Amp challenge. Help me pick a winner!

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Big Hoss, Dec 23, 2014.

  1. Big Hoss

    Big Hoss Up note, down note, blue note, brown note...

    Okay, in the long term, I need to be looking for a better amp than my old Crate BX-100.

    Don't get me wrong, aside from overdrive / distortion which I can do with an effects pedal (Digitech BP50) I get all the various tones / sounds I want out of the Crate, BUT, it is heavy as sin and I have back issues, so moving it is a problem, and I would like to have the headroom that if I should so chose at some later date decide to start gigging, I would have the equipment to do so on hand...

    You could consider this to be the amp for an intermediate hobbyist / newbie gigging bass player.

    Like I have mentioned before, I play for FUN, not $$, if I ever got to the point where I could make some $$ playing, then I would up the dollar figure, probably considerably, but I can't justify spending several grand on a bass rig as basically a toy to keep up with a hobby. And FWIW, if I got to being able to make money playing, if it stopped being fun to do, I would likely move away from it unless it paid well enough to become a new career (VERY doubtful).

    My requirements are... (Not necessarily in this order, these are all MUST HAVE, any one missing is a deal breaker).

    #1. Maximum flexibility in tone. I tend to play very smooth / country / bluesy type tone sort of a Dusty Hill kind of vibe most of the time, but I like some flexibility to do some prog type stuff as well as punkish type stuff... So while overdrive is cool and all, it's NOT high on my priority list...
    #2. Total cost to my door to not exceed $700.00 for everything needed including sales tax, shipping, speaker cables, heads, cabs or combos... I can't make use of it if I can't buy it, and I have to draw the line somewhere, $700.00 is a number I can get by my wife without too much eyebrow raising, or exchange for too many new designer purses...
    #3. No one component of the system can exceed 40 lbs. Lighter is better, but 40lbs is the absolute max. Doc says 50, and I want a safety margin.
    #4. New, or very readily available used in Houston / Galveston Texas metro area. I am willing to drive to western Louisiana as far as Lake Charles for the right rig though...
    #5. Must be able to demo the unit in question in person.
    #6. Pre amp / input pad for active instruments. I don't want to smoke the input circuit of the amp with the output of my EMG pickups if I forget and leave the volume knob on the bass turned UP...
    #7. Line level / XLR outputs for connection to a mixer for recording or FOH rig...
    #8. I'm not going to lie, Aesthetics are important, VERY important to me... I won't want to play through it if it's hot pink and has Hello Kitty stickers all over it you know?
    #9. Reliability. I just can't see myself paying good money to buy an amp / cab that is known to have reliability problems and will let me down at the worst time...
    #10. Headroom. I haven't had to endure playing with a drummer that was drilling for oil with their drumsticks, the drummers I have played with all had good volume control, and knew how to play appropriate to the situation. (Most I have ever played was a smallish church sanctuary, no instrument PA connectivity, seated about 250...), I am figuring that I could probably do everything I "NEED" with 200 well used watts to cut through a skin smasher of a drummer, but hey, if some is good more is better right?

    While my experience has been pretty much limited to 100 watt 1x12 and 1x15 combos (I did use a friends Ampeg combo that I believe was a 1x12 years ago), I will say this...

    -- I am not committed to combo amp or amp / cab rigs. I want what suits my needs best. If it's a stack great, if it's a combo, great.

    -- I am not committed to any particular speaker size or configuration. If it fits the requirements laid out above, then I am golden!

    So what can you guys, gals, and other suggest that would meet the criteria laid out?
  2. SickAura

    SickAura Let There Be Rock Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2013
    Ampeg PF350 or 500 - 8lb - 10lbs
    GK MB200 or 500 - 2lb - 4 lbs

    Ampeg PF210 or 115HE - 45lbs
    GK NEO 112 or 115 - 34lb - 40 lbs

    Either of these choices will meet all or most of your requirements and be a huge improvement over what you have now.
  3. Basshappi


    Feb 12, 2007
    Peavey Tour 450 or 700
    Try out different cabs until you find what you like.
    A couple of 2x10s or 1x15s will probably fit your needs and allow for some flexibility.
  4. macmanlou

    macmanlou Don't push it. Just let it fall. Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2007
    Washington, DC Area
    I'd add 2 of the Ampeg SVT210AV cabs (26lbs each) to the list. They work really well in a vertical stack.
    johnpbass likes this.
  5. GK also has a great 15" combo that might work well for you.

