Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Small combo amp quest - some adventures

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by CoachLittle, Feb 21, 2005.


  1. CoachLittle

    CoachLittle

    Jan 13, 2005
    I'm a 40 year old hobbyist who picked up a bass on a lark. I've played guitar since high school, and jam with a few buddies periodically. We have lots of guitar players (3), and a keyboard player, but no one that plays bass or drums. I filled in on drums once in a while, made up a mini kit with a microsnare and cymbal set up that at least set the beat. Found a used Squier bass (MB4) for $50 bucks from a guy moving to California. Spent more on a setup, strings and a gig bag than I did for the bass...but anyhow... I've found that I really really like playing the bass too - it's a whole new deal from the guitar, and kind of plays off the percussionist in me very nicely.

    I decided to start looking for a small bass combo amp to use for practicing and for the jam sessions. I've been using a Roland Cube15 guitar amp turned up to at most 3 to practice with around the house. It's ok for noodling, but I want to take that next step. I already have three guitar amps...so I don't really want another monster. The other guitar player that I jam with a lot uses a tube amp, but we play in a basement, with a guitar, keyboard (through a Peavey 100W key amp), and will add in whatever I get to use for bass. I don't want a backbreaker, so it has to be reasonably sized, and yet have some thump. Styles we play are mostly blues, rock, pop, jazz. No metal, no thrash, nothing too far out there. I also do home recording as a hobby, so I'd like something I can either mic up or take a line out directly into a little Zoom recorder.

    I'm not horribly brand conscious - my bass is a Squier, one guitar is a Sigma, one an Ibanez, one a Steinberger Spirit, and two of my guitar amps are Roland, one is a Behringer.

    I DID read lots of things in the forums here and at harmony central, and here are a few of the things I have found, and a question or two for folks too....

    I tried the Ashdown After Eight (15w, 8 inch spkr) at a local shop. It was ok, but had to be at about 8 to get much thump. Was fun to noodle with though. Pass. I still might try the 5-15, which I think is about 65W with a 15 incher. It seemed pretty bulky and heavy though.

    Went out to Sam Ash and tried a Fender Rumble 25 and 60 while I was on a business trip. The 25 really didn't do much for me, and the 60 felt washed out. It might have been the store set up though too, those stores are cavernous! I wasn't crazy about the lights either - they seemed cute but I wondered if they'd be annoying. I had an option on a used Rumble 25 for $65 but passed. I figured that was $65 that I was going to regret not putting towards a better amp later.

    Did a visit to the new local GC. Tried the Behringer BX1200, the Fender Rumble 25, 60, 100, GK Backline 110 ($179), and a Crate 25 watter. Also tried the Behringer 600 (60 watt combo). The BX1200 just seemed dull. It did go to 12 though which I thought was funny. The Rumble 25 and 60 were passable, but nothing special. The Backline 110 surprised me but not in a good way, as I was pretty hopeful (small, 70w). Unfortunately, it warbled and didn't have much low end. It sounded like the speaker was flappy already. I tried noodling with the eq, but it just didn't hold up much. The BX1200, Rumble 25, Rumble 60 and GK 100BL needed to be at about 6+ to give much sound. Again, a new GC isn't exactly a great place to test things - it is loud there no matter what.

    The Rumble 100 sounded good (but was $299 new). My 9 year old daughter gave me a thumbs up with it at about 2-3. It just had that thud that none of the other amps had. But it was more than I was looking to spend (but I wanted to try something a bit bigger just for grins).

    The Behringer 600 ($159) actually sounded pretty darn good too. It was louder and punchier than the 1200. I know that sounds odd, but it just plain was. I tried the 1200 two or three times, as 120W for $199 seemed like a good deal - except it didn't sound good. Pass.

    The Crate was pretty loud for a 25W combo too. I didn't like the distortion channel, it was a waste of a channel for me. It didn't seem to do well with a low E either. The tuner thing was kinda neat, and the amp seemed solid. I think it went for about $199, so it wasn't out of band pricey, but didn't seem like a great value.

    Next I tried a local shop that I regularly use - as I like how they run their store and they are very fair. They had two used amps downstairs, an Ampeg B112, and a Fender BXR100. The Ampeg sounded pretty sweet (was $199). It had a nice full tone, and the EQ made sense. The BXR100 had that same feel as the Rumble 100, it immediately rattled things a bit downstairs (which the 112 didn't seem to do). However, the BXR had a bad volume pot, and at $199 made it a pass. The Ampeg is still in the game (new ones are $299, used $199 at that store). Went upstairs and tried the BX1200 again (new store, same result - didn't sound good to me). I also tried a 50W Yorkville (which wasn't as good as the Ampeg). The Yorkville had a bad volume pot too - was scratchy. Tried the Behringer 300 - it also sounded better than the 1200 - go figure. It seemed to break up a bit though, and it wasn't much less than the 60W version.

