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Buying my first serious amp. New or old?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by marksmith85, Apr 19, 2009.

  1. Greetings fellow bassists,

    I'm about to embark on my first "serious" bass amp and I'd like some experienced opinions/advice on whether I should buy a brand spanking new amp or a second hand one. I say second hand instead of vintage, because I've noticed on other threads there are slight technicalities over what's classed "vintage" and what's not, I'm referring to 70's/80's solid state. So what's your preference and why?

    So far, I've heard that whilst new amps are reliable they lack the character and tone of the older (less reliable) ones. Does anyone feel that reliability is worth sacrificing for tone? Or even better, can anyone suggest an amp which strikes a good balance?

    I'll be playing mostly medium sized venues and I don't want to spend any more than £700. I'm willing to let my ears do the testing, but hearing your experiences will be more than helpful.
  2. RickenBoogie


    Jul 22, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    There are plenty of brand new amps with great tone and character. As to which you'd like, only you know. Between new, and something decades old, I'll take new. But between new, and something recent and used, I'll take used.
  3. excane

    excane Banned

    Aug 23, 2005
    New York, NY
    If you're going solid state, I would be less worried buying used than choosing a tube amp.

    A tube amp could potentially have a lot more problems inside it.

    It's really up to you...my first "real" amp was used and I still have it to this day.

    Do you have any preferences or a list of brands you're thinking about?
  4. baddarryl

    baddarryl Supporting Member

    Oct 26, 2008
    Cape Fear!
    Ashdowns are a wonderful mix of vintage tone and modern reliability and featues. Should be easy to find in th UK. I absolutley love mine.
  5. buy a soundcity 120/200plus and spend the rest revalving / doing it up you wont regret it ;p
  6. BadB


    May 25, 2005
    AZ, USA
    80'd solid state? Gallien-Krueger 800RB, hands down. Very reliable and good tone. Pair it with most any cab, too.
  7. BillyRay

    BillyRay Supporting Member

    Jan 20, 2008
    GK 400RB if you don't need earsplitting volume (PA support in 200 seaters), GK 800RB if you do. Pair with a good 215.

  8. MIJ-VI

    MIJ-VI Banned Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2009
    Hi marksmith85.

    Amp tone is a variable which changes (and is malleable via EQ & gain structure etc) depending upon basses used, room acoustics, competition from other instruments, and even a player's perception.

    Reliability, on the other hand, is a must-have in that if a rig breaks down, there is no tone.

    I will purchase a more powerful amp by year's end, and I will treat myself to the peace of mind of knowing that it will be a new rig made by a respected amp maker whose track record for product support and customer service is unimpeachable.

    You may wish to consider doing so as well until after you've owned & used amps long enough to know what to look for - both good and bad - in a used rig.

    In for a penny, in for a pound...
  9. bluewine

    bluewine Banned

    Sep 4, 2008
    I would go new, and you might want to cover your bases by purchasing more than you need. I like the idea of the GK800RB.

    It's easier to scale back (just turn down the volume) it's harder if you don't have an amp witht he power you need.

    All the EQ and compression and balance stuff is important too, but that takes time and experimenting in live gig environments.
  10. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Not really. Tube amps are no more inherently more or less reliable than solid state amps. And judging by the repair bills of my solid state gear vs. my tube gear, they're about equal in that respect, too.

    What worries me about old solid state amps is not being able to get certain parts that are obsolete. I just read a thread about people having to stop using their Polytone Mini-Brutes because an integral part is no longer available. I've yet to hear of it happening with tube amps, especially older ones.

    Also, as long as I've been playing (almost 35 years now), I've yet to see any solid state amps of the past that begin to compare to the newer amps you can get. So for that reason alone, if I were to get a SS amp, I'd get a newer one. Wouldn't hesitate to buy recently used, either.
  11. Gallien-Krueger 800rb is an excellent launching pad. New or used.
  12. MIJ-VI, what amp are you getting and who by?

    Thanks for your responses everyone, I got more than I expected!

    It seems that I'm going to have to spend a considerable amount of time and research and time into finding what I want. So I'm going to go to a friends mate's place who has lots of old/vintage amps for a good price, and ask him about reliability. But I suspect I'm going to buy new, because the idea of spending money and only getting bills for maintaining the damn thing will only aggravate me. I guess it's a lot like buying a car. Classic, new or used.

    (by the way, this's the third time i've tried to reply to this thread, stupid thing isn't behaving like I expected it to! I'm new to this forum malarkey)
  13. zuokinis


    Feb 5, 2009
    London, UK
  14. riker1384


    Jan 2, 2007
    I would think it would be like cars. If you want to save money and have something reliable, buy something a few years old rather than vintage stuff. Am I wrong?
  15. PSPookie


    Aug 13, 2006
    Ocoee, TN
    Recent, used is where it's at IMO. Buy last year's latest and greates for about half of what it costs new. It should still perform just like it did right out of the box and have a lot of life left in it.
  16. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You're not necessarily wrong, but it's a case by case basis. Some old amps I'd trust way more than a new one, and some are one breakdown away from obsolescence.
  17. Only problem is, it's harder to source an amp that way, and you're probably left waiting for one to come up for sale that you want.

    I had a shot of a few amps the other day. Trace Elliot 1215 Combo, Ampeg BA300 115, Ampeg BA300 210, all around the £700/£800 mark, but when I had a shot of the Eden DC210XLT I couldn't stop playing around with the darn thing. The tiles in the ceiling were rattling after turning the bass one notch up! But at £1499 it's way out of reach. But I like Eden's philosophy and design ethic, and the sound of that amp.

    Any suggestions of older Eden models that I could get on the cheap?
  18. whitespike


    Nov 28, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Try any of the "Traveler" Eden heads. They are very awesome. Very reliable IME, and sound great. Just pair it with any cab you want. Could probably get in around $550 USD.
  19. MIJ-VI

    MIJ-VI Banned Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2009
    Hi marksmith85.

    Since I'm a big fan of amps made by regional manufacturers, and since I live in Toronto, I'll be going with a Traynor DB300 (made by Yorkville Sound which is located in Pickering near TO) which meets my modest needs for a compact, lightweight & loud rig whose cab size is sufficient for the low end produced by a short-scale 6-string. (However, if I were still playing a long-scale bass, nothing but a bigger bass box would do.)

    I have yet to play through a properly functioning pro-grade bass amp which sounded bad. They all sounded good to varying degrees.

    These days there are plenty of excellent rigs made by talented, forward-thinking developers to choose from.

    If I lived in Italy, I'd go with Markbass, in the U.K. it'd be a brand like Marshall, in the U.S. well.., I wouldn't where to start! :confused:

    For me, when it comes to bass amps: reliability is king; product support is queen; and tone is the recalcitrant little crown prince who seems to change his impressionable young mind every other day... :rolleyes:

    If my bass guitar is properly set up, and if a bass rig is reliable & loud enough, then good tone is my responsibility as a musician.
  20. zuokinis


    Feb 5, 2009
    London, UK
    Theres Ashdown AL-AD600 ex demo at basscentre.com for £500. Pretty sure its the same as MK500 mark king signature model but without the signature, with nice golden front panel and is discontinued. and probably manufactured in UK. Its all SS i believe with this harmonic enchancer or whatever.

    Can be heard in The Stranglers - Suite XVI album i believe.

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