A first-upgrade bass amp

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by scadh, Jul 19, 2017.

  1. scadh


    Jul 19, 2017
    I'm posting this to Gearslutz and Talkbass with the hope of quickly reaching as many people as possible. Apologies for the double post if you should stumble across it on both sites.
    I'm looking for an appropriate "first upgrade" to the starter bass amp (Ampeg BA108) we got my son when he began playing bass 2.5 years ago. Our requirements are many and specific and, in truth, possibily unattainable when taken in the aggregate! With that in mind, I'm hoping I can outline my situation and get advice from experts on these forums, whose expertise and understanding greatly exceeds my own!


    He turned 12 last week. He's still several years away from having Paul McCartney open for him on his bands' first World Tour. He plays a Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar short-scale bass.

    Bass is his second instrument; he's a drummer first. His bass chops are well behind where he's at on drums, but he enjoys playing and is improving rapidly. He has a good ear and intuitively understands how rock/pop songs are arranged.

    He's a member of the House Band at a local School of Rock chapter and gigs often (50+ shows before his 12th birthday). The setlists are almost exclusively classic rock from the 60's through the 80's, with the occasional crossover pop/country hit thrown in.


    The studio where we practice is approximately 20' x 15'. It has Pergo laminate flooring and a drop ceiling with acoustic tiles. It's a pleasant space but is otherwise completely untreated with bass traps, diffusers, etc.


    I'd like to stay below $600 USD, preferably closer to $500.


    Given all of the above, I'm looking for an amp that meets these criteria to the largest degree possible:

    - Good tone at any volume, with aesthetics "cool" enough to inspire him to play and, even more importantly, to practice (which he does NOT love).

    - Small footprint and relatively lightweight. School of Rock provides gear for the shows and band practices he has now but I'm certain he'll be forming his first band within 2 years -- so he'll need to cart this rig around soon. He's still a little guy and can't lug around a cabinet that outweighs him.

    - Enough power to be heard over a drum kit when practicing and to get the job done at a gig if properly mic'd into the PA.

    - Something that he will not outgrow for years (if ever), but that is also not overkill. My money-tree withered and died years ago and we aren't playing Arrowhead Stadium anytime soon.

    - Prefer a 2 x 10 to a 1 x 15, given the modestly-sized studio. It's can get fairly muddy in here.


    The leaders in the clubhouse are:

    - Ampeg SVT Micro VR w/ SVT-210AV 2 x 10 cabinet
    - TC Electronic BH250 w/ K210 2 x 10 cabinet
    - Fender Rumble 200 1 x 15 combo or Fender Rumble 500 2 x 10 combo

    Additionally, a local Guitar Center has a used Ampeg PF350 w/ PF210HE 2 x 10 cabinet selling at $430. It's in good cosmetic shape but I'm concerned there is a mechanical issue somewhere. The volume was well below what I expected. I demo'd it and several others yesterday, including the Rumble 200. When listening to each amp, I zeroed out all EQ settings, disabled any sound-shaping options like "Vintage" on the Fenders, and set gain and master volume to 50%. Even 100 watt combo amps were significantly louder than the PF350/PF210HE. The GC rep said he'd ask their tech to take a look at it today. If the issue is corrected (or if it's pilot error -- I'm no bassist!), I think this sounds like a good deal and a good fit for our needs.


    So, all I want is an amp that's small and lightweight yet has plenty of power (but not TOO much), has killer tone, looks great, works perfectly in every studio and stage role, is ideal both now and in the future, and that is dirt cheap.

    Easy, right?
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2017
  2. jlepre


    Nov 12, 2007
    Cedar Knolls, NJ
    Rumble 500C will fit the bill albeit at the top of your budget.
  3. Rumble 500, first on the list for me. Used should be under $500. Check the TB ads and Reverb.
    Also look at GK they have a 500 watt 2x10 and 2x12 combos.
    You may want to also take a peak at Carvin Bass amps.

    Of course check out the usual-subject online music outlets.
    Plus Music Go Round for used.

    Guitar Center has a good selection of used gear as well if that's of interest.

    Good Luck
    Let me know when the tickets go on sale for your kid's band, I'd like to see McCartney as the opener 'cause it's so hard to stay awake late anymore. :smug:
  4. Linnin


    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    +1 This man speaks with words of iron! For reasonably less than Ironman's Fender Rumble 500 Combo, the Fender Rumble 200 is still a serious bassman's combo. I would buy one or the other without delay. Hurry! :bassist:
    Aqualung60 and jlepre like this.
  5. Razman

    Razman Supporting Member

    Feb 10, 2005
    Orange Park, FL
    GK 700rb (~$300 used) and a quality 210 (sub-$200). If you can find two 210's for a good price and an inexpensive 700rb, you could score all that for under five bills. And have a wicked, vertical 210 stack that would keep up with any drummer.
    packhowitzer likes this.
  6. scadh


    Jul 19, 2017
    Wow, that's a lot of love for the Fender Rumbles! I was personally leaning toward the Ampeg SVT, and my son seems enamored with the TonePrint function of the TC Electronic BH250 (plus, the black and red cabinet design is undeniably cool looking -- which, again, is a factor that he places WAY too much value on, in my opinion).

