Returning to Music: Got the Bass, Need an Amp

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by BB Brian, Aug 30, 2020.

  1. BB Brian

    BB Brian

    Apr 15, 2020
    West Texas
    I was looking at an amp and head with the expectation of adding a second cab when I needed it and had space again. But, I bought my last amp in the mid-90s and things have changed a bit since then. Combos actually seem really good now, being lightweight and having a smaller footprint than in the past. Many have the ability to add a cabinet too. I played with a 410 cab in the past and it was loud enough for everything we did in my old power trio. I play pretty much all genres so versatility is a plus. Current bass is a Jaguar PJ with a focus on the P at the moment.

    My budget is up to $1000, but I have $650 in hand and would have to wait until after Christmas to get that higher total. I'd like an amp now since I am currently using an old Crate guitar practice amp. You can hear it in a room by yourself, but it sounds like crap, obviously. I do need some other gear and the after Christmas money would be good for that. This amp will be my only amp for a while, so it will be used for practice at home and carried to rehearsals and gigs in small bars and halls. A 210 seems like a great starting point to me. Class D is all new to me. How does it compare to the old, heavy solid-state heads like a Peavey Mark III in power?

    Combos I have considered:
    Fender Rumble 500 - $600. Very popular, lovely lightweight, can add a cab but I fear the tone may be a little muddy.

    Ampeg BA 210 - $500. The Ampeg sound suits me well, can add a cab, little heavy at nearly 50 pounds, $100 cheaper than the Fender but slightly less wattage.

    Hartke HD500 - $600. I like the Hartke sound. No speaker extension so it's 500W through 2 tens. I worry about the lack of air I could get from an extra 210 cab, but should I? About as light as the Fender.

    Blackstar Unity 500 - $650. This amp has so many bells and whistles and I think it sounds pretty good. Can add a powered cab (limited to a 15). On the heavier end of the lightweights at nearly 50 pounds. I know absolutely nothing about Blackstar so, are they any good?

    GK MB210 - $800. I like how they sound. I can add a cab and or a powered cab. 39 pounds, but it's a brand I am unfamiliar with aside from the talk here. Is it worth waiting for this and spending more (your opinion, I know that's a subjective question)?

    Ashdown Rootmaster RM500 - $800. I think I like how they sound, but can't hear one in person. A lot of artists I like play Ashdown, but they get custom jobs to tweak their tone so that's not a true indicator of what I'll get. I know nothing about the brand personally. Can add a cab and weighs around 40 pounds. Again, worth the wait and cost difference over the lower priced amps above?

    I figure if I am spending more than $800 I might as well look at heads and cabs as even some decent sets come in around $800 (Ampeg Portaflex, some Hartke and Peavey, etc.)

    My local shop only carries Fender and Blackstar. I am very familiar with Peavey's sound from the mid 80s - 90s. I am very familiar with the classic Ampeg sound. I like the later 3 more than the Fender Rumble tone, so if that helps anyone aid me in comparisons, great. Slightly OD tones are nearest and dearest to my ear.

    Any and all input would be greatly appreciated as I am really wanting to get an amp soon so I can really get into bass again. Thank you.
  2. Chicken Wing

    Chicken Wing

    Mar 26, 2017
    Ggaa, Artman, line6bassist and 5 others like this.
  3. BossOnBass


    Aug 11, 2012
    Houston, TX
    Also consider the fender rumble stage 800. I've got about 40 gigs on mine after playing so many other amps, including a 300 watt all tube head. I think you'll like it better than the other options you listed. It has so many options for tones and eq that you can dial in to get a good and nonmuddy sound.
    BarfanyShart, MCF and BB Brian like this.
  4. BB Brian

    BB Brian

    Apr 15, 2020
    West Texas
    I have looked at them and considered them pretty heavily. I just worry that 200 watts on four 10s (if I snag the extra cab) may not be enough for gigs in rooms with 500 seats unless I had FOH support. Is that assumption wrong?
    Bassdirty likes this.
  5. I wouldn't be in any hurry to buy anything in the middle of this pandemic. After the dust settles there will still be plenty of used bargains and you'll be able to afford some real gear.
  6. How many rooms with 500 seats don't have a PA these days? In any case you only ever need to be as loud as the drums and everyone has to be under the vocals. 200w is possibly fractionally light depending on the level of truth in the rating.
  7. themickster


    Oct 4, 2015
    On Blackstar, the reviews are good. The two combos you're thinking about would be easier to shift than one speaker with the same output. I couldn't even lift my 2x15, it was so bulky. My Fly 3s are great at what they're built to do.
    BB Brian likes this.
  8. themickster


    Oct 4, 2015
    Some time ago, I heard that bass needs an amp twice the output of the guitar amp. I don't know how right that is, but playing the one bass string would need more than the six of the guitar are getting. Most of the time, that guitar amp isn't going to be all that far up. My 150w head never goes above half, if that. You might want the 120w Unity for somewhere small and bring in the active 250 later, or even two of them.
    BB Brian likes this.
  9. Rabidhamster


    Jan 15, 2014
    After Christmas is a long way off, especially to start spending money you don’t have yet. I’d grab the best amp you can find used in your price range and get playing. We could recommend stuff all day but the items actually available to you in a timely manner will vary by location.
    themickster likes this.
  10. nilorius

    nilorius Inactive

    Oct 27, 2016
    Riga - Latvia
    For combos - Hartke could do, but for amps - Aguilar.
    BB Brian likes this.
  11. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Welcome back to bass!!!

