The Micro Acoustic Bass Amp

The Euphonic Audio The Micro bass amplifier head comes configured with two independent channels: a Mid EQ set at 500Hz for electric bass, and a Mid EQ set at 800Hz for upright/acoustic bass. Intelligent input switching allows players to select different settings for individual channels or both of the channels. The unit itself is small and lightweight at just over two pounds but offers a power output of 550 watts. The amp’s EQ offers low, mid, and high faders for each channel, along with a variable high pass filter. The unit also features an effects loop with blend control and a wide range of setups available via the amp’s internal jumpers.

Acoustic B115mkII Bass Speaker Amp Cabinet

The Acoustic B115mkII bass amp cabinet offers a new design that is priced to appeal to those who are shopping with a budget in mind. A customized 15 inch speaker is paired with a high-frequency driver that produces impressive lows and bright-sounding highs. Weighing in at 77 pounds, this cab pumps out 450 watts of power, giving you more than enough to deliver the sounds of your bass guitar during live performances or rehearsals. A parallel speaker jack also gives players the ability to daisy-chain cabinets together.

Peavey Headliner 210 Bass Cabinet, 800 Watts (8 Ohms)

The Peavey Headliner 210 offers a tight and punchy bass sound that favors strong low frequencies. Two 10 inch custom ferrite-magnet woofers help to aid in this cause, while also bringing a good deal of midrange clarity to the equation. Most bassists are going to be using a bass amp cabinet on the road, and the Headliner 210 is built with those concerns in mind. The durable construction features a braced cabinet and steel corners, meaning that this thing is quite tank-like in its stature. A 16 gauge perforated metal grille and black carpet covering also will put you at ease when it comes to handling the challenges of the road. And heavy-duty recessed handles make transporting this cabinet easy to do.

Fender Rumble 1x15 Cabinet v3 Bass Amplifier Cabinet

Get ready to feel the rumble with Fender’s Rumble 115 bass amp cabinet. This 1x15 inch enclosure provides the classic Fender sound that has earned the company a soft spot in the hearts of bassists all over the world. The Rumble features an Eminence speaker and a premium high-end compression horn. A Magnetic Rumble amp head attachment system makes pairing the cabinet with its respective heads easy and stress-free. Both the casters and grille on the Rumble 115 are removable, making it easy to maneuver and work with.

Ampeg SVT-210AV Micro Classic Bass Cabinet

Let’s settle the debate here once and for all and that is size doesn’t matter. Need proof? Look no further than Ampeg’s SVT210AV bass amp cabinet. Weighing in at just 26 lbs and standing no taller than 24 inch, this thing is quite pint-sized, but there’s nothing weak about its tone. Two 10 inch Eminence speakers pump out 200 watts of power and a classic SVT tone that is clear and accurate. This amp cabinet is ideal for performing in places where you don’t want the bass to be too overpowering, or when recording and looking to avoid bleed-through from the pervasive sounds of the bass guitar.

Ashdown RM-210T Bass Amp Cabinet

Ashdown’s RM-210T bass amp cabinet expertly captures the type of punchy low-end that bassists are constantly searching for. With two 10 inch speakers and a high-frequency tweeter, you’re getting the best in both the low and high frequencies of your sound. A retro vinyl covering gives the RM-210T a vintage look that doesn’t necessarily fall in line with its affordable price tag. Protective corners also ensure that you won’t suffer any aggravating damage to the gear when you’re on the road. The rubber feet on the cabinet also help to reduce instances of vibration while you're performing.

Mesa/Boogie Subway D-800 Bass Amp Head

Mesa/Boogie Subway D-800 Bass Amp Head

The Mesa/Boogie Subway D-800 is a bass amplifier head that packs a whole lot of power and tone control into its compact frame. A four band EQ gives you hands-on control over the timbre of your signal, while a variable voicing control lets you preset the EQ curve anywhere from flat to a vintage-scoop. Pre/post EQ also provides greater ways to dial in your ideal tone. It also comes with a headphone out so you can practice via headphones wherever you may be. Weighing in at only five and a half pounds, this head is very easy to travel with and comes with a gig bag to make transporting and protecting your gear even easier.

