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.