Bass Amplifier Buying Guide

Bass Amplifier Buying Guide:
From Bedroom to Main Stage -- Find the Perfect Bass Amp

Other than your actual bass guitar, the key to great bass tone lies with a great amp -- but what's the use of practicing with a phenomenal-sounding amp when its sweet spot is a few decibels north of "roaring jet plane?" Although there are plenty of great amps out there, finding the best amp for your situation will not only inspire you to focus on the music, it will help you sound your best at any skill level.

zZounds' gear experts can help you choose the right bass amp -- call 1-800-460-8089 for advice!

A few things to consider:

Bass guitar amplifiers need a lot of power in order to reproduce low frequencies at the high volumes required to compete with guitar amps and drums. While most guitar amps will top out at around 100 watts, it isn't uncommon to see the upper limit of bass amps reach 500-1000 watts, sometimes even more! Another reason for the higher power rating in bass amps is to ensure clean headroom. While amplifier overdrive is usually viewed as pleasant for most guitarists, bassists tend to prefer cleaner tones. With high-wattage amps, a super-clean bass tone can be achieved at incredible volumes, allowing the bassist to have ultimate control over their sound.

Tube vs. Solid-State:
Many pro bassists have been known to use either tube amps or solid-state amps with great success. Tube amps tend to be heavier, produce more heat, and typically demand higher prices than comparative solid-state amps, yet they deliver what has been described as a warmer tone. Crossing the threshold into overdrive on a tube amp is more natural-sounding, with a more pleasing "musical" distortion that blends into the band mix with greater ease. Solid-state amps tend to be more affordable, and they don't require the type of routine maintenance a tube amp needs -- however, the solid-state amp's natural overdrive may not sound as pleasing to the ear. If you plan on keeping your tone clean, then either type of amp will be fine for you, but if natural overdrive is the name of your game, then you might want to spring for a tube amp.

Combo vs. Stack:
Just as with guitar amps, bass combo amps include the amplifier chassis and speaker all contained within one cabinet. This is perfect if you aren't too sure what speaker will work with a given amp, making it a simple plug-and-play operation. Although combos are easy to use, professionals tend to enjoy the flexibility that bass amp stacks bring to the table. With this modular approach, you can change out speaker cabinets, run your amp into a few speaker cabinets that have different tones (perhaps a bass-heavy 1x15" cab combined with the present midrange of a 2x10" cab), or keep your speakers and swap out the amp head.

You wouldn't use a 300-watt stack to practice quietly in your bedroom, nor would you use a 10-watt practice amp to lay down your fattest grooves in front of a 1000 capacity venue. Take a look at our buying guide below to find an amp that works best for you.
Bass Practice Amps
Practice makes perfect, and there's no better way to start your bass-playing journey than with a solid practice amp. Not only do these bass practice amps have enough features to keep you interested in playing, but these low-wattage amps also tend to keep your neighbors at bay. Even if you aren't a beginner, you'll continually find yourself in situations where playing your full-powered rig isn't very practical, so having an extra practice amp will always come in handy.

Typically, these amps are combos with less than 50 watts of power for quiet practicing, and headphone outputs for silent jamming. Many models include auxiliary inputs to practice along to your favorite music and are small enough to stuff in the corner of your room when not in use.

Bass Combo Amps

Bass Amps for Club Gigs
After woodshedding bass lines and techniques by yourself for even just a little while, the itch to join a band will inevitably become a priority. If you come to your first full-band rehearsal with your little practice amp, however, a big issue will quickly become very apparent: you can't hear yourself over the drummer! Solve that issue in no time with a bass amp that ranges from 100-300 watts. Ready for rehearsal and made for the stage, these amps tend to ditch the auxiliary inputs and headphone outputs found on the lower-powered practice amps in favor of more professional features like DI outputs and effects loops.

Although modern PA systems are more powerful than ever, sometimes the option to have your bass amp miked or DI'd isn't going to be available at smaller shows, so always come prepared to kick out some extra volume when needed! With these mid-powered amps, the days of competing with the rest of your band for volume will be behind you.

Bass Combo Amps

Bass Amp Heads and Speaker Cabinets
Bass Amps for Large Stages
After honing your chops in the club circuit, you've finally hit the big time. When you have a large stage to fill, the trusty rig you've loved during your club days just might not cut the mustard anymore. Although stage monitoring has come a long way since the first high-powered bass amps were introduced, it's always nice to be able to hear a little something coming out of your amp. When room and stage sizes get big enough, your once-powerful bass amp can seem about as loud as some leaves blowing in the wind -- and if you're playing at an outdoor festival, your perceived stage volume can almost border on non-existent.

The following amps have power ratings of at least 300 watts -- enough to clearly hear your bass on a big stage while making the floor shake with some satisfying low-end rumble.

Bass Combo Amps

Bass Amp Heads

Bass Speaker Cabinets