New to Bass, learning about amps

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by cowardm, Jul 31, 2009.

  1. I'm primarily a guitarist, and quite familiar with all things guitar. That said, I feel like I can kind of find my way around bass gear with a little help. Being new to bass, I thought I'd plug into a forum and learn a thing or two. I'll probably try and lurk and learn, but I had a few questions about amps:

    I've always wanted to own a bass to casually learn and have around for recording or filling in with some friends and recently came across a used SX (LGT description) that I really liked. I played it in a little Orange bass amp and it just sounded really great, so I've been tempted to go for it.

    That puts me in the market for a bass amp. I'm not opposed to buying used, but there are a few questions I had:
    1) I noticed that 10 inch speakers are really common on bass amps. In the guitar world 10 and 12 inch speakers are the norm, but 12s tend to be the preference. In the bass world is 10 inch the preference?

    2) I assume since I'm buying entry level stuff that whatever I get amp-wise will not be a high end something-or-another, but a modest solid state amp. I'd still like to have enough to compete in a band-practice setting (against a guitarist and drummer). How many watts will cut it. Would something like a 1x10 or 1x12 suffice?

    3) I'd say $100-150 price range for an amp. Any recommendations? My favorite bassists are Tim Commerford (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave), Chris Wolstenholme (Muse), and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin). I'd love something loud enough to compete with a band, but also can still do some bedroom levels.

    Thanks for your help.
  2. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Lurk and learn is a great way to acquire new information around here. But it takes time... :meh:

    That said...

    1) Cabs with 10-inch drivers have been around ever since the introduction of the SVT, and have been especially popular since the late 70s through the 90s. These days, things have been changing. Fifteens have been making a comeback, and twelves are more recently coming on strong. The bottom line: Unlike with guitar speakers, there is no sort of "norm" in the bass world. It all depends on a) the type of application for which you need the cab, and b) the cabinet design. Search and see...

    2) While you'll get a variety of opinions about this, I personally wouldn't go less than a 300-watt amp and a 2x12 or 4x10 cab, or something equivalent. Here too, it depends. Real-world amp outputs at the same nominal power rating can vary noticeably. And a cab with a high sensitivity rating can compensate significantly for a lower-powered amp.

    3) $100 - $150 for an amp might be enough, but only if you get a super deal on a used amp. Realistically, it's not enough budget. I'd plan to spend at least twice that much. And even then, you'll have to go for used gear. Want a good-quality new amp? Plan to spend at least $400 - $500.

    One more thing: Bear in mind that bass requires several times as much power output as guitar to produce an equivalent degree of sound pressure level (SPL). Some say three times as much. Others say five or six times as much - or more.

    The bottom line is that it takes a lot of juice to pump out those solid lows. Don't scrimp on power. In future, as you learn your way around the bass, you'll discover the reasons why from your own experience. :bassist:

  3. experimental bassist

    experimental bassist

    Mar 15, 2009

    You'll find that, unlike many guitar amps, there's not much standardization between bass rigs. Some guys can play arenas with a small combo amp, or no amp at all and just run through the PA. Other's want at minimum a cranked Ampeg SVT running through a 8 X 10 speaker cabinet at the family picnic.

    1. 10" speakers are common today indeed. Old rigs from the 70's utilized mainly 15" or 18" woofers, but the Ampeg SVT rig that used a 300 watt tube head running through a cab with 8 10" drivers sort of became the standard "rock and roll" setup. But you'll still find plenty of bassists using 15s and 12s. Again, us bass players are all over the map on this one.

    2. For practice, you may be able to cut it with about 100watts through a 15" or 2X10" drivers. But you'll probably outgrow that setup pretty quickly. I'd look for something around 300-ish watts.

    3. $150 will get you a used Peavey combo, in the 150-200 watts range and 15" speaker. It will probably get you heard, whether you like the tone or not is another issue.

    Good luck. :bassist:
  4. Yerf Dog

    Yerf Dog

    Jun 29, 2009
    Carol Stream, IL
    I just started playing bass coming from a guitar background. My research lead me to an Acoustic B100. 100w 15" speaker for $225 at Guitar Center. I don't have anything bad to say about it yet.

    Loud enough to keep up with a drummer in a garage setting.
  5. MIJ-VI

    MIJ-VI Inactive Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2009
    Hi cowardm.

    To compete with guitar and drums a bass amp should have:

    200 watts minimum (300 or more is better), and in descending order of preference (for sheer volume and power handling) a 4x10" cab, or a 2x12", or a 1x15" all with fair sized cabinets. (Big bass tone is all about moving BIG air.)

    In general a clean sounding bass rig should have 3 to 4 times the wattage and speaker cone area of a cranked guitar amp in order to compete with it and a drummer who plays like he's clubbing baby seals on commission.

    There are a number of decent bass amp brands to look at.

    Gallien-Krueger's RB Series of heads and their Neo Series of cabinets are a good place to start for aggressive sounding and reliable rock 'n' roll bass amps which are relatively light weight

    Going to local music stores to test various bass amps before you buy anything is a good idea. Also, checking out the bass amp brands which are favoured by music store rental departments and back-line companies is good too since they prefer reliable rigs.

    Many music shops offer limited warranty-backed, rent-to-purchase deals on rental dept. stock.

    AND please RTFM before plugging in/into any bass rig. Many modern bass amps sport sophisticated EQ, compression, and gain structure features whose successful operation is dependent upon a thorough understanding of how they work. Reading an amp's BLOCK diagram (which is included in some owners manuals) is helpful.

    Also, if you plan on getting two or more cabinets be sure to get matching cabs to avoid the phasing issues caused by running a full-range signal into dissimilar cabinets.

    You'll have to up your budget somewhat if you want a bass rig which is worth plugging into.

    The days of a 50 watt combo being overkill are now behind you.

    Welcome to the world of bass. C'mon down! :)
  6. RickenBoogie


    Jul 22, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    Yes, all true. A 100 watt combo with a single speaker is great, as long as you play by yourself. Sitting in with a band, even a moderately quiet band, will require more power, and especially, more speakers. 300 watts with a 2x12 is what I consider the bare minimum. I have a rig like this. I also have a much bigger rig, though. If you want a combo amp, (yuk), you'll want either a 1x15 or 2x10, that can support an ext spkr in parallel. (adds to the power, the Acoustic combo's are series, which actually reduces power). Also, a balanced XLR DI is a good feature to look for. Bottom line, I think you'll need to up your budget,...alot. Good luck.
  7. Engine207

    Engine207 Losing faith in call at a time.

    I am not one who came from the guitar side, but for a long time, I did prefer top end. I had a Sunn (o))) rig, but gradulally, over a period of time, I became more into good clear bottom. I chose the MB Series by Marshall. They are great sounding and versatile amps.

    They make combos from 15 watt practice amps (MB15) up to a 450 watt 4x10 (MB4410 - although without an additional 4 ohm cab, you only get 300 of those 450 watts). They also make separate head/cabinet setups. 4x10s, 1x15s and an 8x10.

    It's a hybrid, so the power amp is solid state and the pre-amp is tube. The Modern channel is basically transparent and leaves the tone shaping to your bass and your fingers. The Classic channel gives you some gain and a boost, for adding some grit. One of the coolest features of these amps (4210 and up) is the Blend. You can choose both channels and proportion them as you choose.

    I have a different setting for each of my basses. The only thing I would change is to have the ability to create presets for these different sound settings that I could change with a kick on a stompbox.

    Oh, and I don't get paid anything from Marshall...:p