    "West Texas" is a pretty big area. But, if you're near El Paso, here are some to look at.

    You should be able to talk this guy down a little. It's a little high being that it's $600 new. "Slightly overdriven" is where Darkglass lives. 500W is plenty.
    DarkGlass Microtubes 500 Bass Head - musical instruments - by owner...

    Same with this one. Beat them up on price a little. You'll have a solid rig that will get you going. If you need more volume, add another 210 or simply swap out for a bigger cab later. But these two would be a great start.
    AMPEG BA 210 SP - musical instruments - by owner - sale
    Haroldo and BB Brian like this.
  12. sonojono

    sonojono Supporting Member

    Feb 13, 2013
    I’d look into used GK Combos off Guitar Center. You would typically find either a 115 or 210 for around $300-500.
  13. slapshot


    Dec 22, 2018
    SE Michigan
    I know you said that you aren't a big fan of Rumbles. I have a R100 that I bought to play at church. We moved into the choir loft, and the Rumble was blocked by a half wall, so I bought a stand to put it above the wall. Totally different sound. Cleaned up a lot of the muddy sound, and an EQ tweak took away the rest. Try a Rumble on a stand; it may be what you are looking for.
    ToneMonkey and BB Brian like this.
  14. I also vote for GK combos. One unique feature of the GK is the ability to connect a powered extension speaker cab. This will give you substantially more volume and you will have the option of leaving it home for small to medium venues. The MB115 is a good all around combo with a full 200 watts out of a 15" speaker. I even used one outdoors and never had to go above 1/2 volume. Add the MBP115 powered extension and you have a serious rig that will shake the windows. The MB212 is and excellent combo that will deliver 500 watts out of 2 12" speakers. Imagine what that would sound like with a powered extension. Another popular setup is the MB112 with the powered extension. Check them out. GC used gear is a good place to look for decent GK combos. Good luck. :thumbsup:
    BB Brian, red_rhino, sonojono and 2 others like this.
  15. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Out of those on your list, I've played GK and Fender Rumble. Here is my breakdown:

    Fender is a great bang for the buck, ton is a bit more "vintage". Not quite as light, but quite decent. Lots of people gigging them regularly. A second cab will be louder, but not muddier.

    GK has a brighter, more "modern" tone, will be a little smaller/lighter.

    If you can swing it, better to get the separate head and cab. When you get the second cab, leave one at the rehearsal site, and one where you practice. This way, other than gigs, you only have to put a bass and tiny head. Makes life easy.
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2020
    Bassdirty, BB Brian and TinIndian like this.
  16. TinIndian

    TinIndian Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2011
    Micco Florida
    The Rumbles are really nice combo's and have a huge amount of users here. If it's not the sound you're looking for I highly recommend anything from Gallien Krueger. Since you aren't familiar with them, GK has been around since the late 60's but really started making their mark in the 80's. The old 800RB was and still is a very popular amplifier, used by Flea for years among others. I have it's little brother the 400RB. I picked it up a couple years ago for a song and I use it quite often for gigs. I guess the point is Mine is about 30 years old and runs without any issues at all. They are very reliable.

    With any of these I suggest trying them out if possible, see what you like. It's a great time to be a bassist, lots of good choices out there.
  17. Engineer_Josh


    Apr 26, 2016
    This decision is only difficult because you are faced with several options that are all very similar and very good.

    It is not crazy to start by limiting yourself to what your local shop carries, presumably you have or will have a relationship with this shop and buying from them helps all that, and helps if anything needs service.

    If you narrow the field that way, your decision is made, as you said yourself, you like the sound of the Blackstar better and it is in your “right now” budget.

    There are no perfect decisions, but the Blackstar seems like the choice.
    themickster, BB Brian and DirtDog like this.
  18. lbbc

    lbbc Supporting Member

    Sep 25, 2007
    Seaford , DE
    I'm not a fan of Rumbles (to each their own). Since I couldn't find a Genz Benz 6.0 12T shuttle (I highly recommend) I bought a new Acoustic 300BH head and a used 4 ohm Carvin 210 cab for a total of $450. I am very happy with it in my 5 piece cover band.
    Bassdirty and BB Brian like this.
  19. CallMeAl


    Dec 2, 2016
    Ithaca Ny
    Personally I would pick Rumble. But if you’ve tried it and it didn’t wow you, you should probably rule it out. (BUT if you find yourself playing one in store again: set EQ to 10/2/2/10, get it off the floor, and turn vintage off. These are my settings that clean them up considerably.)

    Out of the list, the GK jumps out at me. Cleaner tone that you seem to prefer, great reliability and the extension out seems to be a feature you want. I lean towards the Ampeg/Rumble side of the tone spectrum, but i was very impressed by the GK MBs I’ve tried. +1 to cruise GC used- I’ve seen em on there for as low as $400.

    Runner up would be an Ampeg BA 210. Great tone and features, affordable- but mixed reliability reports.

    Follow up question: are you just itching to get into rehearsals? Have you considered something smaller for the house? I’m using a Rumble 25 now, and for the longest time I had an Ampeg BA 108 (v1.) I love these little amps and I find them perfect for home practice. I also have a VOX amplug that I use nearly every night, so that or a USB interface or headphone amp could be a great stepping stone too.

    I realize that drives up the total budget, but that might be a small upfront cost to buy you some time while you shop around a bit more. IIRC you have some past experience, so you may have thought of these things already :)

    good luck, can’t wait to see what you get!
    BB Brian and Pdaddy1978 like this.
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