Aguilar Tone Hammer 500 Amp Head & DB212 Speaker Cabinet

The Aguilar Tone Hammer 500 bass amp head packs 500 watts of power into a portable piece of gear. Use the three band semi-parametric EQ and drive control to get hands-on with your bass guitar’s tone. The unit also includes an effects loop and DI that makes it great for performing or recording. Because of its small size, the Tone Hammer 500 is ideal for the bassist on the go. The quarter inch jack is also compatible with all active and passive bass guitars.

TC Electronic BH800 800-Watt Bass Amp Head

TC Electronic’s solid state BH800 bass amp head offers many of the sonic amenities that players have come to expect from the company. Bringing in 800 watts of massive bass tone, this package surprisingly weighs only 6.6 lbs. Aside from the typical EQ knobs that one expects from a bass amp head, the BH800 also brings the company’s TonePrint technology into the mix, offering a slew of bass effects. Pepper your sound with compression, drive, octave, chorus, and flanging effects. The BH800 also has a built-in tuner, allowing you to stay in tune at all times.

Peavey MINIMEGA1000 MiniMEGA 1000W Lightweight Bass Head Amplifier

One of the main components that sets Peavey’s MiniMEGA bass amp head apart from the rest of its peers is its proprietary KOSMOS enhancement. This technology offers increased bass impact while taking extra care to not overburden the speakers that the signal drives through. Additionally, the MiniMEGA also features a four band EQ with semi-parametric mids and a built-in compressor, giving players all they need to sculpt their own tonal identity. Also featured on this unit is an effects loop, a gain control, and MIDI control, giving players plenty to work with in finding the tone that they like. This bass amp head is great for both the studio and the stage.

Ampeg PF800 Portaflex 800W Class D Bass Head Amplifier

Ampeg’s PF-800 bass amp head provides the classic Portaflex tone in a compact piece of gear that is easy to transport. Pumping out 800 watts of power, the unit also features tone controls including a three band EQ. This EQ also features a five position mid control to really help players dial in their sound. An onboard compressor further helps to shape tone, alongside high/low boosts. When paired with Portaflex cabinets, the PF-800 can also be stealthily stowed away inside the unit.

Roland CUBE-20XL Bass 20-Watt Bass Combo Amp

The Roland Cube-20XL Bass combo amp is small, but that doesn’t mean that it should be underestimated. Cranking out 20 watts of power through a single eight inch speaker, the Cube features many tone-tweaking options for bassists looking to get creative with their sound. Six COSM bass amp models assist in this initiative, giving players the option to switch between settings like SUPER FLAT, FLIP TOP, B MAN, BASS360, SESSION, and CONCERT 810. Meanwhile, seven onboard effects give players the ability to dial in chorus, delay, reverb, and more. Beyond these special features, this combo amp also features a single-knob compression and drive as well as a three band EQ.

Peavey Vypyr VIP 1 - 20 Watt Modeling Instrument Amplifier

You’re getting a lot more than appearances may indicate when you plug into Peavey’s Vypyr VIP 1 combo amp. Yes, this digital modeling amp provides six bass amp models, all of which can be tweaked and saved in user presets. But this thing also offers 20 effects that can be easily controlled and manipulated via clearly displayed parameter knobs. Pull up effects like compression, chorus, flanger, octaver, reverb, tap tempo delay, and more. The VIP 1 is also works with acoustic and electric guitars, making this a real secret weapon for the musician who’s looking for an all-in-one package.