    The amp that I haven't been able to find is the Bassman 25. After all of that shopping, I had hoped to find one, as folks have rated them pretty highly. Can anyone point to a side-by-side of a Bassman 25 and an Ampeg BA112? I can find a new bassman 25 for about $180 shipped. (MF just ran out of their $149 ones unfortunately - I missed out...). However, after all of the testing, I'm *really* hesitant to buy an amp without getting a chance to try it out.

    I really don't want to spend over $200 as this is strictly a hobbyist deal. No gigging, do need to be able to jam with pal on a tube amp, but nothing exotic.

    Ampeg BA112 (50W, 1-12, $199 used locally, so tax but no shipping)
    Bassman 25 (25W, 1-10, $180 shipped - can anyone compare volume/thump on one of these to my finalists)
    Behringer BX600 (60w, 1-12, $159 at GC)

    The Ampeg felt like a bass amp, as did the Behringer. I'm not overwhelmed by the Behringer, as the guitar amp that I have from them is a bit buzzy/hummy, and the headphone jack is noisy as all get out (so bad I won't use the headphones approach with it!).

    I might try an Ibanez SW-35 too, there was one of those used in a shop by an area I travel to for $99, and they are only $150 new too.

    I really don't want to buy something that I haven't heard after all of the differences that I did see and hear from my excursions. However, I'm still really intrigued by that Bassman 25 and all of the positive comments that I've heard. Is it much different from the Rumble 25 though???

    Comments/suggestions are welcome.

    Thanks!
    Steve
     
  2. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin' Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    I own an Ampeg B100R which I bought after auditioning a lot of small bass amps. It's more expensive ($500US new) than the Fender Bassman 25 but it was worth the money to get much superior tone. I didn't care at all for the Fender, even though I was offered a used (mint) one for about half retail. There's something about the little amps with the tweeters that suck out the thump of a bass, IMHO. The Ampeg weighs more (65 lb) but not enough to be a deal breaker. It has versatile controls (not that I'm a knob turner) and it doesn't take long to set up a good sound with any of my basses. It is also big enough that I haven't needed to pull out my big rig (Musicman HD130, Hartke 410XL) since I got the Ampeg.
     
  3. Another possible option is the Ampeg B50R (smaller brother to the amp mentioned above). I checked the website, and it appears they have quit making it, but if you can find NOS at a GC you may be in luck. 50 watts, 12" speaker, and supposedly the same great tone as the B100R (I've never played the 50).

    Mike
     
  4. Gabu

    Gabu

    Jan 2, 2001
    Lake Elsinore, CA
    Of the mentioned amps:

    The Fender Bassman 25 is my favorite. I love that little amp. Its light, loud for its size, and has great tone.

    I also dig the Ampeg BA12. It will be louder and is still pretty portable. I think since you are playing with others that this may be your best bet.

    With either of these, you won't lose.
     
  5. Quadzilla

    Quadzilla Supporting Member

    +1 in the BA12
     
  6. How loud do you play? I have a HARD time convincing myself that a 10 or 12 inch combo is gonna get you heard of you're playing w/ three guitarists. Do yourself a favor and get at least a 15" or 2x10" combo. You will find that you cannot hear the bass very quickly when you start playing with others if all you have is a small combo. Also, you really should give yourself a bit more money to play around with - it looks as if you're wanting to spend no more then $200....it is going to be very difficult to find something USED in that range that allows you to be heard in a band setting. I'm not trying to be insulting or anything - this advice is just lessons learned the hard way :)

    EDIT - but out of the two you mentioned, the BA112 would likely be the best option.
     
  7. Quadzilla

    Quadzilla Supporting Member

    Some of these may cost a little more than you want to spend (under $200 right) but you really won't be real happy with anything in that price range for real long as most here will tell you (it will be for sale in a month or two).