    I don't know if you have a Traynor dealer near you but they also have very well built decent sounding combos. The smallblock series in particular are excellent. They also have a light weight hea, SH500 and the 12" Neo cabs are a dream to move and play. All very competitively priced. Typically cheaper than GK and made in Canada.
  6. jumblemind

    jumblemind I also answer to Bryan Supporting Member

    Aug 27, 2011
    I honestly don't think you can meet all that criteria for under $700. The suggestions above are great ones, but they won't come in at that price, and you are not likely to be able to try some of them out. GC should carry some Portaflexes and the GK MB 200, but at low wattage you will need more speaker area, driving up the price via multiple small cabs or else putting you into a cab that's too heavy. My favorite setup for the tone flexibility/headroom/weight stuff lines up with some of those suggestions: a GK MB Fusion through two Ampeg 210AVs. You're not likely to find that amp or those cabs to test locally, and it definitely exceeds the price limit.

    I personally think the Fender Rumble V3 500w combo comes closest to your list:

    1. Fairly neutral voicing and has EQ presets to punch up a variety of tones. The "vintage" button will nail your smooth blues/country stuff. Plus the overdrive circuit is available for some pretty convincing punk crunch if ever needed
    2. Total cost to your door is $500
    3. 37lbs
    4. GC carries the Rumbles in store. Lots of places online.
    5. See #4. Even if they don't have the 500w combo, the Rumbles all sound similar at low volumes if you want to get a feel for the tone.
    6. Doesn't have an input pad, but I'm not sure you will fry the preamp with a hot bass. You can ask TB'er Linnin in the Rumble mega thread. Input pads need to be remembered to be pushed, so it's kind of the same problem as remembering to turn down your bass volume, I would think.
    7. Has XLR out.
    8. Beautiful vintage aesthetics
    9. So far so good on reliability reports compared to a couple of other brands. The V3s are pretty new, but it still helps that the Rumble line is established with time under its belt.
    10. Headroom will NEVER be a problem. These Rumbles are crazy loud and never compress or get overdriven/farty.
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2014
    Linnin and iualum like this.
  7. Big Hoss

    Big Hoss Up note, down note, blue note, brown note...

    I am leaning HEAVILY toward the Rumble 500 combo, even though there are plenty of folks here that swear a combo is a bad way to go, it fits my needs for the most part. I thought it had an input pad though...
  8. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Yeah, that is a tough limit. You are kind of asking for the moon, especially if you insist on playing it first. Here is what I would do if you want to look at that price point. Rather than driving hundreds of miles, put that gas money into your budget.

    For a head, you can't beat the Carvin BX-500: 300W @ 8ohms/[email protected], tons of EQ, and tube preamp. I think they are selling them for about $300, especially since they are pushing their newer head (BX-700). Pleanty of headroom

    For a cabinet, look used. I know there is a guy here selling a used Revsound 4x10 for like $350 - of course you have to arrange to have it shipped. But there is a lot out there.

    Looking at new cabs, your best bet would be the GK neos. They are the best cheaper priced light cabs. Sound is a little bright, but lots of people playing them. A 2x12 will give you everything you will need, but for now, maybe get a 2x10 or 1x12, and you can double up in the future if you start playing out and need more volume.

    Combos will limit you. If you do get a combo, make sure it will allow you to plug in an extension speaker.
    lowerclef likes this.
  9. mbelue


    Dec 11, 2010
    You cannot fry the passive input of an amplifier with active pickups.
    You will only overdrive it. Might sound pleasing, might not. You'd have to send a much more enormous signal, like speaker level.
    In my experience many input pads are just tone-sucks.

    I'd also advocate a separate head/cab setup just for added flexibility of mix/match.
    CL400Peavey likes this.
  10. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Among other things, a head/combo will be easier to change as your needs change. As I suggested, start with one cab, and get a duplicate later if/when you need it, and gives you a modular setup so you can bring as little as you need for the gig/practice. Also, if you start playing in a band, and you have the bucks, you can get a cheap beater cab to keep at practice, then just show up with your bass and head. Also easier to sell.
  11. jumblemind

    jumblemind I also answer to Bryan Supporting Member

    Aug 27, 2011
    A combo is definitely not a bad way to go, ESPECIALLY with that Fender, and especially given the price limit. Traditionally combo's limited you: they usually had only one 15" speaker, lower overall power, were often really heavy, awkward to move and you were stuck with that setup until you bought another amp. Conversely, the Rumble is super light, has tons of power, two 10" speakers, and has the ability to add an extension speaker cab should you ever need more overall volume. But trust me, these things are loud. If it's for a beginner/hobbyist role, it's well more amp than will ever be needed. A 500w head with a 210 cab is enough for most weekend gigs; plenty of reports of people gigging the thing on all kinds of stages. Shouldn't matter that the head and cab are together in one box. In fact, it simplifies things a lot. I bought the Rumble head because I already had a variety of cabs, but I gave the combo serious consideration for all of the above reasons.
    Linnin likes this.
  12. Big Hoss

    Big Hoss Up note, down note, blue note, brown note...

