Practice amp for 5 string

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by rustyshackle42d, Aug 3, 2021.

  1. rustyshackle42d


    Mar 4, 2014
    I know this has been covered many times but haven’t found many players in my situation. I don’t gig or play in a band, just a hobbyist. Play at home in the basement to music through studio monitors, but I like to turn them up of course. I’m still playing my Orange 50W BXT combo that I’ve had since I was a teenager, but I never really liked the tone. For the longest time I played a Schecter Stilletto 4 and it was enough for that, but I recently got an Ibanez BTB575, and the Orange simply can’t handle anything below Eb. I wouldn’t say it necessarily “farts out” as I’ve seen others mention, but loudness below that point drops by probably 6+dB and no amount of compression/makeup gain fixes it so I’m fairly confident the cabinet just won’t go that low, or 50W isn’t enough to move the air at those frequencies. As far as playing styles go, I mostly like fingerstyle funk (Vulfpeck, Cory Wong), pop and gospel stuff. Not a huge slap or distortion guy.

    I’m finally looking to step up my amp game - would like something relatively compact so combos are preferred but I’m not opposed to getting a head and cab, just haven’t found a head/cab that makes sense for the money. Budget is ~$1,000. Seems like the most frequent recommendations out there are Markbass CMD, GK MB/Legacy, or Fender Rumble. My questions are:

    Is a 250W combo (~150W at 8ohm) enough power or do I need to go up to 500?
    1x12, 1x15 or 2x10?
    Are certain brands better at designing combo cabs with good low end response?

    The primary goal is clean low end at decent practice volume. Tone is secondary, I’m sure I can tweak that with some EQ. Not worried about the flexibility of adding another cab to the setup, would like to avoid that if possible.

  2. Wfrance3

    Wfrance3 Supporting Member

    May 29, 2014
    Tulsa, OK
    There are a couple things going on here in my opinion. One being EQ. Can you play an open B with everything flat (both bass and amp) at ANY volume?
    The speaker's ability to deal with the lower frequencies is maybe part of it:
    [sfx] sfx sound: micro-Thumpinator v2

    I play a 5 string bass thru this with no problems:
    MB 110 Specs — Gallien-Krueger
    It can get decently loud. I'm the bassist for our medium-size church, and it does fine with our PW team; a light to medium touch no-cage drummer, a mic-ed cajon/djembe, a mandolin, acoustic guitar, keys, and 3-4 singers all patched in direct. Occasionally we have a lead guitarist who brings his own amp...
    I picked the GK 110 for it's easy carry. It does not experience flatulence on an open B with my micro-thumpinator in use. It really doesn't without it either, but there's just something that feels more solid and dialed in when I have it in my signal chain...
    I figured that if I needed more fire-power, GK makes these little powered cabinets that you can add that connect to your amp using a mic cord. The GK add-on cabinets have their own power amp, so you aren't spreading your amp wattage between two speakers. - Occasionally I think it would have been a better choice to get the 112, but many, I really do enjoy schlepping that lighter 110 footprint. It's like carrying nothing...
    If budget is no object:
  3. rustyshackle42d


    Mar 4, 2014
    Thanks for the info! Good to know even the MB110 is capable.
    Wfrance3 likes this.
  4. First priority, imho, is the quality of the speaker/cab choice and design. I believe this has a bigger effect on overall sound quality/tone/capabilities than the amplifier itself.

    It's less often that you see really high quality speakers and cabinet design in a combo versus separates. Combos are often made to a lower price point and tout the value of convenience over outright performance. There ARE some mainstream exceptions to this, such as the GK Legacy line and some of the higher end MarkBass options. Having now played a couple of them, I believe the new Ampeg RB series of combos is a big step up from the previous BA series and the Fender Rumble series.

    I have gone the route of separates for everything, and have options from a 16lb 110 cab, lighter weight 115, 210, and 212 cabs, and one old giant Ampeg 410 (for now... want a deal on one?!)

    If I were in your situation making a decision today, with all my past gear experience, I would probably choose a really high quality 112. If you're never lugging it around, then weight doesn't really matter. Aguilar DB, Mesa Subway, Ampeg SVT (this would be lower on my personal list, but a solid option many enjoy) would all be great cabs. I'd be looking for a 300ish watt amp. I LOVE my Tone Hammer 500, and they make a 350w version. Peavey, Hartke, Ampeg... all of these guys have solid choices under $500.

