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Upgrade bass or amp first?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BlakeMoney, Dec 7, 2013.

  1. BlakeMoney


    Nov 28, 2013
    I'm a fairly new bass player and am looking to upgrade. I currently have a bottom line bass and amp I got for very cheap. I don't know weather to upgrade my bass or my amp first for better sound/tone quality.

    And to clarify I play mostly rock and a little funk. My bass is an Ibanez Gio GSR100EXM and the amp is an Ibanez Sound Wave SWX20
  2. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Without telling us what you have, what you like and don't like, what style of music that you play and what your budget is, we will have a hard time helping you.
  3. deathsdj


    Sep 18, 2010
    Wichita, KS
    Hmm. I think you will probably eventually upgrade both so I would suggest you upgrade whichever you are the least happy with at the moment. Personally I would get myself a bass I was happy with first. It is often easier to adjust to a new amp than a new and different bass.

    Find a bass that feels great and speaks to you.
  4. Runnerman

    Runnerman Registered Bass Player Supporting Member

    Mar 14, 2011
    Generally, I would say upgrade the amp first unless you absolutely dislike the way the bass plays.
    But yes, would be great to know your starting point to make an educated suggestion.
  5. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    If you are gigging and have a decent bass, upgrade the amp first. If you are just jamming or a bedroom bassist, upgrade your bass.
  6. grendle


    Mar 4, 2011
    Central FL
    Tough one. If your playing in your bedroom get the bass. If your playing with a band get the amp.

    The amp, might be the better deal. There's a lot of great sounding gear out there for cheap with people going to light weight upgrades.

    Either way i would definitely go used for the best deal.
  7. Marginal Tom

    Marginal Tom

    Apr 28, 2010
    O'Fallon, IL
    I vote amp first. A bad amp wouldn't sound good even with a high-end bass. I'd also recommend a proper setup for your bass if it needs one.
  8. David Hayes

    David Hayes Guest

    Amp. No question. And don't cheap out.
  9. fourteenstrings


    Mar 29, 2006
  10. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    +1 from me too.
  11. inate_hex


    Apr 4, 2010
    Manchester, England
    I occasionally wet the bed.
    I would upgrade the bass first. Then when you come to upgrade your amp you can take your bass with you to try different models to see which sounds best with your bass.
  12. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    Get a better amp. I would caution you against buying a combo amp (amp and speaker all in one package). It is tempting. Looks simple, just plug in and turn it on. When your done, just carry it out.

    However, few combo amps really have the volume you will need for actual live performance in a club or at a concert—unless your band is mostly soft acoustic music, Jazz, worship, etc. I strongly recommend that you find a USED speaker cabinet and amplifier (head). This kind of modular approach is actually cheaper in the long run. Look for two 10" speakers (210), one 15" (115), four 10" (410), or two 12" speakers (212). Almost any brand that sounds good when you test it is fine. An amp head that has at least 350 watts into a 4 ohm load is a good place to start.

    Almost any brand to start is fine: Acme, Acoustic, Ampeg, BagEnd, Behringer, Bergantino, Eden, Epifani, Fender, Genz Benz, Gallien Krueger, Orange, Peavy, TC Electronics, SWR, etc. Plan on spending around $500 or $600 total USED. Ouch! that's way more than a new $450 combo, why am I recommending you spend 33% more than you need to just get something marginally better than what you have now? Simple. In a very short while, you will likely discover your new amp, no matter what it is doesn't cut it. Then what?

    If you have a combo, you have to save ~$400 all over again before you can sell it in order to get a bigger/modular rig. You then can sell your combo for say $250—loosing money on it is likely, as your customers are guys like you were looking for a cheap amp. Now your savings + selling your combo = ~$600. Where does that leave you?

    Exactly where you are now if you spend $500-$600 for a modular rig. You will have gained access to a slightly better amp, but are still stuck spending $500-$600 to step up, plus you have to sell before you have raised that money.

    If you go modular now, when your amp begins to disappoint, you can look around for a better (or additional) USED cabinet, typically about 1/2 the price of a new combo. Keeping your current rig and adding to it instantly gives you more volume for a likely expense of $200-$400. Adding a new head let's you keep your old one as a backup, or sell it to cover most of the cost of the new one after you have purchased the new one. Same goes for speakers. If you replace a 115 with a 410, you can keep the 115 as a backup, keep it in a rehearsal space, or sell it.

    I could go on, but this is already way too long. When you find something you are considering, come back to TB and ask about it. Rinse and repeat, LOL! Good luck! :cool:
  13. russpurdy


    Apr 16, 2013
    If your bass is garbage and is actually hindering your playing it should be upgraded. Having a bass that isn't fun to play means you will play/practice less.

    Most cheap basses can play pretty well if they are set up decently. I would say take your bass to a good tech and have it set up, maybe throw a set up 30 dollar wilkinson or gfs pickups in it from eBay and you should be good for awhile. If your bass is beyond a setup (something actually wrong with it) or there is a quality about it that you hate then you should replace it. Otherwise, sped money on an amp.

    If you have any desire at all to jam with people in the distant future you should get an amp with some power. The previous suggestion about a modular rig is pretty accurate and cheaper combos often have a hard time keeping up in a rock setting. That being said, there are a few that will do the job so do your research. This is, of course, only if you have desire to play with other musicians. If you think you will rarely (if ever) need to keep up with a drummer you can stick with a small rig and rent or borrow a big amp here and there if needed.

    If you ONLY plan on jamming at home or with a few quiet instruments you would be fine with any higher quality combo or micro head with small cab. Lots of companies make 1x10, 1x12, and 2x10 rigs that would be small and sound great in lower volume situations.

    Since you said your playing a lot of rock I would say you should look for a head and 4x10 cab setup if you have the room for it. Peavey, Gallien Krueger, Traynor, Ampeg, Fender, and many other companies make rigs like this and if you can find used that's even better. If you nee smaller go for a 2x10 or 2x12 but try and find a higher quality cab if this is the case as you will need half the amount of speakers to do the work.

    Last really amazing rock rig I heard was a Mesa Boogie Fathon 2x12 combo (now renamed the m6). Small and ridiculously loud. I personally use a Yorkville bassmaster 800 head and traynor 4x10 cab. Loud and easy enough to transport plus it's expandable if I want to add another cabinet.
  14. Lukejt


    May 24, 2008
    Amp all the way. I also started with an ibanez bass and the sw20. I wanted better tone and went through a few basses before upgrading my amp and it was like a lightbulb went on. I believe I would have enjoyed the basses that I sold in search of better tone much more had I heard them in a decent amp. You'll never know the true tone of your bass played through a crappy amp, IMHO. I know many are fine using a practice amp. I like to feel the tone. ;) ymmv