    My only concern about the Rumbles is that they sort of split the sweet spot to either side for our situation. I'd fear that the 200C wouldn't be loud enough to play over the drums and the 1 x 15 would exacerbate the muddiness and bass buildup in my 300 square foot studio (I base that only on my reading about 1 x 15 vs 2 x 10, not through personal experience; please correct me if you think I'm wrong). The 500C is $600 and perhaps more power than needed.

    The "not loud enough" and "damn, it's expensive" concerns worry me about the SVT Micro and BH250, as well. That's why I was strongly considering the used PF350 w/ 2 x 10 cab at Guitar Center for $430. Of course, buying brick-and-mortar means another $35 tax vs. buying from Sweetwater, so not as great a deal as it seems. It just seems like the absolute ideal product for our specific need doesn't exist. So if I have to get out of my comfort zone, I guess I just need advice from people with real-world experience. Is 200 watts enough? Is a 2 x 10 a better fit for my studio than 1 x 15? That sort of thing. I wish I could demo a few in-home, but can't.

    I deeply explored other options, including the Carvin BX250 w/ 2 x 10 cab, a Markbass Littlemark 250 w/ 102P Traveler (sweet!), a GK MB200 w/ CX210 and more. All were out of my price range new. This is going to be a gift, so I'd really prefer new unless it was a really good deal, which I think the used PF350 at GC is. Quality used gear can be hard to come by on Craigslist, as well, and I don't want to wait months. eBay is an option, but can be even more challenging than CL because of the high cost to ship a cabinet.

    Additionally, I ruled out some other brands that (fairly or unfairly), I have always perceived to be a step below industry heavyweights. These included Peavey and Acoustic, and honestly TC Electronic, but my son really loved the TonePrint and tuner functions of the BH250, so I kept them in consideration.

    I know I'm all over the place and this sort of newbie question must be irritating to forum regulars who have seen it asked and answered ad nauseum. I appreciate your indulgence and advice!
  7. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    Is the rehearsal studio your studio?

    Seens to me that too much echo is muddying up the sound and causing everyone to turn up.

    Surrounding the drums with sound board and laying out some large rugs can work amazingly well.

    Also, be sure to get your son some comfortable custom ear plugs! Have them molded with an attachment string makes for easy on/off and helps keep them from getting lost and dropped on the floor.
    Lvjoebass likes this.
  8. scadh


    Jul 19, 2017
    Yes, the studio is mine and, honestly, calling it a "studio" oversells it somewhat! It's the room where all my gear and recording computer sit. :)

    There is a small drum stage in one corner w/ a Gretsch Catalina Maple Kit. The bass amp sits in an adjacent corner. On the opposite end of the room is my desk with my mixer/interface, studio monitors, PA speaker, etc. The photos below were taken from approximately the same spot in the middle of the room, looking both directions down the long axis of the room. (BRAG! the drum stage and studio desk are both DIY projects of which I'm quite proud!)

    There is one large throw rug in the middle of the room. The ceiling tiles (allegedly) have some minimal absorption. I guess while I'm bragging of DIY skills, I should also point out that when I originally studding out the room, putting up drywall and install flooring/ceiling, I had the perfect opportunity to put rockwool or similar insulation into the walls between the studs but did not because this room was originally a home office. Only later did i convert it to a studio and that missed opportunity is my biggest regret about this room.

    I have considered some DIY bass traps and first-reflection absorption but the room is already so small that I hate making it even more cramped than it already is. At the very least, I should probably put SOME kind of absorption up on the wood paneling on the walls and ceiling of the stage. It gets really loud.

    We have a pair a headphone-style ear protection for my son, but we don't use it as often as we should. We also bought some bluetooth headphones so he can practice along with his SoR songs on YouTube, but also use it less than we should because then I can't hear the song and help him pick out the parts. The next step, I think, will be a multi-receiver IEM solution so we can both hear the song and protect our ears. Especially his. I'm old and blind already, so what if I go deaf, too? :)


  9. Razman

    Razman Supporting Member

    Feb 10, 2005
    Orange Park, FL
    BTW @scadh, welcome to TB! Just noticed that you joined TODAY - congrats and enjoy all of the information and entertainment this community has to offer.