Fender Rumble 40 v3 Bass Combo Amplifier

Fender’s Rumble 40 bass combo amp offers up 40 watts of power through one 10 inch speaker and plenty of tone controls to help bassists really dial in the sound that they’re looking for. A four band EQ helps in this endeavor, while the three button voicing palette helps to craft your tone as well; players have the option to hop between Bright, Contour, or Vintage. The amp’s built-in overdrive helps to give your sound that extra bite, this feature can be triggered via an optional footswitch. The Rumble 40’s aux input also allows you to plug in your computer, MP3 player, mobile device, and more in so that you can practice along with backing tracks.

Orange Amplifiers Orange Amplifiers CR50BXT CRUSH 50-Watt Bass Amp

The Orange Crush Pix CR50BXT is an ideal practice combo amp for any bassist looking to harness the powerful Orange tone. A tone-shaping three band EQ gives players hands-on control over the frequency of their signal. A 1/4 inch headphone out allows players to practice in silence no matter where they are. Meanwhile, a 1/8 inch line input opens up the doors to playing along with audio coming from your computer, mobile device, and more. Like any Orange product, the Crush Pix has a distinctive look that's only enhanced by its durable wood cabinet built to protect this thing from any normal wear-and-tear that amps are known to incur.

Hartke HD25 Bass Combo Amp

If you’re a bassist looking to practice at home or play in small, intimate performance environments, Hartke’s HD25 is definitely worth checking out. With an 8 inch speaker that pumps out 25 watts of power, this unit also features a built-in limiter that allows your volume to be kept under control. A HyDrive-design speaker uses paper around the outside to bring about a warm and round sound; however, the aluminum middle offers up some serious punch. There's also a 1/4 inch mono headphone output, so this pick ideal for players who want to practice without disturbing neighbors. Meanwhile, the 1/8 inch stereo aux input gives them the ability to practice along with audio signal routed from their computer, smartphone, and more.

TC Electronic BG250-208 Bass Combo Amplifier

TC Electronic’s BG250-208 secret weapon is the use of the company’s proprietary TonePrint technology. This bass combo amp allows players to wirelessly add new effects within a matter of minutes via smartphone. Many of the TonePrints have been designed by some of the world’s best bassists, including Mark King, Duff McKagan, Richard Bona, and more. There are several effect types are built into this unit including chorus, flanger, vibrato octaver, and more. You’re basically getting the equivalent of a box of crayons to color with when you plug into this bass combo amp. The unit also comes with a built-in tuner for four, five, and six string basses, so you never have to worry about the intonation of your instrument while playing.

Ampeg BassAmp Series BA-210 450W Range Combo Amp

The Ampeg BA-210 bass combo amp gives players that classic Ampeg sound in a 450-watt, dual 10 inch speaker configuration. This unit comes equipped with a three band EQ that provides ultra-high/low tone shaping and a HF mute, giving you plenty of options to play with in sculpting your sound. A Bass Scrambler overdrive circuit can really crank the tone and give it that extra bite that is sometimes needed for more aggressive styles. The BA-210’s newly designed wedge cabinet can also be used as a floor monitor, making it ideal for gigging. The amp also has an effects send/return so that you can loop in external effects into your rig.

Gallien-Krueger MB150S-112 MicroBass Combo Amp

Gallien Kruger’s MB 112 bass combo amp relies on a digital power amp to make this unit light weight and ultra-efficient for the gigging bassist. This unit looks and sounds like it should be a total beast, but it weighs only 28 pounds. Pumping out 200 watts of power, this amp can also be connected to an MPB-powered enclosure for gigs that require greater volume. A four band active EQ allows you to play with your tone and reach the sound that you’re seeking with ease. The MB 112 comes with an XLR direct out, so you can shoot your signal straight into the board.

Hartke A100 Bass Combo Amp

Hartke’s A100 bass combo amp provides a powerful sound that is versatile and ideal for the bassist looking for a rig to practice and record with. With 100 watts of output power, amp features a 15 inch aluminum bass speaker that sits inside a specially designed cabinet which can be set up in a typical flat floor position or put into a special “kickback” position that boosts high-end clarity. Controls for bass, treble, and a seven band graphic EQ puts the power to sculpt your bass tone directly at your hands. The amp is built with rugged construction that makes it ideal for those who are going to be loading it in and out of their vehicle. The A100 also features a headphone output so you can practice into the wee hours of the night without disturbing your neighbors.

