Bass Guitar Amplifier Buying Guide

New bass amp guide!

[NEW!] Discover this great bass amp guide from Audiofanzine : Combo, stack, how to choose, what good preamp exist, all about tube amps. Everything is here!

Perhaps you just purchased a new electric or acoustic-electric bass guitar, and you're looking to pair it with a serious kick ass bass amp, or maybe you've been playing through the same tubes for years and are looking to mix it up with a new solid state model. Whatever your needs are, the folks at have put together a bass guitar amplifier buying guide to help you out. There are lots of considerations, though, so sit back, hang tight, and let us walk you through some of the most important considerations when shopping for what can be a somewhat expensive piece of music equipment.

As we mentioned earlier, there are numerous things to consider when plunking down your hard earned cash on a new bass amp. First off, you should consider the venue – how often and in what type of environment are you looking to use your new bass amp? Next, you probably need to understand how much power you're going to need, which will translate into decisions related to whether you should go for a combo amp, or head and cabinet and also how large you want your speaker cones to be. Once you understand the size and scope of what you’re looking for, the next thing to probably consider is whether you want to go with a solid state amp or a tube amp, and whether or how much onboard effects and modeling are going to play in. Once all of these things have been considered, and you have determined a price point that you're willing to shop in, then (and only then) you can say you're done your due diligence and are ready to buy. So let's start off in the order we mentioned above. Let's talk about venue.

Types of bass amps

When we talk about the type of bass amp you're looking for, we're primarily interested in whether you're looking for a combo amp, or a head / stack type of arrangement. Most often, this will have to do with how much power you need, which ultimately translates into what type of environment or venue you need the amp for primarily. If you are looking for something that can be used in your bedroom and perhaps with your garage band, you are definitely going to want to look at a combo rig, however, if you think there is a chance you may gig out, or you are a relatively experienced musician that plays live venues frequently, then obviously a head/stack is what you are looking for. Combo amps are just what they sound like – the amplifier and the speaker cabinet are built into the same unit. Sometimes combos can come with multiple speakers (such as two twelve inch cones), but often it is just an amp and a single speaker configuration. Don't knock them for their size, though! Some combo's can play as close to or nearly as loud as some head and stack configurations so it's not always an easy decision. If you are looking to play larger venues more frequently, such as a hall, club, or even outdoors, you really don't have a choice but to go with something that has a lot more power and projection. This is where the head/stack will come into play. Most bass amp heads are rated at around 100 watts or more, which is a good place to start when driving multiple speakers in a cabinet enclosure. Once you have determined whether a combo or head is best for you, then you need to start thinking about the number and size of your speakers.

Bass Amp Speakers

Let the controversy begin! Some bass players argue that a 4x10 cabinet will sound tighter than a 4x12 or 2 fifteens any day of the week. A lot of what is coming out of those speakers, however, depends on how much power you are driving through them and the distance those bass frequencies have to travel before pounding someones ears (or body!). Regardless, speaker size is largely a matter of personal taste. Many bass players do opt for a 4x10 cab. This size cab can drive a decent room, is a common can size, and is always stackable so sometimes it is a better choice. Bass waves generated by 10 inch speakers can seem a little tighter in a smaller venue. Similarly, getting down to some really low frequencies may require larger cones, but the design and qualities of the cabinet come into play in a big way also. A cabinet that is sealed and not ported will have a tighter sound, regardless of the type of speaker mounted inside. Essentially you need to do your research and determine above all, what type of music will you be playing the most, do you need a tight articulate tone or are you looking for something that will bitch slap your audience? The important thing, though, is that size does matter, but it's not the only factor, so make sure you have considered all the angles before deciding.

Do you tube? Or are you the solid type?

As with every other consideration, you will eventually need to determine whether you are going with a solid state bass amp rig, or tube driven bass rig. The two primary factors that come into play here are cost and tonal quality. Solid state bass amplifiers can provide plenty of power for very affordable prices and are normally the best bet for most folks. The major difference is in the warmth of the tone, and how the amp will sound when driven past it’s limits. If you’ve got the money to spend, however, or are into a real vintage tone, then you’re definitely going to want to consider a tube driven bass amp. As with any other decision, the choice is very personal. For most beginners we’d recommend a good solid state combo amp, but if you've got the cash and are a little more experienced (are you experienced?) we’re thinking you are going to be leaning towards tubes anyway.

Modeling and Built-In Effects

Many amps these days come with built-in effects and modeling. Modeling is where the tones of another amp head and cabinet combo are reproduced electronically to give your rig the sound of other popular set ups. Built in effects are exactly what they sound like, typical effects like reverb, chorus, delay, flange, compression, and others are built into the bass amplifier section and permit you to dial in different combinations of these effects to modify your tone. It has always been our opinion, however, that you simply buy the best amplifier and cabinet that can with your money and worry about adding effects later. Nowadays it’s sometimes hard to avoid amps that include all of these goodies, but we feel you should spend your hard earned cash the smart way and add effects and modeling later with a separate pedal, multi-effects unit, or board that is built specifically for that purpose.

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