    Fender Rumble 100 (100 watts, 15" woofer + horn) $269 shipped Fender

    Ibanez 1x12 50 watt $225 shipped - Ibanez

    Ashdown 1x15 100watt $240 shipped Ashdown

    SWR Workingman's 2004 head (closeout $199) + Workingman's 2x10 cab (closeout $219)
    Head - SWR Head
    Cab - SWR Cab

    Of the above the best deal is by far the Workingman's stuff, but is also the most expensive. Considering what these were selling for before they were closing them out, It's a hell of a bargain (head = $642 and cab = $541 list). These should last you for a long while to come. Again, YOU WILL BE SELLING ALMOST ANYTHING YOU BUY that's under 100 watts pretty damn soon. It just does not cut it with bass....
     
  8. kiwishred

    kiwishred

    Jan 23, 2005
    Spent a lot of time looking at small bass combos this week. The following impressions are biased to my particular requirements which I admit are somewhat different from the norm around here, eg:

    - Practice amp in a small study so small size is important, volume isn’t (pretty much everything I checked out was plenty loud enough) &

    - While it doesn’t have to be loud I really value plenty of extension into the low bass. While I am pretty much a bass guitar newbie I have spent plenty of $$$ to get good clean bass in my stereo system (Martin Logans) and home theatre system (Velodyne sub),

    With that in mind, here are my observations

    Behringer BX 300 ($120 GC)
    Pro – Excellent value for money. Tone has a surprisingly nice “growl” to it.
    Con – Lacking in ultimate thump. Noticable and annoying buzz at zero volume with nothing connected (remember this is in a quiet practice room)

    Behringer BX 600 ($160 GC)
    Pro – Excellent value for money. Satisfying thump. No buzz (unlike the BX300)
    Con – Getting to be on the big and heavy side. Bass reflex port is an odd design (just basically a couple of holes at bottom of cabinet. Not really a slot. But it seems to work based on sound. Funny sort of microphonics when adjusting the volume.

    Fender Rumble 25 ($180 GC)
    Pro – Satisfying thump. I liked the (down and dirty) styling, red light notwithstanding
    Con – Didn’t seem to be all that loud (as in seemed to have to crank up the volume to max to get much out of it)

    Fender Bassman 25 ($150 www.thebassplace.com closeout)
    Pro – Satisfying thump, some nice features (mute, tuner out, tilt, etc). Has a solid look/feel to it. Sounds great.
    Con – A slight amount of buzz at zero volume, nothing connected (not as bad as BX300). Although compact, the tilt back design eats up a lot of depth (15” upright, 17.5” in tilt back). Don’t really care for the retro styling of controls. Volume control too aggressive at low settings (turns up too fast and then does not change much past 12 O’clock)

    Yorkeville XM50 (around $260 @ local specialist store)
    Pro – Good thump. Really classy, well engineered unit. Compact and light
    Con – Spendy (although probably would be #1 pick if I had to transport it a lot)

    Eden CXC110 (Around $800 American Music)
    Pro – Sound is a noticeable cut above everything else I listened to. This is what I mean by true bass extension. This little Eden is in a class of it own relative to the others
    Con – $$$ !

    Peavey Basic 112 (around $260 American Music)
    Pro – Seems solid all round performer, probably delivers in the volume department
    Con – Not in same class as Bassman 25 for sound quality

    Peavey MicroBass ($50 used)
    Pro – Compact
    Con – While it gets good reviews and may well be the best of the really compact combos it just can’t keep up with the larger amps in the thump dept. I would pick the slightly larger BX300 over it any day.

    GK Backline 112 ($200 used)
    Pro – A lot of volume from a compact box
    Con – Somewhat lacking in the growl/thump department considering 12” and 100W. Probably be great sound for the slappers/poppers though

    To me the obvious standouts for sound + value are the Behringer BX600 (regular price) and Fender Bassman 25 (closeout price). I got to compare them side by side and, quite frankly there didn’t seem to be much between them sound wise (at least as far as I could tell in noisy GC environment). Both deliver in the bass extension department. Perhaps the Bassman had a slight edge in overall sound quality (due to some intangible characteristic) but I think the BX600 would beat it for loudness.

    Actually, I don’t think you can go wrong with either. I finally went with the Bassman 25 over the BX600 because it is a little more compact/lighter, it is not giving up anything in the sound quality department, and I think I will lose less money on it. GC wanted $194 on their closeout Bassman and wouldn’t budge. And, what’s more the 30 day return policy doesn’t apply because it was their store demo. So, I went for $149 shipping from thebassplace.com for NIB. Shipping was $20 for on-line order (despite the fact they told me it would be $30 when I called).