Behringer Ultrabass BXL 3000A

The Behringer Ultrabass BXL 3000A bass combo amp gives bassists a full range of sounds to play with. Whether you want a clean tone or more distorted sound, you’ll find a channel dedicated to each when you run through this 300 watt machine. A seven band graphic EQ gives you the ability to tweak your tone, while a switchable Ultrabass subharmonics processor really cranks up the low-end of your signal. The amp’s Musical limiter ensures that you never drift into the dangerous clipping-zone. Meanwhile, the amp’s integrated compressor also helps to keep your volume in check.

Mesa/Boogie Bass Strategy 8:88 Bass Amp head

Mesa/Boogie Bass Strategy 8:88 Bass Amp head

Where to start when it comes to the Mesa/Boogie Bass Strategy 8:88 amp head? For one, it has a wide range of wattage depending on where you’re playing it; 465 watts, 250 watts, or a slight 125 watts, all of which suit huge arenas, smaller clubs, or compact recording studios, respectively. Eight KT88 tubes power this amp, providing a loud and warm sounding tone that cannot be mimicked by any other type of configuration. True to its name, this amp head gives plenty of strategies for getting your sound exactly how you want it. You can choose between a nine band graphic EQ, gain control, active bass, passive mids, active treble, a five position active mid-voicing switch, and a master volume.

Aguilar DB 751 Bass Amp Head

Basing its design after their legendary DB 750’s tube-driven sound, Aguilar’s DB 751 bass amp head is a great addition for any bassist who wants to really get serious about the way that their rig sounds. Pumping out 975 watts at 2 Ohms and 750 at 4 Ohms, this amp head provides you with what you need to play in venues of all sizes. The preamp section of this unit is powered by three 12AX7 tubes, given a warm and rich sound that's instantly noticeable in your tone. The DB 751 also comes with a ten year limited warranty, so you never have to worry about any damage that may affect what very well may become the most crucial component of your rig.

Orange AD200B MK 3 200-Watt Bass Head Orange

We all know that people have a propensity to be all about that bass, but when it comes to Orange’s AD2000B Mk 3 bass amp head, things are really all about that tube, the multitude of tubes contained within the unit that is. Powered by four 6550 output tubes, this head is capable of cranking up to 200 watts of power. A pair of ECC83/12AX7 preamp tubes work in conjunction with a single ECC81/12AT7 tube allows you to dial in just the right amount of gain to add some dirt to your playing. A 3-band EQ, on the other hand, allows you to refine your tone.

Ashdown CTM-300 Bass Amp Head

Ashdown CTM-300 Bass Amp Head

Six KT-88 power tubes are the driving force behind the Ashdown CTM-300 bass amp head. These components provide a superb amount of punch and power. A dual-function front panel VU meter gives you a clear visual representation of the sound coming out of the unit. Dual inputs allow for use with both active and passive bass guitars. The amp’s tube-driven effects loop makes it easy to maintain your original sound while adding new flavors into the mix. There are standard EQ settings to help your craft your sound, but the amp head also features deep, mid-shift, and bright switches to add a further degree of control over your tone.

Ampeg Heritage SVT-CL 2011 Bass Amplifier Head

Is too much tube an actual thing? Not if you ask Ampeg’s Heritage SVT-CL bass amp head. This unit owes much of its powerful, versatile sound to the glass that lives inside of it. Two JJ 12AX7 preamp tubes, a pair of JJ 12AU7 drivers, six Winged C 6550 power tubes, and a single JJ 12AX7 driver all work in conjunction to make the wonderful sounds that are bestowed upon your ears a reality. A five position midrange selector allows players to further craft their tone. The look of the Heritage also plays a part in the entire experience which includes flourishes like the black sparkle grille cloth, blackline faceplate, and soft Tolex which all give this unit a professional, nearly-luxurious appeal.

