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Recommend a head/cab for low to moderate volume

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Robus, Dec 31, 2013.

  1. Robus


    Aug 25, 2013
    Chicago Area
    I'm a long time guitar players who is new to bass. I've been playing for the last few months with an Ampeg BA-108 practice amp and an older 50 watt Crate combo, and more often than not plugged straight into my computer with a BDDI.

    I would like to buy something nicer. I am a hobbyist. My uses are playing at home for my own enjoyment, home recording, and occasional jamming with friends at moderate volume. I've neither the time, interest, or skills to play out.

    I'd like to buy a head/cab combination that sounds good in a low volume setting. It should keep up with a smaller guitar amp (20-40 watts) and drummer with a small kit and a light touch, all at volumes that won't bring the police to my doorstep.

    What would you recommend? To give a ballpark price range, let's say under $1000 for the two. New or used.

    Some might say a combo would make more sense, and perhaps it would. I'm willing to listen.
  2. pbasswil


    Feb 17, 2008
    There are just so many choices -- so much good bass gear available these days. With that budget, and your modest requirements, you should be able to be ridiculously happy with what you can get!

    Before you get flooded with 50 people telling you 50 different rigs they love, maybe you can narrow things down a bit more:

    - What style/era of music to you like to play?
    - Clean sounds/ rougher sounds? Hifi -- clear and full like a PA? or more lowest mids to high mids, like classic rock?
    - Is weight or size a factor?
    - What features do you value? Headphone out? Aux In for playing along with tracks? Built-in overdrive/distortion? Lots of EQ, or simple controls? Classic looks, or is modern ok?

    The answers to those questions will narrow things down a bit.

    Meanwhile, you could Google up Gallien Krueger, Genz Benz, Aguilar, TC Electronics, Mark Bass, Carvin, Ampeg, Peavey, Eden, etc.
  3. ^^^ yup, and read these forums. Lots and lots of info to be gleaned from amongst the detritus of "I have [brand xyz's model abc]... , get one!"

    Research enough and make an informed decision and you'll be as happy with your amp purchase as I have been with mine.

    Good Luck!
  4. Robus


    Aug 25, 2013
    Chicago Area
    Thanks for the questions:
    -- My own music tends toward guitar oriented pop. The influences of 80s New Wave are there, because that's the age I am. But I like to jam to a lot of different stuff, from Motown to Zeppelin to older Country.

    -- I don't see myself needing a great deal of overdrive out of the amp. I tend to want a cleaner bass sound. Lower mid-range is more important to me than massive bottom, and a bit of sparkle at the top is a nice thing too. Is that helping?

    -- Size and weight aren't critical. Lighter is better, but I won't be hauling it to and from gigs.

    -- Features: A loop for sure. Separate volume and gain controls. A good sounding direct out. Simpler EQ is fine; I can't see needing ten bands of EQ from the amp. Features like headphone out, a built-in limiter, auxiliary in would be nice but are not deciding factors. The look isn't important.

    I've been reading a lot on the forum; problem is, as you say there is so much gear out there. The more I read less I sure I because. I'm hoping this thread will feed me a few clues that I can follow up.
  5. You might want to try out a GK 1001RB.
    I got compliments from sound guys using the DI from the amp.

    The presence knob can help you dial in some top end sizzle.
    The contour knob can help you with Motown or R&B depending on EQ.
    The boost knob can get you towards rock like Led Zeppelin, not really overdrive but more like some grit or drive to the speaker - GK owners call this growl.

    If you get the chance to test it, that would be my recommendation!
    The only reason I got rid of it was to upgrade to a 2001RB for more growl and more power.
  6. swamp_bass

    swamp_bass I love it when a groove comes together

    Nov 20, 2013
    North Cackalacky
    Advice given so far is good. For moderate levels, and no aspirations of gigging, you would do well with a simple combo.

    You should be able to more than meet your goals with half that budget new, and a quarter that budget used.

    Good luck, and happy hunting.
  7. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Hi-fi into an old tube amp
    That's a generous budget!

    I'd go with an Ampeg B100R. It's a 1x15 combo and solid state but it's one of the best sounding little amps out there IMO (there are tons of threads here about it). DI is 1/4 and works great, I've recorded with mine a few times and was pleased by the quality. $300-400 is the normal range for them. It has a kind of sweet vintage voice but with a Sansamp you can add that hair of sparkle.
  8. ga_edwards


    Sep 8, 2000
    UK, Essex
    Head and cab separates aren't always necessary. Handy if you're travelling light and borrowing cabs, or for later expansions. But for your current needs, a combo would suffice just fine IMO.

    One of TC Electronic's BG series combos could suit your needs well, and quite under you $1000 budget.
  9. WoodyG3


    May 6, 2003
    Colorado, USA
    I play at pretty low volumes the vast majority of the time. The rigs that work best for me have been a single 12 inch cab and a lightweight head. As to which head and cab might work best for you, that's a tough call. I would advise not trying to get by with a less expensive cab, just because it's always been my experience that no matter which head you choose, it won't sound all that great through a so-so cab.
  10. tsunami1052

    tsunami1052 What the Funk?