    Running an 8 ohm cab, you'll only be getting half the rated power of the amp, but honestly that should be PLENTY loud for practice and even jamming with some pals. If in the future you DO play out some, adding a second identical or complementary 8 ohm cab will unlock the rest of the wattage from your amp... and look hekkin cool in a little stack!

    Good luck and keep us in the loop on what you choose!

    Forgot to mention, I am also primarily a 5 string player. Today's modern 12s throw out plenty of hefty lows!

    Caveat to all of this: my single favorite cab of all time is the Mesa Subway 115. It would eat up just about all of your budget if purchased new, but GOOD GRACIOUS is it fantastic! If you could stretch your funds, that's what I'd recommend.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2021
    gscroggin, MuthaFunk and MAXSPINRUN like this.
  5. Ampslut


    May 15, 2017
    Barrackville WV
    I've been playing 5 string since the 1990's and my practice amp is a Hartke kickback 110 that is rated at 120 watts. I not only use it in the BR but also use it for band practice. In your situation, I would go with a Fender Rumble 200C. It has 200 watts and a single 15" speaker. It will more than check all the boxes for you.
  6. Aloe


    Apr 10, 2016
    if you will be playing alone, 100W is plenty and I'd say you don't need more or a more complex solution.

    I had a Warwick BC80 combo and it was very nice with my 5-strings, just right and not excessively boomy like the Rumble was. if you're in Europe, they're really cheap.
    Reedt2000 likes this.
  7. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    I use 1 or 2 Barefaced One10 cabs and my gigging Aguilar TH500 at home. I play quietly, but the quality of the amp and cab shine through even at low volume.
    musicman556 likes this.
  8. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru..........

    Apr 11, 2006
    Out there!
    Markbass Minimark.
    gscroggin and badinage like this.
  9. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008
    depends a lot on what you need as a practice amp and your current practice room situation. But from my own needs 250W is WAY more than enough for an amp just for practicing.

    As an example, I used to have a GK mb150. Its 150W and I used that as my amp for full band rehearsals.
  10. Ggaa

    Ggaa Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2018
    Playing a Warwick 5 through a Rumble 100, full band rehearsals, not crazy volume but not quiet either
    Bboopbennie likes this.
  11. juggahnaught


    Feb 11, 2018
    Seattle, WA
    A few things come to mind.
    1. Turn down the monitors. (This is obvious, but I'm gonna say it anyway.)
    2. The amp you described seems to have a speaker out port. It disables the internal speaker. You may consider buying a 4-ohm cab (or 8 ohms) with a higher sensitivity and running the amp through that to see if that works. You won't have much headroom, but you should be louder.
    3. Set your EQ so that the lows are cut and the low mids are enhanced. You should be able to get more usable sound without the amp or speakers having to work so hard (even for your low B string).
    Try buying a cab and using the speaker out on your current amp. (I personally would consider a 2x12 or a 4x10 in your case, and check the sensitivity levels.) You might be able to find something secondhand on the used market. If that doesn't work, then yeah, maybe consider a head. Know that more watts won't necessarily help as much as more speakers will, unless the amp itself has a built-in highpass filter and/or compression to match its speaker limitations (which it might, who knows). This is what I'd do for basement practice with just me. Hope this helps.
  12. Rip Van Dan

    Rip Van Dan DNA Endorsing Artist Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2009
    Duvall, WA
    I also think that a 112 with a 500-watt class D amp would be a good move for you. I have two Eden EX112 cabs that I used for medium sized gigs before I got my DNS-210 cab. I was looking for just a single 112 to use at a small brew-pub where we hosted open-mic night 40+ times a year on Friday nights. Had a friend from the now defunct Eden forum suggest the Eden EX112 cab. Said he'd been gigging two of them for 5-years and thought they were great. So I bought one.

    Price at the time was $269 which is about $600 less than their D-series 112XST cab and there is not a $600 difference in the sound. The cab is very compact because it uses a whizzer cone (cone within a cone) for the hi-mids and highs. It has a neodymium 12" speaker and weighs just 30-lbs. with a handle on the top. It will handle 300-watts rms. The EX112's are discontinued though so once they are sold out they are done.

    Anyhow, I'd suggest you get one of those in 8 ohm and get an Eden TN501 amp. That's a class D amp weighing just 5.3-lbs. putting out 500-watts rms @ 4 ohms. With one 8Ω EX112, it will put out 250-watts which is great because the cab will handle 300-watts. When you want to play medium size clubs, buy a second one and the amp will put out all 500-watts.