    Stumbo likes this.
  10. packhowitzer

    packhowitzer 155mm of pure destruction

    Apr 20, 2011
    GK all day.
  11. Uncle Hanky

    Uncle Hanky Guest

    May 10, 2017
    I think the Rumble 200 would still fit the bill nicely. You can always add an extension cab. I just don't think you can go wrong with the Rumble series.
    Lvjoebass likes this.
  12. Joedog


    Jan 28, 2010
    Pensacola FL
    Speaker size means nothing. Old wives tale. I've had 10's that go lower than 15's, and 15's that are brighter than tens. Try before you buy. The Rumble 200 should fit the bill. It can also run an extension cab (IF ever needed), which would also meet the "looks cool" criteria, as a stack. Again, go to music stores, play and compare (hopefully with ears, and eyes not so much). Nothing wrong w/Ampeq gear either.
    Bass_Pounder and morgan138 like this.
  13. SLO Surfer

    SLO Surfer

    Jun 3, 2009
    Los Osos, CA
    Fender Rumble 500 is what I would want. Sounds like he really wants the TC though, which I hear is a great amp.

    If you're worried about too much muddiness in your room then try to not put the bass amp in the corner. Put it in the middle of a wall, and also elevate it off the ground. I find those things can help a lot.
  14. bolophonic


    Dec 10, 2009
    Durham, NC
    A used GK 700RB-II and a decent 2x10" cab would fit that budget. He could use that for the rest of his life.
    ObsessiveArcher likes this.
  15. ThinCrappyTone

    ThinCrappyTone Guest

    Oct 1, 2011
    Clearly, he needs an Ampeg SVT head and 8x10 refrigerator!!! :D

    Seriously though, the PF350 + 210 is a sweet combination
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2017
    Lvjoebass and madmanmerc like this.
  16. Could also get a new GK MB200 ($300) with a decent used 2x10" cab on budget.
    Mister Boh and bolophonic like this.
  17. tkonbass

    tkonbass I'm just one of the out-of-focus guys.

    Mar 11, 2012
    St. Paul, MN
    I picked this up in the TB classifieds a couple years ago to use as a home practice rig. Its a MB112-II combo with a 112MBP powered cabinet. I paid under $500 for the stack. 400 watts and two 12's.

    Sounds great and is decently lightweight. I think around 35lbs per cabinet. It now lives at our rehearsal space and easily keeps up with a four piece rock band.

    I have other rigs for gigging but would not hesitate to play small to medium sized gigs with this setup if the need ever arose.

  18. GeneralElectric


    Dec 26, 2007
    NY, NY
    Volume is always relative. I gigged for years with a 55 watt bass amp in a rock band and it was fine. I now play combinations of 210s or 115s based on whatever is convenient. With one of my drummers I use a pair of Aguilar 210s and an Aguilar Tonehammer head and can barely keep up. In another I'm in a 6 piece band and I play a crappy 160 watt SWR combo.

    There is a cognitive trick where loud=good but you only need what you actually need. Most band setups are overkill for the gig's they play. If his amp is too small for the gig there is a good chance that they have a PA to lend some bass support. It's how I survived when I gigged with 55 watts.

    My earnest suggestion is to get a nice head. You can get used like new heads on TB or reverb all day long without much hassle. Then get whatever cabinet is in your budget with one of those metal grilles. I understand that looking cool is important to a 12 year old. Unscrew the metal grille and spend an afternoon with him painting a crazy graphic or even just going to the hardware store to pick up his favorite color spray paint. You both get bonding time and he gets an amp.

    Recent events made me think of my first amp when I started playing 15 years ago. I was 13 so not too far off from your son's age. It was a 66 Fender Deluxe Reverb on top of a similar Ampeg B15 cabinet outfitted with a radio shack speaker. That amp was the coolest because not only did my dad gave it to me, he also spent some time with me picking out and installing a speaker. My dad died not long after I graduated high school, but I still have all the kickass memories we had together.
  19. GeneralElectric


    Dec 26, 2007
    NY, NY
    Also, if your son is like me or anyone else on Talkbass, any plans of a futureproof upgrade are worthless. My next amp after the Fender was a Peavey Max series head and then a Ashdown MAG head with a 410 and a 115 I pushed around on a furniture dolly. Because I wasn't old enough to drive but I was old enough to wanna blow out windows and rattle the walls.
    Inara and ObsessiveArcher like this.
  20. LT131


    Jan 25, 2015
    Deep South
    If you are looking long-term get something with as much power as you can afford. Headroom is king. I can tell you it's easier to add cabs than watts.

    If you want to go new spring for the Rumble 500. Very loud and expandable. It does, IMO, have a distinct tone that does work well in rock/country/blues settings. If you have access to good used gear then the options are limitless. I would only buy used from somewhere with a return policy or someone you know/trust.
    osonu and fhm555 like this.