Ampeg Micro-VR 200W Bass Amp Head

Bassists too often become attached to the stellar sounds of bass amplifiers that are usually only able to be conjured when playing at loud volumes. This works well for performances and rehearsals, but what about when things need to be kept under wraps, whether at home or in smaller venues or spaces? Enter the Ampeg SVT Micro VR bass amp head. Weighing just 10 pounds, this lightweight solid state unit offers up 200 watts of power, working with a MOSFET power amp to give that type of crunch and punch that bassists look to Ampeg for. They can also still maintain great control over their tone, using the three band EQ and Ultra mid control.

TC Electronic BH250 250 Watt Bass Head

The TC Electronic BH250 bass amp head is sort of unassuming when you consider its size versus what it actually brings to the table. The unit weighs only four pounds, but the weight of sounds itprovides far exceeds its physical limit. The company’s trademark TonePrint technology is in full effect here, giving players a slew of bass effects and tones. Many of these loadable presets have been crafted by notable bassists such as Michael Shuman (Queens of the Stone Age), Charles Cave (White Lies), Nathan East (Eric Clapton), and more. With an onboard tuner and three band EQ control, there really isn’t much else that one needs in a bass amp head, especially one that is available to take home at such an affordable price.

Fender Rumble 200 Head v3 Bass Amplifier Head

The Fender Rumble 200 bass amp head offers up 200 watts, which is a feat in and of itself coming from a unit that weighs less than five pounds. The head’s four band EQ gives you just what you need to dial into the sweet spot of your frequency range, but things get kicked up a notch further with the three button voicing palette. Using this modern feature, players can opt for a bright setting which adds more treble to the mix, contour for boosting the low-end, and vintage to deliver deep lows and classic character. The unit’s patented magnetic Rumbe Head Attachment System keeps the head locked firmly in place when you pair it with a cabinet. An optional foot switch also gives you the ability to activate the Rumble 200’s built-in overdrive.

Hartke 2500 Bass Amplifier Head

The Hartke HA 2500 bass amp head provides notable clarity and punch to your bass rig. 250 watts of power are driven to a four ohm speaker system (alternately 180 watts can be sent to an eight ohm system). Front-parallel compression and graphic EQ gives you the ability to really dial in the sounds that work best for you. The unit also offers active and passive inputs. An adjustable compressor allows you to keep a handle on the volume peaks that come through this amp head. And though this unit is solid state, the tube emulation in its circuitry certainly makes a notable difference in how this amp sounds and performs.

Ampeg Portaflex PF350 Bass Amplifier Head

The Ampeg PF-350 bass amp head allows bassists to take classic Ampeg tone with them wherever they go, thanks to the unit’s super compact size. Weighing in at just eight pounds, the PF-350 provides 350 watts of power that is both deep and warm. That tone can be further manipulated via tone controls, an onboard limiter, and an FX loop. The built-in DI in the PF-350 also allows you to plug directly into a mixer or recorder, ensuring that your tone isn’t lost whatsoever when performing or recording. A 1/8 inch line in and headphone jacks allow you to send in external audio signal to practice with and the ability to rehearse in silence.

Aguilar SL 112 Bass Amplifier Cabinet

Star bassists such as John Patitucci (Chick Corea), Paul Turner (Jamiroquai), and Adam Clayton (U2) have all relied on Aguilar to help drive their sound to the next level, and now the rest of us can achieve this awesome sound in a compact package. The SL 112 is an amp cabinet that weighs just 25 pounds which makes it easy to transport, unlike some of its other contemporaries. Offering up 250 watts of power, this is an ideal component for small venues. The SL 112 comes with a deluxe strap handle and rubber feet, which further add to the product’s user-friendly stature. Plus it’s covered under Aguilar’s three-year limited warranty, so you can rest assured that your purchase is secure.

