Combo or head/cab?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by ThomClaire, Dec 5, 2013.

  1. ThomClaire


    Dec 31, 2012
    Asheville, NC
    Okay, first I have to apologize. I know this has been discussed before but after searching and checking stickies I can't seem to find anything about this. Maybe it's because I'm on my phone. I have no idea.

    I'm wanting to know, for a first rig, if starting with a combo is better buying a bass head and cab, or if its better to just skip the combo altogether. What are the advantages of having a combo for your first amp? And are those advantages worth having to forget the whole thing when you want to add or change your speakers?

    Also, what are disadvantages of starting with a head/cab setup instead of a combo?
  2. NeonVomit


    Jan 29, 2013
    London, UK

    Pros: Simple setup, no fiddling around with cables, plug it in and go, will usually be well-matched amplifiers and speakers, will often (not always) be a bit cheaper than a similar head/cab combination. This means you will have more money for beer. For a first amp, combos are often the way to go, you will very often find them with lots of built in features (the Roland Bass Cube combos are pretty sweet with lots of built-in features and effects, I'm still waiting for my little Peavey to bite the dust so I can have an excuse to buy one)

    Cons: Less future flexibility - you might like the amplifier but want to upgrade to a 410, but you're stuck with a 115. If one thing goes wrong (driver blows or amplifier burns out during a gig) the whole thing is useless unless you do some fancy rewiring.


    Pros: much more flexible, often will be more portable as well (easier to stuff into a car) you can expand rig as and when your needs change and evolve. Add another cabinet, swap the head. If one thing breaks it's simpler to resolve - I've had a head blow out at a gig and then simply stuck another one on top of my stack and carry on. You can mix and match at your pleasure - maybe you like GK heads and Eden cabinets, or a Hartke head and an Ampeg cabinet or whatever crazy combination takes your fancy. The world is your oyster, or something.

    Cons: Can be more expensive to buy individual components. You may inadvertently blow the head up by adding two 4ohm cabinets by accident, or using the wrong type of cable, or... well.. just more stuff can go wrong. You might end up with a poorly-matched cabinet and head (sonically speaking). Also, these types of setups tend to be bigger and heavier than combos, unless you go for more expensive brands like MarkBass or Gallien Krueger.

    Judging by what you're saying, the best bet would be for you to grab yourself a good used combo, maybe a 1x10 or 1x12. It's unlikely you'll ever get rid of it if it's a good one (see Peavey above) as they're useful to have for practice or jamming with friends in their basement, and you can buy a full head-and-cab rig if and when you play gigs.

    What kind of budget are you looking at? Do you think you'll be carrying the amp around a lot? If so, an ultra-light combo like the GK MBEs or a MarkBass might fit the bill. Are you just doing practice alone at home? If so, it's not really worth getting a head/cabin combo, just pick up a nice combo with a good sound. If you're doing some jamming with a drummer and a guitarist, everything changes (EVERYTHING changes.)

    Hope that helps.


    Dec 3, 2013
    I like Head and cab separate because if something goes wrong with the head or cab you can send one off and not both to get work done. But tc electronic has a combo line bg250 and bg 500.
    I owned a bg250 with a 15" speaker and loved it! The amp itself has onboard effects, rehearsal input so you can play along to your favorite songs or practice your own material and it's only 35 pounds and 250 Watts.
    I currently own tc's rh450 head and a rs 112 cab and going to add a second cab.
    Love the gear!
  4. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Depends on your application. I have both. The combo is convenient for rehearsals and small gigs, whereas the individual component rig serves for bigger gigs and allows me to change any one component if I so desire.
  5. This, me.
  6. itchyfingers


    Sep 17, 2013
    I think if you're just learning/jamming with friends, the combo is the way to go. I still have my first bass combo - it now serves as my laptop speaker in my music room.