    I was a little surprised at the differences in sound between all these combos. So try before you buy definitely seems to be the way to go (especially if you can directly compare 2 or more choices side by side and with same bass).

    Hope these comments are useful.
     
  9. The XM50C is what I chose when I had my little compact practice/small acoustic jam combo search. A GREAT little amp!
     
  10. Wings

    Wings

    Feb 6, 2005
    Bellport, NY
    Hi Kiwi...

    One thing I haven't seen mentioned when it comes to practice amps is the placement of the amp in the room. I have a Bassman 25 that I love. I practice with it in a room that's about 16' x 16' and I sit about 3' from the center of the room. If I position the amp in a logical place for a practice amp, by my feet, I don't get much volume and have to crank the volume control on the Bassman way up. However, if I position the amp across the room in the center and up agaist the wall, I can't go much over 1/4 volume without worrying about complaints from my wife. If I then move the amp to a large room, about 25' x 30' with high ceilings, I can rattle the windows at 1/3 volume.

    The point is, you have to let them breath. Positioning the amp near the center of a room works like a noise canceling headset or system. The sound waves bounce back and cancel each other out killing the volume. So, to anyone reading this thread, I suggest experimenting with the placement of the amp. In a gig environment, it would be unlikely to run into this because amp placement is pretty well defined and usually back near the center of a wall.

    Wings
     
  11. CoachLittle

    CoachLittle

    Jan 13, 2005
    Thanks for all the advice.

    Kiwi - your comparison was exactly what I was looking for.

    I was really in a pinch as I couldn't A/B the Bassman 25 and the Behringer 600, (I'd tried the 600 and it was the best in the price range). I liked the Ampeg too, but there were enough Bassman disciples that I went that route.

    I opted for the Bassman from the place in Arizona too - none of my nearby GCs were willing to get one in and price match either. I'd have preferred to keep it local, but c'est la vie.

    Thanks to all who suggested higher end rigs too. I'm going to wait and see how it all goes. I figured I could double up and use the Bassman as a little E/A guitar amp too or if need be, resale on it down the road was likely better than the BX600. In any case, the Bassman 25 will be small enough to tote to noodle with buddies (I wasn't up for lugging a 55-65 lb amp), and also the one guy where we jam at has a PA, so I suppose I might be able to line out my way into the PA if I really am overrun by the guitar amps on parade.

    Thanks again everyone - I was amazed at how much you really do need to try and listen to the subtleties of the various offerings. I shouldn't be - every amp is targeted at a particular buyer/sound, but even so, some were certainly more "bassy" than others - even in my limited sampling.

    Wings - Thanks too for the tips on positioning. I'm sure MY wife is going to appreciate my newly acquired knowledge of just where to put the new amp to create maximum household annoyance. Oh well, the kids will like it.

    Cheers all - keep on playing!
     
  12. I have played the 35 watt Ibanez, and it def. is nothing to write home about. The speaker wasnt able to handle much volume, with a 4 stringer. It maybe could do just you with one acoustic in a small room, but not much more. There's definitely better options in the <$200 price range.

    Also, maybe someone who has played one of the SWR LA series could comment on one of these. They look to be a good option. Hsartke also makes several amps at many different sizes for the price and size range your looking for. If you wanna check these out go here

    But of the ones you have mentioned, Id have to say go with the Ampeg. I have played one and they sound quite good to me.

    Good luck
     
  13. mariner

    mariner

    Feb 18, 2005
    Front Royal, VA
    I'm really happy with my Hartke 1415 is really nice. Just this side of too big to carry around and good enough to hang with the group you have.
     
  14. De Teng

    De Teng

    Oct 27, 2003
    Utrecht, Holland
    I just ordered the Ashdown After Eight .... please say I did the right thing?

    I trust the guy from the shop, he's the best in Holland if I may say. One of the few 'only-bass' selling shop over here. A shame in a way..

    [​IMG]
     
  15. De Teng

    De Teng

    Oct 27, 2003
    Utrecht, Holland
    Another question.. perhaps for the testers..

    I got to choose between ordering the Perfect Ten or the After Eight. It's a bit between two sides... low costs, ok tone and a small piece in the room over here, versus 70 euro's more, bigger thus heavier, better basstone.. :ninja:

    I just only use it for inside my room.. nothin' more.. but am a bit scary the After Eight won't handle the low B string (the notes played on it) not that well.... is my fear untrue..??

    Please help. Got to choose fast.. dying here without an amp. :mrgreen: