Upgrade Bass or Amp?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by FreshBassist81, Sep 14, 2005.

  1. So, a couple months back, I bought a really cheap used bass (seems like a '62 P-Bass knockoff, 'Racing USA' brand), and soon after, a cheap Ibanez 15w amp. I really started to get into bass, I'm looking for bands now, and I know I'm gonna have to upgrade soon. So, knowing these facts, if I only had one to upgrade, what should it be? Price range is between $300-$400. List good products/brands.
  2. M5Yates


    Feb 7, 2005
    Austin, TX

  3. Already taking lessons. I'm not some kid who bought a bass cause I wanna be in a Green Day cover band. I know what I'm doing, and I just want some good product suggestions.
  4. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    Every bass is only as loud as it's amp. With 300$ you can get a Fender Rumble 100. Then with the extra money, you can work on upgrading your bass if you wish. If the bass is too cheap, don't upgrade it, you will just be wasting your money, save up for a newer one later.
  5. lucas vigor

    lucas vigor Banned

    Sep 2, 2004
    Orange County, Ca,
    I will try to help you.

    Get a combo amp first. Anything with a 15 inch speaker and at least 100 watts will be ok for a beginning jammer. 3-400 should get you a new or used one.

    However, to play with a really loud rock band, you probably need at least 300 watts!

    The new Fender amps are pretty cool, however I might look at a SWR Workingman 15 if I were you..try to find one used on e-bay.

    Next, either change the pickups on your current bass and get a pro set-up done at your local guitar repair shop....

    or get a mexican p-bass brand new.

    You might see if any of the people here are selling anything..but....

    Lastly, never admit you are a newbie on bass around here, because some people have forgotten when they first started out themselves and are very rude!!
  6. lucas vigor

    lucas vigor Banned

    Sep 2, 2004
    Orange County, Ca,
    Darkfish01= troll.

    No user profile filled out...that's usually the first clue.
  7. smperry

    smperry Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Martin Keith Guitars
    Assuming you want to play with folks, I would upgrade the amp first, just so you can get some volume. Not too many specific suggestions...Peavey TNTs can be ok, also Eden Nemesis, and SWR LA series, or Workingman's series if you spot a good deal. But I'm not as up to date on combos as many around here, so someone may have better brand suggestions. Depending on where you are, you might even be able to put together a used rig, with 2x10s, a power amp and pre or a head...that would allow you to upgrade one part at a time later.

    If you have 50 bucks or whatever left, you might want to get the bass set up and get new strings (if you haven't already)...that can make all the difference.

    Last thing - if you fill out your location profile, some kind TBers might be able to look out for good deals for you.

    Good luck,
  8. smperry

    smperry Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Martin Keith Guitars
    I personally don't think that's necessary...there are a lot of nice people here. I only get annoyed when someone asks a question and uses the title "HELP! EMERGENCY!!!!"

  9. M5Yates


    Feb 7, 2005
    Austin, TX
    My apologies. The standard answer when guys ask what part should they upgrade to make their car go faster is “the nut behind the wheel”.

    +1 on upgrading your amplification first or no one will be able to hear you. Also, buying used equipment is a great way to get better quality. Used amps and cabs can sell for 50% less than their retail/street price. $150 will get you a decent 2x10 cab (Avatar comes to mind), use the rest to buy watts.

  10. Supernova67


    Jun 21, 2005
    i'd recommend going for a decent combo first. you can be the best bassist in the world but if no one can hear you......well you can figure out the rest. auctially i'm in pretty much the same prediciment, with the exception of my budget being around $600-$650 and having a squier 5 string as my main bass and a 120W combo. my options right now are an avatar/ashdown setup or a decent 6 string (cort, ibanez, used carvin,active brice w/EMG's,...). i geuss it all depends if i can find a band or not. :D
  11. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT
    Definitely amp first.

