Bass amp vs. pre/power/para

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Cristo, Nov 28, 2005.

  1. I'm in the market for new gear. I'm torn between buying some "off the shelf" amp, and basically building my own rig with a pre/power setup and a parametric EQ.

    On the one hand, I like the flexibility of being able to shape the tone exactly as I want with a parametric EQ, and not being stuck with the EQ frequencies & bandwidths specified by an amp maker. Plus, with the power amp I'm getting more power - sometimes a lot more.

    On the other hand, I'm wondering if these bass amp manufacturers, with their years of experience & testing, aren't better at "building a bass amp" than me. After all, they are the experts, right?

    Of course I could copy the EQ of almost any amp with a parametric...

    Then there is the factor of the supply of power itself - is it likely to be "better" in some way in an amp designed specifically for bass guitar than in a "generic" power amp for universal application?

    Is there anything specific about the power demands for bass that could make a power amp unsuitable, and thus a bass amp superior?

    Are there any pre/power users who went back to an amp head, and why?

    Obviously, it matters specifically which amp and power/pre/para setup we are talking about - I just mean in a general sense.
  2. FunkyLemz


    Oct 17, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    I think you can never go wrong with
    Preamps - Demeter 201, Alembic F1x, Demter HBP, or an Aguilar 680

    Power amps - Crest CA 6 or a QSC PLX 1602 (higher wattage on these models can help if needed)

    EQ - Rane PE 15 or PE 17 - Alesis 351 ( i think it's alesis)
    - - A lot of people would say that an External EQ is unecessary, I would have to agree unless your a crazy tweaker. The demeter 201 might be the only pre that would need an external.

    I switched backed to heads, because of ease of transporation and I like the overall sound of heads more often. (Although, I havent had lots of experience switching through pre and power amps)

    It is cool to have a pre and power setup because you have the ability to a/b test preamps easily and you can switch out preamps whenever the situation calls for it - studio/live - rock/jazz

    Hope this helps!
  3. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    NE ND
    I'm using a PodXT right now. I can try many different preamps. It also has a parametric EQ built in - along with everything else.

    No, it's not exact, and no it's not for everyone, but it's close enough for me and my needs.
  4. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    Power amps are designed to work with the same range of frequencies as a bass head. They are mostly identical in design.

    Nearly all of the tone of a bass amp is developed within the preamp (tube power amps aside). There's nothing special about the power stage of a SS bass amp as opposed to a slave amp.

    That being said, I recommend a bass head any day of the week. A preamp/power amp rig and a bunch of rack effects is a huge PITA to deal with for little or no gain IMO. It was a nice alternative when dedicated heads were typically no more than 300-400 watts, but these days you can pickup a 800-1K watt head any day of the week. That's plenty of power with the ease of plug and play.
  5. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    I use rack rigs for these reasons... and more. I also like the ability to assemble modules as I wish. For example, sometimes I feel like the flat tube tone of the Read Purity. Other times I prefer the colored/dirty response of the SansAmp RBI or SWR IOD. I can supplement any of my preamps with a TC four-band parametric EQ and/or Rane compressor. If I decide not to use a particular module I can run it in bypass mode, patch around it, or pull it out of the rack entirely.

    It's both fun and useful to mix and match modules to suit my whim and/or need. The effort involved is negligible IMO. Finally: if a module should ever fail, it's easy to patch around it, and I just bring the module in for repair, not my entire rig.

    Depends on what you mean by "better". For quality, see below. For tone: if you like the Ampeg sound, it might be easier just to get an Ampeg head. But if you have a rack, you can buy an Ampeg preamp! Same thing for Ashdown, SWR, Eden, others. Bass heads are limited: they might not have all the features you want... or you might be paying for features you'll never use. OTOH, maybe you don't want to assemble a bulky rack that contains preamp and para EQ and compressor and crossover and multi-space amplifier, when some bass heads contain all of these features in a smaller package.

    Generally speaking, I trust an amp made by an amp manufacturer more than I do an amp made by a bass amp manufacturer. For solid state, anyway!

    For genuine tube tone, it's better to get an all-tube bass amp. Aside from that, dedicated power amps usually have better features and quality than bass head power amps. F'r instance, many enjoy having 30Hz filters (present on QSC amps)... a feature like that typically isn't found on a bass head.
  6. I've been running pre/power for years now, love it. Got a problem? swap that part out. My preamp was acting up, used another. If the power amp goes, I can replace just that, and keep my sound. Everything is hooked up inside the rack, I just plug speakers into the amp, the amp into the preamp (I have pre/wireless/tuner/powerconditioner in one rack, power amp in the other) and I'm all set up.

    Plus all the pretty lights! OOoohhh! Aaaaahhh!

  7. It also matters where you live.

    I live in OZ - and as such, dedicated bass gear is VERY EXPENSIVE! :eek: Whereas a general pa amp/poweramp is MUCH cheaper due to popularity and getting a pre-amp 2nd handy thru the 'Bay is less than half the price of a dedicated bass amp.
    eg. SVP-CL new at my local music shop = $1500AUD
    got mine thu eBay US for $350 (+$100 post)
    Got a poweramp (Peak 1600w) for $600AUD.
    Made the rack myself
    Too easy!
    For that price I could buy ..........nothing........
    All the dedicated bass heads in my locals music shops (over 300w SS that is) are too much!
    I found this the cheaper alternative for massive amounts of power. ;)
  8. JJBluegrasser

    JJBluegrasser Wannabe Snazzy Dresser

    Apr 17, 2003
    USA, Raleigh, NC
    I'm no tone junkie, per se, but I had a pre/power amp setup and I've switched to a Mesa Walkabout Combo Amp (with up to 2 1x12 external speakers as well if needed).

    I've heard Pre/Power setups that sounded awesome and the same with heads/combos. I think it's all a matter of what you want to carry and how much twiddling (=headache, if you ask me) you want to deal with.

    What I've got now is pretty much all the power I really need and I wanted to get back to carrying my bass in one hand and an amp in the other. I want to plug it in and play.

    That's my preference. That's why there are so many options these days, and I am thankful for being able to choose.

  9. popinfresh


    Dec 23, 2004
    Melbourne, Aus
    Why not a head and parametric? =/

    If you can find an amp with 'your sound' go for it.
  10. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Gotta love vintage amp jewels!!