Ampeg SVT-210AV Micro Classic Bass Cabinet

Let’s settle the debate here once and for all and that is size doesn’t matter. Need proof? Look no further than Ampeg’s SVT210AV bass amp cabinet. Weighing in at just 26 lbs and standing no taller than 24 inch, this thing is quite pint-sized, but there’s nothing weak about its tone. Two 10 inch Eminence speakers pump out 200 watts of power and a classic SVT tone that is clear and accurate. This amp cabinet is ideal for performing in places where you don’t want the bass to be too overpowering, or when recording and looking to avoid bleed-through from the pervasive sounds of the bass guitar.

TC Electronic RS 210 Bass Cabinet

The TC Electronic RS210 bass amp cabinet is portable and lightweight, yet still packs the punch necessary to carry great bass tone. Two custom 10 inch Eminence speaker do the heavy lifting here, pumping out 400 watts of power that are enhanced by a titanium-diaphragm tweeter. But that’s about all the heavy lifting that one can associate with the RS210, as it only weighs a mere 38 pounds. The unit is very durable as well, thanks to its 18mm plywood construction. There’s nothing more troublesome than having amp heads slide around from the vibrations that cabinets are bound to produce, so the RS210 works around this by employing an anti-skid top surface.

Fender Rumble 4x10 Cabinet v3 Bass Amplifier Cabinet

Fender’s Rumble 410 bass amp cabinet has been tweaked from previous versions to bring forth extreme tonal detail and properly convey the low-end frequencies that make bass guitar performance sound impeccable. Four 10 inch Eminence speakers drive out the punchy and powerful signal at 500 watts of power. The Rumble’s high-end compression horn offers players the ability to add extra top-end when necessary. Like all of the Rumble series, the 410 offers a magnetic head-attachment system to ensure that the cabinet provides a sturdy and reliable home for whatever gear it gets paired with. And the unit’s recessed handles and pop-out casters make this cabinet easy to move around as well.

Mesa/Boogie Subway Ultra-Lite Bass Amp Cabinet

Mesa/Boogie Subway Ultra-Lite Bass Amp Cabinet

Mesa/Boogie’s Subway Ultra-Lite bass amp cabinet provides both portability and tonal excellence for bassists looking to make noise in a big way. The cab’s Aviation style bracing and tuned front ported tri-port porting provide advanced strength while also reducing the weight of the actual gear. Recessed, flip-out metal handles make this cabinet easy to move around, not to mention it's a lightweight unit at just 33 pounds which is not that much when you consider some of the other options that are out there. A single 12 inch speaker provides 400 watts of power while the included slip cover ensures this unit will stay clean and protected when it's not in use.

Buyer's Guide

 

Bass Guitar Amp Buyer's Guide

Bass guitar amps are available in multiple configurations, and luckily there aren’t really any “bad” options available on the market. What’s most important is for bassists to determine how and where they’ll be using their rig, as well as what type of sound they’re aiming for. It’s critical you consider not just where and how you’ll be using your gear, but where you may be using it in the nearby future. These decisions are largely dictated by where a bassist is at in their career; a novice playing in their garage won’t have the same needs as the musician playing in theaters and arenas. Once you’ve narrowed your parameters down, you’ll be able to use the following information effectively to make an educated purchasing decision.

Solid State vs. Tube

The first major decision to make when considering a bass amplifier is whether you want a tube amp or a solid state amp.

Tube
Tube amps are a bit pricier and are obviously more fragile but many bassists prefer them for their warmer sound. A bass signal sent in “hot” (or overdriven) through a tube bass amp can also result in a slightly distorted tone, which gives a particular character to the sound.

Solid State
Solid state amplifiers are much more durable and come at a lower cost. Unfortunately, the distorted sound of an overdriven signal is not quite as good with a solid state amp; in fact, it’s a tone most bassists actively avoid.

Bass Amp Heads, Cabinets, and Hybrids

Bass rigs are typically divided into the head and the cabinet.