    Don't fool yourself...you're going to need to upgrade the amp again, at least once, and the bass as well, at least once.

    Better to get the biggest amp you can now, rather than doing two upgrade cycles later.

    You really do need an adequate amp from the get-go, and that means at least 100 watts. Most will say you can live with 300 watts on a long-term basis, but I went straight to 1000 watts from about 200 and I'm not sorry I did. Headroom is GOOD. Had I gone to 300 watts first, I would have wound up buying something bigger anyway.

    If you're wondering what you should be aiming for down the road...you can put together a truly gigworthy setup that any bass player would find acceptable for under $2000...$1000 for amplification and another $1000 for a good bass.


    Used good quality preamp (e.g. SWR Grand Prix, BBE Max): $175
    Used good quality power amp: $400
    Brand-new Avatar 2x12: $325

    Total rig: $900

    Used MusicMan Stingray, or used MIA Fender: $900

    A setup like this can carry you a long, long, long way.
  12. twiz


    Jun 4, 2003
    Los Angeles
    I have to disagree with the last poster regarding pricing of a pro-setup.

    i play in a jazz trio anywhere between 8 and 10 gigs a month in medium sized clubs. i use an ibanez srx700 bass (similar to carol kaye's) that can be purchased for roughly $600. I put another $100 into thomastik flatwound strings and a good setup. i use an srx500 as a backup that can be had for roughly $400 and is probably just as nice (bolt on vs. neck through)

    i play through a $600 (off ebay brand new) polytone combo amp that's just absolutely devastatingly wonderful.

    as far as what to upgrade first? amp for sure. the bass is probably fine for now and until you know your sound and tonal goals, that upgrade really wont make too much sense.
  13. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT
    Fair enough, but a pro-level setup for jazz doesn't need the power a pro-level setup for rock or metal does.

    My rig employs a Stewart World 1.2 power amp.

    1200 watts. Plenty o' headroom.

    The point is that if you can swing $2000 you can get a rig that can handle anything, and I mean ANYTHING. You can certainly get adequate gear for less than that, but you need to be selective and be realistic about your uses.

    I'd say that an absolute minimum for stuff that you can really play live with, rely on, and sound good with, probably $1000 in the real world, assuming new equipment (bass and amp combined). Less than that and you're talking garage band stuff. Not that there's anything wrong with that...I went through that phase myself...all I'm saying is that the poster should not think that a $400 purchase will be THE thing that will carry him/her for years to come.
  14. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Oh jeez the guy doesn't need 1000 watts to start jamming with people!!!! "If you can swing $1000"...hello? I know I was lucky to swing $200 when I bought my first bass amp!

    For a $400 budget I would go looking for USED Peavey, Crate or Fender stuff. You could get something like a USED Peavey Mark IV bass head (200 watts) for about $150 and then a USED cabinet with a 15" for about the same. Or get one of Peavey's "Combo" model combos...also 200 watts with a 15".

    That's more then enough for jamming and enough for your first gigs. Then once you start getting PAID you can use your gig money to save for better gear.

    If you must have NEW stuff, the Behringer 3000 head for $200 and their 15" cab for $180 from any number of online dealers.
  15. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT
    Five words.

    Scroll up. Read the posts.

    I didn't say he needed that rig NOW. For that matter, I never said he actually needs a rig that big. I said that if he was wondering where this all might wind up down the road, he could get a rig that can do anything he might want to do for that kind of money.

    My point being that you do NOT need to spend many thousands of dollars for a true pro-level rig. If you look at what's out there, it's easy to spend five grand or more on a rig, and another three to five grand on a bass. That's not necessary....

    But assuming that you're going to want to keep up in a loud band situation at some point, you do need to invest some. A 100 watt combo is certainly enough to start fooling around with, but it isn't going to cut it in a gig-type situation.

    +1 on a used Peavey or somesuch. It'll get you fairly far for fairly little. Save the SWRs, Ampegs, Crowns, Aguilars etc. for later on. Do your homework, save your money and get a really good amp and really good bass down the road.

