Any Bass Amp Suggestions for Guitar Player Seeking Low End?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by MartyMcPeePants, Jan 8, 2018.

  1. Hey. First time TalkBass user here, with a fairly specific/situational question.

    I play guitar in a rock/punk/folk two-piece, and have been pretty happy with a three-amp (guitar/guitar/bass) setup for the last couple years, where I split the signal from my guitar into a guitar chain and a bass chain (clean, no octave), and then into their respective amps. Simply put: I have AC30s for tone, and a bass amp for root emphasis. It sounds huge.

    I've been going through/burning out bass amps a little more often than I would like, and even though I think it's more of an issue of used gear and bad luck than anything underlying, I would love to get some suggestions on what to try next.

    My latest experiments:

    Hartke 3500 head into Ampeg 1510 cab
    10-band EQ plus more generic "high/low" adjustability, plenty of power, tube preamp
    cons: Rack-mount head (with no rack to mount it), I either get only the lowest of low tones, or too many mid/highs that interfere with the AC30s. I guess I'm looking for strong low/mids, and this doesn't do it.

    GK MB115-II combo
    pros: portability (super light), reverb (albeit digital), actually pretty decent in the low/mid range I'm looking for, fairly cheap new.
    cons: not enough power (had to be cranked all the time and caused some overheating issues), solid state tone isn't so great, sounded muddy when turned up.

    My first preference is to keep using the 1510 cab for now with a new head, but ANYTHING you might have to suggest to me would be greatly appreciated. I'm open to some more expensive/exploratory ideas, but may still have to research and budget accordingly. I am also happy to answer any questions about my playing style, pedals, tone preferences, etc.. if it might help stir up some ideas.

    My end goal is to have a strong rock guitar tone, with chord changes that make the room shake... and I don't think I'm far from that.

    Thanks a lot.
  2. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    Think about Adding an adjustable HPF (for each signal chain). Helps keep freqs from overlapping and will help protect bass amp and speakers.

    Here a good thread on HPFs:
    Hpf broughton?
  3. Thanks! I'm new to the concept, but would it be more efficient to run a single LPF in the bass amp chain, rather than multiple HPF units?
  4. I always liked playing guitar through a Peavey TNT, TKO or whatever flavor of 1x15 they were calling them. Peavey Nashville 400 steel guitar amps are still around. They were 210w into a 15" and could peel paint.
    MartyMcPeePants likes this.
  5. BlueTalon

    BlueTalon Happy Cynic Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2011
    Eastern Washington
    Endorsing Artist: Turnstyle Switch
    If you want to stick with the Ampeg cab, and you were thinking about the Hartke 3500, might I suggest a Carvin BX-500 head instead. It's a lightweight, 500W amp that is tonally flexible. It has a graphic EQ and a parametric EQ on board, a single-tube preamp, it can drive a 2 ohm load, and it's in the same price range as the Hartke. (I take that back -- a quick internet search shows them available for under $300, including directly from Carvin on ebay.) I used one for a couple of years to gig with. Still have it.
    MartyMcPeePants likes this.
  6. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    The term HPF, for bass, means that freqs above, for example, 40hz are let through(high passed) and below 40hz(where the noise,rumble and extraneous distortion live) are blocked out. So it helps bring some clarity and fullness to the low end. Gives some protection to speakers.

    For guitar, you can block, for example, anything below 100hz. Cutting out low mids that muddy up the tone. The bad mud.

    I read a thread or two about guitar players really liking an adjustable HPF.

    Broughton makes an HPF/LPF(low pass filter/high pass filter) where you can bracket in the bass on the low and high end.

    Since you're new, my descriptive terms may not be clear in explaining the benefits. Please ask if more info is needed.

    You could start by picking up the Broughton for the bass side. If that does it, you're good.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2018
    MartyMcPeePants likes this.
  7. Noted. Thanks!
  8. Sounds versatile. And very affordable.
    Good suggestion!
  9. I'm just new to the units themselves, not the benefits... this sounds amazing!

    Short term, I'll probably find a replacement head to get through the next few shows on the calendar (Hartke started cutting out.. still need to diagnose), but long-term, I am VERY interested after reading a few more forums and reviews on the Broughton HPF/LPF.
  10. anderbass


    Dec 20, 2005
    Phoenix. Az.
    An easy test you could try is patching a guitar cord between your FX send & receive jacks. If that instantly solves the problem: you could choose to either leave a short cord in place permanently, or clean the dirty/corroded shunt contacts inside your return jack that was causing the problem.
    MartyMcPeePants and EricssonB like this.
  11. EricssonB


    Apr 5, 2011
    1 - You are abusing your equipment in pursuing your sonic goals.

    A lot of this can be mitigated with proper shaping, especially reducing your sub-bass frequencies. Those sub-bass Hz offer very little audio information for the listener. They're essentially a waste of energy. Literally, low frequencies take waaaaaay more energy to produce, thus suck waaaaaay more energy from the amp and accelerate you toward overheating and hardware failure. The frequency point is debatable, but cut anything under 40Hz and your ears won't notice the difference -- your amps will thank you.

    Re: get a low pass filter, change your EQ.