    If you're gigging and playing different bands, I think the head/cab rig is the way to go. Its much more flexible, and you're making gig money to pay for all those different sized heads and speaker cab configurations. :D
  7. I never saw the point of getting a separate head/cab until I got a separate head/cab. It's just better, IMO... Especially when you find one you really like you can swap out the other to experiment. Plus, there aren't many other than solid state combos out there and I've become a tube guy over the years.
  8. FWIW: I like both. The newer combo's made today are much better than the old combo's made years ago. The thing I like best about combo's is, they're very quick and easy to load in/out, setup, and transport.
  9. I own both G C Acoustic B-200 combo and head cab seperates.

    Bought the combo because it handled low B with no issues. Bought the head cab seperates as the combo is just... heavy... enough ....for an older guy such as myself..that seperates is an easier move, even though 2 trips instead of one.

    Other advantages/ disadvantages as within posts above.
  10. abarson


    Nov 6, 2003
    Santa Cruz
    Combo in the bedroom for practice.
    Separates for practice/gigs.

    Of course, that may change...
  11. You could spend hundreds of hours going over all this with a fine-toothed comb. For example, you could get the GK 2x12 combo with 500 watts for about $800. Or you could get the almost same cab and amp for $1000 separate. Weight is about the same. But with two 2x12 8-ohm cabs you get the same 500 watts going into FOUR speakers. Much nicer. You can grow into that with the head/cab outfit. With the combo you're locked into the combo.
  12. Wesley R

    Wesley R Supporting Member

    Way back, there were not very many decent combos., of course there were exceptions, Standel made one with 2-15’s, kind of large for a combo, so did Ampeg, and let us not forget the rest of the Portaflex series.

    The world has changed dramatically. Watts are cheaper, speakers are more efficient, cabinet & speaker design/integration has become a design factor of more common usage, you do not always have to carry the whole room, etc.

    In 1968 I (not purposefully) lied to my mother “This is the last amp I will ever need”.

    Determine your needs first. Buy the highest quality you can, play, be happy.
  13. Sav'nBass

    Sav'nBass What the .............. Supporting Member

    Jan 18, 2009
    Northern Va.
    I would say it all depends on what your plans are for your playing. If you plan to play bass until you can no longer do it then a head/cab set up is better. A used Shuttle 6.0 or something similar and a single 12" cab with the idea to add another down the road if need be is the way to go IMO.
  14. I used that 2x15 Standel for about three years. There was a touring group called the Spurlows that bought it from me in 1970. The bass player who used it said it was used about five more years. Not bad for a combo. Sounded great in the late 60s. Don't think it would sell today. Loved the wheels on the side though - made it very easy to move around. BTW I still have an ad for the Standel series. That one listed for $800 in 1966. Look what you can get today for that!
  15. Bass Fund

    Bass Fund Banned

    Nov 30, 2013
    I like it all in one combo, with plenty of power and headroom. The older Peavey TNT's and Combo 300's, Fender BXR 300's. There's just less to move around. Less chance of somebody heisting something while your hauling.
  16. NeonVomit


    Jan 29, 2013
    London, UK
    A definite bonus of owning heavy-ass, bulky gear. People are less likely to run off with it. I could leave my Ashdown ABM 410 outside a venue with little fear, because you'd need a van and 2 people to steal it - won't fit through a normal car door.
  17. For at home practice, I recommend some sort of headphone amp..Line6 Bass Pod..Korg Pandora or similar, as ANY sound from a bass rig, regardless of size , will send sound waves all over your home... to the point of causing some disturbance or annoyance within and if sound travels outside??..Easily alerts thieves as they drive by, casing your neighborhood. They hear a bass rig.. and..YOUR HOUSE OR APT IS NEXT.
  18. I believe Neonvomit hit the nail on the head with his pros/cons. It will really depend on what you see your future is with bass playing. Jamming with friends, but never playing live, you may feel a good combo is all you need. If you believe you may play live, the head/cab route is probably better.
    That said, there are 'hybrids'. Markbass and GK have combos that you can add additional cabinets which will give you more flexibility if your requirements change (eg. playing live or playing with a heavy-handed drummer).
  19. ThomClaire


    Dec 31, 2012
    Asheville, NC
    Thanks for all your responses. My playing probably won't come outside of the house for awhile, so it sounds like I'll be going with a combo for the time being. Thanks for all your help