Heads
The head handles all of the electronic components of the amplifier, including the preamp and the power amp. In many cases, a single bass amp head contains both of these features but they can sometimes operate as separate units bassists must connect together in their setup. The pre-amp plays a crucial role in shaping your bass tone by processing and EQing the signal as its first routed into the rig and then processed through the power amp to make the processed signal even louder.

Cabinets
These are the speakers through which the sound is actually pumped out. The speaker sits inside the cabinet and is covered with a protective grill. There are a wide variety of cabinet sizes which determines how much incoming power they can handle; you’ll want to be sure that your amp head is the proper fit for the cabinet you use.

Hybrid Setups
With hybrids, the cabinet and head are combined into one single unit. These are usually a bit cheaper than going with a head + cabinet combination, and the sound quality is generally comparable. Because they’re all built into one unit, these units are usually easier to transport.

Other Bass Amp Features

Direct Output
Located on the back panel of the amp, direct output enables bassists to send their signal straight into a mixing board. This is ideal for recording situations or for when the sound has to be crafted specifically for certain scenarios, as the direct output also often has parameter controls for EQ switching and level control.

Many bass amps also come equipped with a built-in tuner, which can be a great asset for bassists who play on stage frequently. Using this feature, a bassist can switch their rig to silent so they can tune their instrument in between songs.

Tone Control
Just like guitar amplifiers, bass amps also offer tone control which allows players to tweak the frequency range of their signal to achieve the desired effect. This can include nuanced parametric EQ options, as well as options to make changes to the shape and contour of the bass tones.

Amplifier Power
Put simply, an amplifier’s power quantifies how loud the unit makes the signal of the instrument going into it. Just how much power you need in a bass amp is incumbent on what you will be primarily using the amplifier for. If you’re going to be practicing in relatively quiet and small environments, a 60-watt amp will suffice.

Because the lower frequencies of the bass require greater power in order to be audible, playing in louder environments (see: live shows) will require more power; a 200-watt amp would be a better pick for this scenario. If you’re going to be playing in both types of environments, remember that you can always turn a louder amp down, but you can’t push a smaller amp past its limit!

Number of Channels
Because bass amplifiers focus so acutely on properly processing and replicating the low frequencies of the bass guitar, they often will employ multiple channels in order to accomplish this task. By having dual channels built into the amplifier, players can apply different EQ settings to each in an effort to more meticulously craft the sound of the instrument.

Additionally, having multiple gain controls per channel also can be a great asset in finding the right amount of drive/distortion and regular clean signal. Both combo amps and head + cabinet configurations offer dual channel setups.

Portability

Bass amplifiers tend to be heavier than their regular electric guitar counterparts. If you plan on moving the amplifier around at all (whether you’re gigging regularly or taking it to rehearsal spaces), it helps to have a unit that is equipped with a sturdy handle. Wheels can also be a great help in rolling the amplifier around as necessary. Since it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever get an amplifier that doesn’t need to move at all for the entire time you own it, you definitely want to look for these features when making your purchase.

Construction

If you do intend on moving the amplifier around at all, you’ll also want to be sure that the unit is properly protected from any standard wear-and-tear. To that end, purchasing an amp that has corner protectors will prevent any incidental scratches, dents, or other various damages. Your amplifier will be handling very low frequencies transmitted from your bass guitar, so getting an amp that is made from thick wood is also a necessity, as this build is better designed to handle the vibrations.

Sean Kramer
I'm a guitarist/music producer with 18 years of experience playing on-stage, in the studio, and everywhere in between. I have toured and recorded on projects both independent and major, in styles such as rock, pop, funk, hip hop, electronic, and more. My axe of choice is probably always going to be the Fender Stratocaster, but I've been known to pick up other guitars when the music calls for it. I'm a big fan of using a multitude of effects (both hardware and software-driven) to manipulate the sound and atmosphere of an instrument. In addition to playing on records, I have also contributed to the score/soundtrack for shows and spots on MTV and ESPN, as well as for a variety of independent films, web series, and television shows.
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