    I bought the smaller version of that amp, the TN226 (225-watts at 4Ω), and wish I had bought the TN501. They have identical preamps, just different power sections. I was pleasantly surprised when I got it that I could dial in the same sound I get out of my big 800-watt Eden amp which has a hybrid preamp (has a tube in the preamp for warmth). The TN501 has a mute button, Gain, Bass EQ, Low-mid semi-parametric, high-mid semi-parametric, and treble EQ's, and of course a Master control. It also has an Enhance control (boosts bass and treble while scooping the low mids), an auto-compressor, and a bass-boost button that lets you just boost the bass without cutting the low mids and boosting the treble. That's particularly nice when playing small venues with just the one EX-112 cab.

    The auto compressor works very nicely, far better than the one on my big Eden amp. It also has a dead quiet DI switchable between line and mic levels, a headphone jack, and an aux input so you can plug in an mp3 player. The sound is clear, clean, and warm. Street price is $649 though you occasionally find them for $599 or so. You can sometimes find them used down around $350 to $400.

    If you get that TN501 new and the Eden EX112, you can do that well under your budget. If you can get the TN501 used, you could probably add a second EX-112 cabinet and be right close to $1,000. Be sure to get them both in 8 ohm so you can use both with that 500-watt TN-501 amp. Two 112 cabs with that light 500-watt TN501 makes a very light modular system. Use one cab for small venues and take the second cab for larger venues.

    To give you an idea of how compact these are, here's a shot of my small-venue set-up using my TN226 into one of my EX112 cabs. It all fits very nicely in a chair and sounds great!

    gscroggin likes this.
  13. rustyshackle42d


    Mar 4, 2014
    Thanks everyone for the great info. Based on the recommendations, I plan on getting a nicer 1x12 cab, and starting off by using the head from my Orange combo to feed the new cab. If I find I need more power, I’ll get a Little Mark 250 head so I can bump up to 150W in the future, for a reasonable price. Top choices right now are:

    1. Aguilar DB112
    2. Mesa Subway 112
    3. Markbass Traveler 121 Ninja
    4. GK Neo 112
    5. Aguilar SL112
    6. Darkglass DG112
    7. Markbass Traveler 121H

    Any recommendations against any of these?
    juggahnaught, chris_b and eriky4003 like this.
  14. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Few bass amps/cabinets will reproduce the fundamental of the open B string (~28hZ) at the same level as higher frequencies. You will get plenty of the harmonics though, which is what you're really after. Listening to a 28hZ sine wave (the fundamental with zero harmonics) is pretty boring. Many amps can't even reproduce the open E (~40hZ).

    $1000 for a practice amp? 500W? Ouch. Good luck!
  15. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    You actually want a lot less low end response with a B string.

    But, I'd go with a rocket bass combo.
  16. If you have already have decent studio monitors, have you tried taking a line out from your amp and feed it into the monitor mix? Works for me. Even my relatively cheap M-Audio monitors handle the low B just fine and get louder than I’m comfortable with.
    juggahnaught likes this.
  17. rustyshackle42d


    Mar 4, 2014

    Yeah I’m aware that the fundamental isn’t necessary, I just know that what I have right now doesn’t cut it. As for the wattage, I’m totally inexperienced with different amp setups - what I have now is all I’ve had since 2008…. Which is why I asked for advice on what I’d need. And yeah, 1K is a lot for a practice amp, don’t necessarily need to spend that much but I also would prefer to buy this once, if it’s something I’ll be happy with for the next 5+ years and never outgrow.
  18. rustyshackle42d


    Mar 4, 2014
    yeah I’ve tried that and it just doesn’t have that oomph that I was hoping for. I could probably get a sub to go with them and it’d be a much cheaper workable option lol
    Max Bogosity likes this.
  19. As you are playing solo, another consideration is a headphone rig.
    Blend your bass with a recorded track, all playing through 'phones.
    Bass response and clarity is much better than you will get with most amps.
    And you can rock out to your heart's content... without torquing off the family or neighbors.
    Max Bogosity likes this.
  20. rustyshackle42d


    Mar 4, 2014
    Yea, I have a little headphone setup that sounds great actually. Just finally bought a house so I wanted to turn things up and play with speakers. Just more enjoyable imho.