Best stereo Bass head for Keys & PA use ?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Gypsy3000, Jun 6, 2020.

  1. Gypsy3000


    Nov 7, 2019
    I'm a keyboard player building a pair of fEARful 15/6/1's to serve multi-duties as my stereo key rig, PA duty and occasional dedicated Bass rig.
    Intended use 70% recording, 29%* live.

    Around '95, I plugged a Rhodes into a Marshall stack and ever since have slobbered over the notion of shifting to a quality stereo toobuhlar guitar amp. For range and sonics, lotsa' keys players opt for Bass rigs. Most dedicated "keyboard amps" sound like a flattened pile of oozing sh*t. There may be impedance considerations re both head input/output (pickup vs line, fEAR's @ 8ohm); analysis/ solutions welcome.

    Musical style mostly hard-driving funk-core w/interludes of lush-padliness [Kronos/Proph 6].

    Keeping intended use(s) and match with fEARfuls in mind, counsel re stereo Bass head options much appreciated.

    I'm okay with either new or used. Budget somewhat flexible [to 2k].


    *1% reserved for navel-gazing.
  2. abarson


    Nov 6, 2003
    Santa Cruz
    Why do you need a stereo rig for recording? Why wouldn't you connect directly to the mixer/recording interface?

    As basses are mono instruments (except Rick-O-Sound on a Rickenbacker) there isn't much point in building stereo bass amplifiers, and I had to search to come up with any.
    WJBA2 1000 Watt Stereo Bass Guitar Amplifier. 6 band EQ built in.
    Eden WT1205 Tube Hybrid Stereo Bass Amp

    To me, stereo mode only seems to have any relevance if you are employing modulation effects like flanging or phasing which has some "movement" to it. Otherwise, how are you distributing a mono signal to two distinct outputs? What's the point?
  3. Gypsy3000


    Nov 7, 2019
    It seems the shadow-world of the lower-frequency'd may have issues with this entire concept of bass rig + stereo = Keys (sled patches = stereo, but you knew that).

    Direct @ recording... yes. Mostly.

    BUT, the pair o' fEARful-spec 15/6/1's are going to be serving substantial duty live as keys rig, occasional PA/Bass.

    Well, currently "Live!" is dead, but this crushing-wave shall eventually subside and, once again, souls shall intermingle in bodily proximity to the throb & shriek of living musicians.
    [Quote credit: W. Churchill; Dunkirk Sessions, 1940]

    Who knows, maybe Los Musicos shall mingle, too.

    I'm ol' skool session engineer*. I like the options of actually mic'ing cabs -including keys @STEREO- rather than leaning entirely on the fabulous dig domain to emulate.

    O.P.: What are some of the most versatile (tube/clean blending, comp/EQ, etc) and awesome [discrete] 2-channel bass heads, both new/old?

    * Tenitis = Toast = 70% Sonic Nihilist.
    Sage, to Youth: Take sudafed on long flights!!!
    2004, 13hr SF-Roma direct: no analgesic + delayed low-altitude Delta-767 cabin-decompression...
    Ciao Right Ear! Buongiorno 24-7 white/pink noise!!!
    SUDAFED! Or generic equivalent.
  4. TheBass


    Jul 2, 2004
    I'm not aware that there are many stereo bass/keyboard amps out there (if any). But I suggest to go a different path for your setup. Why not have a stereo preamp (or a small mixing console) driving two active full range cabinets ? I have used a Zoom B3 to drive an EV ZLX 15p as a stage bass amp for 18 months live and it worked surprisingly well.
  5. Redbrangus

    Redbrangus Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2018
    Under The X In Texas
    Since you're building cabs, I'd recommend a small mixer with a stereo power amp rather than trying to find a stereo bass head.

    I presume you're aware of the difficulties of mic-ing a 3-way cab in a recording situation.
    Downunderwonder and agedhorse like this.
  6. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    I am not aware of any true stereo bass amps. I have a few amps with dual power amps, but the preamps are all mono. Some of the have stereo effects loops, but that's not really going to help you with stereo keyboard patches.

    You could go two ways. Either get a stereo preamp like a Midas XL42 or a mixer of some sort.

    The Midas XL42 is basically two channels strips that can be panned as desired. You can also link several XL42s so they essentially function as a multi-chanel mixer. Unfortunately they are fairly expensive and have been discontinued for quite awhile, but there are probably other similar products. I don't really think this is a very good solution as you spend a small fortune and only have two channels.

    I used to tour with a rack rig that would do exactly what you want. It had an Ashley MX508 rack mixer and a QSC power amp in a rolling rack with a rack drawer to hold cables, DI's, etc. I used Shure A95U line matching transformers for my basses, so I could plug into the mic input. Most keyboards will put out hot enough signal to use the line-level input.

    The whole point in using this rig is because I often switched between bass guitar, upright bass, and electric upright bass.

    This was a very flexible rig. I usually ran with just a single Eden D210XLT, but sometimes I added a pair of Galaxy Audio Hotspots for monitors. A monitor send from FOH was routed to the MX508 so could adjust the level and blend in a bit of bass as desired. My vocal mic was routed to FOH and then back through the MX508.

    Other times I ran a stereo bass rig. I put an Edent D410XLT for the drummer on the floor because he wanted a big fat sound. The D210XLT would go on top of the rolling rack tilted back to aim at my ears so I could monitor at a comfortable level while cranking the 410 loud enough to push the band. With this setup the cabs were physically separated, which is normally a no, no because it causes combo filtered. But I ran the 210 at a low enough level that it was not really a problem.