    2 - What in the actual hell are your sonic goals? Make the room shake? Right, you said that.

    But why? To burn out your equipment and destroy your hearing? You're doing that. While I understand you are filling the space for a two-piece band, what room will there be for things like literally any other sound you want the band to produce? Is your drummer loud enough to keep up? What are the vocals doing inside of that distortion-in-your-eardrums environment? What are your stage volumes? Do you have any hearing left? Done correctly through positioning, EQ and sonic palette, you can fill a room without destroying the air. Maybe point one amp this way, another that one, keep that one over there, and fill it through dispersion instead of single-point directed sound. Think surround sound at a lower volume instead of turning the TV up so high.

    Re: reconsider your goals, use your stuff differently.

    Don't get me wrong, as I am primarily a guitar player. I split my signal in two different OD pedals and two bass amps whose knobs don't approach high noon, ever. My EQs are basically flat, and my sound is huge. My speakers don't fart and I've had my amps for years and years. You can get a huge sound without destroying everything around it.

    This "gigantic earthquake of sound" quickly becomes the guitar player cliché on this forum. Leave some room for power overhead, ear protection, amp protection and being able to hear the thoughts in your head.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2018
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  12. While I'm learning a little more every day about proper shaping, I'll take your reinforcement of sub-frequency damage (whether physical or tonal) and focus on that, even just as a preventative measure in the future. It's a fair assumption that someone (such as myself) might be abusing their equipment when they have a brief history of failures, but I've never felt that I am doing anything particularly abusive, other than simply tapering out the higher frequencies using the on-board EQ... which leads to your next point:

    Again... fair assumption. My phrasing may have been unnecessarily dramatic. To be specific: all three amps live at about 10:00 gain and ROUGHLY 9:00 volume, depending on the room. I send a clean signal to the bass amp, and only a slight boost from an OCD overdrive into the two AC30s. The mix has actually been very approachable for others to work with, and tame enough for clear vocals in small rooms. Admittedly, we're a loud rock and roll band, sure, but we're not being asked to turn down by sound guys, chasing people out of the building, or constantly detonating AC30s.

    You obviously understand some of the hardships of filling space with one instrument. When it goes right, though, I feel a lot of pride in people asking me if I use a bass backing track while also complimenting my guitar tone. Then I offload three heavy amps and a billion feet of cable by myself and hate everyone/everything.

    When you say you split your signal in "two OD pedals and two bass amps," is that from your guitar or bass? If guitar, then does that mean you utilize ONLY those two bass amps, and nothing else? Yeah, your sound SHOULD be huge, but I would be curious to know how happy you are with your mid-range guitar tone (and what kind of music you play), and if you take that setup on stage or in the studio.

    Regardless of it all, your feedback is solid, and I seriously appreciate it. Some of those questions are things I ask myself every day, just to keep myself in check.
    Stumbo likes this.
  13. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    Good, thoughtful reply. Good reality check.

    Volume/gain are only two variables. The bass eq. alone can tear up speakers.

    Get that HPF for your bass signal!

    Or throw in a 31 band eq. In the bass amp effects loop. Pull everything under 50 all the way down and adjust from there.
    MartyMcPeePants likes this.
  14. EricssonB


    Apr 5, 2011
    Sorry, I didn't mean to come off so harsh; had my coffee-drinking scowl on my face at the time. I do stand by my points though and am glad you got the meat of it.

    My split signal is only for guitar. Since my guitar sound is so heavily colored, I like the complementary tones of two different ODs being blended. My bass sound is a bit more focused and blending just, eh, it doesn't really work; one amp for that. For guitar, the flat EQ out of the 1516 (two 8"s and a 15") is mid-heavy and it's supported by the less colorful single 15" bass combo, which is exactly what I want. I tried it with my drummer friend a while back, worked just fine.

    ...there's none of that scooped-metal sound that eats up the bass frequencies. Fairly crunchy, medium gain.

    As a general rule of thumb, bass equipment needs much more surface area (SPEAKERS) and power to match the volume output of guitar equipment.

    Not sure of your particular sound, but Royal Bloods (opened for QOTSA @ Red Rocks a few months back) has a guitar amp + bass amp combo, which is probably closer to what you want. Notice the guitar-to-bass amp ratio shows way more bass speaker surface area:


    This is a great visual of what an HPF does; sounds the same, minimizes speaker excursion and power required. Excessive speaker excursion = bad.
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  15. 31-band EQ is an interesting thought, too. In a perfect world, as few external devices as possible would be great, but hey, I'll look into anything that might better the situation.
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  16. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    Yeah, pulling down below 50 makes into more or less an HPF>
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  17. That HPF video is amazing. I had no idea the excursion difference was that dramatic.

    Royal Blood is cool.. even with the different playing style (he's very single-note riff driven) and the fact that he plays bass rather than guitar, there's a lot to learn there. Another (maybe closer) example is Japandroids, where his guitar-to-bass amp ratio (and sound) is probably more similar to mine, currently, but I've never seen them live to know how it executes. I have to image that SVT head and 8x10 does the trick, though.
    EricssonB likes this.
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