    Sep 13, 2005
    If you can, go to Bass Club Chicago (5055 N. Western Ave Chicago, IL) they will hook you up with good advice and you can test drive some equipment.
  11. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    Well, I'd advise a separate head and cab precisely because the OP is refining his sense of what he wants/needs from his rig. He could change one or the other, as his tone or volume goals change--while a combo is an all-or-nothing situation regarding updating the rig.

    So I'm thinking a 500 W micro head (Aggie TH500, or one of the Mark Bass models, or the GK MB500, the Carvin, something like that). For cabs I'm thinking a 12 plus tweet, since the OP said he likes sparkle. The Glasstone Li'l G kicks serious butt but might exceed the budget target, so Avatar and GK have nice offerings at a bit lower price. I'd recommend the OP peruse the TB classifieds for used prices, and the comment threads for owners' thoughts on them. The good thing is that there are some 12 cabs out there that are capable of serious work, are quite portable, and are priced pretty well for resale.

    A 4 ohm cab won't allow the OP to add a second cab later, so my advice is to get an 8 ohm cab first. It'll be plenty loud for home practice or beginner jamming with a 500 W head. (Those will put out around 300 W into an 8 ohm cab.) When the OP needs more volume for gigging, he can add a second 8 ohm cab for more speaker area and power handling ability. And the 500 W micro head will put out the full 500 W into the 4 ohm load of two 8 ohm cabs.

    Anyhow, them's my thoughts on the question.
  12. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    My advice would be to look for something in the 200W range on top of a vertical 2x10 cab.

    That kind of micro-stack is great for low/moderate volume and doesn't take up much space.
  13. 39-Bassist


    Jul 7, 2010
    Endorsing Artist for: Brace Audio; Duncan Pickups; Line6, Hipshot, GHS Strings
    Checkout the Carvin MB bass amps.....great tones, power and deal for the money.
  14. Primakurtz

    Primakurtz Registered Nihilist Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2011
    Denver, Colorado
    I will be a contrarian, even though the above suggestions are all good.

    For me, the best low/mid volume rig is a 50-100 watt tube amp into a 15" EV speaker cabinet. The clarity, detail, and responsiveness are just wonderful. Plus, you can easily put together a rig like this for under 1k.
  15. Robus


    Aug 25, 2013
    Chicago Area
    Thanks for the suggestions so far. I'd like to hear more. A few responses:

    Some have suggested a combo rather than head/cab. I haven't totally ruled out a combo but am leaning more toward the head/cab for a couple of reasons. First, as somebody said, it will give me more flexibility should my needs change in the future. Second, I would like to try micing the cabinet for home recording; so far, I've only used a direct in approach. When micing guitars, a mic/cab arrangement allows me to put the cab in another room.

    I'll be paying a visit to Bass Club Chicago but would like to have a short list and some clear ideas first.

    Really appreciate the specific model suggestions so far. I'll look into all of them.

    Cabinet-wise, I've heard 1x12, 1x15, and 2x10 suggested. Any particular ones?

    Budget wise, I'd be happy to spend less than a grand. I've decided on a generous budget because I want to make the decision based on fit, quality and sound. When I was younger, I made do with cheap gear because that's what I could afford. At this stage in my life, I indulge my hobbies.
  16. Neener

    Neener Grumpy Old Dog

    Feb 25, 2007
    Mechanicsburg, PA
    Ampeg Micro VR with the 210. It does everything you listed, except that the direct out on it shuts off the speaker output.

    150 watts with 1 speaker cabinet. 200 with 2.

    Price for a new one is right at $600 damn near everywhere.

    It doesn't suck.

  17. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    any used markbass head from the classifieds here. F1 or LMII can be had pretty much any day of the week for under $400

    any good quality 1x12" would do.. honestly, shop by whats nearest to you / best deal for what it is.

    especially if you have a sansamp, you'll fine with anything thats not a piece of junk.
  18. Robus


    Aug 25, 2013
    Chicago Area
    Thanks again for the suggestions. Just an update: I have a GK 500MB on the way that I found for sale by a fellow TBer for a very fair price.

    Power-wise it is probably more than I need right now. However it does have a volume knob and besides, who knows? I feel that my playing is progressing. I can see myself getting together with other musicians more often in the future.

    Now that the amp question is settled, the search goes on for an appropriate cab. I'm well befuddled by all the options: 1x12, 2x10, 1x15...............2x12.....? ;)

    Apart from volume and portability, what tonal differences would I hear from these various options?

    New or used, I want to buy something of quality. Above all, I want to turn it on and consistently think, "man...that sounds good!"
  19. Basso54


    Jul 22, 2003
    Dalhart, TX
    Another vote for the Ampeg Micro VR. Works great with their 2x10 cab. I added a Hartke 1x12 Hydrive cab. Great tone. Won't break your back moving it around either.
  20. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    If you get a chance to play a Mesa Walkabout, give it a try. It's my favorite small combo for Motown & rock, as the tone and performance are top-drawer.