    I agree that older combo units are tanks, and NOT worth my consideration, but honestly, the Rumble V3 500 combo seems to be in a class by itself. Or at least has very few classmates...

    Not saying I wouldn't go with a head / cab rig, but... Let's say I know for sure I like that 500 watt head and 2x10 configuration of the Rumble 500, and would be perfectly happy rocking that in any / all situations... It is light enough to fit my needs, and is only one item to lug in / out. There is no extra cable to loose in a bag or get snagged, so setup is quicker / easier, and IF I decide at some later point to add an extension cab, it has plenty of headroom and the connectors for it, just plug an 8ohm cab into it and go...

    I don't really see a down side to this specific combo, except a lack of an input pad. If I can't hurt the amp by pushing too hot of a signal from my bass into it, then the input pad really isn't necessary. I always thought they were there to protect the amp... If it sounds like excrement with the signal too hot, I can always turn the volume on the bass down until I get the sound I want. I know the EMG pickups / pre amp throw a MUCH hotter signal than my Ibanez factory ones do...

    The rule of thumb I keep seeing, and correct me if I am wrong, is to keep the bass amp at ~ 3x the power of the guitar amps being used. The guitar players that I jam with both are using 100 watt amps. One is an older 80s I think vintage Ampeg guitar stack, the other is a somewhat recent, like 2011 or 2012 100 watt Fender 2x12 I think it is, guitar combo amp. Honestly the Fender is very much louder than the old Ampeg stack...

    Maybe I am overly limiting myself, but I just don't see how I could ever go beyond needing a 2x10 combo especially with this power, but if I needed to move more air, there is the extension cab jack, and plenty of options there. I figure if I ever get to the point of needing an extension cab, I will be able to pay someone to haul it in / out of a truck, and up / down a stage...

    I really wish I could find someplace local where I could demo Carvin gear. That BX500 head looks pretty decent and I like the fact that it is USA made. I have been checking the specs on Carvin cabs though, and they are all too heavy. Maybe I am looking at this wrong, but it seems weird to me to use Brand X head and Brand Y cab is all... I guess it doesn't really matter or does it? I mean with a combo, the speaker / cab are already matched to the head right?
  14. DrDAV14

    DrDAV14 Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2008
    Denver, Colorado
    Mesa Walkabout, best of both worlds. Combo in the Scout form, or head to use with cab of your choice. I've never found a cab it didn't like. Pick your cab by volume of the gig. Balanced line out has a level control. Tone for days...............
  15. Linnin


    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    Only The Fender Rumble 200 or 500 combo meets all your requirements. Add a Rumble 115 cab for maximum watts and versatility. That would be $700 and $800 respectively. You can always call and ask for and get a discount. You could probably get the 500 + 115 for $700 or very close to it. Tons of Love and much high praise from working bass players at the Fender Rumble Club.
  16. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    If the Rumble meets your needs and provides the sound you want you shouldn't care what we think. My response to you in the other thread was mainly to point out that only considering combos takes a lot of options off the table. However for the price point you are at, many of the options that meet your weight goals will only be available on the used market. Good luck!
  17. Big Hoss

    Big Hoss Up note, down note, blue note, brown note...

    Honestly, I am wanting to see if there are any head / cab rigs that even come close to meeting my criteria. Lots of folks saying go with a class 5 head, and Neo cabs, and while that is all well and good, they go WAY over my budget range. Was hoping to see if there were options I wasn't seeing, which is why I was asking about specific makes / models of amps / cabs that could do this...
    Linnin likes this.
  18. Linnin


    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    GK MB500 plus a pair of their 112 Neo cabs would be an excellent choice but that will run you something like $1200.00. I run a V2 Fender Rumble 350 head and a pair of Rumble 112 Neo cabs (now discontinued) and love that set up. A Hartke 500 and a pair of 112 Hy-Drives would also be an excellent choice and cost even more. An Aguilar Tone Hammer 500 and a pair of their SL 112 Neos cost even more than that. Your 40 pound weight limit kills any 410 or 212 choices.
  19. macmanlou

    macmanlou Don't push it. Just let it fall. Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2007
    Washington, DC Area
    Ampeg PF350 (8lb) $300, Ampeg SVT210AV (26lb) $300. Enough $ left over for cables, etc.

    Easy to carry, with more than enough power for another SVT210AV if/when you need it.

    Find a store that has the Rumble 500 and the Ampeg stuff in stock (Guitar Center Houston?) so you can play through them and check out their portability.

    The PF350 has DI, so you could bring only the head to places that have good PA support and leave the cab(s) at home, if you wish.
  20. Used GK MB200 and a pair of Neo 112's.