    Too many of us (myself included) get impatient and wind up upgrading in small steps, trading low-end stuff for just slightly better stuff. Hindsight has taught me that it's better to wait, save up, and go for real quality. I went through...let's see...at least a half-dozen amps and seven basses (not counting fretlesses) before I finally settled down with really good gear. Had I been more patient and disciplined I could have been playing a great bass through a great amp years before I did.

    BTW, the inexpensive combos that are out there these days are MUCH MUCH better than they used to be...value for the money has skyrocketed. It's a good time to get into this stuff.
  16. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    + about a million

    adouglas you're way out of line and way off topic with your first post. Talk about putting the cart before the horse, your post barely related to this players' needs or his question in any way whatsoever. The last one (right above mine) is a ltitle better.

    FreshBassist81 You definitely need an amp. Your little 15 watt amp is fine for practice, and I'd recommend keeping it, but it won't even begin to work in a band situation with a drummer and guitarrist.

    A cheap P copy can take you a long, long way and can serve you for years. If you have not done so already, get yourself some new strings and take it to your local shop for a professional setup. This will be better than getting a new bass.

    Once you've got a setup, If you have $300-400, look at used combo amps in the 100-150 watt area. Lots of companies make great amps in that price range. Start by looking here, and don't let absolute watt numbers disuade you. Different companies have very different and random measuring techniques for "watts". Peavey tends to make loud amps, as does Fender.

    You need all the musical volume you can get at this point. If you don't have a loud enough amp you'll try to make up for the lack of volume with your fingers by playing harder and harder and this will adversely affect your playing technique.

    Look for used combo amps here, at your local music shop, and on ebay if you're cool with that.
    I couldn't possibly disagree more with this ridiculous statement. My main rig uses a 50 watt vintage head and it's adequate for everything I do.
  17. Yea, I agree with the idea of upgrading the amp first... because alot of the time, you'll be surprised how much better you sound out of a better quality amp anyway... I personally went from a peavey practice amp to a Roland DBass 500 as my first upgrade... the dbass is plenty loud thanks to the feed forward processing, 150 very underrated watts... i picked mine up used for $550 (AUD) := $420 (USD)... i'm very pleased with it... but I'm not going to try and sell you on any particular brand, because by the time you are concerned about nailing a particular tone, you will probably be ready to move into head and cab setup

    I browsed through some online websites... like


    They offer alot of the aforementioned comobs (fender, SWR) and are well within your price range...

    But without a doubt, if you want to start playing bass more seriously, i.e. gigging and such... then expect to be replacing the amp AND bass eventually... but for jamming with friends 100-200 watts will cut it...
  18. what, a fretless isnt a bass now? :p
  19. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT
    Okay, what do you do? Obviously not what I do, because I've fried 50 watt amps by overworking them.

    I've played gigs with totally inadequate equipment (like using a HOME STEREO for a PA). That experience taught me that you need equipment that can do the job. If a 50 watt bass amp does it for you, well, that's just great. I've been in bands where the guitarist had a 200-watt head and wasn't afraid to use it.

    Generally accepted rule of thumb for the original poster (and no, I did not make this up): Find out how big an amp your guitarist uses. Triple the wattage and you'll be fine.

    Guys, please read the posts before you jump all over me and respond to what I actually wrote, not what you THINK I wrote. Once again, I am NOT suggesting that this guy go out and get a pro-level rig. Get what you need and what you can afford.

    I'm just trying to lend some insight gained from a couple of decades of messing about with this stuff. If I were in his shoes, I'd do just what we all are suggesting (ME TOO, BTW as you'll see if you read what I actually wrote) and get a 100-watt combo amp or somesuch for now.

    Something along the lines of a Peavey TNT will do really well...it's pretty much bulletproof, readily available, and quite affordable.