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Need advice on a multi-purpose amp for a beginner

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by salientdigital, Jan 15, 2014.

  1. salientdigital


    Jan 15, 2014
    What's up everyone. I have learned so very much from this awesome forum.

    I'm a complete noob when it comes to bass amp heads. I am a recording artist mainly playing piano/synths for 20 years and finally broke down and bought a bass guitar. It's kind of a crappy one, but I figure I can learn on it. Everything I've learned about bass tech has been from this forum and studying the product pages after searching model numbers of eBay auctions of used gear.

    As a synth player I know there's no contest between "real analog" synths such as Moog vs cheap digital knockoffs. So my first thought was that I should only consider a real tube amp, but I'm confused about bass amp heads that only have a speaker out. It'd be nice to have an effects loop for the future.

    I'd like to buy exactly one bass amp head in my life, and I want to use it to record with first, but possibly gig with later. Cost isn't so much the issue, just getting something that I can grow into. Some of the ones I looked at:

    Ampeg PortaBass 250
    Hartke Systems 3500
    Gallien Kreuger MB200
    Gallien Kreuger Backline 350
    Ampeg Micro VR
    Ampeg SVT 400
    Ampeg PF500
    Bugera BVP5500

    Any advice you can give on these or any other models would be very appreciated!
  2. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    What are you planning on using for a cab?
    Why do you want an effects loop? Unless you're running rack gear they're essentially pointless.
    What type of sound are you going after?
    What bass are you using? P? J? Something else?
  3. salientdigital


    Jan 15, 2014
    Thanks BassGod.
    At first I don't even need or want one - I don't have the room. I have no plans to gig until I learn some songs, only to mess around and record at first. At minimum I was looking at tube pre-amps to get that warm analog sound into my DAW, but I thought some amps would have an output after the pre for recording purposes. Learning most don't. I have two inputs with gain on my sound card for mic/guitar but figured I would have more tonal options with a decent amp head so I don't have to run plugins just to get a decent sound and level.
    For future expandability. I may want to use a delay pedal and/or moogfooger.
    I'm not even educated enough to answer that. Clean? Versatile? I play/write/record all music types, from jazz to dance to pop, rock & R&B.
    P? J? No clue. It's a Ktone Steinberger knockoff with passive pickups. Piece of junk probably, just to learn on. Picked it because it was cheap, convenient and shaped like a Steinberger.

    Thanks in advance for educating me. I'm not embarrassed to say I'm clueless! I won't take any offense - I joined this site for your expertise!
  4. Lets clear some things up? With the exception of "digital effects" in some amp heads, bass amps are all analog.
    Any "pedal" does not belong in an effects loop, Effects loops are for line level rack equipment, not instrument level pedals.
    Most amp heads with a "DI" (XLR balanced cable) out allow you to to select the mic/line level output as pre EQ section or post EQ section to send to a DAW or mixer (same signal as effects send or preamp out).
    None of the amps you list are "all tube" even though you mentioned that desire? The device providing the gain being a SS one does not make it "digital" they are still analog. But then what ever you feed a DAW goes through an analog to digital conversion? I'm unclear what you are looking for?
    Most bass heads have pretty good DI's for FOH/Mixing desks. Use of an "All tube" amp in most cases will require a speaker cab to be connected while in use.

    You can use an adapter from the post EQ DI out XLR to a Hi-Z unbalanced for your sound card.
  5. salientdigital


    Jan 15, 2014
    Great that's why I'm here.

    Right, but not all analog bass amps are tube amps. I was looking at the Bugera BVP5500 because it has 4 x 12AX7 tubes and seemed pretty affordable.

    Well I'll be schooled. What are examples of line level rack equipment? I have a Behringer virtualizer pro (chorus, reverb, etc). Is that what you mean?

    That sounds like what I am after. I'm more familiar with mic pre-amps, there's some tube mic pre-amps that I've listened to and they sound amazing. I was thinking that the right bass amp head for me has the ability to do the same thing for my bass that a tube preamp does for my mic.

    Okay fair enough. Bear with me here. I checked out the Behringer Ultrabass, or TC Electronic BH250, GK MB200… but figured there was no tube, and they were not even analog... since they are so small and light. I have more experience with digital synths, which are lighter and sound close to analog but not exact, by "modeling" technology on a digital chip and figured that is how these smaller, cheaper, lighter bass amp heads work. Am I wrong on that?

    Yes. Well, I'm unclear what I'm looking for too. If I plug in my bass direct to my DAW, I can record, and it's alright. But I have to use up one of my Mic inputs to get the gain up, and run the channel turned way up to get decent volume on the track due to passive pickups, and then run plugins (like a tube amp simulator with Guitar Rig) which eats up processor. I was looking at tube preamps to get a regular 1/4" line input that sounds better with more volume, and not need to use any plugins in my DAW.

    Meaning, you have to mic the cabinet to record? Surely there are plenty of tube amps that have a line out after the tube preamp. It's possible what I think I want actually doesn't exist but I find that hard to believe.

    My DAW uses a Steinberg MR816csx. It has 2 XLR mic inputs (Hi-Z?) and six 1/4" line level. I'm confused now. Are there any amps that have 1/4" line out for recording? I looked at the Sansamp and JDI DI Boxes but I don't really get it. Why would I spend $200 on a little box to simulate a tube when I can spend $200 used or maybe a little more, on an actual tube amp head? What am I missing?
  6. 1 That has a tube preamp/SS power amp (not all tube). G-K MB Fusion 500 and 800 also have a full three tube preamp. Don't let the "Digital class D" fool you. Class D is analog.

    2 Yes that is an example!

    3 Some will do it better than others with some only sticking A tube in there somewhere.

    4 All analog with the exception of the digital effects in the BG250, don't remember if the power compression routine is also digital in the BG250. Many amps save weight by using a SMPS (Switch Mode Power Supply) that greatly reduces the weight and size and there are smaller lightweight amps that use old school class A/B outputs just like tube amps do.

    5 Any amp with an effects out or pre out will give a hotter signal and DI's differ in output level, some are so hot they have to be "padded" to reduce the signal.

    6 All tube bass amps (pre and power section with tubes) MUST have a cab connected whether you use the DI or mike the cab with the exception of the Fender Bassman 100 that has a built-in load for silent recording that I can remember. Hybrids with tube preamp and SS output are okay without a cab.

    7 XLR's are balanced 600 ohm (Low-Z). 1/4" are High-Z. "Z" stands for impedance only, not "signal level".

    BTW some all tube preamps can sound pretty bad, tubes are not a guarantee for great sound. It is up to the design engineer to make tube or SS sound good.
  7. A few relatively low power tube amplifiers have built in powersoak for recording, but most require a cab or the amp burns up.
  8. BassistForJesus


    Sep 28, 2010
    If you have a DAW, buy the A Designs Reddi Tube DI. Mix on your DAW. You will get that warm Ampeg B15 tone.

    Then, later if you decide you want to gig, sell the Reddi (excellent resale value) and buy a amp/speaker.

  9. salientdigital


    Jan 15, 2014
    Wow, thanks for the tip. I'll definitely check it out.

    Has anyone heard the Reddi Tube DI vs. the Sansamp VT rack? I ask just cuz the Sansamp is 1/2 the price.
  10. JimmyM did a big effort recording the old VT and his Reddi, it was damn close. Statistically not as many bassists picked correctly as you might think. Iirc it was something like 70/30 correct, but when random guessing yields 50/50, that's not a great result.