    I also used this rig occasionally for a small PA. With this setup I ran the D210XLT and up to four of the Galaxy HotSpots on the QSC power amp. I would reconfigure the board so the D210XLT was on one aux send and the HotSpots were on the the other aux send. Also the HotSpots had individual volume controls so each person in the band could adjust the level of their monitor. For mains I hooked up a pair of powered speakers to the L/R stereo outs.

    This sort of setup would do exactly what you want. The caveats are it was fairly heavy and also fairly expensive.
  7. Gypsy3000


    Nov 7, 2019
    Thx for responses. I suppose the best way to resolve this is to wait till I finish building the 2 fEarful 15/6/1's (& 15sub) and then experiment with power/sound combos w/keys rig + fretless5 + etc. Bass head(s) vs sterile 2-channel amps using outboard.
    Here in Bass-land, your rigs come a helluva lot closer to sandblasting than the host of insufferably flat, tubeless "Keyboard" amps. I'll report back when I find the stereo combo that peels paint = NOT your conservatory maestro's preferred keyboard amplification. Cheers
  8. BassmanPaul

    BassmanPaul Inactive

    Use a PA system for this as bass amps are not necessarily full range or stereo. :)
    Mark Plays Bass likes this.
  9. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Bring Back Edit/Delete

    Nov 30, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    Build a little rack. Stereo power amp. 1U line mixer. Then add any combo of rack bass preamps and/or channel strips that meet your needs.
    Mark Plays Bass likes this.
  10. jeff7bass

    jeff7bass Inactive

    Apr 9, 2009
    This; I have one.
  11. Omega Monkey

    Omega Monkey

    Mar 8, 2015
    One option could be a Trace AH 1200-12. It's a hybrid bass amp with a tube pre, tube overdrive (with blend), graphic EQ, dual band compressor, etc... and also one of the most fully featured and flexible effects loops sections I've ever seen (I have the AH 600-12 version). The loop can be split high and low (sadly with a set crossover frequency which I think is fairly high) or left and right, with 2 600w power sections, or you can use the loop in mono and just get the same signal out through both "sides" of the amp. For keys, you should be able to run a small mixer into the left and right loop returns. If you wanted to gig on bass and keys on the same night, you may need an ABY on one of the returns so you don't interrupt the signal from the pre to the power section for the bass. I don't remember offhand, but you may also need an ABY on the other side too, so the bass goes through both cabs.

    The only downsides are that they aren't cheap (maybe about $1K) and they aren't light (somewhere pushing close to 50 pounds) or small. But they should do everything you need it to.
  12. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Neither of these are stereo. They have a single channel preamp and dual output sections. The OP is interested in something that can serve as a stereo keyboard rig.
    jeff7bass likes this.
  13. JimChjones


    Aug 6, 2017
    SE England
    In this days of super light and small bass heads, is it worth trying to find a good sounding stereo bass amp? OK this won't be practical if you fancy tube monsters, but a pair of lightweight class D heads, plus tube preamps if that fulfils your needs is probably going to be cheaper and handier, and when it's PA duties one mixer channel into each FX loop return should do the job...
    Mark Plays Bass and Wasnex like this.
  14. Omega Monkey

    Omega Monkey

    Mar 8, 2015
    There is literally no amp on the market with 2 pairs of stereo inputs. The amp I mentioned is the closest the OP would be able to get to what he's looking for. REGARDLESS there will be at least a small mixer of some kind involved to merge the 2 stereo keyboards into a single stereo pair. His budget clearly allows for some accessories to make it all happen so the gear all plays nice together. Personally, I have an older Mackie 1202 mixer that I paid like 70 bucks for that would work perfectly.

    BUT, depending on what he's looking for, he may also look into getting a separate bass preamp and any old stereo power amp with the wattage he wants/needs.

    I will say, if he's not intending to use both bass and keys on the same gig, separate amplification solutions might be more practical, and probably even cheaper. The cabs can be used for either, that's fine. But then a bass head for bass (presumably that can do 2 ohms, or 2x4 ohms, like a Shuttle Max 12) and a small mixer and a power amp for keys.

    I play guitar, bass, and keys. I use separate gear for everything basically. My current keyboard rig is a Presonus 16.0.2 mixer into an ART SL4, which is a 4 channel mixer that any pair can be bridged, then into some older JBL PA/MI cabs on amp stands. Not the simplest rig, but it does work great and sounds REALLY good and I have way more volume than I need (the JBLs are 2 way 12s with horns from the late 80s or so, G series, rated at 200 watts RMS). I have EQ and compression for each keyboard, and for my analog synth which doesn't have any built in effects, I can use the 2 effects sends on the Presonus for some reverb and delay, mix it in as desired, and even have tap tempo available. At some point if I start gigging on keys again, I want to add a small-ish sub into the mix, with one of the channel pairs bridged into the sub, and the other 2 individually into the JBLs. And also eventually to replace the JBLs with something a bit lighter (and better). Like some nice custom 8 or 10" 3 way cabs that are more like 30 or 35 pounds vs the 45+ of the JBLs (I still have no idea why these compact plywood cabs are so heavy).

    For bass, I'll either use one of my SWR or Genz 4x10s, or my pair of Uber Quads, and for a head it would be my AH 600-12, GBE-750, or my ShuttleMax 9.2.

    Eventually I'd like to start doing some solo 6 string bass type stuff (with looping, lots of ambience, chords, effects, etc...) for which I would use the ART amp, bridged into 2 channels, fed from the SM preamp out into my M9 (for stereo). I've done this before and it works well. I think the ART is 280w x2 when bridged, so frankly that's plenty for that kind of thing. For very small gigs like that, I could take the JBLs instead which are about 1/4 to 1/3 the physical volume of the Uber Quads (but don't sound as good or go as loud).